Earbuds. Earphones. In-ear headphones. Whatever you call them, they're undoubtably one of the most convenient ways to listen to your music, whether you opt for wired, wireless, or true wireless earbuds.
They used to have a reputation for sub-par audio quality, but today's best earphones, the most high quality earbuds, can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with even the greatest over-ear headphones.
How to choose the best earbuds for you
The best pairs of in-ear headphones need to be ultra-comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and must fit securely in your ear for decent noise isolation.
If you're looking for a pair of running headphones, your new buds should have an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they'll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain.
There are wired and wireless earbuds on this list, but newer models can be completely wire-free. Our current favorite true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 go one step further, combining truly wireless sound with high quality noise cancelation tech.
If you do opt for wireless or true wireless earbuds, make sure the battery life is up to scratch, otherwise you could find yourself caught short without any music in the middle of your commute.
Most importantly, they need to sound good. If you're a dedicated audiophile, look for buds that support Hi-Res Audio codecs like LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth for stellar connectivity.
What are the best in-ear headphones?
After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges.
It’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks. But, for their price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancellation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – it won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it.
That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: Not only are these hands down the best-looking true wireless headphones out there, but they combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive alternative.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. On-ear volume controls similar to the PowerBeats Pro would've been nice, but again, that's really not a deal-breaker in our books.
While truly wireless earbuds are undoubtedly the future of portable audio, they still present compromises in battery life and wireless reliability. Plus, they’re easy to lose if you’re not careful. Neckbuds, or earbuds that are worn around the neck, are a great alternative to true wireless earbuds as they offer longer battery life for continuous listening and stronger wireless performance.
That being said, if you're interested in picking up a pair, it's hard to do better than the RHA MA390 Wireless, which easily stands as one of the best neckbuds on the market. After spending several weeks with them, we came away impressed with the package RHA has come up with: The headphones are built extremely well, have a fun sound signature, can take a beating and still remain relatively affordable.
It’s main rival, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless (featured below), are also excellent, however the RHA MA390 offer more dynamic sound and better build quality.
Cambridge Audio is known for its high-end audio equipment, but until now, hasn’t ventured into the world of true wireless earbuds. Enter the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s: with an outstanding 45 hours of battery life, they combine the brand’s award-winning engineering with the convenience of truly wireless listening.
For a pair of true wireless earbuds, the sound quality offered by the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s is sensational. In fact, it rivals some of the best over-ear headphones, which is all but unheard of for buds of this size.
They may not have the noise cancelation technology offered by the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds, but they are cheaper – and have a superior battery life.
Good sound is subjective, yes, but there are things that we can all agree on that make a headphone sound good: Bass should be tight and impactful, highs detailed but not harsh, and mids that are smooth like honey.
Most headphone manufacturers shoot for these specs, but what if you want a little more bass or want to increase the energy of the highs? For most headphones, your only option is to mess with equalization. But RHA has a different idea.
The RHA T20i is an excellent sounding pair of in-ear headphones with a neat party trick: customizable filters. These filters thread into the headphone housings and let you choose from Bass, Treble, and Reference. Each filter makes an audible impact and are easy to swap out on the go.
As a package, the build quality, sound, and customizable filters make the RHA T20i a must-have for audiophiles on the go. In fact, they sound so good, they made us want to give up our wireless headphones.
The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations. While they're specifically designed for use in the gym and on the track, the BE Sport4 do an awesome job isolating audio in a crowded city environment and are even good enough for home listening.
The BE Sport4 earbuds have claimed 10-hour battery life, which we found to be pretty close to the mark in our time with them, and from empty you can get two hours of use from just a 15-minute charge – ideal for those needing a quick top-up while they put on their trainers and pack a gym kit.
Consider this a warning shot fellow audio manufacturers: build and audio quality do not need to be sacrificed in order to keep earbuds affordable.
OnePlus is most known for its “flagship killer” phones like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, but the company also makes headphones – the best example of which are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless 2, which offer an incredible value in the neck-bud headphone category.
In terms of audio quality, they boast a lively sonic presentation and an accurate-feeling soundstage, although bass-heads may want to look elsewhere for headphones that pack a bassier punch.
They're comfortable to wear too, but it's just a shame that they don't have a waterproof rating and the inline remote is so fiddly, because otherwise they could make a decent pair of running headphones.
They may be $30 more expensive than their predecessors, but the improved battery life and sound quality makes up for that; it also makes it worth upgrading if you have the originals and are due a new pair of wireless earbuds.
If you want a pair of high quality truly wireless earbuds that aren’t the Apple AirPods, then the Jabra Elite 65t should be at the top of your list.
After spending over a month with them, we came away impressed with the well-rounded package that Jabra managed to create: The earbuds offer a subtle, mature look and a reliable wireless connection, which isn’t always the case with truly wireless earbuds. Plus, they sound great compared to the competition.
While the Jabra Elite 65t are easily one of the highest scoring true wireless headphones we've reviewed, there are a few others on the market worth considering: If you want a pair of exercise earbuds, there’s the Jabra Elite Sport which has a higher water resistance and handy sports-oriented features. For audiophiles who don’t mind stretching the budget, the active noise cancelling Sony WF-1000X are an excellent choice. Bassheads will want to try the SOL Republic Amps Air.
If you only have the budget for one of these, though, go for the Elite 65t.
If the most important aspect of running earphones for you is the audio quality, these wireless earbuds from Sennheiser could be a fantastic choice.
With a lively, bass-heavy presentation, and a comfortable fit, the Sennheiser CX Sport wireless earphones can really bolster your running performance through sound quality alone.
They don't come with a heart rate monitor, but the inclusion of ear fins and sporty neon color scheme makes them ideal for casual workouts.
With a battery life of six hours, they're great for your average running session, or even your daily commute – but marathon runners will want to look elsewhere.
They're expensive, but the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones are worth every penny. 1MORE hit it out of the park with this flagship pair of in-ear headphones with its balanced sound build quality, smartphone compatibility and price. These in-ear headphones will make mobile audiophiles very happy.
The only reservation that we have is that the Quad Drivers face tough competition from 1MORE’s own cheaper Triple Driver sibling which costs half the price (which sit pretty at the number one spot on our list).
In terms of value, the 1MORE Triple Driver headphones are the winner but for those who want just a bit better build and more detailed sound, the 1MORE Quad Driver headphones are worth the extra money.
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