The best cheap headphones and earbuds for 2023

The best cheap earbuds and headphones out there don’t have to be pieces of junk. In fact, they can offer many of the premium features that the best earbuds and best headphones out there have, such as active noise cancelation (ANC) and transparency modes, as well as water-proof ratings and excellent companion apps for tuning them as you see fit.

Not only do we keep an eye out for headphones and earbuds that have those nifty bells and whistles, but we of course make sure that they sound great, fit well, and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. And because we think that when you search for budget headphones, you want to see both earbuds and over-ear varieties, we’ve included both on this list.

For our money, right now we think that the Jabra Elite 4 earbuds earbuds and the 1More SonoFlow headphones offer great all-round value for their features and quality.

But we’ve also included products on this list that kill it for more specific reasons, such as those that are good for gamers, fitness folks, Apple fans, and more. Read on, bargain hunter.

jabra elite 4 review 00003

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Jabra Elite 4

Best overall budget earbuds

Pros

  • Comfy and secure
  • Water and dust resistant
  • Very good sound quality
  • Effective noise canceling
  • Excellent transparency mode
  • Bluetooth Multipoint

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • No AAC Bluetooth codec
  • No wear sensors
  • Middling battery life

Do you like nonsense? We don’t either, which is why we love the Jabra Elite 4s so much as we feel that they’re just about the best overall no-nonsense pair of under $100 earbuds around. Reliable, comfortable, and great sounding, while they don’t boast fancy features such as spatial audio or head tracking, the Elite 4s have it where it counts.

The Jabra Elite 4s are the perfect workhorse for daily use. They sound full and clear, have plenty of bass, and deliver a wide-enough sound stage to make all types of music sound as they should. And if you’re an Android user, you’ll get an extra fidelity bump with support for aptX, which sounds better than the standard. (but still good) SBC Bluetooth codec non-Android users will hear. You can also adjust the EQ to your liking with the Sound+ app.

Decent ANC can often be scarce in budget earbuds (and the Elite 4s are the company’s cheapest earbuds to have the feature), but Jabra didn’t drop the ball here with ANC that makes any noisy cafe, commute, or flight nice and quiet. It’s also adjustable to your liking with the app, and a tap of the left earbud easily activates/deactivates transparency mode so you can hear what’s around you.

Speaking of touch controls, the Elite 4s feature tactile physical buttons on each bud for a range of features such as answering calls, play/pause, and the aforementioned ANC/transparency mode. The only deficit here is that you can’t customize the functions in the app.

Rounding out the features, the Elite 4s include Bluetooth Multipoint for connecting to two of your devices at the same time, plus they feature Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair for speedy connectivity to Android and Window devices, respectively. Battery life on the Elite 4s is a respectable 5.5 hours of ANC listening and 22 hours total with the case, ad 7/28 with ANC off. There are some better battery options at this price, but we think the performance and features of the Elite 4s trump them.

Jabra Elite 4

Jabra Elite 4

Best overall budget earbuds

soundcore space a40 review 00019

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

SoundCore Space A40

Another excellent budget all-rounder

Pros

  • Compact and comfortable
  • Good sound quality
  • Very good ANC/transparency
  • Good call quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Bluetooth multipoint

Cons

  • No wear sensors
  • So-so wireless range

Budget true wireless earbuds typically have to sacrifice something to get the price under $100, often sound quality, noise cancellation, or battery life. The SpaceA40 is impressive because of just how little it gives up, making it the perfect choice for those who love true wireless but would like to save some money when they buy. And unlike some true wireless buds, this pair is particularly comfortable and likely to fit well in all kinds of ears.

You won’t be sacrificing much sound, either: Soundcore’s earbuds have a full-frequency response with a HearID tuning process that helps tweak the EQ (which comes with an impressive number of presets on its own). The result isn’t perfect, but it’s deeply impressive at this price range, and Android users will appreciate the LDAC support, too.

Plus, the Space A40 offers more effective ANC than our previous pick, the JLaB Epic Air (one of our only complaints about those buds), with easy mode-switching using the touch controls and a surprisingly good transparency mode. Unfortunately, there’s no wear sensor here, that handy feature that automatically pauses music when you pop off one of the earbuds.

