You typically can’t expect much from sub-$50 Bluetooth earphones. Ideally you’ll get good performance for the price, but a generous set of accessories and connection options on top of that is almost unheard of. That’s what makes Back Bay Audio’s American EQ 40 earphones so impressive. They sound quite good for $37.99, and include cables that let you use them with a 3.5mm headphone jack or a USB-C port, plus a wide collection of ear tips, fins, and shirt clips. There are some minor audio quality issues, but not enough to overshadow the sheer value here and prevent the earphones from earning our Editors’ Choice.
The American EQ 40 earphones look like your standard pair of wireless earbuds, with black earpieces connected by a nearly two-foot-long flat black cable. The back of each earpiece is flat and magnetized, letting the two earpieces snap gently together when not in use for convenient storage (a nice touch you don’t often find on inexpensive earphones). A three-button inline remote and microphone sits a few inches down from the right earpiece, with easy-to-find controls that include volume up/down and a combination play/pause button.
Halfway down the cable between the earpieces sits a smaller inline box that holds the micro USB port for charging and for using the earphones with wired devices. Besides the standard micro USB cable for power, the earphones come with a micro USB-to-3.5mm cable for phones with headphone jacks, and a micro USB-to-USB-C cable for phones without headphone jacks but with USB-C ports that can use headphones. No Lightning cable is included, so iPhone users are limited to Bluetooth (unless you’re using an old iPhone with a headphone jack).
In addition to the various cables, the earphones come with three sets of black, closed silicone ear tips and three pairs of yellow, open silicone tips that let in more ambient noise. You can use small, medium, or large versions of the three different types of ear tips with or without any of the three differently sized ear fins, to find the most secure and unobtrusive fit. You also get two black plastic collar clips and a rubber cable cinch. All of these accessories, along with the earphones themselves, fit snugly in a small, simple fabric drawstring bag.
The earphones have an IPX5 rating, which makes them fairly resilient against sweat and rain, though you can’t submerge them. This rating presumably doesn’t extend to the different cables, so you’ll want to stick to Bluetooth when listening at the gym.
The earphones played music from my Google Pixel 3a XL through both the USB-C port and headphone jack, though both wired signals sounded weaker than the Bluetooth audio, with a lower maximum volume. You’ll probably want to use the Bluetooth connection the majority of the time (the earphones are rated to last up to 6.5 hours), but the wired options are still welcome if you run out of battery.
Don’t expect too much power or a very wide frequency response from the American EQ 40. The earphones offer a handful of EQ presets you can switch between by double-pressing the middle button, but no identifying sound is given to let you know which preset you’re using. We noticed little difference between the presets, and none offer much bass power. We also noticed a small amount of Bluetooth artifacts when playing music wirelessly, though not enough to qualify as a deal breaker.
The bass synth notes and kick drum hits in our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” don’t reach particularly deep into the low-end, with fairly little thumping presence. To their credit, though, the earphones don’t distort at all on this track, even at maximum volume.
Considering their price, the earphones perform surprisingly well when they don’t need to push out a ton of bass. The opening acoustic guitar plucks in Yes’ “Roundabout” get an appreciable amount of string texture, demonstrating some high-frequency finesse we don’t often hear in budget-friendly earphones. It isn’t the most pristine or detailed sound, but it’s excellent for the price range; sometimes the string texture is lacking on earphones that cost over twice as much. When the track really kicks in, the electric bass maintains some presence without sounding particularly punchy, and the guitar strums, drums, and vocals all come through very clearly in the busy mix. It’s a balanced sound that doesn’t attempt to hit the low frequencies very hard.
The driving backbeat in The Crystal Method’s “Born Too Slow” sounds a bit punchier, and appropriately lends the track a good sense of energy. The guitar riffs and shrill vocals both get plenty of presence, but the kick drum hits receive enough attention to produce an exciting, balanced sound.
Flexibility on a Budget
The Back Bay Audio American EQ 40 are some of the best wireless earphones we’ve tested for under $40. They sound clean and balanced despite not offering substantial bass power, and they come with a startling number of genuinely useful accessories, earning our Editors’ Choice for budget-friendly earphones.
If you want to go the true wireless route but still don’t want to spend much money, the $50 EarFun Free is the most affordable pair we recommend, while the slightly more expensive Anker Soundcore Liberty Air earphones are some of the best you can get for under $100.
Back Bay Audio American EQ 40
The Bottom Line
The affordable Back Bay Audio American EQ 40 earphones come with loads of accessories and connection options, and offer solid, balanced audio performance.
Back Bay Audio American EQ 40 Specs
|Connection Type||Bluetooth, USB-C, Stereo 3.5mm|
|Active Noise Cancellation||No|