In-ears or earbuds can be much more portable than bulky over-ears and help passively block out background noise for those on the go. They can be great at the gym and are easy to toss into your pocket when you get off the bus or arrive at the office. While earbuds technically rest at the edge of the ear canal and in-ears have barrel-shaped tips inserted deep into the ear, people often use the two terms 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 290 pairs of earbuds and in-ear headphones. Below are our recommendations for the best in-ears and earbuds to purchase. Check out our picks for the best truly wireless earbuds, the best wireless earbuds and in-ears, and the best sounding wireless earbuds.
The best earbuds we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. If you want the absolute best, these buds are worthwhile. They're the next iteration of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless and have an incredible noise cancelling (ANC) system that outperforms their competitors. They easily block out sound across the range, from the low rumble of bus engines to ambient chatter to the hum of computer fans. With this go around, Bose has re-assessed their design, making them less bulky and more comfortable than their predecessor. That means you can wear them for long periods without fatigue, and they look more refined.
The shape of our test rig's ear canals affects the buds' bass delivery, and as a result, they sound more bass-heavy than our graph shows. They're well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop, but subjectively, the extra bass muddies vocals and instruments. Thanks to their companion app support, you can tweak their sound to suit your tastes via the graphic EQ and presets. They have 6.7 hours of continuous battery life, and their carrying case supplies three additional charges. That said, they don't have multi-device pairing, which is disappointing if you want to stay connected to two devices simultaneously.
If you still want a premium design but don't want to pay top dollar, try the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless. Like their predecessor, the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, they've got a few features you won't find anywhere else on this list, like an H2 chip for seamless pairing with devices in your Apple ecosystem and Spatial Audio for a more immersive audio experience. While their ANC isn't on par with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless, they still do an excellent job of tackling hard-to-block noise like rumbly plane engines, as well as ambient chatter. With their ANC on, they last just under six hours continuously, though their case holds four extra charges if you need it.
Overall, they're well-built and have a comfortable fit for long listening sessions. Their design can wiggle out of your ears over time, which is annoying. They have a warm sound profile, making vocals and instruments seem cozy; this means they're well-suited for most kinds of content. However, they lack built-in EQ or presets to help you tweak their sound, so if this matters, check out the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 instead. They offer similar levels of noise isolation and sound customization features via their companion app. However, they aren't as comfortable.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless are the best in-ear headphones at the mid-range level we've tested. Despite the smaller price tag, these earbuds still have plenty of useful extra features. They support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected with your phone and computer simultaneously, and they have an ANC feature that does an excellent job of blocking out noise. Google Pixel users can also take advantage of the Spatial Audio feature meant to help create a more immersive soundstage.
The earbuds have a solid continuous battery life of around seven hours and come with a case with two extra charges. Their slightly v-shaped sound profile emphasizes the thump and rumble of low bass, while instruments and lead vocals sound clear and bright. However, they can pop out of your ears over time. This can be annoying and affect their bass delivery if you can't achieve a consistent fit. The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless are another good mid-range option. They're more comfortable for most people and not as prone to slipping out of place, but their ANC doesn't block bass-range noise like rumbling engines as effectively.
Consider the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless if you want a more affordable option. These earbuds do sacrifice some higher-end features, like virtual surround sound. Out of the box, they also have a less neutral sound profile than the Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless. Still, thanks to their adaptive ANC feature, they have a fantastic noise cancelling performance, which can help block out noise like rumbling engines and background conversations. They support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected with your phone and computer simultaneously. They have a solid eight hours of continuous battery life and come with a case with four additional charges.
By default, they have a warm sound profile that works well for genres like rock and jazz but mixes lack low-bass, and voices and instruments are missing some detail. Still, you can use a graphic EQ and presets in the companion app to adjust the sound to your taste. The earbuds support LDAC, Sony's codec for Hi-Res audio. You can also use 'Game Mode' for lower latency, especially with Android devices, which can help when you watch videos or play mobile games. They have a comfortable fit and a sturdy design. However, their integrated mic struggles to record your voice clearly, so they aren't well-suited even for occasional phone calls.
The best budget earbuds we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless. These earbuds don't have ANC and don't have a companion app, but they have something special to set them apart. Their battery lasts about seven hours of continuous use, which is pretty good, and their case holds 12.5 additional charges, giving them an outstanding total battery life of nearly 100 hours. That's a nice perk if you use your earbuds for extended trips or tend to forget to charge your earbuds' case.
Otherwise, they have a no-frills design. Their bass-rich sound profile adds rumble and punch to your audio while instruments and voices are present and quite clear. Unlike the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless, they don't include a graphic EQ for sound customization. Since they also lack noise cancelling, they don't do much to block out bass-range sounds like rumbling engines, but they passively isolate you from a good amount of higher-pitched sounds like ambient chit-chat and computer fans.
If you want the least expensive buds that still offer good value, the best cheap buds we've tested are the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless. These earbuds don't have extra features like ANC and don't share the previous pick's extremely long total battery life. Still, they have a decently comfortable fit, a good build quality, and a well-balanced default sound profile with some extra bass. They don't have a companion app, but the bud's onboard controls let you scroll through a few EQ presets for sound customization.
The buds last about nine hours of continuous use off a single charge, meaning they can last through a whole workday or a long flight. Their case holds around three extra charges and has a built-in charging cable, which is one less thing to forget at home, but it does mean you need to replace the earbuds if the cable gets damaged. Since they don't have ANC, they aren't ideal for blocking bass-range noise like rumbling engines, but they will reduce distractions like background chit-chat at work.
If you're looking for wired in-ears with high sound quality, the MOONDROP Aria are the best in-ear monitors (IEMs) we've tested. They aren't customizable in the same way as the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless, and they lack features like ANC and even a mic, although you can purchase an audio cable with an in-line mic separately. However, their reasonably neutral sound profile makes them well-suited for different audio content, making them a solid choice if you care about sound quality. There's a touch of extra high-bass to add warmth to mixes, while vocals and lead instruments sound clear and present. Even though they have a metal chassis, which can feel a bit heavy compared to other picks on this list, they come with a more durable hard case to help protect them when you're on the go.
These comfortable headphones have a detachable audio cable design which helps eliminate audio lag. Unfortunately, while they have a good build quality out of the box, users have reported several issues with their design. It includes the audio cable's nylon wrap fraying and curling, loose connectors, and paint chipping off the buds.
May 18, 2023: Validated the article's picks and made minor edits to the text.
Mar 29, 2023: Revised the text for clarity and made sure that the products are relevant and in stock.
Feb 22, 2023: Updated text and checked that the picks represent the best recommendations.
Jan 24, 2023: We've added the Jaybird Vista 2 Truly Wireless to Notable Mentions. We've also made minor revisions to the text to ensure its accuracy and quality.
Dec 14, 2022: We've revamped this article with more current picks. We've added the following: the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless, Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless, Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless, and Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless. We've removed the following picks and cleared Notable Mentions of any picks that are out of date: the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless, the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, the Anker Soundcore Life P3 Truly Wireless.
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.