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 180 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 best wireless earbuds that we've tested are the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless. These sleek, premium-looking earbuds have a decently versatile overall performance that can please many different listeners. They have a comfortable and stable in-ear fit, and their over 13-hour continuous battery life is impressive compared to other truly wireless earbuds.
These headphones have a very neutral and well-balanced default sound profile, making them suitable for listening to a wide variety of music genres and audio content. You can even customize their sound using the EQ presets available in their dedicated companion app. They don't leak a lot of noise, either, so you can blast your tunes at a loud volume without bothering the people around you.
Unfortunately, their touch-sensitive control scheme isn't the best, as it makes it easy to accidentally press a button and difficult to use the controls while wearing gloves. These earbuds also don't support multi-device pairing, which may be annoying if you frequently switch your audio source between your laptop and your phone. That said, they're a solid choice, and they rank among the best truly wireless earbuds we've tested.
Looking for a pair of earbuds to wear during your workout? Consider the Jaybird Tarah Pro Wireless instead. While they aren't as comfortable as the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless, these sports-oriented headphones have a very stable in-ear fit and an IPX7 rating for sweat and water resistance, though we don't test for this. Their default sound profile is quite neutral, but with a little extra boom in the bass range to keep you motivated during your workout, and there's even a parametric EQ and presets available to help you customize their sound. Their in-line remote makes it easy to access the controls while you're on the go, too. With an over 13-hour continuous battery life, they can last through your longest runs.
If you're looking for a more comfortable, versatile pair of earbuds, check out the Samsung, but if you want earbuds to bring to the gym, consider the Jaybird instead.
The best wireless earbuds for noise cancelling that we've tested are the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless. These well-built, comfortable earbuds are an upgrade over the Apple AirPods model thanks to their longer 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.
On the downside, these earbuds 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 being 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 instead. 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 wired earbuds that we've tested are the 1More Triple Driver. These lightweight headphones have a high-end and durable feel. They even come with nine different sizes of earbud tips to help you find a comfortable and stable fit, so you can even use them while running or exercising.
Overall, their sound profile is well-balanced and versatile for a variety of music genres. Though the deep and extended bass may sound boomy to some users, it also makes them ideal for listening to bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop. Their leakage performance is also excellent, so you can listen to your favorite music without disturbing the people around you.
On the downside, there's no ANC feature, and they don't passively isolate background noise as well as some of the others we've tested, so they may not be ideal to use during your commute. They also don't come with an app or sound customization features. Overall, these earbuds have a balanced sound that makes them versatile for a variety of uses.
The best earbuds under $100 that we've tested are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Truly Wireless. These well-built, comfortable headphones come with five different sizes of tips to help you find a more stable fit. They can last for over six hours off of one charge, and their portable case provides an additional three charges, which is great for when you're on the go.
They have a well-balanced sound profile with a bit of extra kick in the bass that helps round out the deep thump and rumble in certain genres. Want to adjust the sound profile to match what you're listening to? Using the dedicated companion app, you can choose from 20 different EQ presets or customize the sound with an 8-band graphic EQ. There's even a HearID feature, which examines your hearing to create a personalized EQ just for you.
Unfortunately, their microphone performance is mediocre, and the person on the other end of the line may have a tough time hearing you if you're in a moderately loud environment like a busy street. There's also no multi-device pairing, which may be disappointing if you frequently switch between your Bluetooth sources. That being said, they have a decent overall performance that places them among the best wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far.
The best cheap earbuds that we've tested are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These Bluetooth in-ears are comfortable and have a stable in-ear fit thanks to their ear-hook design. Their build quality is decent, though the cable connecting the two earbuds is quite thin. With such a good price-to-performance ratio, they rank among the best headphones we've tested so far.
With a slightly bass-heavy sound profile, these in-ears do a good job reproducing the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy music genres. Overall, their sound is still versatile enough for most music genres. They also can last for over 18 hours from a single charge, which is among the longest battery life we've ever tested for Bluetooth in-ear headphones. They even have an IPX7 rating for water resistance, although we don't currently have a test to measure this feature.
On the downside, they don't support multi-device pairing, which may be disappointing if you frequently switch between Bluetooth sources. Also, their microphone's mediocre noise handling performance may make it difficult for the person on the other end of your phone call to hear you if you're in a noisy environment. However, compared to other headphones in this price range, these earbuds offer a decently versatile performance that should please most listeners.
10/02/2020: Replaced the B&O PLAY E8 3.0 with the FIIL T1X True Wireless as a notable mention.
09/04/2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy; no change in recommendations.
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.
02/10/2020: Swapped Jaybird Vista and Jabra Elite 75t for Apple AirPods Pro and Bose SoundSport Free. Removed "Best Noise Cancelling" category, as well as TIN Audio T2 and JBL Reflect Mini 2. Changed Anker SoundBuds Curve for the Upgraded 2019 model.
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 headphone reviews. 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.