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 160 pairs of earbuds 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.
They 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 earbuds that we've tested to date are the 1More Triple Driver. These lightweight headphones have a high-end and durable feel. They even come with nine different sizes of earbud tips to help you find a comfortable and stable fit, so you can even use them while running or exercising.
Overall, their sound profile is well-balanced and versatile for a variety of music genres. Though the deep and extended bass may sound boomy to some users, it also makes them ideal for listening to bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop. Their leakage performance is also excellent, so you can listen to your favorite music without disturbing the people around you.
On the downside, there's no ANC feature, and they don't passively isolate background noise as well as some of the others we've tested, so they may not be ideal to use during your commute. They also don't come with an app or sound customization features. Overall, these earbuds have a balanced sound that makes them versatile for a variety of uses.
The best earbuds under $100 that we've tested so far are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2. These well-built, comfortable headphones come with five different sizes of tips to help you find a more stable fit. They can last for over six hours off of one charge, and their portable case provides an additional three charges, which is great for when you're on the go.
They have a well-balanced sound profile with a bit of extra kick in the bass that helps round out the deep thump and rumble in certain genres. Want to adjust the sound profile to match what you're listening to? Using the dedicated companion app, you can choose from 20 different EQ presets or customize the sound with an 8-band graphic EQ. There's even a HearID feature, which examines your hearing to create a personalized EQ just for you.
Unfortunately, their microphone performance is mediocre, and the person on the other end of the line may have a tough time hearing you if you're in a moderately loud environment like a busy street. There's also no multi-device pairing, which may be disappointing if you frequently switch between your Bluetooth sources. That being said, they have a decent overall performance that places them among the best wireless earbuds we’ve tested so far.
The best cheap earbuds that we've tested to date are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These Bluetooth in-ears are comfortable and have a stable in-ear fit thanks to their ear-hook design. Their build quality is decent, though the cable connecting the two earbuds is quite thin. With such a good price-to-performance ratio, they rank among the best headphones we've tested so far.
With a slightly bass-heavy sound profile, these in-ears do a good job reproducing the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy music genres. Overall, their sound is still versatile enough for most music genres. They also can last for over 18 hours from a single charge, which is among the longest battery life we've ever tested for Bluetooth in-ear headphones. They even have an IPX7 rating for water resistance, although we don't currently have a test to measure this feature.
On the downside, they don't support multi-device pairing, which may be disappointing if you frequently switch between Bluetooth sources. Also, their microphone's mediocre noise handling performance may make it difficult for the person on the other end of your phone call to hear you if you're in a noisy environment. However, compared to other headphones in this price range, these earbuds offer a decently versatile performance that should please most listeners.
08/07/2020: 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. 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.