Best Earbuds Under 20 USD

best earbuds under 20

Have you ever tried to concentrate on something really hard? Maybe you were staying late at the library to finish a project or trying to get some work done in a busy environment like a coffee shop. You want to focus, so you load up your “work” playlist and put your headphones in, but soon realise that all that outside noise is drowning out your music. In fact, even at full blast, you can still hear it. Eventually, you blame your surroundings and head home, work untouched. What if we told you that for under $20, you could find a pair of earbuds that would not only block all that external noise, and also increase the sound quality of your music?

We’ve searched all over for the best budget earbuds under 20 dollars, so you can increase productivity, focus on the things that really matter and hear your music the way the artist originally intended.

Best Earbuds Under $20 – Comparison Table

Don’t worry, we take special care to ensure that all of our recommendations are exceptionally high quality products, without compromising on price.  In the following table, you can easily compare our top choices and see which is most suited to your needs. Here are the best earbuds under 20 dollars:

Product NameCable lengthControl capabilitiesColoursCheck Price
Panasonic Ergofit RP-TCM125-A3.6 feetPlay/Pause music,

Answer calls
Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White
Sony MDR-EX37B3.9 feetNoneBlack, Blue, Yellow, Red
Koss KEB15i4 feetPlay/Pause music, push to talkBlue, Grey, Purple, Red, Teal
Jarv NMotionWirelessPower On/Off, Play/Pause music, Skip tracks, Answer calls, Volume up/downBlack, Red, Purple
Apie Wood3 feetAnswer/End callsLight wood, Brown wood, Dark wood

But what about the actual quality of these earbuds? Well, now that you’ve had a quick look at our top picks, let’s dive right in with a more detailed review of each of them.

 

1

Panasonic Ergofit RP-TCM125 – Best All-Rounder Earbuds

Kicking this list off are the Panasonic Ergofit RP-TCM125 earbuds. They come in five different bold, striking colours that really allow you to make a statement or complement your outfit. The cable is of a good length, which is a huge plus since all too often with shorter cords you rip the earbuds out when you put your phone in your pocket. The earbuds fit snugly into your ears which helps to provide moderate noise isolation, however there is a small amount of external noise that creeps in.

The main focus of these earbuds is to provide high quality audio, and therein lies the strength of this model. They provide a great overall balance, not too bass heavy, not too tinny sounding. You get a good mix of sounds whether you’re playing classical or heavy metal, which is fantastic for such an inexpensive pair of earbuds, and as an added bonus, when playing at a medium volume, there is no sound leakage. This means that no one is going to know about your cheesy 80’s playlist unless you play Careless Whisper at full blast (as it’s supposed to be played).

With such a low price, there are going to be disadvantages too, for example, the cable is prone to tangling, and the white version tends to get slightly grubby quite quickly. We’d have preferred a few more control options too, even if just a volume adjuster, but with a sound quality that compares to more expensive earbuds, it’s hard to complain.

All in all, these earbuds are a great choice for someone who just wants to “plug and play” and isn’t bothered about making calls or taking their device out to change tracks, and the upside is with this low a cost, you have next to nothing to lose by giving them a shot.

PROS
  • Good sound quality
  • Lots of colours to choose from
  • Long cable
CONS
  • Cable tangles easily
  • Not a lot of control options
2

Sony MDR-EX37B – Best Earbuds for Bass

Next up are the Sony MDR-EX37B buds. These are consistently ranked highly in performance when compared to the Ergofit RP-TCM125s, but have one advantage that the other set doesn’t. The bass on the earbuds is fantastic, and provides deep, satisfying sounds that really complement the solid mid-range. The flipside of this is that treble heavy songs can sometimes sound a little underwhelming, which is a shame since these earbuds would have been even better with just a little bit more focus in this area.

These buds come in four different colours, underneath a black cover. Regardless of which colour you pick, they contrast well with black and the end result is a pair of earbuds which look more expensive than they are. Compared with the Ergofit earbuds, which seem a bit plasticky, these look more sophisticated, which is a good thing in our book.

The cable is very long and has an L shaped connector, which is a bonus since low cost earbuds usually have a straight connection, which is prone to bending and usually leads to a short product lifetime. Whilst we’ve noticed that the cable does occasionally tangle due to its length, it usually isn’t a problem and certainly never ties itself into knots like other earbuds we’ve encountered in the past.

The main disadvantage of these earbuds is that they don’t have any kind of controls on them for volume or playback. It seems as though the makers focussed more on creating earbuds with high sound quality than mobile functionality, which isn’t always a bad thing, however if you’re the type of person who uses their phone for listening to music, this could be a pretty significant drawback.

