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.
Wireless 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-1000XM3 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, we're presenting you with some serious bargains.
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, and they cost less than $100. Intrigued? Well, read on, and we'll find you a superb pair of 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. And if you're not an Apple user, Sony's WF-1000XM4 could be for you. They will be the successors to the Award-winning XM3, which are some of the best sounding wireless earbuds money can buy. They too are coming soon.
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 wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers for less than $100 (note: they're on sale for this price, and usually cost more).
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'd 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
If an unadulterated sound is your sole concern, these What Hi-Fi? Award-winners are hard to beat for the money. The budget-conscious in-ears deliver a cohesive, expansive and rhythmically-driven sound, augmented by a playful soundstage that few cheap wireless earbuds can achieve at the price.
A good fit is essential, and, due to the length of the earpiece itself, that might not be as easy to come by for everybody. But persevere and you'll be generously rewarded
With a stellar nine hours' battery life from the buds themselves, plus four additional charges from the included case, you get an impressive 45 hours of continuous use from this little set-up.
In addition to Bluetooth 5.0, there's support for Siri and Google Assistant, as well as a control button on each earpiece (designed to look like the Cambridge Audio logo). An IPX5 rating means they’re water and sweat-resistant too. There's no noise cancelling, but it is clear Cambridge Audio's focus has been on great sound over bonus features. And for that we applaud it.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 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 our 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 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, the wireless earbuds offer an energetic and spacious sound.
If you’re after a pair of affordable and entertaining in-ear headphones under $100, the Earfun Air are definitely worth investigating.
Read the full Earfun Air 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 earbuds of this standard aren't to be sniffed at.
Read the full Sennheiser CX 400BT review
Anyone looking for an affordable pair of sport-friendly wireless 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, apart from when you need to use the button found on each bud to control them.
The WF-XB700 are part of the company’s Extra Bass range of audio products and are tuned to emphasise low-frequencies, 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 complimented 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 cost roughly the same as a pair of AirPods. 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 a good cheap alternative to the likes of the Apple AirPods.
Read the full RHA TrueConnect review
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