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Best under $100 earbuds to use! Suggestions + Tips and Tricks!

Timothy Rowell
Hey...
・20 min read

photo credit (Geoffrey Morrison)

Price Table

Name Brand price
#1 AirPods (Refurbished) Apple $109.99
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Anker products $76.97
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC JLab $59.99
House of Marley Champion House of Marley $69.99
JLab Epic Air ANC JLab $99.99
Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Anker $40
Tribit FlyBuds NC Tribit $49.99
1More ColorBuds 1More $79.99
Treblab X5 Treblab $69.97
Monoprice True Wireless Plus Monoprice $95.70
Sony WF-XB700 Sony $99.99
Skullcandy Sesh Evo Skullcandy $29.99
OnePlus True Wireless OnePlus $39.99

Anker Soundcore Liberty 2

Anker Soundcore Liberty 2

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 is the best of the bunch for most people thanks to a customizable fit, customizable sound, and above-average battery life. Multiple included ear tips and silicone wings mean that just about everyone can get a comfortable and secure fit and the Anker app lets you dial in the sound that you want. It’s possible another option here might sound better to you, or fit better, but the Liberty 2 are our favorite all-rounders.

The sound is among the best we tested in this price range. It’s a bit bass-heavy, and a touch sharp in the upper register, but thanks to the EQ options in Anker’s app, you can tune the sound to be pretty close to whatever you personally prefer. In fact, the app has a feature called HearID that will help find the EQ settings best for your ears.

Battery life was a bit less than claimed—we tracked 7 hours of playback per charge instead of 8. That’s mid-pack for this category, but still above average for many more popular true wireless headphones. The case should offer about 3 full charges. Speaking of the case, it feels a bit flimsy, with a thin plastic cover that slides to open and seems like it could get knocked open in a purse or backpack.

The Liberty 2 are IPX5 Certified, which means they’re sealed against strong splashes, even tested to take on some light jets of the wet stuff. You can’t dunk them, but it’s enough to let you work out and get your sweat on without having to worry about damage.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 offers the most for the most people, and at a great price. You should be able to get a comfortable fit, and dial in a sound that you like.

Pros

  • Good sound you can EQ to taste

  • Multiple wings and ear tips

  • Full-day battery

Cons

  • Case feels flimsy

JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds

JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds

Just because the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC is our best sports pick doesn’t mean you should dismiss them if you’re not sporty. In fact, quite the opposite. These would be great for anyone worried about getting a good fit, especially those who struggle with traditional earbuds. They’re IP66 rated, meaning they’ve got good dust resistance and you can get them quite wet—but don’t submerge them. Of course, they’re also good if you’re an active type.

One big reason for this is the over-ear loop design. It’s a soft silicone we never found annoying, fitting comfortably even with glasses. Some people aren’t a fan of this style, but it allows for a far more secure fit than any other option—we never once felt that they’d fall out and get lost. The loops aren’t removable (see the non-Sport sibling), but the Epic Air Sport comes with multiple silicone ear tip options, plus a very comfortable foam tip.

Overall the sound is a bit bass-heavy, but like the Anker Liberty 2, there are extensive EQ options to help you fine-tune your preferred sound.

Battery life was slightly less than claimed. We measured around 13 hours per charge to JLab’s claim of 15, but still, that’s a ton for true wireless headphones. If you enable features like noise-canceling, you’ll get less battery life. Speaking of noise-canceling, like all the NC offerings here, it’s very mild. It doesn’t hurt to have it, of course, but if you’re looking specifically for noise canceling, you’ll want to look at our top picks on our best wireless earbuds list or our best noise-canceling headphones list.

Like the majority of newer true wireless earbuds, the Epic Air Sport ANC also offers adjustable transparency mode, which JLab calls Be Aware, letting you hear your environment in high-traffic areas.

