If you use your headphones while on-the-go, in-ears and 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 while 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.
So far, we've tested over 120 pairs of earbud and in-ear headphones. Below are our recommendations for the best earbuds and best in-ear headphones to purchase. See also our recommendations for the best truly wireless earbuds, the best wireless earbuds and in-ears, and the best sounding wireless earbuds.
The best earbuds with a wireless connection that we've tested to date are the Samsung Galaxy Buds+. These truly wireless in-ears have a lightweight but premium look and feel and are comfortable enough to wear all day thanks to their less obtrusive in-ear design. They last over 13 hours off a single charge, which is significantly longer than other similar options, and the longest we've ever tested on a pair of truly wireless headphones.
They have an incredibly well-balanced and accurate sound profile out-of-the-box and if you prefer your headphones sound a certain way, their companion app also gives you a choice of five presets, making them versatile enough for all genres and content from EDM to audiobooks. Their app also allows you to remap some of their touch-sensitive controls, including giving you the option for volume controls, which is handy.
Unfortunately, their case only gives you one additional charge, which is less than most other options, but it can easily be charged by tossing onto any Qi-enabled wireless charging pad, which is convenient. Some people may also find the touch-sensitive controls a bit finicky or difficult to press if you live in colder climates and often wear gloves. If you prefer physical buttons, you may want to check out the Jabra Elite Active 75t Truly Wireless, though they're a bit more expensive and aren't quite as comfortable. Overall, the Samsung are impressively versatile and feature-packed for their price and are the best truly wireless earbuds we've tested.
If you use your headphones primarily at the gym or during runs, get the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They aren't quite as comfortable as the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless, and they have a wire connecting the two earbuds, but their stability fins help to hold them in place, and they're rated IPX7 for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this. Their slightly bass-heavy default sound profile helps keep you pumped up at the gym and their app gives access to a parametric EQ for full control of how they sound. They feel very well-built, and their battery lasts the exact same length of time as the Samsung, though they don't have a charging case to keep them topped up on-the-go, and unfortunately, they use a proprietary charging cable.
If you're looking for a more portable and versatile pair of in-ear headphones, go with the Samsung. However, if you want something that feels more durable and is better designed for taking to the gym, get the Jaybird.
The best wireless noise cancelling earbuds we've tested so far are the Apple AirPods Pro. These truly wireless earbuds do an outstanding job of blocking out background noise, with an ANC system that effectively reduces everything from the rumble of bus engines and construction equipment to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit. They feel plenty well-built and should be comfortable enough to wear for extended periods thanks to their lightweight design and minimally-intrusive fit that only slightly enters the ear canal.
These earbuds deliver a very neutral sound profile, with remarkable accuracy across bass, mid, and treble ranges. They should provide a consistent, well-balanced audio reproduction, regardless of whether you listen to hip-hop or folk music. While their continuous battery life isn’t hugely impressive, at just over 5 hours with ANC activated, that isn’t a huge issue considering their case provides an additional five charges and can provide enough power for 3-4 hours of playback in under 30 minutes.
While they’re compatible with both iOS and Android devices, only the former gets the full suite of options, seeing as how their functions are controlled by a settings screen on Apple devices and not a dedicated app. In any case, they lack features like a graphic EQ or even audio presets, so they may not be the best choice if you like to personalize your listening experience. That said, they're very well-built earbuds that deliver excellent noise cancelling performance and a well-balanced sound profile.
If you want truly wireless in-ears with ANC but don't want to spend as much, get the Amazon Echo Buds. They aren't quite as comfortable as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, and they don't feel quite as well-made and premium, but they're significantly cheaper and their companion app gives access to a graphic EQ. While their ANC performs as well as the Apple overall, it doesn't work quite as well as blocking out engines or background speech. That being said, it still does a very good job and helps to keep you concentrated. Their out-of-the-box sound profile is fairly well-balanced, and their app includes a graphic EQ so you can fine-tune it. Their 5.3-hour battery life is the exact same as the Apple, and their case provides an additional five charges as well.
If you want more comfortable in-ears that do a better job at blocking out engine rumble and background chatter, get the Apple. However, if you want to save a good chunk of change and like customizing your sound profile, go with the Amazon.
The best wired earphones that we've tested so far are the 1More Triple Driver. These in-ears are decently well-built and extremely lightweight, making it a cinch to throw them into your pocket or a small bag. Thanks to the included assortment of nine different ear tips in silicone rubber and memory foam, it should be pretty easy to find a comfortable and stable fit.
Their sound profile is well-balanced overall, although it does feature a slightly overemphasized bass that might please fans of EDM and hip-hop at the expense of a bit of boominess in some tracks. Their in-line remote has a pretty easy-to-understand control scheme with raised physical buttons as well as a microphone that’s better than many Bluetooth contemporaries. They also don’t leak much audio, so you can feel free to blast your music at pretty high volumes without annoying coworkers or fellow commuters.
On the downside, they aren’t great at blocking background noise from interfering with your listening experience. They also lack a detachable audio cable, so if it gets damaged, the whole unit has to be replaced. Still, they're a good choice if you’re looking for a portable, decently high-quality listening experience without having to worry about Bluetooth connection or charging times.
The best earbuds under $100 that we've tested so far are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2. These truly wireless in-ears offer excellent value, with a customizable touch-based control scheme and a sturdy-feeling design that’s rated IPX5 for sweat and water resistance, although we don’t test for this.
Their sound profile is pretty bass-heavy, which should please fans of EDM and hip-hop. If that’s not to your liking, you can personalize your listening experience via a graphic EQ or 20 different presets in the Anker Soundcore app. They’re a great choice for travel since they do a pretty good job of passively blocking out background chatter and an even better job of reducing audio leakage: feel free to blast your music as loud as you want without having to worry about annoying fellow commuters.
On the downside, while their control scheme is better than the first-generation model, it’s still quite tricky to use if you’re wearing gloves or a winter hat, which might be annoying if you live in a colder climate. With that said, they provide excellent performance for the price and are among the best wireless earbuds we’ve tested so far.
The best cheap earbuds that we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. The wireless earbuds offer a comfortable fit at an affordable price. Their 18.5-hour battery life is the longest we've ever tested on a pair of wireless earbuds and will easily get you through a couple of work days.
Although they have a slightly excited sound profile with extra bass that's well-suited for EDM and hip-hop, they're well-balanced enough for most genres. Their earbuds don't enter the ear canal too deeply and their ear-hook design makes them stable enough for physical exercise. If you need more stability, they even come with more ear tip and stability fin options. They're also rated IPX7 for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this.
On the downside, while the earbuds themselves feel fairly dense, the audio cable that connects the earbuds is thin and feels fragile. They also don't have a dedicated companion app, though this is to be expected at this price. That being said, overall these headphones have a great price-to-performance ratio and are among the best headphones we've tested.
07/10/2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy; no change in recommendations.
05/08/2020: Replaced B&O PLAY E8 2.0 Truly Wireless 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 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 reviews for earbuds/in-ear earphones. 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.