We're well into June, and still the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone remains the wired in-ear proposition to beat, hitting that $100/£100 sweet-spot and combining a solid build with a sound that's impossible to beat for that money.
In the true wireless realm there's a new kid on the block though, and it's a newbie you (and, come to think of it, Apple) should be very much aware of.
If you own an Android device and you're after a set of AirPods Pro-esque earbuds, look no further than the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, a new entry in this guide in the fourth spot. You'll be glad you did…
Becky Scarrott, senior audio staff writer
Choosing the best earbuds for you is a delicate and personal matter. There are myriad options out there – all boasting extensive and varied spec sheets – including true wireless earbuds that are completely wire-free, wireless earphones that often sport a neckband (or at least with a wire that connects the two earpieces) plus wired in-ear headphones and all other types of wireless headphones in between.
Want to avoid wires of any kind and can afford to push the boat out? Go cable-free with a pair of premium true wireless earbuds. After extensive testing, we found both the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Pro ideal options if you hate wires. Many true wireless earbuds at this end of the market also come with extra features, including active noise-cancellation and the ability to adjust the EQ levels of your music – but the tech is trickling down to more budget options. Nowadays, some even rival the even the best headphones.
If you value hi-res audio quality and security above all else, wired earbuds may be a better option for you. These can also plug into your phone (providing your device has a 3.5mm audio jack) or your dedicated portable music player.
If you're looking for the best running headphones, you may need to consider other requirements too such as how well they fit and what the IP rating for waterproofing is (look for IPX5 and above).
With budget wireless earbuds right up to the most expensive models to choose from, we’ve rounded up our pick of the top earphones below, all of which will slip neatly into your bag taking up far less room than over-ear headphones.
Best overall in-ear headphones
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.
For $100 / £100 (around AU$168), it’s hard to find a better-sounding pair of earphones 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
Best premium in-ear headphones
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
Best budget in-ear wireless headphones
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
Best true wireless AirPods alternatives
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Bowers & Wilkins PI3 are the first neckband headphones from the brand, and they're a great start. These wired earbuds are well-designed, comfy, and simple to use.
They’re a great option if you want the security of a neckband along with the quality of a trusted brand. But it’s their great sound that makes them some of the best earbuds you can buy today.
Thanks to dual drivers, these buds sound absolutely fantastic, with crisp highs, lively mids, and plenty of powerful bass. We tried them out on Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure, and the Bowers & Wilkins PI3 ensured it sounded crisp, lively, with weighty, well-balanced low frequencies. That continued when we cranked up the volume, and we didn't experience any issues with distortion, even at higher volumes.
You’ll need to look past the fairly unremarkable battery life and limited features, as well as no waterproofing, but you'll be mostly very impressed by what these in-ear headphones offer.
The PI3 seem to be out of stock in the US currently, but they haven't been discontinued.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Wireless Headphones review
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
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
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 wired earbuds, with their balanced sound build quality, smartphone compatibility, and price. These in-ear headphones will make mobile audiophiles very happy.
In terms of tonal balance, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are wonderfully balanced. We found that highs have nice extension but lack the sparkle of more forward earbuds like the Beyerdyamic iDX 200 iE. That's not a bad thing necessarily as this means you can listen to the 1MORE for hours without suffering from audio fatigue.
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), but that may not be a problem depending on your budget.
In terms of value, the 1MORE Triple Driver headphones remain amongst the best you can buy. However, if you're willing to spend a little more on build and sound quality, the 1More Quad Drivers are even better.
Read the full 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones
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 SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them. The audio quality on offer here is fantastic and they look very elegant, too.
In our tests, the vocals sounded clear and smooth on Fleet Foxes’ ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’, thanks to their custom-tuned drivers – as dynamic drivers they also provide a hefty amount of bass, due to the relatively large volumes of air they displace as they vibrate. We tried them out on Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’, and we were impressed by the thumping bass and unctuous synth strings.
They're comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically designed eartips and they're attached to a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while running or working out. Thanks to an IPX4 rating, they should withstand sweaty sessions, too, making them a solid option for a spare pair of workout buds.
Just bear in mind they lack wingtips for extra security but you shouldn't have a problem keeping these in your ears.
Read the full SoundMAGIC E11BT review
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
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.
- Apple AirPods vs AirPods Pro: which buds are best?
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.