Best Earbuds and Earphones for 2017

Last Updated : December 7, 2016

Do you remember the time when we would be happy with the earbuds that were supplied with our portable players or mobile phones ? You know, these basic pieces of low quality plastic that looked cheap and fragile. Certainly not the best earbuds right ? Well, as you are reading this article, I bet this is no longer the case ! Today, we have such high-end earbuds available that most people no longer use the stock earbuds.

It is now vital for every music lover to know which model is the best on the market to really get the most out of our music. The best earbuds can really make music come to life and give a high definition experience with pure balance of bass, treble, and vocals. Knowing which one to purchase according to your music taste sets the avid music junkie apart from the recreational listeners.

With hundreds of earbuds to choose from, it is nearly impossible for music addicts to settle on one. Finding the best earbuds is really hard and this is why we have come up with this guide with the top 5 earbuds available to help you select the best earbuds for your needs.

Best earphones overview

Picture

Earbuds

Rating

Price

Comment

Review

Shure SE846-CL - the best earbuds

Shure SE846-CL

$$$$$

The best you can find with an incredible sound quality and a complete sound control

Yamaha EPH-100SL

Yamaha EPH-100

$$

Excellent sound for the price with a robust design that fits perfectly

Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2

Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2

$$$

One of the most comfortable eabuds with excellent sound quality

Westone W40

Westone W40

$$$$

High-end audio performances with a professionnal grade clarity

Bose QuietComfort 20i

Bose QuietComfort 20 / 20i

$$$

The best earbuds with noise cancellation and a great sound quality

What are earbuds and earphones?

Earbuds are tiny speakers made from a hard plastic material that fit inside the ear but just outside the ear canal. You shouldn't confuse them with ear canal headphones because the latter have rubber tips that seal inside the ear canals.

Classical Earbuds design

Portable

Some factors combine to make earbuds the better choice over other types of headphone speakers. They are more portable than other speakers due to their small size, and less expensive compared to other listening devices. In fact, you can easily acquire them without digging into your pocket.

Universal

All you have to do is purchase any portable music device, such as an MP3 player, and you get a free pair. However, it comes a time when you have to go out and buy a new pair of earbuds. Having used the free pair you got when you purchased your smartphone, you may not be familiar with the various factors you must consider before getting yourself a new pair.

Apart from price, you need valuable information that will guide you to select the best earbuds for you. Such information includes the technology used, a purpose of the earbuds, who is going to use them, and their comfortability, durability, performance, and design.

How to choose the best earbuds?

Selecting the best earbuds can be a very complicated affair. The reason is that there are too many factors to put into consideration, most of which may vary from one person to another. Some may choose color while others may go for complexities such as specs. However, whichever your taste and preference, consider the following:

Comfort

Nothing can get on your nerves more than painfully uncomfortable earbuds. You need earbuds that will be gentle to your ear for extended periods of time. To have an idea of how your preferred gadget would feel, you need to try them on for at least fifteen minutes. Most people, especially the male species, hate the idea of spending time in the store to select the right item. When it comes to earbuds, you need a little more patience. Of course, it would be absurd to spend two hours in the store trying the device on, but your comfort is paramount.

Durability

Earbuds are not the kind of items you want to buy every so often. Consequently, you need to find out how long they are going to last before a replacement is due. It is not very easy to determine the durability of any item, much fewer earbuds. However, a little search on the internet will get you many reviews, and you can judge for yourself. Alternatively, you can ask around from your friends because they probably have more experience than you. You may also consider scrutinizing the warranty because long-lasting items have a longer warranty period, mostly between a year or more. So, if the warranty period is less than a year, move onto the next brand because the manufacturers are not expecting to last more than a year.

Design

You need earbuds that won't keep your hands busy keeping them in place. The gadgets should fit perfectly in your ear so that you are free to concentrate on other important tasks at hand. This is where design comes in, and you have to choose between the in-ear or classic designs. Since most have the in-ear design, try them on to find out how they fit into your ear. They should not be too intrusive as they will likely to cause discomfort. Neither should they be too loose because they will be slipping out most of the time. Essentially, get the perfect fit for your ears.

