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The 5 best cheap earbuds: Find an affordable AirPods alternative for school

What are the best cheap earbuds? Our expert pick are the Raycon The Everyday earbuds for their impressive battery life, water resistance, and three sound profiles. While earbuds may not be at the top of everyone's school supply list, they can be a valuable tool for students attending hybrid or virtual classes or while studying.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on

You may not automatically think of cheap earbuds when you think "back to school," but they can be a valuable tool and fun accessory for students of all ages. If you choose a pair of earbuds like the JBL Live Free 2 or UGreen HiTune T3, you'll get noise-canceling technology, which filters out annoying background sound that can be a distraction when you're trying to study. Other models also have an environmental awareness mode, which allows you to hear important information like travel announcements on your commute and traffic noise to stay safe on your way to class. 

Battery life is also important, since you won't always be able to charge your earbuds before you get home. Many new wireless earbuds come with a charging case to extend their playback time up to 20, 30, or even 40 hours. Some also allow you to use your phone's virtual assistant (like Hey Google or Siri), so you can send texts, make calls, and launch apps without taking your phone out of your pocket. 

To help you decide which cheap earbuds are right for your kids, I've put together a list of the 5 best you can buy. I've broken down their features and price points to help you find the best fit for your kids' needs and your budget.

Battery life: 8 hours, 32 with case | Noise canceling: No | Quick charging: No | Voice assistant: No | Connectivity:  Bluetooth | Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS

You may recognize the Raycon brand from their many YouTube creator sponsorships; its Everyday earbuds prove why they're so popular. Raycon has set itself up as a provider of affordable, quality earbuds, and the Everyday model retails for about $80. For that price, you still get great features like three sound profiles, IPX6 water resistance, and an Awareness Mode so you can hear environmental sounds to stay safe while commuting. 

The earbuds are compatible with both iOS and Android devices, so no matter what kind of phone you have, you won't have to worry about connectivity issues. They connect to your device via Bluetooth 5.2 for a more stable, reliable connection with devices up to 33 feet away. 

The Everyday earbuds come in four colors, so your kids can pick their favorite. And with the included lanyard, you won't have to worry about younger kids losing track of the charging case or earbuds. They also come with six pairs of silicone ear tips, so you can find the perfect, most comfortable fit. On a full charge, the earbuds provide up to 8 hours of playback, and the included charging case gives you 24 more for a total of 32 hours of play time. 


  • Under $100
  • Water resistant
  • Great battery life


  • No noise cancelation
  • No built-in voice assistant

Battery life: 3.5 hours, 12 with case | Noise canceling: No | Quick charging: No | Voice assistant: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS

If you need to stick to a more modest budget -- or have younger kids who may not be as careful with their earbuds as they should -- the Skullcandy Dime 2 earbuds are an excellent option. They retail for about $30, making them some of the most affordable true wireless earbuds on the market. 

If you have a child who is particularly prone to losing their things, you can connect a Tile tracker to the earbuds for precise location tracking. The earbuds are also IPX4 water resistant, so rain or sweat won't damage them. 

They give you up to 3.5 hours of play time on a full charge, which is plenty of time for the bus ride to and from school, lunch, and study time at home. But if you need more, the included charging case gives you 8.5 more hours of playback for a total of 12 hours of battery life. 

The Dime 2 earbuds come in seven different colors, and the charging case features a lanyard so you can attach it to your child's backpack. You can also use the earbuds independently of one another, so your child can keep an ear open for travel announcements, conversations, and environmental sounds to stay safe and aware of their surroundings. 


  • Water resistant
  • Single earbud use
  • Very affordable


  • Somewhat short battery life
  • No built-in voice assistant

Battery life: 7 hours, 35 with case | Noise canceling: Yes, adaptive | Quick charging: Yes | Voice assistant: No | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS

The JBL Live Free 2 earbuds are a good choice for older kids, teens, and college students who want a pair of wireless earbuds with more features. For about $100, you'll get a great set of earbuds with excellent audio quality as well as adaptive noise-canceling technology. This helps to block out annoying background sounds, like TVs and other people's conversations, so you can focus while studying, catch up on lecture recordings, or enjoy your music in common areas without distractions. And when you need to clue into your surroundings, the Smart Ambient mode lets you have quick conversations or listen to important announcements. 

You can get up to 7 hours of playback on a full charge, and up to 35 hours total battery life with the included charging case. This means you can use your earbuds almost all week before you need to recharge. And if you need a quick top up, just 15 minutes of charging time gives you 4 hours of playback, making it great for charging between classes or during lunch. The earbuds also have a six microphone array for crystal clear video and audio calls, making them a great option to use with a laptop for virtual classes and group projects. 


  • Adaptive noise canceling
  • Great battery life
  • Quick charge feature


  • No built-in voice assistant
  • No support for Linux-based computers and mobile devices

Battery life: 10 hours, 44 with case | Noise canceling: No | Quick charging: No | Voice assistant: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS

Whether you have classes that last well into the evening or after-school clubs and activities, having earbuds that can keep up with you is important. The Push Active earbuds from Skullcandy have an excellent battery life, giving you up to 10 hours of playback on their own. And with the included charging case, you'll get an additional 34 hours of use for a total of 44 hours of playback time. 

