Best earbuds 2022: our top earphones and in-ear headphones for any budget

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
best earbuds against a yellow orange TechRadar background
(Image credit: Future)
Editor's note: November 2022

As we move calmly into the last quarter of 2022 (in the UK you might be grabbing a sweater, elsewhere you're perhaps putting one back in a drawer), Sony's WF-1000MX4 continue to hold off the competition at the top of our recommended earbuds list, but they're far from the only buds to deliver a best-in-class excellent mix of comfort, features and sound – and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro prove that.

And although the Sonys are a premium proposition, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get the best buds. For example, the JLab Go Air Pop buds are punching above their weight for battery, features and sound performance, as are the Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW. 

We also recommend the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, an excellent Android alternative to Apple's AirPods Pro – but then, of course, there's the new, enhanced AirPods Pro 2. Any good? Oh yes. Yes they are… 

Becky Scarrott, senior audio staff writer

The best earbuds are a great option if you want a way to listen to your favorite music on the move, whether you enjoy working out to a high-energy soundtrack at the gym, putting on relaxing classical music on a long haul flight or catching up with podcasts on your commute. 

The tiny design of all of the earbuds in this list means they’re compact enough to slip into your pocket. Although the best earbuds might be small, most don’t compromise on sound performance or battery life — if you choose one of the best wired earbuds options from this list, you don’t need to consider battery life at all. 

With so many options to pick from, the challenge is finding the right pair of earbuds for you. Do you want wired earbuds or cable-free true wireless earbuds? What about noise-cancelling buds or a more open fit? High-end earphones that would please an audiophile or budget buds? 

We’ve tested hundreds of the best true wireless earbuds and wireless earphones over the years, so we know what to look for in terms of design, features and sound performance to help you pick the right pair to suit your budget and your preferences.

If you want to up your audio game but don’t necessarily need earbuds, take a look at our best headphones and wireless headphones guides as well. If you’re looking for cheap and cheerful options, read our budget wireless earbuds guide. Or, if you’re after earbuds that are built for fitness, check out our best running headphones guide, which offer sweat resistant designs and the best bone-conducting headphones.

Otherwise, read on for our pick of the best earbuds for you, including budget buds, wired earphones and the best true wireless audio tech you can buy today. When you've found the right buds for you, get them for the best possible price too: our price checker will help you find the best headphones deal available.

The best earbuds of 2022: our top picks

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A closeup of the Sony wf-1000xm4 wireless earbuds.

(Image credit: Sony)
The best overall in-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 7.3g
Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz
Drivers: 6mm
Battery life : 8 hours (earbuds) 16 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Rapid, full-bodied and eloquent sound
+
Truly useful features
+
Impressive call quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Unremarkable battery life
-
No aptX support

Sony is largely responsible for the health of the active noise-cancelling, true wireless earbuds market. With the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before. 

Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, these new wireless earphones offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.  They may lack aptX support, they make up for that with great call quality, excellent in-app features, and a sense you've bought a classy pair of earbuds.

Listening to Kate Bush’s Lake Tahoe, the ability of the WF-1000XM4 to identify and incorporate the tiniest details or the most fleeting transients into a much broader picture was obvious. ‘Communicative’ may seem a redundant word when discussing a person’s singing voice, but here it’s absolutely appropriate: if they’re anything, the WF-1000XM4 are communicative.

That may mean that other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – but no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.

Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

JLab Go Air Pop best earbuds against a white background

(Image credit: JLab)
The best budget earbuds with great sound quality

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 3.7g per earpiece
Frequency response: 20HZ-20kHZ
Drivers: 6mm drivers
Battery life (on-board): 32 in total (8 hours from buds)

Reasons to buy

+
Light design with small, comfortable earpieces
+
Reliable on-ear controls
+
Sounds better than anything else at this price

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the last word in sonic brilliance generally
-
Odd fitted charging cable

It is possible to purchase a set of budget earbuds without sacrificing your listening experience – and eardrums – in the process. The JLab Go Air Pop is a terrific cheap option that makes it possible for discerning listeners to enjoy solid sound at a budget price. 

They don't only beat anything in their price range for sound; they belie their lowly price point, sounding far better than you'd expect for its cheap price. Our testing of these wireless earbuds proved that vocals are relatively well handled through the mids, the bass is sensibly handled, and the soundstage is relatively expansive. 

