How to spend less on a pair of true wireless earbuds

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True wireless earbuds have gotten great over the past several years. The ones you typically hear about are super expensive, but there are some great budget options out there, such as the Creative Outlier Air, which offer fantastic battery life, great comfort, and superb sound quality.

Best Overall: Creative Outlier Air

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Battery life is one of the standout features of the Creative Outlier Air. Even compared to some high-end true wireless earbuds, the Outlier Air outperforms most of them with up to 10 hours of audio playback on the buds themselves. The included charging case nets you an additional 20 hours of audio playback, which equates to up to 30 hours listening time. The only real downside is that the case does not feature wireless charging, which is unfortunate.

Comfort is excellent, but only if they fit your ear. Unlike most other earbuds and true wireless earbuds, the Outlier Air only come with one extra set of ear tips in the box. Typically, earbud companies will include small, medium, and large ear tips in the box with the medium size coming pre-installed. Fortunately, a bud doesn’t shove too far into your ear, which means it may be easier to get a better seal.

The Outlier Air also have great sound quality. The low- and mid-bass are neutral and flat while the upper-bass and low-mids have a small boost, giving sounds such as male vocals and bass guitar a small boost. The mid-mids all the way up to the mid-treble are smooth and neutral, and while there’s not much upper-treble, the treble rolls off nicely. This gives you an overall balanced sound that has a small bass bias and instruments in the treble might sound slightly muffled, but most won’t be able to hear the difference.

The Outlier Air don’t feature a smartphone companion app, which means that what you see is what you get. Some earbuds will not feature a customizable equalizer, while others won’t let you change the media control scheme. Outlier Air don’t do either.

Pros:

  • USB-C for charging
  • IPX5 water resistant
  • Good comfort
  • Superb sound
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • No smartphone app
  • Only comes with one extra set of ear tips

Best Overall

Creative Outlier Air

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  • From $80 at Amazon

Well rounded

The Creative Outlier Air have excellent battery life and sound at a great price. Just make sure they fit in your ear.

Best Alternative: Back Bay Duet 50

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Next up, we’ve got the Back Bay Duet 50 — a solid runner-up to the Creative Outlier Air. They feature up to eight hours of audio playback on a single charge, which is pretty standard for most true wireless earbuds. However, the Duet 50 take it a step further with the included charging case, which offers an additional 32 hours. While the battery life is great, the Duet 50 still charges over the aging Micro-USB and has no support for wireless charging.

In terms of sound quality, they feature a V-shaped sound signature that equates to heavy bass and treble, along with a neutral midrange. While the bass and treble are elevated, they aren’t overbearing, so the bass won’t give you headaches and the treble isn’t fatiguing or piercing. The Duet 50 also feature Bluetooth 5.0, which is great for better efficiency and range. Unfortunately, Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t improve in the audio department, so sound quality over Bluetooth should sound exactly the same compared to other earbuds with older versions of Bluetooth.

Comfort is excellent with the Duet 50. The buds are relatively lightweight and the ear tips are super soft and comfortable. They also come with multiple ear tip sizes in the box, which will help with fit. You likely won’t experience any sort of fatiguing or discomfort from wearing the Duet 50, even over long periods of time.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Superb, V-shaped sound
  • IPX5 water resistant
  • Excellent comfort
  • Bluetooth 5.0

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • No wireless charging case

Best Alternative

Back Bay Duet 50

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  • $50 at Amazon

Lasts forever

With up to 40 hours of battery life, the Duet 50 by Back Bay are an easy “set it and forget it” earbud.

Best for Tight Budgets: Aukey EP-T21

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Aukey, mostly known for its battery packs and charging accessories, is steadily breaking into the world of wireless audio gear. With the EP-T21, Aukey has crafted some of the most affordable true wireless earbuds money can buy.

Design-wise, the Aukey EP-T21 gets the job done. It’s nothing to write home about, but the simple charging case, stem-style earbuds, and matte black paint job are all solid. Pairing is made as easy as can be, and on the side of the earbuds, you’ll find multi-function touch controls for managing all of your audio playback.

What else do you get? Aukey throws in an IPX4 water-resistance rating, the powerful Bluetooth 5.0 wireless standard, and 25 hours of total battery life between the earbuds and charging case. Sure, having to charge the case with a Micro-USB cable is a drag here in 2020, but for the price, there’s not much we can complain about.

Pros

  • Good, crisp sound
  • 25 hours of total battery life
  • IPX4 water-resistance
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Extremely affordable

Cons

  • Charges with Micro-USB

Best for Tight Budgets

Aukey EP-T21

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$30 at Amazon

As cheap as it gets

There’s cheap, and then there’s the Aukey EP-T21. These earbuds are insanely affordable and offer a fantastic user experience.

