What Hifi

2022-07-02 00:49:13 By : Ms. Mia Tian

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By Joe Svetlik published 20 June 22

No wires, no big price tags, no worries

Wireless earbuds have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Sound quality is better, wireless connections more robust and feature sets more advanced. But it's not just at the high end of the market that we've seen these improvements – they've trickled down to more affordable models too.

The best cheap wireless earbuds now offer superb sound performance for the money, plenty of advanced features and a comfortable fit. And you'd be surprised just how affordable they come.

Here we've rounded up the best cheap wireless earbuds from all our extensive testing. And there are some superb deals to be found.

There are a few things to consider before you buy a pair of cheap wireless earbuds.

First, battery life. Wireless earbuds give you some juice from the buds themselves, plus more from the rechargeable carry case. It's important to look at both stats and consider how you'll use them. If you're only ever listening in short bursts, like a commute that's under an hour, the carry case stat will be more important to you. But if you want to use them on long-haul flights, look out for a pair with at least six hours from the buds.

And just because they're cheap doesn't mean battery life will automatically be worse than more expensive pairs. You'll be surprised what you can get for not a lot of money.

If you're a fitness fiend who wants a secure fit and waterproofing, look for a pair of sport headphones with sweat- and water-resistance. You should seek out an IP rating of at least IPX4, meaning they'll survive basic splashing but not a dunk in the drink.

You also might want to consider which version of Bluetooth they're running. We're currently on Bluetooth 5 (5.3 to be precise). Newer versions can offer more range and more secure connections, so it might be worth digging into the specs.

If you think cheap wireless earbuds won't have extra features such as active noise-cancellation (ANC), then you might be surprised to learn that some of our picks do include this too. It might not be quite as advanced as the tech in more premium pairs but it should do a decent job of blocking some outside noise.

You'll also want to consider comfort, especially if they're going to be accompanying you on that aforementioned long-haul flight. Finally, you definitely want decent sound quality for the money – rest assured that all of the below have come out of our testing labs with flying colours.

A hugely talented and affordable pair of cheap wireless earbuds.

Style: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX4 | Battery life: 19.5hrs (buds: 6.5hrs; case: 13hrs) | Weight: 60g including case

When you think of the best cheap wireless earbuds, you probably don't think of Panasonic. But maybe you should. The RZ-S500W are its first wireless noise-cancelling earbuds, and they're so good they picked up a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award for their troubles.

You get noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and a total battery life of 19.5 hours (6.5 hours from the buds and 13 hours from the charging case). Just 15 minutes of juicing up will yield 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls are a highlight, being responsive and intuitive, and letting you control your music and switch noise-cancelling modes in an instant.

There are also five sizes of ear tips. You might need to experiment with mixing sizes, but there should be enough choice to secure a snug fit.

Sound quality is excellent, with an agile low end and texture-laden frequencies. Music is clear, with plenty of refinement. And at this price, that's nothing short of phenomenal.

Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review

Fantastic, feature-packed and affordable earbuds.

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: No | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX7 | Battery life: 35hrs (buds: 7hrs; case: 28hrs) | Weight: 5.35g each

The Earfun Air were the first wireless earbuds at this low price that we awarded five stars. And that's despite having tested models from all manner of well-known and better-established audio brands.

Little-known company Earfun created a well-built set of earbuds that are comfortable to wear and that perform brilliantly. They have wireless charging. They have a spacious soundstage. And they're rated IPX7, so can be fully submerged in water, making them ideal for workouts in the rain (or even in the pool).

Battery life is also impressive, at 35 hours. They even have features usually reserved for much pricier models, like in-ear detection that pauses playback when you take them out of your ear. If you want some of the best cheap wireless earbuds – especially if you'll be wearing them while working out – the Earfun Air are for you.

Read the full Earfun Air review

Some of the best (and cheapest) sporty wireless earbuds around.

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: No | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX7 | Battery life: 30hrs (buds: 10hrs; case: 20hrs) | Weight: 85g (including carry case)

JBL has great pedigree when it comes to sports headphones. The Reflect Flow are some of its most affordable, but they don't feel like a compromise.

For a start, the sound is nice and bassy, which is exactly what you want when working out. Battery life is pretty good, with 10 hours in the buds and another 20 from the case, while a 10-minute charge gives you an hour's run time – more than enough for a gym session or run.

They're secure enough to wear during exercise, and they have an ambient mode, which isn't that common on even the best cheap wireless earbuds. Press a button on the left earbud and the volume decreases, letting you have a conversation while still wearing the buds. 

The five-star Jaybird Vista run them a close second for sporty wireless earbuds on a budget, but in our eyes, the JBL Reflect Flow just pip them to the podium.

Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review

Genuine contenders for the best cheap wireless earbuds.

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: No | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX4 | Battery life: 20hrs (buds: 10hrs; case: 10hrs) | Weight: 5.4g each

We know Sony can make awesome premium wireless earbuds (just look at the WF-1000XM4). But can it replicate that success with a cheap pair?

