- Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
- Retest after major updates
- Easily comparable results
- No ads; unbiased reviews
From cheap earbuds to the top of the line, in-ear headphones offer a lot of options for all situations, whether you want to use them at the gym, at the office or during your commutes. They are ultra-portable and very convenient thanks to their small size and weight. While earbuds rest at the edge canal, in-ear headphones have special tips that are inserted into the ear canal (see our article to learn more about the differences).
So far, we've tested 47 earbuds and in-ears and below are our recommendations for the best ones to purchase in 2018.
Best Earbuds: Bose QuietControl 30
The best earbuds we've tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. They're versatile and decently portable noise canceling earbuds with a stable fit. If you usually find in-ears like the Jaybird X3 or the BeatsX a bit uncomfortable, then get the QC 30s, they're a more comfortable alternative with a good wireless design and a long battery life.
They isolate as well as the Bose over-ears in loud environments and barely leak, which makes them a great choice for commuting, traveling and to use at the office.
Unfortunately, their around-the-neck design will not be for everyone; in this case, consider either the Beoplay E8 or the Bose SoundSport Free. The SoundSport Free sound a bit better than the QC 30s, but their wireless connection is a lot less reliable and they do not isolate as well for commuting and aren't as versatile.
Truly Wireless Alternative: B&O PLAY E8
If you wan't a more portable earbud/in-ear headset that's versatile for commuting and casual use, get the Beoplay E8 instead. They have a premium truly wireless design with a stable in-ear fit that passively isolates better than the some of the noise canceling headphones we've tested.
They're compact enough to have on you at all times and they deliver an above-average sound, which you can customize to fit your taste and preferences through the Beoplay app. They're decently easy to use, but they can be a bit difficult to pair at times. On the upside, their build quality and overall design feel very high-end.
The Bose SoundSport Free are a better sounding alternative to the Beoplay E8 but they have fewer customization options, higher latency, and they do not isolate as well in loud environments.
Best Mid-Range Earbuds: Samsung Gear IconX
The best mid-range earbuds are the Samsung Gear IconX. They're compact truly wireless in-ears with a good design, strong passive isolation, and an above-average sound quality. They're also stable enough for sports and come with a great charging case that will easily fit into your pockets so you can have them on you at all times.
This makes them a versatile option for most use cases and they have a decent battery life to last you throughout the day. They also have a lot of features that make them a better option for running and working out than the Jaybird Run thanks to the Samsung Gear health tracking app. They are on par with the Beoplay E8 but do not feel as premium and have much higher latency.
If you watch a lot of videos with your headphones, then maybe consider the BeatsX or the Jaybird X3 instead. They won't be the best for video content but they have much lower latency and a more reliable wireless connection with greater range.
Better Sounding Alternative: Beats BeatsX
If you're looking for a better sounding alternative and passive isolation is enough to block the noise of your daily commute, then get the Beats BeatsX. They're significantly cheaper than the QC 30, and they're easier to fit into your pockets since their neckband design is a lot more flexible.
They're versatile enough for most situations and environments, but unfortunately, they don't have the customization options of the Jaybird X3. If you're an iOS user, then the extra features provided by the W1 chip, the greater range, faster charging and better sound quality make the BeatsX better than the Jaybirds. However, if you're an Android user, then the X3 or Freedom will be the better choice for their versatile and customizable app (also available on iOS).
Wired Alternative: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear
If you just want a simple, wired in-ear design and don't need all the active features of the other recommendations on this list, then the 1More Triple Driver should be your first choice.
They are one of the best sounding in-ear headphones we've tested. They're well-built, compact and easy to carry around your person. They have no active components, so you do not have to worry about battery life and being left without music as long as you have them on you. They also isolate well enough to be decent commuting headphones, and they're sufficiently stable that they won't fall if you run or exercise with them.
Unfortunately, since they are passive and wired, they may not be as versatile for all environments or as convenient since they are limited by the relatively short range of their audio cable.
Best Budget Earbuds: Samsung U Flex
The best budget earbuds we've tested are the Samsung U Flex. They're a bit more limited than the Level U Pro since their customization options are only available on Samsung devices. However, they have a much better build quality and a flexible neckband that makes them slightly more portable than the Level U Pro.
They have an above-average sound quality that you can personalize with the Level app, they're easy-to-use and isolate well enough passively to be a decent option for commuting. Unfortunately, they don't offer the same level of customization for iOS users, and they also feel a bit flimsy compared to some of the other around-the-neck designs on this list, like the Bose QC30 or the BeatsX.
Wired Alternative: MEE audio M6 PRO
If you're looking for a wired alternative, get the Mee Audio M6 Pro. Like the 1More Triple Driver, they offer a focused experienced with no active features but a good sound and a sturdy design. They come with two detachable cables, which is rare in this price range. This makes them a lot more durable than comparable in-ears like the 1More Piston Classic, Symphonized NRG 3.0 or the Sony MDR-XB50AP.
They're easy to have on you at all times, and the ear-hook design makes them stable enough to take to the gym. This makes them pretty versatile overall and a great budget recommendation.
- Bose SoundSport Wireless. Comfortable earbuds with a good wireless range. One of the best sounding earbuds but inconsistent durability and slightly bulky design. 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 SoundTrue Ultra In-ear. Decent sound and great passive isolation. These earbuds tend to sound a bit dark and they're a bit pricey for what they offer. See our review
- Bose SoundSport Free. Great sound and build quality. Stable for sports. Poor Bluetooth connection and high latency. See our review
- Westone W40. Well-built and durable in-ear headphones with a stable design. Mediocre sound quality especially for their price. See our review
- Apple AirPods. Versatile and well rounded wireless earbuds. Limited on Android. See our review
- Mpow Jaws. A good alternative the SoundPeats Q9A. Not as stable but more versatile with a slightly better sound. See our review
- 1More Piston Classic. A simple and well-built budget in-ear. Comfortable with a decent sound but mediocre isolation and their sound may not be ideal for more critical listeners. See our review
- Jaybird Run. Good overall performance, great for sports, and a decent alternative to the Gear IconX. Build quality is not as good and Bluetooth pairing and latency can be a bit frustrating. See our review
- Anker SoundBuds Curve. A good and affordable wireless sports headphone. Stable for sports but the average sound quality. See our review
- Fitbit Flyer. Good overall performance and a viable alternative to the BeatsX and Jaybird X3. But no customization options and slightly pricier than the competition. See our review
- Samsung Level U Pro. A customizable wireless in-ear with a decent sound. Not as well built as the U Flex but a good alternative. See our review
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).
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.