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 270 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 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless are the best earbuds we've tested. You may prefer their design if you don't like inserting headphones deep into your ear canal. Although they're a bit bulky for truly wireless earbuds, their stability fins ensure a comfortable fit that doesn't move around or fall out when you're on the go. Like most other headphones from this manufacturer, they also have a great active noise cancelling (ANC) system that can block out ambient noise like the rumble of bus engines and office chit-chat. Their sound profile is well-balanced, making them a solid choice for most audio content. You can customize their sound using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets.
If you don't need noise cancelling or if you're looking for sportier earbuds for running outdoors, it's worth considering the Bose Sport Earbuds Truly Wireless instead. Although they look similar to the QuietComfort Earbuds, they don't block background noise. It can be beneficial for running outdoors as it lets you better monitor your surroundings.
In comparison to earbuds, in-ears are inserted into your ear canal. By design, they generally can block out more ambient noise passively. If you prefer this kind of design, the best we've tested are the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless. These sleek and premium headphones have a couple of features unique to the Apple ecosystem. Their H1 chip allows you to seamlessly pair them with other iOS devices, while their Spatial Audio feature can provide a more immersive audio experience.
While their sound profile is versatile enough for most audio content, their companion interface doesn't offer sound customization features to help you adjust them to your liking. However, with their ANC on, their battery lasts roughly five hours continuously, which may not last through long days without a recharge. Luckily, their carrying case holds roughly five additional charges.
If you don't want to spend as much on your headphones, the best in-ears under $100 we've tested are the Anker SoundCore Life P3 Truly Wireless. Despite their more budget-friendly price point, they offer quite a few features, including an ANC feature with a few different settings to choose from to target different types of noise. When it's set to 'Transport' noise, they do an excellent job of blocking out the rumble of bus and plane engines as well as higher-pitched noise like conversations.
They have a bass-heavy sound profile that adds extra thump, rumble, and punch to your audio. This sound is well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop, but if you prefer a different sound, you can adjust it to your liking with the companion app's graphic EQ and presets. Their 5.7-hour continuous battery life might not be enough to last through a workday, but they come with a carrying case that holds about four additional charges.
If you want even cheaper headphones, the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are the best cheap in-ears we've tested. They have a simpler design with no ANC feature, but if that's not an issue, they offer very solid performance at this price point. They have a bass-rich sound that can be customized with a couple of EQ presets. They can passively block out a good amount of office-type noise like background chatter.
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 last for roughly nine hours of continuous use, meaning they can get you through a 9-5 workday or a long flight. They come with a case that holds a couple of extra charges. Its charging cable is built-in, so you don't need to worry about forgetting it at home, but it also means that you need to replace the earbuds if the cable gets damaged.
If you're looking for audiophile-centric in-ears, the MOONDROP Aria are the best in-ear monitors (IEMs) we've tested. These comfortable headphones have a detachable audio cable design which helps eliminate audio lag. Their neutral sound profile also has 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.
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. They also aren't as versatile as other earbuds on this list as they don't have any special features and lack a mic by default. However, you can purchase a cable with an in-line mic separately.
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.
Apr 27, 2022: Replaced the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless with the Skullcandy Dime 2 True Wireless as the original model have been discontinued. Also replaced the MOONDROP KATO with the MOONDROP Aria as the Aria have a slightly more neutral sound profile and are lighter.
Mar 31, 2022: Verified that the picks represent the best recommendations in their categories and that the products are in stock.
Feb 28, 2022: Replaced the 1More Triple Driver with the MOONDROP Kato as the MOONDROP offer a more comfortable and better-built design. Moved the 1More to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best in-ears 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.