True wireless earbuds are an emerging technology that has seen tremendous growth in the last few years. And with more products coming to the market, prices have come down recently. Here, we will take a look at Onn wireless earbuds — an AirPods look-alike that is available from Walmart.
With an MSRP under $20, you may be able to guess that Onn earbuds can’t compete with AirPods. However, they still provide an incredible amount of technology and performance for a budget price.
In testing Onn wireless earbuds, we were impressed with the design (“off-brand AirPods”) and sound quality, especially considering the low sticker price. The buying process was also quick and simple, with ultra-fast shipping (from my local Walmart) and frequent shipping updates.
On the flip side, bluetooth connection was unreliable at times, thereby rendering the device nearly worthless. We also have concerns about the longevity of the battery.
Continue reading for our review of Onn wireless earbuds, and a discussion of whether or not you should consider these budget-friendly earbuds.
Testing Onn earbuds, the first thing we noticed was the compact size. Not only are the earbuds themselves small, but even the case and packaging are tiny.
Onn true wireless earbuds are designed to look like the early generation Apple AirPods. So if you are looking for a cheap AirPods dupe, Onn is an option.
The design is simple but overall pretty nice. Build quality is heavily plastic, yet dense enough that they feel sturdy and should hold up well.
The earbuds are made as “one size fits all,” with no eartips, foam, or inserts. During testing, I was actually pleased with the fit of the earbuds. But if the stock size doesn’t fit, there isn’t any way to customize or improve the fit. Many competitors (even those in the budget category) include 3 or more eartips/inserts to ensure that the device fits properly in any size ear.
Additionally, since the earbuds don’t have any eartips or inserts, there isn’t much noise isolation. In addition to leaking sound, the lack of a seal also worsens sound quality. With a semi-open earbud design, this is to be expected. It isn’t necessarily a design flaw, but rather just a feature of semi-open earbuds. The advantage of the design is that you don’t have the silicone eartip putting pressure on your ear canal. So it really comes down to personal preference.
During testing, I was able to run a few miles without the earbuds coming out. This was somewhat surprising since these earbuds have a passive fit, rather than dedicated exercise earbuds which have a silicone tip that puts pressure on your ear. Throughout the run, it felt like the earbuds were becoming loose, yet they never actually fell out.
Everyone will have a different experience, because the shape and size of your ears will change the fit, but I would rate these as above-average for exercising. The earbuds should be able to withstand a moderate intensity workout without falling out (and they are IPX4 rated so they should tolerate some sweat). If you plan to do strenuous exercise, I would look for a different set of earbuds though.
Included with the earbuds is a charging case which holds 4 charges. This is typical for true wireless earbuds, and extends the battery life of the earbuds significantly. However, the charging cases also contribute to battery degradation over time.
Configuration of the buttons is good, with on-device buttons to skip tracks and play/pause. However, the buttons themselves are extremely finicky. During testing, we had many inaccurate responses. Eventually, I decided that it is easier and more accurate to take my phone out of my pocket and use the controls there, rather than counting on the buttons on the Onn earbuds.
With budget earbuds, it is pretty typical to have controls that function poorly. However, due to the location of the buttons with the Onn earbuds, it is almost impossible to reposition the earbuds in your ears without inadvertently hitting a button. So, saying that the controls are not useful is an understatement. I found the controls to actually be more of a nuisance than if the earbuds had no controls at all.
Sound quality is significantly better than you would expect from sub-$20 earbuds. The sound profile is balanced, without much bass but with surprising clarity. Output is capped at a fairly low volume, but it is loud enough for most uses.
Among budget speakers, there are two common sound profiles.
The first is boosted bass alongside muddy mids and distorted highs. And the second has a hollow sound, with minimal bass but clearer mids and highs. Of these two, Onn fits into the second category.
The earbuds are lacking in bass, but they make up for it by having clear mids and highs. I have tested headphones that are far more expensive than Onn which have much less clarity. In addition, there isn’t much distortion.
Another flaw of many budget headphones and earbuds — an abrupt piercing quality to high notes — is thankfully missing from these earbuds. You have likely heard a cheap speaker, earbud, or headphone that is jarring when a high note is played at loud volumes. If so, we don’t have to tell you how unpleasant the sound can be.
The earbuds don’t have any active noise cancellation. In this price range, it is challenging to find earbuds with decent active noise cancellation, so we don’t fault Onn for not including this feature. Passive noise cancellation (basically just the noise that is blocked by the earbuds acting as an earplug) is not very effective despite the fact that these earbuds were a great fit in my ear. As mentioned above, the semi-open design (with no inserts or silicone eartips) often lacks much passive noise cancellation.
Onn earbuds are constructed of plastic but maintain a sturdy feel. Build quality is solid and the earbuds are incredibly light. Durability won’t be an issue, at least not in terms of the device breaking or being damaged.
Our bigger concern with durability is related to the software and function of the device itself, rather than the risk of physical damage to the device. Bluetooth connection is spotty. And the battery is small and will degrade fairly rapidly due to the charging cycle that it experiences when placed in the charging case. Ultimately, you shouldn’t expect to get more than a year or two worth of life from Onn earbuds.
The earbuds are IPX4 rated, meaning they are splash proof but cannot be immersed in water. If you plan to use earbuds while exercising, you should find earbuds that are IPX4 at a minimum. This way, you know your earbuds will not be damaged by sweat or water. And due to the simple design of Onn true wireless earbuds, you should be able to clean them with a damp cloth or q-tip, so there won’t be any concerns about damaging them during cleaning, either.
According to the manufacturer’s marketing materials, you can expect to get 3 hours from a single charge. Combining this with the 4 spare charges in the charging case, you can power these earbuds for up to 15 hours without having to recharge the case.
