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Best cheap wireless earbuds 2022: Enjoy wire-free audio from just £20

Ben Johnston Andy White
20 Apr 2022

If you’re looking for versatile and affordable headphones, a pair of the best cheap wireless earbuds could be just the ticket

The best cheap wireless earbuds have come a long way over the past few years. Technological advances have seen products that were once plagued by abject audio quality flourish into one of the most popular headphones subcategories.

Sound quality may still lag behind premium options, while advanced features such as active noise cancellation and in-ear detection are often omitted, but those are sacrifices worth making if you’re looking to save yourself some cash.

A pair of the best cheap wireless earbuds will typically cost you less than £50, though we have also included some that cost up to £80 that we think are worth the extra money. Even in this limited range, there are hundreds of attractive options out there to consider. That can make picking the right pair tricky, but we’ve listened to hundreds of hours of audio through a wide range of earbuds to help make your life easier.

Below, you’ll find a buying guide that will arm you with all the information you need to make an informed purchase, followed by short reviews of what we deem the best cheap wireless earbuds of the countless products we’ve tested.

If you’re ready to embark on a new audio journey without breaking the bank, read on.

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Best cheap wireless earbuds: At a glance

How to choose the best cheap wireless earbuds for you

What kind of fit should I choose?

There are two popular styles of wireless earbuds, and each has its own benefits. First is the one-size-fits-all model, as used by the Apple AirPods. Such earbuds rest just inside your ears and leave your ear canals open. They provide no flexibility when it comes to fit – either they’ll match the contours of your ears nicely and sit snugly in your lugholes, or they’ll feel loose and be in danger of falling out.

Their design means a reasonable amount of sound from the outside world makes its way into your ears, which is great for situations where you need to be aware of your surroundings, but it can negatively affect audio quality. Many people find these types of earbuds more comfortable to wear for long periods as they don’t exert pressure on your ear canals.

The other style of earbuds use eartips (often made of silicone) to secure themselves in your ears. These tips seal off your ear canal, simultaneously offering a more secure fit and providing passive noise cancellation. You’ll find that most manufacturers include a range of different-sized tips to help ensure you get the best fit possible.

Can I use them for phone/video calls?

The best cheap wireless earbuds feature built-in microphones that allow you to make and receive phone/video calls via your Bluetooth connection. The number of microphones and their quality will vary depending on the earbuds’ cost, as will their ability to isolate your voice from ambient sounds.

Can I just wear one earbud on its own?

This depends on the earbuds in question, but most of the time, yes. Many wireless earbuds operate in a master-slave relationship, whereby the driver in one bud (the master) receives audio before relaying it to the slave. In cases such as this, you can only use the master earbud while the slave is in the charging case. Other earbuds are less fussy and allow both buds to be used independently at any time.

READ NEXT: The best wired and wireless headphones

Is the Bluetooth version important?

As with anything that is periodically updated, newer tends to mean better. The latest version of Bluetooth will offer the strongest, most stable connection possible, and have the furthest wireless range and widest bandwidth – the rate at which data is transferred over the connection. The latest iteration, Bluetooth 5.2, is therefore preferable, but earbuds that support it are still relatively scarce. For casual listening, anything from Bluetooth 4.2 and up should serve you just fine.

Does it matter which Bluetooth codecs are supported?

Codecs determine how Bluetooth transmits information to your device and play a crucial role when streaming audio via your wireless earbuds. The most commonly used codecs are SBC – which is pretty much universal – and AAC, which is Apple’s codec of choice. Both offer solid sound quality and a stable connection and will be the ones you typically find yourself using with a pair of cheap wireless earbuds.

Codecs such as Qualcomm’s aptX HD or aptX Adaptive and Sony’s LDAC support higher-resolution audio streaming and offer improved sound quality. However, support for hi-res Bluetooth codecs is rare at under £50.

It’s worth noting that both your earbuds and the device you intend to use them with need to support a specific codec to be able to make use of it.

How much should I spend on cheap wireless earbuds?

This of course depends on your budget, but like most tech products, you’ll generally find you get what you pay for. We recommend spending at least £20 if you want to avoid your buds sounding horrible and don’t want them giving up the ghost after a few months of use.