Best Underdog: SoundPEATS TrueFree+

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If you’re reading this and have no idea what SoundPEATS is, don’t fret. This is a relatively small and obscure company, but it’s been creating top-notch audio gear since 2010. In fact, when it comes to cheap true wireless earbuds, one of the best options comes from SoundPEATS.

Taking a look at the TrueFree+, just about everything you could ask for is offered. There’s hi-fi sound for great-sounding music and podcasts, a strong wireless connection thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, and an impressive total battery life of 35 hours between the earbuds and charging case.

The earbuds have a pretty simple design, but the case manages to stand out thanks to a sleek striped pattern on the top of it. We also appreciate that SoundPEATS includes a bunch of ear tips so you can make sure the TrueFree+ fit just right. It’d be great to have USB-C charging, but at this price and considering everything else that’s on the table, we can make do with Micro-USB.

Pros

  • Hi-fi sound quality
  • Customizable ear tips
  • Stylish charging case
  • 35 hours total battery
  • Bluetooth 5.0

Cons

  • Micro-USB charging

Best Underdog

SoundPEATS TrueFree+

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From $33 at Amazon

Not your first choice, but worth a good look

You might not know SoundPEATS, but the company just so happens to make some of the best cheap true wireless earbuds.

Best Battery Life: TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53

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For someone that’s always on the move and needs earbuds that aren’t always running out of juice, the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53 fit the bill perfectly. The big draw to these earbuds is the 40 hours of total use time, which is downright insane.

You’ll get up to five hours of battery from the earbuds themselves, but the charging case can hold another 36 hours of playtime. Depending on how often you use the SoundLiberty 53, that could result in a week or two of regular use without needing to top-up the charging case.

Outside of battery life, there are other strong suits for the SoundLiberty 53. You get Bluetooth 5.0 for excellent wireless performance, IPX7 waterproofing, and the ability to use both earbuds simultaneously or just one at a time. There are also 6mm speakers that promise to deliver “authentic sound and powerful bass.” This is another pair of earbuds that charges with Micro-USB, but that’s the biggest downside here.

Pros

  • 40 hours of total battery life
  • IPX7 waterproof
  • Single and Twin modes
  • 6mm dynamic speakers
  • Bluetooth 5.0

Cons

  • Micro-USB charging

Best Battery Life

TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53

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From $45 at Amazon

Keep going, and going, and going

For earbuds that can last an insanely long time in between charges, the SoundLiberty 53’s total usage time of 40 hours is the tops.

Best Workout Buds: Soundcore Liberty Neo

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When looking for workout earbuds, one of the most important things to look for is how water resistant they are. Fortunately the Liberty Neo are IPX7 rated, which means you’ll be able to do intense workouts without worrying about them getting damaged. Just don’t swim with them, as they’re not rated for full submersion.

In terms of comfort, the Liberty Neo are excellent. They use a tip and wing mechanism to help with stability, comfort, and fit. You’ll get multiple tip and wing sizes in the box, which will help tremendously with finding the right combination that works for you. The earbud is rather light and don’t enter your ears too much, making them super comfortable even for those who traditionally don’t like in-ear earbuds.

Battery life on the Liberty Neo is mediocre at best with up to five hours of battery life on a single charge. The included charging case nets you up to 10 additional hours of listening, which brings the total to 15 hours. It’ll still last you a full work day (assuming you’re wearing them all day) and a few days if you don’t use them so regularly. Usually, true wireless earbuds get at least 20 hours of audio playback, at the very least, with most getting 24 hours. To add insult to injury, the Liberty Neo charge over Micro-USB with no support for wireless charging.

The Liberty Neo produce above average sound quality, but that won’t matter much when working out. The bass and mids are neutral and flat, and the treble is only slightly elevated, giving the Liberty Neo a slightly brighter sound signature overall. This means that sounds such as female vocals and hi-hats from drums will be elevated slightly. However, they fall short on dynamic range and soundstage. There’s not much depth or separation to the sound. Again, this is fine if you’re working out as you won’t be focusing on the music.

Pros:

  • IPX7 water resistant
  • Superb comfort
  • Great sound

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • No wireless charging
  • Mediocre battery life

Best Workout Buds

Soundcore Liberty Neo

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  • $50 at Amazon

Flex those buds

Comfort and water resistance is super important for workout earbuds and the Soundcore Liberty Neo fit the bill perfectly.