Very nearly. The C500 boast Bluetooth 5.0, and can handle both SBC and AAC codecs, while the battery life is 10 hours from the buds and another 10 from the carry case. So far, so good.

Like Sony's pricier buds they work with the firm's Headphones Connect app, giving you greater control without crowding the buds with buttons. And they can upscale audio to near hi-res quality.

Don't want to dig out your phone? No problem. Voice controls come courtesy of Google Assistant and Siri, while the IPX4 rating means they'll survive being splashed with water – handy if you get caught in a downpour.

Of course all this would be for nothing if they didn't sound pretty good, which they do. Bass is ample, but never to the detriment of the other frequencies, offering a lot of what makes Sony's high-end earbuds such a great buy but without the price tag. Which makes them some of the best cheap wireless earbuds going.

Read the full Sony WF-C500 review

A charming pair of cheap wireless earbuds, with added noise-cancelling.

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX5 | Battery life: 25hrs (buds: 7hrs; case: 18hrs) | Weight: 53g including case

Can Earfun do the double and have another hit on its hands with the Earfun Air Pro? In a word: yes. 

The main difference between these and standard Earfun Air is that these have noise-cancelling, a bigger 10mm diver and three mics in each earbud. These are all very welcome, as is the price, which remains very low indeed.

They're still solid performers, too. They provide a secure fit, they pair with no drama, have intuitive controls and numerous noise-cancelling profiles to choose from. Wearer detection pauses playback when you take them out, so you don't miss a beat, and the sound quality is – like the Earfun Air – very good for the money. In terms of features and performance, these are some of the best cheap wireless earbuds around.

Read the full Earfun Air Pro review

Excellent-sounding cheap wireless earbuds with impressive battery life.

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: No | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX5 | Battery life: 45hrs (buds: 9hrs; case: 36hrs) | Weight: 5.6g each

The original Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 were a great pair of earbuds, but the 1 Plus do a very good job of following in their footsteps.

Onboard is app support, a customisable equaliser and a High-Performance Audio Mode. They also come in either white or black.

But the real highlight? Battery life. They run for nine hours from the buds, plus a staggering 36 hours from the charging case, making a total of 45 hours before needing a plug socket. There's no noise-cancellation, but many will find the marathon battery life more than makes up for it.

Sonically, they're up there with the best cheap wireless earbuds. They're more dynamic than the standard Melomania 1, with a little more detail. Which is good news for anyone on a budget.

Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

Google's cheap buds deliver impressive sound for the money.

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: No | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX4 | Battery life: 25hrs (buds: 5hrs; case: 20hrs) | Weight: 5.06g each

The AirPods are made for iPhones, and the Pixel Buds A-Series are aimed at Android users. Owners of Google-powered smartphones will not be disappointed.

They have an impressive feature set, with a noise-isolating design (without noise cancellation), IPX4 splash resistance making them useful for exercise, and a light and comfortable build that means they can be worn all day. Colours? White or Dark Olive.

The five-hour battery life is bettered elsewhere, but add in another 20 from the charging case, and you've got a decent amount of time before you'll have to plug in to the mains. And Fast Pair makes it a cinch to pair them with an Android phone or tablet.

Like the AirPods, they offer a balanced sound representation that doesn't stress any part of the frequency range above others. In other words, they're great all-rounders, and a great proposition for the price.

Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review

These sporty wireless earbuds put big, bold ticks in the boxes of style and sound quality

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Built-in mic and controls: Yes | Waterproofing: IP68 | Battery life: 30hrs (buds: 10hrs; case: 20hrs) | Weight: 14.4g

JBL followed the Reflect Flow (above) with the ReflectFlow Pro, a waterproof, lightweight pair built for sports. Multiple sizes of ear tip fins mean you should get a secure fit that doesn't budge while exercising. 

Like other 'Pro' models, they offer active noise-cancellation, which does a good job of blocking out the outside world so you can focus come exercise time. And like much pricier models, they have an ambient mode to let in some sound and make you more aware of your surroundings (handy when out running).

The IP68 rating means they're waterproof and dust-tight, so you can use them at the beach without giving it a second thought. And sonically, they're a cut above, with a fast and lively character that befits their sporting heritage. If you need a little extra boost, pop these in your ears and stick on something lively – PB here we come.

Read the full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review

In order to put the best cheap wireless earbuds through their paces, we use them as if we had bought them ourselves. That means minimal lab time, and maximum use outdoors in both built-up areas and open spaces to test the stability of the wireless connection.

This also lets us test their noise isolating properties, and active noise-cancellation (ANC) if they have it. We try them with both a smartphone and computer, to see how well they stand up in different use cases. And if they're a sporty pair, we'll take them out for a jog or to the gym to check how well they stay in our ears while exercising.

Each pair is compared to the best in its price bracket. We're all about comparative testing, with a stockroom full of class-leading products to compare against.

Finally, our review verdicts are agreed upon by the whole team, not an individual reviewer. That means personal preference or bias doesn't come into it, while also ensuring we're being as thorough as possible. What Hi-Fi? has been a trusted source for consumers since 1976, and we're proud of our reputation as the home of honest, unbiased reviews.

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.

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