Not satisfied with popularizing true wireless headphones, Apple started another new trend when they launched the AirPods Pro: truly wireless earbuds with active noise-canceling to block out the world around you. And other high-end manufacturers like Jabra, Samsung, and Sony have followed suit—provided you have the cash to spend.
And you know what? Those earbuds are all fantastic—the AirPods Pro pair beautifully with the iPhone, the Jabra Elite 85t’s noise-canceling is powerful as all get-out, and the Galaxy Buds Pro are some of the best sounding earbuds I’ve ever heard. And rumors continue to swirl about the next generation of AirPods dropping this year.
But at over $200, those earbuds are not accessible to everyone. If you want something a little more wallet-friendly, plenty of budget-focused alternatives have gotten in on the game too. Just like they did when the original AirPods came around. So we got our hands on 15 different pairs of wireless, active noise-canceling earbuds under $100 to see which ones were actually worth buying. They won’t necessarily stand up to the big boys in terms of noise-canceling strength or sound quality, but they’ll get the job done.
Best All-Around Budget ANC Earbuds: Edifier TWS NB2/EarFun Air Pro
After testing and re-testing over a dozen pairs, Edifier’s NB2 earbuds are probably the best for most people. Not only do they sound great for the price, but they have a companion app that lets you adjust the sensitivity of the touch controls, toggle in-ear detection, and even enable a game mode for lower latency (so your games and movies aren’t as out of sync with your earbuds). The noise-canceling works well for low-end hums, though less so for higher-pitched noises and conversations. But it’s more than good enough for the price. They also come in white and black, which is nice.
EarFun also sells a nearly identical pair of earbuds called the EarFun Air Pro (which are “tuned by Edifier” for essentially the same sound). These do not have the companion app or game mode and come in a hard plastic case rather than the leather-Esque covering of the Edifier model. If you don’t need the extra features offered by the Edifier-branded model, you can go ahead and buy whichever is cheaper—but I think Edifier’s extras are worth it, even when it costs a few extra bucks. You can grab the EarFun Air Pro for 10% off right now with code AIRPROYT.
Most Comfortable Budget Noise-Cancelling Earbuds: 1More Comfobuds Pro
If you’re the kind of person that hates having silicone buds jammed in your ears, look a the Comfobuds Pro from 1More. The name doesn’t lie: since they’re designed to sort of sit in the bowls of your ears rather than go into the ear canal, these are far more comfortable than traditional in-ear ‘buds, though they also don’t create as good of a seal as the others either. The sound is well-balanced, though, without that seal, you do lose a bit of the bass thump these would otherwise be capable of—it doesn’t sound overly hollow, either.
The 1More companion app levels up these earbuds nicely too, with customizable touch controls and multiple noise cancellation settings that work decently well at quieting low-end hum and high-pitched noises alike. Plus they come in both black and white, so you can pick whatever color matches your style.
Most Powerful Noise Cancelling: Soundcore by Anker Life A2 NC
Anker’s Soundcore brand has become quite hot in the budget audio space, and their Life A2 NC buds bring noise-canceling into the mix so you can truly isolate your ears. I didn’t find the Life A2s to have particularly great sound quality—the bass is a bit too heavy and the mids sound muddy—but there is an in-app equalizer to help you tune things to your liking a bit more. I couldn’t get it sounding as good as the others on this list even with the equalizer, but the A2 NC has one ace up its sleeve: the best noise-canceling of any budget ‘bud I tested.
Anker doesn’t advertise any numerical rating in terms of dB of reduction. Still, it was clear in my tests that the life A1 NC was head and shoulders above every other sub-$100 product I found in canceling noise (though Skullcandy’s was close to being on par with it). The Soundcore buds excelled at canceling both high- and low-pitched noises, and include a transparency mode when you need to hear through your music. Putting these on in a noisy house or coffee shop will instantly quiet the racket, and the companion app has different noise-canceling algorithms to choose from so you can dial in the right strength. If you care more about noise-canceling than sound quality, these are the ‘buds to buy.
For Wireless Charging Fans: EarFun Free Pro
Now we get to more of the “honorable mentions” of the earbuds I tested. While EarFun’s Air Pro was closer to the top of my list, their EarFun Free Pro was a bit of a step-down—the sound is decently balanced. It lacks some of the bass and midrange clarity that others on this list have, and its noise-canceling wasn’t quite as powerful in my tests. It does, however, come with 7 different ear tips and 5 different wings, which was more than any I tested—allowing you to find the perfect size for you—and wireless charging, which is one of those convenience features that’s hard to give up. So it’s worth a mention, even if they aren’t the best of the best.
Find Your Lost Earbuds: Skullcandy Indy ANC
Skullcandy has been making serious waves recently with their new earbud models, and the Indy ANC aims squarely at the budget AirPods alternative crowd. While their list price is technically $129, they go on sale for $99 so often that we thought them worth mentioning. They’re overly boomy in the bass region, and probably my least favorite buds on the list in terms of sound quality, but they have their benefits. The active noise-canceling is powerful enough to rival Soundcore’s offering. They include wireless charging, and the case even has built-in Tile tracking for when you lose them. That makes them some of the most feature-filled earbuds you’ll get around this price point, despite the sound quality drawbacks.
Most Water-Resistant: Boltune BH023
Boltune’s inexpensive ANC earbuds sound pretty great, with enough bass thump to get you grooving and a midrange that’s very present—albeit not quite as clear as the Edifier models. Its noise-canceling didn’t quite measure up to those models either, bumping it down a notch on our list, even if it does sound fantastic for the super-low price. It is, however, one of the few we tested with IPX8 water resistance, which may be worth it if you’re looking for something that can withstand the elements (or your own workout sweat).
Honorable Mention: Jabra Elite 75t (Refurbished)
Finally, an honorable-honorable mention goes to the Jabra Elite 75t. It gets two “honorables” because including them is cheating just a bit since they actually cost well over $100 new. You can, however, grab them for under $100 if you buy refurbished—and as a big fan of buying refurbished (both for my wallet and for the environment), I had to include them. These easily offer the best sound quality of the entire batch, with a host of convenient features and customizations to boot. However, while the Elite 75t did get a firmware update that added active noise-canceling to their repertoire, they weren’t designed to be ANC earbuds like the Elite 85t, so the ANC they provide is pretty weak—even compared to the rest of the budget models on this list. But if you care about good sound and features most, the middling noise-canceling is a decent cherry on top if you consider it a “nice to have” rather than a “must-have.”