When looking to buy the best budget wireless earbuds, you want to get the best value for your money. And in a world where everyone’s finances are being stretched more than ever, cheap wireless earbuds are an incredibly tempting proposition.
But how do you make sure that you end up with a genuine bargain rather than a pair that can only lead to disappointment? You stay right here, that’s how.
We have a wealth of experience testing cheap wireless earbuds (as well as their high-end counterparts) and we’re on hand with some crucial tips on what to expect, and what to look out for, when spending less on wireless earbuds as well as when considering something higher up the food chain. Get ready, we’re about to work out out how to get the most from your money so that you can buy a set of inexpensive wireless earbuds you’ll love.
1. Consider how much you plan on using them
Ask yourself this: why are you buying wireless earbuds? Are you planning on having them permanently in your ears, or are they going into your online shopping cart simply to make the occasional hike more interesting? The thing about ‘cheap’ wireless earbuds is that the term covers a fairly wide spectrum of price ranges. We tend to see budget earbuds as anything from between £20/$20 to £100/$100 and – in theory – the more you spend, the more you get.
Depending on your budget, you could plump for the JLab Go Air Pop, (which really are a budget option and now come in several inclusive skin tones to make them look virtually invisible) or you may be able to stretch to the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0. If you’re able to, we’d err on the side of spending more if you want your cheap wireless earbuds to be used a lot, as you’ll also gain better features and sound quality. Obviously, if you’re just looking for occasional use and you’re not too interested in having extensive options, spending less makes sense.
2. Expect bass-heavy sound
More a reminder than something to look for, cheap wireless earbuds tend to offer fairly bass-heavy audio. That doesn’t mean that the low-end is guaranteed to overwhelm the mids or trebles, but it’s something to consider.
If you love bass-heavy music anyhow, this will be an advantage, but if you want more subtle tones and greater clarity and detail, you might need to be careful and potentially invest a little more.
That’s why it’s important to read up on possible options within your price range. While many budget earbuds are bass heavy, there are exceptions, such as the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus which offer audio quality that far surpasses its price tag.
3. Look for app support
App support used to be the sole preserve of more premium earbuds, but these days many of the best cheap wireless earbuds now have their own companion app. It’s worth looking out for the feature, because in many cases – as with the Sony WF-C500, for example – you get a similar app experience to the company’s pricier true wireless earbuds.
Apps often give you the power of changing what the touch controls on the earbuds do, but they also often provide you with an equalizer feature that you can tweak and adjust so that music sounds just how you like it. With the aforementioned bass focus from many earbuds, it can make a huge difference to how you listen, by providing you with a much more personal experience.
Some cheap earbuds also offer features such as voice assistant support and ANC with an accompanying app allowing you to tweak settings here too. Ultimately, earbuds that have app support tend to give you a lot more control.
4. Find the right fit
Generally, there are two types of earbuds in the world. There’s the Apple AirPods way of doing things, with a stalk that runs down your ear, and there are rounded earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 that tend to solely cover some of your ear rather than drop down in any way.
Choosing between these types will most-often come down to what feels best in your ear as well as, perhaps, what looks good to you. When it comes to touch controls, you may find one shape better for you than the other.
You also need to consider whether the earbuds you’re buying have removable ear-tips that you can swap out for a better size for your ears. Many do, but not all – and if you have slightly smaller or larger ears, you may find yourself in need of the extra customization. Just because you’re paying less, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
There’s no one solution that’s ideal for everyone; it all simply comes down to what you prefer to use and wear. If you know one type doesn’t work well for you, steer clear of them and focus on the other shape.
5. Aim for Bluetooth 5.0 and above
Considering which Bluetooth version your earbuds support doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s important. Earbuds with Bluetooth 5.0 or above are far more efficient, meaning you get better battery life plus scope for multi-point pairing, those useful ‘find my’ features and even (if you’re lucky) Auracast audio sharing, in the future.
In some cases, the best cheap wireless earbuds can actually offer superior battery life to premium examples, thanks to running so much more efficiently. Just because you’re buying cheap, it shouldn’t mean having to constantly recharge your earbuds – and nor should you need to. Earbuds such as the Lypertek SoundFree S20 offer up to 8 hours of battery life, with up to 48 hours when you include the charging case.
Bluetooth 5.0 and above also means better range and fewer drop outs, so it’s worth prioritizing when seeking out new earbuds.
6. Know your priorities
Talking of priorities, as is the case with any budget purchase, it’s useful to figure out what’s most important to you. Certain compromises always need to be made when you’re on a budget, so preparation is crucial.
Think about how you plan on using the earbuds: do you need them to be water- and sweat-resistant? Are you planning on taking a lot of calls while wearing them? If so, you’ll need the crispest possible call quality, and even budget earbuds these days sometimes feature levelled-up mics with wind isolation. Is voice assistant support an essential extra? Put that at the top of the list.
Some cheap wireless earbuds offer ANC and while it’s rarely as good as more expensive earbuds, there are some exceptions such as the Earfun Air Pro. However, you’ll likely have to miss out on something else to enjoy ANC so don’t be afraid to think about what’s most important to your needs.