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The best budget earbuds under $100: Expert tested

ZDNET tested the best cheap earbuds that cost $100 or less while still offering premium-grade features like noise cancellation and extended battery life.
Written by Nina Raemont, Associate Editor
JLab JBuds ANC 3 | Best budget earbuds overall
JLab Jbuds ANC 3 against pink backdrop
JLab JBuds ANC 3
Best budget earbuds overall
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1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 | Best budget earbuds for competitive noise cancellation
1More Piston Buds Pro Q30 earbuds on a wood desk
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30
Best budget earbuds for competitive noise cancellation
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Soundpeats Air4 Pro | Best budget earbuds for audiophiles
Soundpeats Air4 Pro earbuds and case.
Soundpeats Air4 Pro
Best budget earbuds for audiophiles
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Apple AirPods (2nd generation) | Best budget earbud from Apple
Apple AirPods (2nd generation)
Best budget earbud from Apple
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JBL Endurance Peak 3 Wireless Headphones | Best budget earbuds for working out
JBL Endurance Peak 3 against turquoise
JBL Endurance Peak 3 Wireless Headphones
Best budget earbuds for working out
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Allow me to let you in on a little secret: You don't need to pay over $100 for a decent pair of earbuds with premium features. In fact, you can spend as low as $40 and still get an amazing pair of noise canceling earbuds with strong battery life and all-day comfort. But just because it's possible to pay a budget price for a pair of earbuds doesn't mean it's easy to find these budget earbuds. That's where ZDNET editors' and my expert-testing of many affordable earbuds on the market comes in. 

Also: The best earbuds of 2024

What are the best cheap earbuds you can buy right now?

ZDNET went hands-on with every budget earbud pick on this list to compile recommendations for every use case, from casual and noise-canceling listens to exercise-friendly earbuds that stay put in your ear. Our staff tested out a ton of earbuds, chose our favorites, and left behind the flops to create this list of $100-or-less earbuds with impressive features. My pick for the best budget earbuds overall is the JLab JBuds ANC 3 for their 40-plus hour battery life, premium active noise cancellation, and versatility. For more of my favorites, keep reading. 

The best budget earbuds of 2024 

Pros & Cons
  • Long battery life
  • Bluetooth Multipoint
  • Great sound
  • Amazing ANC
  • An odd squeaking noise comes every so often when you handle the earbuds
  • No in-ear detection
  • Touch controls aren't great
More Details

JLab JBuds ANC 3 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth Multipoint | Battery life: 9 hours in the earbuds and 33+ hours in the case | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof? IP55

These JLab JBuds earbuds nearly have it all: They cost less than $60, they have an extensive battery life that makes frequent charging unnecessary, and they have noise cancellation (ANC) that works well. Though it's not always easy to find budget earbuds with real ANC, these are a pair that deliver.

The JLab Jbuds ANC 3 offer three listening modes: ANC, ANC Off, and Be Aware. The ANC mode dims down and distances external sound as I listen to audio, and is competitive with some of the more premium earbuds I've tried, for a fraction of the price. 

Given how lightweight the buds are, they also fit snugly and comfortably in my ears, and, most importantly, stay in them while I exercise. With a long battery life, multipoint Bluetooth for easy audio switching between devices, and great sound, these are an excellent choice for $60 earbuds. 

More: You're overpaying for earbuds and this $60 pair proves it

Pros & Cons
  • ANC that rivals AirPods Pro 2
  • All day comfort
  • $40
  • Finicky touch controls
More Details

1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 | Battery life: Over 7 hours | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof? IPX5 

Noise cancellation in cheaper earbuds is often a gimmick. Headphone companies slap the words "noise-canceling" on any earbud they sell, because an earbud can essentially cancel out the external noise of the world if the music playing is loud enough. That's not the same as active noise cancellation, which uses microphones to assess the ambient sound waves of your environment and match it with the opposite sound waves. 

So what if we told you that these under $50 earbuds have noise cancellation that actually works? ZDNET headphone expert Jada Jones tested these 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30, and can confirm that the ANC is comparable to more expensive earbuds, like the AirPods Pro 2.  

If you want a pair of buds that share similar features to higher-end earbuds, like Sony's warm sound, Bose's comfort, and Apple's noise cancellation, these could be for you. Oh, and did we mention they are half, if not a third or a fourth, of the price of those aforementioned brands' earbuds? 

More: Don't sleep on these $40 wireless earbuds

Pros & Cons
  • Delivers high quality sound
  • Adjustable EQ in the app
  • Firmware upgrades don't work
More Details

Soundpeats Air4 Pro tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 | Battery life: Over 6 hours | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof? NA

These earbuds from Soundpeats are for people who take their music seriously but aren't serious about spending $300 on a pair of earbuds. The Soundpeats Air4 Pro earbuds offer some modern amenities, like Bluetooth 5.3, noise cancellation, and in-ear detection that stops and starts your music as you take the earbuds in and out. But what you really care about with these is the sound, which ZDNET contributing writer Jack Wallen says is high-quality. 

He recommends these earbuds to anyone who cares a lot about sound quality and is constantly adjusting the EQ of their music to hear the most out of it. "The Soundpeats Air4 Pros deliver a rich, dynamic, and agile sound that I would normally associate with costlier earbuds," Wallen writes. 

More: These $70 wireless earbuds are my go-to recommendation for audiophiles on a budget

Pros & Cons
  • Right under $100
  • Great for Apple users
  • Not the most updated Apple chip or software
More Details

Apple AirPods (2nd generation) tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 | Battery life: Over 24 hours in the charging case | Noise cancellation: NA | Waterproof? NA

Amazon wants you to believe that these AirPods cost $129, but in reality they are always on sale for $99, making the 2nd generation AirPods a perfect fit for this list. You aren't getting any of the snazzy new features that Apple offers its newer AirPods models, like spatial audio, longer battery, and upgraded chips, but if you are only concerned with price and brand, then these under $100 earbuds will suit your Apple-devoted fancy. They offer solid sound, easy setup, ability to connect to all your Apple devices, and 5-hour battery life.