While we praised the remarkable battery life of the Epic Air, the Space A40 once again goes above and beyond, sporting up to 10 hours of playtime for a single charge, making a total of 50 hours with the charging case (with ANC off). Even when powering ANC and other features, they still grind out around five hours per charge, which is what the AirPods Pro top out at.

Soundcore Space A40

SoundCore Space A40

Another excellent budget all-rounder

1more sonoflow review side

Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

1More SonoFlow

Best overall cheap wireless headphones

Pros

  • Great sound quality
  • Very comfortable for long periods
  • Ridiculous battery life
  • Solid ANC performance
  • Great app support
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • No wear sensors
  • Wired mode disables extra features

Getting decent sound from a set of $100 wireless headphones is easier than ever, and we’ve featured several models in this category over time. But it’s incredible just how much 1More manages to pack into these headphones while still keeping the price so low. That includes features that were relegated to high-end models just a few years ago, such as a solid ANC and transparency mode, plus a wide range of app capabilities from presets and EQ customization to features like connecting two devices wirelessly at the same time. 

Of course, sound quality also impresses here, thanks to some 40mm drivers that are competitive with significantly more expensive headphones like the Anker Soundcore Space Q45. There’s also support for Sony’s hi-res LDAC, although access to it may be limited for some (such as iPhone users). 

Then there’s the battery life, which clocks in at an amazing 50 hours with ANC on, and up to 70 hours with it turned off. That’s very impressive for wireless headphones, well-suited for multiple days of playback without needing to worry about finding time to recharge.

1More SonoFlow

1More SonoFlow

Best overall cheap wireless headphones

1More Triple Driver in-ear monitors.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

1More Triple Driver

Best wired earbuds under $100

Pros

  • Great sound for the price
  • High quality materials and design
  • Huge variety of eartip size and styles

Cons

  • Large size may not fit all ears

Chinese company 1More’s Triple Driver earbuds manage to deliver all the features of a high-end set of in-ear headphones at an affordable price and in a package that looks and feels premium. Frankly, they make other headphones seem outrageously overpriced.

The Triple Drivers deliver clear, quality high frequencies, with 1More claiming a 40kHz maximum range on these puppies, as well as balanced-yet-weighty bass that is comfortably present and never overwhelms the rest of the mix. That also lets you enjoy the sweet performance of the midrange and treble drivers above for a one-two-three punch of excellent sound.

The build quality is another noteworthy aspect of these headphones. The Triple Drivers have durable aluminum alloy casings that gleam with a coppery, sandblasted finish, while the cable is wrapped in triple-braided Kevlar — seriously high-class materials for headphones in this price range. You’ll also get a snazzy carrying case with your purchase, too. These headphones also feature an in-line mic and triple button controls, letting you take phone calls and control playback without needing to take your phone out of your pocket. There’s really no excuse for these to not be your mainstay earbuds.

For such a high-quality listening experience, it’s almost a shock that these earbuds are often offered well under the $100 price range. The 1More Triple Driver boast both material and performance benchmarks we’d expect from headphones that cost twice as much or more. For those with a shiny new iPhone, there’s even a Lightning version available for a slightly higher price and a wireless version as well. There are very few ways to get better sound at this price point anywhere on the market, period.

1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

1More Triple Driver

Best wired earbuds under $100

beats flex review

Beats Flex

Best cheap earbuds for Apple fans

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Very good sound quality
  • Very good call quality
  • Easy pairing with Apple products

Cons

  • Controls can be a bit finicky to use
  • No official IPX rating

Not long ago, the only way you were going to find a set of Beats headphones for less than $100 would be if you found them on sale. That’s why we’re big fans of the Beats Flex. Apple took what was essentially a $100 set of behind-the-neck wireless earbuds (the BeatsX) and cut the price in half.

And as far as we can tell, Apple managed to do it without sacrificing any quality at all. That might say something about the value of the BeatsX, but let’s not dwell on the past. The Beats Flex not only preserve the BeatsX sound quality, with authoritative bass and an excellent balance of mids and highs, but they also improve in a few areas.

