Earbuds. Earphones. In-ear headphones. Whatever you call them, they’re undoubtedly one of the most convenient ways to listen to your music, whether you opt for wired, wireless, or true wireless earbuds.
They can be found in check-out counters, airports and gas stations worldwide – but just because you can find them down at your local convenience store doesn’t mean that’s where you should buy them. Instead, the best earphones are often found online from manufacturers like 1MORE, RHA, Shure and Nuforce.
True wireless earbuds have really come into their own recently, with the Sony WF-1000XM3s and the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s joining our roundup of the best earbuds.
Of course, there are plenty of big brands making some of the best in-ear headphones, and with Apple rumored to drop its second generation true wireless AirPods 2 in 2020, there could soon be even more to choose from.
If those names don’t sound familiar, don’t worry – we’ve got information on all of the best buds and their manufacturers.
Can’t decide which type of headphones to buy? Check out our guide video below:
To that end, not only are the best pairs of in-ear headphones ultra-comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, but newer models can be completely wire-free and support Hi-Res audio codecs like LDAC and aptX HD.
Our current favorite true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 go one step further, combining truly wireless sound with high quality noise cancelation tech.
While you won’t find any discount-bin earbuds on our list, you can rest easy knowing that the ‘buds you see below are durable, long-lasting and sound (for the most part) out-of-this-world. As we review more models this list will change, which means you can expect that you’re getting the best headphones on the market at any point and any time you buy them.
The best earbud and in-ear headphones FAQ: quick questions answered
Which brand’s earphones is the best? That totally depends on what you’re looking for. But we’re careful with our lists. That means all of the earbud and in-ear headphones below come from brands we trust – you can’t go wrong with our picks below.
What are the best cheap earbuds? At least half of the buds in this list are below the £80/$80 mark, which makes them ideal for those who need a new set of headphones but can’t justify a splurge. We recommend taking a good look at the RHA MA390 Wireless, as well as the 1More Triple Drive In-Ear Headphones. If they’re still too pricey for your current budget, then check out our guide to the best cheap headphones of 2019.
Which is better, earbuds or headphones? It’s up to you. Some people love the feel and immersive sound experience of over-ear headphones, others prefer the freedom and compact size of in-ear headphones and earbuds. It all depends on what your priorities are.
How do I keep my earbuds from falling out? Although most of the high-end in-ear buds and headphones are designed to stay put, everyone’s ears are different. Which means there’s still a chance they’ll fall out – especially if you’re running or moving. If this keeps happening, we recommend opting for a pair built with sports in mind, these tend to have better support and even a different design that anchors them into your ear better.
Should I buy wireless earphones? Wireless and true wireless earbuds are a great option for those who want to listen to music on the go without the hassle of tangled cables getting in their way. However, some audio purists think that the sound quality afforded by Bluetooth connections still doesn’t compete with traditional wired models.
The best earbuds and in-ear headphones of 2019:
After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges.
For $100 (£100, about AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks. But, for their price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE’s Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Considering it’s still rare to get noise-cancellation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that’s very good for a pair of earbuds – it won’t offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you’re after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it.
That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: Not only are these hands down the best-looking True Wireless headphones out there, but they combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive alternative.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. On-ear volume controls similar to the PowerBeats Pro would’ve been nice, but again, that’s really not a deal-breaker in our books.
While truly wireless earbuds are undoubtedly the future of portable audio, they still present compromises in battery life and wireless reliability. Plus, they’re easy to lose if you’re not careful. Neckbuds, or earbuds that are worn around the neck, are a great alternative to true wireless earbuds as they offer longer battery life for continuous listening and stronger wireless performance.
That being said, if you’re interested in picking up a pair, it’s hard to do better than the RHA MA390 Wireless, which easily stands as one of the best neckbuds on the market. After spending several weeks with them, we came away impressed with the package RHA has come up with: The headphones are built extremely well, have a fun sound signature, can take a beating and still remain relatively affordable.
It’s main rival, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless (featured below), are also excellent, however the RHA MA390 offer more dynamic sound and better build quality.
Read the full review: RHA MA390 Wireless
Cambridge Audio is known for its high-end audio equipment, but until now, hasn’t ventured into the world of true wireless earbuds. Enter the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s: with an outstanding 45 hours of battery life, they combine the brand’s award-winning engineering with the convenience of truly wireless listening.
For a pair of true wireless earbuds, the sound quality offered by the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s is sensational. In fact, it rivals some of the best over-ear headphones, which is all but unheard of for buds of this size.
