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The best cheap earbuds for school: AirPods alternatives

Upgrade your audio experience with these affordable Bluetooth earbuds and headphones.

It's time to think about the audio gear you or your child will be using upon a return to school or college. These affordable, newly released earbuds and headphones ensure that you will be up to date for the new school year, with the technology you need for the best audio experience from your mobile devices.

Choose from these low cost earbuds to get the sounds you want -- at a price you can afford. And if you hate earbuds, there is a brand new set of headphones in this list that you can try.

Coumi TWS-817K Bluetooth earbuds

Six hours playing time

Coumi TWS-817K Bluetooth earbuds

The Coumi TWS-817K IPX7 waterproof earbuds are quick to pair and deliver a really loud sound across all ranges. Download the Coumi app to tweak the EQ and get the sounds you prefer. There are two spare ear tips for optimum comfort. They will play music for up to six hours on a full charge, and you can charge them a further three times in the charging case.

Double tap either ear to play or pause the music, and tap the right ear to increase the volume and left to decrease. Long press either ear to invoke the voice assistant, and double tap to answer or hang up the phone. These earbuds are available in black, white, or pink colors. These are good quality earbuds for under $30.


  • IPX7 waterproof
  • Range of colors


  • Could be too loud for some

Mezone B40 TWS noise cancelling earbuds

Good deep bass

Mezone B40 TWS noise cancelling earbuds

The Mezone True Wireless Stereo earbuds are IPX8 waterproof and deliver a superb sound, especially across the bass ranges. A beep -- not a voice prompt -- indicates that the earbuds have paired successfully to your device. The earbuds sit comfortably in the ear, and there are two different size ear tips to help you get the best fit. Double tap to play and pause music, and long tap to invoke the voice assistant.

These headphones do not seem to have any capability to increase or decrease the volume. Noise cancelling seems to work well, but there is no option to turn this feature on or off. You can get four hours playing time from the earbuds, and a further 4-5 charges from the case. For the cost of these buds, the sound range is superb -- even if the on-bud controls are a little lacking.


  • Good sound quality


  • No option to run off noise cancelling
  • No volume control

Tribit Flybuds NC earbuds

Noise cancelling earbuds

Tribit Flybuds NC earbuds

The Tribit Noise Cancelling earbuds toggle to switch noise cancelling on and off, and switch ambient on. Sound quality is good across the ranges, and the earbuds pick up muted bass sounds well. Tap twice to play and pause music or answer a call, tap three times to navigate through the tracks, and press and hold to reject incoming calls.

There is no way to adjust the volume on the earbuds, which is a shame. These earbuds are rated IPX4 so they are sweat and water resistant. You can get up to eight hours playing time with active noise cancelling switched on, and the case will charge the earbuds a further two times before it needs to be charged. These are excellent quality earbuds for the price, although the lack of volume adjustment on the earbuds themselves could be a show-stopper for some.


  • IPX4 sweat and water resistant
  • Eight hours playing time


  • No on-bud volume adjustment

Tribit Flybuds C1

Great bass sound

Tribit Flybuds C1

The Tribit Flybuds C1 come with six sets of ear tips for the most comfortable feel. Unlike the Flybuds NC, you can change the volume on these buds by pressing and holding the earbuds when music is playing. Tap an ear bud to play or pause the music, or double click to navigate through the tracks or to reject a call. Triple click to activate the voice assistant. Pairing is quick and simple with a voice prompt to indicate when connected.

Sound is clear across all of the ranges with little distortion at mid and high ranges, and bass sound is good for earbuds. The earbuds can be cranked right up, giving an extra loud sound with little distortion. The build quality is good for these earbuds and the sound quality is reflected in the price.


  • Extra sound
  • Good build quality


  • More expensive than other earbuds

Tranya T10 earbuds

Comfortable to wear

Tranya T10 earbuds

The Tranya T10 earbuds are really comfortable in the ear and have three sets of ear tips to help you find the most comfortable fit. They easily connect to Bluetooth and the touch controls are responsive. Tap and hold for one second to play and pause music, tap twice on either ear to adjust the volume, and tap three times to navigate through the tracks. Tap four times to activate the voice assistant, and five times to turn game mode on and off. Simply tap once to answer a call and press and hold to reject a call.