The closer you get to £50, the more features your earbuds are likely to offer and the better they’re likely to sound. This isn’t always the case, though, which is why it’s important to check specs and read product reviews before making a purchase. If you’re unsure as to what specs and features to look out for, the section below will point you in the right direction.

The few entries on this list that exceed the £50 mark have earned their place by offering something special, whether that's supreme sound quality, a more comfortable fit or useful features like ANC and wear-detection. If you want the best you can get without breaking the £100 mark, these will be the ones for you.

READ NEXT: The best noise-cancelling headphones you can buy

What other features should I look out for?

IP certification: This denotes the earbuds’ ability to resist the ingress of dust and sweat/water, with the two digits after “IP” referring to each, respectively. IPX4, for example, means that the buds aren’t dust resistant, as shown by the “X”, but are resistant to splashing water, as shown by the “4”. These buds would therefore not be ideal for taking to the beach, where wayward sand is prone to get everywhere, but are fine for jogging or a trip to the gym, and they can withstand the UK’s wet weather.

Battery life: With most cheap wireless earbuds coming equipped with a charging case, this is measured on two fronts – how much play you get out of the buds themselves, and how much additional juice the case provides. The overall listening time typically clocks in somewhere in the region of 20 hours, but this is dependent on the volume at which you play your audio, how much time you spend on calls and whether you have power-hungry features like ANC activated.

Voice assistant support: This feature is pretty commonplace nowadays, even among the cheapest wireless earbuds. Still, if utilising Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri is particularly important to you, it’s best to double-check when making your purchase.

Touch controls: These allow you to perform a variety of actions, including skipping tracks, adjusting volume and hailing your voice assistant without having to dig your phone out of your pocket. Mileage may vary on the breadth of control that you get, with some of the cheaper options just offering play/pause, and others allowing for some of the above-mentioned commands but not others.

Companion app: Many wireless earbuds manufacturers have companion apps that you can download, giving you a range of customisation options to get the most out of your buds. Common offerings include remapping touch controls – perfect if you have a particular setup that you’re used to – and switching between different EQ presets.

The best cheap wireless earbuds to buy in 2022

1. 1MORE PistonBuds Pro: The best cheap wireless earbuds overall

Price: £65 | Buy now from Amazon

The original 1MORE PistonBuds were our top pick for those seeking cheap wireless earbuds but have now been supplanted by their Pro upgrade. Improving upon their predecessors across the board, the Pro sound better, last longer and incorporate new features like wear detection and active noise cancellation.

Despite squeezing in all of that functionality, they’re among the smallest earbuds out there, trading in an AirPods Pro-inspired aesthetic for more discreet drums. This compact housing doesn’t hinder audio quality, however, with the 10mm dynamic drivers producing powerful sound underpinned by a particularly weighty low-end response. If the standard tuning isn’t to your liking, the 1MORE app offers 12 EQ presets, including Bass Booster, Podcast and Hip-Hop.

With excellent sound and a slew of useful features, the 1MORE PistonBuds Pro earn the title of our favourite cheap wireless earbuds ahead of a host of capable alternatives.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 30 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.5g per earbud, 30g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Amazon

2. Skullcandy Dime: The best-sounding wireless earbuds under £30

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

Ultra-compact and supremely comfortable to wear, Skullcandy’s Dime earbuds produce a warm and well-balanced sound signature, with clearly communicated vocals, mids and trebles. As well as excellent sonic performance, the Dime are rated IPX4 for sweat and water resistance, and allow you to freely use either bud by itself. Another nice inclusion is a short lanyard attached to the case that allows you to clip it onto your keyring, reducing the risk of misplacing the inconspicuous case.

The touch controls leave a bit to be desired – the range of functions offered is great, but having to remember the specific commands for each is less fun – and having to find purchase on the small stems to push the Skullcandy logo that executes commands is rather fiddly. Battery life is nothing special, either, clocking in at around 12 hours in total. Still, for great-quality sound at an extremely reasonable price, the Skullcandy Dime are a solid choice.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 12 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 4g per earbud, 25g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

Buy now from Skullcandy

3. Tronsmart Onyx Ace: The best cheap AirPods alternative

Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon

If you like the design of Apple’s AirPods but aren’t so keen on the price tag, Tronsmart’s Onyx Ace are a solid budget alternative with a similar aesthetic. Forgoing silicone ear tips in favour of a fixed-fit design, these buds won’t provide the same passive noise cancellation as some others on this list, nor will they remain wedged in your ears quite as well, but we still found the fit and stability to be satisfactory.

