The 12 Best Affordable Wireless Earbuds in 2021

Sep 29, 2021

Category: Tech

Cutting-edge new technologies typically carry rather exorbitant prices that are initially accessible only by the most affluent of consumers. However, as time progresses, MSRPs in novel product spaces begin to decline as technologies evolve and the cost of development and manufacturing drop to a point where these recently state-of-the-art electronics become accessible to the lion’s share of the population. And such is the case with True Wireless Stereo (or “TWS”) earbuds, since they’ve now existed for more than half a decade.

Today’s TWS earbud market boasts an enormous array of stellar models that can be had for exceedingly reasonable prices that would have been unheard of only a few years ago. To help bring some of these more affordable pairs to your attention, we’ve thoroughly scoured the segment, rounding up the best affordable earbuds currently available, including both brand new offerings as well as previous generations of top-shelf TWS models — all of which are confined to below the $150 price point.

Photo: Edifier TWS6

Affordable Audio

What To Look For When Buying Reasonably-Priced TWS Earbuds

Before making your purchase, it helps to have a solid understanding of the product space, its intricacies, and the most crucial areas to take into consideration. Below, we’ve compiled a condensed guide on the ten most important aspects to consider when buying new TWS earbuds.

Drivers & Components: There are elements such as noise-cancellation that can bolster audio performance, though ultimately an earbud’s sound quality is determined by the drivers being used. Despite their relatively minuscule size, advancements in the TWS earbuds space have resulted in cutting-edge transducers capable of punching well above their weight, affording genuinely booming sound in a highly compact package. The main areas to focus on in this realm include a driver’s size, tuning, material, and type.

Noise Cancelation: Noise-cancellation has become an increasingly common amenity on TWS earbuds, drowning out outside sounds and enriching the listening experience. The latest wireless earbuds offer active noise cancelation, passive noise cancellation, or a hybrid of the two. It’s also become increasingly commonplace for earbuds to feature special noise cancellation modes that allow certain environmental sounds or human voices to be heard while still eliminating ambient noise.

Photo: Master & Dynamic MW07 GO

Materials & Construction: The materials used to comprise the housing of an earbud will play a substantial role in the pair’s overall durability. The same goes for the pair’s included wireless charging case. What’s more, the construction will also dictate elements of durability such as sweat and waterproofing. This latter area is typically denoted through the use of an Ingress Protection (or “IP”) rating such as IP54, IP67, IPX7, and so on.

App Support: Another feature that’s become commonplace over the last year or two is dedicated smartphone apps that pair with the earbuds. Made by the earbud manufacturer, these apps afford additional fine-tuning of the audio through adjustable (or preprogrammed) EQs, as well as over-the-air software updates, and other helpful offerings.

Battery Life: Battery life is one of the most important factors to consider when buying TWS earbuds, regardless of what price-point you’re shopping in. You’ll want to pay attention, not only to a pair’s collective battery life (including the battery pack within the wireless charging case), but also the battery life on the earbuds themselves. And, almost as important as the number of hours afforded by a battery pack is how long the battery takes to recharge, with some models offering an hour or more of music playback after as little as a 5-10 minute charge.

Wireless Charging: Just like with pretty much every other mobile gadget, Qi-style wireless charging has started becoming increasingly popular in the TWS earbuds space. And while this feature does add convenience, it does come at a premium.

Photo: Cambridge Audio Melomani 1+

Controls: You can adjust music playback from your phone or device, though having the ability to implement a quick tap or a swipe is incredibly convenient, especially in certain settings. And while every wireless earbud on this list has physical controls to adjust volume or music playback on the outside of the earbuds themselves, these controls can vary in size, shape, and type, with some using a swipe-and-tap-style setup while others employ traditional push-button controls.

Extra Features: Alongside regular headphone duties, there is a myriad of TWS earbud models that afford extra abilities or amenities that add value and/or convenience. This can include everything from wireless charging cases that double as portable Bluetooth speakers, to TWS earbuds with built-in GPS tracking devices.

Brand & Price: Even when armed with a robust spec sheet with information on a pair of earbuds’ drivers and their frequency range and decibel sensitivity, it can still be difficult to get an overall idea of how a given pair of earbuds sound — let alone what the fit and finish will look and feel like. And, while it does typically cost a bit more, one fantastic way to ensure you’re getting a quality pair is by buying from a well-trusted manufacturer with a proven reputation for producing quality audio gear. You should also be wary of TWS earbuds priced below the $50 mark, as, they tend to be of extremely low quality and offer relatively atrocious performance, with very few models being an exception.

