If you use your headphones while on-the-go, in-ears or earbuds can be a lot more portable than bulky over-ears and help passively block out background noise. They can be great to use at the gym and are easy to toss into your pocket when you get off the bus or arrive at the office. While technically earbuds rest at the edge of the ear canal and in-ears have barrel-shaped tips that are inserted deeper into the ear, the two terms are often used interchangeably. In-ears tend to be more common, though some people find them uncomfortable and prefer the less intrusive fit of earbuds.
We've tested over 200 pairs of earbuds and in-ear headphones. Below are our recommendations for the best earbuds and best in-ear headphones to purchase. Make sure to check out our recommendations for the best truly wireless earbuds, the best wireless earbuds and in-ears, and the best sounding wireless earbuds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are the best earbuds with a wireless connection that we've tested. These well-built truly wireless in-ears have a sleek design and a comfortable, stable fit. They even come with a few different sizes of ear tips and stability fins so you can find the best possible fit.
Thanks to their neutral, balanced sound profile, these headphones are suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. You can even use the EQ presets in the Galaxy Wearable app to adjust their sound profile to your liking. Their 13.3-hour continuous battery life is impressive, and their portable charging case offers around one additional charge for when you're on-the-go.
Unfortunately, they have a touch-sensitive control scheme that makes it easy to accidentally press the wrong button. You may also find it difficult to use the controls if you're wearing gloves. However, their decently versatile performance should please many different listeners, and they rank among the best truly wireless earbuds we've tested.
If you're looking for a pair of wireless earbuds to wear to the gym, consider the Jaybird Tarah Pro instead. While they aren't as comfortable as the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless, these well-built in-ears have a sports-oriented design and in-line controls that make it easy to adjust the volume during your workout. Their default sound profile isn't as neutral as the Samsung, but the little extra boom in the bass range can help you stay motivated at the gym. The Jaybird MySound app offers a parametric EQ and presets so you can customize their sound to your liking. Their 13.3-hour continuous battery life should be more than enough to last through your longest days on-the-go, and they don't leak a lot of noise, either.
If you want a comfortable pair of truly wireless in-ears, consider the Samsung, but if you want a better-built pair of sports-oriented in-ears with easier-to-use controls, check out the Jaybird instead.
The best wireless earbuds for noise cancelling that we've tested are the Apple AirPods Pro. These well-built, comfortable earbuds are an upgrade over the Apple AirPods 2 Truly Wireless 2019 thanks to their long battery life, easier-to-use control scheme, and noise cancelling feature. Their ANC feature provides an excellent noise isolation performance, making them ideal to use while commuting or working from a noisy office.
Overall, their default sound profile is very neutral and well-balanced, so they're suitable for a wide variety of music genres and audio content. Also, they don't leak a lot of noise, so you can enjoy your favorite tunes without disturbing the people around you. Their stable in-ear fit makes them a great choice for the gym, too.
Unfortunately, they don't have a companion app or a lot of sound customization features. Like most truly wireless earbuds, their integrated microphone doesn't have the best performance, so they aren't the best choice for making phone calls. That said, they offer a very versatile performance that should please many listeners.
If you're shopping for noise cancelling earbuds on a budget, consider the Amazon Echo Buds. While they aren't as comfortable or as well-built as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, they offer an excellent noise isolation performance at a lower price. Their ANC feature can block out ambient noise like bus and plane engines, voices, and sharper sounds like AC units so that you can focus on your favorite music without distractions. They have a decently neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, and they also have a 3-band graphic EQ to help you adjust the sound to your liking. They're also very portable, and their charging case is ideal to use when you're on the go. Like the Apple headphones, their microphone performance isn't the best, but they're still a very versatile pair of earbuds overall.
If you want a more comfortable fit and a better-built pair of earbuds, go with the Apple, but if you're on a budget and don't mind the deep in-ear fit, go with the Amazon headphones instead.
The best earbuds with a wired connection that we've tested are the 1More Triple Driver. These portable wired headphones come with nine different sizes of earbud tips to help you find the most comfortable fit possible. Thanks to their wired connection, you don't have to worry about them running out of battery, and their low latency is suitable for watching videos.
They have a bass-heavy sound profile that adds an extra boom and punch to your audio without overwhelming vocals and lead instruments. They don't leak a lot of loud noises, so you can enjoy your favorite music at loud volumes without really bothering the people around you. Also, their in-line microphone has a good recording quality, so they're a fair choice for making phone calls.
Unfortunately, their in-ear fit may not be comfortable for everyone, and the cables are a bit thin. They also don't have an ANC feature, so they can't block out a lot of bass-heavy background noises like bus or plane engines. Fortunately, they can passively isolate against higher-frequency sounds typically found in an office, like chatter from nearby coworkers.
The Jabra Elite Active 65t Truly Wireless are the best earbuds under $100 that we've tested. These sports-oriented earbuds are well-built and very stable in your ear, so you can wear them during your workouts without having to worry about them falling out of your ear. Also, you can pair them with up to two devices at the same time, so you can easily switch your audio source between different devices like your phone and your laptop.
They have a pretty neutral sound profile out-of-the-box and fans of bass-heavy music genres can appreciate the added bass. However, if you prefer a different sound, you can easily customize these headphones using the graphic EQ and presets in their companion app. They also have a great noise isolation performance, so you can enjoy music without distraction even if you're working out in a crowded gym.
Unfortunately, while these headphones are reasonably comfortable, they can start to feel fatiguing in your ear after long listening sessions. Also, their 5.2-hour continuous battery life may not be ideal for long days on-the-go. That said, their portable charging case offers around two extra charges, so you can recharge them even if you aren't near an outlet.
The best cheap earbuds that we've tested are the Sony WI-C310 Wireless. They're decently comfortable and stable, and they should stay put in your ears during light runs and workouts. Thanks to their 17-hour continuous battery life, they should last through long days on-the-go without a recharge.
They have a fairly neutral sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different music genres, and the extra kick in the bass range can please fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM, too. They don't leak a lot of noise, either, and you can listen to music at loud volumes without really bothering those around you. They can also passively block out higher-frequency ambient noise, like the sounds of coworkers chatting around you at the office.
Unfortunately, these headphones struggle to isolate against bass-heavy background noises like bus and plane engines, so they may not be ideal to use during your commute. Also, like many headphones in this price range, they don't have the best build quality. That said, if you like earbuds with a neckband design, they're a decently versatile choice at a cheap price.
01/21/2021: Replaced the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019 with the Sony WI-C310 as 'Best Cheap Earbuds' due to changing availability. Replaced the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 with the Jabra Elite Active 65t as 'Best Under $100' due to their better-balanced sound profile, better noise isolation, and better build quality. Added the Creative Outlier Air V2, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2, and the SoundPeats TrueFree 2 to Notable Mentions.
12/16/2020: Minor updates to the text and updated Notable Mentions.
10/02/2020: Replaced the B&O PLAY E8 3.0 with the FIIL T1X True Wireless as a Notable Mention.
05/08/2020: Replaced B&O PLAY E8 2.0 for B&O PLAY E8 3.0 True Wireless in Notable Mentions.
04/10/2020: Added Amazon Echo Buds as 'Cheaper Alternative' to the AirPods Pro.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best in-ear headphones and earbuds to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for earbuds and in-ears. 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.