True wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds are the must-have audio accessory for anyone who listens to music, podcasts, etc. on the go. While Apple’s AirPods have popularized them in recent years, TWS earbuds have been around for a while. That being said, they were often very expensive, and their performance was spotty at best.
The appeal of TWS earbuds is obvious, as completely wireless headphones were of the over-the-ear variety. Small wireless earbuds that were discreet and could be slipped into a pocket when not in use seemed like a pipe dream. However, technology that once seemed like a luxury is quickly becoming so affordable virtually anyone can jump in. So strap in and check out our picks for the best budget TWS earbuds. Cords? Where we’re going we don’t need cords.
What Are TWS Earbuds?
Earbuds are the name for a type of audio headphones. They get their name from the fact that they are inserted into the ear canal, as opposed to resting on or over the ear. This makes earbuds significantly smaller, which means they are more discreet, portable and lighter than traditional headphones.
True wireless stereo earbuds have no wires whatsoever. This is because TWS earbuds have their own built-in batteries, unlike wired earbuds that derive their power from the device they are plugged into. Finally, TWS Earbuds connect to your device via Bluetooth.
1. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air
Anker has been making a name for themselves making quality, yet affordable, tech accessories. One of their most successful forays has been in the audio field. The Soundcore moniker has been featured on a number of well-reviewed products over the years, and Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air TWS earbuds are no different. It is also one of our favorites.
Featuring a similar design to that of the Apple AirPods, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air earbuds have a stem that hangs out of your ear. According to Anker, the Liberty Air earbuds will crank out tunes for five hours per charge. Additionally, the charging case can recharge the earbuds up to three times. However, take these estimates with a grain of salt, as battery life is largely dependent on how loud you like to listen to your music.
Furthermore, the Anker Liberty Air earbuds have an IPX5 rating, meaning you don’t have to worry about sweat if you take them to the gym or out for a run. That being said, submerging them in water will render them useless. Anker also claims that the Liberty Air boasts superior audio performance, and reviews indicate that this is true for the most part. As with many earbuds, listening at higher volumes can result in some distortion. Overall, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air TWS earbuds boast a comfortable design and good sound quality.
2. Xiaomi Redmi AirDots
If you’re not familiar with Xiaomi, there’s a good chance you live in the United States. The Chinese tech giant is barely ten years old but has been making a huge splash in mobile markets around the world. Their ethos revolves around offering excellent products at the lowest price-point possible, and the Redmi AirDots are no exception. For roughly $30 you can jump on the TWS bandwagon.
The design of the Redmi AirDots is sleek and minimal, like much of Xiaomi’s product range. The Earbuds are made from a lightweight plastic and feature a stemless design. That is, they sit flush within the ear. This is good for those who prefer more discreet headphones; however, this negatively impacts call quality. Since the microphone is so far away from the user’s mouth, it can be hard for those on the other end to hear.
Furthermore, the controls leave a lot to be desired. The Redmi AirDots feature a single tactile button. Press once to pause whatever is playing, or press twice to activate Siri or Google Assistant. Unfortunately, pressing the button makes the AirDots shift around in your ear, causing discomfort. That being said, the sound quality is good but not great. However, for $30, you can’t really complain. If you’re on a tight budget or need a secondary pair for the gym, give the Redmi AirDots a try.
3. JLab JBuds Air
The JLab JBuds Air are another TWS earbud option at a bargain basement price. Running about $50, the JLabs JBuds Air are one of the cheapest on the market. Sporting a stem-free design like the Xiaomi Redmi AirDots, the JLabs JBuds Air fit snuggly within the ear; however, they are a bit bulkier than other brands. This can be problematic if you have smaller than average ear canals. The charging case for the JLab JBuds Air also boasts a unique feature not seen in other brands: a built-in charging cable. This is great, as it negates the need for carrying around a separate USB cable.
As far as sound quality is concerned, user reviews describe the Jlab JBuds Air as pushing the bass frequencies to the forefront. This is perfect if you tend to listen to bass-heavy music; however, mids and trebles seem to suffer a bit of distortion as a result.
4. Skullcandy Indy
The Skullcandy Indy TWS earbuds are similar in design to Apple’s AirPods, sporting a stem design. While they are made of plastic, they boast a durable build quality. Additionally, they feature an IP55 rating, meaning Skullcandy Indy earbuds are resistant to water and dust. According to reviews, these offer a snug fit within the ear. This helps with passive noise cancellation as well as preventing sound leakage, so you can crank your tunes without worrying about disturbing those around you.
Like the JLab JBuds Air, the Skullcandy Indy’s have a bass-heavy profile. So if you’re looking for a more balanced sound, you might want to look elsewhere. Furthermore, the Skullcandy Indy’s have some latency issues. This isn’t a huge problem when listening to music; however, if you are trying to watch videos, the audio can be out of sync. Overall, at around $80, the Skullcandy Indy earbuds are a solid option in the TWS earbud space.
TWS earbuds are quickly becoming one of the must-have audio accessories. With more and more manufacturers cranking these headphones out, the price keeps getting lower and lower. What are your favorite TWS earbuds? Let us know in the comments!