They might not beat out flagships from the likes of Sony, Apple, or Sennheiser, but they certainly punch above their weight in audio and features. They also come with reliable Bluetooth connectivity, killer battery life, lightweight earpieces, and a comfortable fit.

Read the full review JLab Go Air Pop

A close up of the best earbuds, the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone.

(Image credit: 1More)
The best-sounding wired earbuds under $100

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: N/A
Frequency response: 20 - 40,000Hz
Drivers: Dynamic
Battery life: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Lush sound quality
+
Excellent build and design
+
Unmatched value

Reasons to avoid

-
Plastic remote feels cheap

If you want earbuds that come with a cable to keep them secure so you can avoid losing them, the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones are the best wired earbuds you can buy in 2022. 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. 

It’s hard to find a better-sounding pair of earphones at this price point than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones are still a bargain at twice the price. 

There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable can be annoying, and the remote control feels cheap, but these are just nitpicks. For their price, they’re impossible to beat.

Read the full 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review

Honor Earbuds 3 Pro in gray on white background

(Image credit: Honor)
Truly the AirPods alternatives for Android owners

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight : 5.1g per earbud
Frequency Response: N/A
Drivers: Coaxial: 11mm moving-coil + high-resolution ceramic tweeter
Battery life (onboard) : 6 hours (ANC off)

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed, spacious, exuberant sound
+
Plenty of AirPods-like features for Honor users
+
Intuitive and well-designed Android app

Reasons to avoid

-
No iOS app
-
No ‘Find My’ feature
-
No promised temperature sensors

Yes, they look very much like Apple’s AirPods Pro and no Honor Earbuds 3 Pro review worth its Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity can ignore this fact. But rather than joining the ever-growing poor imitation pile, Honor has taken the shape of the pro-suffixed AirPods and added on-device volume control to the stems, a more customizable and enjoyable noise-cancellation experience, a new slick and easy app (as long as you don’t own an iPhone – it's only available for Android) and most importantly delivered a fuller, meatier bass, a more expansive soundstage and a better, more detailed sonic experience overall. 

And it has managed to do it all at a more palatable price point than Apple’s Pro alternative. Despite the Earbuds 3 Pro's familiar headshell and toothbrush-head design, under the hood Honor has gone out on a limb by implementing the world’s first coaxial dual-driver design with 11mm dynamic driver and piezoelectric ceramic tweeter here. Basically, the two individual drive units are built concentrically so that they radiate sound from the same point. And it could have been a disaster. Only, it is quite the opposite. It's a resounding triumph – and Apple should be worried. 

Read the full Honor Earbuds 3 Pro review 

AirPods Pro 2 on white background

(Image credit: Apple)
The best earbuds from Apple

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.3g
Frequency response: Not listed
Drivers: Custom Apple design
Battery life : 6 hours (earbuds) 30 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic active noise cancellation
+
Very strong audio quality
+
Great features when used with iPhone

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life
-
No lossless support

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are excellent earbuds, offering improved audio performance and fantastic ANC in Apple’s comfortable and familiar AirPods-esque design. But they're a much better choice if you have an iPhone than if you don't.

The Pro 2 buds are a significant step up from the original AirPods Pro. Design changes are subtle, but audio performance is upgraded with new drivers and amplifiers. During our testing, we rated the sound on offer from the Pro 2 as excellent – there’s rich audio across genres and a wide and expansive soundstage. 

ANC is also improved and performs remarkably well, blocking out almost all external noises. Transparency mode is now more useful because it’s adaptive, allowing you to have natural conversations when you don’t want to remove your buds.

Battery life has had a boost. You get 6 hours from the buds with ANC on, and 30 hours from the charging case, which is now IPX4 water resistant—withstanding light showers and sweating – and has a speaker, handy if you lose them as you can activate a 'Find My' request.

We still rate the original AirPods Pro if you can find them at a lower price, but the Pro 2 are solid contenders in the crown for the best earbuds. ANC is top-tier and, if you’re an iPhone user, we’d even recommend the Pro 2 over the Sony WF-1000XM4s. Like the Sony buds, they’re excellent all-rounders, packing fantastic audio and style into a pair of buds you could happily wear all day. 

Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in bora purple on white background

(Image credit: Samsung)
Easily the best Samsung Galaxy Buds yet

Specifications

Weight: 5.5g
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: Custom Coaxial 2-way
Battery life: 5 hours (buds) 18 hours (case)

Reasons to buy

+
Vastly improved hi-res sound quality
+
Solid ANC
+
Classy, comfortable design and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is only average

Given Samsung's formidable reputation in the smartphone and tablet arena, it has long surprised us that the company's Galaxy Buds output never quite hit the mark. But that has just changed int he best way possible. 

Apple, Sony, Bose and Sennheiser now need to take a good look at what Samsung has done with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. They're good. No, really, they're good

The headline-grabber, if you own a Samsung Galaxy device (and thus, access to the Samsung Wearable companion app and home-screen widget) is 360 audio with optional head-tracking, thus allowing you to use your phone as the focal point to direct more of that new end-to-end 24-bit high-res audio to whichever ear you prefer.

These smaller, more comfortable and less arrogant earbuds (remember the rose gold, kidney-bean shaped Galaxy Buds Live? These are nothing like those) are packed full of useful perks such as excellent ANC, voice detect, wearer detection and customizable on-ear controls – all of which work very well indeed – plus IPX7 water ingress protection. All in all, a home run from Samsung – marred only by the disappointing five-hour battery life. 

Read our full review: Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW on white background

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)
It's hip to be square – and Audio-Technica knows it

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.2g per earbud
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: 5.8mm dynamic
Battery life : Earbuds 6.5 hours, 13.5 hours in the case (20hr total)

Reasons to buy

+
Chic buds with reliable on-ear volume control
+
Useful low latency/hear-through modes
+
Sounds far better than most at this price

Reasons to avoid

-
No companion app
-
No active noise cancellation

These cubist, cool, refreshingly different Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW earbuds are clear proof that Audio-Technica is just… loving Audio-Technica right now. And why not? 60 years of hi-fi heritage is not to be sniffed at (yes, predominantly in analog audio rather than these little things, but what of it?) and Audio-Technica has earned the right to go its own way. 

AT has not tried to emulate any other earbuds from competing brands here and we love the Tokyo audio outfit for it. These buds are available in no fewer than six delicious-sounding colorways (Caramel, Popsicle, Cupcake, Blueberry, Liquorice and Popcorn – try that for size, ice-white-only AirPods) and you're getting Bluetooth 5.0, 20 hours of battery, a beautiful product that fits comfortably, on-ear controls that work well (including volume) plus a low-latency mode, a hear-through function and a sound that's more expansive, clearer and generally better than anything else you can buy for this money.

As long as a lack of companion app and active noise cancellation aren't deal-breakers, these inexpensive earbuds should be on your list – and not on looks alone; the sound is very, very good for $80. 

Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW

The Nuratrue true wireless earbuds in black with a white logo.

(Image credit: Nura)
True wireless earbuds with excellent sound you can customize

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight : 7.4g (each bud)
Frequency Response: N/A
Drivers: N/A
Battery life (onboard) : 6 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound
+
Highly personalized
+
Noise cancellation

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t use latest Bluetooth version
-
Battery life could be better

The NuraTrue are probably the most personalized wireless earbuds you can buy today – and some of the best-sounding, too. They’re the first true wireless earbuds from Australian audio brand Nura, following in the footsteps of its NuraLoop earphones, which rank just one position higher in this list and are some of our favorite wired earbuds of all time. 

They offer unbeaten levels of customization that allow the earbuds to be tuned to your ears exactly. The accompanying app even analyzes how well the buds fit into your ears. The end result is outstanding audio performance that reveals superb levels of detail in your music, and a wide soundstage that enables every instrument to sing. 

Listening to Princes’ Gang Gang Dance, the pulsating synths and driving, distorted percussion sounds as if it’s coming at you from every angle. As the bass line drops, with Tinchy Stryder’s attacking rap vocal coming in, the sound feels incredibly immersive, with a wide soundstage and plenty of detail. 

They also come with plenty of features that will appeal to anyone who wants a cheaper alternative to popular models, such as the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4, including decent noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, fast charging, and support for hi-res audio too. 

Read the full NuraTrue review

The Sennheiser IE 900 in-ear headphones.

(Image credit: Sennheiser)
Premium earbuds with audiophile-quality sound

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 24g
Frequency response: 5Hz - 48,000kHz
Drivers: 7mm dynamic
Battery life: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible audio performance
+
Choice of cables
+
Great build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive compared to rivals

If you're an over-ear headphones aficionado, the Sennheiser IE 900 are the best in-ear headphones for trying out the smaller form actor - if you can afford them, that is. These pricey audiophile-grade earbuds deliver an incredible audio performance that's testament to their great design. It's a shame there's no in-line remote on any of the cables, but that's a small bugbear. 

