I have a confession to make: I’ve got a serious fetish for earbuds. Affordable earbuds, to be precise. But even with my reverence for those tiny, but impressive bastions of surround-sound, I have terrible luck keeping them around for long. Whether stolen, lost, sucked up into the vacuum, gnawed in half by a determined cat … my earbuds never seem to last for more than a few months at a time, so low cost is where it’s at.
If you’re a music-lover like me, the idea of inexpensive earbuds offering serious sound quality may seem like a paradox; so here at Geek Gems, we’re on a quest to change your mind with our Best Affordable Earbuds Roundup! Here were the qualifiers to make the list:
- Under $30 in price;
- A minimum of a 3/5 stars quality rating;
- Bonus for the inclusion of customizable sizes (ie, earbuds for small ears, like mine)
So without further ado, here are our top recommendations for the best low cost earbuds:
JBuds Hi-Fi Noise Reducing Earbuds (left) and Coby CVE92 Isolation Stereo Ear Buds (right)
I’ve owned multiple pairs of these best-selling, low cost earbuds – and for good reason. Despite their under-$10 price tags, they both provide premium sound quality, deep bass, and excellent durability. I give slight favor to the JBuds pair, as I personally prefer black to match my iPod (the Coby ear buds only come in white), and the JBuds also come with three variable size silicon earbud tips, making them some of the most affordable and best earbuds for small ears. However, I found the Coby pair to be very comfortable in my ear when sleeping, as a more snug fit was less necessary.
Both the JBuds and Coby ear buds have been at the top of the bestsellers list for months, so they’re highly recommended!
Skullcandy INK’D Earbuds (left) and MeElectronics Sound-Isolating Earbuds w/ Mic (right)
Skullcandy is another brand I’ve had great luck with in the past. One day my earbuds quit as I was on the way to the gym (and gymin’ it up without tunes to listen to is a near tragedy!) So I swung by my local Target and picked up a pair of the INK’D earbuds and was very pleased with the quality. They have a slightly larger speaker driver than the Coby’s, and they come with 3 silicon sleeves for a customized fit. Best part for me was the wide range of colors they come in, easily making them the most stylish affordable earbuds on this list!
The MeElectronics Earbuds are a more specialized variety; they are some of the best inexpensive earbuds for iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and iPhone users. The built-in mic works with iPod’s voice recording capabilities, and also controls the play/stop/next/previous functions, making it an excellent option for those who like to use their iPods as they walk or jog. These earbuds also come with 4 variable size tips and a “frustration free” cord that’s tangle resistant (always a huge plus!)
JBuds J2 Premium Hi-Fi Noise-Isolating Earbuds (left) and JBuds J3 Micro Atomic In-Ear Ear Buds (right)
Jbuds make the list twice more with their J2 and J3 styles. The J2 Premium Noise-Isolating Earbuds have a more rugged durability and a slightly larger housing, which means they may not be ideal earbuds for small ears, although they do come with 3 silicone tips for a customized fit. Otherwise, they’re essentially the upgraded version of the Jbuds model shown above, and the fact that they come in many different colors will be appealing for those who like to go beyond basic black.
The J3 Micro Atomic Ear Buds are a pricier selection at $24.95, but are also arguably the highest quality and our most recommended small earbuds for small ears. They boast an “ultra slim, ergonomic profile” along with 4 sizes of silicone tips. They have aluminum housing and titanium drivers for enhanced sound quality, and they’re one of the few sets on this list that comes with a swanky travel case, an option I appreciate as someone who tends to wad up her earbuds in a random pocket in my travel bag, only to spend ages untangling them later. Oops!
Sony Ultra Lightweight In-Ear Headphones (left) and Sony Active Style Headphones w/ Soft Loops (right)
Sony’s styles may not look like the typical ear buds you’re used to, but both of these in-ear styles have their own unique attributes that make them worthy additions to this list. Primarily, these are excellent options for people who either don’t typically like traditional earbuds, or who have issues with fit that cause them to fall out too easily.
The Ultra Lightweight In-Ear Headphones offer a small size with a very slim, comfort fit headband that’s reminiscent of traditional over-the-ear headphones. They have a super light, comfortable feel in the ear – perfect for those just getting used to in-ear buds – and there’s no lack of sound quality either: the sound driver is 13.5mm, considerably larger than most earbuds, for a fuller sound. They do have a somewhat shorter cord than other pairs on our list (3.5 feet vs. 4+ feet), so keep that in mind when purchasing.
Sony’s Active Style Headphones were my go-to choice when I first started going to a gym, as I had yet to discover the joys of variable-size earbud sleeves, which meant the constant frustration of pausing a workout to reposition my earbuds. These are therefore our #1 recommendation for those who are very active while using their earphones, as they not only offer larger 13.5mm drivers like the pair above, but the soft ear loops help them to stay in place through even the most vigorous workout.
Sennheiser CX300-B Stereo Earbuds (left) and Panasonic Lightweight Headphones w/ XBS (right)
Rounding out the Best Affordable Earbuds Roundup are two sets that don’t quite meet the criteria of this list, but were too strong to pass up for inclusion. The Sennheiser CX300 earbuds were my all-time favorite earbuds before I discovered the JBuds series, and I still think they offer some of the best sound quality of any earbuds I’ve tried. At the time of this writing, they’re barely squeaking in at $29.99 (just under my $30 cut-off), but their price tends to fluctuate so they may be more expensive when you come across this post. Still well worth a look (and they come with some of the smallest silicone tips I’ve found – perfect for my fellow small ear souls!)
There’s no denying that the Panasonic Lightweight Headphones are decidedly not earbuds, but at under $5.00 and with a near perfect 5-star rating, I couldn’t resist a mention. What especially intrigues me about these headphones is the XBS port – a true rarity in low cost earphones that results in enhanced bass response and a fuller, richer quality of sound. While I wouldn’t recommend replacing a nice pair of Sennheiser or Sony headphones if you wear them often for gaming or listening to music on your computer, these Panasonics are an excellent, extremely affordable option for those who appreciate the traditional over-ear style.