Performance

High-performance earbuds are likely to cost you more because a price is often directly proportional to the quality. If you are working with a tight budget, consider striking a compromise between quality and cost. However, you can still land great deals if you are patient enough to wait for promotions. If the cost is not a problem, you can consider getting the best quality, with the enhanced sound that features the amazing bass. You realize that most traditional earbuds - like those that came with your smartphone - don't usually produce the bass sound. To establish the quality of the sound system, you will have to take a test drive before walking out of the shop with a brand new package.

The different earbuds technologies

Technology may also determine your choice of earbuds. Whether wired or wireless, it may be a matter of personal preference. You may consider the pros and cons of each category before looking at the price tag.

Wired earbuds

Wired Earbuds

Wired earbuds are still the most popular choice for many because of several advantages. To begin with, they are always the cheaper alternative. Moreover, you don't need to be a gadget guru to accomplish a setup.

Universal 3.5mm jack

All you have to do is to plug into the 3.5mm socket on your media device, and you adjust the volume of your music. Be sure to keep the levels down because you might hurt your ear drums if you listen to high volumes. A corded earbud is also universal – you can use it with any other gadget that has the 3.5mm socket. You will be at home with most of the devices in your home: laptops, tablets, MP3 players and woofers. And because the 3.5 mm jack locks into place once plugged into a device, it may save your phone from crashing onto the floor and breaking.

Cable length

On the other hand, the cable itself is it biggest underbelly. The cable on most earbuds is rarely more than one meter long. This means that you have to move around with the gadget you are plugged into, and it may cause a lot of inconveniences. You definitely can't use them on your TV, however, pressed for privacy you may be.

Wireless earbuds

Wireless Earbuds

Wireless earbuds can be an excellent choice if you loathe the sight of cables dangling everywhere. They also offer you more freedom to move around the room without necessarily tagging the gadget along. To establish a wireless connection, three technologies come into play: infrared, radio frequency and Bluetooth. Of the three, the latest and the most common is the Bluetooth.

Good for smartphones and sport

Many of the devices you are using have inbuilt Bluetooth capability. Your smartphone, printer, the most recent audio systems, TV and some media players all can connect wirelessly to your earbuds. You will love the fact that Bluetooth does not require a separate transmitter' hence, you can use it on the go. You can also use it up to a distance of 30 feet, and you won't have to worry about obstruction. Bluetooth earbuds have low power consumption and can last you almost the whole day.

A different sound quality

Bluetooth technology has its fair share of setbacks. Older versions of Bluetooth offer low-quality audio. Poor quality sound results from the process of compressing the audio file before delivery. Also, Bluetooth earbuds may only be used with one particular device because the two devices connect using a passkey.

Noise-canceling earbuds

Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Before you settle on a specific brand or type of earbuds, you need to think about the reasons necessitating the purchase. If your intention is listening to your favorite music so that you don't bother those around you, then you may not have a noise cancellation device. However, there are times you want to keep to yourself in spite of the surrounding. Imagine being on a long bus trip but you can't focus on your thoughts because the other passengers are creating quite a ruckus. Noise cancellation earbuds would keep out the noise and let you have the inner peace that you so crave.

Good in noisy environments

The earbuds that keep the surrounding sounds out of your ear work by digitally listening to the environment and then generating audio that counters the invading noise. The result is total quietness, depending on the quality and design of the earbuds. However, the most effective of them are invariably the most expensive.

Pricier than others

Nevertheless, you may need to know that there is a difference between noise cancellation and noise isolation. The former uses power to generate frequencies that cancel out the noise while the latter simply keeps surrounding sounds from entering your ear by physically blocking them. A combination of both may give you the best results.

