Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.

Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.


The best wireless earbuds for iPhone that we've tested so far are the Apple AirPods Pro. Apple’s newest iteration on what is now an almost iconic design brings some minor design changes and improvements over their predecessors. As you may recall, the last AirPods were earbuds, which sat outside of the ear canal. But on the Pro, Apple transformed them into in-ears, requiring a deeper insertion. That said, they’re not so deep as to be uncomfortable. This does help with passive isolation and Apple has succeeded in what they set out to do. The noise isolation on these earbuds are great, with an overall attenuation of -23db. The overall sound profile is also different, as Apple opted for a closed-back design this time around. Lacking a bit of bass, they have a fairly neutral sound but lean more towards the brighter side.

Tward says it’s possible to get a skin or outer-ear infection from trying on in-ear headphones that have been in other people’s ears. If you choose to go down this test-driving path, clean the earbud with an alcohol wipe first, Tward says. Most stores don’t allow people to try on in-ear headphones, possibly for fear of spreading bacteria — but also because it would require the employees and resources to clean them. Best Buy and Target, for example, don’t offer test units to shoppers.

Premium audiophile company Master & Dynamic took a break from ear-melting home theater systems to drop a pair of true wireless earbuds. You’ll pay handsomely for them, but the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus offer some of the best sound quality you’ll find in a pair of earbuds. You could mistake them for stones thanks to the unique designs on the acetate chassis, which are handmade. Because of that, no two sets of MW07 buds are ever alike.


Otherwise, Plantronics delivers on better-than-average sound quality with a pair of 5.8mm drivers that make the BackBeat Pro 5100 perfectly acceptable for music. Their tap controls are backed by the BackBeats app that grants cool functionality like one- or two-tap access to playlists, EQ settings, and handy stopwatch and time functions. Couple those last two goodies with IP54 water resistance and 6.5 hours of battery (plus an extra 13 hours from the case), and they can even pull double duty as your workout buddies.
If you have $250 to spend and like the Apple H1 chip’s initial pairing process, we recommend the Powerbeats Pro pair, which offers great sound, better controls, longer battery life, and a more stable fit for transitioning to the gym. But if you really want noise cancellation, the AirPods Pro set is the better Apple-friendly choice. Ultimately, we still prefer the Jabra Elite 75t’s ability to connect to two devices (such as a laptop and phone) simultaneously, as well as its stable fit and lower price tag. In the end, we don’t dislike the AirPods Pro; we just like using other earbuds a little better.
Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.
If you like extra bass, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless has it, along with easy-to-use touch controls. But the earbud chassis is pretty big, so small or medium-size ears may feel overstuffed, and there’s no water resistance. In our tests, consonants sounded especially sibilant, piercing, and artificial, and the EQ on the app was clumsy and confusing to use.
An ambient hearing mode pipes sound in from your surroundings, a crucial feature for cyclists, pedestrians, or anyone who needs to keep their ears to the street. Early AirPods Pro reviews rank their noise cancelation’s efficacy highly, perhaps even better than Sony’s WF-1000XM3, which was long regarded as the top echelon in true wireless earbuds. In our own testing, we found that Apple also stepped up its game in overall audio quality. Our reviewer noticed a stronger bass response and crisper highs despite using the same H1 chip as the AirPods 2. We can’t wrap this up without giving Apple major props for adding water resistance, making the AirPods Pro viable for workouts and brief outings in the rain. Add five hours of battery life and another 24 hours through the included fast charging case, and the AirPods Pro stand out as the best pair of stringless earbuds money can buy.
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