With literally hundreds of options and countless similarly specced products, buying the best earbuds under $50 can be difficult. Which is why we put together this detailed buying guide to help you make the best decision.
After 20+ hours of research covering over 40 different earbuds, I can confidently say that these are the best earbuds under $50 in 2020:
- Best overall: MEE Audio M6 Pro ($$$)
- Best wireless: Anker Soundbuds NB10 ($$$)
- Best entry level: Betron DC950 ($)
- Best budget wireless: SoundPEATS Bluetooth Earphones (Wireless)
Buying earbuds is never easy, especially given the wide range of options available to you. Since these are budget earbuds, my evaluation criteria was value for money, not performance. While you can pick any of the models listed above without disappointment, there are several things you must consider when buying them.
In the sections to follow, I’ll share an expanded list of the best earbuds under $50 in the market right now. I’ll also share my review methodology, scoring process, and a quick evaluation of the 14 best earbuds from my list.[toc]
These have no reason to be as good as they are.
This was the first thought in my head when I tried the Betron DC950. For something that sits right at the lowest end of the earphone range, these sound surprisingly good. The bass is solid with a satisfying thump. The mids can sound a bit muddy but you won’t even notice it if you listen to mainstream music.
They’re also comfortable, moreso than they should be at this price range. The plug-like design does a good job of blocking outside noise.
Additional features, such as an in-line remote and microphone are highly welcome. I particularly like the tangle-free flat cable.
If you keep losing earphones and don’t want to invest $100 in an expensive pair, these should be your first pick. The sound quality is outrageously good and the little features – tangle-free cable, in-line remote, etc. – make it a rock solid buy.
Given the price, I would recommend everyone to buy a pair as your secondary listening device. If you’re on a budget, these are also the best earphones under $20 you can buy right now.
Best Earbuds for Noise Isolation: Monoprice Enhanced Bass
You’re not going to get much in the way of noise isolation at this price range (forget about active noise cancellation), but these earphones from Monoprice come pretty close.
The makers of these earphones aren’t kidding when they say it has enhanced bass. In fact, I’d say that this is probably the best bass you’ll find in earbuds in this price range.
That said, the overall sound quality is above average, not spectacular. The bass-heavy design means that the mids and highs drown out. Great for hip-hop and pop, but not so great for genres with more nuance (Jazz and Classical music lovers, look elsewhere).
Durability is a problem with several reviewers noting cord breakage. Though in my own review, I found the build quality to be competent.
What I like:
- Sound quality is good and loud. Despite their size, they don’t sound tinny or muffled
- Noise isolation works well
- The earbuds are comfortable for long hours, though they tend to run slightly smaller in size
- Remote control and mic work well
Chief complaints: durability, inconspicuous design (take that as a negative or a positive), and lack of tangle-free cord.
Buy these if you want a better known brand name and are looking for something inconspicuous. The sound quality is good and the bass is among the best in class. Durability remains a concern, however.
Best Earphones with Mic: Panasonic Ergo Fit
As one of the best-selling earbuds in this category, you can’t really go wrong with the Panasonic ErgoFit. It ticks all the boxes: good sound quality, good design, and good features. As one of my friends said, this is the “IBM of earbuds” – no one will ever truly regret buying them.
They’re also among the few options in this price range that offer competent built-in microphone and call controls. Massively useful.
What I like
- The sound quality is good if not extraordinary. The bass is good, though you have to get the right fit to really feel it
- The design doesn’t stand out while still looking good. These are designed to be neutral. You can also choose from a range of colors
- Solid build quality and durability. I’ve known people who’ve used these for 5+ years without any complaints
- The microphone and in-line remote work well
As far as complaints go, I do think these could have better audio quality. Cheaper alternatives from inferior brands do a better job of rendering bass. I can’t see why Panasonic couldn’t do better on this front.
A tangle-free cord is also highly missed.
Pick these if you like a drama-free pair of earbuds. You get a very well-reviewed product from a respectable brand that has topped the best seller charts for years. For non adventurous buyers, these should be the top pick.
Best Classic Earbuds: Edifier H180
I have to admit: I was drawn to these earbuds because they reminded me of the first pair of earbuds I’d ever owned.
In terms of design, this is as basic as they come. No fancy noise isolation, no sports clips, no tangle-free cords. You get earbuds and just that.
