Just a few years ago, functional and reliable cheap true wireless earbuds would have been an oxymoron, but now they’re being released in droves. You no longer have to shell out $150-plus for solid truly wireless earbuds, instead, save your money and enjoy the latest and greatest audio technology has to offer. Here are the best true wireless earbuds under $100.
Editors note: this list of the best true wireless earbuds under $100 was updated on January 11, 2022, to include the Sony WF-C500 and Google Pixel Buds A-Series and to add the OnePlus Buds Z2 to the Notable mentions section.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is the best option for most listeners
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus includes IPX2-rated earbuds and a USB-C charging case that also supports wireless charging. Both iPhone and Android users can download the appropriate mobile app to access firmware updates and customize the user experience, though Android phones have the most features (e.g., direct Spotify access through the touch controls and access to the Galaxy Labs experimental toggles).
Samsung Galaxy Buds PlusFull Review
The sound quality is quite good as AKG, a Samsung subsidiary, tuned the earphones to have a consumer-friendly frequency response. This means that bass and treble notes are gently amplified to add a bit of oomph without losing higher-pitched instrumental detail. You can use the Galaxy Wearable app to choose from a few EQ presets if you don’t like the default sound profile.
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Battery life exceeds most other true wireless earphones: you get nearly 12 hours of playtime from the earbuds and the case provides one reserve charge cycle, lasting you nearly 24 hours before you have to top it up. You can fast charge the earbuds by tossing them in the case for 3 minutes to net 60 minutes of playback. Samsung Galaxy device owners can even place the case on top of a compatible handset to take advantage of Wireless PowerShare, which lets you charge the buds and case from anywhere.
If you only have $100 USD to spend, we highly recommend this headset. Though, we do note, that this headset occasionally goes above $100 USD, though is regularly listed for $99 USD.
What you should know about cheap true wireless earbuds
The technology has vastly improved over just a few years
When true wireless earbuds were first released, you were lucky to get four hours of playback from a single charge. Now, we have earbuds exceeding 10 hours, setting a new standard for the technology. While shelling out more than $100 on truly wireless earbuds is worth it for many, it’s unnecessary if you’re just looking to get a basic, reliable pair of everyday earbuds. Companies like Anker Soundcore and Sony are cornering the cheap true wireless market by pumping out good quality products for significantly less than the competition.
Start here: What makes a good set of in-ears?
When you buy a cheap pair of earbuds, even the best true wireless earbuds under $100, you’re sacrificing style, build quality, and extra features like noise cancelling. Just because you’re saving money on your affordable truly wireless buds, doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing basic Bluetooth performance though.
Battery life is getting better
Generally speaking, the included charging cases make up for an across-the-board poor standalone battery life. Huge battery life improvements have happened though. For instance, the Beats Powerbeats Pro exceeds 10 hours of playback on a single charge. If you’re on an international flight, you may want to look at over-ear headphones instead. Whether you’re getting a pair of the best true wireless earbuds under $100 or the best earbuds you can find, the battery cells will deplete over time, forcing you to reach out to the company for repairs or to buy a new set.
What is a Bluetooth codec?
Typically we advise listeners to keep an eye out for high-quality Bluetooth codecs. If you’re not too familiar with how codecs work, fear not. They dictate how data is transferred from a source (phone) to a receiver (headphones). Ideally, Bluetooth transfer rates wouldn’t have to make compromises between efficiency and quality, but bandwidth remains limited. Companies are always looking for inventive workarounds: Bluetooth SIG teamed up with Fraunhofer to produce LE Audio and the new LC3 codec, which will greatly improve wireless streaming standards and aid the hard-of-hearing community.
iPhone users should get earbuds with AAC support, while Android users should invest in aptX-supported buds.
If you’re an iPhone user, make sure to get earbuds with AAC support. Android users, on the other hand, should get something with aptX support. While Android devices support AAC streaming, its performance is inconsistent across the board.
Athletes need IP-certified earbuds
IP, or Ingress Protection, ratings denote how dust- or water-resistant a product is. Our deep dive into IP ratings is a great resource, but if you don’t have time, the higher the number the more resistant a product is to dust or water.
Isolation is key
None of the best true wireless earbuds under $100 will supply a wide range of ear tips or outperform something like Sony WF-1000XM4 or Shure AONIC Free, but improving isolation is an easy way to improve sound quality. Take a few minutes to figure out which included ear tips are best for you or invest in a pair of third-party ear tips if it’s supported by the headphones. Doing so could end up preventing irrevocable hearing loss, too.