The sound profile is a little bass-heavy, with vocals and instrument separation suffering in pieces with prominent low-ends, but this isn’t as much of an issue when you consider all of the things the Onyx Ace have going for them. Battery life is solid for the price, the touch controls are comprehensive and responsive, and we found the microphone to be impressively clear. The IPX5 waterproof rating won’t protect against dust, but for a jog or a sweaty gym session, they’ll serve you just fine.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 20 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 3.5g per earbud, 37g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Amazon

4. EarFun Free Pro: The best cheap wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

EarFun describes the Free Pro as "the world's smallest" ANC earbuds and while we can't verify that claim, they're certainly very compact and weigh just over 4g apiece. We found them very comfortable to wear, too, and a selection of wingtips and silicone eartips should ensure they sit cosily and securely in your ears no matter the size and shape of your lugholes.

Despite their diminutive form, EarFun has managed to squeeze a lot of functionality into the Free Pro, with noise cancelling and ambient sound modes, a comprehensive suite of touch controls, a wireless charging-enabled case and voice assistant support. The noise cancellation attenuates low-end frequencies reasonably well given the low cost of entry, while the ambient mode comes in handy if you're out and about and need to be aware of what's going on. Sonically, the Free Pro offer a robust bass response and decent levels of clarity, though treble can get a bit piercing at high volumes.

While not particularly cheap at their RRP of £70, the EarFun Free Pro are often found available closer to £60. At that price, the package becomes more appealing and you'll struggle to find earbuds offering quite so many useful features.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 27 hours (ANC on), 32 hours (ANC off); Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.1g per earbud, 33g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Amazon

5. JLab Go Air POP: The best cheap wireless earbuds with EQ options

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

Despite some advanced features finding their way into the budget earbuds market, cheap buds offering EQ presets are still quite a rarity. One of the few pairs of earbuds that do include them is the JLab Go Air POP, with Signature, Balanced and Bass Boost modes you can cycle through via a long press on either bud.

The Signature setting enhances vocals and bass, while Bass Boost amplifies low-end frequencies and will be the go-to for bass lovers. For something somewhere in between, you can opt for Balanced mode, which delivers the most even sound across the frequency curve.

The buds themselves offer a comfortable and stable fit, and each can be worn independently. The Go Air POP are rated IPX4 for water resistance, so they’ll hold up well against rain and sweat, and the 32-hour battery life including the charging case is plenty for most users.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 32 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: 3.7g per earbud, 27.5g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

Buy now from Amazon

6. Tribit FlyBuds 3: The best cheap wireless earbuds for water resistance

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

The Flybuds 3 possess an IPX7 rating for water resistance, meaning that they can be fully submerged in water (though sadly you won’t be able to use them swimming). They’re also a great choice if you’re looking for a secure and comfy fit thanks to the inclusion of six pairs of differently sized silicone eartips.

But what really sets them apart from other options on this page is battery life of up to 100 hours. The buds may only last you around five hours but the charging case delivers a whopping 19 further charges. It also supports Qi wireless charging in addition to USB-C and doubles as a power bank, with the 2600 mAh battery ready to charge your phone in desperate situations.

On the audio front, the Flybuds 3 make their presence known with surprisingly strong audio quality. There’s a pleasing weight to bass, and vocals are articulated with impressive clarity.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 100 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 108g (case and buds); IP rating: IPX7

Buy now from Amazon

7. Groov-e Sport Buds: The best cheap wireless earbuds for exercise

Price: £31 | Buy now from Amazon

While several entries on this list offer enough sweat resistance to be suitable for workouts, the gym bunnies among you will want to pick up a pair that are optimised for your training regime. As well as comfortable tips fitting snugly in your ears, each bud has a flexible rubber hook that loops over your ear, keeping them firmly in place when running, cycling or pumping iron.

Whatever you choose to listen to while working out, the audio quality on offer is fairly solid, with the Sport Buds delivering a particularly beefy bass response. Trebles can get a little pronounced at higher volumes, but for the most part, everything presented is balanced and clear. Designed for workouts, the buds are IPX4-rated for sweat resistance, and though the buds only offer roughly four hours of playback, the chunky charging case offers an impressive six further charges.