In terms of audio quality, these are competent. In fact, these are the only major brand on this list so far. The frequency profile is solid throughout; you won’t think that the bass or trebles are over-emphasized.
The design might pose a challenge for some people. Personally, I prefer in-ear earbuds, but I can see why some people might be drawn to these.
It does lack a lot of features, but that, I feel, is by intention and not accident. These are a throwback to the early days of earbuds when you only used them for listening and not a gazillion other things.
What I like
- Sound quality is good, though some sibiliants (the harsh ‘S’ sound) tend to stand out
- Classic, evergreen design that doesn’t stand out
- One year warranty – a rare thing in this category. Edifier is also known to issue replacements quickly and without any fuss
- The design gives you a better sense of your surroundings – might be a plus for some people
As far as cons go, I can point to the clear lack of common features. There isn’t even a built-in mic in the standard model. But if you’re looking for these features, I’d recommend the earbuds listed above.
Not everyone will appreciate the Edifier HS-180 earbuds. The design is a “classic” (for some: outdated) and in a world of in-ear earbuds, these stand out. There are no extra features and the sound quality isn’t mind-blowing.
But you do get one of the best earbuds under $50 in a design that won’t go out of style and from a brand that is known for quality and service. If these are important to you, I’d recommend the Edifier HS-180 highly.
Note: I used to have the Marsno M1 in this spot. While that is still one of the best pair of earbuds you can buy under $50, it’s not always easily available. Hence I’ve picked the Superbass from Mindbeast in its place.
There is an entire category of earphones meant specifically for gamers. Usually, these will boast strong low end (gotta hear the THUMP in the explosions after all) and tougher build quality to survive sweaty gaming sessions.
And here’s a consumer electronics secret: the gaming variant of any product is usually better. Gamers are very discerning consumers and their demands require the gear to last for hours of constant use. Whether you’re buying mousepads and keyboards or headphones, the gaming variant will usually be better.
The Mindbeast Superbass is no different. Sure, it accentuates the low-end – perhaps a little too much – but for casual users, this is a fantastically well-built pair of earbuds with some of the best low-end response within this price range. The trebles are sharp, though the mid-range gets lost a little. If you’re listening to bass heavy music (which is most popular music these days), you won’t mind the missing mids.
The build quality is definitely better than a lot of the competitors in this price range. These earphones also look good, especially the twirling pattern on the back of the earbuds.
Throw in a useful carry box, clever angled jack, and a thick, break-resistant wire, and you have a pair of earphones that will last you for years.
Best Wireless Earbuds: SoundPEATS Bluetooth Earphones
You have to give Apple credit. Until they basically forced the industry to accept Bluetooth earphones, if you wanted wireless earbuds, you had to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of expensive Bose.
Today, you can find astonishingly good wireless earbuds for the price of a couple of lattes and sandwiches at Starbucks.
These wireless earphones from SoundPEATS are the perfect example. They perform astonishingly well for the price and boast a laundry list of features. They’re also lightweight, easy to use, and feature a gym-friendly design.
In terms of sound quality, they perform well enough. You’ll never get as good sound from wireless speakers as you would from wired ones. But thanks to the solid noise isolation, you might actually feel that these SoundPEATS earphones perform better than they do.
Bluetooth earphones live and die by the battery life. Unfortunately, I’m yet to find anything that offers more than 12 hours on a charge. At 8 hours, these perform below par. Be prepared to charge them regularly. And carry spare wired earphones if you’re going to be away for long hours.
Sweat resistance is a much-needed feature. I didn’t think much of it until I had another pair of earphones die on me in the gym. If you sweat a lot or plan to use them while working out, this feature is a Godsend.
Which brings me to the design. With the ear clips and the plug-like design, these are perfect for working out. In fact, you might even find them uncomfortable for daily wear. In the gym, however, they stay put and isolate outside noise pretty well so you stay in your ‘zone’.
Best Earbuds for Gym: Senso Bluetooth Headphones
Remember when I said how Apple opened the floodgates for innovation in Bluetooth earphones?
This offering from Senso is the perfect example of that.
You get high-quality sound that would put most wired earphones to shame, comfortable, gym-ready design, IPX-7 waterproofing, and tons of bonus items, all for the price of a good t-shirt.
What’s there not to like?
Let’s dig a big deeper.
