However, the S5i Ruggeds are all about ease of use and comfort (there's a huge choice of tips to choose from), and even the in-line remote controls - for iPhone only - have been given some thought, with both volume and playback controls raised from a tactile base. The result is that they're easy to find and operate through touch alone, so changing your tune doesn't require awkward downward glances. Now officially discontinued, these are are an absolute steal online.
5. Etymotic Research HF5 - £110/US$150/AU$170
Low-end and high-end earbuds are myriad, but the Etymotic Research HF5s manage to hit the altogether less numerous mid-price-range spot with the highlight of these high quality in-ears being noise isolation.
They lack hands-free and in-line controls, which might put some off, but these tiny in-ears offer up a big performance in recompense. The HF5s give a full and expansive sound, with bags of detail, accurate mid-range and cracking bass. Well-built with a metallic construction and with very comfortable tips that push the HF5s noise isolation skills, there's another bonus for travellers in the shape of a handy pouch.
6. Bowers & Wilkins C5 - £150/US$180/AU$230
Another unique feature is the way the C5s attach to ears, with a backwards bend of each cable slotting into the driver to create an ear loop. Easy enough to wear and tweak to fit, the C5s feel secure. Meanwhile, there are in-line controls for call answering and volume, though again they only work with an iPhone.
7. Westone 2 True Fit - £200/US$250/AU$260
Many a savvy international traveller can be seen wearing a pair of US-made Westones. Lightweight and primed for a shirt pocket, the sound quality is way above average, though the reason they're popular is an unusual skill at blocking out noise. OK, so they're not going to compete with battery-powered noise cancelling headphones from Bose, but they're at least 70% as effective - and at 15g (0.53oz) they're about a twentieth of the weight of bulky headband models that are the antithesis of easy travel.
It's all about the fit. A plethora of different types of tips are provided - something we've not seen offered elsewhere - all of which achieve a snug fit comparable to earplugs. The hard-cased travel pouch complete with belt-loop is the icing that makes these Westone 2 True Fits our constant travel companion.
8. Denon AH-C400 - £200/US$300 (around AU$310)
Better known for its larger, home-centric and audiophile-grade headphones, Japanese audio brand Denon here makes an attempt at street wear. The AH-C400s are clever stuff, boasting a 'tangle-free' cable design that for once lives up to its name. The plastic-covered cable is sturdier than most and might even survive being run over by a chair (the most common means of earphone death in our house). That covering also means that when unfurled from a pocket they're easy to arrange.
The earpieces themselves are rather large, though lightweight enough to stay in position. Effectively cutting out ambient noise, they offer sparkling detail and plenty of bass, too, though it's not overdone. The in-line remote is rather long, though slender, and buttons are raised just enough to locate with touch alone. Not surprisingly, those in-line controls only work with iPhones.
9. Atomic Floyd SuperDarts - £200 (around US$302/AU$312)
Solid stainless steel and a classy metallic-red design are what you see on the SuperDarts, but what's really attractive is how they sound. Lively and precise, the SuperDarts' dual drivers in each ear prove to be just as at home with complex rock as with simple acoustic music, and the choice of three silicone tips all effectively keep out noise. Classier than the Westone 4s, travellers will nevertheless find them a notch below in terms of noise isolation.
Another successful tangle-free cable design in the bag, the SuperDarts also add an in-line remote that's easy to use for both volume adjustments and call answering. Also included is a flight adaptor, a 6.3mm adaptor and a travel pouch.
Read our full Atomic Floyd SuperDarts review
10. Shure SE535 - £400/US$480/AU$450
Shure has come up with another cracker. Equipped with three drivers, its SE535s sound great even if they don't look it. Inside each chunky earpiece are a couple of woofers and a tweeter. Cue music imbued with deep, rich bass lines, awesome clarity and a butch mid-range that's all too rare on cheap earphones.
There are caveats: they're certainly not cheap, and if you're looking for some iPod replacement earphones these probably aren't for you. They're bulky and can be a tad fiddly to put in your ears. However, it's only when you treat yourself to a pair of earbuds like this that you realise how good music can sound. These are brilliant, and if you can afford them they'll do your music justice in ways most earphones can only aspire to.
Read our full Shure SE535 review