Every true music lover knows that having a quality set of earbuds is critical to enjoying a music collection. The same is true for any audiobook, podcast or movie watched on a laptop or tablet. To truly experience the full potential of your audio, you’ll likely have to purchase earbuds that are superior to the default manufacturer pair that came with your device. In 2016, music aficionados have more choices than ever; so many options, however, can make choosing a great set of earbuds more difficult than ever before.
With this simple buyer’s guide, you can finally find the perfect set of earbuds for you. Check out our hassle-free chart below to see the best earbuds currently available.
Top 10 Earbuds Complete Chart
Explanation of Types of Earbuds
- Noise Isolation. Noise isolating earbuds work like earplugs; they physically block out some of the surrounding noise. This will help you enjoy whatever you are listening to when there is other noise around, for example in traffic or at the gym. However, if you really crave to block out all surrounding noise, then noise-cancelling earbuds are even more powerful in doing so.
- Noise-Cancellation. Noise-cancelling earbuds do not only block out noise like earplugs, they also listen to any incoming sound and send out inverse waves to cancel out the surrounding sound. This is really powerful, especially for low droning sounds like airplane engines. The con is that they require extra batteries. The by far best noise-cancelling earbuds are the Bose QuietComfort 20.
- Bluetooth. Bluetooth earbuds enable you to listen to music wirelessly, which can be very convenient. The downsides are that their sound quality is generally a bit lower and you have to charge their batteries. That’s why we mostly recommend Bluetooth earbuds for different sporting activities, such as running – when you really don’t want to worry about tangled cords getting in the way.
- Extra Bass. More bass is not always a good thing as it can overpower details – you won’t hear all the variations of a guitar when the bass is pounding hard. Also, too powerful bass can give some people headaches. As a result, most people prefer earphones with deep, but balanced bass. However, some people really like the “Beats By Dre”-type of earbuds for bass heavy music. If you prefer extra bass, then the Sony MDR-XB90EX are a far better choice than Beats in terms of audio and bass quality.
Brand, Style and Design
Many people purchase earbuds solely based on brand reputation or earbud style. Though these are important factors to consider when making a purchase, make sure to consider style and brand in conjunction with sound quality, price and type of earbuds. All of our top ten best earphones come from well-established brands, including Shure, Bose, MEElectronics and Jaybird.
Each person has different taste when it comes to earbud shape and aesthetics. Some pairs of earbuds come in a “one-size-fits-all” shape, as seen with Apple’s earbuds. Other earbuds come with various pairs of rubber “buds”, allowing you to choose the size that best fits your ear shape. This is extra important for noise isolating earbuds; there must be a tight fit to keep out ambient sound.
For Advanced Readers: Technical Specifications
Technical specifications are generally not very good at describing how good earbuds are. You have to listen to a pair of earbuds to determine their level of sound quality, which is why most people should not worry about the technical specifications. However, some buyers prefer to look at the more advanced specifications on their new earbuds out of pure interest.
- Drivers. Multiple drivers will generally produce a more multi-layered experience, which is why many high-end earbuds include more than one driver. Each driver is meant to target a different audio section: mids, treble, and bass. More drivers tend to give an overall richer experience and boost bass. However, the quality and size of the drivers is just as important. Larger drivers is why over-ear headphones generally produce more powerful sound. The Shure SE846-CL, which are the highest rated earbuds, include four high definition MicroDrivers – which are extremely powerful.
- Frequency Range. The frequency range, measured in hertz (hz), will tell you the depth of the bass, and the height of the treble, that your speakers can produce. Earbuds with wider frequency range will produce noticeably richer sound. Note that although comparing hertz (hz) is important in choosing a pair of earbuds, the kilohertz (khz) your earbuds can produce is much less important. The kilohertz measure the upper end of the frequency range. The human ear, however, can barely detect sound differences at this frequency level. It’s much more important to select a pair of earbuds that reaches lower bass notes (for example, 20 hz) than to select earbuds based on a higher upper kilohertz frequency.
- Sensitivity. Sensitivity is measured in decibels and sound pressure levels. The lowest level of sound that is still audible is 0 decibels. When looking for earbuds, anything above 85 decibels can be dangerous for your ears and cause hearing loss. This is a case where more is not always better; if you choose earbuds that have a higher sensitivity than 85 decibels, be sure to monitor the volume level and do not continuously use them at their max volume.
- Impedance. Earbuds run on electricity, and electricity generates a hiss like sound. To eliminate the hiss and enable you to only hear your audio, we need impedance. Impedance is measured in ohms (?). The rule of thumb is that the higher the impedance, the clearer sound you will get from your earbuds, but they will also use more power.
5 Best Earbuds Reviews
Shure’s SE846-CL are the best in ear headphones that money can buy according to the bulk of experts and users. We fully agree with them. The price tag on these earbuds isn’t for the faint of heart; you could easily buy multiple MP3 players for the same price. The sound quality produced by these earbuds, however, is worth every penny.