Unlike the SoundPEATS earphones, these are bigger and bulkier. This design is at least half a generation older, if not more. The battery is included within the earbuds, rather than the control unit. This older design is the only reason why I haven’t ranked it higher.
- The sound quality is good, or at least as good as wireless earphones in this range can be. The ear plugs isolate noise nicely so the sound will actually feel better than it actually is.
- The battery life is similar to the SoundPEATS at 8 hours (you actually get about 6-7 hours). The battery standby is much longer at nearly 240 hours, however.
- The controls are placed on the earbuds. This is an awkward spot and can be hard to reach. A control stalk located on the cable would have been much better.
- These earphones are IPX-7 waterproof. This means that they’ll work even if you drop your device into up to 3 feet of water. In contrast, the SoundPEATS are IPX-6, i.e. they can withstand a blast of water, but can’t be submerged in water.
Finally, you get a bunch of goodies with these earphones. There is a bonus carrying case which looks quite nice. You also get a magnetic car vent mount. I can’t attest to the quality of this mount since I didn’t get to test it. But it’s free so I can’t really complain.
On the whole, if you’re looking for a pair of Bluetooth earphones and are okay with a slightly bulkier design, these are a fantastic buy.
Best Design: Symphonized NRG 3.0
The first thing you’ll notice about the Symphonized NRG 3.0 earphones is the wood. In fact, that’s the primary marketing point – that the earbud housing is made from natural wood.
Wood, of course, has some acoustic properties. And Symphonized claims that it improves the sound quality of these earphones.
Within a tiny earphone housing, however, the impact is entirely lost. As things stand, this is mostly used as a marketing gimmick. Though that doesn’t mean that the wood doesn’t actually look nice.
Which brings me to the design: these are a great looking pair of earphones. The wood stands out and will draw attention. Don’t be surprised if at least a few people ask you about them.
The sound quality, overall, is good if not great. The price-to-performance ratio is strong and you won’t walk away disappointed from these earphones. If I have any complaint, it’s that the mids tend to be muted and muddy.
There are the standard features you should expect from earphones in this range. You get passive noise isolation and an in-line remote control with microphone. The cord, unfortunately, isn’t tangle-free.
We now come to the top-end of the roundup. Buying earphones in this range is always a bit tricky. The prices start going up enough that they can pinch you. It’s no longer lunch money; $50 is something you actually have to think about.
The problem is that if you’re willing to spend $50, you’re also likely to spend a few dollars more. There is always the temptation to splurge when you hit this price range. I had to check myself because I would regularly start comparing these earphones to $100+ premium products.
With that said, here is my list of the best earphones under $50:
I always pity any brand that labels its product for “musicians”. Musicians are an unforgiving bunch. If you call yourself musician-grade, you better walk the talk.
So when MEE released the second iteration of its M6 monitors and advertised it as “for musicians”, I was skeptical. I had heard good things about the first version, but I never had a chance to try them out.
But when I finally did, I was blown away.
MEE calls these “monitors”. If you’ve been around musicians, you would know that that’s not a term we use lightly. “Monitors” are expected to be professional-grade equipment that we use when making music. If something is labeled as “monitors”, it must adhere to a certain standard in accuracy and fidelity.
I’m pleased to say that the MEE M6 meets those standards, and then some more.
The first thing you’ll notice about these earphones (sorry – ‘monitors’) is the clear design. In a world of wood and brushed aluminium, the clear plastic stands out. You can see all of the innards. It’s an intentional choice – MEE wants musicians to see what they actually have inside.
The next thing you’ll notice is the detachable cord. Musicians are heavy users. One of the first points of damage in any musical gear is the cord. A detachable cord means that you don’t have to replace the entire earphones if the cord gets dinged up.
Things brings me to the most important part of these in-ear monitors: the sound quality.
The sound quality for these things is insanely good for the price. The frequency response is flat – as any good monitors should have. The bass, mids, and trebles are all clear with no particular emphasis on any bit. The mids – something most earphones mess up – are bright and accurate.
Can they replace my ATH M50x in a studio setting? Not really. But the audio quality is good enough that I don’t have to lug the M50X around everywhere. If I’m just working on a track casually, I can pop these in and I can get some work done.
