- Quick list
- Best earbuds overall
- Best budget earbuds
- Best earbuds for sound
- Best earbuds for Apple
- Best earbuds for ANC
- Best earbuds for affordable ANC
- Best earbuds for Samsung
- Best wired earbuds
- Best mid-range earbuds
- Best earbuds for sports
- Best earbuds for design
- How to choose
- How we test
- Latest updates
1. The list in brief
2. Best earbuds overall
3. Best budget earbuds
4. Best earbuds for sound
5. Best earbuds for Apple
6. Best earbuds for ANC
7. Best earbuds for affordable ANC
8. Best earbuds for Samsung
9. Best wired earbuds
10. Best mid-range earbuds
11. Best earbuds for sports
12. Best earbuds for design
13. How to choose
14. How we test
15. Latest updates
The best earbuds are essential for music on the move. Whether you need a motivational soundtrack to get you through a 10k, classical music on a long flight or your favorite podcast on your commute, the best earbuds can immerse you in a cocoon of sound.
The compact design of earbuds is incredibly appealing. They're small enough to fit in your pocket, even in their charging case. And these days, you don't need to sacrifice battery life or sound performance to get that tiny form factor.
We’ve tested hundreds of the best true wireless earbuds and best best wireless earphones, so we know what to look for in terms of design, features and sound performance. The Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds are currently our top pick. Newer Sony WF-1000XM5 buds have since been released, but we still rate the XM4s as the best all-rounders, despite the fact they're older.
Don’t like the idea of earbuds? Read our best wired headphones or best wireless headphones guides instead. Check out our budget wireless earbuds guide if you’re looking for cheaper options. Or, for earbuds designed specifically for fitness, take a look at our best running headphones list, offering sweat-resistant designs and the best bone-conducting headphones.
Becky is a senior TechRadar writer (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team in early 2022, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage.
The quick list
If you want to cut to the chase and find out which earbuds are the best (ahead of incoming sales events perhaps, you clever thing you!) you'll find a roundup of our top choices here. You can also jump to a more in-depth review for each product, along with our price comparison tool, so you can discover the best deals.
Best earbuds overall
The feature-rich WF-1000XM4s have been at the top of this guide for two years now thanks to their rapid, full-bodied and eloquent sound. They're fantastic all-rounders.
Best budget earbuds
At this price, these are a phenomenally good value pair of wireless earbuds that tick the right boxes, with solid audio and a light design with small, comfortable earpieces.
Best for sound
Best for sound
Delivering balanced and detailed sound with triple-point connectivity and outstanding comfort, Technics has created a fantastic pair of buds, it's a shame ANC and battery are lacking.
Best for Apple
Best earbuds for Apple
With fantastic ANC, high quality audio and a bunch of features that work extremely well when used with an iPhone, these buds are a no-brainer for Apple lovers.
Best for ANC
Best earbuds for ANC
Bose has always done ANC well and these latest buds are exceptional. They also boast beautiful sound and a small, comfortable design.
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Best for Samsung
Best earbuds for Samsung
If you have a Samsung phone these buds are for you, delivering 360 audio with optional head-tracking, you get end-to-end 24-bit high-res audio to whichever ear you prefer.
Best wired earbuds
An excellent value pair of in-ear buds for those who don't like the idea of going true wireless. The audio performance on offer here is lush and the build quality is hard to beat at this price.
Best mid-range earbuds
Ticking all the boxes for audio performance, battery and ease-of-use, if you can handle the fact they don't have ANC these are a great value pair of buds from Cambridge Audio.
Best for sports
Best earbuds for sports
Secure, compact and comfortable with an IP57 rating that makes them sweat resistant, these buds are perfect for working out. You'll also get good call quality, great ANC and solid audio.
The best earbuds of 2023
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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best earbuds in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.
The best earbuds overall
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You need the best all-round true wireless earbuds:
The WF-1000XM4 can be beaten for sound quality, noise-cancelling and comfort – but only by a combination of rivals.
✅ You know a great control app when you use one:
The Sony Headphone app is a tour de force of stability, functionality and general usefulness.