The audio on these four-driver speakers is crystal-clear and so rich that listeners claim they’ll never use other earbuds again. As one of our experts noted, “they reproduce the sound with such precision that even the slightest drag on the guitar string is detectable.”
They are not only technically advanced, but also offer outstanding build quality. The earbud aperture is made of metal instead of the usual plastic. The cables are also fully replaceable in case something should happen to them. Here’s a summary of the main reasons why you should choose the Shure SE846-CL.
- You can hear every note, instrument, and whisper in audio recordings.
- They are truly top-of-the-line in terms of build quality.
- These are for people who crave the rich sound of over-the-ear headphones in a pair of earbuds.
If you are truly looking for the best earbuds on the market, then you have found them. If you’re shopping budget-free, no earbuds can touch the Shure’s SE846-CL.
Bose QuietComfort 20 earbuds are everything an audiophile could ever dream of. With audio quality that’s nearly as crisp as that on Shure’s high-end earbuds, these Bose earbuds make for a jaw-dropping listening experience.
The Bose QuietComfort 20’s come with a practical design and high-tech noise-cancelling technology (see the noise-cancellation section under the header Explanation of Types of Earbuds). This will block out ambient sound, such as airplane engines and most human voices. The earbuds do however, have an “aware mode” function, allowing wearers to “tune in” to conversations and the outside world at the tap of a button, reducing audio levels without ever having to remove your earbuds or stop your music.
These earbuds are also highly comfortable and durable. They passed our toughest durability tests with ease, so they won’t break during travel. The Bose QuietComfort 20 work with most devices, such as Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones, your computer or other audio players. However, for iPhone, iPod and iPad there is another version which you can find here. Below are the reasons to go for the Bose QuietComfort 20.
- You’re looking for rich, beautiful audio at a palatable price point.
- You crave advanced noise-reduction technology.
- You want a great, portable, practical set of earbuds, ideal for travel.
If you are on the lookout for the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market, then look no further. Nothing can match the QuietComfort 20 in this category.
The Bose Freestyle earbuds are eye-catching and come with a secure and fitness-friendly fit. Despite not looking like the typical audiophile earbuds, they offer outstanding Bose sound quality, at an attractive price point.
The build quality is solid; these earbuds are both sweat- and weather-resistant, and will last no matter what adventure you take them on. Perfect for very active users and sporting activities. You won’t have to worry about moisture-related malfunction after an eight-mile run or a day on the slopes.
The bright signature colors of the Bose Freestyle may not appeal to everyone, which is why it’s possible to choose from a number of different colors, including black, white, cranberry, ice blue (which is in the picture to the right) and indigo. These earbuds do however not offer noise isolation or cancellation, which means that they are not meant to be used in noisy environments. Below is a summary of why the Bose Freestyle are an excellent choice.
- They are durable, sweat- and weather-resistant earbuds for active usage.
- A combination of outstanding sound quality and an attractive price.
- You can choose your personal color and get an eye-catching design.
Go for the Bose Freestyle if you are searching for the best earbuds for active usage.
The MEElectronics M6 is a great pair of earbuds with a low price tag. Oftentimes when you go below the $50 mark, you will see a significant drop in both sound and build quality. This is not the case with MEElectronics M6.
Even though the MEElectronics M6 cannot match up to Shure SE846-CL and Bose QuietComfort 20 in terms of audio quality, the sound is surprisingly good. Rich and impressive sound quality is what fills your ears, and an extra strong bass – not as strong as the Sony MDRXB50AP bass, but more powerful than most earbuds’ bass.
The design is attractive and they are comfortable to use. A number of different types of ear tips are included, so you are sure to find ones that fit your ears well. They are also unlikely to break due to a rugged design. Here are the main reasons to choose the MEElectronics M6.
- They offer impressive sound quality with a very low price tag.
- Comfortable to use and include many ear tips.
- A rugged and attractive design.
If you are searching for the best and most affordable earbuds, then MEElectronics M6 is the choice.
The JayBirds are currently ranked as one of the best Bluetooth headphones, and the highest rated Bluetooth earbuds. They are extremely popular – people can’t seem to get enough of Bluetooth earbuds, and the BlueBuds X dominate the category. These are specifically created for sporting activities.
They are not only sweat resistant, but also offer a secure fit. The single cord rests behind the neck and the ear tips hock into your ears, to prevent them from falling out, for example when you are bouncing up and down during a run.
The audio quality is also extremely good, considering that these are Bluetooth earbuds. The bass is balanced and deep, and the produced audio is exceptionally clear. They are also easy to connect with any Bluetooth device. Play time is 8 hours, then you need to recharge them. Here are the main points for going for the JayBird BlueBuds X Sport.
- They offer a cordless Bluetooth experience, yet superb sound quality.
- They are sweat resistant and fit securely in your ears.
- The play time is excellent, and they are easy to connect.
For anyone who is searching for Bluetooth earbuds, then the JayBird BlueBuds X Sport is by far the best choice.