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Can cheap wireless earbuds ever sound good? We put five budget brands to the test

Wireless earbuds have come a long way over the last few years, with advances in Bluetooth technology, battery life, and noise cancellation ...

Wireless earbuds have come a long way over the last few years, with advances in Bluetooth technology, battery life, and noise cancellation allowing the compact form factor to compete with some of the best over-ear headphones you can buy today.

Of course, many of the best wireless earbuds are fairly expensive. Popular models like the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Apple AirPods Pro seldom drop below $200 / £200, even during huge sales events like Black Friday – and when they do, you can be sure they’ll sell out quickly.

Naturally, we love a bargain at TechRadar, and we’ve spotted lots of great Black Friday headphone deals already from premium brands like Sony, Bose, and Bang & Olufsen. 

But what about all those super cheap earbuds that saturate Amazon’s already bloated inventory and drop to unbelievably low prices over Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Can a pair of true wireless earbuds really cost under $60 / £60 and still sound good? Are these prices too good to be true?

In the past, we’ve avoided wireless earbuds like these, wary of strange brands we’ve never heard of and claims of premium specs at bargain basement prices. 

This year though, we’re putting our fears of terrible sound quality and poor builds aside, and plunging ourselves into the world of super cheap wireless earbuds in the hope of finding an outstanding bargain ahead of Black Friday. 

Armed with models from Enacfire, EarFun, JLab, Shengyaju, and Holy High, we put the cheapest wireless earbuds we could find on Amazon to the test – and the results may come as a surprise.

What you should know about Black Friday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are always great times to pick up true wireless earbuds at a discount – and this year is set to be no exception, especially as models like the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3 are a little older (and will hopefully soon be replaced by newer versions). We've already seen some fantastic Black Friday AirPods deals, and we'll be sifting through all the Black Friday headphones deals every day to bring you the best discounts right up until Cyber Monday.

enacfire

(Image credit: Enacfire)

Enacfire E90 Wireless Earbuds

Enacfire is a name that crops up regularly in Amazon’s Black Friday deals, and we’ve often felt tempted to take the plunge and buy a pair – so we promptly added the Enacfire E90 Wireless Earbuds to our cart and hit ‘Buy Now’.

Coming in at $49.99 / £43.99 (though heavy discounts are usually available) these are the highest-spec earbuds we tested, boasting active noise cancellation, Qualcomm aptX support, and noise reduction technology for phone calls. 

The noise cancellation does work – albeit not as well as the AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM3 – blocking out a decent amount of environmental sound. The battery life is pretty good too, coming in at 8 hours for the earbuds themselves, with a further “five or six” charges provided by the case, according to Enacfire.

In terms of audio quality, the Enacfire E90 can be a touch heavy on the bass with some tracks (which some users will love), though generally the sound is pretty well-balanced.

cheap wireless earbuds

(Image credit: EarFun)

EarFun Air

The EarFun Air true wireless earbuds took us by surprise, with excellent sound quality, design, and connectivity for the price. They're the most expensive buds we tested at $59.99 / £54.99.

They come packaged in a book-style box that reveals simple pairing instructions once opened, while a more substantial user guide can be found tucked away in a black envelope.

The overall presentation makes these earbuds seem far more expensive than they are, with plenty of attention to detail.

Pairing the EarFun Air with our MacBook Pro was incredibly easy, and it took just a few seconds for us to get going. We also found that the touch controls worked really well, allowing you to play, pause, and skip tracks as well as adjust the volume of your music.

Listening to The Derby Ram by Erland and the Carnival, we were impressed by how smooth the mid-frequencies sounded, with warm organ-like synths and reverberant vocals that came through with power and clarity. Sure, there’s a little sibilance in the trebles and we’d like a little more detail in the higher frequency percussion, but the sound quality is very good for the price. 

They also sport an extended low frequency response, which will suit bass-heads down to the bone, with well-controlled and lively low end that complements pop, hip-hop, RnB, and dance music.

Add to this Bluetooth 5 connectivity, auto-pausing when you remove the buds from your ears, and a seven-hour battery life (35 hours with the charging case included), and the EarFun Air are the best cheap true wireless earbuds we’ve ever tested. Consider us pleasantly surprised.

jlab go air

(Image credit: TechRadar)

JLab Go Air

Moving from the EarFun Air to the JLab Go Air was something of a disappointment. When we tested these wireless earbuds earlier this year we were entranced by the super low price ($29 / £29), but felt let down by the poor audio quality on offer. Even the ability to cycle through different EQ presets in the app doesn’t do much to enhance the sound quality, with muddy bass frequencies and sibilant trebles. 

