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The 6 Best Earbuds for Sound - Fall 2018
Reviews

Best Earbuds for Sound
288 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.

Earbuds and in-ears are compact enough to have on you at all times. However, not all earbuds sound great and some are so poorly balanced that they will make listening to your playlist while commuting, traveling or hitting the gym a poor experience.

We've tested 76 earbuds and in-ears, and below are our recommendations for the best sounding earbuds and in-ears to purchase in 2018. You can also check out our recommendations for the best earbuds and in-ears and also the best sounding wireless in-ears for more options.

  1. Best Sounding Earbuds: Bose SoundSport Free

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.7
    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:
    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Semi-Open
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best sounding earbuds that we've measured so far are the Bose SoundSport Free. They're truly wireless earbuds, comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions, with a good and well-balanced sound that caters well to all genres. 

    They have a near neutral frequency response that has a great, extended bass and a relatively flat and even mid and treble range. This makes them one of the better sounding earbuds. They're not too sharp on already bright tracks, and they deliver enough bass for fans of more bass-heavy genres like EDM, hip-hop, and house. Unfortunately, like most in-ears and earbuds, they do not have the most spacious soundstage. They're also not the best designed truly wireless headset, being slightly bulky with stiff controls. They also do not have an EQ like the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which would have made them even more versatile.

    Overall, if you only care about sound and portable in-ear/earbud design, then the SoundSport Free are the best and most balanced sounding option we've tested so far. You can also check out the SpoundSport Wireless; they're cheaper and sound almost as good, but they are not truly wireless like the SoundSport Free.

    See our review

  2. More customizable sound alternative: Jabra Elite Active 65t

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

    If you want a more customizable sound for the various genres you have in your playlists, then get the Jabra Elite Active 65t instead. They are not as comfortable or as balanced sounding as the Bose SoundSport Free. However, they make up for it with a flexible and customizable sound that you can EQ via the Jabra Sound+ app, available on both iOS and Android. They also come with a better, more compact charging case that's easier to carry around on your person, and their in-ear fit isolates a lot more in noisy conditions so you can focus on your music, even while traveling and commuting.

    Their default sound can be a bit sharp at times on already bright tracks, and they're slightly lacking in bass. However, since you can EQ their sound profile pretty easily, this makes them one of the better sounding options you can get in this price range. They also have a better truly wireless design overall than the Bose, especially if you do not mind or prefer in-ears over earbuds. 

    See our review

  3. Best Sounding Earbuds (Mid-Range): 1More Triple Driver In-Ear

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

    If the Bose SoundSport Free are too expensive and your phone still has a headphone jack, the best earbuds for sound in the mid-range category are the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear. They're not as comfortable as the often compared and slightly better sounding Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear. They also do not have detachable cables like some of the more budget option like the KZ ZS-10. On the upside, the 1More have a premium looking design that you would expect from much pricier headsets. They come with 9 tip options for you to find a good fit and they are comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.

    They also deliver in the sound department with a good, extended bass and an even and balanced mid-range that's great for bass-heavy genres and more instruments/vocal-heavy tracks alike. They have a good treble range that doesn't sound too sharp but could be slightly bright overall for some.

    They are straightforward wired in-ears with a good sound and great passive isolation for your busy commutes. They also come with a universal remote that will work with your Android or iPhone which is even better for listening to your tracks on the go. The lack of detachable cables is slightly disappointing, but if you want a simple in-ear to listen to your tunes, then you can't go wrong choosing the 1More Triple Driver in-ear.

    See our review

  4. Wireless alternative: Jaybird X4

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

    If you do not mind the in-ear fit of the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear but prefer the convenience of a wireless design and a customizable sound profile, then the Jaybird X4 will be a better choice. Like most in-ears, they won't be the most comfortable headphones for everyone. They also do not have a charging system since you need to have the proprietary cradle to be able to charge the headphones so if you lose or misplace it you will mostly have to get a new one. On the upside, the X4 deliver a good, well-balanced sound with a lot of bass, above average mid-range and decent treble that doesn't sound as sharp as some of the other Jaybird models.

    They also have a fully customizable sound profile that you can EQ via the Jaybird sound app which makes them a bit more flexible for different listeners with different tastes. They're a great sports headset overall, being a more water resistant than previous generations of the Jaybird X line up. They have slightly better tip options that do not go in as deeply into the ear canal. 

    You can also get the Beat X if you have an iPhone and watch a lot of music videos for their better latency performance; however, the X4 are slightly better and more customizable overall.

    See our review

  5. Best Sounding Earbuds (Budget): KZ ZS-10

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

    If you want wired in-ears that sound as good as the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear but at a budget price, get the KZ ZS10 instead. The earbuds are not as sturdy as the metal ones of the 1More Triple. The larger earbuds are also a bit less comfortable overall, and they do not come with as many tip options for you to find the right fit.

    On the upside, the ZS10 have a detachable cable that you can swap for a version with an inline remote or even a wireless Bluetooth module. This makes them a bit more durable overall since you can replace parts and it also makes them feel surprisingly premium for their budget price. The earbuds have transparent casings which look great, and they have a decently well-balanced sound that's quite similar to the 1Mores but slightly less balanced in the mid-range.

    Overall they're still a good sounding pair of budget headphones that look great and feel a lot more high-end than their price would suggest.

    See our review

  6. Wireless alternative for casual use: JBL Endurance Sprint

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

    If you want a good sounding headset that you can also use at the gym, then get the JBL Endurance Sprint. Performance wise, the Anker SoundCore Spirit X are a little better overall, however, the JBL sound a bit more balanced overall and have a more isolating fit which allows you to better focus on your music when in loud, noisy environments. This makes them a better option for commute and travel. They are IPX7 sweat and water resistant, which make them a great option if you mostly listen to your music when exercising, running or doing your daily workout routine. 

    If you want a slightly more budget option, the Anker SoundBuds Curve are a good alternative to the JBL. However, at their price, they still offer a great value for their sound, build quality and great isolation performance, They just won't be the most comfortable in-ears for everyone.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Bose QuietControl 30. A noise-canceling around the neck variant of the Bose earbud design. Good sound and a more travel-friendly alternative to the SoundSport Free but do not sound as balanced. See our review
  • Jabra Elite 65e. A cheaper alternative to the Bose QC30 but slightly worse performance overall. See our review
  • Jaybird X3. Great overall performance with added customization options. Stable sports headphones but don't quite surpass the X4. See our review
  • Samsung Level U Pro. A customizable wireless in-ear with a decent sound. A good budget alternative. See our review
  • Jabra Elite  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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 sounding earbuds 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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