The case, a bit larger than the others in this category, also holds a big battery, offering about 3.5 additional charges. It has an attached USB cable, which is either a strength or a weakness depending on your gear. More importantly, it has wireless charging which is a great touch.

If you’re headed out for a walk or hike, these are the ones you’d want to grab. If you don’t like the over-ear loops, however, the Anker Liberty 2 is the better choice.

Pros

  • Secure
  • adaptable fit

  • Multiple sound options

  • Very long battery life

Cons

  • An over-ear loop isn't for everyone

JLab Audio Go Air True Wireless Earbuds

JLab Audio Go Air True Wireless Earbuds

The JLab Go Air are impressive for one primary reason: a crazy-low price. Being the least expensive option isn’t, however, a guarantee of a “best value” superlative. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good value.

Fortunately, the Go Air performed pretty well, or at least not bad, in most of our tests. Sound quality is mid-pack, not impressing in any particular way, but not overly disappointing in any way either.

The fit is just OK. They’re very small and light, so if they fit your ears you’ll barely notice them. However, unlike many headphones we tested, the Go Air only comes with three sets of tips—no wings or different materials. This is understandable given their price, but something to keep in mind. If they don’t fit you, they might fall out and disappear.

Battery life was a little better than advertised in our tests. JLab claims 5 hours and we got 5.5. This is low for our list, but on par with most of the popular true wireless headphones, including Apple’s AirPods Pro, Google’s Pixel Buds, and plenty of others. The case offers roughly 4 extra charges. Like other JLab models, the case has a built-in USB cable. Unlike some, however, this one doesn’t have wireless charging.

Speaking of the case, it’s a bit…weird. It’s less a case than a cup to hold the earbuds. They lock in magnetically, but there’s no top to the case. So in a purse or backpack, for instance, we could imagine something pushing out one or both of the earbuds out of the case.

For the price, though, all of these negatives can be largely forgiven. If you want a cheap option with a better chance to fit, and a bit better sound, check out the Tribit FlyBuds NC.

Pros

  • Tiny form factor

  • Incredibly affordable

Cons

  • Sound is average

  • Open-top case


House of Marley Champion True Wireless

House of Marley Champion True Wireless

The House of Marley Champion are a tiny pair of earbuds made predominantly from sustainable and recycled materials. This includes bamboo, natural fibers, and silicone from post-consumer waste. Even the charging cable is “post-consumer recyclable polyester.” For anyone looking for a greener alternative in a sea of plastic headphones, these are a great place to start.

Beyond their Earth-friendlier materials, the earbuds themselves are quite good. They aren’t right on par with our top picks, but they definitely hold their own—not a podium finish, but podium adjacent for sure. We got more than their claimed 8 hours of battery life in testing, and the tiny case can charge them back up more than twice. That case charges with USB-C, and, like the headphones themselves, has a small bamboo accent that looks great. The buds are IPX4 water-resistant, which means you can splash them but not submerge them.

The sound quality is good, though the bass is a bit messy and there’s more emphasis on the treble than their more balanced competitors. They do especially well with podcasts and audiobooks. The biggest issue is that they only come with two sets of tips, and those with larger ears and/or ear canals might not be able to get a secure fit.

That said, if you’re looking for a more planet-friendly pair of earbuds for your money, the House of Marley Champion may be the pick for you.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly design

  • Comfortable

  • Wood offers a nice aesthetic

Cons

  • Only two tips included

  • It May not fit large ears


JLab Audio Epic Air ANC True Wireless Earbuds

JLab Audio Epic Air ANC True Wireless Earbuds

The Epic Air ANC seems like they’d be the same as their siblings, the Epic Air Sport ANC, minus the over-ear loops. Performance is slightly different, however. Battery life for the buds is a bit lower, at 12 hours claimed versus 15 for the Sports. We measured a bit less. The case should recharge the buds around 3 times, the same as the Sport.

