If you’re looking for versatile and affordable headphones, a pair of the best cheap wireless earbuds could be just the ticket
The best cheap wireless earbuds have come a long way over the past few years. Technological advances have seen products that were once plagued by abject audio quality flourish into one of the most popular headphones subcategories.
Sound quality may still lag behind premium options, while advanced features such as active noise cancellation and in-ear detection are often omitted, but those are sacrifices worth making if you’re looking to save yourself some cash.
A pair of the best cheap wireless earbuds will typically cost you less than £50, though we have also included some that cost up to £90 that we think are worth the extra money. Even in this limited range, there are hundreds of attractive options out there to consider. That can make picking the right pair tricky, but we’ve listened to hundreds of hours of audio through a wide range of earbuds to help make your life easier.
Below, you will find a buying guide that will arm you with all the information you need to make an informed purchase, followed by short reviews of what we deem the best cheap wireless earbuds of the countless products we’ve tested.
If you’re ready to embark on a new audio journey without breaking the bank, read on.
Best cheap wireless earbuds: At a glance
|Best overall option||1MORE PistonBuds Pro (~£60)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best-sounding earbuds under £30||Skullcandy Dime (~£27)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best noise-cancelling option||EarFun Free Pro 2 (~£70)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best for exercise||Jlab Go Air Sport (~£25)||Check price at John Lewis|
How to choose the best cheap wireless earbuds for you
What kind of fit should I choose?
There are two popular styles of wireless earbuds, and each has its own benefits. First is the one-size-fits-all model, as used by the Apple AirPods. Such earbuds rest just inside your ears and leave your ear canals open. They provide no flexibility when it comes to fit – either they will match the contours of your ears nicely and sit snugly in your lugholes, or they will feel loose and be in danger of falling out.
Their design means a reasonable amount of sound from the outside world makes its way into your ears, which is great for situations where you need to be aware of your surroundings, but it can negatively affect audio quality. Many people find these types of earbuds more comfortable to wear for long periods as they don’t exert pressure on your ear canals.
The other style of earbuds use eartips (often made of silicone) to secure themselves in your ears. These tips seal off your ear canal, simultaneously offering a more secure fit and providing passive noise cancellation. You will find that most manufacturers include a range of different-sized tips to help ensure you get the best fit possible.
Can I use them for phone/video calls?
The best cheap wireless earbuds feature built-in microphones that allow you to make and receive phone/video calls via your Bluetooth connection. The number of microphones and their quality will vary depending on the earbuds’ cost, as will their ability to isolate your voice from ambient sounds.
Can I just wear one earbud on its own?
This depends on the earbuds in question, but most of the time, yes. Many wireless earbuds operate in a master-slave relationship, whereby the driver in one bud (the master) receives audio before relaying it to the slave. In cases such as this, you can only use the master earbud while the slave is in the charging case. Other earbuds are less fussy and allow both buds to be used independently at any time.
Is the Bluetooth version important?
As with anything that is periodically updated, newer tends to mean better. The latest version of Bluetooth will offer the strongest, most stable connection possible, and have the furthest wireless range and widest bandwidth – the rate at which data is transferred over the connection. The latest iteration, Bluetooth 5.2, is therefore preferable, but earbuds that support it are still relatively scarce. For casual listening, anything from Bluetooth 4.2 and up should serve you just fine.
Does it matter which Bluetooth codecs are supported?
Codecs determine how Bluetooth transmits information to your device and play a crucial role when streaming audio via your wireless earbuds. The most commonly used codecs are SBC – which is pretty much universal – and AAC, which is Apple’s codec of choice. Both offer solid sound quality and a stable connection and will be the ones you typically find yourself using with a pair of cheap wireless earbuds.
Codecs such as Qualcomm’s aptX HD or aptX Adaptive and Sony’s LDAC support higher-resolution audio streaming and offer improved sound quality. However, support for hi-res Bluetooth codecs is rare at under £50.
It’s worth noting that both your earbuds and the device you intend to use them with need to support a specific codec to be able to make use of it.
How much should I spend on cheap wireless earbuds?
This of course depends on your budget, but like most tech products, you will generally find you get what you pay for. We recommend spending at least £20 if you want to avoid your buds sounding horrible and don’t want them giving up the ghost after a few months of use.
The closer you get to £50, the more features your earbuds are likely to offer and the better they’re likely to sound. This isn’t always the case, though, which is why it’s important to check specs and read product reviews before making a purchase. If you’re unsure as to what specs and features to look out for, the section below will point you in the right direction.
