From cheap earbuds to the top of the line, in-ear headphones offer a lot of options for all situations, whether you want to use them at the gym, at the office or during your commutes. They are ultra-portable and very convenient thanks to their small size and weight. While earbuds rest at the edge canal, in-ear headphones have special tips that are inserted into the ear canal (see our article to learn more about the differences).
So far, we've tested 66 earbuds and in-ears and below are our recommendations for the best ones to purchase in 2018.
The best earbuds we've tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. They're a versatile around-the-neck design with great noise canceling and a well balanced, bass-rich sound. If you usually find in-ears like the Jaybird X3 or the BeatsX a bit uncomfortable, then the QC30's earbud fit may be the solution you've been hoping for, without sacrificing too much on portability. They isolate as well as the Bose noise canceling over-ears in loud environments, and they barely leak, which makes them a great choice for commuting, traveling, and to use at the office without distracting those around you.
Unfortunately, their around-the-neck design will not be for everyone, and the similarly designed Jabra Elite 65e is much cheaper but a bit worse overall.
Overall, the QC30 are good wireless earbuds that won't disappoint for most of your use cases.
If you want a more portable headset than the Bose QuietControl 30 for commuting and casual use, then get the truly wireless Beoplay E8 instead. They're a bit pricier and do not have the long continuous battery life of the QC30s. Also, they're not active noise canceling like the Bose so they only block noise passively with their in-ear fit.
On the upside, they still provide enough passive isolation to be suitable for most environments and they have a premium truly wireless design that's stable enough for the gym and sufficiently compact to have on you at all times. They deliver an above-average sound that you can EQ with their app and their build quality and overall design feel very high-end.
If you want a cheaper truly wireless in-ear than the Beoplay E8 that's equally versatile for most use cases, then get the Samsung Gear Icon X. They won't look and feel as premium as the E8 and they're not noise-canceling like the Bose QuietControl 30 so they won't be the ideal choice to block the noise of particularly loud conditions.
On the upside, they're a compact truly wireless in-ear with a small charging case that's easy to carry around. They have strong enough passive isolation for most environments, and an above-average sound quality that you can somewhat tweak with the Samsung Gear app. They're stable enough for running, with a few built-in features that makes them a bit better for sports like 4GB of onboard storage and an exercise coach which sets them apart from the competition.
The Jabra Elite Active 65t are a great and more customizable alternative to the Gear IconX, but overall the Iconx have more features and a better, more comfortable in-ear fit.
If you're looking for a better sounding alternative to the Samsung Gear IconX, then get the Beats BeatsX. They do not have as many features as the Icon X and aren't as customizable as the Jaybird X3. On the upside, they have a well-balanced sound and they're easier to fit into your pockets than most neckband designs. They're also versatile enough for most situations and environments, with a passive in-ear fit that blocks a good amount of noise and doesn't leak much.
Their in-ear, around-the-neck design is also stable enough for the gym and they have a good 7-hour battery life with an excellent quick charge feature that gives you over an hour's worth of playtime from a quick 5-minute charge. Overall, they're a great choice if you have an iOS device, especially since they have the W1 chip that makes pairing with Apple devices easy and gives great range without much latency.
If you just want a simple, wired in-ear design and don't need all the active features of the other recommendations on this list, then the 1More Triple Driver should be your first choice. They won't have the range of the BeatsX since they're wired and they are completely passive.
On the upside, they are one of the better sounding wired in-ears we've tested and they're much cheaper than some more established critical listening options from Shure. They're well-built, compact and easy to use and to carry around your person. They may not be as versatile for all environments or as convenient for day to day use since they're wired but if you want a simple in-ear design, then they're an easy recommendation for most listeners.
If you want a good wireless in-ear but don't want to spend more than $50, the best budget in-ears are the Anker Soundbuds Curve. They won't have the range of the BeatsX and won't be as well built or as durable as the 1More Triple Driver. They also aren't as customizable as the Samsung U Flex but on the other hand, they're cheaper.
They're stable enough for most sports and a bit more comfortable than typical in-ear designs. They also look surprisingly good and for their price tag and have a longer lasting battery life than the Beats X and the U Flex. They sound pretty good, especially when compared to most wireless in-ears at this price point.
The JBL E25BT are a slightly better choice for commuting since they have a bit more isolation and a similar performance to the Anker Curve. However, the Curve overall, offer the best value at this price point, a better sound quality and a longer battery life.
If you want a cheaper, wired in-ear than the 1More Triple Drivers, but also don't want to sacrifice build and sound quality, then your best bet are the KZ ZS10. They do not quite have the sound quality of the 1More, and they do not have any convenient active features like the wireless Anker SoundBuds Curve or Jaybird Freedom. However, for their price, they deliver a solid build quality with a detachable cable that you can replace if ever it gets damaged.
They also have cool transparent casings for the earbuds, which gives them a high-end look and feel, especially for their budget price range. They deliver a balanced sound for critical listening, a stable design for sports and convenient size that's easy to carry around on your person although earbuds may be a tad too large for some ears.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best earbud headphones and in-ear headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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 headphones. 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.