Review: Apple AirPods

Pros & Cons
  • Magnetic ear loop to stay around your ears
  • 50 hours battery life
  • Waterproof and dust proof
  • A little uncomfortable
  • Sound isn't perfect
  • No ANC
More Details

JBL Endurance Peak 3 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 | Battery life: Around 50 hours in the charging case | Noise cancellation: No | Waterproof? Yes

There are a few important factors that make a good exercise earbud: Long battery life (because who wants to be in the midst of an excruciating workout as their music dies on them?), a secure fit, and sound that keeps you aware of your surroundings. The JBL Endurance Peak 3 accomplishes all of that. 

The headphones have a magnetic loop that secures to your ears as you exercise. Move your head all you want -- these won't come off. Anyone who regularly runs knows how irritating it can be to consistently push your earbuds back into your ears to prevent them from falling out. It was nice using these and not having to worry about that for once. Do keep in mind, however, that the fit can be tight for larger ears. 

The battery life is legit: With a 50-hour battery life, you could work out for two hours every day for nearly a month before having to think about charging these. The earbuds boast an IP68 rating, so you can submerge these in water and kick them through dust and they will still work. The earbuds don't have any ANC, but that makes sense for an exercise earbud, because the last thing you want as you're running or biking alone in a city is to be unaware of your surroundings. 

What are the best cheap earbuds?

The best cheap earbuds you can buy are the JLab JBuds ANC 3 earbuds. With 42 hours of battery life, amazing ANC, and a comfortable, light fit, you can do anything in these, from clear conference calls to silent subway rides. 

Cheap earbudsPriceBattery lifeNoise cancellation
JLab JBuds ANC 3$5442 hours Yes
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30$407 hoursYes
Soundpeats Air4 Pro$726 hoursYes
Apple AirPods (2nd Gen.)$9924 hours in charging caseNo
JBL Endurance Peak 3$9950 hours No

Which budget earbuds are right for you?

I chose earbuds that cost $100 or less and offer exceptional features at a not-so-premium price. The right earbud for you depends on what you're using it for: are you an outdoor exercise junkie who listens to music as you workout? Do you want them for casual listening as you work and study? Do you want a pair with noise cancellation? All these details impact which is right for you. 

Choose these cheap earbuds...If you want...
JLab JBuds ANC 3The best budget earbuds you can buy. At $60, they offer impressive noise cancellation, a snug and comfortable fit in your ears, multipoint Bluetooth connection, long battery life, and great sound.
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30The best budget earbuds for noise cancellation. At $40, they are nearly a steal.
Soundpeats Air4 ProThe best budget earbuds for anyone who cares a lot about their music quality but doesn't have lots to spend.
Apple AirPods (2nd Gen.)The best Apple earbuds that are under $100.
JBL Endurance Peak 3The best budget earbuds for exercise. With 50 hours of battery life in the charging case, a secure fit around your ears, and water and dust proofing, you can go on many runs in rainy weather without ever damaging these earbuds.

How we test budget earbuds

While testing budget earbuds, our staff considered the following: 

  • Price: Every pick on this list costs $100 or less, with many of the budget earbuds on this list going for a fraction of that price. The earbuds on this list range from $40 to $99. But just because they're not as expensive as premium buds doesn't mean they lack the features premium earbuds have. 
  • Battery life: The earbuds on this list have impressively long battery life, with a few pairs offering 40 to 50 hours of playtime before a recharge. 
  • Sound quality: What's the point of an earbud if it doesn't deliver great-sounding music? We tested each of these earbuds ourselves, assessing them for their sound performance. 
  • Special features: Some of the earbuds on this list offer multipoint Bluetooth, noise cancellation, and thoughtful design choices that make wearing them every day enjoyable. 

Are earbuds suitable for kids?

If you believe your child is old enough and responsible enough to care for and keep track of a pair of wireless earbuds, that is up to you. Personally, I wouldn't give a pair of true wireless earbuds to a child under 10, since individual earbuds are easy to lose or get traded away on the playground. 

However, models like the Sony WI-C100 connect wirelessly to devices but are wired to one another; this makes them a bit easier for younger children to keep track of, and they're much more affordable than their true wireless counterparts.

Can earbuds damage your ears?

Earbuds that don't have a proper fit can cause a lot of discomfort and might even cause bruising or small cuts depending on how they fit into your ears. Also, listening to music, podcasts, and videos at high volumes can damage your hearing over time. So make sure your earbuds have properly-sized silicone tips for a secure, comfortable fit, and set them at a reasonable volume.

Does noise canceling help with studying?

Having a pair of earbuds with active or adaptive noise canceling tech can be a big help when studying, since they can filter out annoying background sounds like conversations, TV shows, and music. So if you study in dorm common rooms, libraries, or at the dining table at home, you may want to invest in a pair of earbuds with noise cancellation tech.

What's the difference between True Wireless and Bluetooth earbuds?

The terms "true wireless" and "Bluetooth" refer to very different things, but they can co-exist in the same model of earbuds. Bluetooth refers to HOW the earbuds connect to your devices, and in this case, that means wirelessly pairing. True wireless means that there are absolutely no wires connecting the earbuds to one another or your devices; picture a pair of AirPods, and those are True Wireless. Compared to something like the Sony WI-C100, which connect wirelessly to your devices, but the earbuds are wired to one another.

Other cheap earbuds we tested

There are tons of affordable options for wireless and true wireless earbuds. Here's a short list of alternative picks that I thought were great:

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