Best cheap wireless earbuds 2024: top budget pairs tested by our experts

Best cheap wireless earbuds: quick list

We see so many wireless earbuds in a year that it may be hard for the humble consumer to keep track, and while there are plenty of premium performers out there, today's widened market proves that "cheap" doesn't have to mean nast. Sound quality has come on leaps and bounds at both ends of the scale, although the worst models should still be avoided like the plague.

If you can grab a decent pair, though, you'll still get admirable sound quality, advanced features like active noise cancellation, a comfy fit and solid waterproofing. Provided, of course, you know where to look.

To help you out, our team of experts has thoroughly tested all of the cheap wireless earbuds below, meaning there will be a pair here to suit your needs and budget. All of the models below are available for under £130 / $160 / AU$210, with most costing considerably less. The ones at the pricier end of 'cheap' tend to be discounted fairly regularly too, so keep an eye out for a deal using our handle price-tracking widgets.

Harry McKerrell headshot
Harry McKerrell

I'm a staff writer who has listened to and reviewed dozens of products - from floorstanding speakers to truckloads of wireless headphones - during my time at What Hi-Fi?. I have first-hand experience with the models tested below, all of which have impressed me and the team with their solid sound performance, features list and great overall value. There are so many wireless buds on the market that it really has become a minefield, especially now that many cheap knock-offs are muddying the waters. I've broken down not only which models are within an affordable price bracket, but which ones will suit your specific user wants and needs. Let's see if we can steer you towards the right pair.

The quick list

The best cheap wireless earbuds overall

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. Five-star wireless earbuds combine comfort, ANC and sensational sound quality.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: 5.2 (AAC, SBC)
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Waterproofing: IPX4
Battery life: 15 hrs (7.5hrs buds, 7.5hrs case)
Weight: 4.6g each

Reasons to buy

+
Very comfortable fit
+
Refined presentation for the money
+
Detailed, dynamic, musical sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Charging case lacks battery oomph
-
No aptX or LDAC support

Sony's best-value wireless earbuds slot neatly between the budget WF-C500 and premium WF-1000XM5, both of which feature on our list of the best wireless earbuds overall. The C700N are small, but what's most impressive is how their lightweight design actually helps to make them even more comfortable than the more premium Sony XM5. They really are supremely comfy and almost unbelievably well-made considering the price.  

Sony's value buds do lack aptX HD and LDAC, but crucially they feature noise-cancelling tech, something that's lacking in the WF-C500. Adaptive Sound Control automatically switches listening modes depending on your location, and Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality, a truly impressive feature at this level. A software update has seen Bluetooth Multipoint also added so you can be connected to two devices simultaneously.

Best of all, Sony's knack for a sound profile that feels energetic yet nuanced and well-balanced is fully on display with the C700N, with deep, detailed bass, expressive mids and engaging highs. They're a very musical listen for the money and a clear step up from the cheaper WF-C500, so you're not just paying extra for ANC and a few added features.

Downsides? The lack of support for aptX HD and LDAC is disappointing, and the case only provides one extra charge, which seems a little mean. That said, the superb sound and great feature set make these easy to recommend as some of the best cheap wireless earbuds available.

Read the full Sony WF-C700N review

The best cheap wireless earbuds for value

Fantastic, feature-packed and affordable earbuds that sound better than you'd expect.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Waterproofing: IPX7
Battery life: 35hrs (7hrs buds, 28hrs case)
Weight: 5.35g each

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, expansive sound
+
Great feature set
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Treble needs more refinement
-
Newer rivals sound better 

The EarFun Air were the first cheap wireless earbuds to earn five stars – and that's despite us having tested models from all manner of well-known and better-established audio brands. There's a new iteration on the way in 2024, but for now, the current Air model remains superb value for money.

In 2020, little-known company EarFun created a well-built set of earbuds that are comfortable to wear and perform brilliantly, stunning everyone with their design, build quality and raft of high-performing features. They have wireless charging and a spacious soundstage, plus they're rated IPX7 so can be fully submerged in water, making them ideal for workouts in the rain (or even the pool). 

