Every day in my bunker, I use one of a few high-quality headphone amplifiers to double as a line-level preamplifier-controller and operate as the quality-assurance reference for my ongoing audio experiments. I must choose this component carefully, because it determines the upper limit of my system's ability to reveal any subtle differences among components under review.
We love the Jabra Elite 75t wireless earbuds because they deliver the best combination of performance and features for the money—and they’re delightful to use. Their diminutive size makes them both comfortable and discreet, the controls are painless (literally and figuratively), they offer approximately a full workday of battery life per charge, and they sound great with music and phone calls.
You won’t need to worry about the Powerbeats Pro earbuds falling out of your ears, as the flexible stabilizing hook over each ear does a fantastic job of keeping these earbuds in place for most ear shapes. I took our test pair to the gym for a 90-minute high-impact workout involving a lot of jumping and diverse movement, and the Powerbeats Pro set didn’t budge. It’s one of the most comfortable earbud styles we’ve tested. For once, an ad with celebrity athletes (video) promising a secure earbud delivers on that promise. However, this design makes the Powerbeats Pro far less discreet than other true wireless earbuds, and it does feel reminiscent of the commuter Bluetooth single-ear headsets of, say, 2007. That said, if people can get accustomed to walking around with the AirPods’ trendy white-cigarette-in-the-ear look, we suspect they’ll be completely fine with the Powerbeats Pro look, too.

The necessary solution that (nearly) all of these designs share in common is a charging case. Each case protects the earpieces when not in use, and charges them simultaneously. Most of the cases carry two extra full charges, so you can recharge your earphones on the go. It's not unlikely that this weak aspect of the true wireless realm will improve to the point that it will no longer be an issue.

Though the sound quality definitely favors the low-end, it’s not an overbearing experience. They keep the fun sound that many of us like without overdoing it—or forgetting about the mids and the highs. The treble, in particular, has good detail but they do get kind of harsh at high volume. Luckily they also get pretty loud. Just don’t crank them up too loud if you want to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
We found the Aukey EP-B33 earbuds comfortable to wear. Though they have three sound profiles to choose from, the options range from a bit too bass-heavy (which leads to dull-sounding male vocals) to a bit too much of a spike in the highs (so vocals have a sibilant, lispy quality). None of the options are terrible, however. These earbuds are a solid choice, especially if you can find them for $60 or less. They just aren’t quite as fantastic to use as our picks.

Which brings us to the next thing that you should know when buying a pair of ‘buds: fit. Regardless of whether you’re using in-ears or over-ears, isolation is extremely important. In the case of earbuds, you don’t have the luxury of large cups and leather to block out sound. If the earbud tip isn’t a good fit, you’re not only going to have a hard time keeping them from falling out of your ear, but you’re going to be letting in all kinds of outside noise.
Although the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 pair sounded good and came with a neat optional silicone carry sleeve for the charging case, we had difficulty getting the tips to seal, and the control buttons clicked loudly in our ears when we pressed them. The Melomania 1 also produced a noticeable latency delay that made watching videos on a device less enjoyable.
This best in-ear headphones guide covers both traditional Bluetooth earbuds, in which the two earbuds are connected via a cable (usually referred to as a collar or a neckband), and what we call “true wireless” Bluetooth earbuds, which look a little like hearing aids and don’t have a cord connecting them either to your music device or to each other. The microphones are built into the earbuds themselves, as are any track and volume controls, since no cable is available to support a traditional in-line remote. Because these earbuds are small, many don’t have more than a five-hour battery life, although the new Bluetooth chipsets being used in 2019 models allow for longer battery life. Most recharge in their carrying case.
On the downside, like most budget headphones, they don’t have any power-saving features, so you’ll need to remember to turn them off when not in use or else their battery will continue to drain. They also don’t have a companion app, so your EQ options are more limited. Though their ear-hook design ensures a stable fit, they don’t have the most sweat-proof design, so athletes may want to consider the similar yet more sweat-resistant Anker SoundCore Spirit X Wireless. Overall, they're the best Bluetooth earbuds we've tested in the budget category.

One thing about wired earbuds that gets overlooked is just how damn good sound quality is. Sure, Bluetooth is more convenient and has plenty of benefits but dollar-for-dollar, some of the best earbuds blow away their wireless competition. Bluetooth sound quality is OK, and there are plenty of options out there—but wired headphones aren’t limited by data transfer speeds in the same way that Bluetooth ones are. Plus if you happen to keep your source files on the device, it’s actually not limited by data transfer speeds at all.

We found that the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E6 had decent bass but a sibilant high-frequency range that made harpsichord and piano sound tinny. Our panel didn’t find the stabilization wings to be comfortable. Although the earbuds are designed to connect together around your neck, the magnet in them isn’t strong enough to hold the E6 in place. The Motion version sounds the same but adds water resistance.