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is the smartest set of budget earphones around
The budget-friendly Google Pixel Buds A-Series succeeds the famed Google Pixel Buds (2020), and the A-Series has almost all the same specs as its pricier sibling, including an IPX4 rating, a Bass Boost feature, and Google Assistant integration. Few of the best true wireless earbuds support hands-free Google Assistant access, let alone the best true wireless earbuds under $100.
Google Pixel Buds A-SeriesFull Review
Upon its release, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series had some volume quirks (it was far too quiet), but Google has since released firmware 233 to bring the output up to an acceptable level. Listeners who enjoy spoken word content will appreciate the Pixel Buds A-Series’ under-emphasized bass response which yields much clearer vocal reproduction. If you’re exercising or just enjoy more of a bass-heavy sound, then take a minute to enable the Bass Boost response in the Pixel Buds app (Android only).
The earbuds have pressure relief vents which should mitigate any of that uncomfortable suction-like feeling that you get with other earphones. While the Pixel Buds A-Series lacks noise cancelling, it uses Google’s Adaptive Sound which essentially adjusts the volume based on background noise. This is a fine feature, but it can wreck the dynamics of a song.
Ultimately, this is a really solid set of earbuds with plenty of advanced software and hardware to keep up with newer releases.
The Nothing Ear 1 is a great alternative to AirPods
The Nothing Ear 1 boasts transparency from the case to the earbuds, and it’s more than a see-through set of AirPods. Nothing’s earphones cost just $99 and include premium features like active noise cancelling, automatic ear detection, an IPX4 rating, and fast and wireless charging via the case. The noise cancelling doesn’t stack up to similarly priced options like the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), but it does the trick and actually fairs quite well against the AirPods Pro.
Nothing Ear 1Full Review
Sure, the stemmed design emulates the AirPods, but you get such a great bang for your buck with the Ear 1 headset. Microphone quality is very good and certainly passable for personal calls along with most professional calls. Battery life is on par with other noise cancelling true wireless earbuds as the Ear 1 lasts 4 hours, 30 minutes with ANC enabled. When you disable noise cancelling, you’ll get closer to 6 hours of playtime. What’s unique about the Ear 1 is that both the earbuds and case support fast charging. When you toss the earphones into the case for 10 minutes, you get 60 minutes of playtime; when you plug the case into a USB-C cable for 10 minutes, you get 8 hours of battery life.
The default frequency response closely follows our house curve, so most general consumers should be pleased with the sound. If you want to take matters a bit more into your own hands, you can choose from a few EQ presets within the free mobile app that’s available to Android and iPhone owners alike. If you want a set of earbuds that can do much of what the AirPods Pro can for less than half the cost, think about the Nothing Ear 1.
The Sony WF-C500 can go anywhere
The Sony WF-C500 isn’t a particularly notable pair of earbuds because it isn’t a specialist, rather, this pair of IPX4-rated earbuds gets the job done at just about every twist and turn.
Sony WF-C500Full Review
While the WF-C500 lacks noise cancelling, it has good enough isolation to rival other noise cancelling earbuds, and even outperforms the AirPods Pro with ANC on. The default frequency response is very good and should please most listeners. Still, if you’re someone who likes to tweak things to absolute perfection, the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS and Android) has plenty to offer. Here, you can use its five-band equalizer to adjust the sound and choose to prioritize sound quality or connection stability.
This is the only headset listed to support any kind of 3D audio, and with the WF-C500 set up through the Sony app, you can take advantage of Sony 360 Reality Audio. Bear in mind, access to 360 Reality Audio content is limited to certain services like Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon Music.
Athletes and exercise enthusiasts should pick up the Jabra Elite 3
The Jabra Elite 3 is the company’s cheapest true wireless earbuds to date, but it doesn’t skimp on features. You get Bluetooth 5.2 firmware along with SBC and aptX Bluetooth codec support. (Sorry, iPhone owners, no AAC here.) As with most other Jabra products, the Elite 3 is built to endure with its IP55 dust and water-resistant build.
Jabra Elite 3Full Review
Jabra features transparency mode with these affordable buds and a comfortable, sleek design that blends in with any outfit. The earbuds hardly protrude from the ear, and each one features a multifunction touch panel for playback and call controls. You can even select a designated smart assistant to help execute simple commands.
Related: Best true wireless workout earbuds
While Jabra’s MySound+ app usually adds a significant number of software features to its other headsets, the Elite 3 has just a few that includes EQ presets and HearThrough mode. You can also enjoy Spotify integration through the earbuds, something more companies are investing in like Samsung and Skullcandy.