Battery life has been extended from eight hours to 12, which makes them much more of an all-day companion. Charging is now done via USB-C (instead of Apple Lightning) — something of an acknowledgment that Android users like Beats products, too.

The magnetically-latching earbuds can now automatically pause your tunes when they snap together and resume them when they’re pulled apart.

Meanwhile, call quality (which was always a high point on the BeatsX) has only been reduced fractionally, mostly because the microphone has moved further away from your mouth.

As a Class-1 Bluetooth device, you can walk an impressively long distance from your phone and still stay connected (up to 300 feet when outside), which makes the Beats Flex a good option for those who want to move a bit more freely.

As long as you don’t mind the tangle-free wires that come along with the Beats Flex, they’re an amazing value.

Beats Flex

Beats Flex

Best cheap earbuds for Apple fans

amazon echo buds 2023 review 1

Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Amazon Echo Buds 2023

A price that’s tough to beat

Pros

  • Excellent price
  • Good-enough audio
  • Alexa is built in
  • Solid case
  • Includes “find my” feature

Cons

  • Requires the Amazon Alexa app
  • No wireless charging

Anything we say about the 2023 version of the Amazon Echo Buds has to be said in the context of price. Sure, there’s no active noise cancellation. There’s no wireless charging. There’s no Bluetooth multipoint or spatial audio or transparency modes or …

What you get here is a solid set of $50 earbuds that you likely will be able to get for even less given Amazon’s proclivity for sales prices. You get earbuds that sound good enough for typical situations in which you don’t care that they don’t have ANC. They’re the sort of earbuds that you might buy for your kids, who almost certainly will lose one of them at some point. But given that they have Amazon’s own “find my” feature built in — and, again, that price — you likely won’t go ballistic should one of the buds disappear.

Really, our biggest gripe with these is that they require the Amazon Alexa app if you want to connect them to your phone at all. That’s not how Bluetooth earbuds of any sort should work. But that’s also a relatively minor complaint. If you’re looking for something low-cost or low-concern, they’ll do just fine.

Amazon Echo Buds 2023

Amazon Echo Buds 2023

A price that’s tough to beat

hyperx cloud stinger 2 review 6

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

HyperX Cloud Stinger 2

Best cheap headphones for gaming

Pros

  • Supremely comfortable
  • Solid microphone quality
  • Great audio quality and positioning
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • The wire locks out some devices

The Cloud Stinger 2 may be affordable, but it doesn’t skimp on impressive game-ready features. That includes a surprisingly comfortable, lightweight design that feels anything but cheap (ideal for lengthy gaming sessions) and excellent sound powered by 50mm drivers plus support for DTS Headphone:X for a more environmental sound that can be helpful in competitive or team play.

HyperX’s Cloud Stinger 2 offers broad platform compatibility for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation (including the latest console generations), plus Nintendo Switch, so you won’t need to worry about a lack of support. And if you prefer team play, you’ll find a solid noise-canceling condenser microphone with a flexible design and flip-to-mute functionality.

Gamers may feel the loss of some features for the sake of affordability. There’s no wireless mode, for example, which can be tricky in some console setups, and no RGB effects to play with. Some gamers may want to pay a bit more and get a different budget version like the Razer BlackShark V2. But those who want to save as much as possible will be very pleased with what they find here. You can also check out our roundup of the best budget gaming headsets for more options.

HyperX Cloud Stinger 2 – Gaming Headset, DTS Headphone:X Spatial Audio, Lightweight Over-Ear Headset with mic, Swivel-to-Mute Function, 50mm Drivers, PC Compatible

HyperX Cloud Stinger 2

Best cheap headphones for gaming

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

The best cheap headphones for mixing

Pros

  • Rugged, studio-ready design
  • Crystal-clear sound for the price
  • Comfortable for long sessions

Cons

  • Closed-back design, which may be a dealbreaker for some

There are plenty of options from Sennheiser under 100 clams that could pull mixing duty, but the HD 280’s design and feature set make them the best choice. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are the rugged mainstays you’ll see in the background of many radio stations, recording studios, and video-editing rooms for a reason: They sound great, take a beating, and their simple black aesthetic keeps them from nabbing too much attention.

