How Much Should You Spend on True Wireless Earbuds?
From wired headphones to neckband earphones to truly wireless earbuds, the way we listen to music has changed greatly in the last few years. Of course, it’s none other than Apple that made TWS earbuds mainstream via its AirPods lineup.
In fact, this market is growing so fast that you can now find earbuds in every price range. But how much should you actually spend on a pair of earbuds? What features can you expect? What’s the experience like? And what about sound quality?
Under $30 Earbuds: Wireless on Budget
Under $30, you find entry-level wireless earbuds. This price is fit for you if you simply want to do away with the hassle of fumbling with the cables of wired headphones and are okay with not having good sound quality. The build quality of earbuds at this price is subpar at best since they’re made of cheap-feeling plastic.
Some users report connectivity issues when pairing their earbuds to their phone, depending on your chosen brand. As a result, wireless earbuds aren’t the best buy if you’re on a budget but still want good sound quality. Instead, you should pick IEMs over earbuds of the same price to get significantly better sound, more durability, and detachable cables.
Stay away from non-branded earbuds. Although their low price appears to offer great value, they are often unreliable. In addition, if your earbuds ever get damaged or stop working, you’ll have a hard time trying to navigate the seller’s customer support.
$30–$50 Earbuds: Durable and Water-Resistant
Between $30–$50, most of the improvements usually come in build quality, not sound (although some models vary). The highlight of this price range is that some models will offer an official IPX7 rating for water resistance. The “X” in IPX7 means the earbuds haven’t been rated for dust resistance, so taking them to the beach might not be a good idea.
But you can still take your earbuds to the gym without worrying they’ll get damaged by sweat. They can also handle rain or accidental spills. As far as latency is concerned, that depends less on the price and more on the Bluetooth codecs your earbuds support.
$50–$100 Earbuds: ANC and Transparency
Although you might be able to find them for cheaper, features like Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode commonly start at the $50–100 price range. You can expect better sound quality with bass that doesn’t overpower mids and highs, but this will vary depending on how different audio brands tune their headphones.
At this price, you can also expect multipoint connectivity, which means you can have your earbuds connected to your phone and your laptop at the same time to switch between the two seamlessly. Some brands also offer a dedicated app to customize the EQ of your earbuds.
$100–$200 Earbuds: AirPods and More
At the $100–$200 price bracket, you’re picking from safe options that are unlikely to give you unwanted surprises, like Apple and Samsung. For $129, you can get the AirPods 2nd generation or the Galaxy Buds 2. And for $179, you can grab the AirPods 3rd generation or the Galaxy Buds Pro.
|SAMSUNG Galaxy Buds 2 True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, Noise Cancelling, Ambient Sound, Lightweight...||$99.99||Buy on Amazon|
Neither of the two AirPods models offers ANC or Transparency mode; for that, you’ll have to get the AirPods Pro which cost $249.
According to reviews, these earbuds have better sound and mic quality, which means the person on call with you will be able to hear you more clearly. Aside from Samsung and Apple, you can also find great options from Sony, Sennheiser, Bose, Beats, and other known brands.
Above $200 Earbuds: No Compromises
Above $200, you’re getting the best of the best. Everything put in and on the earbuds will be done with deliberate intention by audio experts and product designers. In other words, the goal here is to eliminate all the compromises people usually face with wireless earbuds.
The result? You’re getting the best build quality, the best mic quality, the best connectivity, and exceptional sound quality in terms of clarity, soundstage and audio imaging. At the time of writing, the $279 Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are widely regarded among reviewers as the best wireless earbuds money can buy.
|Sony WF-1000XM4 Industry Leading Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbud Headphones with Alexa...||$94.97||Buy on Amazon|
How to Select the Right Earbuds for You
Unfortunately, giving a fully objective opinion about how much you should spend on wireless earbuds is impossible since they are so diverse. Sometimes, a $30 pair of earbuds can sound better than a $70 one for no obvious reason other than personal preference.
That said, there are three important questions you should answer before you buy wireless earbuds that can help you make a more informed decision.
1. What Are Your Listening Preferences?
The first thing you need to do before buying earbuds is to define your listening preferences. Since listening is such a personal experience, there’s no guarantee you’ll find expensive earbuds to sound much better than budget earbuds.
To help with this, you should learn about sound signatures, read earbud reviews, and watch comparison videos. But the best way to check if a pair of earbuds sound good is to try them out in person.
2. How Often Can You Buy New Earbuds?
If you’ve been saving up to buy those expensive earbuds you always wanted, we have some bad news for you. Wireless earbuds suffer from one major problem: battery health. Eventually, the lithium-ion battery in your buds will degrade, resulting in increasingly poor battery life.
This means in order to keep enjoying that high-end sound, you’ll have to keep buying new buds every few years, which isn’t going to be very pocket-friendly (or environmentally friendly, for that matter). Battery life and degredation is one of the prime reasons why wired headphones are better than wireless headphones since the former doesn’t have a battery and will last for many years, saving money.
3. Do You Need ANC and Transparency Mode?
ANC and Transparency mode are two common features among mid-range and premium earbuds. And although they are really useful features, you must be realistic about your needs before buying.
For instance, if you spend most of your time at home, you don’t need ANC as much as someone who commutes a lot or has an active lifestyle. In that case, the passive noise isolation provided by the ear tips is enough to reduce unwanted sound. And enabling Transparency Mode is more cumbersome than just taking off your earbuds!
How Much Should You Spend on Earbuds?
There’s no standardized benchmark to tell how good a pair of earbuds will sound to you or how much value they offer, so the best way to judge them is to simply try them out yourself.
Unlike smartphones or laptops that are more standardized, earbuds vary dramatically from brand to brand. Some brands don’t offer ANC at $100 but sound amazing, while others offer every feature in the book for under $50 but sound awful. Always research before you buy.
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Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API