❌ Noise-cancelling is more important than sound quality: The WF-1000XM4s cancel noise well. But other true wireless buds (Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2) do it better.
❌ You think aptX is the pinnacle of wireless sound quality: Sony doesn’t agree. LDAC is a good alternative and is supported by most newer Android phones (sorry, iPhone).
The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are our top pick overall. They may lack aptX support, but make up for it with a whole host of features, like active noise cancellation (with polyurethane ear tips to improve passive noise reduction), a ‘speak to chat’ feature that pauses your music when you make a noise, great call quality and excellent in-app features.
These earbuds immediately impressed us during our testing. In our review, we wrote, “there’s vigor and enthusiasm to their presentation, but it’s tempered by unarguable control.” 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.
The size of the XM4s has been reduced since the previous model, and the charging case is a full 40% smaller, weighing in at 41g. Positioning the buds comfortably took longer than it should have during our testing (we found them fiddly), but once we got used to them, we found them secure and easy to wear.
They’re not the cheapest buds, but because Sony has combined performance, ergonomics and build quality so effectively, we think they’re excellent value. Other true wireless earbuds may surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4s in particular areas – like noise cancellation – but they don’t offer excellent quality across the board. This is even the case after the release of the newer Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds, which are fantastic, but we still rate the XM4s as the best all-rounders.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
The best budget earbuds
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ Your budget maxes out at $20 / £20 / AU$50 and you want true wireless: The JLab Go Air Pop is an incredibly affordable proposition and boasts a spec sheet no other solution to date has managed at this level.
✅ You prioritize a long battery life: 32 hours of playtime, for $20. Let that sink in, while remembering the AirPods Pro will only give you a maximum of 24 hours of listening time
❌ You really want app support: They do amazing things without a companion app (on-ear volume control, EQ, etc.) but if you want a visual cue of their battery life, no dice.
❌ You want top quality sound and have a stretchier budget: If sound quality is top of your list and you can spend a little more, do that. But this is not audiophile-grade.
The JLab Go Air Pop buds prove it’s possible to purchase a fantastic set of true wireless earbuds on a budget. They boast reliable Bluetooth connectivity and battery life here is excellent at eight hours from the earbuds and a whopping 32 hours from the buds and the case combined. On-device volume controls work better than rivals more than double the price, and a triple tap lets you pick from three different EQ profiles.
Any sound comparison between these cheap in-ears and class-leading products. But these JLab buds beat everything in their price range for sound. Our testing proved that vocals are relatively well handled through the mids, the bass is sensibly handled, and the soundstage is relatively expansive.
Design-wise, they’re lightweight at just 3.7g per earbud and incredibly small with three different types of eartips, which means they should suit almost everyone and we certainly found them incredibly comfortable to wear during our testing.
They don’t beat flagships from the likes of Sony, Apple, or Sennheiser, but they punch above their weight. They sound far better than you'd expect for their cheap price tag and pack in some excellent features that make them fantastic value for money.
Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review
The best earbuds for sound
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You prefer a neutral, lifelike sound
There’s nothing artificial about the way the Technics EAH-AZ80 sound, they offer convincingly realistic and coherent listening in all circumstances.
✅ You want to switch between devices
Triple-point connectivity is a world-first in a product like this, and it’s brilliantly convenient for those of us who surround themselves with sources of audio.
❌ You intend to wear your earbuds all day: Even at its best, the battery life available here is nothing special – long-haul flights are a non-starter.
❌ You have a lot of external noise to block out: While it’s true to say there are less capable noise-cancelling earbuds, it’s equally true that there are more capable alternatives.
The Technics EAH-AZ80 buds sound fantastic and they’re packed with features. A standout is triple-point connectivity, which we found to be stable and useful, as well as Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC compatibility. And, thanks to ‘Just My Voice’ technology, these buds are less prone to wind-noise interference than rivals. The only minor shortcomings are battery life at only 7 hours from the buds and 25 from the case, and the ANC could be more impressive.