You can get over seven hours playing time at mid volume on a full charge, and you can charge up to four times from the charging case. Sound is good across the ranges, and the earbuds are loud. Noise cancelling works well, although there is no option to turn noise cancelling on or off. These sub-$30 earbuds pack a punch for the price and have great audio and build quality.


  • Loud earbuds
  • Good build quality
  • Over seven hours playing time


  • Cannot turn noise cancelling on or off

Soul Emotion Max over-ear headphones

Superb comfort and sound

Soul Emotion Max over-ear headphones

If earbuds are just not your thing, then try the new Soul Emotion Max headphones. Use the slider to switch active noise cancelling on and off, and double tap the power button to switch transparency modes on or off. If you prefer, you can even change out the protein leather ear cushions for breathable mesh cushions supplied in the box. The battery life is excellent too -- with up to 24 hours playing time on a full charge if ANC is switched on.

Tap the power button once to play and pause music, or tap twice to enter transparency mode. Use the power button to answer, reject, and switch calls by tapping it once, twice, or three times. Sound across all of the ranges is excellent with rich deep bass and clear mid ranges. Upper ranges are not tinny, and the sound is loud. If you love the comfort of headphones and are prepared to pay a little more for the sound quality, then these headphones are certainly worth the cost.


  • Active noise cancelling and ambient sound controls
  • Comfortable ear cushions
  • Over 24 hours playing time


  • More expensive than most earbuds

Which earbuds are most comfortable?

When choosing earbuds, choose the style of earbuds that will give the best fit. Some shorter stem earbuds need to be twisted so that they will stay in your ears, whereas some longer stem earbuds will hang in your ear. Make sure that you choose the correct size of ear tips to avoid putting pressure on your ears.

Are the IP numbers important?

If you play a lot of sports, or live in an area where sweat will get into the earbuds, then it is best to choose a set of earbuds that are rated at a minimum of IPX4. Some earbuds are waterproof and will not suffer if they are splashed by rain or if you wear them in the shower. Check that the earbuds are rated for the task you want them to do.

Which is better: In-ear buds or over-ear headphones?

This comes down to personal choice. Some people want to carry a compact set of earbuds in their pocket, and are prepared to compromise a little on sound quality for portability. Others prefer the over-ear experience, which can give a richer sound with less disturbances from ambient noise. If you struggle with putting objects in your ear, or feel discomfort, then over-ear headphones should be your go-to choice.

How did we choose these earbuds and headphones?

We chose these Bluetooth audio devices based on three factors: functionality, sound quality, and price.

Some of these earbuds are low cost and have fewer features than higher cost models. However, for the price, the sound quality was excellent, and playing time and charging capability was good.

Some of the earbuds have extra features such as the ability to adjust the volume in the ear buds and to modify the active noise cancelling settings. The Coumi earbuds have an app to adjust the EQ settings, while the Flybuds have a toggle for noise cancelling. This entire range of earbuds has little distortion -- even with the cheaper models.

If price is not an issue, then the Soul Emotion Max headphones are certainly worth a try -- especially if you like an immersive experience when listening to music.

Which earbuds are right for you?

To find the perfect earbuds or headphones, you need to decide on which form factor will be the most comfortable for you to wear all day. Do you find that earbuds can hurt after several hours wear, or is the waterproof design the most important factor for you? Will you wear your audio for several hours on end, and need a set of earbuds that offers an extended battery life, or is sound quality far more important to you?

Also, consider the following:

  • How many charges can the earbuds charging case deliver before the case needs to be charged? If you are going to be out and about for a long time, consider earbuds with a larger capacity battery and charging case.
  • How comfortable is the device? If you hate pressure in your ears, then you need to consider earbuds with longer stems so that they will not be wedged in your ear.
  • How good is the sound quality? If you want a fully immersive sound, then over-ear headphones will deliver a good all around sound experience. However, if being able to hear things around you is important, then you might prefer earbuds so that you can avoid any issued caused by not being able to hear anything.
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