Also, they’re IP55 rated instead of IP66, and the bass is less defined and sloppier. This might have to do with the fit. Lacking the over-ear loops of its sports sibling, the Epic Air feels loose. They’re light and comfortable, however.

Whether the microphone is different, or it's the way they sit in your ears, those on the other end of the phone said voices weren’t as clear with these compared to nearly all the others.

Like their Sports sibling, the noise canceling is very mild. The transparency mode, called Be Aware, is adjustable in the app and at its maximum actually increases the sound of the world around you; a sort of the opposite of noise-canceling that is useful in certain situations. Also like the Sport, the case has a built-in USB connector and has wireless charging. Unless you really hate over-ear loops, the Sport is the better option.

Pros

  • Light and comfortable

  • Good battery life

  • Wireless charging case

Cons

  • Fit isn't particularly secure

Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2

Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2

At first glance, we didn’t expect the Life Dot 2 to fit well. However, their curved, shell-shaped “AirWings” fit quite well in testing. The best fit we got was with one of the larger AirWings which routinely slid down over the metal contacts that allowed the earbuds to charge. If we didn’t notice this when they were put away, they wouldn’t charge.

Battery life is good, with a claimed 8 hours that’s right in line with what we tested. The case has a huge battery which should offer about 12 charges. They’re IPX5 certified, meaning there's no dust resistance and you shouldn't submerge them but splashing water (and even a bit more) should be OK.

Performance, overall, is mid-tier. There's a bit too much sizzle to the Life Dot 2’s upper mid-range, which can be mildly unpleasant. Unlike the Liberty 2, you can’t connect the Dot 2 to Anker’s app to adjust this. The price, however, is great.

Pros

  • Tiny, yet comfy

  • Lots of battery in the case

Cons

  • Sound is so-so

  • AirWings don't fit securely on buds


Tribit FlyBuds NC

Tribit FlyBuds NC

We don’t have a “budget runner-up” category, but if we did, the FlyBuds would take it. They were among the few pairs we tried with the long pillar design that actually fit well, and they're regularly priced lower than most options on our list.

The sound is quite good, a bit mid-heavy and a little brittle, but solidly above average. Like the other noise-canceling options, it’s mostly here in name only, with very little actual noise reduction. Battery life was very good. We measured 11 hours without NC active, higher than their claimed 10. The case should offer a bit more than 2 additional charges.

They’re IPX4 rated, and you can toggle between the noise canceling and a transparency mode Tribit calls Ambient. This mode works fine, but the NC is mild enough that you might not need it. The voice prompts between modes are nicely clear.

Their mid-pack performance, however, is greatly offset by their price which was below our test average. Roll all that together and these would be a great option for someone who wants something better than the very lowest priced buds, but doesn’t want to shell out for our pricier picks.

Pros

  • Good sound

  • Comfortable

  • Affordable

Cons

  • Don't stand out in any category

1More ColorBuds

1More ColorBuds

The 1More ColorBuds are a stylish and tiny pair of available earbuds, as the name suggests, in a variety of colors including gold, green, pink, and of course, black. The earbuds and case are both among the smallest of any we tested.

They don’t perform as well as we’d hoped, however. Their swoopy shape didn’t sit as comfortably or as well in our ears as other tiny buds. They are, for instance, only fractionally smaller than the House of Marley Champions, yet those are far more stable. They also lack any buttons on the buds, making you unable to easily pause or switch to a new track like most other earbuds. They do offer an IPX5 water resistance rating, though, which outdoes many budget true wireless headphones we’ve tested.

The sound is also somewhat of a disappointment; it’s fairly brittle and sibilant and overall very tilted toward the high end. The sound quality overall sits somewhere in the middle when compared to the other budget true wireless earbuds we tested, though the ColorBuds were on the higher-end of the crowd when it comes to the price point.

We did get better than expected battery life. 1More claims 6 hours, we got over 8. The small case can charge them back to full over 3 times. That said, in a crowded category, the Colorbuds fail to stand out for anyone feature and would be best purchased if you can find them on one of their fire sales.

