So, you’re either not too happy with the stock earbuds that came lovingly, generically shipped alongside whichever device you’ve just happened to buy, or, more likely, they’ve randomly decided to stop working and you’re in the market for a new pair to take their place. Either way, unless you’re looking for an especially low cost, more disposable solution, the likelihood is that you’re going to want to start with the ~$50 price point.
It’s here that you’re essentially guaranteed to be able to find something which will outperform your stock earbuds, so let’s dive into what this category has to offer.
Top 3 In-Ear Headphones Under $50
The Sony MDR-XB50APs are another solid entry from a company with a history of solid entries, and represent a fantastic alternative to the stock earbud experience without breaking the bank. With an attractive design, carrying pouch, and long, tangle-reducing cable, these are the definition of portable and should perform in any standard use-case.
The Sennheiser CX 300-IIs have done well to maintain the quality and practicality of their predecessors, and are, as such, deserving of their ‘go-to’ status for many consumers who are looking for a new, affordable pair of in-ear headphones. What they lack in features, they make up for in sound quality, comfort, and durability.
The SOL Republic Relays Sport are a welcome and affordable addition to the range of often overpriced sporting headphones. With a great fit, an inline remote to keep you focused on the task at hand, and a sleek, water resistant design, they’re a perfect complement to any workout session you care to mention.
Unlike the $20 price point, audio quality is a lot more consistent across the board once you start heading closer to a $50 expense. This somewhat takes the pressure off, allowing you to focus on things like features, specific device compatibility, and even allows you more choice when it comes to the array of designs on offer. All good things, right?
It’s at this stage that the majority of mainstream offerings could reasonably be described as holding their own relative to the primary stock offerings from most large phone manufacturers. While you may not get something as visually iconic as Apple’s own earbuds, it should be no big deal to find a device which sounds better and, often, offers more alongside that already noteworthy improvement to your listening experience.
The main thing to keep an eye out for here is that you aren’t settling for less than stock earbuds. The overwhelming majority of offerings will come with the classic integrated mic and inline remote control combo, but if you’re used to, say, Apple’s earbuds with their three button remote, you may want to ensure that you aren’t ‘downgrading’ to the one button remote which a couple of brands offer at this price point. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but losing volume control can feel like a net loss even if you get a slight improvement to audio quality.
While there are a couple of wireless offerings at and around this price point, these are still an immense rarity and will generally require you to make significant trade offs in the form of low battery life, poor fit, or an otherwise subpar experience.
Design is a fairly variable proposition when it comes to in-ear headphones at around this price. Some manufacturers (we’re looking at you, Bose) have taken a fairly minimalistic approach and instead put their resources into delivering in other areas. Others try their best to give you a marriage of form and function, but some, of course, will inevitably therefore fail to deliver on both in that ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ fashion.
What to Look For
As we’ve said, you want to take stock of your own priorities and ensure that you aren’t going to feel like you’ve made a step in the wrong direction by transitioning from a pre-packaged option to the not inconsiderable investment in a device of your own choosing.
This means deciding on how much you prioritize features like a three button remote, how important it is to you that the earbuds you end up with look the part, the extent to which you care about things like custom eartips and carry cases, and, most importantly, how all of the aforementioned considerations hold up in relation to the actual listening experience. This can be a fairly daunting task, so we’re here to help.
The ~$50 price range is where you really start to be presented with meaningful options, and it’s vital that you do the research in order to ensure that you are fully equipped with your own, individual priorities before going ahead with your purchase.