The Best In Ear Headphones For Quality Sound And Style

color blue earbuds

Today's headphone market offers everything from near-disposable cheapies to pro-grade recording monitors. With such a wide range of headphones available it's often hard to determine which are the best in-ear headphones, both literally and figuratively.

This article will focus specifically on premium in-ear headphones, also known as earbuds, intended for high-quality listening. We'll break down some characteristics to look for in a set of premium earbuds and rank 10 of the top products available for the recreational listener seeking a top quality experience.


Earbud FAQs

What Are Earbuds?

What Do Earbuds Do?

Where Can You Buy Earbuds?


​How We Reviewed These Earbuds

For this list, we considered a wide range of variables including the prices, features, manufacturer warranty, availability and overall pros and cons of each set of earbuds. Each of the reviews compared the products relative quality and price with the other products in this category.

What We Reviewed

  1. Bose SoundTrue Ultra
  2. Focal Sphere
  3. 1More Triple Driver
  4. Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2
  5. RHA T10i
  6. Apple AirPod
  7. Bose SoundSport In-Ear Headphones
  8. BeatsX
  9. Jabra Elite Active 65t
  10. JBL Endurance Sprint

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Apple...
  • Compatible Devices: iPhone, iPad and iPod models
  • Included Components: QuietComfort 20 headphonesApple devices, 3 pairs StayHear+ tips (S, M, L), Clothing clip,...

Features

The Bose QuietComfort 20 are wired earbuds that feature a simple design specifically for those who prefer a shallow feel in the ear. The SoundTrue Ultra's eartip is slightly shorter than some of its competition, making it ideal for extended use. They feature crisp, balanced sound and an integrated microphone for making and receiving calls. Other key features are an integrated volume control and two color options—black and mint green.

Pros

  • Shallow ear tip for comfortable extended use
  • Excellent sounds quality
  • Secure fitting ear-stabilizer

Cons

  • Greater external sound bleed than earbuds with deeper ear tip
  • Somewhat bulky volume control

Warranty

Bose backs their headphones with a two-year limited warranty. The speakers within these headphones are backed by a separated five-year warranty.


Focal Sphear S Closed Back Headphones
  • Large, 10.8mm dynamic drivers for rich, natural sound
  • Bass-reflex system for extended low-end frequency response ported acoustic chamber provides tonal balance
  • In-line remote and microphone for controlling music and taking calls with compatible iOS and Android devices

Features

The Focal Sphere is a noise-canceling earbud that features a comfortable housing and a variety of useful accessories. The Sphere comes in a stylish carry case that with a selection of different ear tips and a two-prong, right angle adaptor ideal for use on airplanes. The sonic range of the Focal Sphere is pleasingly balanced with crisp highs and full, powerful lows. They also feature a microphone and volume control that doubles as an answer/hang-up button for calls and a start/pause button for audio.

Pros

  • Audiophile quality audio with little sound coloration
  • Small and light profile for extended comfort
  • Nice selection of accessories

Cons

  • Less sound isolation than some bigger noise canceling earbuds
  • Very transparent audio can feel harsh
  • ban
    Bulky circular hub joining left and right cables

Warranty

Focal covers Sphere earbuds in the United States by a one-year, non-transferrable warranty. This warranty may differ for customers in other countries.

Sennheiser CX 6.00 BT


Sennheiser Consumer Audio CX 6.00 BT Wireless in-Ear Headphones,...
  • Bluetooth 4.2 featuring Qualcomm aptX and Qualcomm aptX Low Latency deliver superior sound quality for both music and...
  • Convenient multi-connection with up to 2 devices simultaneously (phones and computers) with 3-way calling support.
  • 6-hour battery life with 1.5 hour fast USB charging.

Features

The Sennheiser CX 6.00 BT earbud features an attractive fit and finishes well as a robust cable reinforced by Kevlar. The set comes with a wide selection of silicone eartips and high quality carrying case. The volume control features plug-and-play compatibility with both Android and iOS devices, making it easy to get the most from your device.

Pros

  • Three audio drivers for full, crisp, sound
  • Impressive build quality
  • Sleek design with brushed copper and black aluminum look

Cons

  • Can lack stability in the ear
  • 1More is a relative unknown to the earbud market

Warranty

Sennheiser CX 6.00 BT offers a one-year manufacturer warranty against any defects under normal use. The manufacturer may repair the earbuds, issue a replacement or offer a refund of the original product value at their discretion.


Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2 In-Ear Headphones, Secure Fit, Black
  • REDESIGNED FOR PREMIUM AUDIO AND COMFORT - C5 Series 2 hifi earbuds feature redesigned drive units for enhanced sound...
  • CONTROLS iPHONE AUDIO - Made with an iPhone remote/microphone compatible cable, they can control your iPhone just like...
  • INNOVATIVE SECURE LOOP DESIGN - Created with a cushioned loop that curls around the ear’s inner rim to hold them in...

Features

The Bowers and Wilkins C5 S2 is the newest edition of their lauded C5 series earbuds. They feature audiophile quality marked with high-end clarity and increased definition in bass frequencies. The S2 also features design tweaks including an all-black cable to replace the previous clear unit. S2 earbuds also have an ultra-sturdy loop design to keep the buds securely in place during heavy activity. The unit additionally features volume control and microphone compatible with Apple devices.

Pros

  • Superb audio quality for the money
  • Stable fit provided by ear loop design
  • High quality fit and finish with minimalist styling

Cons

  • The microphone has no Android compatibility
  • Loop design may not be comfortable for everyone
  • ban
    More expensive than some competing units

Warranty

Bowers & Wilkins offers a two-year, non-transferable warranty on all of their headphones. This only applies to products purchased through authorized dealers and customers are responsible for any associated costs like shipping to and from the manufacturer for repair or replacement.


Features

The RHA T10i boasts an eye-catching chassis built from injection-molded stainless steel. These uber-solid earbuds also come with a wide range of customizing accessories including multiple silicone ear tips, carry case and most notably, three different audio filters. The T10i's inline microphone and volume control are compatible with iOS devices making it easy to take calls on the fly.

Pros

  • Rock solid durability
  • Highly customizable audio experience
  • Unique stainless steel aesthetic

Cons

  • Heavier than most earbuds in their class
  • Some mic/volume controls aren’t compatible with Android
  • ban
    Increased weight can compromise tight ear seal

Warranty

RHA backs the T10i and a selection of their other products with an impressive three-year warranty. The warranty covers manufacturing defects resulting under normal use conditions.


Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Previous Model)
  • Amazingly easy to use, Air Pods combine intelligent design with breakthrough technology and crystal clear sound.
  • Get up to 5 hours of listening time on one charge.
  • Or up to 3 hours with just a 15-minute charge in the charging case.

Features

Apple’s AirPod earbuds offer a fully wireless option for those looking cut the cord from both ears. These earbuds connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to an audio source and provide good quality audio and calling in an ultra-light package. Unlike many Bluetooth earbuds on the market, these do not connect to one another with a wire, providing a truly free range of motion. AirPods feature Apple’s signature minimal design with a distinct similarity to their classic wired earbuds.

Pros

  • Fully wireless connectivity for a reasonable price
  • Solid audio and call quality
  • Classic Apple styling

Cons

  • Poor fit depending ear shape
  • Lower audio quality than some competitors
  • ban
    The shape allows for considerable audio leak

Warranty

Apple covers AirPods with a one-year warranty covering defects in manufacturing quality and workmanship.

TaoTronics


TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones [Upgraded] Wired Earbuds...
  • Active Noise Cancelling Functionality: Reduces environmental noise and distractions by up to 25dB for an immersive...
  • Increase Awareness with Monitoring Mode: Clearly hear airline or subway announcements and what’s around you with the...
  • Built-In MEMS Noise Cancelling Microphone: Enables for crispy phone calls and undisturbed voice transmission while...

Features

The TaoTronics Headphone feature a sweat-resistant housing ideal runners and cyclists. Like the Bose SoundTrue Ultra, the SoundSport offers a shallower ear tip and soft, silicone stabilizing piece creating a comfortable and secure fit for those long runs and rides. This updated SoundSport model features wireless Bluetooth connectivity, allowing active greater mobility without sacrificing audio quality.

Pros

  • Comfortable and stable fit
  • Clip-on carry case for secure storage
  • Quality audio and call quality in a sporty package

Cons

  • Water/sweat resistant, but not waterproof
  • Shallower fit allows for some sound leak
  • ban
    Not fully wireless

Warranty

Like the Bose SoundTrue Ultra, the SoundSport Wireless includes a two-year warranty.