The few entries on this list that exceed the £50 mark have earned their place by offering something special, whether that’s supreme sound quality, a more comfortable fit or useful features like ANC and wear-detection. If you want the best you can get without breaking the £70 mark, these will be the ones for you.
What other features should I look out for?
IP certification: This denotes the earbuds’ ability to resist the ingress of dust and sweat/water, with the two digits after “IP” referring to each, respectively. IPX4, for example, means that the buds aren’t dust resistant, as shown by the “X”, but are resistant to splashing water, as shown by the “4”. These buds would therefore not be ideal for taking to the beach, where wayward sand is prone to get everywhere, but are fine for jogging or a trip to the gym, and they can withstand the UK’s wet weather.
Battery life: With most cheap wireless earbuds coming equipped with a charging case, this is measured on two fronts – how much play you get out of the buds themselves, and how much additional juice the case provides. The overall listening time typically clocks in somewhere in the region of 20 hours, but this is dependent on the volume at which you play your audio, how much time you spend on calls and whether you have power-hungry features like ANC activated.
Voice assistant support: This feature is pretty commonplace nowadays, even among the cheapest wireless earbuds. Still, if utilising Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri is particularly important to you, it’s best to double-check when making your purchase.
Touch controls: These allow you to perform a variety of actions, including skipping tracks, adjusting volume and hailing your voice assistant without having to dig your phone out of your pocket. Mileage may vary on the breadth of control that you get, with some of the cheaper options just offering play/pause, and others allowing for some of the above-mentioned commands but not others.
Companion app: Many wireless earbuds manufacturers have companion apps that you can download, giving you a range of customisation options to get the most out of your buds. Common offerings include remapping touch controls – perfect if you have a particular setup that you’re used to – and switching between different EQ presets.
How we test budget wireless earbuds
Much of our testing of budget wireless earbuds is done in groups, allowing us to make direct comparisons between similarly priced products. We gather together a bunch of low-cost buys below our £90 limit and assess how comfortable and secure their fit and in/on/over-ear feel is; how well-made they are and how successfully they employ their various features and controls.
Of course, sound quality remains the number one priority with wireless earbuds, especially in the budget bracket where bass reproduction is often overwhelming. Testing audio quality involves listening to an array of genres from different audio sources so that all musical preferences have been tried and tested with each pair of earbuds and across all supported codecs and connectivity options.
The best cheap wireless earbuds to buy in 2023
1. 1MORE PistonBuds Pro: Best cheap wireless earbuds overall
Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at AmazonThe original 1MORE PistonBuds were our top pick for those seeking cheap wireless earbuds but have now been supplanted by their Pro upgrade. Improving upon their predecessors across the board, the Pro sound better, last longer and incorporate new features like wear detection and active noise cancellation.
Despite squeezing in all of that functionality, they’re among the smallest earbuds out there, trading in an AirPods Pro-inspired aesthetic for more discreet drums. This compact housing doesn’t hinder audio quality, however, with the 10mm dynamic drivers producing powerful sound underpinned by a particularly weighty low-end response. If the standard tuning isn’t to your liking, the 1MORE app offers 12 EQ presets, including Bass Booster, Podcast and Hip-Hop.
With excellent sound and a slew of useful features, the 1MORE PistonBuds Pro earn the title of our favourite cheap wireless earbuds ahead of a host of capable alternatives.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 30 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.5g per earbud, 30g charging case; IP rating: IPX5
2. Skullcandy Dime: Best-sounding wireless earbuds under £30
Price when reviewed: £27 | Check price at AmazonUltra-compact and supremely comfortable to wear, Skullcandy’s Dime earbuds produce a warm and well-balanced sound signature, with clearly communicated vocals, mids and trebles. As well as excellent sonic performance, the Dime are rated IPX4 for sweat and water resistance, and allow you to freely use either bud by itself. Another nice inclusion is a short lanyard attached to the case that allows you to clip it onto your keyring, reducing the risk of misplacing the inconspicuous case.
The touch controls leave a bit to be desired – the range of functions offered is great, but having to remember the specific commands for each is less fun – and having to find purchase on the small stems to push the Skullcandy logo that executes commands is rather fiddly. Battery life is nothing special, either, clocking in at around 12 hours in total. Still, for great-quality sound at an extremely reasonable price, the Skullcandy Dime are a solid choice.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 12 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 4g per earbud, 25g charging case; IP rating: IPX4
3. EarFun Free Pro 2: Best cheap wireless earbuds for noise cancellation
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at Amazon
The EarFun Free Pro 2 are typically available for around £70, and for that kind of money they’re superb value. Their active noise cancellation reduces the impact of low-end frequencies in your environment very effectively and the ambient sound mode works well, too.
