If you look online for budget earbuds and headphones in general, you’ll find many options between $50 and $100. And, sure, compared to $300 Sennheiser headphones, $50 is extremely cheap.
But, with that said, many people are either not willing to spend that much or just don’t want to. So, what if you need something on the cheap that’s not completely bad? You’d have to search around quite a lot – and that’s where we come in.
We already know quite a lot of cheap, actually cheap earbuds that are decent. So, let us show you our top picks!
Things to Keep in Mind
You may be tempted to just rush ahead and buy the most expensive pair of earbuds that you can get. But, don’t.
It’s true that what you pay is what you get. However, that’s not all there is to it. There are various types of headphones out there. Bassy and neutral, wireless and wired, etc.
So, it’s not just about quality. It’s also about what you prefer and what you need. And in order to understand what you need, there are some things to keep in mind while looking through various earbuds:
- Onboard Controls: There is no doubt that pulling out your headphone every time you need to move on to the next track or change the volume isn’t very ideal
- Wireless VS Wired: Wireless headphones may be less messy and more comfortable. But, don’t forget that at these prices, you’ll generally have to worry about sound quality, latency, and battery life quite a lot more than you would on the premium sector
- Microphone: Most in-ear headphones come with an integrated or in-line microphone. Not all of them sound decent though and many also offer bad noise isolation from environmental noises
- Noise Isolation: If you plan on using the earbuds outdoors while traveling, then you probably only want to listen to music – not the ambient noises. That’s where noise isolation is important
- Build quality: Nobody likes it when headphones break down after a month of use – cheap or not. Unfortunately, nobody can safely judge the build quality of earbuds or headphones in general by looking at photos. So, you’ll have to rely on reviews for that
- Sound signature: Not all headphones sound the same. Some are sharp, others are bassy, while very few are truly balanced
Our 5 Best Earbuds for Under 20
That’s more or less all there is to know for earbuds. With that in mind, finding the ideal pair for you will be a much easier task. So, with all that out of the way, let us check out some earbuds!
1: LETSCOM U8I
Best Waterpoof Earbuds Under 20
Water-resistant and waterproof headphones usually cost quite a lot of money – especially if they are wireless. So, if that’s what you’re after but you don’t want to spend any more than $20, then it’s really hard to go wrong with the LETSCOM Bluetooth!
Connection: Bluetooth 4.1
Onboard Controls: Volume and track controls with a multi-purpose button
In case you’re not familiar with IP ratings, IPX7 is the second highest that you can find in headphones. So, while wouldn’t advise submerging these earbuds – they can most certainly handle a few water drops and a bit of rain without getting ruined.
Waterproofing aside, the overall sound quality is pretty decent for the money. We’d say it’s a bit on the bassy side and even a bit muddy at times. But, that’s a matter of personal preference.
In terms of design, the ear-hooks and the cable that connects the headphones are great additions for people who like working out. After all, you won’t have to worry about losing the earbuds while jogging.
There’s certainly not much in terms of downsides. Especially for the money. Just keep in mind that its advertisement page can be a bit misleading in terms of noise cancelation – because there is none of that here. They make it look like you’re getting actual noise cancelation, but, CVC 6.0 is only for the microphone. So, your contacts may be able to hear you more clearly through the microphone but that’s as far as their noise cancelation goes. You don’t get any of it on the actual sound that you’re listening to and we’d surprised if you did at that price point.
- IPX7 waterproofing
- Ear-hooks are a welcome addition
- Good value
- Decent battery for the money
- The base can be a bit muddy and overwhelming for some (But an EQ can make things better if you can use one)
- Many people have reported that the ear-hooks are too large for them which is something to keep in mind if you like working out
Best for Comfort
Up until a few years ago, most headphones didn’t go deep into your ear canal like most in-ear headphones that you can find nowadays. If you happen to prefer that design and generally find it more comfortable, chances are you’ll love the Samsung Actives.
Connection: Wired (3.5mm)
Onboard Controls: Volume and tracks + one multifunctional button
Features: 4 seats of Ear Gels
The overall design makes these headphones fit nice and tightly to your ears without actually going deep into them while also blocking most of the outside noises.
Comfort aside, don’t forget that these are legitimate Samsung earbuds for less than $20. It’s rare to find actually decent earbuds from decent manufacturers without having to pay too much.
The sound is generally satisfying with base that’s strong enough to feel satisfying but not overwhelming to the point of drowning out the other frequencies. Mids and highs are a bit muddy at times but that’s somewhat fixable with an equalizer.
The microphone doesn’t have any noise cancelation to it. But, since it sits very close to the mouth anyway, chances are you won’t need it that much.
If there’s one downside, then that’s probably going to be the build quality. While the headphones and the ear tips feel solid, there have been many reports of them just breaking without any serious abuse within a year.
We’ve had a couple of pairs give up on us as well. One just stopped working after about 2 years of heavy use without any abuse and the other did the same after getting tangled up on a doorknob.