Pros

  • Stylish design

  • IPX5 water resistance

Cons

  • No onboard controls

  • So-so fit

  • Mediocre sound


Treblab X5

Treblab X5

The X5 is the best of the rest. While they fit well enough, with the included wings attached they barely fit in their case. The sibilant (think harsh “S”) sound quality is not particularly pleasant. There’s just too much upper-midrange, especially notable with cymbals. The bass is tuneful, however. Some might feel there’s a bit too much, but it’s just right for bass lovers.

They are among the few pairs of newer headphones that have a micro-USB connector for charging instead of the more modern USB-C, and unlike some competitors, there is no wireless charging. In addition, listeners on calls didn’t seem to like how voices sounded on the other end.

On the bright side, the battery playback time of 7 hours beats out plenty of pricier options, including Apple’s AirPods Pro and Google’s latest Pixel Buds. The case also offers about 4 more charges, while IPX4 water resistance allows these earbuds to stand up to the basic elements (though you won’t want to dunk them).

Overall the X5 isn’t bad, but there are better options for your money out there.

Pros

  • Compact case

  • Solid features

Cons

  • Sound quality underwhelms

Monoprice TrueWireless Plus

Monoprice TrueWireless Plus

The Monoprice True Wireless Plus are also mid-level performers. They’re absolutely tiny, which can be both good and bad. You barely notice them in your ears, but unless you absolutely get a perfect fit, they’re not going to be in your ears for long. Making matters worse, there are only 3 tip sets available in the box, fewer than most of the other headphones we reviewed.

For as small as they are, they produce prodigious bass. Snare drums are accentuated, but there’s not much in the way of high frequencies.

The case is one of the only ones we've seen recently that does not have a modern USB-C connection, sporting instead micro-USB. However, it has wireless charging, which is nice to see at this price point. By far our favorite aspect is that when the earbuds are charging, they’re slightly visible through the translucent cover, looking like two glowing eyeballs.

Battery life was a bit less than the 9 hours they claimed, at a little over 7. The case should offer at least 3 more charges. When it comes to water resistance, they offer the common IPX5 protection, so you can splash them without worry, but they can't be dunked.

Pros

  • Tiny

  • Case offers wireless charging

  • Interesting design

Cons

  • Unimpressive sound quality

  • Few fit options


Sony WF-XB700

Sony WF-XB700

The Sony WF-XB700 true wireless earbuds are an entry-level option within Sony's prodigious headphone lineup, offering a taste of Sony's sought-after sound design and quality construction at a more affordable price than high-end business like the WF-1000XM3.

So what's the catch here? Basically, you're not getting high-tech features like noise-canceling, adjustable EQ, or any of the fancier features you'll find on the higher-end models. What you are getting is a workout-friendly pair of truly wireless earbuds with an accessible, very bass-forward sound profile. If the lack of features, limited controls, and inability to integrate these with Sony's Headphones Connect app isn't your cup of tea, you may have to spend a little more.

The WF-XB700 isn't perfect, but no product is. If you've been wanting to dip your toes into true wireless earbuds but don't want to risk buying something that might sound terrible or break after a couple of months, Sony's WF-XB700 should be on your radar.

Pros

  • Workout ready

  • Impressive playback time

Cons

  • No customization

  • A bit bulky


Skullcandy Sesh Evo

Skullcandy Sesh Evo

The Sesh Evo are among the smallest pairs of earbuds we tested. They feel a bit more secure than options like the tiny Monoprice True Wireless, but not by much. Like the Monoprice, they don’t come with wings, but the design might offer those with smaller ears an OK fit as the earbud itself looks like it would fill smaller ears.

Our review sample, and their case, were a color Skullcandy calls “Bleached Blue” and it was a lovely alternative to the black-only options from most contenders we tested. They’re also available in green, red, and of course, black.

