These 5 Earbuds Make Great Gifts and Start at Just $16

There are lots of cheap true wireless earbuds out there, but few that sound impressive and perform better than their low prices would suggest. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of inexpensive earbuds that I think are truly good values and are at or very close to their lowest prices to date. Most importantly, I’ve tested all these earbuds, and can recommend each of them at the discounted prices listed below.

Note that for some of these deals you have to apply a CNET-exclusive code at checkout or clip an instant coupon to get the low price we’ve highlighted. As of the time of this publication, all codes were active and working to get the discounts as listed.

Read more: Best Cheap Wireless Earbuds of 2022

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You probably didn’t know that HTC made earbuds (I didn’t), which is maybe why its latest buds, the True Wireless Earbuds 7 are being discounted so aggressively. If you apply the code 60HTC22TWS at checkout on Amazon, you get $24 off the list price of $40, bringing these earbuds’ price down to $16.

To be clear, these are not noise-canceling earbuds but they do sound decent if you get a tight seal and they perform well for voice calls. The only issue I had with them is that none of the included ear tips quite fit my ears; I couldn’t get a tight seal. After I swapped in some other tips — I happen to have a lot because I test a lot of earbuds — the sound improved. If you don’t get a tight seal, bass performance suffers and you’ll think they sound mediocre. 

Equipped with Bluetooth 5.3, they’re IPX4 splashproof, have a low-latency gaming mode and up to 6 hours battery life with three additional charges in their lightweight case, which charges via USB-C. There’s nothing fancy about them, but if they fit your ears, they’re a bargain at $16.

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I was a fan of the original Earfun Free buds, and now there’s an upgraded version called the Earfun Free 2 (which has been subsequently renamed the 2S). They’re not a huge upgrade, but like the originals they fit my ears well and deliver decent bass for the buck with strong sound — it has just a touch of treble and bass boost (there’s plenty of bass) — and extra features such as wireless charging.

Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels, and these buds are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. These are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip that includes support for the aptX audio codec if you’re using a compatible device (certain Android smartphones support that protocol).

After you clip the instant 20%-off coupon and apply the code BFFREE2S4 at checkout, their price drops from $50 to $27, their lowest price to date.

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Here’s a deal worth checking out on a set of open earbuds that perform surprisingly well: the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS. Their list price is $50, but after a 22%-off instant discount, use the code DELXHSPR at checkout to get an extra 10% off (the price drops to $35). The deal is good through Dec. 18 or while supplies last.

What makes these Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS buds special is that they sound surprisingly good for open earbuds — they’re pretty close to what you get from Apple’s AirPods 3 for sound. On top of that, they support Sony’s LDAC audio codec for devices that offer it. Not too many cheap open earbuds have good sound but these Soundpeats have good bass response and clarity. They’re also good for making calls and have a low-latency gaming mode.

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In the past, we’ve recommended Earfun’s AirPro SV and Air Pro 2 as excellent budget noise-canceling earbuds choices (they’re still good values). But the new-for-2022 Earfun Air S may be the best of the trio, with multipoint Bluetooth pairing and the latest Qualcomm QCC3046 chip with the aptX audio codec for Android and other devices that support it. They have the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and feature surprisingly impressive sound for their modest price. They also work well as a headset for making calls with decent background noise reduction. The buds have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they’re splashproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water.

Note that the earbuds’ cost is as low as $49 when you apply the CNET-exclusive discount code EFAIRS08 at checkout at Amazon, or the code E4AH201 at Earfun’s online store (at Amazon you have to clip the instant 10% coupon, then apply EFAIRS08 to get an additional 20% off).

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Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing that really got me too excited. That’s finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand’s new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 buds. Both sets of buds — the Live Pro 2 have stems while the Live Free 2 have a pill-shaped design — offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.

The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.

While they’re more expensive than some of the earbuds on this list, their $75 sale price matches their lowest price to date.

Read our JBL Live Pro 2 first take.


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