Listening to Secure the Galactic Perimeter from the Frank (2014) soundtrack, the earbuds handle the frenetic timing changes and wild dynamic and tonal extremes with finesse. As Michael Fassbender’s voice pans left and right, the earbuds demonstrate just how good their imaging is. 

Elsewhere, plenty of detail has gone into making these buds. That includes aluminum housings to even including a microfibre cleaning cloth to keep your beloved buds safe. 

Comfortable to wear for long periods of time, these are an expensive investment but a smart one if you're passionate about the best sound quality at all times. They're a dream for the true audiophile that never wants to miss a moment while listening.

Read the full Sennheiser IE 900 review

The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 plus true wireless earbuds with their charging case.

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
Affordable wireless earbuds with mind-blowing sound

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 9.2g
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: 5.8mm
Battery life (on-board): 9 hours (earbuds) 41 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning audio performance
+
Great app
+
Easy controls

Reasons to avoid

-
No ANC

Cambridge Audio might be best known for its high-end audio equipment, but over the past few years, the British company has branched out into the world of true wireless earbuds. Its first offering was the Melomania 1, which are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy. However, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a worthy upgrade, putting many other earbuds in the shade in terms of audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use. 

While the design of the Melomania 1 Plus hasn’t deviated too far from its predecessors, there’s a clear step-up in terms of audio performance, with levels of detail and clarity that could rival some of the best over-ear headphones. As we listened to Normal Song by Perfume Genius, the earbuds eked out every last drop of detail with stunning clarity.

A helpful app, easy controls, and excellent connectivity just makes us love them even more. The only downside is that there’s no active noise cancellation. However, when these earbuds sound this good, we doubt you’ll miss it much. 

Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

The Lypertek PurePlay z3 2.0 wireless earbuds with their charging case.

(Image credit: Lypertek)
Affordable earbuds with a well-balanced sound and great features

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: N/A
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: 6mm graphene
Battery life (on-board): 10 hours (earbuds) 70 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible value
+
Neutral audiophile-like sound
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Design is a bit plain

When we first reviewed the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 true wireless earbuds (then known as the Lypertek Tevi), we were blown away – and they were so good, we made them our headphone product of the year. Fast-forward a couple of years, and we’re now looking at their successors, the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds. They’re very similar to the originals, with a few key improvements, and yet still come in at the same affordable price point as their predecessors.

You're getting everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3 (detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons), as well as wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality and a hear through ambient mode.

In our tests, we found ourselves favouring LDX Audio when out and about, while going for the stock tuning when indoors and intently listening to songs and albums. What neither is lacking in is clarity – the PurePlay Z3 2.0 does well to highlight details, and does well to avoid distorting when even at high volumes.

Read the full Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds review

The best earbuds for audio quality, the Grado GT220 wireless earbuds inside their charging case.

(Image credit: Grado)
Wireless earbuds with impressive sound quality and voice control

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: N/A
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: 8mm polyethylene terephthalate full-range
Battery life (on-board): 6 hours (earbuds) 36 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Hugely impressive sound in every respect
+
Responsive touch- and voice-control
+
Light and fairly comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
No active noise-cancelling

On paper, the GT220 from Grado seem to have their work cut out. $259 / £250 / AU$365 for small, humdrum-looking true wireless earbuds with no active noise-cancelling and no control app. However, by performing with absolute confidence and assurance, they stand head and shoulders above the majority of true wireless earbuds on the market today in terms of exceptional audio performance and quality.

This is because they extract every shred of information from the digital files of your favorite music and deliver it with such authority, and in such a complete and coherent manner, that it manages to sound completely fresh even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before. 

But it’s not just about sound. We found them to be comfortable and lightweight and even though there’s no control app, there’s great, responsive touch and voice control on offer here.

Read the full Grado GT220 review

A close up of the Nuraloops earbuds.

(Image credit: NuraLoop)
The best earbuds that personalizes your listening experience

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 25g
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20 kHz
Drivers: 8.6mm dynamic
Battery life: 16 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Rich, adaptive audio
+
ANC and social mode
+
Rugged and sweatproof design

Reasons to avoid

-
Stiff neckband can get in the way

NuraLoop boils down the essence of the company's first product, the Nuraphone, into a much more compact, rugged, and affordable package. The great news is, it doesn't lose much in the process.

