Even though there are now phones that are ditching the headphone jack entirely, there’s still something comforting about plugging your earbuds into something while you go about your business. Which is why those same phones will most likely come with an adapter enabling the customer to plug in their favorite pair. Whether you’re listening to podcasts on your way to work or enjoying some music at your desk, a good pair of earbuds can still come in handy. But in a sea of cheap internet brands, how do you know which are the best earbuds?
What to look for
Durability. This should go without saying, but you’re going to want a pair of earbuds that can stand up to everyday wear and tear. If you’re going to be rolling it up and stuffing them in your pockets it’s probably a good idea to look for materials that don’t tangle easily or won’t fall apart after a few weeks of use.
Sound quality. The next most important aspect of a good pair of ‘buds is sound quality, which goes hand in hand with isolation. Chances are you’re going to be rocking your earbuds while out and about, so getting something with a good fit that can help block outside noise is going to go a long way with helping you enjoy your tunes.
Functionality. It might not be the main reason you buy a pair of earbuds, but it’s always good to be aware of what extra functionality you’re getting. Are playback controls compatible with your phone? Does it even HAVE a microphone and playback buttons? Any extra features that can make the experience better are welcome.
Looking for wireless earbuds? See our best wireless earbuds of 2017
For the sake of simplicity we’re calling everything that doesn’t go over your head earbuds. Most major companies don’t differentiate between the two so neither will we. We’ve made five different categories that we hope will cover most of your needs, so whether you’re looking to purchase your first pair of earbuds (other than the ones that came in the box with your phone) or you’re looking for a pair to supplement your over-ears, we’ve compiled this list for you.
Okay so we have one more pair of headphones to talk about. The 1MORE Triple Driver in-ears. You can usually find these for under $100 which isn’t cheap, but they’re definitely worth it. Sure, there’s a newer quad-driver version out, but they also cost more than double the price of these. If you want bang for your buck sound the previous triple-driver version is the way to go. As the name implies, these have three drivers packed into the tiny housing: two balanced armatures and a third dynamic driver. As is the case with wired headphones, there are iOS and Android versions so make sure to snag the one you’re looking for. They’re also Hi-Res certified and have a 3-button mic and remote on the cable for controlling playback and answering calls. There haven’t been too many (if any) negative reviews on these so if you’re looking for good sound check these out.
V-MODA ForzaFull Review
Whether you want headphones for your commute to work or for the gym afterwards, the V-MODA Forza headphones have you covered. They’re sweat proof so you don’t have to worry about water damage, but they also sound pretty impressive for only costing about $100. One thing that’s really cool about these headphones is just how versatile they are. They come with a number of attachments so that you can add wingtips for when you’re working out at the gym, plain ‘ol ear tips for the average commute, and even over-ear hooks if you prefer to wear them that way for either occasion. They do have a 3-button mic and remote which does depend on your source device, so make sure you pick the right one at checkout. And if you ever get bored with how they look, you can get 3D printed caps to change it up a bit.
See also: Best wireless earbuds for working out
ADV.Sound Model 3Full Review
If you picture a Venn diagram the Model 3 in-ears are in the intersection of sound quality, price, and features. They have a nice sound that gives plenty of gritty detail to guitars and vocals without toning down the low end too much. They’re not exactly bass-heavy but there’s enough to add depth to a track. What makes these so good besides the sound is that you have the option to go wireless should you choose to thanks to MMCX connectors. These come with two different cables so you can pop off the ‘buds and go wired or wireless depending how you’re feeling that day.
If you go wired these are high-res certified so you can reach frequencies of up to 40kHz, and if you go wireless you have aptX compatibility. Of course battery life isn’t going to blow you away at roughly 5 hours if you go wireless, but just having the option is good enough.
See also: Best earbuds under $100
Kz ATE Copper in-ears
If you’re not looking to spend too much but prioritize sound quality over all else, then these might do it for you. They’re not going to outperform your favorite pair of ‘buds but for less than $20 they’re good enough that you can leave your expensive headphones at home and not have a problem. Or just leave these in your bag for when you forget your main pair and know that you have something solid to fall back on. Not only are they comfortable, but they also look pretty damn cool with a see-through housing and golden accents on the cable.
That said, expect plenty of plastic here so they’re not the most durable. But for the price it’s not going to hurt your wallet too much to just pick up another pair if they do break. These do put more of an emphasis on mids and highs than the lows, so if you like a full-sounding low end you’re out of luck here. Some might say these toe the line between good sound and tinny sound so again, it’s not going to outperform your favorite ‘buds. But for a bang for your buck pick these are easily worth three cups of coffee from Starbucks.
See also: Best cheap earbuds under $50
We’ve said this in other lists, but here it’s truer than ever: everyone’s ears are different, and sometimes it can be tough to get a good fit. Two of the items on this list can’t be used with custom ear tips, but it’s definitely worth looking for custom tips if you can use them with your earbuds. Remember: better fit = better sound.
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