If you're in the market for a pair of wireless earbuds but don’t have oodles of cash lying around, you may be justifiably struggling to decide on which set to buy.
More options are doing the rounds than ever, with everyone from big-name brands like Sony to fly-by-night headphone chop shops offering wireless earbuds for less than £100. The problem with so many companies targeting the bottom end of the market is that while some, like Sony, are truly exceptional value, others are merely hawks looking to draw in customers with low prices, inflated spec sheets and a sonic performance that doesn't live up to its own marketing hype.
Yes, at this price there are always going to be compromises compared to what you get on some of the more expensive sets in our main best wireless earbuds guide, but that doesn't mean you can't pick up some quality operators even while keeping costs down.
Common issues include poor build quality, direly short battery life, and, worst of all, unlistenable audio. Here to help you invest in a sub-£100 set of wireless earbuds that’s worth your time and money, we’ve created this guide detailing the top options we can personally recommend based on our experience using them.
Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialties include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.
The quick list
You can see the short version of this list in the table below. If you want a more detailed breakdown of why we recommend the specific set of sub-£100 wireless earbuds in this list use the read more links.
The best overall
For less than £100 you won't find a better set than the Sony WF-C700N. During our tests, though battery life isn't top of the charts they delivered the best overall performance of all the sets on this list.
Best budget without ANC
The best budget without ANC
If you can live without active noise cancellation then the Sony WF-C500 is a fantastic set of wireless earbuds. During our tests they delivered a surprisingly balanced sound and comfortable fit, despite their low cost.
Best budget with ANC
The best budget with ANC
The Earfun Air Pro are a fantastic value pair of wireless earbuds that deliver best-in-class ANC at this price. Though they aren't the best-sounding set, if you want to block out background noise while listening to music these are a great, cost-effective option.
Best smart buds
The best smart buds
The Pixel Buds A-Series are on the expensive end of this list, but if you want a reliable set of true wireless earbuds with great Google Assistant support and smart functionality that can also deliver decent audio quality, these are the ones to get.
Best for battery life
The best for battery life
The JBL Live Pro 2 TWS offered the best battery life of all the earbuds on this list, with our stamina checks showing they have more than enough juice to last a long-haul flight or a week's worth of listening with ease.
The best wireless earbuds under £100 we recommend in 2023
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Sony's excellent wireless earbuds slot neatly between the budget WF-C500 and premium WF-1000XM5, and we think they're a brilliant option that more than justify their price tag. The buds are impressively small, and their lightweight design helps make them even more comfortable than Sony's XM4. Battery life is competitive at seven and a half hours.
They lack aptX HD and LDAC but do feature noise-cancelling tech, which the WF-C500 lack. 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 software update has seen Bluetooth Multipoint also added so you can be connected to two devices simultaneously.
We think the Sony's sound quality is superbly balanced too, 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.
Downsides? The lack of support for aptX HD and LDAC is disappointing, and the charging case only provides one extra charge which seems a little mean. But the superb sound and great feature set make these easy to recommend as some of the best Sony headphones available.
Read the full Sony WF-C700N review
|Sound||Well balanced for the price||★★★★★|
|Features||Solid, but some codec support is missing||★★★★☆|
|Build||Compact, comfortable design||★★★★★|
The best budget without ANC
When it comes to wireless earbuds, Sony has sewn up the high end with the WF-1000XM5. But can it do the same at the budget end of the market with the WF-C500?
These won 2022 and 2023 What Hi-Fi? Awards, so we would have to say the answer is yes. The C500 handle the basics very well, with Bluetooth 5.0 and compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs. Battery life is a healthy 10 hours from the earbuds themselves, and another 10 from the charging case, making a total of 20.
They pair with Sony's consummate Headphones Connect app for sublime controls, and numerous extra features (like the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, which upscales audio files to something approaching ‘hi-res’ quality). Voice controls come via Google Assistant and Siri, and the IPX4 rating means they're resistant to water splashes.
Sonically, they're even-handed and nicely balanced, with well-shaped bass notes and plenty of rhythmic spark. In short, they offer a lot of what makes Sony's high-end buds so compelling without cutting too many corners. Definitely one for the shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
|Sound||Energetic, but balanced||★★★★★|
|Features||Some codecs are missing and you don't get wireless charging, but it gets the basics right||★★★★☆|
|Build||Comfortable fit, and water resistant||★★★★★|
Best budget with ANC
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 better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if you're out and about in noisy environments.
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, and considering the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low – a staple of Earfun's approach.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
|Sound||Functional with accurate bass, but a slightly harsh upper midrange||★★★★☆|
|Features||Good ANC performance for the price||★★★★★|
|Build||Surprisingly premium feeling case||★★★★★|
Best smart buds
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
|Sound||Well rounded for most genres||★★★★★|
|Features||Excellent Google Assistant support||★★★★★|
|Build||Good, but a lack of volume controls on the buds||★★★★☆|
Best for battery life
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 Earbuds II, then these JBL earbuds could be right up your street. (They launched at a higher price, but have recently dipped below £100.)
For the money, you get all the features you could wish for, including ANC, IPX5 water resistance, a thorough control app which offers some customisation, a good user experience and a comfortable enough design. 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 too. Detail levels are excellent at this level, as are the dynamics on offer. If you're looking to make the step up from a cheap pair of earbuds and want an entertaining sound, these JBLs have to be on your list.
Read the full JBL Live Pro 2 TWS review
|Sound||Punchy and lively with meaty bass||★★★★★|
|Features||No aptX HD or LDAC codec support||★★★★★|
|Build||Solid, but limited tip options||★★★★☆|
How to choose the best wireless earbuds under £100
So what should you look for in the best cheap wireless earbuds? Sound quality is obviously paramount, just don't expect them to rival the more premium pairs. A secure and comfortable fit is also vital, especially if you'll be wearing them for prolonged periods – there's no reason you can't find this on pairs at this price level.
Noise cancelling was once rare at this price, though it's becoming increasingly common, and a charger-cum-carry case usually comes as standard.
How we tested these wireless earbuds under £100
How we test the best wireless earbuds under £100
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Of course, testing wireless earbuds often doesn't require such facilities. What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at its very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give each pair plenty of listening time (and time to run in). It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
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