The star of the show in the Nuraloop headphones – and all products from this brand – is its adaptive audio technology. This is able to automatically determine a listening profile for users and then feeds them customized, well-balanced, lush sound as a result.  During our tests, we were impressed by the sense of clarity and space, even at higher volumes.

The headphones are ideal for providing listeners with an experience that feels personal rather than automated. They're able to deal with a more robust lifestyle than many rivals too.

On top of this, features like active noise-cancelling, social mode, an IPX3 rating, Immersion mode, a great battery life, and the ability to attach an analog cable for 3.5mm headphone jacks makes this pair of wireless earbuds truly shine.

Read the full NuraLoop headphones review

The Sennheiser Momentum true wireless 2 -the best noise-cancelling earbuds.

(Image credit: Sennheiser)
The best earbuds for noice cancellation

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 6g
Frequency response: 5 - 21,000Hz
Drivers: 7mm dynamic
Battery life: 7 hours (earbuds) 28 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible sound
+
Sleek design
+
Support for Hi-Res Audio

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than rivals

The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are truly brilliant – and they're a great alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM4, particularly if your idea of the best earbuds are a little more flashy.

We did find that those with smaller ears sometimes find these earbuds a little uncomfortable, however, and their high price just stops them from beating the Sony's to second place of this round up. 

Otherwise, Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these in-ear headphones, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart, sleek looks and stunning sound. Support for hi-res audio will particularly delight audiophiles looking for more than the average earbuds can provide. These are ideal for anyone looking for a bit of extra oomph from their listening experience.

Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 neckbuds.

(Image credit: OnePlus)
Great value neckbud earphones with accurate soundstage

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 13g
Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
Drivers: 6mm dynamic
Battery life: 8 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Magnetic on/off switch  
+
Lively sound
+
Strong wireless connection 

Reasons to avoid

-
Terrible carrying case 

OnePlus is mostly known for its “flagship killer” phones, like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, but the company also makes headphones – the best example are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless 2, which offer incredible value in the neckbud earphones category. 

In terms of audio quality, these neckband earbuds boast a lively sonic presentation and an accurate-feeling soundstage, although bass-heads may want to look elsewhere for headphones that pack a bassier punch. In our tests, we found that they're comfortable to wear, too; it's just a shame that they don't have a waterproof rating and the inline remote is so fiddly, because otherwise they could make a decent pair of running headphones. 

They may be $30 more expensive than their predecessors, but the improved battery life and sound quality makes up for that. It also makes it worth upgrading if you have the originals and are due a new pair of wireless earbuds. 

Read the full OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 review

A closeup of the AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds - the best earbuds for Apple fans.

(Image credit: Apple)
Great earbuds for Apple fans, while they're still around

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.4g
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: Dynamic
Battery life: 5 hours (earbuds) 24 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Good noise cancellation
+
Better fit than AirPods (2019)

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than better rivals
-
USB-C charging cable in box

Apple's noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, deliver a much better fit and an improved design compared to the original AirPods.

However, at $249 / £249 / AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple fans. That said, AirPods Pro deals are becoming more commonplace as the buds age.

These snug-fitting earbuds offer a great sound, and the additional microphones provide strong noise-cancelling (particularly when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency mode, which really does let the outside world in. They even support Dolby Atmos immersive sound, thanks to Apple's Spatial Audio technology, plus they pair very well with all Apple devices thanks to some super quick functionality.

Although we did enjoy our experience with the original AirPods, the sound quality of the AirPods Pro is a definite improvement upon their predecessors. In out tests, we noticed an emphasis on vocals and bass, meaning these earbuds are better for pop fans than those that enjoy a more natural presentation that lends itself to classical music or more orchestral sounds.

There are regular rumors that a new AirPods model is on its way but for now, you can't go wrong with these.

Read the full Apple AirPods Pro review

The Bose QuietComfort earbuds in white sat side by side.

(Image credit: Bose)
Rich-sounding earbuds with excellent noise cancellation

Specifications

Acoustic Design: Closed
Weight: 0.3 oz each
Frequency Response: N/A
Drivers: N/A
Battery: 6 hours (earbuds) 12 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class ANC
+
Rich, clear sound
+
Wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks on-board volume control

It’s Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free. 

