Truly wireless earbuds are expensive. Samsung Galaxy Buds are $130, Apple Airpods start at $160, and some sets go for more. If you temper expectations, TaoTronics offers $46 wireless earbuds that perform far better than its price suggests possible.
Truly wireless earbuds are, quite frankly, a luxury item. You can live without them until you try them, then you won’t want to live without them. The biggest issue is usually price. You can expect to spend between $130 and $300 on good earbuds, and even our recommended budget pair, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, will you set back $80.
If you’re looking spend less, you should take a look at TaoTronics Wireless Earbuds. You may not have heard of the brand, but the hardware is solid—at least if you can accept some trade-offs for the low price.
Truth be told, the photos you see in the rest of the article aren’t of a review unit sent to us by the company. I bought a pair for my wife, and she loved them so much she turned around and bought a pair for me. That’s a double vote of confidence right out of the gate, so let’s take a look at what we both loved (and didn’t love) about the affordable little earbuds.
The Overall Design Isn’t Much to Look At
To be completely blunt, the design of the TaoTronics case and earbuds are incredibly generic. The case is about the size of one and a half Altoid tins stacked, and shaped like a rectangle with the corners cut off. It’s thin enough to fit in jeans pockets, but thick enough you’ll know it’s there the entire time.
The lid is semi-transparent plastic that feels a little fragile, while the bottom is somewhat harder and feels like it can take some abuse. The earbuds themselves could be confused for any number of truly wireless earbuds, and that’s fine. If your goal is a unique fashion accessory, you’ll need to spend more for the looks. But low prices mean trade-offs, and it’s more important that these buds work well than how they look.
A Little Difficult to Set Up, but Easy to Use
TaoTronics set their wireless earbuds apart with one striking feature. Both buds are Bluetooth capable. Often with truly wireless earbuds, only one bud connects to Bluetooth, and the other connects to the first bud. That usually means you can listen with only the right ear (for instance), but not only the left.
This set of earbuds though work in single ear mode for either side. But that makes setup tricky. I found in my testing that the best thing to do is take one earbud out of the case, pair it, put it back in the case (which turns it off), then take the second earbud out of the case and pair it. From them on, you can either use just the left or right bud, or both. When you put in the second earbud, you will have to wait a moment while the earbuds connect.
Once you have the earbuds set up, using them is as simple as taking them out of the case and waiting for connecting. You can start in single ear mode, or switch to it by putting the second earbud away. Likewise switching from single earbud to dual earbud mode is a simple as taking the second out and wearing it. The company included tap controls, and they work well enough once you’ve memorized them. Helpfully, play and pause are a single tap the left and right ear respectively, and that’s all I typically use.
With previous cheap Bluetooth headphones I’ve owned, the range has always been an issue. I’d step a room or two away from my tablet and lose signal. But with these earbuds, I was surprised to find I could step four and five rooms away, and even move down a floor without any problems.
The Case Offsets the Short Battery Life
Let’s rip the band-aid off: battery life for these earbuds is about three hours. I’ve occasionally squeezed three and a half hours out of them. That’s short compared to other products in this category, but the case makes up for that fact. Like just about every other wireless earbuds out there, you charge these earbuds by plopping them into the case. But what sets TaoTronic’s entry apart is the sheer number of charges you’ll get out of the case.
With a 3350mAh battery, the company promises you’ll be able to recharge the earbuds a whopping 40 times before you need to plug the case back in. I can’t confirm that number, and that’s because at just under a month of use I still haven’t needed to recharge my case. And I use them between one and three hours about five days a week. Recharge time is quick; you’ll get to 40 percent in 15 minutes and a full charge in an hour.
TaoTronics slid a bonus feature into the charging case as well. On the left side, you’ll find a full-sized USB-A port. With the proper cords, you can use the case a portable battery pack and recharge your phone.
Another feature I’ve come to appreciate is the incredibly strong magnets TaoTronics embedded into the earbud cavities. When you put your earbuds into the case they practically get sucked into the holes, and that makes charging a breeze. That may sound minor, but I have another $500 pair of wireless earbuds that don’t have those magnets, and I found myself unable to get them to seat right and charge on the first try. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience that makes me appreciate this $46 set all the more.
The Sound Lacks Bass, but Is Otherwise Fine
You shouldn’t expect a sub $50 set of headphones of any kind to keep up with a $150 equivalent, and that’s true here as well. No one will give any awards to TaoTronics for fantastic sound, but honestly, it’s adequate. You may miss the thumping bass more expensive options give you, but voices are clear, and music is recognizable.
If you generally prefer to buy “reasonably priced headphones” and can’t imagine forking over the extra cash for something high-end, then you probably won’t notice any difference in sound quality. If you absolutely need thumping bass, or perfectly balanced headphones that give you a complete soundscape, then you will be disappointed in what you hear.
It’s Not Without Flaws Though
For all the good things I can say, this product does have a few flaws. As I mentioned before, the initial set up is a bit more complicated than other wireless earbuds, and the runtime is somewhat short, but that’s not where the problems stop.
Opening the case involves pressing a small button to unlock the lid. The button is starting to stick, which means the case doesn’t want to stay closed unless I fiddle with it.
I also can’t figure out the remaining charge indicator lights on the case. Most products have four LEDs, each representing 25% of a charge. This case has three. For now, I’ve resigned to charging it if I ever get down to one light. I say “if I ever” because I’m still at two after all this time.
The included charging cable is laughably short at just three inches, but any micro USB cable will work, so that’s an easy issue to overcome. And TaoTronics only includes three sizes of ear tips. Generic tips should work though, so when I discovered even the smallest tips didn’t fit me well (I have little ears), I switched to a pair of tips I own that I know fit comfortably. If you frequently find yourself less than satisfied with the earbud tips included with earbuds, check out our guide to the best replacement tips.
At Less Than $50 There’s Little to Lose
The above flaws might be a bigger deal if you spent a great deal of money, but they’re forgivable in a product priced so low. And some of the issues are easy to overcome, like the ear tips and charging cable. The sticky lid issue frustrates me ever so slightly, and I do worry that a good drop might break the lid, but that hasn’t happened yet and thanks to strong magnets holding the earbuds in place, the cover doesn’t feel necessary. It might make pocket carrying a little uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t worry about losing the earbuds.
If you’ve wanted to try out truly wireless headphones, but found the price intimidating, then you should give the TaoTronics entry a try. Even if you ultimately decide you need something that sounds better, for less $50, you’ll know for sure if it’s worth paying more to have great sound without the wires.
Here’s What We Like
- Less than $50
- Superb Bluetooth Range
- Works in dual mode or single mode with both ears
- Case doubles as a USB charger
And What We Don't
- Setup is more difficult than competitors
- Three-hour run time is a little short.
- Lid feels a little fragile, and button may stick
- Charging indicator lights are confusing