Earbud Type & Design: Though all TWS earbuds are completely wireless and come in a charging case, just like with wired earbuds, the shape of the buds themselves can hugely vary from model to model in overall shape and size. And, while practically every model on the market is sold with several included earbud tip sizes, some shapes simply fit some listeners’ ears better than others. Additionally, there are wireless earbuds made specifically for running and workout applications which tend to boast an even more snug and secure fitment.

Photo: Tribit Flybuds C1

Calculated Corner-Cutting

How To Save When Buying New True Wireless Earbuds

Generally speaking, the latest and greatest TWS earbuds don’t come cheap. If you’re looking to snag a stellar pair without taking too hard a hit on your wallet, you’ll likely want to consider looking into which corners you can cut to save a few bucks. Depending on your particular wants and needs, if you’re willing to forgo some tech and amenities and make a few sacrifices, you can acquire a spectacular pair for a lot less than you might think.

Features such as wireless charging and active noise cancelation undoubtedly result in a markedly higher MSRP. If you’re willing to go without some of these conveniences or amenities, you’ll start noticing much more affordable prices. You want to think about your intended use (i.e. when and where you’ll be using your earbuds the most) and then use that as a jumping-off point to determine the features you can and can’t live without.

Lastly, most premium audio brands tend to debut new models every few years in an effort to remain at the technological forefront of the industry. As a result, the market now includes a handful of previous-generation models that are only a few years old that still offer remarkable performance, features, and sound quality at an unbeatable price. If you want a premium pair of earbuds without paying a premium price, you should definitely consider taking this route.

AUKEY EP-T31

The best and most feature-laden sub-$50 pair of TWS earbuds on the market, AUKEY’s EP-T31 model boasts a generous array of amenities that are typically reserved for more premium models such as an infrared-enabled multi-functional touch smart controls 65ms low latency connection, an IPX5-rating, automatic in-ear detection (and pausing), Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, and a USB-C fast charging and Qi-wireless-compatible charging case. Thanks to a set of titanium construction drivers, the EP-T31 affords genuinely remarkable audio quality for its price point.

Total Battery Life: 30 Hours
IP Rating: IPX5
Drivers: 7mm Titanium Drivers

Purchase: $40

Skullcandy Sesh Evo

The Skullcandy Sesh Evo true wireless earbuds deliver solid performance and sound quality and a wealth of features at an incredibly reasonable MSRP. On top of a collective 24 hours of battery life, the Sesh Evo is equipped with multiple EQ settings, rapid-charge compatibility, and earbuds that each contain their own individual five-hour charge as well as built-in Tile GPS trackers for locating lost or misplaced earbuds. Skullcandy also produced the Sesh Evo in matte black, along with four additional matte pastel color options.

Total Battery Life: 24 Hours
IP Rating: IP55
Drivers: 6mm Drivers

Purchase: $60

Klipsch T5

This was the first generation of the Klipsch T5 model, and though it’s since been proceeded by a newer model, these true wireless earbuds can be kept up-to-date via firmware updates that are available through the Klipsch Connect smartphone App — which can also be used to manually adjust the EQ, review battery information, toggle through Transparency mode settings, and receive one-tap access to technical support. Paired with a metal charging case, this offering also boasts an integrated quad microphone setup, compatibility with smart assistants, and USB-C charging that affords two hours of playback in just 15 minute’s time.

Total Battery Life: 32 Hours
IP Rating: IPX4
Drivers: 5mm Dynamic Drivers

Purchase: $70

Tribit Flybuds C1

Tribit’s Flybuds C1 can best be described as an accessibly-priced Apple Airpods competitor, with audio and call quality that’s legitimately comparable to Apple’s offering while costing around half the price. Your $70 gets you a sleek, compact set of earbuds that tote a Qualcomm QCC3040 chipset and aptX decoder, CVC 8.0 tech-enabled built-in microphones, a massive 50 hours of battery life, Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, and a patented and industry-first button design that offers a full suite of intuitive controls on the earbuds themselves.

Total Battery Life: 60 Hours
IP Rating: IPX5
Drivers: 8.2mm Dynamic Drivers

Purchase: $70

House of Marley Champion

An environmentally-friendly take on an affordable yet still high-quality pair of true wireless earbuds, The House of Marley’s Champion model is crafted from eco-conscious REGRIND silicone — a combination of bamboo and natural fibers — and sold with a braided charging cord that’s composed of 99% post-consumer recycled polyester. Features and amenities are pretty standard with tap-and-swipe-style touch controls, an IPX4 rating, and integrated microphones. And, just like with the Klipsch T5, 15 minutes of USB-C charging will provide two hours of music playback.