Jabra nails all of the fundamentals with these earphones like sound quality and isolation, making it a great pick as anyone’s daily driver.
If you want something smart, get the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) with Alexa built-in
The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) cost a bit more than $100 USD, disqualifying them as a top contender, but it’s a great pair of entry-level smart earbuds that retails for much less than the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro. You get hands-free access to Alexa, which is helpful for smart home enthusiasts. If your home is full of Internet-of-Things (IoT) products, then the Echo Buds make it easy to control your light bulbs, routines, and more, all while keeping your phone in your pocket. Noise cancelling is very good and rivals more expensive competitors.
The best true wireless earbuds under $100: Notable mentions
- Apple AirPods: These earbuds run you more than $100 and, even though they’ve been outdated by the AirPods Pro, they’re the best and most affordable true wireless option for your iPhone. Granted, they do have their flaws like poor isolation.
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: This brings ANC and a customized sound to your ears for less than $100 USD. The wireless charging case supports fast charging and you can EQ the sound in the free mobile app. If you want something similar without ANC, consider the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2.
- Edifier TWS1: Listeners on a budget will enjoy the Edifier TWS1 for its premium audio features, including aptX and Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus support.
- JLab GO Air: The JLab GO Air is a spartan headset but is sure to please any listener who just wants a pair of dirt-cheap true wireless earbuds that work.
- OnePlus Buds Z: If you like the design of the original Apple AirPods, but want something that seals to your ears, you should check out these budget buds. They have an IPX4 rating, quick charging, support the AAC codec, and have good mic quality.
- OnePlus Buds Z2: This set of earbuds merits an IP55 rating and you can use either bud in mono mode. When you buy the Buds Z2, you get access to Bluetooth 5.2 which opens the door for LE Audio support. These Buds Z2 has good noise cancelling, especially for the price, but it limits you to SBC and AAC streaming.
- Skullcandy Indy: Skullcandy nailed the fit and compact design of the Indy earbuds. These are affordable and boast an IP55 certification. However, there are some drawbacks like disappointing battery life and fickle touch controls.
- TCL MOVEAUDIO S600: If you don’t mind the AirPods-like look and feel of TCL’s earbuds, you’ll enjoy the premium features at an affordable price like ANC, an IP54 rating, and fast and wireless charging.
- 1MORE ColorBuds: The 1MORE ColorBuds comes in a variety of fun colorways, so you can express your style through your headset. The earphones are durable too, as denoted by the IPX5 rating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The new Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is a little over $100, retailing at $119 for a non-wireless charging case, and $139 for a wireless charging case. If you’re willing to spend a little more for comprehensive Alexa integration, good active noise cancelling, and a very stable fit, this headset is a great buy.
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 do not have active noise cancelling. They have passive noise cancellation which is achieved through sound isolation thanks to their silicone ear tips. If you want earbuds that don’t create a seal to your ear with silicone tips, we’d recommend the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro. They aren’t quite within the budget, retailing at $130, but they’re a solid pair of earbuds with AI-enabled head gesture controls.
The way songs streamed over Spotify sound won’t depend on your earbuds specifically. However, better quality earbuds will make any streaming service’s music sound better. As for iPhone, you’ll want to look for a pair of earbuds that support the AAC codec. This codec works well with iPhones to efficiently transfer data from the source device to the earbuds, so it will maintain the quality of your music very well.
The most durable earbuds in this best list is the JLab JBuds Air Sport, which features an IP66 rating. This rating indicates that the earbuds aren’t likely to be affected by dust or strong jets of water.
When you seen an IP rating like IP56 or IPX5, the last two digits indicate the level of dust resistance and water resistance respectively. If you see an X in place of a number, it indicates that the product was not tested for dust or water resistance. To learn more, check out our article on decoding IP ratings.
In most cases, yes. If, for example, you notice your Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 case is low on battery but your earbuds still have enough charge to use, you can just plug in the case and continue wearing your earbuds. Then, when you do need to charge the earbuds themselves, the case will be ready to top them off.
Only the earphones listed to support ambient mode or passthrough listening support it. For instance, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air does not support ambient sound mode, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds headset does as is listed or omitted from the positives and negatives section at the top of the list. However, it is possible that companies like Creative add such functionality in a firmware update.
Between the Creative Outlier Air, Edifier TWS1, Rowkin Ascent Micro, JLab JBuds Air Sport, and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, the Edifier TWS1 has the best microphone quality. If you’re strictly prioritizing mic quality for cheap true wireless earbuds, the Jabra Elite 65t earphones are your best bet. These occasionally dip below $100, and can be had for just $64 when bought renewed.