Apple wasn't the first to go the true wireless route with the AirPods, but it made the biggest statement, inspiring others to copy the "stem" design that protrudes out of the ear. The best cheap true wireless earbuds can include clones that are often nowhere near as good as the genuine article, but that's not necessarily the case here. The Anker Soundcore Life P3 are arguably better than the AirPods in the features that matter most: sound, battery, and price.
Best overall: Anker Soundcore Life P3
Anker Soundcore Life P3
An upstart worth paying for
Everyone loves an underdog that can battle an established player, and that's exactly what Anker has with the Soundcore Life P3. Their larger drivers deliver a pretty bass-heavy sound signature by default, giving these earbuds an edgy and loud verve right out of the box. Plus, they have active noise cancelation (ANC) that works surprisingly well for budget buds like these.
Unlike the AirPods, Anker supports its earbuds with an app that lets you customize controls and use EQ presets to adjust the sound. It's also where you can apply firmware updates and check on the battery level for either earbud, the latter of which matters because you can use either one independently. The EQ settings also help moderate the bass if you feel it's too heavy, ensuring these earbuds aren't an audible one-style-fits-all. There's even a gaming mode, should that work for you.
It helps that they're comfortable to wear. Lightweight, with a nice build, Anker includes five different sizes in the box, raising the possibility you will end up with something that works well for you. They aren't especially rugged with the IPX5 rating, so you will have to be careful, but clean them routinely after sweating and they should keep playing for you.
Despite the lower price, there's a six-microphone array that does wonders for voice calls. It will matter how loud your environment is, but even in relatively lively settings, you won't have a hard time conversing. The microphones do a solid job amplifying your own voice and reducing what they hear around you. Touch controls are pretty responsive, though do take some time to get used to because of the smaller surface area available on the outer earbuds.
Battery life is respectable for something in this range going up to six hours of playback with ANC on (seven with it off) per charge, with the charging case giving you another four full charges beyond that. The case is nice and pocketable, with wireless charging support.
Best noise canceling: Edifier TWS NB2
Edifier TWS NB2
Keep the noise down for less
Sometimes, the sequel is considerably better than the original. It's the best way to describe Edifier's TWS NB2, which come pretty hot on the heels of their predecessors. For starters, the redesigned look is unlike any other earbuds Edifier's made thus far, and they are better for it.
What's cool is the company also included extra microphones to catapult the TWS NB2 to this list as among the best ANC true wireless earbuds available at this price range. Noise-canceling performance won't match the likes of Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, and Apple, but when you're this good at half the price, you can appreciate it anyway. They'll even pause audio once you take either bud out of your ear. You do also have an ambient mode to pipe in outside noise in case you don't want to take one-off.
With the sound, you might expect booming bass, but that's not what you'll get. The neutral, yet lively, soundstage is less about rumbling and more about sticking to a safe distance. The mids are easily the strongest part of the spectrum, with the highs and lows relatively subdued. It's a shame Edifier doesn't include an EQ in its Connect app to adjust and personalize sound, so here's hoping it comes as an update sometime. Call quality isn't bad, but not as consistent as some others in the same price range. The touch-sensitive controls are alright, but also not as consistent.
It's at least easy to like the battery life. With ANC on, you can go up to eight hours per charge, and at least nine if you turn it off. The case carries an extra 23 hours (18 if it's purely ANC), so they will last fairly long before needing a full recharge. You don't get fast charging, though, meaning you will need to wait about an hour to get back to full.
Best bass: Mpow X3
Lots of features, lots of value
If you could use a bump along the bassline, the Mpow X3 will do their best to oblige. It's always a nice find when you come across a pair of true wireless earbuds with some power to wield. There's real value with the feature set here, and the kind of bass you get out of them is one reason why.
They sound good through a big and balanced soundstage that gives some priority to the bass to pack more of a punch. It doesn't feel overpowering or overwhelming to the point of being ridiculous, and with ANC blocking out a decent level of ambient noise, you get to hear what these earbuds are capable of. The IPX8 rating gives them a good level of water and sweat resistance, too, so taking them to the gym or on a run won't be a risky proposition.
The touch-sensitive controls on both earbuds make it easier to handle playback without reaching for your phone. They're also extensive enough to include controls for ANC and your phone's voice assistant but not for volume, unfortunately.
Battery life is good at up to seven hours, though it falls a bit if you leave ANC turned on, while the case gives you an extra 23 hours on top of that. Thankfully, it charges with USB-C and not Micro-USB, which gives them a reasonably faster charging rate, especially through quick charge.