Total Battery Life: 24 Hours
IP Rating: IPX4
Drivers: 6mm Dynamic Drivers

Purchase: $70

Soul S-Nano

If you’re interested in an incredibly compact pair of TWS earbuds that don’t skimp on features or performance, it’s hard to beat SOUL’s S-NANO model. Manufactured in half-a-dozen color options, the aptly-named S-NANO sports a 500mAh Li-ion polymer battery pack that offers a full 24 hours of battery life and tiny 4-gram earbuds that pack a 5.5-hour charge on their own. Sold with an included metal carabiner, these earbuds also boast a Transparency mode, USB-C charging, SBC and AAC codecs, and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

Total Battery Life: 24 Hours
IP Rating: IPX5
Drivers: 6mm Dynamic Drivers

Purchase: $70

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8

First released in 2017 (with a $300 MSRP), this is the first generation of Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay earbuds, and though they’re now several years old, they still afford the world-class audio quality, premium materials, and unparalleled fit and finish that the Danish audio outfit is famous for. The earbuds themselves are beautifully crafted from an amalgamation of machined aluminum and stainless steel, feature custom-tuned electro-dynamic drivers, and come paired with a clamshell-style leather-bound wireless charging case. Even being a few years old, these B&O earbuds still easily outperform the vast majority of models at double their current price.

Total Battery Life: 12 Hours
IP Rating: IPX4
Drivers: 5.7mm Electro-Dynamic Drivers

Purchase: $83+

Yamaha TW-E3A

Rather than trying to cram all of the latest and greatest features into a single pair of earbuds, Yamaha instead set out to deliver a high-performance, low-latency earbuds model that offers pretty fantastic sound at an accessible MSRP. The TW-E3A’s Hi-Fi audio is accompanied by an IPX5 rating, a full day’s worth of battery life, and stellar connectivity thanks to the use of Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX. The TW-E3A also sports a modern and minimalistic design, with the Japanese brand’s tuning fork logo adorning the exterior faces of the earbuds and charging case.

Total Battery Life: 24 Hours
IP Rating: IPX5
Drivers: 6mm Dynamic Driver

Purchase: $100

Edifier TWS6

Despite having been in operation for a quarter of a century, Edifier remains one of the best-kept secrets in the audio realm, producing legitimately premium-sounding speakers and headphones at obtainable price points. The Beijing-based tech and audio outfit’s TWS6 thoroughly demonstrates its regular MO, with a $120 model that’s brimming with features including Knowles-balanced armature drivers, Bluetooth 5.0 with Qualcomm aptX audio, and 32 hours of battery life. The TWS6 is also sold with a trio of included silicon earbuds, three sets of shark fin sleeves, and two pairs of memory foam tips.

Total Battery Life: 32 Hours
IP Rating: IP55
Drivers: 6mm Knowles Drivers

Purchase: $120

Apple Airpods W/ Wired Charging Case

Considering that the Apple Airpods are largely responsible for kicking off the now-booming TWS earbud market, the model is well worth a look when shopping in the space, especially now that the original Airpods’ MSRP has come down to as low as $130. What’s more, these Airpods still boast the mighty H1 chip, compatibility with Siri and voice commands, and seamless and effortless pairing to the rest of your Apple devices. There’s also a massive array of accessories made specifically for the Apple Airpods.

Total Battery Life: 24 Hours
IP Rating: IPX4
Drivers: N/A

Purchase: $120

Cambridge Audio Melomani 1+

An improved version of Cambridge Audio’s already-award-winning Melomania 1, the new 1+ spec offers even better performance and functionality with a whopping 45 hours of battery life and connectivity to the Melomania App for manual customization of the EQ. Tipping the scales at just 4.6 grams each, the Melomania 1+’s bullet-style earbuds are incredibly compact and don’t hang out of your ear like most other models, though still manage to afford the ultra-rich high-fidelity sound that the British brand built its name on.

Total Battery Life: 45 Hours
IP Rating: IPX5
Drivers: 5.8mm Graphene-Enhanced Drivers

Purchase: $140

Master & Dynamic MW07 GO

Master & Dynamic’s MW07 GO isn’t just one of the best affordable wireless earbud models, it’s objectively one of the best pairs on the market, period. IPX6-rated, these earbuds are crafted from ultra-rugged TR90 composite and feature custom-tuned 10mm beryllium drivers, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, and a precise fitment thanks to special patented silicone fit wings. Produced in five colors, the earbuds themselves have a class-leading 100’ range and come paired with a 22-hour technical knit wireless charging case. And, while this model is technically made for running and workout applications, its hardwearing nature, attractive industrial design, and stellar audio quality all make the MW07 GO a fantastic candidate for EDC use earbuds.

Total Battery Life: 22 Hours
IP Rating: IPX6
Drivers: 10mm Beryllium Drivers

Purchase: $140

The 15 Best True Wireless Earbuds

Interested in checking out a more high-end selection of TWS earbuds that aren’t confined to below the $150 price point? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best true wireless earbuds for more than a dozen of the finest pairs that money can currently buy.

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