In our testing, the earbuds lasted almost four hours at full volume. The earbuds had only a 20% charge upon opening the new, sealed box. This isn’t terribly uncommon, but still feels odd.
During testing, the earbud battery life that displayed on my connected device wasn’t always accurate. And there is no app or indicator light on the earbuds that gives you an idea of how much battery life is remaining. So you really have no choice but to guess.
Charging cases are destructive to earbud batteries because they always charge the earbuds when they are inserted. And this cycle can shorten a battery’s life. Other than a couple new earbuds from premium brands, this is the way all earbuds tend to operate. So it isn’t something worth complaining about, but it is something to be aware of.
The earpods have a built-in 25 mAh battery. The charging case has a 350 mAh battery. Considering the low price of the device, we can assume that these are pretty basic batteries that will wear down rapidly over time. The case charges via USB-C, which is ideal. However, the cord is so short that it is challenging to use.
The biggest weakness of Onn wireless earbuds is bluetooth reliability. In testing with an Android device, I experienced signal loss multiple times. The choppy connection was disappointing considering how well the earbuds worked overall, and how great the sound quality was despite the budget price. The unreliable bluetooth ruins an otherwise impressive device.
Bluetooth range is solid on these earbuds. Onn doesn’t specify which version of bluetooth the earbuds use, but the earbuds we tested (purchased brand new in December 2021) are a 2019 model that advertises “up to 33 foot bluetooth range.” So my guess is that these earbuds use Bluetooth 4.2. During testing, we were able to exceed 33 feet and still maintain a strong connection. (But the above-mentioned bluetooth signal loss was experienced when the phone and earbuds were only three feet apart).
As mentioned above, these earbuds have no active noise cancellation. And I experienced very minimal passive noise cancelling during testing.
Controls on the earbuds were (technically) functional, but we found them to be unreliable. There are no physical buttons, but rather a location on the side of the device that is touch-sensitive. It seemed that every time I repositioned the earbuds in my ears, my finger would accidentally hit a button. Then when I tried to use the controls, the buttons were almost impossible to locate. There are controls for changing tracks, voice assistant activation, and play/pause. When trying to choose one function, it seemed just as likely that a different function would be activated. After spending a lot of time testing out the nuances of the controls, I eventually just gave up and decided to make all adjustments from my phone rather than the earbuds.
There is a microphone on the Onn true wireless earbuds. The mic tests surprisingly well when using it for voice assistants, but we didn’t test it extensively for voice calls.
Understanding the True Wireless Earbuds Market
The true wireless earbuds market has significantly evolved over the years. When Apple introduced AirPods in 2016, it was a game-changer. But, the hefty price tag made it inaccessible for a segment of consumers. This created a market gap for affordable, yet functional, wireless earbuds – a gap that was quickly filled by numerous manufacturers, including Onn.
To fully understand the value of Onn earbuds, it’s important to see them in the larger context of the market. They represent an option for budget-conscious customers looking for wireless audio solutions. Onn earbuds, like other budget-friendly alternatives, are not aiming to directly compete with premium brands. They are designed to cater to users who want reasonable sound quality and functionality without breaking the bank.
It’s noteworthy to remember that with low price points, certain compromises are necessary. For Onn, the chief concerns are an unreliable Bluetooth connection and less durable batteries. However, these issues are common among budget wireless earbuds.
Onn true wireless earbuds are a solidly built AirPods look-alike that costs less than $20 and has suprisingly impressive sound quality.
However, bluetooth connection is unreliable and prone to glitches, and the on-device buttons are inaccurate and easy to press accidentally.
If you are looking for a true AirPods competitor, these earbuds surely aren’t it. But they actually compare favorably to many other budget true wireless earbuds, such as JLab, Heyday, and iLive.
For <$20, Onn wireless earbuds are a solid purchase for children or teenagers that want a first set of wireless earbuds, as well as adults that aren’t sure whether they want to spend good money on a set of earbuds. Just know that there will likely be some frustration caused by unreliable bluetooth and challenging controls.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Onn brand wireless earbuds good?
Considering the price tag (<$20), Onn wireless earbuds are shockingly good. Sound quality is better than budget competitors like iLive or JLab, and build quality is solid and compact. However, these earbuds have unreliable bluetooth connection and cannot compete with premium earbuds.
How do you pair Onn wireless earbuds?
Pairing Onn wireless earbuds is simple. Remove the earbuds from the charging case, and they will be in pairing mode immediately. Then you just need to use your phone or other device to pair to the Onn earbuds.
Do Onn earbuds have a mic?
Onn earbuds have a mic which can be used for phone calls or voice assistants. The microphone functions fairly well when there is minimal background noise. Like most inexpensive built-in microphones, the mic struggles when there is background noise.
How do you charge Onn earbuds?
Place the earbuds into the charging case and the earbuds will charge. To charge the charging case, connect it to a power source via a USB-C cable. A 10″ USB-C cable comes included with Onn wireless earbuds.
Is Onn a good brand headphone?
Among budget headphone brands, Onn performs pretty well. We would rate them a notch (or two) better than iLive and other ultra-budget brands, and roughly on-par with Heyday and JLab. Onn headphones don’t test quite as well as some other budget-friendly brands like Skullcandy.
Are Onn wireless earbuds waterproof?
The Onn wireless earbuds we tested (Onn True Wireless Earbuds) are IPX4, meaning they are splashproof but cannot be fully immersed in water. So, they are water-resistant but not actually waterproof. Other Onn wireless earbuds are IPX5, which is even more water-resistant. However, the charging cases are not waterproof rated to any degree.