Saying that, the JLab Go Air do have some redeeming qualities. For one, Bluetooth 5 connectivity means pairing is quick and efficient, and once you've paired the Go Air with your device initially, they’ll connect automatically when you remove them from their case.  

Another cool feature that belies the JLab Go Airs' cheap price is the two earbuds’ ability to connect independently of each other; that means you can listen with one earbud while the other remains in the charging case, which could effectively double you battery life (if you don’t mind only listening with one ear). 

The battery life isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either, coming in at twenty hours in total – that’s five from the buds themselves, and a further 15 hours from the charging case.

That leads us on to our biggest bugbear: the charging case has no lid, and while the earbuds stay securely in place thanks to the magic of magnets, there’s nothing to protect them from dust or debris, particularly if you just want a pair of buds you can chuck in your bag and forget about. The charging case does come with an integrated cable though, which is handy.

You really do get what you pay for with the JLab Go Air, and at this price they could make a good pair of spare earbuds or a neat gift for your kids. For anything approaching analytical music listening however, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

cheap true wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Shengyaju)

Shengyaju TW80 

We’ve never heard of Shengyaju before, but the Amazon listing image for the TW80 true wireless earbuds intrigued us; the charging case features a clear plastic lid that reveals an LED display that tells you how much battery you have left. 

They also cost a mere £12.99 – sorry US readers, it seems they aren't available in your region – which is unbelievably cheap for a pair of wireless earbuds.

The battery life itself leaves a lot to be desired, with only 3.5 hours of playtime held within the earbuds themselves, and a further 16 provided by the charging case. Still, being able to see the exact percentage of remaining battery life is a nice touch. 

Unfortunately the plaudits stop there. Despite boasting Bluetooth 5 connectivity, we found that only one earbud would pair at a time, with the unpaired bud switching off altogether. 

Of course, listening through one earbud doesn’t do much for the audio quality, and it makes it hard to assess how good these earbuds sound. For what it’s worth, the right track sounded fine, if not inspiring, with good volume levels and fairly prominent bass frequencies. We did notice a lot of sibilance in the treble frequencies however, which was particularly irritating at high volumes. 

Saying that, the TW80 are fairly comfortable to wear and apparently come with an IPX7 water-resistance rating, according to the Amazon listing. That means they should be able to withstand being submerged in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes – we wouldn’t bet any money on that claim though, and if you’re serious about waterproof headphones, you’d probably be better off looking at the best swimming headphones of 2020.

cheap wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Holy High)

Holy High EA8

The first thing we noticed about the Holy High EA8 is how light they are; they’re incredibly comfortable to wear, and come with a number of eartips in various sizes, so you should be able to find a secure fit. The charging case is also very compact, making it easy to slip into your pocket (no matter how tight your trousers are). 

Battery life comes in at a claimed 25 hours in total – that’s five hours from the buds themselves and 20 hours from the charging case. 

Bluetooth 5 connectivity means they’re easy to pair, and according to Holy High, come with a IPX5 water-resistance rating, making them suitable for working out with. 

The sound quality on offer here isn’t brilliant, but there aren’t any glaring issues; as we listened to Party Fears Two by The Associates, the lead vocal sounded clear and smooth, though the trebles were lacking detail, particularly in the percussion, which sounded somewhat muffled. The bass isn’t particularly powerful either, but the EA8 are fine for casual listening or as a pair of backup wireless earbuds – and at $28.99 / £21.99, they won't break the bank. 

Verdict

It really is a bit of a lottery when it comes to buying super-cheap wireless earbuds; you could uncover a real gem or land yourself with a pair or buds that barely work, let alone sound good. 

The clear winner in our eyes was the EarFun Go Air; they sounded great, felt comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and boast a battery life that’s better than many of the best true wireless earbuds on the market. 

In a close second are the Enacfire E90, which come with the kind of features you’d expect from earbuds four times the price, including noise cancellation, stellar connectivity, and a long battery life. 

As for the other cheap earbuds we tried? We wouldn’t recommend buying them, unless you want a pair of very inexpensive buds you can just chuck in your bag as a backup. The JLab Go Air in particular would make a good first pair of earbuds for kids, thanks to their robust design and easy connectivity – but if you’re looking for fantastic audio fidelity, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

Looking for more premium true wireless earbuds? Check out some of the top deals we've found below:



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