There are a bunch of features – in-line mic, volume control, sweatproof design, etc. But you don’t really care about them, do you? You buy in-ear monitors because you want great sound. The features are just extra.
On the whole, I love these. I love the sound quality, I love the accuracy, and I love the little (big) touch of adding detachable cords. These are some of the best sounding earphones a beginner can buy at this price range.
Best Sound Quality: Shure SE112-GR
Shure is a big name in audiophile and studio gear. Shure’s top of the line headphones have been a staple in recording studios since the 60s. Audiophiles swear by the SRH range and the SRH840 is one of my personal favorite affordable studio monitors.
So when a heavyweight like Shure starts making earphones under $50, you have to take notice.
The Shure SE112 is Shure’s entry-level offering, but it does a tremendous job despite some shortcomings. The sound quality is arguably the best I’ve seen in any earphones under $50, and the build quality is good enough that it will last years.
In terms of sound profile, the Shure SE112 is very neutral. The bass, mids, and trebles are all fairly balanced, though I would say it favors the treble a little more than I like. The mids are particularly well-rounded – my personal top criteria for selecting earphones.
The build quality is fantastic. The earphones also do a great job of noise isolation. This is about the best isolation you can get in this price range without investing in any active noise cancellation.
If I had to point out any complaints, it would be about the fixed cable. Shure’s higher end earphones such as the SE 215 come with detachable cables. That’s a huge plus if you’re traveling or if you’re concerned about the cable breaking/tangling. I know we’re looking at budget earphones here, but offering the same detachable cable with the SE112 would have been nice.
Best Earbuds Under $50 with Noise Cancellation: TaoTronics ANC Headphones
Before I give you an overview of these earphones, you should understand the difference between passive and active noise cancellation.
- Passive noise cancellation – what most other earphones on this list offer – essentially blocks out outside noise. Which is to say, it isolates the sound.
- Active noise cancellation actively listens to outside noise. It then reproduces an audio signal that is the opposite of that noise, thereby “cancelling” it.
Active noise cancellation creates a much stronger sense of “quietness”.
Active noise cancellation is tricky, which is why most headphones that offer it are priced in excess of $100. That TaoTronics is even able to offer it at this price range is remarkable.
Simply put, these are among the cheapest active noise cancelling earphones you’ll find on the market.
How is the sound quality? Good and well-balanced. The bass is loud without being overwhelmingly so. The mids are clear. And the highs don’t have that shrillness that ruins so many earphones.
They also come with a MEMS noise cancelling microphone that performs extremely well even in busy environments.
The highlight, of course, is the active noise cancellation. When activated, you won’t hear any outside noise. If you’re working, in a flight, or just want to zone out, you can’t get anything better than this – at least in this price range.
There is also a handy “monitoring” mode. Press a button and the noise cancellation stops so you can hear what’s going on outside.
If I have any complaints, it’s the battery life. TaoTronics claims you can get 15 hours from 1 hour charge, but I found it closer to 10-12 hours. Not bad, but can be a problem on long flights.
Overall, I can’t recommend these enough if you’re looking for active noise cancelling earphones. The price-to-performance ratio is insane and the sound quality is good enough for most purposes.
Best Passive Noise Isolation Earbuds: SoundMagic E10
I have mixed feelings about the SoundMagic E10. On the one hand, they have excellent sound quality and consistently good performance. On the other hand, there are better alternatives at this price range (Shure and beyerdynamic above).
So while I do recommend them, I don’t see any reason that you would want to choose them over the MEE M6 or the beyerdynamic.
By itself, this set of earphones performs admirably. The sound quality is rock solid and well-balanced, though a bit heavier on the bass side. I like the design as well, especially the all-metal enclosure.
The build quality is great and will easily last you several years of regular use. A stronger or detachable cord would have made it even better.
There is no built-in microphone or remote control, however. These are pure earphones, not a headset. If you want a microphone, look elsewhere.
On the whole, good earphones with a nice design. You won’t be disappointed by them. But at the same time, there are earphones in this price range that have slightly better performance.
How I Scored the Best Earbuds Under $50
“How do I sort these out?”
This was my first reaction when I started researching earphones on Amazon.
There was a time when you could reliably pick a few earphone brands – Sennheiser, Sony, Shure – and be happy with your purchase.But the competition right now is insane.
There are literally over 40,000 results in Amazon when you search for “earbuds”. 20,000 results in the ‘Electronics’ category alone.