Something we really love about the Groov-e Sport Buds is that the case houses a USB-A port that can be used as a power bank to charge your other devices. This is a great feature that you don’t often see with wireless earbuds – even among the more premium options – and is even more appreciated here considering the affordable price of the Sport Buds.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 24 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 7g per earbud, 96g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

Buy now from Amazon

8. Jabra Elite 3: The best cheap wireless earbuds for a comfortable fit

Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon

With their sleek design and selection of three differently sized pairs of eartip options, the Jabra Elite 3 are some of the most comfortable earbuds that you can buy for under £100.

Audio is communicated via 6mm dynamic drivers and, for the most part, it’s well-balanced and engaging. Bass reproduction is impressive while never overpowering the rest of the track and vocals are pleasingly crisp. If the natural sound profile doesn’t quite work for you, there are five EQ presets (Bass Boost, Treble Boost, Smooth, Energised and Speech) in the Sound+ app, with the latter proving great for podcasts.

Battery life clocks in at roughly seven hours, with a further three full charges in the case, for a total of 28 hours. There’s no wireless charging support, so you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way via the included USB-C cable. On the bright side, just ten minutes on charge will net you an hour of use thanks to their fast charge functionality.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 28 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.6g per earbud, 33.4g charging case; IP rating: IP55

Buy now from Amazon

9. Creative Outlier Air V3: The best cheap wireless earbuds under £70

Price: £40 | Buy now from Creative

Despite delivering several improvements on the Outlier Air V2, the V3 retail at a lower price, making them Creative’s best wireless earbuds yet when it comes to features and value for money.

As well as their attractive price point, these sleek, lightweight buds feature customisable touch controls, total battery life of roughly 40 hours, and surprisingly effective active noise reduction technology. Upgrading the audio drivers for the first time since the original Outlier Air, the V3 sound better than ever, with dynamic and impactful bass and crisp, clear trebles.

Like the V2 before them, the Outlier Air V3 are compatible with Creative’s Super X-Fi technology, which maps your head to create a personalised holographic audio profile. Currently, this only works with locally stored audio – so you can’t stream directly from Spotify – but for anyone who keeps a music library on their phone, this technology delivers a unique listening experience.

Read our Creative Outlier Air V3 review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 40 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 5.2g per earbud, 69.8g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Creative

10. Groov-e Jazz Buds: Solid audio with an intelligent charging case

Price: £30 | Buy now from Groov-e

The Jazz Buds are a great choice for those that listen to a lot of vocal-heavy music and podcasts as they put mids and treble at the forefront of their soundstage.

But what really makes them stand out from the competition is their charging case. Where some other options use a coloured light system or series of LEDs to indicate what state the battery level is at, the charging case for the Jazz Buds features a digital display.

When the case is plugged in, the remaining battery life is displayed as a percentage. Once the buds are tucked back in the case, the screen shows a more traditional battery bar for each, giving you an indication of how much listening time you’ve got left. With the Jazz Buds’ battery providing up to 25 hours of total audio playback, having a clear idea of how much longer you’ll get out of them is very handy indeed.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 25 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: Not specified; IP rating: Not specified

Buy now from Groov-e

11. Tronsmart Apollo Air: Great sound and affordable ANC

Price: £55 | Buy now from Geek Buying

The Apollo Air’s biggest draw is active noise cancellation but there’s also an Ambient mode that filters in external noise to keep you aware of your surroundings. Both modes work well but it’s the ANC mode that’s particularly impressive: rarely do such affordable earbuds cancel environmental sound so effectively.

Sound quality is equally impressive, with a particularly potent bass response that avoids overwhelming the mid-range frequencies. Listening for extended periods is a pleasure, as the silicone ear tips help ensure a very comfortable fit – and if the preinstalled pair isn't quite right for you, there are two extra pairs included in the box. Battery life is stated at up to 20 hours, which isn’t too shabby, just be aware that this drops when you’ve got either the ANC or Ambient mode engaged.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: Up to 20 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 40g charging case; IP rating: IP45

Buy now from Geek Buying

12. Urbanista Lisbon: Best compact cheap earbuds

Price: £50 | Buy now from Urbanista

The idea of stemless AirPods may not be everybody’s cup of tea but if it appeals to you, you’ll love the Urbanista Lisbon. These petite earbuds can be worn with or without the silicone wingtips they come with and are so unobtrusive it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them. We even managed to fall asleep with them in our ears a number of times, which doesn’t happen often.

