True wireless earbuds aren’t just premium products: There’sand then there’s as cheap as possible. But you want to make sure that you aren’t compromising sound quality for a lower price tag. You won’t get the best-sounding earbuds for under $40 but it is possible to find the earbuds with the best possible sound for the price tag. To save you some time, we’ve rounded them up here.
The wireless headphone game has evolved significantly over the last few years. The market has been flooded, and there are more wireless earphone options than we ever could have imagined. These earphones are tiny, but they can come with noise isolation, incredible battery life, ear hooks, decent microphones for calls and more. And a pair of cheap earbuds could totally meet all of your needs when it comes to filtering out background noise on your commute or during a workout.
Here are my current dirt-cheap true-wireless favorites, listed from lowest to highest price. I’ve tried them all, and I’ll update this list periodically.
Yes, Ugreen’s HiTune X6 buds are a bit weird looking, but they should fit most ears well and come with a few different sizes of ear tips (I went with large). Their charging case feels solid, and the buds themselves don’t look or feel cheap. IPX5 splash-resistant, they feature active noise canceling — it does manage to muffle a reasonable amount of ambient noise — but their best feature is arguably their sound. They offer good clarity along with a wide soundstage and very plump bass that avoids being boomy. They sound as good as many buds that cost more than $100 and sometimes even $150. (Note that to get the $30 price on Amazon, there’s a coupon box that must be checked on the product page; otherwise it appears that they cost $20 more.)
There are some caveats. First, I noticed that these sound better with the noise canceling off (they lose some clarity with it on). Also, while the included tips should fit most people’s ears, I swapped in a pair of my favorite tips and got an even tighter seal, which improved sound quality.
Read our Ugreen HiTune X6 first take.
The Tranya T20s remind me a little of a cheaper version of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 without the noise canceling. They’re pretty no-frills and are missing more premium features such as an ear-detection sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take a bud out of your ears. But they sound surprisingly decent for their modest price. If you get a tight seal, they sit pretty flush with your ears (they don’t really stick out much) and they have decent battery life — up to eight hours at moderate volume levels. They also work pretty well for making calls and are IPX7 waterproof.
The case feels a little cheap and the buds are lightweight. The Galaxy Buds 2 definitely feel more premium. However, the buds are well tuned and have a relatively wide soundstage. Don’t expect the world from them and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating — can withstand heavy sprays of water)
If you like the style of the Beats Powerbeats Pro but don’t want to spend $150 or so on them, there are plenty of budget alternatives out there. I like the Tranya T40s, which sound quite good for the money, fit comfortably and securely and have good battery life (up to 8 hours). I also like how they have physical buttons for controlling playback and volume rather than touch controls.
Their charging case, which charges via USB-C, doesn’t feel terribly sturdy and is somewhat bulky, but in all these are a good value.
I was a fan of the original Earfun Free buds, and now there’s an upgraded version called the Earfun Free 2. They’re not a huge upgrade but like the originals, they fit my ears well and deliver decent bang for the buck with strong sound — they have just a touch of treble and bass boost (there’s plenty of bass) — and extra features such as wireless charging.
Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels, and these buds are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. These are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip that includes support for Qualcomm’s aptX audio codec if you’re using an aptX-enabled device (such as certain Android smartphones). Be sure to hit the on-page coupon to get these for $40 at Amazon.