Battery life is also impressive at 35 hours, and the EarFun Air even have features usually reserved for much pricier models, such as in-ear detection that pauses playback when you take them out of your lugs. Best of all, they sound far better than you'd expect, offering a profile that melds spaciousness and breadth with excitement and vivacious punch. At this price, only the Sony WF-C500 are recommendable over the Air in terms of sound. 

If you want some of the best cheap wireless earbuds – especially if you'll be wearing them while working out – the Earfun Air are for you.

Read the full EarFun Air review

The best cheap wireless earbuds for exercise

These sporty wireless earbuds put big, bold ticks in the boxes of style and sound quality.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Waterproofing: IP68
Battery life: 30hrs (10hrs buds, 20hrs case)
Weight: 14.4g

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable, lightweight, secure fit
+
Likeably lively, detailed sound
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Noise-cancelling is only OK
-
No aptX support

If you asked us what our recommendation for the best affordable sporty buds would be, we'd still opt for the JBL Reflect Flow Pro, even over the EarFun Air above.

They've been around for a while now, but the Reflect Flow Pro are a waterproof, lightweight pair of buds built for sports and utterly dependable if you need an inexpensive way of giving your workouts a real kick.  Multiple sizes of ear tip fins mean you should get a secure fit that doesn't budge while exercising, with that handy in-ear wing further ensuring your headphones don't tumble away when you're giving your workout the beans.

Like other 'Pro' models, they offer active noise-cancellation, which does a good job of blocking out the outside world so you can focus come exercise time, while an ambient mode lets in some background noise to give you a better sense of your surroundings when out running the roads. The 30-hour battery life (10 from the buds, 20 from the case) is also up there with more premium earbuds, as is an IP68 rating for almost complete protection against water and dust ingress.

Sonically, they're a cut above, with a zippy, lively character that befits their sporting heritage. If you need a little extra boost, pop these in your ears and stick on something lively – PBs here we come.

Read the full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review

The best cheap wireless earbuds for features

Great sound quality and packed with plenty of useful features.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: 5.2 (AAC, SBC)
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Waterproofing: IPX5
Battery life: 30hrs (8 hrs buds, 22hrs case)
Weight: 4.8g each

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, lively sound
+
Solid, meaty bass
+
User-friendly app and set-up

Reasons to avoid

-
No aptX HD or LDAC
-
Control customisation could be better
-
Only three ear tip choices

If you've got a decent-sized budget to play with but can't stretch to more premium options like the Sony WF-1000XM5 or the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, then these JBL earbuds could be right up your street.

For the money, you get all the features you could wish for, including ANC, IPX5 water resistance, a comfortable design and a thorough control app which offers a good user experience and some customisation. A few more ear tip options to help get the perfect fit wouldn't go amiss, though.

Battery life is good at eight hours with Bluetooth and noise-cancelling on, while the wireless charging case will top the total combined time to 30 hours. Touch controls are included at the top of each stem, and you also have Multipoint Bluetooth so you can connect two sources simultaneously.

The excellent sound quality is the icing on this cake, with the JBLs favouring a lively and entertaining sound. Bass weight is nicely judged and there's good extension there, while detail levels and dynamics are excellent considering the level we're operating at. 

If you're looking to make the step up from a cheap pair of earbuds but still want an entertaining sound, these JBLs have to be on your shortlist.

Read the full JBL Live Pro 2 TWS review

The best cheap wireless earbuds for Apple users

Impressive true wireless headphones for iPhone owners on a budget.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: 24hrs (5hrs buds, 19hrs case)
Weight: 4g each

Reasons to buy

+
Tonally balanced 
+
Flawless wireless tech
+
Built for Apple users

Reasons to avoid

-
Won’t fit everyone
-
No on-ear buttons
-
Sound harsh when pushed

"Cheap" isn’t usually a word you associate with Apple, but thanks to a price drop since they were originally released in 2019, these second-gen AirPods just sneak into our list as the ideal affordable option for Apple fans. We've opined in the past of our desire to see a cheaper set of Apple in-ears hit the mainstream market, and while the much-rumoured AirPods Lite may arrive next year, the second-gen AirPods are still your best bet at this end of the price scale.

