Best bargain true wireless earbuds for under $50 – CNET

We have a list of the top AirPods alternatives under $100. But what if you’re looking for something even cheaper? Say, a wireless earbud option half that price or even less? Then this list, the best of budget true wireless earbuds, is for you. And while there are certainly a lot of earbuds that cost less than $50, only a few stand out, and several are surprisingly good for the price. As I like to say, you shouldn’t expect the world at this low price, but unlike pricier models from Apple and others, you won’t feel heartbroken if you happen to lose them.

Here are my current sub-$50 true wireless favorites, listed from highest to lowest price. I’ve tried them all, and I update this list with new products periodically. Note that prices fluctuate, so some of these might be a few bucks over $50.

Read more: Best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds

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The Soundpeats T3 buds have two things going for them aside from their modest price tag: They sound decent and work well for making calls with very good noise reduction. They’re also comfortable to wear and have both active noise canceling and transparency mode. However, the noise canceling is only OK, not great (same goes for the transparency mode). But you can’t expect everything for such a low price.

Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, they’re IPX4 splash-proof and have a battery-life rating of up to 5.5 hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels. 

They have relatively smooth, balanced sound and ample bass. They’re not going to wow you with clarity or dynamic sound, but they’re pleasant to listen to, which is all you can ask for in a budget set of earbuds. 

Callers said that my voice sounded clearer when I was using the AirPods Pro but the Soundpeats actually reduced more background noise that the AirPods Pro. I was able to have conversations on the noisy streets of New York without a problem. 

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TaoTronics SoundLiberty P10 bluetooth headphones are another AirPods Pro true wireless earphone knock off but it’s one of the better ones out there for the money, with good sound and decent headset performance for making calls. The noise canceling isn’t up the level of the AIrPods Pro but it’s reasonably effective and there’s also an ambient mode that lets sound in (the equivalent of the AirPods Pro’s transparency just not quite as natural sounding) and an anti-wind mode.

I’ve tried many Taotronics headphones over the years and these may be the company’s best earbuds yet. While the earphone is not fancy, this cheap wireless earbud fits my ears well, their case is compact and the instructions clearly spell out how to use the touch controls. They’re equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and are fully waterproof with an IPX8 rating. Battery life is rated at six and a half hours with noise canceling on and volume at 50%.

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From a design standpoint, the Earfun Free Pro seem identical to the Fiil T1XS, which used to be on this list and remains a good value. However, the Earfun Free Pro has better features, including active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2. They’re rated for seven hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function on, or about six hours with it on. They’re IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

They sound very good for the money, with relatively clean, balanced sound and bass that has some kick to it — they’re pretty open-sounding. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have little fins that help keep them securely in your ears, and they’re fairly discreet-looking.

Don’t expect them to cancel noise as well as the AirPods Pro, but they do provide some decent muffling. It’s worth noting that you can use either the left or right earbud independently and there’s a low-latency mode for video watching (and presumably gaming). Call quality was decent, too: Callers said they heard some background noise but it wasn’t intrusive and they could hear my voice well. The touch controls were responsive. 

If you’re choosing between the Earfun Free Pro and the Mpow X3 above, it comes down to the style of the earbuds. The X3 has stick-style design, while this doesn’t.  

Note that the Earfun Free Pro sometimes cost more than $50 — but they do often dip to less than $50, so that’s why they’re on this list.

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SoundPeats says its open-style Air 3 buds are 10% smaller than their predecessors, the TrueAir 2, and the case is truly tiny, smaller than the AirPods’ case. The buds stayed in my ears more securely than the AirPods do (I have trouble keeping the AirPods in my ears, especially if I start running). These use Qualcomm’s 3040 chipset, which has Bluetooth 5.2, and I had no trouble pairing them with an iPhone 12 Pro and a Google Pixel 4 XL. My connection was quite stable. The earbuds support the aptX audio codec with compatible devices.

Sound quality is good for open earbuds. It’s right there with the AirPods and these even have slightly more bass. I think most people will be satisfied with the sound. The only issue I noticed is that you can only push them so far. When playing certain tracks at higher volumes I did encounter some distortion; rock tracks where several instruments are playing at once can be challenging. As a result I kept the earbuds at about 60% of maximum. You can adjust the volume using the touch controls, which work well. They do play loud at higher volumes. 

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Anker has released its newer Soundcore Life P3 (around $70), but the Soundcore Life P2 earbuds remain a good value option at around $45. The buds charge horizontally in their case rather than vertically, and there’s a slightly cheaper feel to both the case and the buds compared with the Liberty Air 2. Their sound doesn’t have the presence boost in the treble that the Liberty Air 2 buds have, so they’re not as clear-sounding with well-recorded tracks, and the bass isn’t quite as well defined. But they’re warmer and more forgiving, which I appreciated, and they sound more like the original Liberty Air.

It’s also worth noting that instead of touch controls they feature physical buttons, which some people may prefer. They have four microphones, two of which are supposed to help with noise reduction when making calls in noisier environments. They do a decent job of reducing background noise when making calls, but my voice didn’t sound as clear to callers as it did with Anker’s Liberty Air 2.

While there’s no wireless charging, you do get USB-C charging. Battery life is rated at seven hours, and this true wireless earbud option has an IPX7 water-resistance rating, which means they can be fully submerged in water to a depth of 3 feet and still survive. They’re arguably the best value in the Anker true wireless line right now. An almost identical version to these earbuds is sold at Target under the name Soundcore Life Note.

I should also mention that Anker is now selling the smaller Soundcore Life P2 Mini, which has shorter stems. It’s also good for the money but this model has four microphones for voice calling while that model has two. The Life P3 has six microphones. Read our Anker Soundcore Life P2 review.

Read our Anker Soundcore Life P2 review.

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I was a fan of the original Earfun Free buds and now there’s an upgraded version called the Earfun Free 2. They’re not a huge upgrade but like the originals, they fit my ears well and deliver decent bang for the buck with strong sound — it has just a touch of treble and bass boost (there’s plenty of bass) — and extra features such as wireless charging.

Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels and these buds are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. These are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip that includes support for Qualcomm’s aptX audio codec if you’re using an aptX-enabled device (certain Android smartphones support aptX). 

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