Best Earbuds Under 50

Today we review the best earbuds under 50. As we all know, it used to be a real pain to listen to tunes on the go. The thick, uncomfortable “earplugs” connected to transistor radios in the 1950s and 60s primarily delivered static while leaving the listener with a numb ear after five minutes. Enormous, unwieldy over-the-ear-headphones sounded terrible and induced profuse sweating. Many people saw clip-on Bluetooth headsets as a flashing sign that said “dork” – and we won’t even get into the thankfully short-lived trend of walking around with a boombox perched precariously on the shoulder.

Then, as it has repeatedly done, Apple changed everything. The iPod arrived in 2001 complete with relatively-comfortable, inexpensive earbuds, and the world was suddenly different. Earbuds connected to MP3 players (and later, smartphones) seemed to be required accessories for anyone under the age of 40.

The “cool” factor of earbuds was somewhat diminished when Beats, Skullcandy and other high-end headphones blasted onto the scene ten years later. But earbuds still comprise more than half of all retail sales in the industry.

Even the best earbuds under $50 aren’t going to give you the incredible audio quality you’ll enjoy with a set of Bose or Klipsch in-ear monitors, Sennheiser headphones or even your Beats (which aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, in terms of sound). But technology has advanced significantly, and today’s best inexpensive earbuds are vastly superior to those white cheapies that come with your audio player or phone.

We’ll be giving you several choices in this sub-$50 price range that do a very good job at showcasing booming bass lines or brightening higher frequencies. However, before shopping think about the type of music you’ll be listening to most often, so you can select earbuds that will do the best job of reproducing the genre you love; very different audio qualities are needed to fully enjoy Jay-Z than to rock out to a Brahms symphony. It’s more likely that the best audio performance will be with so-called “in-ear” buds, which we’ll discuss next.

What Do I Look For in an Earbud?

You should be looking for several important features when shopping for earbuds under $50, but what’s more important than anything else is comfort. Earbuds are manufactured in two basic fits, the traditional style that fits loosely into the ear and are held in place by rubber tips, and the rubber, gel or foam in-ear models that sit further inside the ear canal and seal out noise extremely well. Before selecting a model, you need to know which you’d prefer – and a large selection of tips is a desirable accessory so you can find the material and size that’s most comfortable in your ear. Foam tips, if they’re an option, usually feel and fit better but are tougher to clean.

A great advancement in earbud design is the inclusion of a remote control built into the cable, even on most lower-priced models. They allow you to adjust the volume or change songs easily, or take a call if you’re listening to music on your smartphone (in that case, you’ll want earbuds with a built-in microphone, of course). Look for the placement of the remote to make sure it’s in a convenient spot; it’s usually located close to your ears or where the earbud cables join in a “Y.”

Finally, there’s the look. If you’re not particularly concerned with making a fashion statement when you put your earbuds in, you’re better able to focus on the audio quality and comfort of your buds. However, there are some great-looking earbuds available at or below the $50 price point, so don’t feel that you’ll be limited to the white iPod look. Wireless earbuds look great and are obviously convenient but you won’t find quality ones at this price point, so we haven’t included any in our reviews.

Here are our choices for the best earbuds under $50:

1. RHA S500i In-Ear Headphones

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When you want great headphones at an even greater price you think of RHA because that’s their specialty – and the RHA S500i earbuds don’t disappoint. These come in at the top of our $50 price range, although if you don’t want an included microphone (which is only compatible with Apple devices, it may or may not work with Androids) the RHA S500 is the same set of buds for $10 less.

The RHA S500i earbuds are incredibly solid when compared to many of the competitors. The lightweight aluminum alloy housing is well-built as is the aluminum plug with stress relief built into the braided-nylon cable and connectors, and a sturdy three-button inline remote is located on the cable at chin level. The remote handles standard volume, play/tracks and call functions.

The RHA S500i’s make good use of the company’s proprietary micro-dynamic 140.1 driver to produce sound you wouldn’t expect from an inexpensive set of earbuds, although you may have to work a bit to get the full audio effect. RHA makes that easy, though, by including seven different sets of silicone tips (in four sizes, including a double-flange set) for you to try until you find the ones that sit firmly in your ears – and that makes all the difference. Bass is the real strength of these earbuds, deep and without distortion even at high levels. You may need to adjust your source’s equalizer settings to get the best midrange and highs, but there’s a lot of impressive brightness in the audio once everything’s set properly. Let’s be honest; it’s not the sound you’d get from a $350 set of headphones. But then again you’re not paying $350, and the audio performance of the RHA S500i earbuds is terrific at this price level.

Facts and figures for the RHA S500i In-Ear Headphones:

  • Range: 16-22,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 100dB
  • Remote: 3 buttons, chin-level
  • Microphone: Yes
  • Tips: Seven, four different sizes
  • Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.8 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.5 ounces
  • Warranty: Three years

Check RHA S5ooi In-Ear Headphones Price on Amazon

2. Skullcandy Method In-Ear Sweat Resistant Sports Earbud

Anyone who’s had much experience with modern headphones will think of just one word when the brand name Skullcandy is mentioned: bass. These Method earbuds, which come in at the middle of our specified price range, deliver in that department. They’re also the best earbuds under $50 for runners or workout warriors.22230_skullcandy-method-in-ear-sweat-resistant-sports-sportni-vodoustoichivi-slushalki-s-mikrofon-za-smartfoni-sin-siv_346692465

Skullcandy uses what it calls “Off-Axis” and “Fix” technology to develop buds that won’t fall out of the ear, and “StickGels” technology to prevent sweat from loosening the earbuds during exercise. We won’t pretend to understand the tech, but these babies do indeed stay where they’re supposed to when you’re working out. The gel tips also are built to prevent the buildup of gunk that can harbor germs. Two sets of different-sized tips come with the Skullcandy Methods.

