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 in-ears we've tested are the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless. These premium in-ears are the next generation of the Sony WF-1000MX4 Truly Wireless, offering improved performance and design. They have a smaller and more rounded shape than their predecessor, with memory foam ear tips that improve their noise isolation performance. There's also an ANC feature on hand to help block out more bass-heavy background noises like bus and plane engines. You may not experience a significant difference between ANC on and off, though, since they have a high passive isolation due to their ear tips.
Their memory foam ear tips aren't comfortable for everyone, though. While there are a couple of different sizes included to help you get the right fit, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless are a more comfortable alternative since they don't have such a deep in-ear fit. Their default sound isn't quite as neutral as what you get with the Sony right out-of-the-box, though, which isn't ideal for everyone. Both headphones offer a lot of sound customization tools, including a graphic EQ and presets. Only the Sony earbuds offer a virtual soundstage feature called 360 Reality Audio, which analyzes your ear shape to create a custom sound profile.
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 noise isolation isn't quite on par with the Sony WF-1000MX5 Truly Wireless, they still do an excellent job of tackling hard-to-block noise like rumbly plane engines and 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 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 best budget earbuds we've tested are the JBL Vibe Beam True Wireless. These buds aren't as comfortable as the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless, and they don't have an ANC feature, so they won't block out much noise. However, they offer a few features that aren't common for budget-friendly buds. Their app includes a parametric EQ, so you can tweak their sound profile to suit you. They're rated IP56 for dust and water resistance, so a little rain during a run isn't an issue, and they have Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes that you can use to hear ambient sound when you want to stay aware of your surroundings.
If you're looking for earbuds that can block out noise during your commute or at the office, the TOZO NC7 Truly Wireless are around the same price and have ANC. It does an impressive job of blocking out ambient sound, including the low rumble of bus and plane engines and background chit-chat at work. However, they don't have a companion app or sound customization features.
If you mostly listen to bass-heavy genres, like metal, hip-hop, and EDM, then you want earbuds that can pack a solid punch and thump. Where other earbuds might try to do this by overemphasizing the bass in the mix, this can cause distortion and create sound artifacts that make the listening experience less pleasant. Instead, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 have an extremely neutral bass profile and an underemphasized treble range. As such, they can reproduce bass-range audio with outstanding fidelity. If you'd prefer a different mix, their companion app has a graphic EQ and presets to help you personalize their sound.
These headphones are also lightweight, well-built, and have an IPX4 rating for protection against water splashes, making them a good choice for moderate workouts. If you're using them for your daily commute, they will keep you isolated from the low rumble of bus engines and the noisy chatter from nearby commuters. However, it doesn't perform as well as the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless in this regard.
If you love listening to music while you workout, you'll want to check out the Beats Powerbeats Pro Truly Wireless. These headphones are designed with sports in mind, as their ear hook design helps them stay in place during more intense workouts. They're lightweight and comfortable, with easy-to-use controls so you can adjust the volume while you're on the go. Their IPX4 rating for water resistance is a nice touch for those who like to exercise outdoors, too.
These in-ears offer a balanced sound suitable for listening to lots of different audio content, which is great given the lack of customization tools. They also lack an ANC feature, but that's a benefit to many runners, especially if you like to stay aware of your surroundings while out on the course. A continuous battery life of 11.4 hours is more than enough to power you through your longest workouts, and their carrying case offers an additional charge just in case. If you prefer a more traditional earbud design over ear hooks, the Jaybird Vista 2 Truly Wireless are another alternative. Their battery life doesn't last as long as the Beats.
If you're looking for wired in-ears with high sound quality, the MOONDROP Blessing 3 are the best in-ear monitors (IEMs) we've tested. These wired in-ears don't have features like ANC or a mic, although you can buy a separate cable with an in-line mic if you want to make calls. However, unlike most earbuds, they use a hybrid driver design to improve sound quality and have a very neutral sound profile.
They accurately reproduce the thump, punch, and boom of bass, while instruments and vocals sound clear and accurate. They're very well-built, with earbuds made of plastic and stainless steel. They're also comfortable, and the cables loop around your ears, which helps keep them in place even if you shake your head. Despite the lack of ANC, they block out an impressive amount of mid-range and high-pitched noise, so you won't hear as much background chit-chat or humming from an A/C unit.
However, the price might be a bit much if you're not looking for a premium pair of IEMs. The MOONDROP Aria are much more budget-friendly and have a similar wired design. Their sound is also quite neutral, but they don't reproduce bass as well and have a less well-balanced mid-range, which can make instruments and vocals sound pushed back. They lack the Blessing 3's premium build and won't block out nearly as much noise. Still, they offer good audio quality and a versatile sound profile at a more affordable price.
Aug 28, 2023: Replaced the Bose QuietComfort II Earbuds Truly Wireless with the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless as the top pick. Replaced the Jaybird Vista 2 Truly Wireless with the Beats Powerbeats Pro Truly Wireless as 'Best For Running'.
Aug 04, 2023: Replaced the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless with the JBL Vibe Beam True Wireless as the best budget earbuds. The Anker aren't easy to find in stock, and the JBL offer sound customization features.
Jul 09, 2023: Replaced the MOONDROP Aria with the MOONDROP Blessing 3 because of their better build quality and more neutral sound. Added the TOZO NC7 Truly Wireless as an ANC alternative to the Anker Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless.
Jun 13, 2023: To provide more diversity with our picks, we replaced the 'Best Cheap Earbuds' category with two new categories: 'Best Earbuds For Bass', for which we picked the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3, and 'Best Earbuds For Sports And Running', for which we picked the Jaybird Vista 2 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.