The sound they make is also accomplished – it's both swift and accurate, as well as balanced and detailed. In our review, we wrote: “The whole frequency range is really nicely balanced and coherent from top to bottom and very even-handed from the (deep, nicely textured) bass to the (clean, politely attacking) treble.” We also found the midrange to be both informative and eloquent, with high detail levels and a smooth and seamless journey from floor to ceiling and back again. It’s not the most energetic sound you've ever heard though.
In terms of design, there’s a hint of premiumness here and each bud feels more comfortable, stable and light (7g per earbud) than some rivals. What’s more, the accompanying charging case is an equally trim 50g. Build quality hasn’t been compromised in order to keep the weight down though – the EAH-AZ80 feels like a product that will last for the long haul. There are seven different earbud sizes to choose from, which means you’re likely to get a perfect fit.
The price of the Technics EAH-AZ80 is that of a premium product, for sure – but happily, so is the specification. There are some disappointments here, but overall these are a pair of buds that deliver excellent sound quality and a fantastic fit.
Read our full Technics EAH-AZ80 review
The best earbuds for Apple
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want great sound: These sound brilliant and shut out the real world so well - if you want to treat yourself, then you'll really appreciate it.
✅ You've got all manner of Apple things: If you've got an iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch or similar, then you'll really get the benefit from the seamless switching.
❌ You're looking to save money: With so many brilliant budget earbuds out there, these are perhaps an unnecessary expense. But they are a perfect 'big present'.
❌ You don't have an iPhone: If you're in the Android world, you won't get as much benefit from these headphones (although it's not as bad as previously).
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are excellent earbuds that we think are the best option for Apple lovers. One of the top features here is ANC, which is significantly improved over the original Pro buds, blocking out almost all external noises. Transparency mode is now also more useful because it’s adaptive. In terms of battery, you get 6 hours with ANC on and 30 hours with the case too, 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.
Audio performance is also upgraded over the original Pros, 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.
Design changes are subtle between the Pro and Pro 2 models. You’ll find a typical Apple-esque look here, with slightly protruding stems, clean lines and a bright white finish. During our testing, we were happy to find there are now extra small ear tips, great news for those with smaller ears and should fit most people well.
Like the Sony buds at the top of this guide, the AirPods Pro 2 are excellent all-rounders, packing fantastic audio and style into a pair of buds you could happily wear all day. Yes, they’re on the pricey side, but they’re a great choice if you have an iPhone – if you have a Samsung phone, check out the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro below instead.
Read our full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
The best earbuds for ANC
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ Noise cancellation really matters to you: If there’s one thing the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II do really well, it’s noise cancellation.
✅ You want beautifully balanced sound: Whatever CustomTune is actually doing in the ear, it’s working remarkably well. The sound is very well balanced.
❌ You’re on a tight budget: It’s easy to argue that the ANC and sound performance of the QCE II are well worth every penny, but these are expensive earbuds.
❌ You’d prefer high-definition wireless sound quality: With support for just low-definition wireless codecs, the QCE II may not be for everyone.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are our favorite noise-cancelling earbuds. They replace the original QuietComfort buds, and the redesign has improved the noise cancellation considerably, which is saying something as they were our top pick for some time. The ANC is so effective thanks to what Bose calls CustomTune, which uses an audio signal – picked up by a mic inside each bud – to automatically calibrate ANC and sound frequency to suit your ear. Unfortunately there’s no wireless charging or multi-point connectivity here, and battery life is only fine at 6 hours from the buds and a further 3 from the case
Luckily, ANC improvements aren’t at the expense of sound quality, and whatever the CustomTune tech is doing behind-the-scenes here made these buds an extremely enjoyable listen during our testing. In our review, we wrote: "We can’t stress this enough – the sound is very well balanced, with a heck of a lot of details and textures coming through.” If you’d still like to tweak the audio output, you can via the EQ in the Bose app.
