Best Earbuds and In-Ear Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best earbuds and earphones you can buy in 2018.
We'd all love to stay home and listen to music using our pristine umpteen-watt floor-standing speakers all day long, but unfortunately we do have to leave the house at some point during the day.
But that doesn't mean we have to leave exceptional sound quality at our doorstep - a great pair of in-ear headphones (or earbuds) can contend with some high-end systems and cost a lot less.
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.
[Update: Are you looking for the perfect gift for the music lover in your life? Check out our guide on the best gifts for audiophiles, and you could be on to a winning present.]
That being said, our list of the best headphones are routinely tested to ensure they're still the best in the business. We're looking for pristine sound quality, convenient features and bullet-proof build quality at a price you can afford.
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.
Can't decide which type of headphones to buy? Check out our guide video below:
The best earbuds and in-ear headphones of 2018:
1. 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
Your search for great sounding, good value headphones ends here
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20 - 40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99 dB at 1KHz | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
2. RHA MA390 Wireless
One of the best neckbuds for the price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 24 grams | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 16 – 22,000Hz | Drivers: Micro Dynamic | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100dB | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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
3. RHA T20i
Sound so good you’ll want to go back to wired
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 41 grams | Cable length: 1.35m | Frequency response: 16-40,000Hz | Drivers: DualCoil Dynamic Driver | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 90 dB/mW | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: RHA T20i
4. Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
Practically flawless wireless earbuds
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 15.5g | Cable length: 58 ± 2cm | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20,000kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 92dB ± 3dB | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
5. OnePlus Bullets Wireless
Amazing wireless earphones for the price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .1 pounds | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: Neodymium | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: OnePlus Bullets Wireless
6. Optoma NuForce BE Sport3
One of the best wireless headphones you can buy for the gym
Acoustic design: N/A | Weight: 18 grams | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20-20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 102dB +/-3dB at 1kHz | Impedance: 16 Ohm | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 10m (30ft.) | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport3
7. Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless
One of the best true wireless headphones you can buy
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 6.5g right headset 5,8g left headset, charging case 67g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 103dB | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: 15 Hours | Wireless range: 10 meters (33 feet) | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t
8. Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear
Fully-featured and powerful in-ear headphones
Acoustic design: N/A | Weight: .3 pounds | Cable length: 4.2 feet | Frequency response: 15-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 18 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear
9. 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones
More expensive than the Triple Drivers, but More powerful too
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 18.5 g | Cable length: 1.25 m | Frequency response: 20 - 40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99 dB at 1KHz | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones
10. Optoma NuForce HEM6
An understated pair of headphones with a phenomenal sound quality
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .2 oz | Cable length: 1.38m | Frequency response: 18 - 40,000Hz | Drivers: 5.8mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 113dB+/-3dB | Impedance: 37 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
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.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce HEM6
- Check out TechRadar's exhaustive guides to the best headphones to buy today including the best on-ear headphones and the best over-ear headphones.
- For some more specialist pairs, take a look at our guides to the best wireless headphones, the best true wireless headphones, and the best noise-cancelling headphones.
- Looking for some headphones you can take in the pool or on your run? Check out our guide to the best swimming headphones and best running headphones.