Best Sound Quality: 1More Stylish True Wireless

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The 1More Stylish True Wireless are perfect for the person who’s looking for superb sound quality without breaking the bank. It’s not neutral, and there’s a noticeable bump in the entire bass region, but it’s not enough to drown out the mids and treble. Bass lovers will love these but those who are a fan for a fun, slightly off balanced sound will love them as well. Howeverm the most impressive part about the sound signature is the soundstage. While it won’t beat some of the more expensive true wireless earbuds, the Stylish True Wireless holds its ground. Ths soundstage is wide and spacious, making it very easy to pick out individual instruments and vocals.

In terms of battery life, the Stylish True Wireless perform exceptionally well with up to 6.5 hours on a single charge. The included charging case nets you an additional 17.5 hours of battery life, totaling up to 24 hours of audio playback with the bud and case. The case itself is relatively small and compact. You likely won’t have any issues with it fitting in your pocket or purse. Unfortunately, it still uses Micro-USB for charging and doesn’t feature wireless charging at all.

Comfort is excellentm too. They are super light and easy to get in and out of your ear. The earbud stays in your ear without issue. You’re unlikely to feel any sort of discomfort or fatiguing, even after long periods of time. You get multiple ear tip sizes in the box, which will help with fit.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Superb sound with wide soundstage
  • Excellent comfort

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • No wireless charging case
  • Pricier than other options on this list

Best Sound Quality

1More Stylish True Wireless

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  • $100 at Amazon

Fantastic sound

The 1More Stylish feature great sound, long battery life, and excellent comfort for a great price.

Best Noise Canceling: TaoTronics TT-BH079

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Noise cancelation is a great feature offered by some headphones, but it’s something we don’t often see with true wireless earbuds — let alone ones that are considered cheap. That’s why the TaoTronics TT-BH079 are so interesting.

The TT-BH079 come equipped with TaoTronics’ “Advanced Noise Canceling Technology,” which is said to reduce ambient noise by 96% and retains up to 95% of your own voice for crystal clear phone calls. With this, you can focus on just your music while blocking out unwanted chatter around you.

While that’s impressive enough of its own, that’s not all you get here. Also offered on the TT-BH079 is 40 hours of battery life, Bluetooth 5.0, and charging that’s done via USB-C. You’re getting all of that at an outstanding price, making the TaoTronics TT-BH079 a pair of earbuds that should be on your shortlist.

Pros

  • Comfortable in-ear fit
  • Reduces ambient noise by 96%
  • 40 hours of total playback time
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • USB-C for charging

Cons

  • Plastic case feels cheap

Best Noise Canceling

TaoTronics TT-BH079

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$50 at Amazon

Focus on what matters — your music

Noise cancelation isn’t something we usually see in true wireless earbuds, let alone cheap ones, making the TT-BH079 very cool.

Best Minimalist Design: FOCUSTONE GT1

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Some companies try to create flashy, eye-catching designs for their earbuds in an endless effort to stand out from the competition, but FOCUSTONE went the complete opposite route with the GT1. As far as we can tell, these are the most minimalistic true wireless earbuds you’ll find.

The earbuds don’t have any logos on them, the case is compact, and the black color further adds to the simple nature. Not to mention, they’re incredibly lightweight at just four grams. The GT1 really don’t draw any attention to themselves at all, and for some buyers, that’ll make this the perfect pick-up.

In regards to the feature-set, the FOCUSTONE GT1 delivers a lot of the goods. Bluetooth 5.0 is on board, as is a waterproof rating of IPX5. There are also easy-to-use capacitive touch controls for playing/pausing music, activating your phone’s voice assistant, and answering or dismissing a calls. The 18 hours of battery life is the GT1’s weakest aspect, but if that doesn’t bother you, you’re getting a ton of bang-for-your-buck.

Pros

  • Surprisingly good sound
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Clean, minimalistic design
  • Capacitive touch controls
  • IPX5 waterproof

Cons

  • Max battery life of 18 hours

Best Minimalist Design

FOCUSTONE GT1

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$30 at Amazon

So clean, so simple

The FOCUSTONE GT1 gets right down to business, offering good sound, features, and function with a no-frills design.

Best Bass: TOZO T10

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Bass lovers rejoice, the TOZO T10 is the earbud you want if you’re looking for a ton of bass. The bass is obviously boosted quite a bit, giving the overall sound a warmer tone with a ton of thump and rumble, but not enough for the bass to be considered muddy or distorted. The midrange and treble are neutral and flat. Obviously, they’ll take a backseat to the bass but the presence is still there. Dynamic range is excellent, however, the soundstage is a bit weak thanks to the overpowering bass.