Best workout buds: Skullcandy Indy Evo
Skullcandy Indy Evo
A colorful choice of hearing
Just to be clear, Skullcandy's spot here is a precarious one because the company hasn't added one key element that would put these earbuds on more solid footing: the Skullcandy app. It doesn't include a manual EQ, but rather three presets specific to music, podcasts and movies. With an adjustable EQ, or at least more varied presets, it would be easier to tailor these to more situations.
The reason they're on here is that they're going to be good when you're focused on something else. Workouts and exercise don't have you noticing every nuance of the audio quality, and that serves to benefit the Indy Evo, which sound very warm and neutral. You won't get big bass here unless you're really successful in tightening the seal into your ear as much as possible. Ironically, these play much better with all forms of rock and country, so if that's what gets you motivated to move, these could be it.
The IP55 rating isn't as high as it could be, but it's good enough for sweating so long as you wipe them down afterward. True wireless earbuds with stems aren't always great at staying in place with sweat, but these prove to be stable compared to others. The colorful choices don't hurt for adding some personality, either, nor does the ability to use a single bud in mono when need be.
Battery life is modest at up to six hours, which is acceptable if you're just using them during workouts. A quick 10-minute charge gives you up to two hours, and the case gives you an extra 24 hours. And in a nice touch, these have Tile's Bluetooth location tracking built-in, so if you misplace or lose them, you've got a fighting chance to track them down.
Best battery life: Tribit FlyBuds C1
Tribit FlyBuds C1
Save some money along the way
Let's get the one caveat here out of the way first. Tribit managed to give the FlyBuds C1 excellent battery life at up to 12 hours per charge and added another 38 hours coming from the case. That means you could use them for days before having to recharge everything all over again, making up for any inconvenience you may have dealt with in the past when it comes to that. Four LEDs in the front also give you a visual indicator of how much battery they have left. No wireless charging for the case, though. Just plug in via USB-C.
Tribit includes no less than six different pairs of ear tips, so odds are good you'll find something that works for you. They are lightweight, otherwise, so you wouldn't be wrong to expect them to sit in your ears comfortably, though you may have to adjust them after a while. The fit matters more because there is no ANC here, placing more emphasis on whatever passive isolation you can get.
Sound quality benefits greatly because of that, and with support for both AAC and aptX codecs, there's more where that came from. It's not bass-centric, spreading out to also include surprisingly good mids, for a pretty balanced, though slightly warmer sound. It's just too bad Tribit doesn't have an app to get more out of them through an equalizer.
The onboard buttons are more responsive than touch-sensitive surfaces on competing earbuds. The FlyBuds C1 aren't especially rugged with an IPX5 rating, so be cautious using them for runs or at the gym. Still, for a pretty simple pair of earbuds that don't break the bank, you get a lot for every dollar.
Best comfort: Baseus Simu S1 Pro
Baseus Simu S1 Pro
Cut out every cord and listen
With a nice design that feels sturdy and comfortable, the Baseus Simu S1 Pro are surprisingly balanced out of the box. As with most true wireless earbuds, it's vital to get as good a seal as possible to pull more bass out of the whole soundstage. The added benefit is that they also stay more securely in your ears. Baseus gives you three pairs of ear tips to get there, and because of their subtle angled design, you have a good chance of finding something that works for you. Bear in mind they have no water resistance rating, so best to be extra careful if you're going to be active wearing them.
They won't win the award for best audio quality, but they're a long way from being mediocre at this price. Music comes through vibrantly throughout, though you will notice more subdued highs to make room for the lows and mids. It's just a bummer there's no app or method to tailor the sound through an equalizer. Having ANC this cheap is a real bonus, even if it's nowhere near what more expensive earbud can do, a tighter seal does help give you better passive isolation. Phone call quality is decent, provided you aren't in an area that's too loud, as the ANC can't drown everything out. The onboard touch controls on both buds are basic and there's no way to change them if you don't like them.
Despite the lower price, Baseus didn't skimp on USB-C for the case, though battery life isn't going to be great at up to five hours per charge. Raise the volume regularly and that number drops even more. The case has another four full charges in the case.
The best true wireless earbuds are a mix of amazing options, but the best cheap true wireless earbuds are also a mix of unique options, like those listed here. Just because they're cheap doesn't mean they're bad. Also, just because they look like AirPod clones doesn't mean they're not worth buying.
By most metrics, both on paper and in practice, Anker's Soundcore Life P3 are actually better than the AirPods 3, and worthy contenders against the AirPods Pro. You don't get active noise canceling or the convenience afforded by Apple's H1 chip, but you're also better off using Anker's pair than Apple's during a sweaty workout. Not to mention, some of the AirPods' more unique features aren't relevant to Android phones.
That's not to say the rest of the list doesn't have their own attributes. Apple popularized the stem design, but it charges more for sticking out of your ears. The earbuds here prove you can get more for less, especially if your priorities are about more than price.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
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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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. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.