Sweat-proof earbuds

Earbuds Sweat-Proof

If you are the sports type and like jogging or working out but don't want to interrupt your favorite pop music, you would do with sweat-proof earbuds. Sweat, due to its chemical composition, may damage your earbuds if it seeps into their interior. Its corrosive effect may tamper with the circuiting, and you may have to get a new pair altogether.

Perfect for sport

The price tags may be a little on the higher side than regular earbuds. But if you consider that they will see you through your workouts, you will find that it is a small sacrifice to make. You may not be the sporty type but your physiological nature is such that your body produces a lot of sweat, or the weather makes you release copious amounts of sweat, sweat-proof earbuds will come in handy.

Earbuds with Mic

Earbuds with a microphone

While some would prefer noise cancellation sound devices, you may want to integrate a mic somewhere to save you the inconvenience of having to reach out to disconnect the set when an incoming call comes through. In that case, you get earbuds fitted with a mic so that you just press a button and you start communicating with the person at the other end of the line.

Mic quality

You may also be the adventurous type who likes experimenting with devices. You may want to listen to your voice just for fun. You may also want to practice and hone your artistic skills in singing. However, you may want to consider the additional weight of the mic because it may not be so portable after all. But some earbuds have a miniaturized mic which doesn’t impact on their portability.

In-ear vs. classic design

When you set out in search of the best earbuds, be sure to decide whether to go for in-ear or the classic design. In-ear models have small buds which you plug into your ear. Their traditional counterparts have hooks which help to keep them in place. If you enjoy going out for a run or exercising in the gym, the classic design would be better because the hooks will hold them firmly in place.

If you are on a long flight or just lazing around on the couch at home, any design can do. Only remember to get a pair that is comfortable for your ears because you will be using them for a long time.

Earbuds by use

A good way to determine what are the best earbuds for your needs is to understand what you will use them for. There are thousands of earbuds available out there and there are earbuds for everything you can imagine, be it earbuds for swimming or even for sleeping!​

Earbuds for Sports

When doing sport, earbuds are definitely better than headphones thanks to their tiny size. Here are a few sports using different earbuds design​.

Earbuds for working out

Workout earbuds

If you are frequently working-out, you will need earbuds that can stay in place as you go through the paces. The best workout earbuds should also be sweat-proof because you will be sweating most of the time. Conventional earbuds will not do because they are not built to withstand the rigors of heavy exercises.

Earbuds for runners

Running Earbuds

For those who jog or run as a fitness activity, running earbuds will also be necessary. You need earbuds that can stay on your head while you are in motion. Good earbuds will be comfortable when you are at rest, but when you get into motion, they may likely just fall off. Select earbuds with stabilizing fins which ensure they stay in place as you run or bike.

Watterproff earbuds for swimmers

Swimming Earbuds

Earbuds for swimming, on the other hand, are the trickiest to find. You have to ensure they are listed as water-resistant on their labels. And here is where it gets trickier: some of the devices that read water-resistant rarely resist water. You may need expert advice to get the best pair. Swimming means your earbuds will be under water for quite some time. Hence, the chances of soaking in water and ruining them are very high.

Kids earbuds

Earbuds for kids

Your children too may need a nice pair of earbuds so as to share in the fun. Just like yours, ensure you regulate the sound coming out and streaming into the young eardrums.

For this reason, you need to get high-quality earbuds that you can easily control. Kids may also want something colorful, so the color will be a factor when you go out to shop for them.

They should also be sweat-resistant and have mechanisms to keep them in place because kids may not be as careful as adults.

Audiophiles earbuds IEMs

Earbuds for music lovers and audiophiles

For music lovers and audiophiles, the first issue is comfortability because you will be having them on for extended periods of time. You need a pair that won't hurt your ears after prolonged usage. Consequently, you will need to give them a test drive before going home with them. Both in-ear and classic designs can do, but you need to be sure they don't give your ears a hard time.

Gaming earbuds

Earbuds for gaming

Just like music lovers, gamers will also be on their earbuds for quite some time. Comfortability will also rank high on the factors to keep in mind, as well as the quality of the sound coming through. In-ear and classic designs would be okay so long as they can stay in place as your hands work on the game consoles. You may go for the pricier earbuds if you can afford them because they offer the highest standards of quality.

