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How to spend less on a pair of wireless earbuds

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The best cheap wireless earbuds have become great over the past several years. The ones you typically hear about are super expensive. Still, there are some great budget options out there, such as the Creative Outlier Air V2, which offer fantastic battery life, exceptional comfort, and superb sound quality.

Best Overall: Creative Outlier Air V2

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It’s hard to beat the Outlier Air V2 on battery life. Even compared to the best wireless earbuds, they outperform most of them with up to 12 hours of audio playback per charge at default volume. Add another (almost) two charges in the charging case and you’ve got over 30 hours of total listening time. The only real downside is that the case doesn’t feature wireless charging.

Creative based the design on the Outlier Gold, which used different ear tips than the original Outlier Air did, and that move pays dividends in both fit and comfort. It also gives you a better seal to trap in more of the bass and preserve as much of the soundstage as possible. The codec support includes aptX and AAC for great compatibility on top of that — another plus for a pair of earbuds that sound so much better than their price implies. However, it’s a shame neither active noise cancelation (ANC) nor Transparency modes are available here.

While Creative did throw in its excellent Super X-Fi technology, it doesn’t work with most content that would benefit from it. You can only apply it to it music and video files stored on your device, rather than something you would stream. It also replaced physical buttons on the earbuds with touch controls that are just OK.

It’s also too bad the Outlier Air V2 don’t have a companion app with an equalizer to really put them on a different level. But, as is, they are one of the best budget pairs we’ve heard right out of the box, so that definitely counts for something.

Pros:

  • Great audio quality
  • Awesome bud battery life
  • Comfortable fit
  • Improved onboard control
  • Affordable price

Cons:

  • Touch controls aren’t all great
  • No ANC or transparency modes
  • No wireless charging
  • Bulky case

Best Overall

Creative Outlier Air V2

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  • $70 at Amazon

Well rounded

Creative makes key improvements to the Outlier Air V2, and that’s why they are fantastic for those who want to save money.

Best Alternative: Boltune Wireless Earbuds

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There’s no doubt that the Creative Outlier Air are some of the very best true wireless earbuds you can buy, but if its price is a little higher than what you were hoping to spend, a fantastic alternative comes in the form of the Boltune Wireless Earbuds.

Right off the bat, the Boltune earbuds kick out excellent audio quality that combines clarity and deep bass into one package. Boltune also includes CVC 8.0 noise reduction to make your phone calls as clear as possible. To keep all of this working as intended, you’ll find Bluetooth 5.0 for a strong and reliable wireless connection.

Rounding out the experience is excellent battery life (six hours of playback, 34 hours in the case), an IPX8 waterproof rating, and USB-C charging!

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Superb sound
  • IPX8 water-resistant
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • USB-C charging

Cons:

  • No wireless charging case

Best Alternative

Boltune Wireless Earbuds

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$35 at Walmart

Best for less

With great sound, long battery life, and Bluetooth 5.0, the Boltune Wireless Earbuds give you the full experience at a low price.

Best Upgrade: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

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The purpose of this article is to highlight true wireless earbuds that sound great, work as intended, and come in at a low price. Our next pick is the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2, and if you’re in the market for a higher-end earbud experience that doesn’t have an outrageous price tag, it could be an excellent fit.

Right off the bat, the Liberty Air 2 sound wonderful. The earbuds feature “diamond-inspired drivers” and a “premium TPU diaphragm,” which basically translates to a wide soundstage and deep bass. No matter what kind of music you’re listening to on the Liberty Air 2, it’ll sound great. We’re especially fond of Anker’s HearID feature, which customizes your listening experience based on your hearing sensitivity.

There are plenty of other features outside of the audio side of things, such as a 28-hour battery life, Qi wireless charging, touch controls, and the ability to use either earbud on its own for mono playback. We understand the price tag keeps some buyers at bay. Still, when it comes to getting a premium listening experience, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 deliver that for a lot less money than other companies out there.