Design-wise, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are 30% smaller than previous generations with a more compact and lighter charging case. However, we did find the fit took some getting used to and is unlikely to suit everyone at first.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are on the expensive side. But, if you can afford to splurge, these are arguably the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds you can get today. We will say though that the lack of wireless charging, multi-point pairing and no support for high-definition wireless audio does make the price tag a little hard to swallow.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review
The best earbuds for affordable ANC
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You have smaller ears
These earbuds are some of the most secure and comfortable I've worn – think Sony LinkBuds S, but that little bit more secure.
✅ You want the best sound-per-pound value on the market
There it is: you get effective ANC alongside the most exciting and fun audio at this level.
❌ You prioritize on-ear volume control: No dice here, sadly – although Sony says that following a firmware update, it will be possible, by pressing either earbuds multiple times.
❌ You want the track to turn off when you remove them: This isn't a feature of the WF-C700N. Small gripe for some, potential game-changer for others.
The Sony WF-C700N are the best choice if you want ANC at an affordable price. The N addition here does indeed stand for Noise cancellation and these buds mark Sony's new entry level for ANC earbuds. Their talents go above and beyond their Adaptive ANC too, into Sony's 360 Reality Audio, guided by the excellent Sony Headphones Connect app. Multi-point connectivity and adaptive sound control are also here (you can select 'Walking', 'Waiting', 'Travelling' or 'Registered places' in the app, which is frankly incredible at this level) plus you get Sony's standard DSEE audio 'upscaling' engine, so Spotify tracks are going to sound a lot better.
Those with a Tidal account are in for a real treat, but even when we streamed lossy Spotify tracks or much better Apple Music streams during our testing, the WF-C700N put on a resoundingly agile, meaty, enthusiastic performance. When streaming The Bangles' Eternal Flame, backing vocals arrive in each ear but never to the detriment of Susanna Hoffs' occasionally pensive, understated vocal. I feel like we get an extra ounce of detail and texture through her high belt, too, compared to the competition.
There's less protrusion than with Sony's more affordable buds (Sony WF-C500, all eyes on you), because they're 37% lighter and 38% smaller than the top-tier WF-1000XM4. It should come as no surprise then that we found these to be some of the most easy to wear, comfortable earbuds we've ever had the pleasure of wearing and they stay put for hours on end.
Can the Sony WF-C700N be bettered by rivals? Absolutely, but not for this money. You'll have to set your sights much farther up the food chain if you want to beat this suite of features and sound quality. For features, design and most-importantly sound quality, these cannot be bettered for this price, which makes them excellent value in our books.
Read our full Sony WF-C700N review
The best earbuds for Samsung
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone: A no-brainer. The Buds 2 Pro present themselves on your Galaxy device for easy pairing and give you handy home-screen widgets.
✅ You want Samsung's best sound-per-pound audio quality: We didn't expect to enjoy Samsung's immersive, expressive, head-tracked 24-bit audio as much as we did.
❌ You prioritize a long-lasting battery: Five hours with ANC deployed (or eight without it) won't get you through a long-haul flight without charging, will it?
❌ You own an iPhone: For a seamless experience within Apple's ecosystem, you need to be looking to earbuds that offer a dedicated app for iOS.
Samsung has a formidable reputation in the smartphone market, but its Galaxy Buds never quite hit the mark. That’s changed with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. These earbuds are packed full of useful perks, including excellent ANC, voice detect, wearer detection and customizable on-ear controls – all of which work very well indeed – plus IPX7 water ingress protection. This would have been an almost perfect list of specs, marred only by the disappointing five-hour battery life on offer.
The headline-grabbing feature, if you own a Samsung Galaxy device, 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. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sport a two-way driver design, with a 10mm woofer and 5.4mm tweeter in each earbud. It's a formidable improvement on Samsung's previous earbud releases too, with YoDogg and Cardo's NIP (streamed in 360 reality audio, on Tidal) sounding atmospheric and foreboding while snaking from one ear to the other in a talented display of immersive audio.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are refreshingly smaller and lighter than most rivals – and an improvement over previous Galaxy buds. The result is a stylish, minimalist, secure and ergonomic look and fit that almost feels as if you're not wearing earbuds at all – or at least that was our experience during testing.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro squeeze an incredible amount in here for only mid-range money. There are some key things lacking, like the inability to tweak ANC in increments on a slider in the app, but forgive this and it's hard to quibble with the sound-per-pound value.