Battery life is the weakest link here. You get only 3.5 hours of audio playback on the bud and an additional nine hours from the included charging case. This means you’ll get a total of 12.5 hours of audio playback between the bud and case. In terms of charging, you get Micro-USB for wired charging but you do get Qi wireless charging, which is always welcome.

In terms of comfort, the T10 perform exceptionally well. The buds are super lightweight and don’t shove too far down your ears. They come with multiple ear tip sizes in the box, which should help with fit, and the ear tips are super soft and sit comfortably in your ear. It’s unlikely you’ll experience any sort of discomfort or fatiguing with the earbud, even over several hours of listening.

Pros:

  • Excellent, bass-heavy sound
  • IPX8 water resistance
  • Wireless charging capable!
  • Superb comfort

Cons:

  • Poor battery life
  • Micro-USB for charging

Best Bass

TOZO T10

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  • $50 at Amazon

Tons of bass

The TOZO T10 feature a wireless charging case, excellent bass-heavy sound, and superb comfort.

Bottom line

As we mentioned at the top, true wireless earbuds have gotten really great over the past few years and as a result, they’ve come down in price. A great example of this are the Creative Outlier Air, which are awesome true wireless earbuds at an incredibly low price.

The Outlier Air offers up to 10 hours of battery life on the earbud alone, which is impressive on its own front. Most true wireless earbuds feature around 5-7 hours of battery life for the earbud, even high-end ones. To take it a step further, the Outlier Air’s case can charge up the earbud another two times, netting you a total of 30 hours of audio playback. They also feature great sound and superb comfort for long listening sessions.

How to choose the best cheap true wireless earbuds

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Just because the most popular true wireless earbuds are expensive doesn’t necessairly mean you have to pay a premium for a great set. When looking for any set of true wireless earbuds, your main focus should be sound quality because if they sound like crap, there’s no real point in getting them even if they’re the most stylish and comfortable earbud on the planet.

Otherwise, you’re looking at comfort and battery life. The latter can be a bit tricky with true wireless earbuds as there are a number of factors to take into account, including how long the bud lasts, how much extra juice you have with the charging case, and how long the bud takes to charge while in the charging case.

Sound Quality

Sound quality should be the top priority for potential headphone buyers. It doesn’t matter if they’re super comfortable or look pretty if you can’t hear what you want to listen to. Unfortunately, most true wireless earbuds trade sound quality for convenience and compactness, although that’s not always the case.

Our top three picks are earbuds that all sound great but have vastly different sound signatures. The 1More Stylish make the top of our list for having superb dynamic range and soundstage. They may have a slightly boosted bass but it’s not enough to bother most people. Our second pick is the TOZO T10, which feature really great sound but with much more bass. Our third pick is the Creative Outlier Air thanks to the more neutral sound signature. The Outlier Air are an excellent pick for those who want more accurate sound, even if it doesn’t have the greatest soundstage.

Best cheap true wireless earbuds, ranked by sound quality

1More Stylish True Wireless
TOZO T10
Creative Outlier Air
Back Bay Duet 50
SoundPEATS TrueFree+

Comfort

True wireless earbuds are generally very comfortable since they don’t wear on your head and neck. For this reason, it’s very difficult to rank all of these true wireless earbuds because generally speaking anything on this list will be fantastic.

To take this a step further, most true wireless earbuds use standard ear tip sizes, which means even if the included ear tips don’t fit you or are super uncomfortable, you can do a quick Amazon search for better ear tips.

Best cheap true wireless earbuds, ranked by comfort

Creative Outlier Air
TaoTronics TT-BH079
Back Bay Duet 50
Soundcore Liberty Neo
FOCUSTONE GT1

Battery Life

Battery life is by far the hardest thing to try to determine when looking at true wireless earbuds. Not only do you have to worry about the actual earbuds’ battery life, but the battery life on the charging case as well. Some true wireless earbuds have excellent bud battery life but awful charging case battery life or vice versa.

Our top pick is the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53. The promise of 40 hours of total use time is outstanding, with the earbuds themselves delivering up to five hours of playback and the charging case holding another 36 hours.

You’ll find similar endurance with the TaoTronics TT-BH079, which also tout 40-hour battery life.

Best cheap true wireless earbuds, ranked by battery life

TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53
TaoTronics TT-BH079
Back Bay Duet 50
SoundPEATS TrueFree+
Creative Outlier Air

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Joe Maring is Android Central’s News Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He’s been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Reach out on Twitter @JoeMaring1 or send an email to [email protected]!

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Peter Cao spends more time than he’s willing to admit listening and analyzing music, headphones, or earbuds. When not on the clock, he’s probably still doing the same, playing basketball or playing video games.