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Don't sleep on these $40 wireless earbuds. They sound way better than I expected

The 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 earbuds prove that quality earbuds don't have to cost hundreds of dollars.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Describe what's shown in the image.
Jada Jones/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 earbuds are a great budget buy, and they're on sale right now for $40.
  • Great sound quality and ANC and all-day comfort are the highlights of these earbuds.
  • But for the price, expect common tradeoffs like finicky touch controls and the absence of spatial audio tech.

The wireless earbuds market is more competitive than ever, with premium offerings from big names like Bose, Sony, and Apple taking the main stage. Although there are plenty of cheaper options out there, it's easy to end up disappointed by what you get for the money.

Also: The best earbuds you can buy

Now, what if I told you that you could have Sony's warm sound, Bose's comfort, and Apple's noise cancelation in a pair of earbuds for less than $50? The great news is that this combination exists in 1More's PistonBuds Pro Q30 wireless earbuds.

I spent two weeks using the Q30 earbuds, so let me explain why I think they're my top pick in the low-end market.

View at 1More

First, the out-of-the-box sound is impressive for a pair of $50 buds. These earbuds produce a bass-forward sound, so if you enjoy audio that never gets muddy or excessive, you'll be very satisfied with them.

The Q30 earbuds feature 10mm diamond-like carbon (DLC) dynamic drivers, and the DLC material on the drivers' membrane is supposed to ensure a higher-quality audio experience. DLC drivers are typically found in much more expensive headsets, so I'm convinced the internal audio materials are responsible for the great sound.

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds

When I listened to Infinite by Eminem, I found the bass, midrange, and treble to be well-balanced, clear, and crisp. You can easily feel the deep bass while still appreciating the higher frequencies, which come through crystal clear. While you only have access to the standard SBC and AAC codecs for Android and iOS, and not AptX and LDAC for higher bitrate for better quality), most users likely won't hear and notice the difference.

The Q30 earbuds are highly customizable and full of audio features, including different ANC modes, a wide range of EQ settings, a low-latency mode, and spatial audio. From what I've heard in a coffee shop setting, the ANC is comparable to more expensive earbuds, such as my AirPods Pro 2. Seriously. 

You can choose between strong ANC for boisterous environments, mild ANC for indoor listening, wind noise-reduction mode, and adaptive ANC. You can hear the difference between the ANC modes, and each mode's effectiveness is equally impressive.

1More Piston Buds Pro Q30 earbuds on a wood desk
Jada Jones/ZDNET

For controls, you can toggle between audio modes, play and pause music, and decline and reject calls by tapping the bud's stem. I just wish the sequence of taps wasn't so intricate, as it took me a while to execute my desired functions at times.

Spatial audio on these earbuds is another miss for me, as the soundstage doesn't expand as much as I'd like and doesn't offer a noticeably immersive experience.

Also: I tried Audio-Technica's new earbuds: Great sound, fair price, just don't take them to the gym

But where the earbuds lack in immersion they make up for in comfort. The Q30 come with three soft ear tip sizes to help you find the best fit. Once you do, comfort, passive noise isolation, ANC, and sound quality increase significantly. I wore the Q30 buds for about four hours before I took them out, and didn't experience any ear fatigue.

If you prefer earbuds with stems instead of round buds, these are incredibly comfortable, light, and stay in place, even if you take them to the gym. Their IPX5 rating makes the buds safe for sweaty workouts, so you can rely on the Q30s to accompany you throughout your daily activities. 

ZDNET's buying advice

The 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 wireless earbuds will make you wonder if you're overpaying for aspects like all-day comfort, quality sound, and reliable ANC. Sure, more expensive earbuds can offer you higher-quality Bluetooth codecs, better spatial audio tech, and more intuitive touch controls, but if those benchmarks don't excite you, the Q30 will suit you just fine.

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