In addition to their supremely discreet design, the Lisbon offer up to 27 hours of battery life, with the buds themselves lasting up to nine hours per charge. That’s an impressive figure for buds so small and they’ve also got an easy-to-execute suite of touch controls. Available in black and four rather more appealing colours, the Urbanista Lisbon sound good too, though as is always the case with open-fit earbuds, they lack a little when it comes to bass reproduction.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 27 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4g per earbud, 32g charging case; IP rating: N/A

Buy now from Urbanista

13. Mobvoi Earbuds ANC: Impressive sound and handy voice controls

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

As their name suggests, the headline feature of these earbuds is active noise cancellation (ANC). With “Quiet Mode” activated, the roar of a busy road was dampened somewhat but a noticeable low rumble still remained. It’s competent enough but if you’re after more effective ANC we’d recommend the option from EarFun higher up this list.

Despite not excelling in the noise-cancelling department, make up for it elsewhere. Audio quality is particularly good for the money, with detailed mids and decent instrument separation. The low-end reproduction isn’t particularly potent, but trebles are handled well, with plenty of detail in the upper registers.

In addition to touch controls that allow you to skip tracks, play/pause audio and hail your voice assistant, the Mobvoi Earbuds ANC also support voice controls. Simply say “next song” or “pause music” clearly and the buds will respond accordingly. You can also say “hey, Tico” to launch your phone’s voice assistant.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 21 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 5g per earbud, 32g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Amazon

14. 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro: Supreme sound and useful features

Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

The 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro offer some of the best sound that you can get for under £100. Beefy 13.4mm drivers put out powerful audio, with dynamic shifts handled very effectively and crescendos possessing real weight; you may even find yourself needing to turn down the volume down a couple of notches occasionally.

On top of impressive sonic performance, the ComfoBuds Pro deliver a decent range of features. Both wear detection and active noise cancellation are present and correct, and the latter is reasonable for a pair of earbuds in this price bracket. Battery life is solid with ANC on too, with up to 20 hours of playback available if you’re using it to dampen the hubbub of the outside world.

Read our 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 28 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 5.2g per earbud, 40g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

Buy now from Amazon

15. UGREEN HiTune X6: Affordable ANC at a competitive price

Price: £45 | Buy now from Amazon

The UGREEN HiTune X6 share many of the characteristics of other entries on this list: decent battery life, good connectivity and an IPX5 rating for water resistance. But they go above and beyond in two key areas, making them a top purchase if your budget is limited to £50.

They deliver surprisingly impactful audio, with a particular emphasis on low-end frequencies - punchy bass pleases across a range of genres without ever overwhelming the mid-range. Even more impressively, the HiTune X6 offer effective active noise cancellation given how cheap they are. A one-second tap and hold on either earbud activates ANC mode, quickly cutting out a significant amount of background noise. Better still, this only reduces the in-ear battery life by roughly half an hour, giving you plenty of time to enjoy distraction-free audio.

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 26 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: 5.2g per earbud, charging case not specified; IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Amazon

16. Oppo Enco Free 2: The best wireless earbuds under £100

Price: £89 | Buy now from Amazon

The Oppo Enco Free 2 push the boundaries of what we’d consider cheap but make it onto this list as they’re often on sale for considerably less than their RRP. And if you can pick them up for a discounted price, you’ll be getting some of the most fully-featured and competent earbuds available for under £100.

The fruit of Oppo’s partnership with Danish Hi-Fi company Dynaudio, the Enco Free 2 sound great, with well-articulated mids and vocals, decent instrument separation and plenty of detail. As well as four EQ profiles to choose from, they offer a clever “personalised sound boost” option, which analyses your hearing and tweaks audio according to how well you pick up on certain frequencies.

Wear detection is employed effectively and, given the price, the active noise cancellation does a good job attenuating external sound. Battery life takes a hit when using ANC - in-ear stamina falls to just four hours with it enabled - but despite this, the Enco Free 2 remain some of the best earbuds available in their price bracket.

Read our Oppo Enco Free 2 review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 30 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 47.6g (case and buds); IP rating: IPX5

Buy now from Amazon

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