Most of these are from brands I’ve never heard of – Marsno, MEE audio, Senso, TaoTronics, TAIR, Keku, to name a few.
As Shark Tank’s Kevin O’ Leary would say: “Stop the madness!”
To help sort this immense variety into some sort of comprehensible list, I followed this process:
- I made a list of all earbuds I’ve used or owned
- I asked my musician friends about earbuds they’ve used or owned to my list
- I added the best critically-reviewed earbuds online to this list
From this list, I eliminated all earbuds that were a) over $50, b) out of production, and c) extremely poorly reviewed.
At the end, I had a list of 44 of the best earbuds under $50 that I shortlisted:
I was surprised by some of the brands on the list. There were a few audiophile stalwarts – AKG, Sennheiser, Shure, Klipsch – but also a massive number of new brands pushing the envelope for what earphones can actually do.
Next, I started my evaluation process.
To start with, I asked myself: “what do people look for in a pair of affordable earbuds?”
The answer will of course vary from person to person. One person might prefer audio quality while another might prefer good design. Features might be important to one customer but completely immaterial to another.
I ran a rough survey of friends and family to figure out what’s important to them. Based on their feedback, I evaluated my list on the following metrics:
Sound quality is obviously the single most important factor when buying earphones. All features, design and build quality issues aside, you buy earbuds to listen to music. If it doesn’t sound good, it can’t be counted among the best earbuds under $50.
Sound quality is also extremely hard to evaluate. You can measure frequency response and loudness all you want, but there is a subjective quality to sound that’s hard to measure – at least for this reviewer.
To ensure consistency, I used the same tracks to evaluate all the 44 earbuds. These were specifically chosen to test the range and frequency response of the gear:
- Radiohead – National Anthem (for testing overall balance)
- Bob Marley – Turn Your Lights Down Low (for testing “space” and reverb)
- CAN – Spoon (for testing rhythm and timing)
- Nina Simone – I put a spell on you (for testing the midrange)
- Max Roach & Abbey Lincoln – Lonesome Lover (for testing treble)
- SBTRKT – Wildfire (for testing bass)
For testing equipment, I used the following:
- Lenovo Windows 10 desktop with Focusrite Scarlett Solo audio interface. All audio files were in FLAC format. The room was also acoustically treated for good measure.
- OnePlus 5 Android phone running Spotify at default sound quality.
This gave me a “range” of performance on a more professional setup (desktop) vs what most people would actually use (smartphone).
For added accuracy, I asked 3 of my friends to give their impressions of the sound quality as well. I added their scores to mine to arrive at a weighted average.
Since sound quality is the most important factor in my review, I gave it the highest weight in the final score calculation (0.5).
After sound quality, I prioritized a number of additional characteristics when choosing the best earbuds under $50, such as:
- Build quality: Are the earphones solidly constructed? Are they comfortable to wear? Do they feel flimsy or robust? Will they last regular wear and tear? I considered these questions when evaluating the earphones.
- Features: Features are not critical but nice to have. A built-in microphone, sweat resistance, etc. are some of the features I considered.
- Design: Good design isn’t a make or break feature but it can push an average pair of earphones into the “above average” zone. Obviously, some of you will prioritize design, so I’ve listed my favorite earphones by design below.
- Price: Although at $50, we’re already in the budget category, I still considered price in my evaluation. There is a big difference between $10 and $50. A value for money pair of earbuds got a higher score in my evaluation.
- Personal impressions: What I feel about the product based on my experience with it. This had a small impact on the final score.
I then used a weighted average to calculate the final score. I prioritized sound quality, pricing, and build quality in the formula, as shown below:
0.5 * Sound Quality + 0.2 * Price + 0.15 * Build Quality + 0.075 * Design + 0.075 * Features
Over to You
This wraps up a rather lengthy guide to the best earbuds under $50 you can buy right now. This was one of the toughest guides we had to write thanks to the sheer breadth of options available in this price range.
Hopefully, this guide will help you buy the perfect earphones for your needs.
For more recommendations and advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.
- Need help picking a pair of studio headphones to accompany your earphones? Here’s our guide to studio headphones
- On a smaller budget? Here’s our pick of the best earbuds under $20 right now.
- Bass hungry? Check out our guide to the best bass headphones