The bass on these earbuds definitely booms. The midranges and highs aren’t as impressive, with sculpted audio substituting for true and flat response. On the whole, the sound quality is only pretty good – but it’s killer for those who want throbbing bass while they work out. One feature with definite pros and cons: the remote only has one button that controls music playback and the phone, but there’s no volume control so you’ll have to adjust the levels on your player. The advantage: the single button control on the Methods works with both iOS and Android.

These definitely look like Skullcandy products, from their shape to the wide range of pastel, eye-catching colors available (not to mention the Skullcandy logos emblazoned everywhere). The Methods aren’t as well-manufactured as the RHAs (which is probably why they only have a one-year warranty, compared to three years for the RHA buds) but they should hold up just fine for a year’s worth of use.

Looking closer at the Skullcandy Method In-Ear Sweat Resistant Sports Earbud:

  • Range: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 95dB
  • Remote: 1 button, chin-level
  • Microphone: Yes
  • Tips: Two, two different sizes
  • Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.1 ounces
  • Warranty: One year

Check Skullcandy Method In-Ear Sweat Resistant Sports Earbud Price on Amazon

3. Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones

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Here’s another set of earbuds at the very top of our $50 or less cutoff, and it’s from a manufacturer well-known for high-quality audio equipment. The Shure SE112s produce what may be the best balanced sound of all the buds we’ve checked out, but it comes with one feature that may turn many people off.

Instead of wearing the SE112s with the cords hanging straight down, these silicone earbuds are made to go in “upside down” so the cords drape over the back of your ears before running down and joining together in a long cable. Shure says this design (which is used by a number of other companies as well) holds the tips in your ears more securely because there’s no downward pressure exerted directly on the wires. That’s true – but what’s also true is that it takes some time before you get used to having cables on the tops of your ears, the area can get sore from the cables rubbing there, and the cords can get easily caught in your hair if you wear it long. The feature works well, but only if you can get used to it. One other interesting design quirk is that the buds are oversized, thicker and rounder than those you’ve probably used before, not only to stay in your ears but also for more sound isolation.

The audio delivered by the SE112s is very good, with crisp highs, well-defined mids and bass which could stand a bit more power but still solid. If it weren’t for the over-the-ear design and the fact that there’s no remote and no microphone (you can get them on a higher-level model, the SE112 m+, but that would take us $10-15 over our limit), these Shures might have grabbed the #1 spot on our list of the best earbuds under $50.

More info on the Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones:

  • Range: 25-17,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 105dB
  • Remote: No
  • Microphone: No
  • Tips: Three, three different sizes
  • Dimensions: 7 x 2 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Warranty: Two years, limited

Check Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones Price on Amazon

4. Brainwavz M4 Headset In-Ear Noise Isolating Earphones

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It’s tough to “rank” the audio experience produced by headphones and earbuds (and speakers, for that matter) since sound quality is so subjective. This set of buds, though, is right in the mix – even though you’ve probably never heard of either Brainwavz or the M4s. The company developed these earbuds for audiophiles and musicians, raised money on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and – poof! – they have a hit on their hands. Even better, they come in at just under $50.

The construction on the M4s is solid, with an lightweight machined-aluminum case and strong cables that we do have to admit look a little tacky; excellent Comply foam tips come standard on these Brainwavz (along with three standard sizes of tips). There’s a mike and single button remote that’s compatible with both iOS and Android.

You won’t win any style points when you wear these earbuds, but you’ll get very good balanced sound. Breaking it down more specifically, they’re better on the lows (which are solid but not overpowering) and mids, than on the highs which can get rather harsh at high volumes. At normal levels, however, the M4s sound quite good and are a nice alternative for less than $50.

Digging deeper on the Brainwavz M4 Headset In-Ear Noise Isolating Earphones:

  • Range: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 101dB
  • Remote: Yes
  • Microphone: Yes
  • Tips: Four, four different sizes
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 2 x 4.3 inches
  • Weight: 4 ounces
  • Warranty: One year

Check Brainwavz M4 Headset In-Ear Noise Isolating Earphones Price on Amazon

5. Wicked WI2100 Jaw Breaker Earbud

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We close with a surprising set of earbuds that you can pick up for well under $50 – in fact, you’ll have enough left over to pick up a six-pack and order a pizza or two to enjoy as you listen to tunes. The Jaw Breaker buds don’t snap your head back with bass as you might expect from their name. But they carry a pretty good bass punch without sacrificing overall audio balance until you crank it up to 11, when the sound can get muddy. At lower levels, performance is strong for such an inexpensive set of buds.

The construction of the super-lightweight WI2100s isn’t particularly impressive (the jacks are quite cheap, for example) and although there’s a single-button remote with microphone, the placement is so close to the ear that you may find yourself having to move the mike up by hand to speak into it. For less than $20 though, they’ve done a wicked good job.

Specs for the Wicked WI2100 Jaw Breaker Earbud:

  • Range: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB
  • Remote: Yes
  • Microphone: Yes
  • Tips: Three, three different sizes
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight: 1.3 ounces
  • Warranty: Lifetime, limited

Check Wicked WI2100 Jaw Breaker Earbud Price on Amazon

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