Earbuds for sleeping

Earbuds for sleeping

If you are the type that sleeps to the sound of soothing music, you need to get individual earbuds for sleeping. It wouldn't do to disrupt other sleepers by playing loud music on conventional speaker systems. Go for earbuds that can stay in place as you turn in your sleep and which won't hurt your ears in the long run.

Earbuds designed for bass music

Earbuds for bass

Integrating bass into most earbuds is usually a significant challenge due to their small size.

All is not lost, though, as you can still find a pair fitted with the bass system. The only issue here is their high prices, but then again, money may not be a big deal to you.

Eabuds for android

Earbuds for Android/ iPhone

If you need to replace your Android or iPhone earbuds, you have to keep in mind that the two are not interchangeable, that is, iPhone earbuds can't work on Android devices unless you get the necessary adaptors. Purchasing an additional hardware to bridge compatibility may seem a good idea, but it is costly. Therefore, make sure you get earbuds that are compatible with the operating system on your device.

Earbuds by price

One of the most critical issues to consider before buying earbuds is the amount of money you have at your disposal. However, while you may want to consider your budget, there is always the issue of quality. If you need the best quality, you may have to fork out more. The following categories will give you an idea of pricing:

Cheap earbuds

You shouldn't get worried if you are operating on a tight budget. You can still get good earbuds to rock your ears without breaking the bank. If you are a little careful in checking them out, you will be surprised to land a pair under $20 but which has almost the same build, quality, and look of their pricier counterparts. With good care and best practices, cheap earbuds can last just as along and provide excellent quality services for your ear.

Mid-range earbuds

For those whose budget is not so tight, mid-range earbuds are an excellent choice. They are better than their cheaper counterparts but less dear than high-end devices. They are the best compromise for people who strive for the quality and prestige afforded by high-end gadgets but have the fewer wherewithal at their disposal. A visit to popular shopping sites like Amazon will reveal a broad range of mid-range earbuds, and you can place an order according to the amount of money you are ready to spend.

However, whichever type you choose, the primary factors of comfortability and quality still stand. Moreover, you should consider the purpose for the earbuds. If it is sports, ensure you have the water- and sweat-resistant gadgets. Therefore, you need to strike a balance between the price and use.

High-end earbuds

They are the ultimate earbuds and the best you can ever find. They have the best specifications and offer the highest quality sound. But you have to bear with their hefty price tags: some cost well over $1,000. Some may not be available in local stores, so you have to look further afield. Nevertheless, you can find a pair of reputable online stores from the comfort of your living room. However, you will still have to take the necessary precautions to ensure that whichever model you choose fulfills your needs. One such consideration is the warranty – you don’t want to take chances with such an expensive device.

Quick notes

Choosing the best earbuds can be quite a complicated affair, especially to the uninitiated. You need to be aware that so many factors will come into play to determine the kind of gadget you finally buy. You have to consider durability, comfort design, and performance. Finding an earbud that combines all these qualities may be next to impossible, so you have to be ready to make a compromise.

What do you need?

Manufacturers today make earbuds specific to the needs of their users. You may want to buy Bluetooth earbuds for running or noise cancelling ones. You can even find waterproof earbuds designed to be used in water sports, Bluetooth earphones for working out with a special design allowing more movement with your body.

However, you can still land the best earbuds if you look hard enough. You will also consider the technologies used to make the gadgets, and as you would expect, some are more expensive than others. If you have to make a choice between wired and wireless technologies, look at your budget.

What do you want to pay?

With the help of technology, constructors have been able to develop incredibly advanced earbuds matching the best headphones in term of sound quality. Of course, this quality comes at a price and you can easily end up spending hundreds of dollar for your pair of earbuds if you want perfection (Look at the Shure SE846CL).