Pros:

  • High-quality sound with deep bass
  • Audio is personalized for your ears
  • Total battery life of 28 hours
  • Robust touch controls
  • Qi wireless charging

Cons:

  • Highest price

Best Upgrade

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

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  • $56 at Amazon
  • $80 at Best Buy
  • $100 at Walmart

Spoil yourself

These push the limits of “cheap,” but the Liberty Air 2 deliver a super high-end experience for less than the competition.

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

  • Decent, 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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$25 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. 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 we can make do with Micro-USB at this price and considering everything else that’s on the table.

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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$30 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: Back Bay Duet 50 Pro

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For someone that’s always on the move and needs earbuds that aren’t always running out of juice, the Back Bay Duet 50 Pro are an excellent pick. Where most wireless earbuds have total battery life of around 30 hours or so, the Duet 50 Pro crank things all the way up to 130 hours.

That may seem like a typo at first glance, but it’s not. The earbuds themselves last for eight hours on a single charge, but when you factor in the charging case, you’re looking at an additional 122 hours of playback. That much endurance does mean you have to deal with a larger-than-normal case, but we think it’s well worth the trade-off.

Outside of that legendary battery life, the Back Bay Duet 50 Pro deliver in other areas. Audio quality is good with a well-balanced sound stage, there’s an IPX5 water-resistant rating, USB-C charging, and the battery case has so much juice that it can be used to charge your phone.

Pros

  • 130 hours of total battery life
  • USB-C charging
  • Case can be used as a power bank
  • IPX5 water-resistant
  • Bluetooth 5.0

Cons

  • Disappointing playback controls
  • Charging case is clunky

Best Battery Life

Back Bay Duet 50 Pro

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$55 at Amazon

Keep going, and going, and going

For earbuds that can last an insanely long time in between charges, the Duet 50 Pro’s usage time of 130 hours is the tops.

Best Comfort: EarFun Free

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At first glance, the EarFun Free may not look like anything too special. However, these are earbuds you certainly don’t want to slip by unnoticed.

Many earbuds on this list offer great comfort, but the EarFun Free are on a different level in these regards. I’ve tested many true wireless earbuds in my days, and these stand out as some of the most comfortable. This is something that will vary from person to person depending on your ear size and shape, but in my experience, they’ve been great.

Thankfully, that’s not where the praise for the EarFun Free stops. These true wireless earbuds also have excellent audio quality, offer great passive sound isolation, and have an IPX7 rating for top-notch water resistance. Combine all of that with 30-hour battery life, USB-C charging, and support for Qi wireless charging, and this is an impressively complete package for being so cheap.

Pros

  • Outstanding comfort
  • Good audio for the price
  • IPX7 water resistance
  • Battery life up to 30 hours
  • Wireless and USB-C charging

Cons

  • Cheap charging case
  • Bluetooth connection can be hit-or-miss

Best Comfort

EarFun Free

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$40 at Amazon
$51 at Walmart

No sore ears here

Planning to use your earbuds for hours on end? Make sure your ears stay nice and comfy with the EarFun Free!

Best Workout Buds: Mpow M30

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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 Mpow M30 are IPX8 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 Mpow M30 are just as 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 helps tremendously with finding the right combination that works for you.

Add that together with bass-heavy audio, USB-C charging, and an excellent price, and the Mpow M30 stand out as an easy recommendation. Battery life isn’t the absolute best we’ve ever seen — five hours with the buds and an extra 20 hours with the case — but it should still be plenty for getting through a long run or workout session.

Pros:

  • IPX8 water-resistant
  • Secure and comfortable fit
  • Punchy audio with deep bass
  • Charges with USB-C
  • Super low price

Cons:

  • OK battery life
  • Not rated for swimming

Best Workout Buds

Mpow M30

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  • From $33 at Amazon $40 at Walmart
  • From $38 at Walmart

Flex those buds

Comfort and water-resistance are super important for workout earbuds, and the Mpow M30 fit the bill perfectly.