For people still using an iPod, or if you mostly plug into your computer to listen to music, these earbuds are a fantastic choice and well worth considering, especially if you’re into bass heavy musical genres like electronic or hip hop.

PROS
  • Fantastic bass performance
  • Attractive design
  • L shaped connector
CONS
  • No control options
  • Treble can sometimes be underwhelming
3

Koss KEB15 – Best Earbuds for the Money

Some people are happy to spend hundreds of dollars on a big pair of branded headphones, but we’re more concerned with making sure we get what we pay for in terms of sound quality vs the amount paid. The Koss KEB15 are the least expensive pair of earbuds in our list but they are still a fantastic choice due to their exceptional sound quality for the price. They come in five different colours with a white contrasting centre part and have an angled back to help get the perfect fit. We love how stylish these headphones look, and were amazed that aesthetically, they rival more expensive sets of earbuds for a fraction of the cost.

On top of this, these earbuds are sweat proof and because of the snug fit they are perfect for listening to music whilst working out, however vigorous activity like running can cause the cable to jump around, which creates noise in the earbuds and unfortunately this is a problem for most inexpensive earbuds, including these.

The other great advantage of these earbuds is that the manufacturer Koss offers a lifetime warranty, so even though they don’t cost much, you can get them replaced for free (not including postage costs)  if they break. This shows a real confidence in the quality of the product and is a great added bonus to an already great set of headphones.

The main disadvantage of these earbuds is that they could be considered a little too “bottom heavy”, which is too say the bass can sometimes muddy or drown out quieter high notes, although this only happens very infrequently and depends heavily on the kind of music you’re listening to. We note particularly good sound quality for electronic music, and poorer quality for metal, due to the larger range of low frequencies.

 At medium volumes, there is no sound leakage, and they do a good job of blocking out external noise as well, which is an area you usually have to compromise on with low end headphones, but not with these.  

These earbuds are fantastic and offer the most bang for your buck than any other low end set in terms of sound quality, and would be perfect for someone just looking for the best inexpensive in ear headphones.

PROS
  • Sleek design
  • Wide range of colours
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Good noise isolation
CONS
  • Sometimes too bass heavy
  • Feel a little cheap
  • Cable creates noise when moving
4

Jarv NMotion – Best Budget Wireless Earbuds

If you like listening to music whilst exercising or on the move, you’ve probably experienced the in-ear noise from the cable moving that we mentioned earlier. If it’s really annoying you, it might be time for you to consider a pair of wireless earbuds. The problem with these is that they tend to cost a lot of money, but relax, we’ve done the legwork for you and found a fantastic pair for less than $20.

The Jarv NMotions earbuds are connected by a band which goes around the back of your neck, but unlike other cheap Bluetooth earbuds which usually have controls on the band at the back, these have the controls on the front, making it easier to control your device without looking like you have a compulsive itching problem.

These are water and sweat resistant, and have a life of up to 6 hours playback, meaning they’re perfect for that long hike you’ve been planning. They connect to your device via Bluetooth pairing, which takes under a minute, and then you’re good to go. Additionally, they have a built in battery which can be recharged with a USB port, meaning you can charge your device and earbuds in the same place.

The sound quality of these earbuds is exceptional. They provide a deep, rich sound profile with excellent low to mid ranges, but slightly less power in the higher ranges, which is more or less standard for inexpensive earbuds. They also provide excellent noise isolation, and block almost all external noise when outside in a busy street.

The main problem with these earbuds is the fit. They do have a tendency to fall out, and although they come with a pair of detachable sports ear hooks, these aren’t of a fantastic quality. We’d recommend that if you buy these, you spend a dollar or so on a set of earbud tips to find one that fits really well in your ears, which decreases the fall out factor considerably.

Additionally, the control bar is bigger than it appears in the images, and is heavy enough to create a small amount of pull on the right earbud, which is a real shame considering that if it was the size the images showed, this wouldn’t be a problem.
I’d recommend these for a person who’s looking to make the jump to wireless earbuds but doesn’t know where to start. Overall, these earbuds have a few small quirks, but if you can see past these, you’ll find they’re a great, low cost introduction to sports earbuds with unmatched sound quality in this price range.

PROS
  • Great noise isolation
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Reasonable battery life
CONS
  • Earbuds don't fit well
  • Control bar bigger than shown, puts a small amount of weight on one earbud
5

Apie Wood – Most Stylish Earbuds

Let’s get this out of the way. These earbuds look fantastic. If you had to guess how much they cost, we bet you’d say more than £20, right? Well, you’d be wrong. For less than $20, you can own a pair of these absolutely stunning headphones in one of three different shades of real handcrafted wood.  Yes, real wood.

