Best Budget Earbuds: Aelec S350 vs. Zeus Outdoor vs. TaoTronics

Bluetooth headphones are becoming a necessity. Apple dropped the headphone jack and now others, like Google, are following suit. The headphone jack removal made a lot of people angry, but it’s a good thing to help push wireless technology forward and to lower the prices.

Because of this, I reviewed wireless headphones earlier this year. I tested the big names like Bose SoundSport Wireless, Powerbeats3 and Jaybird X3. I fell in love with a couple of them!

But $150 isn’t in everyone’s budget and there are other options.

In this post, I’m going to look at the best budget Bluetooth earbuds for under $50.

I’m looking at sound quality, comfort, staying in-ear ability and how they deal with sweat.

Here are the five that I’ve tried so far!

Aelec S350

Aelec S350 (F)

Love

  • Aelec S350s have a lifetime warranty of which I took full advantage. Trust me, you’ll need this.
  • They’re the lightest headphones of all time and only cost $25.

Hate

  • Even at the low $25 price, I would have expected better sound quality. TaoTronics is a much better option that is still affordable but produces better sound.
  • The Bluetooth range is terrible. Your phone needs to be on you at all times.
  • They’re made of cheap plastic.
  • These aren’t going to stay in your ears unless you’re sitting on the couch. Obviously, you wouldn’t be reading this if you were looking for the “best headphones for lounging at home.” The plastic pieces that wedge inside of your ears are as strong as a piece of cooked spaghetti. Not only do they not stay in, they’re not comfortable.
  • The battery will last about three hours.
  • The company claims these are noise canceling, but I’m not sure how they can claim that. These don’t even come close to noise canceling. Maybe they meant “background noise enhancing?”
  • I couldn’t connect two devices at once.
  • The volume doesn’t seem to sync with iPhone’s volume. So you’ll have to turn up the iPhone’s volume and the headphone’s volume. Two volumes? No thanks.
  • When the battery is low, the voice repeats “battery low” every minute. It’s annoying.

Zeus Outdoor

Zeus Outdoor (D-)

Love

  • If you get the Zeus Outdoor HDs to fit correctly, you’ll get mediocre sound.
  • These are IPx7 waterproof and sweatproof.

Hate

  • These sound awful at loud volumes and the bass is muddled.
  • The battery is advertised for eight hours, but I only got around five hours.
  • They feel cheap, and the over-the-ear hooks are way too flexible, making them move around. If you’re exercising there’s no way they’ll stay in place. They feel too loose.
  • While I don’t have definitive evidence, I think the company is paying for fake five-star reviews (look here). These are not five-star headphones like Amazon would lead you to believe. I don’t have time for companies who perform shady actions like this.
  • The volume controls are slow and not always responsive.
  • The Bluetooth was pretty choppy during my test.
  • The controls are in a terrible position. Because of the loose fit, if you skip a song or change the volume, the headphones will fall out of your ears or you’ll need to readjust.

TaoTronics Hooks

TaoTronics Hooks (B-)

Love

  • The TaoTronics with earhooks are $30! That’s an amazing value.
  • You’re getting a similar sound as the TaoTronics pair above. I like the in-ear option best, but the fit of the TaoTronics with Ear Hooks is similar to the Powerbeats3.
  • You’ll get seven hours of battery time.
  • These are water and sweat resistant.

Hate

  • Like the Powerbeats3, you need a tight seal to get the best sound; this isn’t always easy while moving around. They’re noise canceling, but only if you get the proper seal. If you like the fit of the PowerBeats and can sacrifice a little bit of sound quality, you’ll love these.
  • Like I said before, with cheap headphones, durability is questionable.
  • Pairing isn’t as smooth as it could be.
  • The control buttons have a cheap feel and the “multifunction” button can be confusing.
  • Sometimes the Bluetooth cuts out momentarily. While I didn’t have an issue with this, some users have experienced buffering while running at fast speeds.

TaoTronics

TaoTronics Buds (B)

Love

  • TaoTronics is a hidden gem. Their headphones are just $40. They don’t have the marketing power of Bose or Beats, so they’re at a MUCH lower price point.
  • I like the fit, which is similar to Jaybirds X3. It’s not the most comfortable, but they’ll stay in your ears.
  • Jaybirds X3’s sound is better than TaoTronics’, but it’s only an incremental difference, not a $100 difference like price would infer. The sound is on par with Apple’s EarPods (the ones that come standard with iPhone devices), with the difference of being wireless.
  • They’re magnetic and hook to each other when you’re not using them. This is a useful feature when you take them out your ears to talk with someone.

Hate

  • The battery is not great. I only got three hours in my tests.
  • These aren’t sweat-resistant. I got sweaty while testing them, and they held up fine, but they’re not “rated” for it.
  • The Bluetooth on these isn’t perfect. It’s occasionally choppy and the range isn’t as good as a premium pair. However, the quality is excellent when you consider they’re only $40.
  • The control buttons have a cheap feel and the “multifunction” button can be confusing.
  • These don’t have great longevity. If you get six months out of these, you should be happy, considering the value you’re getting.

Which one is for you?

If you’re looking for earbuds under $50, go with one of the TaoTronics! Both TaoTronics options sound similar, so it comes down to your preferred fit.

You’re not going to get the same sound quality with TaoTronics as Bose, but TaoTronics are underpriced. You’re getting a great value.