With that in mind, we've included a range of styles and prices here. You're bound to find something that fits well, sounds great, and—above all—doesn't tie you up in knots. Once you've found the perfect pair, check out our five easy tips to extend the life of your headphones and six ways you're using your headphones wrong. And if you want to share your tunes with others, look no further than our favorite wireless speakers.
We like that, once paired with your device, the Sesh earbuds will automatically power on when you remove them from the case, and they will connect to the most recently used device. Pop them back into the case, and they power off and begin to charge. As with our more expensive picks, you don’t have to give much thought to power and connection issues, which we can’t say for a lot of budget competitors.
Fit is important for any pair of workout headphones and the wireless Jaybird X4 is super customizable for maximum comfort. The earbuds come with different-sized silicone and foam tips and fins along with a “Speed Cinch” that lets you tighten or loosen the cable hanging around your neck. You also have the option of draping the cable either under or over your ear, depending on your preference.
The best cheap wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve. They’re more comfortable than most in-ears we’ve tested, since their earbud tips don’t enter too deeply in the ear canal and they have an ear-hook design that ensures a stable fit. Their 13-hour battery life outperforms that of more expensive models, and they even come with a nice hard carrying case, which is a welcome addition at this price point. They’re also the best earbuds for bass that we’ve reviewed to date thanks to their exciting bass-rich sound.
Everything about the JLab JBuds Air Icon is fantastic except the sound. These earbuds pair easily, fit comfortably, and have an intelligently designed charging case with a USB cable built in. They’re water and sweat resistant, too. But even with three EQ options, they can’t compete with our picks sonically. In our tests, the “balanced” mode produced soft and blurry bass and sibilant highs, the “bass boost” option was crazy-loud and reverby in a way that obliterated every other instrument, and the “signature” mode had bloated, woofing bass that covered male voices. If you listen only to podcasts, these earbuds are excellent, but music fans would likely be disappointed.
The Skullcandy Push doesn’t come with large ear tips and wouldn’t seal for half of our panel. If you can get a seal, the Push earbuds are comfortable and seem to stay put in the ear well enough. However, the single-button controls are based on a series of taps, so it can be easy to accidentally pause when you want to change volume, for example, or to power down when you want to call up your digital assistant.
Unfortunately, their neckband isn’t the most durable and the rubber sleeve that protects the inner components tends to peel apart with time. Consider the Jabra Elite 65e Wireless as a better-built yet cheaper option with superior mic performance and more customization options, but they don’t sound as well-balanced and their battery doesn’t last as long. All things considered, the Bose still perform quite well overall and are good travel headphones.
These are typically lighter than over-ear models, and they press on the ears instead of the sides of your head. Some users find them to be more comfortable than over-ear models and less likely to make their ears hot during long listening sessions. On-ear headphones, like over-the-ear, also come in open-back and closed-back varieties, but regardless, they often let in more outside sound because they typically don’t form as tight of a seal with the ear. Some can fold for storage and come with carrying pouches.
If you’re still using the earbuds that came with your phone or other gadget, you may want to consider an upgrade. You have a lot choices these days: from tiny, in-ear models that will slip into a shirt pocket to big, over-the-ear models that can help immerse you in the music and make you look (and maybe even feel!) like a DJ. And some models skip wires altogether, leaving nothing but air between you and your music.
The most important thing to consider is how you’re going to be using the headphones. If you commute, you probably don’t want open back headphones. If you’re going to be mixing movie soundtracks in a studio, you might not want a pair $10 in-ears. The audio market is exploding and there are literally thousands upon thousands of products out there. Chances are, there’s more than a few that are going to suit your needs perfectly and now that you know what everything means, finding it shouldn’t be too difficult. Happy hunting!
That said, the term earbuds has become synonymous with earphones and in-ear headphones, so the difference is ultimately academic. Whatever you call them and whatever they say on the box, you should look for earphones that form a good seal inside your ear with silicone or foam eartips. They'll sound much better than plastic-covered drivers cupped against your ear canal.