So, they are comfortable and they do sound good – but they are also easy to break if you’re not careful; sometimes even if you are careful.
- Pleasant in terms of comfort
- Well-balanced sound for the price
- Comes with multiple pairs of ear gels (ear tips)
- Onboard controls are in a very convenient place
- Build quality and reliability could be better
Most Balanced Sound
In-ear headphones are notoriously known for overdoing it with the base. It’s the kind of sound that your average person is most likely to enjoy, but, some of us are looking for something more balanced/neutral. If you find yourself in that category, maybe check out Sennheiser’s budget offering.
Connection: Wired (3.5mm)
Onboard Controls: None
Features: Optional ear foams
In case you’re not familiar with them, Sennheiser is actually one of the most popular headphone manufacturers in the world. They are also known for making some of the most expensive, audiophile-targeted headphones. So, finding such a cheap set of earbuds for them is definitely surprising, to say the least.
Unfortunately, while the sound signature does indeed lean more towards the neutral spectrum (At least when compared to other earbuds at this price range), there’s not much else to look forward to. There is no microphone, no onboard controls, no waterproofing, and no ear hooks.
That’s why we’d say these headphones are strictly for those who need a close to neutral-sounding experience without much else. You can’t chat with them and you certainly can’t use them anywhere where water may be involved.
- Balanced sound
- Good build quality for the money
- Removable ear foams are a welcome addition
- No microphone
- No onboard controls
Best Budget Option
At under $20, there is no doubt that all earbuds in this list are fairly cheap. But, you can even go under $10 if you wish to do so. And while most sub-10 dollar earbuds are usually no-name brands and nothing more than a gamble, these actually come from Sony – one of the most popular tech-related brands.
Connection: Wired (3.5mm)
Onboard Controls: One multifunctional button
Features: Two variants – one with a microphone and one without
There are two versions that you can choose from. One includes an in-line microphone while the other doesn’t. Do also keep in mind that the non-microphone variant seems to be coming with the multifunctional button either.
In terms of sound, the bass if fairly smooth and pleasing without being too boomy while the mids are generally balanced as well. The highs, however, are definitely a bit dull and dark. You can always use an EQ to make them brighter, though.
Sound isolation and leakage prevention are generally better than Sennheiser’s offering. After all, these go into your ear rather than resting on it. Just keep in mind that they don’t go too deep inside which means that as long as they ear-tips fit your ears, these headphones remain fairly comfortable.
There are 3 different sizes of ear-tips included in the box, so, we assume that most people will be able to get a good fit with at least one of these tips.
If there’s one downside, then that’s probably going to be the build quality or Sony’s quality control. There have been quite a lot of reports about faulty units.
- Smooth base
- Very cheap
- You get to choose between two different variants
- 3x different ear-tips to choose from
- Mediocre build quality
5: Easy KZ ZST
Best In-ear Monitors
These are actually just $20 instead of under that amount. But, we’d say that they offer the best value on this list. After all, you get the best sound along with removable cables for just a few extra bucks. It’s hard to go wrong with them.
Connection: Wired (3.5mm)
Onboard Controls: One multifunctional button
Features: Two different variants, removable cables, 3x ear tips
Let’s start by saying that the cables are removable. This is very helpful when you are traveling since you won’t have to worry about bending the cable at an awkward angle when the headphones are in your pocket or anywhere else. The only bad thing is that it’s a proprietary cable – which means that replacing it can be a bit challenging and expensive as well.
As far as sound is concerned, don’t forget that these are designed as in-ear monitors. So, they are made to be more accurate rather than pleasing. And this kind of sound is something that you either love or hate, but, most people like it. If you’re a bass lover you may actually end up preferring LETSCOM’s offering instead, though.
We’d say that these offer by far the best build quality in this list. But, you will have to be a bit careful when inserting and removing the cables as you generally don’t want to bend and damage anything.
An in-line microphone is also included for smartphone usage. But, you also have the option of getting the “no mic” variant (Which is $1 pricier for some reason).
- Great sound
- Removable cables
- Two different variants to choose from
- 3x ear tips included
- They are the most expensive option in this list
These are our top picks. If that’s a bit too much to take in at once, here’s everything that we mentioned as quickly as possible:
- LETSCOM U8I: Great option if you need wireless earbuds that are also waterproof. Their biggest downside is that you always have to keep battery life in mind
- Samsung Active: Very comfortable headphones that form a very tight seal in your ears as well. However, Samsung’s ear gels could be a bit more durable
- Sennheiser MX 365: One of the two earbuds in this list that are trying to deliver a more neutral sound. Just keep in mind that they don’t offer a microphone or onboard controls
- Sony MDREX15AP: The cheapest option here. We’d say that the build quality could be better but it’s hard to complain at this price point
- Easy KZ ZST: Best option for monitoring and the only one with removable cables. It also feels really durable, but, unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive pick in this list
That’s all for now. If there’s anything you want to talk about, feel free to let us know about it in the comments section down below!