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Updated

Best Earbuds / In Ear Headphones - Spring 2017
Reviews

Earbuds and In-ear headphones are small and ultra-portable headphone designs. Earbuds rest at the edge of the ear canal and in-ear headphones have special tips that are inserted into the ear canal instead (check out our article about earbuds vs in-ear headphones). Below are our recommendations for the best Earbuds and In-Ear headphones we have tested so far.

Best Earbuds / In-Ear Headphones

Usage Ratings
7.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.9Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.7Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
8.1Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best earbuds are the Bose Quiet Comfort 30. They are versatile and portable noise canceling earbuds with a stable fit thanks to the StayHear+ tips. If you usually find in-ears a bit uncomfortable to wear, then the QC 30 are a good option with a good battery life. These earbuds isolate well in loud environments, which makes them a great choice for commuting, traveling, and to use at the office. 

See our review

Best Mid-Range Earbuds / In-Ear Headphones

Usage Ratings
7.7Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.0Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
8.1Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
8.0Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

If you don't like the around the neck design of the QC 30, then get the Jaybird X2. They're the best in ear headphones we've tested. They are significantly cheaper than the QC 30, have an above average sound and barely leak, even at high volumes. They also block as much ambient noise as some pricier active noise-canceling headphones so they’re a good choice if you're often in loud environments or plan to use them at the gym. 

See our review

Runner-Up

If you prefer earbuds over in-ears, then get the Bose SoundTrue ultra In-Ear. They are straightforward earbuds that are as comfortable as the QC 30 and a good alternative to the Jaybird X2. They’re easy to carry on your person, they don’t leak much and deliver an above average audio reproduction. They have an efficient control scheme provided you choose the right in-line remote for android or IOS.

See our review

Best Budget Earbuds / In-Ear Headphones

Usage Ratings
7.4Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.0Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.2Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.5Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.8Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

If you still want wireless headphones and don’t want to spend that much, then get the Samsung Level U Pro. These cheap in ear monitors have a good set of features, a reliable and fast wireless connection and a decent sound quality that you can personalize with the Level app on android devices. 

See our review

Runner-Up

If you need a cheap pair of wireless headphones to use at the gym and don't mind having a slightly bass-heavy sound, then get the Anker SoundBuds Sport. They're stable enough for most workouts, and they're easy to carry on you at all times thanks to their compact format. They also block a lot of noise passively so you can focus on your audio and not be distracted by all the ambient noise. 

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best earbud headphones and in-ear headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

A few examples of Earbuds/In-ear headphones that didn't make the cut:

  • Bose QuietComfort 20. The wired version of the QC30. Excellent isolation, and low leakage. However, they have a mediocre, bass-heavy sound that's not ideal for critical listening. See our review
  • Jaybird X3. Great overall performance with added customization options. Stable sports headphones but doesn't quite surpass the X2. See our review
  • Bose Soundsport In-Ear. Good sound and an open fit for joggers. Poor noise isolation not ideal in loud environments. See our review
  • Soundpeats Q9A. Stable, semi-open, wireless design similar to the Powerbeats 2. Mediocre-at-best sound is a deal breaker. See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for Earbuds/In-ear headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection.

 

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Questions & Answers

8 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
3
Great job overall guys. I check the tv section on a daily basis. One recommendation for the headphone section would be reviewing the Klipsch brand. I have used them for the last 10 years and they are top notch. Any plans on doing so?
We are familiar with the brand, and one of our staff actually owns one. We will add them to our list of suggestions, but it may take a while for us to publish a review since the list is growing on a daily basis!
3
Will you be reviewing Apple's earbuds? I currently use them and want to upgrade - but it would help to have them reviewed so I have a "baseline" to compare against.
Yes, we are planning on reviewing the EarPods in the coming months.
1
Love the website, thanks for all the great info, it helped me pick out the perfect tv for my parents. I actually wanted to suggest reviewing Etymotic earbuds. I had a pair that is now discontinued but they sounded amazing and the isolation is probably unparalleled (i could mow the lawn with them in). I cant vouch for their current lineup, but if they havent dropped the ball I think they would be well worth your time. Regards, Caleb
Thanks for your suggestion. We tend not to review discontinued products, but we will take a look at their new lineup.
0
Curious to know if you will be reviewing the new Samsung Gear IconX in-ear earbuds at a later date?
Thank you for your suggestion. We will add it to the list, however, we are currently testing a lot of headphones, and it may take some time until we review the Samsung Gear IconX.
0
They're being called AirPods.
The AirPods hadn't been announced yet when we posted that answer. We will review the AirPods when they come out too.
0
Awesome reviews guys. Can't write my expression. Would you guys please add soundmagic to you list of 'to be reviewed'. I owned couple of them for their decent stage. I find them good, in fact value of money. Again kudos n keep up the good work.
Thanks for your suggestion, Soundmagic is already on our list. :-)
0
Great site;critical to my TV purchase. Any intent to review 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones ? I'm on the endless search for quality running audio gear.
Thanks for your suggestion. We will add them to our to-do list, however, it may us take us a while to review them.
0
Any updates on the Apple AirPods now that they're publicly available?
Here it is.
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