The 10 Best Clip-on Headphones
This wiki has been updated 12 times since it was first published in April of 2018. If you're planning on working out or engaging in other vigorous activities, try using a pair of clip-on headphones instead of the earbuds that come with many new devices. They can help avoid treble spikes, soreness and infections, tend to stay on better, and are, generally, more comfortable. We've rated the best choices for home, gym, and outdoor use, based on feel, sound, and build quality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 02, 2020:
Given the rapid pace with which audio technology evolves, it's no surprise that our latest update saw us replacing most of the entries on this list with newer models. As in-ear buds continue to advance in quality for everyday listening, clip-on models are increasingly geared toward sports and workouts, with a plethora of fully wireless options that do away with cords that can snag or tangle. For our money the best in that category are the JLab Audio Epic Air Sport. They offer a vibrant sound profile with three excellent equalizer presets, and their touch controls require a double-tap to play or pause, eliminating the headache of accidentally stopping your music while adjusting the fit of your headphones. And their dual-purpose travel case acts as a battery backup, capable of charging your earbuds and your phone at the same time.
The Apple Powerbeats Pro arguably offer slightly better audio quality than the Epic Air Sport, particularly for those who like the brand's distinctive bass-heavy sound, but they're among the most expensive choices available. Meanwhile, the fourth iteration of the cord-equipped Apple Powerbeats provide essentially the same speakers for a lower price, buty they're hampered by an ear tip design that many users find uncomfortable when listening for long stretches.
True audiophiles may prefer the Nura NUR02-000 NuraLoop, which use a smart equalizer to create a sound profile unique to each listener, delivering an audio balance that's tailored to your ears. They also have stellar active noise canceling, and a fantastic pass-through audio mode that enables you to hear your surroundings or your conversation partner without needing to pause your tunes. The Aftershokz Aeropex are another innovative set, which use bone conduction technology to transmit sound through your cheekbones rather than your eardrums. This style of audio isn't for everyone - it can't reproduce music with the same fidelity as more traditional headphones - but it's great for athletes looking to block out as little ambient sound as possible, or for those with certain kinds of hearing loss.
Finally, we made sure to include some options for those who prefer traditional headphone jacks to Bluetooth pairing. The Creative Aurvana Air, the oldest headphones that we felt still merited a place on the list, are incredibly lightweight and comfortable, while also providing remarkably clear audio. They're also good for anyone who prefers buds that swivel to cover the ear canal rather than slotting inside. And the Avantree TR504 are a decent and inexpensive pick for those on a truly slim budget.
We've also assembled lists of headphones for those seeking very particular qualities, like noise cancellation, deep bass, or studio mixing. And if you're looking for an armband to hold your phone while you're exercising, we've got you covered.
June 12, 2019:
There are two main types of clip-on headphones. One is similar to the classic earbud, but has a frame that wraps around the ear and suspends the speaker so that is rests gently and comfortably just outside of the ear canal. The other consists of a large pad that sits up against the outer ear. As you might guess, they have notably different sound profiles. Generally speaking, the outer-ear version doesn't offer the loudest sound and can particularly lacking the bass department. On the other hand, on-ear clip-on headphones are probably the safest headphones in existence from the standpoint of ear health. Inner-ear clip-ons tend to sound considerably better, though they may not be quite as comfortable as the outer-ear variety.
One of the most popular reasons for clip-on earphones is working out. An option like the Mpows is almost certainly going to stay on your ear and they don't have any long audio cables to get in the way of you or the machines at the gym. They're also waterproof. The Avantrees are a great budget-friendly choice, though they don't have the widest spectrum. If you can afford them, the Powerbeats Pros are some of the only true wireless options on the market, and they sound just about the best as well, second perhaps only to the B&O 3is. Incidentally, B&O has released an updated wireless version, but don't fall for it; it's not as high-quality as the original. But as far as inner-ear models go, you'd be hard-pressed to do better for the price than the Creative Aurvana Air. They look incredible and sound surprisingly good for clip-ons.
If your doctor has instructed you not to stick things in your ears, or if you're just not comfortable with earbuds, there are still plenty of good choices. In terms of outer-ear clip-on headphones, the Sonys sound the best, the Panasonic HZ11 are the most compact, and the Panasonic HZ47 may be the most comfortable. One other good thing about these unconventional devices is that for the most part, they're very inexpensive.
Audeze iSine Series Meant for true audiophiles, all of the Audeze iSine models use state-of-the-art planar magnetic drivers that can deliver richer and more accurate sound than traditional dynamic drivers. They hang on the outer hear and are inserted slightly more into the inner ear than most clip-on headphones, though they still don't seal out much noise due to their semi-open design. If you want a comfortable listening experience and have the cash to afford them, check these out. audeze.com