Best Hook Design: Aukey EP-T32

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If you’re in the market for wireless earbuds that look and feel a bit different, consider picking up the Aukey EP-T32. Featuring a built-in hook design, the EP-T32 allow for a more secure and comfortable fit than you’ll find with other earbud options. And with IPX8 waterproofing, they’re also well-equipped for working out.

The 12mm drivers with aptX and AAC standards allow for high-quality sound, you can expect seven hours of continuous playback, and the included charging case allows for total battery life of 35 hours. With the case supporting USB-C and Qi wireless charging, recharging is as easy as can be.

Aukey’s hook design may not be for everyone, but if you’re not a fan of more traditional earbud shapes, the EP-T32 could be a perfect fit.

Pros:

  • Hook design offers a secure fit
  • IPX8 waterproofing
  • Great stereo audio
  • 35 hours of total battery life
  • Qi wireless charging

Cons:

  • Shape isn’t for everyone
  • No ANC

Best Hook Design

Aukey EP-T32

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  • $49 at Amazon

Nice and secure

Get a secure fit, great audio, and long battery life at a low price with the Aukey EP-T32.

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 of a fun, slightly off-balanced sound will love them as well. However, 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 excellent 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. 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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  • $50 at Amazon
  • $80 at Best Buy
  • $70 at Walmart

Fantastic sound

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

Best Noise-Canceling: Mpow X3

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Noise cancellation 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 Mpow X3 are so interesting.

The Mpow X3 come with fully-fledged active noise cancellation, allowing you to block out 28dB worth of background noise. It’s not as effective as expensive over-ear headphones, but for minimizing the noise of a dishwasher, vacuum, or air conditioner, the X3 work great. You’re also treated to excellent sound quality, with the 10mm drivers giving you a nice and balanced listening profile with crisp clarity.

Rounding out the experience are a few other goodies — namely, 27 hours of total battery life, USB-C charging, and Bluetooth 5.0 for a stable wireless connection. Mpow’s plastic charging case isn’t the best we’ve ever encountered, but it gets the job done.

Pros

  • Comfortable in-ear fit
  • Active noise cancellation
  • 27 hours of total playback time
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • USB-C for charging

Cons

  • Plastic case feels cheap

Best Noise Canceling

Mpow X3

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$60 at Amazon

Focus on what matters — your music

Noise cancelation isn’t something we usually see in cheap wireless earbuds, making the Mpow X3 very cool.

Best Bass: TOZO T6

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Bass lovers rejoice, the TOZO T6 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. They’ll take a backseat to the bass, but the presence is still there. The dynamic range is excellent; however, the soundstage is a bit weak thanks to the overpowering bass.

Battery life is also quite strong, with the T6 lasting up to six hours for continuous use and the charging case providing another 24 hours of battery life — a total package of 30 hours! The Micro-USB charging port isn’t ideal, but you can ignore it and use Qi wireless charging instead.

In terms of comfort, the T6 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:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • AirPods ripoff design

Best Bass

TOZO T6

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  • $40 at Amazon
  • $46 at Newegg

Tons of bass

The TOZO T6 feature a wireless charging case, excellent bass-heavy sound, and superb comfort.

Bottom line

As we mentioned at the top, the best wireless earbuds have gotten much better over the past few years, with a resulting drop in prices to go with that. The Creative Outlier Air V2 are a great example of that, proving themselves to be awesome true wireless earbuds at an incredibly low price.

The Outlier Air V2 offer up to 12 hours of battery life on the earbuds alone, which is impressive on its own. Most true wireless earbuds end up in and around 5-7 hours of battery life per charge — even high-end ones. To take it a step further, the Outlier Air V2 case can charge up the earbud another two times, netting you over 30 hours of audio playback. Pretty good times when you get great sound and superb comfort for those long listening sessions.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Joe Maring is Android Central’s Senior 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.

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Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.

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