Battery life is among the lowest in their class, even slightly worse than cheaper picks like the JLab Go Air. They claim 5 hours, and that’s what we measured. The case should offer 4-5 additional charges. The sound quality was tied with the Treblab X5 for the worst of the bunch. The bass is bloated and lacks definition, while at the same time there’s too much treble. Not a great mix.

There are three EQ settings, including Music, Movie, and Podcast. The movie actually improves the bass a little, but makes the treble slightly worse, so it’s a bit of a wash. Podcast mostly accentuates the midrange, as you'd expect. They are IP55 rated, meaning they're secure against basic dust ingress and light jets of water.

One last cool feature: they have a built-in Tile to help make them easier to find.

Pros

  • Available in lovely colors

  • Compact

Cons

  • Poor sound

  • Only 3 tip options


OnePlus Buds

OnePlus Buds

The Apple AirPods are... wait hang on a minute… the OnePlus True Wireless is like a celebrity impersonator who doesn’t say they’re that specific actor, but still signs autographs if someone thinks they are. To say that the OnePlus TW are similar to the AirPods would be putting it mildly. It’d be putting it mildly to say it’s putting it mildly. Every person seeing you wearing these will think you have AirPods. If that’s what you want, without spending Apple money, go for it.

They’re not great, however. Their smooth plastic and overall design never feel secure in your ears. The first night we got there, we put them on to listen to something while washing dishes. In less than a minute, the left one fell out, hit the counter, and plunked into the water. They’re IPX4 rated, meaning you shouldn’t dunk them, but they didn’t suffer any ill effects from our unexpected experiment. We don’t recommend trying it, however.

If you don’t like the fit there’s no recourse. There are no tips or wings since they just hang off your ears like the “real” fruit ones. The sound is fairly balanced, better than you might expect given the hang-off-your-ears design, but is nothing impressive. Battery life is 7 hours, and the case should give you 3 additional charges.

Pros

  • AirPods style

  • Better playback time than AirPods

  • Balanced sound

Cons

  • Prone to falling out

  • Unoriginal design

My thoughts on air pods!

I too love the AirPods - I had the o.g. and then bought a pair of AP2s last fall b/c the originals were not working well anymore and I'm also a huge fan of what they provide. I've been exclusively on Bluetooth headphones since like 2016 or so - with the first Jaybirds and went through various versions up to the Kickstarter for a pair of 'truly wireless' headphones - but those were also just not good enough in the end.

The AirPods have hit the mark for me since the beginning, tiny, solid sound, solid battery,"ok" mic, etc. That said - I tried my dad's AirPods on Christmas and I was IMMEDIATELY sold and ended up getting a pair before the end of my trip home. They hold in my ears, something the others never did, have ANC which I'd never had and is awesome (even if it may not be as amazing as a pair of over-the-ears or whatever), the mic is similarly good. I think they get much louder (perhaps that's just the seal), the sound and bass is significantly improved - I personally would absolutely recommend them!

Tips and Tricks with AirPods

Best Apple AirPod Features You Might Not Know About…
airpods

1) The Easy Way To Pair With Your iPhone

Apple has several ways you can pair your new AirPods to your iPhone, but most people look over the easiest. Simply make sure they are charged and inside the charging case. Then place the charging case with your AirPods inside right near your iPhone. Open the case and the iPhone will automatically detect the nearby AirPods. It will ask you to tap a button on the iPhone screen to pair them. That’s it.

2) Easily Check Out How Much Battery Life Is Left

There’s actually TWO easy ways to check out your AirPod battery life remaining. The first tip here involves using the case right near your iPhone. Simply open the case and a battery status menu will appear on your iPhone telling you how much juice each AirPod has left.

The second tip to do this involves simply ASKING your AirPods how much juice they have left. Simply double tp an AirPod and say “battery percentage” and Siri will tell you how much life your AirPods have left before they run out of power.