Our panel evaluated each pair’s sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort and then ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas via a voice-recorder app. I checked the Bluetooth signal reliability by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. And, of course, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claim. Once we had a sense of how each set of headphones performed, we took price and extra features into account and then chose our final winners.
Unfortunately, they aren’t the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested since they fit quite deeply into the ear canal. They do isolate quite a bit of noise, though, especially considering they have no active noise cancelling features. They’re a good choice for commuters who appreciate the extra isolation and are versatile enough to be suitable for everyday casual use, too.
The best earbuds for noise cancellation that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. If you usually find in-ears a bit uncomfortable, then their earbud fit may be the solution you've been hoping for. They have a well-balanced, bass-rich sound, and their neckband design ensures your music is always at arm’s reach. They have very good noise cancelling and also hardly leak any sound, which makes them a good choice for use while commuting or at the office.
This best in-ear headphones guide covers both traditional Bluetooth earbuds, in which the two earbuds are connected via a cable (usually referred to as a collar or a neckband), and what we call “true wireless” Bluetooth earbuds, which look a little like hearing aids and don’t have a cord connecting them either to your music device or to each other. The microphones are built into the earbuds themselves, as are any track and volume controls, since no cable is available to support a traditional in-line remote. Because these earbuds are small, many don’t have more than a five-hour battery life, although the new Bluetooth chipsets being used in 2019 models allow for longer battery life. Most recharge in their carrying case.
Whichever model you choose, make sure to use the included pouch or carrying case as often as possible in order to preserve the longevity of your earphones. Balling them up, shoving them into a pocket, and then untangling them each time you want to listen does more to wear them out prematurely than just about anything else. For more details, check out 5 Easy Tips to Extend the Life of Your Headphones.
The Creative Outlier Gold are the complete true wireless package for less. These earbuds support both AAC and aptX Bluetooth codecs. This means you benefit from high-quality streaming regardless of what platform you have. The capsular charging case houses a USB-C input and comes in a slick gold color which isn’t nearly as “in your face” as it sounds.
If you like the convenience of wireless earbuds but need something with a decent microphone, then get the Jabra Elite 65e. They don’t sound as good or isolate as much noise as the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless, but they’re better-built and their Bluetooth microphone performs much better. They have a very complete control scheme that provides access to not only call/music and ANC control, but also mic muting and talk through. While they have great bass, they’re not ideal for more vocal-centric music. Thankfully, you can customize the way they sound with the Jabra Sound+ app.
The Monoprice True Wireless Plus Earphones (38542) are fine but a bit overpriced for what they give you. We found that the controls caused the earbuds to push into our ears a bit, which made the multi-click controls annoying to use. Male vocals got somewhat veiled by the bloated bass, and high frequencies had a shushing quality rather than crispness, but the effect was not the worst we’d heard. Overall, this pair isn’t bad, but we’d like to see it cost under $50.
The Skullcandy Sesh finds the sweet spot between low price and solid performance. Most true wireless earbuds under $75 come saddled with a bunch of inconveniences—problems such as signal drop, interference, terrible sound quality, uncomfortable fit, wonky (or absent) controls, and shoddy craftsmanship, all of which tend to negate the feeling of freedom that completely wireless earbuds promise. But the Sesh won’t compromise your enjoyment, thanks to its simple controls, comfortable fit, reliable Bluetooth connection, decent sound, IP55 dust/sweat/water resistance, two-year warranty, and unique earbud-loss replacement program. The only major downside is the battery life: At three hours per charge for this set, you’ll definitely have to bring the charge case, which provides seven additional hours of battery life and is small enough to fit in most jeans pockets.
Spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of ‘buds isn’t an easy decision and we don’t take it lightly, but when the alternative is spending thousands on insanely high-end IEMs we consider these relatively affordable. At the same time, you’ll eventually get to a point of diminishing return. It’s true you’ll find some amazing headphones if you spend upwards of $1,000, but are they really $800 better than our top pick? We don’t think so.

If you don’t like the cumbersome design of over-ear headphones and prefer headphones with a smaller footprint, earbuds and in-ears can be a good choice. But if you don’t like having a wire going to your phone and prefer the freedom of wireless technology (or maybe your phone doesn’t even have an audio jack), wireless earbuds and in-ears are even better.
While the data signal containing Bluetooth audio is compressed, headphone and earphone manufacturers have found ways to enhance the signal to compensate for its deficiencies in a way that even audiophiles can appreciate. We've included some wireless options here, but if you're really keen on cutting the cord, check out The Best Wireless Headphones. And if you want to go completely wireless (with no cord at all connecting the two earpieces), check out The Best True Wireless Headphones—just keep in mind these are about as far from over-ear headphones as you can get.
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