While over-the-ear headphones offer a great listening experience, many times, the compactness of in-ear earbuds cannot be overstated. These days, earbuds offer a great listening experience and come in both wired and wireless versions. The sound quality is also fast approaching that of conventional headphones.
Each person has a personal listening preference and with the current offerings available in the market, it is a challenging task to select some of the best-performing ones. Do remember that earbuds offer comparatively lesser bass response than headphones so keep your expectations tempered when it comes to low-frequency response. Many also don't offer active noise cancellation as the earbuds enter straight into your ear canal thereby blocking external noise passively. Some earbuds offer detachable cables, which can be useful if you switch amongst sources offering different kinds of audio outputs. Another important factor is that some earbuds offer in-line audio controls tailored to Apple devices so they may or may not work well with Android phones or tablets.
With that information, we set out to pick the best earbuds from the sea of options available online. So, here are the 12 best earbuds available in the market today that offer the best aural experience.
1. Etymotic ER4XR
- Features: High-performance armature drivers; Anodized aluminum body; Detachable cable; Extended frequency response
- Connection: Stereo 3.5 mm
- Wireless: No wireless connectivity
- Noise Cancellation: Passive
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 0.4 x 1.2 x 0.4 in
The Etymotic ER4XR is one of the best noise-canceling earbuds in the market today. The ER4XR offers great audio quality for music lovers and audio enthusiasts and is tailored for best performance in the mid and high frequencies. That is not to say that the lows are bad, though. The ER4XR is precision-matched within and has special filters that prevent earwax from entering the earbuds. The filters are user-replaceable and must be done so whenever the output appears to be very low. The cables are braided and can be replaced if needed. The ER4XR can isolate up to 42 dB of noise and can output a maximum of 122 dB.
The Etymotic ER4XR is not cheap but offers accurate sound for the money. The bass response might seem a bit low but it is the hi-fidelity response that makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd.
- Pros: Great for excellent response in the mids and highs
- Cons: None as such
2. Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless
The Bose QuietControl 30 offers both wired and wireless modes and offers excellent noise cancellation. You can pair the QC 30 to your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth or NFC and the built-in Li-Ion battery offers up to 10 hours of wireless music playback. Like most Bose products, the QC 30 also offers the Bose Connect app to control various aspects of the playback experience.
The Bose QC 30 is very comfortable to wear and the degree of noise cancellation can be adjusted from the headphone cable itself. The build quality, however, is apparently not very good and the plastic parts on earbuds' neck tend to break, especially during heavy use such as during workouts. Also, users have reported that the person on the other end isn't able to hear the calls clearly as the mic tends to pick up a lot of background noise.
- Pros: Adjustable noise cancellation; Good sound reproduction across frequencies
- Cons: Poor build quality; Mic tends to pick up a lot of background noise during calls
3. 1More Triple Driver
- Features: Balanced armatures; Great bass response; comfortable; Independent ground wires for minimal cross-talk; Intelligent Control
- Connection: Stereo 3.5 mm
- Wireless: No wireless connectivity
- Noise Cancellation: Supported
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 1 x 1 x 1 in
The 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones are the first earbuds to get THX certification, which means that you get studio-grade audio and accurate sound reproduction. Unpacking the 1More is a delight in itself thanks to the faux leather gift packaging that houses all the required accessories. The three drivers help ensure all three frequency ranges are well represented. The 1More is very ergonomic for long-term use and the in-line controls help in easily adjusting volume, taking calls, or skipping tracks. A MEMS microphone helps to eliminate background static and cross-talk so that conversations sound natural even in loud environments.
1More's value proposition makes these the best earbuds under $100. Generally, you won't be able to perceive any difference in audio quality between the $100 to $200 mark and the only tangible benefits seem to appear once you cross the $250 threshold. This makes the 1More earbuds a good entry point for those looking to dabble with pro-quality audio for the first time.
- Pros: Excellent audio quality; Good quality mic
- Cons: None as such
4. Jabra Elite 65t Wireless
The Jabra Elite 65t is one the best Alexa-enabled earbuds under $200. The Jabra offers exceptional clarity in voice calls and music and is IP55 rated for dust and water protection. Jabra offers a Sound+ app that offers a customizable equalizer to tune the earbuds according to your listening tastes. If you call often with earbuds, you'll be glad to know that the Elite 65t offers wind noise protection so that the person on the other end of the call can hear you clearly even when you're driving. The Elite 65t offers up to 5 hours of battery life and an additional 10 hours with the included charging case. You also get one-touch access to voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant.
