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The 7 Best Earbuds and In-Ears - Fall 2018
Reviews

Best Earbuds
280 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

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). See our recommendations for the best truly wireless earbuds, the best wireless earbuds and in-ears, the best wireless earbuds for Android and the best sounding wireless earbuds.

So far, we've tested 73 earbuds and in-ears and below are our recommendations for the best ones to purchase in 2018.

  1. Best Earbuds: Bose QuietControl 30

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.6
    TV
    Score components:
    5.1
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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.

    See our review

  2. Truly Wireless Alternative: B&O PLAY E8

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Earbuds: Samsung Gear IconX

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.1
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.3
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    8.2
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.3
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.5
    TV
    Score components:
    4.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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 IconX. 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 compact truly wireless in-ears that will easily fit into your pockets. They have good enough passive isolation for commute and travel and an above-average sound quality that you can further tweak via the Samsung gear app. 

    The similarly designed Jabra Elite Active 65t are a bit more customizable thank to their better EQ. However, the Iconx have more features, are more comfortable in-ear fit and they even have 4GB of onboard storage so you do not need your phone to listen to music.

    See our review

  4. Better Sounding Alternative: Beats BeatsX

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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 Jabra Elite Active 65t. On the upside, they have a well-balanced sound and a flexible design you can fit into your pockets. 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. They have an excellent quick charging battery life that gives you an hour's worth of playtime from a quick 5-minute charge. Overall, they're a great choice for most users and an even better option if you have an iOS device, thanks to the W1 chip improvements to latency and range.

    See our review

  5. Wired Alternative: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Hybrid

    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.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Earbuds: Anker SoundBuds Curve

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.8
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    6.9
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.9
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    6.9
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.5
    TV
    Score components:
    5.3
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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 also stable enough for most sports and a bit more comfortable than typical in-ear designs. They look surprisingly good for their price tag and they 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 Endurance Sprint are a great alternative for sports, thanks to their above-average sound, stable design, and IPX7 rating. However, the Curve offer the best value at this price point, a better sound quality and a longer battery life.

    See our review

  7. Wired Alternative: KZ ZS-10

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Balanced Armature

    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.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Jabra Elite 65e. A cheaper alternative to the QC30 but slightly worse performance overall. See our review
  • Jabra Elite Active 65t.  A decently versatile truly wireless design but not as comfortable for everyone. See our review
  • Jaybird Freedom.  A lightweight and well-built sports headphone with a customizable sound. The charging clip may be a deal breaker for some. See our review
  • JBL E25BT. A very budget wireless in-ear with a decent sound and overall performance. Mediocre at best build quality.See our review
  • Bose SoundSport Wireless. Comfortable earbuds with a good wireless range. One of the best sounding earbuds but inconsistent durability and slightly bulky design. See our review
  • Jaybird X3. Great overall performance with added customization options. Stable sports headphones but doesn't quite surpass the X2. See our review
  • Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-ear. Decent sound and great passive isolation. These earbuds tend to sound a bit dark and they're a bit pricey for what they offer. See our review
  • Apple AirPods. Versatile and well rounded wireless earbuds. Limited on Android. See our review
  • Mpow Jaws. A good alternative the SoundPeats Q9A. Not as stable but more versatile with a slightly better sound. See our review
  • 1More Piston Classic. A simple and well-built budget in-ear. Comfortable with a decent sound but mediocre isolation and their sound may not be ideal for more critical listeners.  See our review
  • Jaybird Run.  Good overall performance, great for sports, and a decent alternative to the Gear IconX. Build quality is not as good and  Bluetooth pairing and latency can be a bit frustrating. See our review
  • Samsung Level U Pro. A customizable wireless in-ear with a decent sound. Not as well built as the U Flex but a good alternative. See our review
  • Mee audio M6 Pro A good alternative to the KZ ZS10. Good build quality and a decent sound for the price. A bit too sharp on some tracks. See our review

All Reviews

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.

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