The Free Pro 2 are among the lightest ANC earbuds on the market and sit extremely comfortably in your ears. EarFun includes a range of eartips and wingtips to help you achieve a great fit and once in, they will remain in your ears no matter what you’re up to. Audio-wise, the Free Pro 2 sound very similar to their predecessors: bass reproduction is their strongest suit but there’s also decent detail in the mid-range.
In addition to engaging sound and noise-cancelling capabilities, the Free Pro 2 offer a low-latency mode, wireless charging and up to 25 hours of audio playback with ANC on. That’s a very impressive resume for such affordable buds.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 25 hours (ANC on), 30 hours (ANC off); Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.1g per earbud, 30g charging case; IP rating: IPX5
4. Sony WF-C500: Best cheap wireless earbuds with spatial audio
Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at John Lewis
Spatial audio isn’t something typically associated with budget earbuds, but the Sony WF-C500 offer it courtesy of Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. That technology helps set these buds apart from their rivals but is by no means their only area of strength.
Audio quality is excellent for the money and can be personalised using a very effective graphic equaliser found in the Sony Headphones Connect app. And those who are easily frustrated by touch controls will find the WF-C500 particularly appealing as they ditch touch-sensitive surfaces and incorporate depressible buttons instead.
They may not have the smart noise cancellation found on more expensive Sony true wireless earbuds, but the WF-C500 are an affordable choice that deliver an audio performance on par with many options costing significantly more than they do.
Read our full Sony WF-C500 review for more details
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 30 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.5g per earbud, 30g charging case; IP rating: IPX5
5. JLab Go Air POP: Best cheap wireless earbuds with EQ options
Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at John Lewis Despite some advanced features finding their way into the budget earbuds market, cheap buds offering EQ presets are still quite a rarity. One of the few pairs of earbuds that do include them is the JLab Go Air POP, with Signature, Balanced and Bass Boost modes you can cycle through via a long press on either bud.
The Signature setting enhances vocals and bass, while Bass Boost amplifies low-end frequencies and will be the go-to for bass lovers. For something somewhere in between, you can opt for Balanced mode, which delivers the most even sound across the frequency curve.
The buds themselves offer a comfortable and stable fit, and each can be worn independently. The Go Air POP are rated IPX4 for water resistance, so they’ll hold up well against rain and sweat, and the 32-hour battery life including the charging case is plenty for most users.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 32 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: 3.7g per earbud, 27.5g charging case; IP rating: IPX4
6. Huawei FreeBuds 5i: Best cheap earbuds for Huawei phone owners
Price when reviewed: £84 | Check price at Amazon
If you have a Huawei smartphone and a budget of around £100, the Freebuds 5i make for an excellent purchase. Tuned to pop music by default, they offer high-resolution playback via LDAC codec support, a number of EQ presets, and some of the best noise-cancelling in their price bracket. Add in wear detection, solid battery life and a comfortable fit, and you’ve got a package that ticks every box save wireless charging and a truly customisable EQ.
They’re a solid buy for those without a Huawei handset too, you’ll just be missing out on a few Huawei-exclusive bonuses like “identify song” – a Shazam-like feature for finding out the name of unrecognisable tunes – and the ability to use double taps on the buds to take photos.
Read out full Huawei FreeBuds 5i review for more details
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: Up to 28 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.9g per earbud, 34g charging case; IP rating: IP54
7. Tribit FlyBuds 3: Best cheap wireless earbuds for water resistance
Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at AmazonThe Flybuds 3 possess an IPX7 rating for water resistance, meaning that they can be fully submerged in water (though sadly you won’t be able to use them swimming). They’re also a great choice if you’re looking for a secure and comfy fit thanks to the inclusion of six pairs of differently sized silicone eartips.
But what really sets them apart from other options on this page is battery life of up to 100 hours. The buds may only last you around five hours but the charging case delivers a whopping 19 further charges. It also supports Qi wireless charging in addition to USB-C and doubles as a power bank, with the 2600 mAh battery ready to charge your phone in desperate situations.