Apple AirPods 2 Release Date-5

3) Pair AirPods With Android Phones

While the big wireless feature of the AirPods is Apple’s new Apple H1 chip, which is how it connects to iOS devices, the AirPods also have your standard Bluetooth technology. This means that they can connect to any device that supports Bluetooth audio technology—like Android phones and Windows PCs.

To do this, open the charging case and then press and hold the button until the indicator light blinks white. Now on your Android device, go into Bluetooth settings and tell it to connect to the AirPods via Bluetooth.

4) Charge Your AirPods From Other Devices

You normally charge the AirPods by placing them in the charging case and then plugging in a Lightning cable into it via a power source. However, you can also give juice to the case by docking it in other Lightning charging devices like iPhone docks and wireless speakers with built-in dock slots. Sure, this isn’t something you’ll be doing often, but if you’re in a pinch for some juice and the only thing around is a speaker dock with a Lightning port, well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

5) Change The Name Of Your AirPods

You can name your AirPods anything you want. While this is kind of pointless if you only have one pair, it’s helpful if you have more than one pair—so you can distinguish between the two—or if you live in a household where everyone has their own pair.

To change the name of your AirPods on the iPhone go to Settings > Bluetooth and then tap your AirPods from the list of devices. On the next screen type in any name you want.

airpods

6) Disable Automatic Ear Detection

AirPods are smart enough to know when they are in your ears and turn on. Automatic ear detection, when enabled, allows your iPhone to know when you’ve taken your AirPods out of your ears and thus pauses the music you were listening to. However, you can disable this feature by going to Settings > Bluetooth and then tap your AirPods from the list of devices. Now set automatic ear detection to “Off”.

7) Change The Double Tap Settings

The AirPods also have features that let you tap them to activate other actions. But you can change the action a double tap initiates. On the iPhone go to Settings > Bluetooth and then tap your AirPods from the list of devices. Now tap the double tap setting for both the Left and the Right AirPods and select your chosen actions.

Your options include double-tapping an AirPod to:

  • activate Siri
  • play/pause audio
  • skip to the next track
  • skip to the previous track or you can also disable double-tap so it doesn’t do anything And remember, you can set double-tap settings to be different for the Left and Right AirPods.

8) Assign The Mic To A Specific AirPod

Each AirPod has a built-in mic and the devices are smart enough to know which mic to enable if you only put one AirPod in your ear. However, if you want to disable this feature for some reason go to Settings > Bluetooth and then tap your AirPods from the list of devices to find the option to set only a specific AirPod as your mic.

A reason you might want to choose to only allow one AirPod (either your left or your right) to be your mic could be for privacy issues. For example, if you only have your left AirPod set to be your mic, then you can be assured if you remove your left AirPod from your ear, no one will hear what you’re saying even if you leave the right AirPod in.

Apple AirPods 2 Release Date-5

9) Ask Your AirPods Anything You Want

Of course, the big new feature of Apple’s second-generation AirPods is “Hey, Siri” support. You activate this simply by saying “Hey, Siri” and they asking whatever you want. If you aren’t a Siri fan, the new AirPods might change the way you think about Apple’s assistant. “Hey, Siri” support makes using Siri much more natural since you don’t need to take out your phone to interact with Siri.

10) AirPod Voice Commands You Need To Know

The latest generation AirPods lets you interact with them using a ton of voice commands. This is thanks to its “Hey Siri” support. Here are some of our favorite voice commands. To use them, simply say, “Hey Siri…” and then follow with any of the following commands:

  • “Skip this song.”
  • “Play my Party playlist.”
  • “How is the battery on my AirPods?”
  • “Turn down (or up) the volume.”
  • “Raise the volume 25 percent.”
  • “Call [name of contact].”
  • “Pause music.”
  • “Play country music.”

conclution

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I put a lot of time into this, don't let this post flop. :D
let me know if you're getting a pair. Or tell me your own experiences with any of the headphones listed above.

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