Not only is the design a lot better, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. Thanks to there being 10 different noise cancellation levels, these easily offer some of the best noise cancellation you'll hear from earbuds. Sound quality is also really very good – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity. They’re incredibly comfortable and well balanced too, despite their bulky form factor. 

While listening to Mumford & Sons’ Delta, not only were the instruments layered wonderfully with the vocals, we could even hear the child’s voice in the background in a way that made them seem eerily present. If you’re a jazz or blues fan, then you’ll be able to enjoy every instrument without the horn section drowning out the melodies of the guitar.

The charging case could hold more juice, but wireless charging means these are consistently easy to charge up throughout the day. The only real irritant is the lack of on-board volume controls but you'll soon get used to this.

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review

The Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds in navy pictured in their charging case on a white background.

(Image credit: jabra)
The best affordable earbuds for workouts

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.5g (each bud)
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20000Hz
Drivers: N/A
Battery : 8 hours (30 hours with case)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Secure, compact and comfortable
+
IP57 rating

Reasons to avoid

-
Scooped audio profile
-
ANC is passable but not the best

When Jabra brings out new earbuds, the audio brand also launches an Active version. This time, the Jabra Elite 7 Active buds share almost every feature of the Jabra Elite 7 Pro. This includes good audio, ANC, good connectivity and more.

But there are a few things that set the Active version apart from the Pro, including a marginally lower price, as well as a rubberized coating on the buds, which means they’re more secure during intensive workouts. They also have an IP57 rating, too, which means they're dustproof and waterproof up to one meter, so sweaty workouts aren't a problem either.

You may want to do some tweaking when it comes to the audio profile. Out of the box, the sound is heavily scooped — at once overwhelming and sometimes boomy in the bass frequencies while being boosted and occasionally brittle in the upper treble range: all of this reduces the clarity of the mids. However, the five-bad equalizer in the app means you can adjust the sound to your liking.

If you’re looking for excellent call quality, the Elite 7 Pro are still the better buds, with bone conduction sensors that aren’t included with the Active model. But if you’re on the hunt for a new pair of affordable buds solely for fitness, the Elite 7 Active are a solid choice.

Read the full Jabra Elite 7 Active review

How to choose the best earbuds for you

The best earbuds for you need to feel ultra-comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and must fit securely in your ear for decent noise isolation. 

If you're looking for a pair of running headphones, your new earphones should have an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they'll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain. Some waterproof earbuds can even be used for swimming.

There are wired and wireless earbuds on this list, but you don't  have to compromise on audio quality by going wire-free. Our current favorite true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM4 combine class-leading sound with high quality noise cancellation tech.

If you do opt for wireless or true wireless earbuds, make sure the battery life is up to scratch, otherwise you could find yourself caught short without any music in the middle of your commute. 

Most importantly, the best earbuds for you should sound good to your ears. If you're a dedicated audiophile, look for buds that support Hi-Res Audio codecs like LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth for stellar connectivity. 

FAQs

Which brand has the best earbuds?

That totally depends on what you're looking for – but we're careful with our lists. That means all of the earbud and in-ear headphones below come from brands we trust. Still, if you're not sure where to start looking, respected brands like Sony, Apple, Cambridge Audio, Jabra, and Nura are good places to start.

What are the best cheap earbuds?

Some of the buds in this list are below the $80 / £80 mark, which makes them ideal for those who need a new set of headphones but can't justify a splurge. We recommend the 1More Triple Drive In-Ear Headphones – but if they're still too pricey for your current budget, then check out our guides to the best cheap headphones you can buy and the best budget wireless earbuds.

How we test the best earbuds

We test each of the top earbuds in this guide to make sure they tick some key boxes. 

The first is comfort and wearability. You need to know you'll be able to pop these in-ear buds in your ears for hours at a time, so they have to feel secure and comfortable. Some seem naturally designed for a snug fit, others come with different silicone tip options to help you get the fit just right – we've explained it all. 

In terms of design, we also look for compact buds, those that don't stick out of your ear too much and (in the case of true wireless designs) earbuds that come with a small charging case for slipping into a backpack, handbag or even a pocket. 

Most importantly, we also want to be sure the sound is excellent, with clarity and a decent level of bass. For propositions with onboard noise cancellation, we always put that feature to the test in a number of different environments to check that it fares well in a quiet room and on a busy commute. 

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