The 10 Best Earbuds

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This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in March of 2015. For audiophiles, it's hard to beat a set of over-ear monitors, but for most people, they're too bulky to be practical and comfortable. These earbuds boast top of the line audio technology and a range of features, so you can listen to your music the way it was meant to be heard with minimal outside interference. Many also offer inline controls and microphones for making calls. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Nuarl N6 Pro

2. Tin T2

3. Shure SE215

Editor's Notes

December 18, 2020:

We added the Nuarl N6 Pro and SoundPeats Truengine 3 SE in part because of their support for the advanced aptX Adaptive codec, but they're also made with excellent internals. Their wireless designs offer good battery life and charging cases, too. Added the upgraded Bose Sport, which are widely known to sound great and have good app support on Android and iOS. The Tin T2 are an interesting option that are extremely popular among budget audiophiles.

December 06, 2019:

Listening to music is a very personal experience and no two people will prefer the exact same sound signature. This is partially due to different predilections towards high- and low-end response, but also to the fact that we all differ in how well we can hear different frequencies. Despite this, we feel our selection boasts at least one pair of earbuds perfectly suited to every type of listener.

During this update we felt the need to completely revamp our list, and as such, almost every one of our previous recommendations has been replaced. In fact, the only two models to retain a place were the pricey, but nigh unrivaled Shure SE846 and the budget-friendly 1More Triple Drivers E1001, so we will let that speak for itself.

One of our favorite new additions this year, and probably a brand unknown to the average listener, is the Final E5000. Between the wide, well-balanced soundstage and tough build quality, they are a no brainer as a top contender for every type of listener. However, if you want the ability to really fine tune the audio to your personal taste, you may prefer the RHA T20 Gen. 2, which come with filters for customizing the sound.

For audiophiles, we always recommend models with a neutral sound signature, such as the Shure SE215, Shure SE846, and Sennheiser Momentum, since these will best replicate the music how it was recorded. On the other hand, those who prefer a more sculpted sound may want to look to the Bose SoundSport, which offer deep and punchy bass that not many other wireless earbuds can match.

The Campfire Audio Comet CAM-5218 come from a brand the average consumer might not be familiar with due to the fact they generally only sell premium ⁠— read extremely expensive ⁠— audio equipment. However, with the Comet they have managed to bring their signature sound to a pair of earbuds with a more palatable price for the casual listener, so we definitely think they are worth checking out.

Special Honors

Campfire Audio Solaris Hand assembled in Portland, Oregon, the Solaris offer lifelike sound that may just make you think you are listening to your favorite performer in concert. They are equipped with two custom balanced armature drivers rich bass with clear mids and highs that combine to produce a natural sound signature. If they have any drawback it would be the rather large size that can make them feel bulky in the ear.

Ultimate Ears UE 7 CSX With three speakers, the UE 7 CSX are capable of offering both crisp highs and rich lows. When ordering, you have the option of designing your own pair, including a choice of color, material, and even engraving. They also allow you to swap between Bluetooth and auxiliary cables for wired or wireless listening.

4. SoundPeats Truengine 3 SE

5. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E4

6. Bose Sport

7. Campfire Audio Comet CAM-5218

8. Etymotic ER3XR

9. RHA T20 Gen. 2

10. 1More E1001

Climb Inside Your Ears

That's because in-ear headphones utilize a couple of very interesting technologies to execute their specific sound patterns deep inside your noggin.

There are some catchy tunes out there. It's not always the case that your ability to remember a song is based in some mathematical formula the likes of which Rivers Cuomo is known to use.

In a certain sense, no matter how catchy a song is, as long as you use in-ear buds to listen to it, it's guaranteed to get in your head (see what I did there?)

That's because in-ear headphones utilize a couple of very interesting technologies to execute their specific sound patterns deep inside your noggin.

The one you see pictured here is called bone induction, which works much the way that a tuning fork does.

Sidenote: If you ever want to check whether a bone is broken without the use of expensive x-rays, bang a tuning fork on something and hold the bottom end of it against the area of the suspected fracture. If the tuning fork's vibration causes you immense pain, your bone is probably broken. If not, you're in the clear.

Essentially, the vibrations in the buds caused by the low end frequencies translate to the sensitive bones of your aural system, enhancing low end and engrossing you more deeply in the sound.

The other cool thing in-ear buds use are little tapered stoppers on the earpiece, often made of rubber, silicone, or foam. These not only help hold the earbud in place, they do a bang-up job at cancelling noise. They also have a tendency to pull some wax out with them when you take them out, so keep 'em clean.

The Problem Of Glasses

When evaluating the potential performance of a pair of earbuds, it's crucial that you know the environment in which you plan to use them.

If your primary use for these things is going to be out jogging or hitting the gym, you might want something that's designed for a little extra stability in the face of movement.

When evaluating the potential performance of a pair of earbuds, it's crucial that you know the environment in which you plan to use them.

Even the most expensive, best designed earbuds on the planet can't be guaranteed to stay in your skull while you bounce up and down on a treadmill.

It's not to disparage them; there are just too many variables in play. No two sets of ears are created equal, after all, and designers have to synthesize a ton of data to get their designs to run as far down the middle of the road as they can.

Where does that leave you if you have oddly shaped ears? Well, that's where cord design can make a difference. Some earbuds work like the agent's in the picture; they wrap around the ear from behind for extra security.

If, however, you're a glasses wearer, these get uncomfortable fast.

So, since the odds of you taking your over-ear headphones for a run are slim to none, you might be well taken care of by a simple, dangling set of buds with the best sound quality for your sitting and relaxing at home or traveling.

A Budding Industry

Although the history of headphones evolved from sporadic military use alongside the growth of the telephone industry in the late 1800s, it would be a century before earbuds as we call them today would make their first appearance.

Then 2001 came along, and with that year came the madman who I believe was very thoughtfully played by Michael Fassbender is a recent biopic.

Those first buds accompanied early generation Walkman music players. I actually think I owned a pair of these at some point, as their terribly uncomfortable, multicolored bands of metal are bringing back hazy memories for me.

Then 2001 came along, and with that year came the madman who I believe was very thoughtfully played by Michael Fassbender is a recent biopic. I'm talking, of course, about Steve Jobs, and the Apple iPod, the ease of use and iconic white earbuds of which changed the way we listen to music for the foreseeable future.

Since then, audiophiles around the world have demanded that designers pack the kind of sound quality they expect to exist in the high end markets into an earbud.

The results were hit or miss for a while, but with increases in the nuanced use of bone induction and sound cancellation, the little buds have become big players in the industry.

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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