The Elite 65t offers great sound quality but the bass is a bit lacking. It's there but it will not please bass-heads. You can listen to the sound in mono but currently, you can only configure the right earbud in solo mode. Users have also reported of static in the left earbud so you might have to try them first and see if they suit your sound tastes.
- Pros: Good sound quality; Sound+ app
- Cons: Solo mode works only in right earbud; Static noise is sometimes perceived in the left earbud
5. Pioneer Rayz Plus
The Pioneer Rayz Plus is probably one of the best earbuds for the iPhone as it uses the native Lightning connector on the iPhone instead of having to use an adapter for the same. This means you can charge your iPhone and listen to music or take calls using the Rayz Plus simultaneously. The Rayz Plus also features adaptive noise cancellation that can isolate background noise depending on the environment. The Rayz Plus is specially designed for conference calls and it can automatically mute you when you are not speaking and unmute when you are speaking again. It also offers hands-free 'Hey Siri' voice commands to control your iPhone without having to physically reach for it.
The audio quality from the Rayz Plus is definitely good with good bass and clear mids and highs. Pioneer also offers frequent firmware updates that enhance the overall output quality. However, there are some bugs when it comes to the auto-mute and auto-stop features, which will hopefully be resolved in future software updates.
- Pros: Great for use with the iPhone; Useful features for conference calls
- Cons: Bugs with auto-mute and auto-stop features
6. Jaybird X4 Sport
The Jaybird X4 is one of the best earbuds for workouts as it sports a sweat and dustproof IPX7 certification. You get 8 hours of playback time on a single charge and for those sessions that require some extra juice, you can top up the X4 in just under 10 minutes for an hour of wireless playback. The X4 can be worn over the outer ears or inside them and Jaybird offers a convenient set of silicone and Comply Foam tips to suit your ear size. You also get a shirt clip and a speed cinch that go great with sporting wear.
The Jaybird X4 offers a custom EQ app that allows you to change the different aspects of the sound and save the profile directly to the earbuds. The cable offers integrated music and calls controls that are just a touch away. Sound quality is greatly improved from the X3 but some users have reported that the X4 does not hold the charge well and suffers from constant battery drain. Also, it requires some of the amounts of time to be spent with the accessories to find the right fit for your ear.
- Pros: Good audio quality; Built for workouts
- Cons: Charge does not retain for long; Getting the right fit takes time
7. AudioFly AF180
The AudioFly AF180 seems outright expensive at first but these earbuds are the best when it comes to using them as in-ear monitors for studio-grade music production. The AF180 has a quartet of armature drivers that deliver great sound irrespective of whether you are recording in a studio or giving a live performance on stage. You get an assortment of accessories in a neat storage box that includes Comply Foam ear tips, an additional 0.25 in headphone jack adaptor, an airline adaptor, a shirt clip, and a cleaning tool. The frequency response is excellent and can rival some of the advanced over-the-ear headphones in the market.
The AudioFly AF180 is designed by musicians for musicians and it offers excellent audio reproduction even at loud volumes without distortion. The bass is just in the right amount and the mids and highs are truly well detailed. If you only listen to lossless audio and have the money to spare, these are the best earbuds to get.
- Pros: Studio-grade sound quality; Good number of accessories
- Cons: Expensive
8. Sennheiser HD1
The HD1 is the latest offering from Sennheiser that offers excellent audio quality for the price and makes for a great set of entry-level but good sounding earbuds. The HD1 uses a low resonance stainless steel chamber for detailed and accurate sound and the high-quality transducers produce distortion-free audio even at high volumes. Sennheiser offers both Apple and Android versions of the HD1 that offer in-line controls for controlling music tracks and taking calls.
While the sound quality of the HD1 is excellent, it does take some time to break-in. So, allow for at least 8 hours of use before deciding on the output. The HD1 does suffer from a few build quality issues such as wire tearing.
- Pros: Good entry-level performance
- Cons: Takes time to break-in; Build quality issues
9. Klipsch Reference X6i
- Features: Thin design; Die-cast zinc and co-molded elastomer housing; Three-button remote and mic; KG-723 full-range balanced armature
- Connection: Stereo 3.5 mm
- Wireless: No wireless functionality
- Noise Cancellation: Passive
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 3.4 x 6.5 x 2.4 in
The Klipsch Reference X6i offers something not many earbuds do — a true studio-quality audio signature on the move. The main differentiating factor of the X6i is Klipsch's oval-shaped ear tips that fit perfectly in the ear for very good comfort and better noise isolation. The X6i offers a flat frequency response — something that audiophiles love as it allows them to tune the sound signature to their liking. The X6i uses a custom Klipsch KG-723 balanced armature that delivers excellent clarity for both vocals and upper frequencies. Unlike many other earbuds in the market, the Klipsch Reference X6i use die-cast zinc and co-molded elastomer casing that is optimally weighted to fit snugly in the ear. The smooth finish of the elastomer makes it comfortable to wear the earbuds for extended periods of time.