These cans won’t fail you even in the most challenging studio conditions; Sennheiser has designed the HD 280 Pros with a rugged frame, and the coiled, one-sided cable mitigates wear and tear from everyday use. While they look like bruisers, they aren’t heavy, and the generous ear padding and rotating earcups make them comfortable for prolonged mix sessions. They’re even collapsible for easier storage, too.

Most importantly, the HD 280 Pro’s sound quality is excellent for the price. Their crystal-clear sound digs up subtle moments from deeper layers of the music, with a frequency response of 8-25,000Hz. They are closed-back, however, which is important to note in case you absolutely require an open-back option, but we’re still confident the HD 280 Pro will fulfill your editing needs — not to mention they sound excellent for casual listening, too.

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro may not wow with style, but if you’re looking for some affordable over-ears that will last you many years of solid use, in or out of the studio, we suggest you start with these.

Sennheiser HD 280 PRO

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

The best cheap headphones for mixing

anker soundcore sport x10 review front

Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

Soundcore’s Sport X10

Best cheap earbuds for workouts

Pros

  • Comfy fit and stability
  • Rugged durability
  • Good sound quality
  • Solid ANC and ambient performance
  • Great app support

Cons

  • Wind can break through
  • No aptX support
  • No wireless charging

A great set of earbuds can make or break your run or workout — they need to fit snugly and stay put, offer great sound, and some kind of sweat and/or water resistance — but what’s more important is that they don’t break the bank. The Soundcore Sport X10 satisfy all that and more.

With a unique bendable earhook design that wraps around ears of all shapes and sizes, the Sport X10 are comfortable enough for even the longest of runs or sessions at the gym and they’re designed to stay securely in place. The in-ear fit is also snug, creating a comfortable seal for listening to your tunes while blocking out outside noise. But an added bonus with the sub-$80 Sport X10s is that they also come equipped with some pretty great ANC, an ambient mode (a.k.a. transparency mode) for letting in just the right amount of outside sound for environmental awareness, and a pretty good set of EQ controls (with 21 presets), all accessed and adjustable through the Soundcore app. Physical buttons on the earbuds make it easy to control music and the ANC features while you’re moving and they can be personalized in the app, too.

But how do they sound? Well, they’re Soundcore, so you know they have a pretty good pedigree. The EQ allows you to tune them to your liking, but with their 10mm dynamic drivers the X10s are capable of, what our reviewer Ted Kritsonis described as “strong lows meet warm highs, with passable mids to create a likable sound profile that works in the conditions you would probably wear them in.” There’s also an extra bass feature, should you like a heavier thump. And while they don’t support the better sptX Bluetooth codec like the Jabra Elite 4s on our list, they do support SBC and AAC, the latter Apple fans will appreciate.

The IPX7 rating of the Soundcore X10 is a definite standout here, which is why we’ve pegged them as our pick for working out, as the rating means they can be submerged in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes, so don’t be afraid to hit the hot tub with them still in.

We’ll leave you with the X10s battery life because we know it’s a key feature should you want to run that marathon you’ve been training for. Anker says that the X10s will deliver up to 8 hours of listening time with ANC off (32 total with the charging case), and six hours with ANC on.

Soundcore Sport X10

Soundcore’s Sport X10

Best cheap earbuds for workouts

A man wearing the Tribit Flybuds.

Tribit Flybuds C1

Best budget earbuds for battery life

Pros

  • Massive battery life
  • Comfortable fit
  • Physical buttons
  • AptX support

Cons

  • No wear sensors
  • No transparency mode
  • No EQ or button settings

These earbuds have a similar design to Apple’s AirPods, a vertical, bottom-heavy design that should stay put when running or exercising. They come with an outstanding six eartip sizes in the box, both silicon and foam, so you’ll be able to find a snug and ultra-comfortable fit.

The control buttons are located on the stems and aren’t soft-touch, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally dialing or turning the buds off. They’re also good at repelling water, making them perfect for your intense workouts or a dash in the rain.