On the audio front, the Flybuds 3 make their presence known with surprisingly strong audio quality. There’s a pleasing weight to bass, and vocals are articulated with impressive clarity.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 100 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 108g (case and buds); IP rating: IPX7
8. JLab Go Air Sport: Best cheap wireless earbuds for exercise
Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at John Lewis The JLab Go Air Sport impress in just about every area key to the success of earbuds designed for exercise. Their design is ideal for rigorous activity, with comfortable silicone tips and flexible rubber hooks that loop over the back of your ears ensuring they remain in place whether you’re running, cycling or pumping iron. An IP55 rating certifies them protected from splashes of liquid as well as particle ingress so they’re perfectly well-equipped for the sweatiest of workouts.
Audio quality is suitably detailed across a range of genres, with decent vocal articulation and crisp, clear treble. Bass could be more impactful but with everything that the Go Air Sport get right, it’s hard to hold this against them. Most impressive is the battery life, with up to eight hours of playback from the earbuds themselves and a total that stretches beyond 32 hours with the charging case. Even if you work out every day of the week, you’re more likely to get worn out before these earbuds will.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 32 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: 6.2g per earbud, 45.1g charging case; IP rating: IP55
9. Edifier W240TN: Striking design and superb sound
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at AmazonWhile their RRP is slightly above our £70 recommended spend for cheap earbuds, the Edifier W240TN are worth considering as they’re often discounted into budget territory. Two things about them immediately stand out – the industrial-style design is both eye-catching and unique, while the use of the latest Bluetooth 5.3 technology ensures a supremely stable connection.
Once you’re connected, audio has a decent breadth to it, with plenty of detail on offer to aid instrument separation and the articulation of more nuanced vocal elements. The Dynamic tuning was our favourite, but you’re free to create your own EQ via a four-band graphic equaliser in the Edifier Connect app. Also in the app are the ANC settings; while this isn’t the most effective noise cancelling we’ve experienced, it’s fine for the money and puts a decent dent in ambient sounds when you’re out and about.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 25 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 5.8g per earbud, 40g charging case; IP rating: IP55
10. JLab JBuds Air Pro: Best cheap wireless earbuds for features
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at John Lewis Another pair that just squeeze in under our £70 budget, the JLab JBuds Air Pro offer a ridiculous number of features for what they cost. First up is Bluetooth multipoint, something that is rarely seen in mid-range offerings, let alone at this price. This feature allows you to stay connected to two audio sources simultaneously, gaming on your laptop before pausing to take a call on your phone, for instance.
There’s a low-latency mode that reduces audio lag input when gaming, which is crucial if you’re playing competitively and the slightest delay might mean defeat for you or your team. There’s no active noise cancellation, but you do get a pretty decent hear-through mode, as well as a suitably effective wear-detection feature. Add to this list of features extensive battery life of up to 36 hours with hear-through off and detailed audio with a particularly hefty bass response, and the JBuds Air Pro are a terrific option if your budget can stretch this far.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 36 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: Not specified; IP rating: IP55
11. UGREEN HiTune T3: Best cheap AirPods Pro alternative
Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at AmazonA cost-effective choice for those unwilling or unable to splash out on the AirPods Pro, the UGREEN HiTune T3 offer active noise cancellation and surprisingly solid audio quality for the money. Bass has a decent weight to it and there’s plenty of detail in the mid-range. Due to their strong mid-range focus, the HiTune T3 lend themselves particularly well to podcasts, with voices coming through clearly, even with multiple guests talking at once.
The noise cancellation on offer isn’t going to win any awards for how well it attenuates sound but that shouldn’t come as a surprise given how cheap the T3 are. It’s reasonable for the money, however, and will reduce the impact of low-end frequencies to a certain extent. With ANC off, the T3 deliver up to 24 hours of battery life, which is perfectly acceptable by modern true wireless earbuds standards.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 24 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: Not listed; IP rating: IPX5
12. Urbanista Lisbon: Best compact cheap earbuds
Price when reviewed: £49 | Check price at UrbanistaThe idea of stemless AirPods may not be everybody’s cup of tea but if it appeals to you, you will love the Urbanista Lisbon. These petite earbuds can be worn with or without the silicone wingtips they come with and are so unobtrusive it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them. We even managed to fall asleep with them in our ears a number of times, which doesn’t happen often.
In addition to their supremely discreet design, the Lisbon offer up to 27 hours of battery life, with the buds themselves lasting up to nine hours per charge. That’s an impressive figure for buds so small and they’ve also got an easy-to-execute suite of touch controls. Available in black and four rather more appealing colours, the Urbanista Lisbon sound good too, though as is always the case with open-fit earbuds, they lack a little when it comes to bass reproduction.
Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 27 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4g per earbud, 32g charging case; IP rating: N/A