You should also keep in mind how you want to use the earbuds. If you are going to use them for sports, get something water- and sweat-proof. Last, but not least, you definitely will want to have a look at their price tags because, ultimately, it is what will determine whether you carry them home. Ultimately, you have to find something that fits your budget while at the same time offering you the best possible value.

Our earphones reviews

We reviewed the best earbuds from thousands of models. We chose this list of the 5 best earbuds based on users feedback and reviews. We reviewed them for their unconditional positive feedback and excellent performances.

The Shure SE846-CL, simply the best

The Shure SE846-CL lives up to the name of Shure’s top quality and long line of excellence in producing the best earbuds year after year. Shure has made sure not to disappoint us, adding tons of features from Swappable Sound Signature Nozzle, which gives the user complete control of the quality of sound, to quad-balanced armature drivers. The SE846-CL also come equipped with a three way system giving them a dedicated distribution for every range of frequencies from the lowest to the highest.

Shure SE846-CL - the best earbuds

These earbuds are well designed and fit perfectly in your ears with ease. Keeping in mind their users, the SE846-CL have a removable cable design that allows you to swap between 45” and 60” Kevlar-reinforced cables, which are included in their impressive packaging. To keep things interesting Shure also provides different foam, soft flex, and triple flange sleeves to give user the comfort they desire.

With the SE846-CL, Shure has really stepped up its performance with a product that delivers what it promises. The Quad High-Definition MicroDrivers with True Subwoofers provides you with high-frequency clarity while giving unparalleled low-frequency performance. Shure has one of the most unique features in the patent-pending low pass filter design. They are embodied with ten precision-welded stainless steel plates that eliminate any frequency above 75Hz that would otherwise clutter the low frequency driver’s output. This allows crystal-clear audio output and it is what makes users rave about the SE846-CL as the best in ear headphones in the market. The sound is so clear that even the slightest note or whisper can be heard from the audio.

Shure SE846-CL : final thoughts

Perfection comes at a price… It’s the most expensive earbuds on the market with a price in the 1000$ level. If you want a top of the line, high-end pair of earbuds and if money is not a problem for you, then Shure’s SE846-CL are the earbuds you need. With their comfortable design and over the charts performance, they are definitely the absolute best earbuds of all time.

$999 - $1199

Yamaha EPH-100SL, an affordable compromise

Yamaha EPH-100SL are a perfect fit for music lovers with an on the go lifestyle. Yamaha has worked on this model listening to their users feedback making them more comfortable with better audio quality. With the EPH-100SL your ears get an experience of surround sound almost as if they were at a live concert.

The EPH-100SL have a high-tech design. With the detailed oriented workmanship the earbuds exude both quality and luxury. Yamaha values its user’s comfort and this is shown in the design with small, lightweight shells that easily fit in the user’s ears with comfortable, soft ear tips. The build is also sturdy with machined-aluminum housing and tangle-resistant cables to provide longevity.

In terms of performance, Yamaha’s EPH-100SL pair of earbuds is an outstanding all-rounder that delivers quality audio. It has somewhat of a flat spectrum but really stands out in clarity in the mids. With dynamic drivers equipped, they provide that extra thump in bass along with low-distortion sound. The 6 mm driver participates in the delivery of a pure sound to the user’s ears while the aluminum body reduces sound loss.

Yamaha EPH-100SL : final thoughts

For its price tag, the EPH-100SL is sure going to surprise music aficionados with their rich audio. These earbuds really shine, delivering excellent sound clarity with vocals, instruments and bass making it a must grab.

$89 - $99

Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2, the most comfortable

Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2

Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2 are considered to be groundbreaking earbuds with one of the most secure in-canal fit. As much as the C5 S2 is praised for its well thought out design it also delivers rich bass without compromising on the quality of higher tones. Bowers & Wilkins have manufactured a masterpiece that brings to life the music in your ears at a decent price compared to the Shure SE846-CL.

The C5 S2 really stand out in their build and look with a simple yet elegant design in a black color scheme. The C5 S2 follow the design of their predecessor with the metallic grille on the tip and an adjustable cable loop that fits behind the ear giving them that perfect fit. They also come with a remote that allows you to easily adjust the volume or answer to phone calls.