With the quick-charge feature, just 10 minutes of charging gives you up to 2 hours of use, allowing you to top up between classes or during a quick lunch. Using Bluetooth, you can connect the earbuds to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop for streaming videos and music, attending virtual classes, or making group video calls for projects. 

The earbuds feature an over-ear hook, which helps keep them in place. You can also connect the Push Active earbuds to a Tile tracker for precise location services in case they ever get lost or stolen. They're even IP55 water resistant, so a little sweat or light rain won't ruin them. 

When you use the Push Active earbuds with the companion Skullcandy iQ app, you can create custom equalizer settings for unique sound profiles. You can even set up voice controls for hands-free use of your smartphone's features and apps.


  • 44-hour battery life
  • Tile tracking
  • Quick-charge feature
  • Voice controls


  • Voice controls require iQ app
  • Over-ear hook may not be comfortable for everyone

Battery life: 7 hours, 24 with case | Noise canceling: Yes, active | Quick charging: No | Voice assistant: No | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS

The HiTune T3 earbuds from UGreen are great for iPhone users due to their one-step pairing, dual microphone array for calls, and resemblance to AirPods. The HiTune T3 earbuds sell for around $40, which is $130 less than the third generation AiProds, but they still give you great features. 

These budget-friendly earbuds have active noise-canceling tech that is solid for the price. I have a pair and live next to a busy highway, and when I have the ANC feature turned on, I can barely hear the heavy traffic noise when I want to sit on my deck. 

They're also pretty comfortable, offering different silicone tips for the perfect fit; they stay in place fairly well and don't feel like they're digging into your ears or ear canal. On a full charge, you can get up to 7 hours of playback and a total of 24 hours of use with the included charging case. And just 10 minutes of charging gives you about an hour of use, which is great for when you forgot to charge overnight and want to catch up with lecture recordings or play music on your walk to class. The dual microphones also use noise-canceling tech to isolate your voice from background noise for clearer calls.


  • Good battery life
  • Active noise canceling
  • Budget-friendly
  • Apple-friendly aesthetics


  • ANC could be more robust
  • No built-in voice assistant

What are the best cheap earbuds?

My pick for the best cheap earbuds are the Everyday model from Raycon. For under $100, you get up to 32 hours of playback with the charging case as well as three different audio profiles to suit music, podcasts, and virtual classes. They're also water and sweat resistant, so walks to school in the rain or heat won't ruin them. They also have an awareness mode, so you can hear environmental sounds like traffic and travel announcements around you.

Cheap earbuds


Battery life

Noise canceling

Raycon The Everyday


8 hours, 32 with case


Skullcandy Dime 2


3.5 hours, 12 with case


JBL Live Free 2


7 hours, 35 with case

Yes, adaptive

Skullcandy Push Active


10 hours, 44 with case


UGreen HiTune T3


7 hours, 24 with case

Yes, active

Which cheap earbuds are right for you?

Aside from price, when shopping for a new pair of earbuds, you should take comfort, fit, and sound quality into consideration. Many new models of earbuds come with different sets of silicone tips for a more secure fit in both larger and smaller ears; this keeps them from falling out or causing discomfort. With more affordable earbuds, sound quality isn't going to be the same as it would be if you bought a pair of high-end Bose or Sony earbuds. But you can still get crystal clear audio for music, podcasts, virtual classes, and phone calls. Some budget-friendly earbuds also have adaptive or active noise cancelation to filter out sounds that could be a distraction when studying.

Choose these cheap earbuds...

If you need...

Raycon The Everyday

A well-rounded and budget-friendly pair of wireless earbuds

Skullcandy Dime 2

An ultra-affordable pair of true wireless earbuds

JBL Live Free 2

A higher-end pair of wireless earbuds with noise-canceling tech

Skullcandy Push Active

A pair of true wireless earbuds with an impressive battery life

UGreen HiTune T3

An affordable pair of AirPods lookalikes

How did we choose these cheap earbuds?

I did my best to keep my choices under $100, and I tried to choose wireless earbuds with at least 10 hours total battery life to hold up under all-day use for commutes, virtual classes, and studying.

Are earbuds suitable for kids?

If you believe your child is old enough and responsible enough to care for and keep track of a pair of wireless earbuds, that is up to you. Personally, I wouldn't give a pair of true wireless earbuds to a child under 10, since individual earbuds are easy to lose or get traded away on the playground. 

However, models like the Sony WI-C100 connect wirelessly to devices but are wired to one another; this makes them a bit easier for younger children to keep track of, and they're much more affordable than their true wireless counterparts.

Can earbuds damage your ears?

Earbuds that don't have a proper fit can cause a lot of discomfort and might even cause bruising or small cuts depending on how they fit into your ears. Also, listening to music, podcasts, and videos at high volumes can damage your hearing over time. So make sure your earbuds have properly-sized silicone tips for a secure, comfortable fit and set them at a reasonable volume.

Does noise canceling help with studying?

Having a pair of earbuds with active or adaptive noise-canceling tech can be a big help when studying, since they can filter out annoying background sounds like conversations, TV shows, and music. So if you study in dorm common rooms, libraries, or at the dining table at home, you may want to invest in a pair of earbuds with noise-cancelation tech.

Are there alternative cheap earbuds that are worth considering?

There are tons of affordable options for wireless and true wireless earbuds. Here's a short list of alternative picks that I thought were great:

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