These are the older-style AirPods, which don’t really live up to the one-size-fits-all mantra, fitting some ears perfectly and falling out of others with the slightest movement, but where they are universally successful is with the seamless way in which they work with iPhones, MacBooks and other Apple kit. Setup and connection are flawless, which is what makes them so well-suited to those who are already committed to the Apple way of life. There are no on-ear touch controls, sadly, but the buds are light at just 4g each.

That was also true of the original AirPods, but they didn’t exactly sound the best. These, however, have a nice tonal balance, with more detail, dynamism and space within the sonic presentation. In isolation, they’re not massive improvements, but in reality, the result is a noticeably more exciting and engaging listen. The AirPods Pro
2
or the high-end AirPods Max are Apple's most sonically sophisticated headphones, but you'll have to spend a lot more to get hold of them.

2019's AirPods still stray towards harshness at high volumes and can’t always untangle the more intricate aspects of certain compositions, plus the lack of noise-cancelling and limited physical controls might put them off the table for some, but for Apple acolytes who can’t stretch to a pair of AirPods Pro 2, they still tick a lot of boxes.

Read the full Apple AirPods (2019) review

How to choose the best cheap wireless earbuds for you

There are a few things to consider before you buy a pair of cheap wireless earbuds.

First, battery life. Wireless earbuds give you some juice from the buds themselves, plus more from the rechargeable carry case. It's important to look at both stats and consider how you'll use them. If you're only ever listening in short bursts, like a commute that's under an hour, the carry case stat will be more important to you. But if you want to use them on long-haul flights, look out for a pair with at least six hours from the buds.

And just because they're cheap doesn't mean battery life will automatically be worse than more expensive pairs. You'll be surprised what you can get for not a lot of money.

If you're a fitness fiend who wants a secure fit and waterproofing, look for a pair of sports headphones with sweat- and water resistance. You should seek out an IP rating of at least IPX4, meaning they'll survive basic splashing but not a dunk in the drink.

You also might want to consider which version of Bluetooth they're running. We're currently on Bluetooth 5 (5.3 to be precise). Newer versions can offer more range and more secure connections, so it might be worth digging into the specs.

If you think cheap wireless earbuds won't have extra features such as active noise-cancellation (ANC), then you might be surprised to learn that some of our picks do include this too. It might not be quite as advanced as the tech in more premium pairs but it should do a decent job of blocking some outside noise.

You'll also want to consider comfort, especially if they're going to be accompanying you on that aforementioned long-haul flight. Finally, you definitely want decent sound quality for the money – rest assured that all of the above have come out of our testing labs with flying colours.

How we test the best cheap wireless earbuds

In order to put the best cheap wireless earbuds through their paces, we use them as if we had bought them ourselves. That means minimal lab time, and maximum use outdoors in both built-up areas and open spaces to test the stability of the wireless connection.

This also lets us test their noise-isolating properties, and active noise-cancellation (ANC) if they have it. We try them with both a smartphone and computer, to see how well they stand up in different use cases. And if they're a sporty pair, we'll take them out for a jog or to the gym to check how well they stay in our ears while exercising.

Each pair is compared to the best in its price bracket. We're all about comparative testing, with a stockroom full of class-leading products to compare against.

Finally, our review verdicts are agreed upon by the whole team, not an individual reviewer. That means personal preference or bias doesn't come into it, while also ensuring we're being as thorough as possible. What Hi-Fi? has been a trusted source for consumers since 1976, and we're proud of our reputation as the home of honest, unbiased reviews.

MORE:

On a health kick? Here's our best running headphones rundown 

Want to block out the world? Here's our best noise-cancelling headphones 

Vinyl lover? Check out our best Bluetooth turntables list 

Money no object? Here's all of our favourite wireless headphones

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

With contributions from