The C5 S2 respects Bowers & Wilkins standard of quality. They produce tremendous bass giving boost to sub-bass and bass, giving your music that thump to liven it up. The sound remains distortion free even at higher frequency giving the earbuds high definition and rich performance. Bowers & Wilkins have engineered the earbuds in such a way that it boosts notes that are harder to hear for the human ear and at the same time making the entire audible spectrum equally hearable. It is also designed to block outside noise giving you a crystal-clear music experience.

Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2 : final thoughts

Sure, they are not the cheapest earbuds but the Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2 offer a formidable experience. The bass quality is perfect ! It may not please those that are looking for more of a high-mid presence but for others it is the "perfect fit."

$160 - $180

Westone W40, excellent high-end earbuds

Westone W40

Westone W40 helped Westone impress with their line of earbuds that comes with top features. The W40 has a simple and lightweight design that is built for utility. Westone hopes to attract audiophiles from across the globe with the promise of delivering big sound with clear mids and highs. With the specifications and engineering behind these earbuds they hopes to set themselves apart from their competitors.

Keeping user’s preferences in mind the W40 are designed in such a way it’s a snug fit in the user’s ear. This allows proper noise cancellation along with optimal audio enjoyment. They also come with a “Monitor Vault”, a high quality case made to store the earbuds and protect them. Along with this, to keep things funky, Westone provides colored faceplates, blue and red, so you can choose which color you want your earbuds to be depending on your mood or what you wear.

The W40 come equipped with Four Balanced Drivers which deliver clarity at a wide range of frequencies. To make it simple, they deliver a sound so detailed that when you listen to your favorite tracks again with the W40 for the first time you will feel something different, magical, making your music completely new. The W40, with their professional mixing-level clarity, help audiophiles track every little acoustic guitar sweep or muttering vocal in the audio.

Westone W40 : final thoughts

Westone W40 do carry a hefty price tag with them but they provide top-notch audio. If you have the budget to splurge a little on earbuds then you can’t go wrong with the W40’s.

$430 - $480

Bose QuietComfort 20i / 20, the best earbuds with noise-cancelling

Bose QuietComfort 20i

Bose QuietComfort 20 line is everything a music lover could have hoped for. The QC 20 come in 2 versions: the 20i, made for Apple products, iPhones, iPad,… and the 20, for Android, Windows, and other phones. Bose has outdone itself with the QuietComfort 20i with the noise cancellation feature that really sets them apart from others. Users have gone on to boast them as the best noise cancellation earbuds.

In line with previous Bose earbuds, the QuietComfort 20i and 20 are not really flashy with their gray color tones. They have however been engineered to fit securely in your ears with silicone eartips which provide great comfort. The cable comes equipped with a remote to control the phone or music player. The earbuds are quite sturdy and durable so they are ideal for traveling.

The noise cancellation feature helps take the performance of these earbuds to another level. It has been engineered to cancel out noise from a running train across the street or from a person next to you talking, giving you the ability to listen to your music or talk on the phone without distraction. The sound is also well-balanced, providing the perfect mix of bass and treble while offering depth. Along with the noise cancellation technology, that makes them a great performing pair of in-ear headphones for commuters.

Bose QC 20 and 20i : final toughts

They are not the cheapest earbuds on the market but with the features the QuietComfort 20i and QuietComfort 20 hold they sure cannot be ignored. If you have a busy city life or travel often and you want to enjoy your music in peace then the QuietComfort 20 line is for you.

$299 - $319

Final words

Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend that much to enjoy your music with a great sound quality. You can find pretty good earbuds under 100 that will do incredibly fine and some of the best earbuds under 50 are really impressive.

When selecting a pair of earbud, there are lots things to consider from design to the technology it employs. Like most things we buy we expect the most out of what we purchase and the same goes with earbuds. The right one can help enhance your music experience and make you fall in love with your favorite music over and over.

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