The X6i uses a new cable type that offers less signal loss and is also tangle-resistant. The in-line mic and remote control are compatible with iOS and Android devices although, iOS users stand to benefit here with full functionality. Microphone quality is excellent with adequate clarity. The sound stage of the Klipsch Reference X6i is balanced so bass heads will find something lacking. It is not necessarily a negative thing, however and, in fact, helps in picking up a lot of instrumentation detail, which would otherwise be lost. The earbuds are tuned so well that in most cases, you wouldn't be needing a DAC to get the best out of them making them one of the best earbuds in this price.
- Pros: Flat frequency response; Balanced sound; Extremely comfortable
- Cons: None as such
10. Bose SoundTrue Ultra
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra is one of the best sounding earbuds that offer an excellent bass response. The sound output is also very high, which helps bring out the nuances of the performance. Bose offers special StayHear Ultra tips that offer a good grip and are comfortable to wear. The sealed design helps in isolating external noise so that you can hear your music without distractions. The SoundTrue Ultra is actually designed with Apple devices in mind and the in-line controls work great with select iPhone models.
While the Bose SoundTrue Ultra offers good audio quality, we feel that it is not a very durable build. The material of the wire has been a cause of concern for some users and the wire noise is also clearly audible in the earbuds during movement. Even the included case feels somewhat small for the size of the earbuds.
- Pros: Good sound quality and grip; Works well with Apple devices
- Cons: Build quality not up to the mark; Wire noise can be heard in the earbuds
11. OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 works with any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, but OnePlus phone owners get to have effortless pairing and Auto Play function. The Bullets Wireless 2 can be joined magnetically to automatically turn them off; simply pull them apart to turn them on again. If you are a OnePlus phone user (OnePlus 5 and above), you can resume your last played track simply by pairing the Bullets. The Bullets Wireless 2 offers excellent audio clarity for music and voice calls. The sound signature is balanced with good reproduction of mids and highs. The lows are not really well pronounced, but you should be able to get decent bass by adjusting the EQ settings. The earbuds themselves do not come with any additional software so there's no need to update any firmware.
OnePlus also provides a decent rubber case and two pairs of ear tip sizes so that you can choose the one that fits your ears best. The Bullets Wireless 2 also offers a long battery life. Simply charge the earbuds for 10 minutes to get about 14 hours of music playback time. The earbuds also offer in-line controls for music playback as well for invoking Siri or Google Assistant. Overall, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 is one of the best earbuds close to $100 with very few deficiencies.
- Pros: Magnetic control is very intuitive; Comfortable to wear for long periods; Fast charging
- Cons: Not really good at low frequencies; the Auto Play function requires OnePlus 5 or above smartphone.
12. Sony MDR-XB510AS/B
In-ear earbuds normally do not have a good low-frequency response, but the Sony MDR-XB510AS/B is an exception. Made with bass heads in mind, the MDR-XB510AS offers punchy bass thanks to a dedicated bass booster. The MDR-XB510AS is also water and sweat resistant making it a perfect choice for those intense workout sessions. You can even wash it in the sink if you want to! The earbuds come with a variety of ear tip sizes and arc supports to hold them securely in place so you can focus on your workouts instead of having to worry about the headphones falling off. The earbud also comes with an in-line remote and microphone that lets you make voice calls and control playback without having to pull out your smartphone. However, you cannot adjust the volume on these earbuds.
The deep bass can sometimes dull the music, especially if you are concerned about the mids and highs. You will have to use an equalizer to get the audio balance right. That being said, the overall sound stage is good and these are good for both music as well as for movies. The construction is also quite rugged so you need not worry about them giving up any time soon. If you listen to tracks with heavy bass and require something that is great for workouts and outdoor activities, the Sony MDR-XB510AS/B is the best earbud option in the market.
- Pros: Deep, punchy bass; Arc tips for stability
- Cons: Treble feels a bit weak; No volume control in the in-line remote
Dear readers, those were our picks for the best earbuds you can buy today. While both wired and wireless options work well, we'd recommend that you evaluate your needs and purchase one. If you are a sound purist, then wired earbuds would be more ideal. Also, remember that due to the small size, earbuds seldom offer a subwoofer-like bass response and tend to concentrate more on the mids and highs.
We hope that you found this article helpful in addressing your needs of picking up a good earbud for your daily commute, workout, or even unwinding with your favorite tracks. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or recommendations.