They may not have the noise cancelation technology offered by the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds, but they are $100 (around £80) cheaper – and have a superior battery life.
Good sound is subjective, yes, but there are things that we can all agree on that make a headphone sound good: Bass should be tight and impactful, highs detailed but not harsh, and mids that are smooth like honey.
Most headphone manufacturers shoot for these specs, but what if you want a little more bass or want to increase the energy of the highs? For most headphones, your only option is to mess with equalization. But RHA has a different idea.
The RHA T20i is an excellent sounding pair of in-ear headphones with a neat party trick: customizable filters. These filters thread into the headphone housings and let you choose from Bass, Treble, and Reference. Each filter makes an audible impact and are easy to swap out on the go.
As a package, the build quality, sound, and customizable filters make the RHA T20i a must-have for audiophiles on the go. In fact, they sound so good, they made us want to give up our wireless headphones.
The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations. While they’re specifically designed for use in the gym and on the track, the BE Sport4 do an awesome job isolating audio in a crowded city environment and are even good enough for home listening.
The BE Sport4 earbuds have claimed 10-hour battery life, which we found to be pretty close to the mark in our time with them, and from empty you can get two hours of use from just a 15-minute charge – ideal for those needing a quick top-up while they put on their trainers and pack a gym kit.
Consider this a warning shot fellow audio manufacturers: build and audio quality do not need to be sacrificed in order to keep earbuds affordable.
OnePlus is most known for its “flagship killer” phones like the OnePlus 6, but the company also makes headphones – the best example of which are the company’s excellent Bullets in-ears.
For $70 (£70, about AU$124), the OnePlus Bullets Wireless offer an incredible value in the neck-bud headphone category. Sure, true wireless headphones are en vogue now, but tethered wireless headphones offer better battery life and signal strength for much less money.
NuForce knocked it out of the park with the BE Sport3 headphones. They’re an incredible value for a pair of wireless headphones that sound good, last all day, have a bulletproof build and incredible noise isolation.
While they’re not the most dynamic or resolving headphones, NuForce shows us that the future of wireless headphones is a bright one.
If you want a pair of high quality truly wireless earbuds that aren’t the Apple AirPods, then the Jabra Elite 65t should be at the top of your list.
After spending over a month with them, we came away impressed with the well-rounded package that Jabra managed to create: The earbuds offer a subtle, mature look and a reliable wireless connection, which isn’t always the case with truly wireless earbuds. Plus, they sound great compared to the competition.
While the Jabra Elite 65t are easily one of the highest scoring true wireless headphones we’ve reviewed, there are a few others on the market worth considering: If you want a pair of exercise earbuds, there’s the Jabra Elite Sport which has a higher water resistance and handy sports-oriented features. For audiophiles who don’t mind stretching the budget, the active noise cancelling Sony WF-1000X are an excellent choice. Bassheads will want to try the SOL Republic Amps Air.
If you only have the budget for one of these, though, go for the Elite 65t.
With the appealing candy apple detailing, Sennheiser gets you in the door. But once you’re in, you’ll stay for the killer sound quality that comes from the Momentum In-Ear earphones.
These are the among the best deals in the headphones market as it stands today. The company has a version available for each flavor of mobile OS –Android and iOS – so everyone can get in on the goodness.
They’re expensive, but the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones are worth every penny. 1MORE hit it out of the park with this flagship pair of in-ear headphones with its balanced sound build quality, smartphone compatibility and price. These in-ear headphones will make mobile audiophiles very happy.
The only reservation that we have is that the Quad Drivers face tough competition from 1MORE’s own cheaper Triple Driver sibling which costs half the price (which sit pretty at the number one spot on our list).
In terms of value, the 1MORE Triple Driver headphones are the winner but for those who want just a bit better build and more detailed sound, the 1MORE Quad Driver headphones are worth the extra money.
While they can’t quite top other in-ears like the exceptional1MORE Triple Driver or RHA’s T10i, Optoma’s NuForce HEM6 does bring a lot to the table. Namely, that includes a great-sounding – and ultra-comfortable – pair of headphones.
So, why are they so far down the list?
While the NuForce BE Sport3 strikes the perfect balance between performance and price tag, the HEM6 skews a bit towards the expensive side without offering enough of a difference in performance to warrant the sticker price. That’s not to say these are a bad pair of headphones – they’re quite the opposite – it’s just that we feel there are better values out there in the headphone world.