But appearances can be deceiving, so how is the sound quality? Well, the other earbuds we’ve reviewed have all put their focus on low to mid ranges, with a slightly poorer top end performance, whereas these focus on the bass and treble, which means sounds in the midrange are a little recessed, although the vocals of a song do tend to shine through nicely. They also provide very good noise isolation which is always a plus.

The Apie Woods do have a few disadvantages too though. The earbud tips have a tendency to come off fairly easily which is at best a distraction and at worst leaves you with one headphone until you get home. This may be why they come with an assortment of differently sized tips, but who can say.

Also, the microphone can be overly sensitive at times, which is a problem if you’re using these when making calls, since it picks up small noises in your vicinity.

Overall, these earbuds are exceptionally good looking and provide excellent sound at the expense of build quality. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind a couple of minor issues in exchange for a pair of earbuds which punch above their weight in terms of appearance and fidelity, these are the earbuds for you.

PROS
  • Gorgeous
  • Strong bass and treble
  • Good midrange vocals
CONS
  • Microphone is too sensitive
  • Earbud tips fall off easily

Best Earbuds Under $20 - Buyer's Guide

Before you buy a new pair of earbuds, it’s important to think about what you’re planning to use them for, since each pair has different strengths and weaknesses. We’ve put together a list of the most important things to look out for when comparing earbuds to help you make an informed decision that won’t leave you feeling underwhelmed when you put on that perfect playlist.

Wired or Wireless?

If you only listen to music at home, in the car or when walking, you’ll probably be okay just using wired headphones, since there’ll be very little interference from the cable jostling around as you move, however if you’re an active person it might be worth investing in a pair of wireless headphones. These connect to your device by Bluetooth, which almost every mobile phone has nowadays (although you’ll probably need to buy a Bluetooth dongle if you want to use the headphones on your computer) and can be charged via USB cable, the same way a phone is.

There are many benefits to wireless headphones. No cable that’s magically tangled itself since the last time you used them, no extra noise in your ears as you move, and they’re generally showerproof too. They also have a few disadvantages that wired headphones don’t, the first of which is that you have to charge them in order to use them. Battery life tends to be around 6 hours, so if you use them daily, you’ll need to charge them every day or two. Secondly, the controls are usually attached to a cord which connects the earbuds. This can make using the controls feel awkward and unintuitive, however this all depends on how well the manufacturer has designed the headphones.

Frequencies

Often, you’ll find that headphones have a range of frequencies that they can produce. According to Wikipedia, the human range of hearing is between 20-20,000Hz, however you aren’t going to hear all of those ranges in your music. Generally speaking, the higher the range of frequencies your headphones can produce, the better, although some less reputable manufacturers have been known to inflate these numbers so bear that in mind.

Noise Cancelling vs Noise Isolating

There’s a lot of confusion over what these terms mean. Simply put, noise cancelling headphones listen to the noise around you and ensures that you don’t hear it by cancelling it out, whereas noise isolating headphones block outside noise with a tight seal and good construction. Most low end earbuds will use noise isolation, since noise cancellation requires additional components and drives up the cost.

Build Quality

If you want your earbuds to last, you need to look at the overall quality. Are they made from plastic or metal? If plastic, does it seem durable, or does it seem like dropping them will break them? Do the earbud tips (the rubber seal) fall off easily, or are they difficult to remove? Pay particular attention to the cable. Most inexpensive headphones have a simple plastic coated cable, whereas higher priced models might have a braided cord cable which prevents kinks and damage. Plastic is fine, but you’ll have to be careful not to wrap it too tightly, as this can cause loss of sound in the future if the cable is damaged. Take a look at the plug in part, is it straight or L shaped? Straight connectors are more prone to bending which causes crackling and poor sound quality if damaged.

Conclusion


The market is saturated with low cost, low quality headphones. It’s an all too common occurrence where you can buy a pair of headphones with poor sound quality that break completely in a month or less, and then you’re back to where you started. Some people might take that as a sign and spend a lot of money on high end headphones that they don’t use to their full potential, but not us.

We’ve proven that there are high quality, low cost alternatives on the market, after looking at all of our top budget earbuds, we’ve decided that our first choice are the Sony MDR-EX37Bs. With fantastic sound quality and excellent noise isolation for under $20, these really are the best earbuds for the money. As ever, our research has been thorough and comprehensive, so rest assured that these are all fantastic headphones in their own right. Good luck, and happy listening.

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