TBI Pro Bluetooth Headphones


[Upgraded 2020] 12+Hours Sport Bluetooth Headphones - Professional...
  • ✔【QCC CHIPSET FOR HIGH-END SOUND QUALITY WITH DEEP BASS】 High-fidelity stereo sound with aptX codec and...
  • ✔【THE LONG-LASTING BATTERY WITH UP TO 12+ HOURS PLAYTIME】 The powerful upgraded 170 mAh battery provides longer...
  • ✔【BLUETOOTH 5.0 FOR STABLE & STRONG CONNECTION 】 Compared to Bluetooth 4.2, the 5.0 version features fast and...

Features

TBI Pro Bluetooth Headphones enabled wireless earbuds with a neckband style attachment and inline microphone/volume controls. This Beats by Dre offering competes with the Bose SoundSport in the water/sweat resistant market, making it another viable choice for workouts. They feature automatic pairing with Apple devices and a comfortable, secure fit that will stay put during a sweaty jog.

Pros

  • Foldable neckband packs easily into the carrying case
  • Solid fit and good suction in the ear
  • Upgraded Bluetooth chip for better battery life

Cons

  • A slight bump in some treble frequencies
  • Long neckband and somewhat clunky mic/volume band
  • ban
    No standout features compared with competing products

Warranty

TBI Pro Bluetooth Headphones, and their headphones include Apple’s one-year warranty.

Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones


Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling - Black
  • Breakthrough technology lets you control your own level of noise cancellation throughout your day
  • Bluetooth and NFC pairing so you can connect to your devices wirelessly. Bluetooth range: 10 m
  • Noise rejecting dual microphone system helps reduce the noise around you to deliver clearer calls

Features

Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones is a fully wireless Bluetooth earbud set that is both sweat resistant and noise cancelling. They feature a snug, secure fit for truly unplugged use during workouts with high-end audio for both listening and calling. Each bud has two separate microphones, so you can hear your own voice comfortably while making a call. The Elite Active 65t comes with a charging carry case and gets about five hours of use per charge.

Pros

  • Dual microphones make calling more natural
  • Bluetooth 5.0 brings fast, latency-free audio connection
  • Compatible with Siri and Alexa

Cons

  • Built-in step counter lacks wide app compatibility
  • Snug fit could be uncomfortable for extended use
  • ban
    More expensive than some competitors

Warranty

The Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones has a limited two-year warranted that includes protection from dust and sweat thanks to the product's IP-65 water resistance rating.


JBL Endurance Sprint Waterproof Wireless In-Ear Sports Headphones...
  • Bluetooth wireless allows you to stream high quality music without the worry of messy wires interfering with your...
  • Secure fit ear hook design provides ultimate stability during workout. When not in use the Magnetic hook provides a...
  • Thanks to TwistLock and FlexSoft technologies, these headphones are lightweight and ergonomically built to ensure...

Features

The JBL Endurance Sprint is a neckband style wireless earbud set that is a low-cost and fully waterproof. These sport-inspired earbuds have a soft, comfortable fit good for longer use periods. They also include touch controls for receiving calls and adjusting the volume level.  An over-ear hook construction makes it nearly impossible for them to fall out during use.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality for their low price
  • Full IPX7 waterproof certification
  • A minimal neckband that won’t hang too low

Cons

  • Fewer customizing accessories than some competing earbuds
  • Molded over-ear construction could become uncomfortable
  • ban
    Touch controls on the earbuds can be hard to manage on the go

Warranty

JBL covers their Endurance Sprint wireless earbuds with a one-year limited warranty.

The Verdict

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in our research about earbuds in 2018, it’s that there is truly something out there for everyone. Need low-cost, wireless earbuds to use warming up for your next swim meet? You got it. Prefer something made from bombproof stainless steel? It’s out there for you.

For our top overall choice, we’ve selected the Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2. These earbuds provide audiophile-quality sound in a tough, comfortable package. Best yet, they come at an affordable price that’s right in the middle of the pack. The C5 S2 has an aesthetic that is both stylish and functional with plenty of comfort for long stretches of focused listening.

Quality

Usability

Support

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