In-ears or earbuds can be a lot more portable than bulky over-ears and help passively block out background noise for those on the go. 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 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 275 pairs of earbuds and in-ear headphones. Below are our recommendations for the best in-ears and earbuds to purchase. Make sure to 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'll spare no expense to have the best of the best, these buds are a worthwhile choice. 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.
Out of the box, they have a slight u-shaped sound profile that delivers just a touch of extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes while vocals and instruments shine. Thanks to their companion app support, you can also 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, for high-end buds, they don't have multi-device pairing, which is a little disappointing if you want to stay connected to two devices at the same time.
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 a little annoying. They have a warm sound profile, which makes vocals and instruments seem cozy, making them 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 as well as 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. These buds rival the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless with all the extra features they deliver. They can be paired with up to two devices at a time, and have an excellent noise isolation performance, thanks to their ANC. If you're a Google Pixel phone user, you can also take advantage of their Spatial Audio feature, which helps create a more immersive sound. They have a continuous battery life of over seven hours, and their carrying case supplies almost two extra charges.
While these buds have a decently comfortable fit, they can pop out of your ears over time, which is a little annoying. This also affects their bass delivery. Once you achieve a good fit, they have a slightly v-shaped sound profile that delivers extra thump and rumble while vocals and instruments sound bright. If you're looking for earbuds with a more comfortable fit, consider the Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless. They're lighter and aren't as prone to falling out of your ears, but their ANC doesn't block out quite as much bass-range noise.
For something a bit more affordable, you'll want to consider the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless. These buds are stacked with a similar amount of features as the Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless, meaning you can expect features like multi-device pairing, companion app support, and adaptive ANC. They can block out a significant amount of ambient noise, making them a solid choice whether you're traveling or at the office. With their ANC on, they also last just over eight hours continuously, but if you need to top them up, their carrying case holds an extra four charges if you need it.
These comfortable and well-built buds have a warm default sound profile that's well-suited for genres like jazz and rock, but you can also finetune their sound to your liking using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets. They also support LDAC, which is Sony's proprietary codec for streaming Hi-Res audio, and they even have a 'Game Mode' to help lower latency if you want to stream video. Unfortunately, their mic's recording quality is poor, and your voice sounds far away and sibilant.
The best budget earbuds we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless. At the budget level, earbuds and in-ears tend to have one extra feature to help set themselves apart from their competitors. What the Anker do supremely well is battery performance: they last over seven hours continuously, but their carrying case supplies an outstanding 12.5 additional charges. That means that they have almost 100 hours of total battery life! However, the trade-off comes in the form of their otherwise simple, no-frills design.
These buds have a bass-rich sound profile that delivers a touch of extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes. Unlike the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless, they lack sound customization features. On the upside, they have a comfortable, well-built design and are certified IPX5 for resistance against direct water contact. Since they don't have ANC, they have trouble blocking out the low rumble of bus engines, but they do a better job of cutting down ambient chatter and the hum of computer fans.
If you want even cheaper headphones, the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are the best cheap in-ears we've tested. They're pretty simple in design, which is normal at this price point, but they have a trick up their sleeve: they have three EQ presets built-in. While it's not as refined as a graphic EQ, you can still have some control over their otherwise bass-rich sound profile. They're well-built, decently comfortable, and stable enough to stay in place during workouts, so they're a solid pair of gym earbuds. They can also passively block out a good amount of office-type noise, like background chatter.
These buds won't have the same long-lasting battery life as the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless, but they still last over nine hours continuously, which will get you through a day at the office. Their carrying case also supplies an extra three charges if you need them. Their charging cable is built into the case, so you don't need to worry about forgetting it at home, but it also means that you'll need to replace the earbuds if the cable gets damaged.
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 fairly 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 wrapping fraying and curling, loose connectors, and paint chipping off the buds.
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.
Oct 03, 2022: We've restructured this article to better match user expectations. We've added the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 and Anker Soundcore Life Dot 3 Truly Wireless. We've also cleared the Notable Mentions of out-of-date products and added the following: Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless and the Jabra Elite 7 Pro True Wireless.
Jul 18, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
May 26, 2022: Made the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless the 'Best Earbuds', the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless the 'Best In-Ears', and the MOONDROP Aira the 'Best IEMs'. Removed the Jabra Elite Active 75t Truly Wireless, Jabra Elite 85t Truly Wireless, Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Truly Wireless, JBL CLUB PRO+ TWS True Wireless, and EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Truly Wireless from Notable Mentions.
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.