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Don’t want to splurge on wireless earbuds? This pair for under $50 is perfect for work or travel

No need to break the bank on quality headphones.
Courtesy of Olivia Inglese

As a recent college graduate, frugal living is a huge priority for me. Navigating life as a new member of the workforce in a post-covid world means that I do two (out of three) of my jobs from my laptop at home. But when you have three roommates (hey, it's the easiest way to keep rent costs low!), that can only mean one thing — headphones are a must.

If you’re like me and can’t afford to break the bank buying a luxury piece of technology like wireless earbuds, you should know that you don’t have to. Since I’m on a strict budget with very little wiggle room, I was thrilled to discover the JBL Vibe Beam True Wireless Earbuds because they’re way more affordable than the market standard without losing out on function or comfort.

JBL Vibe True Wireless Earbuds

The sound quality is superb

The first time I used these JBL wireless earbuds was in the famously stressful and labyrinthian Newark Airport. From ripping my shoes off at security, to sprinting what felt like miles to my gate, to cramming my all-too-heavy carry on into the overhead bin in a crowded economy class, these headphones never fell out and never faltered. The sound quality was excellent and the volume went up to a reasonable enough level that it did not leave me wanting them to go any louder. My music is a lifeline I can’t live without, especially in stressful situations like these. Luckily, I was able to keep these earbuds going for six straight hours of travel while remaining pain-free, and I still had battery for my virtual meetings the next morning (and by the way, the microphone on them left nothing to be desired; the team could hear me loud and clear).

Set up is easier than expected

These headphones have plenty of features, yet were relatively simple to set up on both my phone and my laptop. Considering some bluetooth-enabled items can be a pain to set up, this was a pleasant surprise. The headphones came with two main pamphlets: one comprehensive description of all their technological capabilities and a quick start guide. The package conveniently provides a charging cord and different-sized silicone ear tips for a more comfortable fit, too. After a bit of charging and trying on the different-sized tips, it’s as easy as removing the yellow sticker taps on each bud and popping them into your ears. I was thrilled to see the name of the headphones pop right up in my bluetooth menu and connect immediately.

I also loved how my phone showed a little widget to keep me updated on how much battery was left in the headphones. Each bud has a touchpad with easy-to-use button commands (one tap for pausing, two for skipping the song or picking up/hanging up a call and three for going back a song), so I can stay hands free while taking notes in meetings and while on the go.

I remember at the dawn of wireless earbuds, there were two options. The opulent and unaffordable market standard, and an extremely cheaply made knock off of said standard. I remember buying the knock-offs years ago and them barely staying in my ear. The case was clunky and the buds themselves hurt my ears to the point of them being unusable — and frankly, they looked ridiculous. I am thrilled to find that now, JBL has produced an elevated product that can perform like the market standard for a quarter of the price.