The charging case will juice the battery with up to 90 minutes of listening after a 10-minute charge, and a full charge will get you 12 hours of life — a huge amount of endurance for such affordable earbuds. The case will give you an additional (and mind-blowing!) 38 hours on top of that.

The Flybuds use Bluetooth 5.2, which gives you better sound quality as well as lower power consumption. It also allows you to use a single earbud at any given time.

The sound and call quality of these earbuds is high. Many earbuds don’t deliver in the bass range, but you’ll find the Flybuds are solid across the sound spectrum. They feature four microphones (top and bottom of each earbud) to provide reliable call quality, and they have environmental noise cancellation technology which will help calls seem less noisy, but they are missing true ANC.

Tribit FlyBuds C1

Tribit Flybuds C1

Best budget earbuds for battery life

UGreen HiTune T3 earbuds in black.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

UGreen HiTune T3

Most affordable noise cancellation

Pros

  • Light and comfortable
  • Great sound
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • No water or dust protection
  • No volume control
  • No wear sensors

Sometimes you just want a set of inexpensive earbuds that just get the job done. At $40, the UGreen T3 are perfect for that, with great sound including surprisingly robust bass and a super-comfortable fit that will let you wear them all day if you want.

Helping with that all-day promise is seven hours of battery life per charge (24 total with the charging case) and both active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency modes. The ANC won’t shut out the world as much as some of the more expensive models like the Earfun Air Pro, but it’s still very noticeable, especially in situations where you need to contend with constant droning sounds like fans or mechanical equipment.

The transparency mode, however, is excellent and really lets you hear everything that’s going on around you, making them a good choice for folks who need to switch between concentrating and conversations.

They don’t have quite as many features as some other models, like wireless charging or wear sensors, but at this price, that’s not surprising. You just need to make sure you’re not planning heavy exercise in these buds. Not only does their smooth surface tend to let the buds move around a lot, but they also lack any kind of formal protection from water or sweat.

But as long as you set your expectations accordingly, the T3 are a terrific buy.

UGreen HiTune T3

UGreen HiTune T3

Most affordable noise cancellation

Frequently Asked Questions

Are headphones or earbuds under $100 any good?

Yes. There’s a wider range of them on the market than ever before and they can offer impressive sound quality from big-name brands such as Soundcore, 1More, Sennheiser, Jabra, Beats, and many more.

Do budget headphones or earbuds have Bluetooth?

Yes, many types of headphones or earbuds have Bluetooth, and with the proliferation of affordable true wireless earbuds, there are tons of choices. Also, check out our guide to Bluetooth codecs guide for an explanation of the tech and general tips for using wireless devices.

Do budget headphones have noise-canceling?

Yes, some do, but it typically isn’t very good. Our picks favor some of the best we’ve found at this price level. If noise canceling is what you’re after specifically, our list of the best noise-canceling headphones and the best noise-canceling earbuds are great places to start your search.

Should I buy over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear headphones?

That depends on how you will use them. If you’re planning to be out and about with your headphones, we generally recommend in-ear models. If you plan on using them at home or at work primarily, on-ear or over-ear models are generally better options.

Is spending more than $100 on headphones worth it?

We believe it can be if you’re someone who appreciates quality sound and superior features. If you have a little more money to spend and you thoroughly enjoy beautiful sound, headphones generally provide some of the best value in the realm of audio, period. Keep in mind that stepping up in price may be worth it, but we caution you: High-priced headphones aren’t always the best quality. 

How do you test headphones?

We review our headphones by using (and abusing) them the way many active people do. 

Instead of examining headphones in a restricted environment, we test them in brutal, real-life situations. We test by playing content from a variety of sources in many different environments, from a bus, listening room, office, and everything in between. We acknowledge that many headphone listeners use them with their smartphones and listen to lower-quality audio tracks and streaming services. So, we do the same. 

Our team also tests various high-res audio files spanning different hardware. We plug headphones into PCs and Macs, try out USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters) and turntables, and use the finest portable players and amps. When that’s all said and done, we make a final comparison to observe the differences between the headphones we’re testing and our favorites. We compare these based on class and price and push them a grade or two higher to see if they can still offer good quality when pushed past their limits. 

Editors’ Recommendations






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