Read our full Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review
The best wired earbuds
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want a pair of wired earphones: Whether you're worried you'll lose true wireless or you don't like the feeling of big and bulky over-ears, it's good to have the option.
✅ You're on a tight budget: These earbuds were available for around the £100/$100 price mark initially but now can be picked up for nearly half that.
❌ You want wireless: It goes without saying that if you've become accustomed to wireless earbuds, you're not going to be happy with these.
❌ You want ANC: There's decent noise isolation here, but nothing like the levels of ANC and immersion you'd find from buds specifically designed with ANC in mind.
The 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones are a simple pair of wired headphones. They aren't packed with features, but there's a handy three-button remote that works with both Android and iOS, which is something that not every headphone can do. This is made of plastic and does feel a little cheap.
During our testing we found that they deliver a solid and enjoyable audio performance. In our review we wrote: "Music is exquisitely detailed with a good sense of space. Instruments are layered and complex songs don’t sound muddled as each instrumental layer remains audible."
Design-wise, these are simple in-ear earphones that look fairly sleek and refined. They come with both foam and silicone ear tips, although we found only the foam ones gave a good enough seal. Their rubber cable can be annoying, and the remote control feels cheap, but these are just nitpicks. Then again, if you're looking for extra class and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones that are a step up from these are still a bargain at twice the price.
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. Although you might find more detailed and better-sounding in-ear headphones out there, you'll have to pay much more to notice a significant boost in performance. 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 today.
Read our full 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review
The best mid-range earbuds
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You love to adjust the EQ settings: The Melomania app makes it easy to adjust the EQ settings of the Melomania 1 Plus.
✅ You’re looking for compact earbuds: These earbuds are very sleek indeed, and their small frame and lightweight build sets them apart from models.
❌ You need active noise cancellation: While the eartips are pretty good at blocking out sound, you’ll need to look at models like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 for true ANC.
❌ You love touch-sensitive controls: The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus have physical buttons, so if you like to swipe, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus earbuds have a helpful app, easy-to-use controls and boast excellent connectivity. There’s no noise cancellation on offer here, but the sound isolation is very good, provided you find a good fit with the eartips included in the box. In any case, when we had music playing, we couldn’t hear much of our surroundings.
These Cambridge Audio buds boast levels of detail and clarity that could rival some of the best over-ear headphones. Boasting 5.8mm dynamic drivers, these earbuds offer tons of dynamism and character, with a lively presentation that will have you tapping your feet. During our testing, as we listened to Normal Song by Perfume Genius, they eked out every last drop of detail with stunning clarity.
Not much has changed design-wise between the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus and their predecessors, the original Cambridge Audio Melomania 1. These buds come in black or white and are bullet-shaped, with a flip-top charging case with a sleek design and matte finish. Each earbud weighs 4.6g, and feels exceedingly light and comfortable in the ear.
They put many other earbuds in the shade in terms of audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use. Sure you’re missing ANC, which is bound to be a dealbreaker for some people, but for everyone else these are a solid pair of buds that should suit those with mid-range budgets.
Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
The best earbuds for sports
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ Battery life is important: With a total of 30 hours between the earbuds and the charging case, these are more likely to survive longer stints between charging sessions than much of the competition.
✅ Comfort, compactness and in-ear security are key: Not only are the Elite 7 Active earbuds some of the smallest and lightest we’ve come across, the rubberized coating and sculpted design make for a secure fit even during exercise.
❌ Neutral and clear audio is your priority: While a rather subjective topic, the frequency profile in these buds isn’t flat, and its scooped mids can only be remedied so much.
❌ You want the best noise-cancelling in the industry: For that, we’re likely to direct you towards the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2. These buds only do a decent job.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active buds are our top pick if you’re looking for buds that’ll see you through the most gruelling of workouts. Battery life is one of the strengths of the 7 series – with ANC enabled you'll get 8 hours out of the earbuds themselves and a further 22 in reserve from the case. By comparison, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 get 8 hours from the buds with ANC engaged and another 16 in the case.
