Best cheap wireless earbuds under £100 Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best cheap wireless earbuds under £100 you can buy in 2021.
Wire-free earbuds have been a game-changer when it comes to personal audio. Freed from the shackles of a smartphone, users can hit the gym, go running or simply go about their daily lives without fear of snagging an arm on a dangling cable.
They come in all different shapes and sizes, including premium models like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods Pro, to more affordable options. The latter is what we're concerned with here. And with all the pairs mentioned below coming in at under £100, there are some serious bargains to be had.
So what should you look for in the best cheap wireless earbuds? Sound quality is obviously paramount, but a secure and comfortable fit is also vital, especially if you'll be wearing them for prolonged periods. Noise cancelling is rare at this price, though not unheard of, and a charger-cum-carry case usually comes as standard.
Below, we've rounded up various cheap pairs that have passed through our testing rooms and left a lasting impression. While all quite different, they have two things in common: they've scored very highly in our reviews (some are Award winners, in fact), and they cost less than £100 (for some, prices do fluctuate, but we regularly spot them for under £100, so be patient). Intrigued? Read on, and we'll find you a pair of the best cheap wireless earbuds.
And if you're looking a bit further afield, and have a bit more budget to play with, the Apple AirPods 3 should be landing soon. Expect shorter stems, a redesigned charging case and possibly more fitness-tracking features.
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of cheap wireless earbuds. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into cheap wireless earbuds, and they're sensational performers for less than £100.
In fact, they're What Hi-Fi? 2021 Award winners.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we would definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money. A great buy, even if you're not trying to keep the cost below £100.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
iPhone users have got multiple models of AirPods to consider, but what about Android smartphone owners? We'd point them in the direction of the Pixel Buds A-Series – they're Google's best effort to date.
They're light and comfortable, and while noise cancelling is off the menu, they do a good job of isolating you. Your colour choices are either white or 'Dark Olive' and they boast IPX4 water resistance so you can use them for general exercise and running.
The five-hour battery life isn't exactly class-leading but should be enough for most people. You also get another 20 or so from the carry case. Pairing Pixel Buds A-Series is extremely simple, especially if you're using an Android smartphone or tablet that boasts the Fast Pair feature.
Come music time, there's a lot to like about the Pixel Buds thanks to their approachable, balanced sound. It doesn't favour any part of the sonic spectrum which can't always be said for even the best cheap wireless earbuds. They're well-rounded performers and available at a great price.
Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
The CX 400BT are more sonically gifted than most at this price (a price that fluctuates above and below £100, so do keep an eye out).
They're not water- or sweat-resistant but they do boast Bluetooth 5.1 support and a mobile app, neither of which is a given at this level. The former promises high-quality, far-reaching Bluetooth transmission, while the latter opens doors to EQ adjustment and control customisation.
The controls are simple for voice calls, too. Just tap the right earbud once to activate your phone’s voice assistant or accept incoming calls, twice to jump forward a track or rejects calls, or hold it down to increase volume. Battery life is seven hours, which is decent but can be bettered in this company.
Sound quality is where the Sennheisers excel, though. They produce a detailed and lively sound with bags of energy and enthusiasm. For the money, it's hugely appealing, and worth it even if they do creep up over £100.
Read the full Sennheiser CX 400BT review
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to sporty earphones and the JBL Reflect Flow is one of the best options out there under £100.
Aimed at active lifestyles and gym-goers, they're IPX7 waterproof and provide 10 hours of playback (or 30 hours with the charging case) – that should outlast multiple workout sessions. Pop them in the case and they go from empty to fully charged in two hours.
Whether pumping iron or beavering away in an office, the 'Ambient Aware' and 'TalkThru' modes could come in useful. By short-pressing the left bud, you’ll scroll through to a slightly quieter sound (Ambient Aware) or very low volume playback (TalkThru) so you can chat to someone without taking the earbuds out.
Sound quality is solid, with a good level of detail and a pleasing amount of precision. Overall, the JBL Reflect Flow are impressive cheap wireless earbuds, perfect for the gym and other forms of exercise on a shoestring.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review
This Pro variant takes the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and adds active noise cancelling (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if you're out and about in noisy environments.
And considering the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low – a staple of Earfun's approach.
The headphones pair easily, and they're comfortable enough for even the longest of conference calls. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback; three skips to the next track. Double tapping the left earpiece accesses Siri on your iPhone and also answers or ends a call. The crucial function you’ll want to practise is a triple-tap of that left earpiece, as this scrolls between the Earfun’s noise-cancelling, ‘normal’ and ‘ambient sound’ modes.
They're built to survive a downpour, too. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for not a lot of money.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
These Skullcandys are some of the most affordable wireless earbuds on the market and represent serious value. Sound is full and fun, and while it won't trouble a more premium pair, it's very impressive given the price.
As you might expect, features are thin on the ground. The cable can be removed from the flexible neckband and the battery life is a decent 6-7 hours. You get a basic three-button remote just below the left earpiece and a little plastic fastener that lets you loop the cable together when you're wearing – but not using – them.
There are no frills here, so aptX, fast charging and NFC are all absent from the spec list. But if you're looking for some of the best cheap wireless earbuds, these offer a dynamic and fun sound for the money, with a relatively wide and well-separated soundstage.
They lack a little audio finesse – but they come in well under £100. And for that reason, they come highly recommended.
Read the full Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless review
These cheap wireless buds are packed with features. You don't get noise cancelling (that's reserved for their more expensive siblings mentioned above), but the Earfun Air do provide excellent noise isolation and they feel comfy in situ too. They're also waterproof to IPX7 standards (submersible in one metre of water for up to 30 mins), support virtual assistants and include Qi wireless charging if you've got a suitable charger to hand.
Battery life is seven hours from the buds and a further 28 hours from the charging case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is solid and stable, calls sound clear and for the money, it's an energetic and spacious sound.
If you’re after a pair of affordable and entertaining headphones under £100, the Earfun Air are definitely worth investigating.
Read the full Earfun Air review
Anyone looking for affordable, sport-friendly earbuds might be tempted by the Sony WF-XB700. Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours – nine hours from the buds, nine hours from the case – while their IPX4 water resistance rating provides the buds (but not the case) with protection against 'water splashing’. It takes a few twists to get them securely into place, but once they're in you can almost forget about them, they're that comfy.
The WF-XB700 are part of the company’s Extra Bass range of audio products and are tuned to emphasise low-frequency response, rather than deliver a neutral sonic balance. And although there’s meat behind their low-end, it doesn't overshadow mid and high frequencies.
Their balance is actually complemented by decent punch and pleasing tautness and agility. Some rivals boast greater detail and subtlety, but at this price, you could do a lot worse.
Read the full Sony WF-XB700 review
RHA has got in on the true wireless act with the talented TrueConnects, which sound good and undercut Apple's AirPods in terms of cost. Unfortunately, unlike Apple, RHA has not quite managed to nail the connectivity. As a result, we experienced the odd Bluetooth blip.
Everything else about the TrueConnects is well considered though. The battery lasts around five hours between charges and the supplied charging case can recharge the buds up to four times, prolonging the battery life for an extra 20 hours. Comfort is excellent, with surprisingly effective passive isolation when used with the supplied Comply foam tips (you also get several sets of standard silicone tips in the box).
Sonically, the RHA angle towards a neutral tonal balance, with crisp treble and plenty of satisfying, subtle bass. And, some slight connectivity niggles aside, their ease-of-use and insightful sound make them some of the best cheap wireless earbuds around.
Read the full RHA TrueConnect review