We did enjoy the audio on offer from these buds, but 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-band equalizer in the app means you can adjust the sound to your liking.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active buds are similar to the regular Elite 7 Pro buds, but there are a few things that set the Active version apart, 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.
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 and good value.
Read our full Jabra Elite 7 Active review
The best earbuds for design
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want the best-sounding true wireless buds for $79: This incredibly affordable proposition boasts sonic chops no other solution has managed at this level.
✅ You like to look good (and a little bit alternative): Are these the coolest little earbuds on the planet? Hard to say. But the way they look and their colors are a big step up.
❌ ANC is top of your list: There's no active noise cancellation here, sadly, although the hear-through feature works beautifully to stay aware of your surroundings.
❌ You really want app support: Audio-Technica's earbuds do excellently well without a companion app, but if you want a visual cue of the features, you won't get it here.
The Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW are a budget pair of buds that look very cool indeed. They offer exclusive 5.8mm drivers, plus an "IPX4-equivalent" splashproof design and user-friendly features. There’s dual connectivity onboard, so you can connect to your laptop and phone at the same time. Touch controls work well and you can use them to cancel low-latency mode or use the hear-through function. Battery gives you 6.5 hours of use with the headphones fully charged, plus an additional 13 hours of juice from the charging case, for a total of 19.5 hours. There’s no active noise cancellation or a companion app, but at this level (and thanks to the impressive levels of passive isolation provided by the buds), we don't miss these perks.
Sound-wise, we can’t compare these budget in-ears to class-leading products from big brands. But the audio is solid. We found that what the Audio-Technicas lacked in precision and timing when it came to cohesion (which was a very minor shortfall) they made up for in energy and good old fashioned fun. They’re not shy or reticent, in any way. If a recording is less than refined, you're getting that with no holds barred – they'll shine a light on your chosen streaming services, bands and vocalists in ways you may not have heard before. Give them your music and they'll celebrate it to the best of their plucky little ability – and we have to say we're big fans.
But only looks, as that’s what makes them stand out amongst rivals. These buds are cubist, cool and refreshingly different. Audio-Technica hasn’t tried to emulate any other earbuds from competing brands here, and we love the Tokyo audio outfit for it. They’re also available in no fewer than six delicious-sounding colorways (Caramel, Popsicle, Cupcake, Blueberry, Liquorice and Popcorn). Not only is this a beautiful product, it fits comfortably, too.
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 our full Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review
How to choose the best earbuds
Two important things to consider when you’re choosing new earbuds is what you want to listen to and where you want to listen to it.
For example, if you like fairly quiet music and want to listen on the bus or train, you'll need effective noise cancellation.
If you're looking for a pair of the best running headphones, you should look for IPX4 water-resistance so they can withstand sweat and rain. Some of the top waterproof earbuds can even be used for swimming.
If you're going to be wearing your earbuds for long periods, then comfort and weight are a top priority.
We’ve included both 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 may find yourself caught short without any music in the middle of your commute.
The best earbuds for you should sound good to your ears. Which means if you're a dedicated audiophile, look for buds that support Hi-Res Audio codecs, like LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth for stellar connectivity.
We also recommend you consider your budget. If you want cheap earbuds you may have to sacrifice features, like ANC or a long battery life. It’s all about weighing up what’s more important to you.
Finally, the brand you choose will depend on what you're looking for – but we're careful with our lists. That means all of the earbuds and in-ear headphones above 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.
How we test the best earbuds
We've tested 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 the best 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 our guide above, as well as in the in-depth reviews of each product.
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.
Latest updates to the best earbuds
6 September 2023
Refreshed entries to reflect current prices/value ahead of sales events later in the year
30 August 2023
Changed the main image.
24 August 2023
Rewrote each product entry to summarise the features, sound quality, design and value of each review, including adding in 'buy it if' and 'don't buy it if' boxouts.