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Best wired earbuds

Keep things simple with our curated list of high quality wired earbuds and IEMs.
July 4, 2023
Best overall
Sennheiser IE 200
The Sennheiser IE 200 against a white background.
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Great sound
Comfortable fit
Para-aramid MMCX replaceable cable
Effective isolation
Memory foam ear tips
Replacement branded cables can be expensive
Getting the wrong fit dramatically degrades sound quatity
The Bottom Line.
The Sennheiser IE 200 are excellent earbuds for most people. They fit securely, sound great, and are reasonably priced, considering the build quality and performance.Read full review...
Best Sound
Etymotic ER4SR
Etymotic ER4SR in-ear moitor studio product image.
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Studio-style sound
Plenty of ear tip options
Replaceable MMCX cable
Can be uncomfortable
Costly for what you get
The Bottom Line.
Anyone who wants a neutral frequency response will love how these sound. The Etymotic ER4SR also has great noise isolation so you can block out sounds around you.Read full review...
Best isolation
Etymotic ER2SE
A pair of Etymotic ER2SE earbuds on a white background
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Excellent isolation
Frequency response is suitable for audiophiles
Many ear tip options
Replaceable MMCX cable
Can be uncomfortable
The Bottom Line.
Like the ER4SR, these have a neutral frequency response, so this is a great option for anyone looking for solid sound and isolation.Read full review...
Best durability
Shure SE215
Product shot of the Shure SE215 on a white background.
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Sturdy plastic build
Good sound quality
Removable MMCX cable
Vast ear tip selection
Earbuds stick out
Upper frequencies are underemphasized
The Bottom Line.
If you're looking for a pair of earbuds to carry for years on end, look no further. Read full review...
Bang for your Buck
Image shows the product photo of the KZ-ZSN PRO X.
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Fantastic value
Good frequency response for most listeners
Good isolation
Replaceable two-pin cable
Won't fit smaller ears
Not all controls work reliably
The Bottom Line.
For an all-around great experience, the KZ ZSN Pro X will fit anyone's budget.Read full review...

Wired earbuds and IEMs are easy to use, and are much more affordable than their wireless counterparts. Whether you’re looking for the best cheap buds to fit in your pocket or the best sound possible, we’ve got you covered. Here are our choices for best wired earbuds.

Editor’s note: this list was updated on July 4, 2023, to include the Sennheiser IE 200, Shure SE 215, expand information on our other Top picks, update the Notable mentions, and ensure all information is current.

Why are the Sennheiser IE 200 the best wired earbuds for most people?

The Sennheiser IE 200 are our top pick for most people, because they offer great sound quality at a reasonable price. The fit is a bit more comfortable and familiar than Etymotics designs, and the ear hook shape keeps the buds in place all day long.

Sennheiser IE 200
Sennheiser IE 200
A man wears the Sennheiser IE 200 in ears with an aloe plant in the background.On a teal fabric surface the Sennheiser IE 200 is plugged into an Apple iPhone via a dongle.On a teal fabric bench surface the Sennheiser IE 200 is shown with its ear tips and pouch.This chart shows the noise attenuation performance of the Sennheiser IE 200.A chart depicts the frequency response of the Sennheiser IE 200 compared to our studio curve.
Sennheiser IE 200

The IE 200 frequency response falls between “neutral” in-ear monitors (IEMs) and consumer-friendly buds. We think this is a solid compromise for most people and a good way to ease into studio earbuds and headphones.

Sennheiser provides silicone and memory foam ear tips, and you can get excellent passive isolation with the latter. High-frequency sounds like keyboard clacking and banging dishware will be nearly inaudible with the foam tips installed. You’ll still hear sounds like engine rumbles with either set of ear tips, but these noises will be about half as loud as they’d be without the buds.

We appreciate the replaceable MMCX cable, which extends the product’s life. Cables are usually the first components to break on wired earbuds and headphones, but Sennheiser’s should last longer than usual because it’s made of Kevlar. The over-the-ear fit keeps the earbuds in place and doesn’t cause irritation. Senneheiser’s headphones and earbuds are some of the best in the business and for $149, wired earbuds don’t get much better than this.

Sennheiser IE200Sennheiser IE200
Sennheiser IE200
MSRP: $149.85

Best sound: Etymotic ER4SR

If you’re going to monitor, mix, or do any kind of professional audio work, in-ears with a studio-focused frequency response are a worthy investment. The Etymotic ER4SR have a good frequency response and a fit that many people swear by.

Etymotic ER4SR
Etymotic ER4SR
The Etymotic ER4SR wired earbuds and its MMCX connection.
Etymotic ER4SR

Each earbud has a thin, smooth aluminum housing and triple flange ear tips, so you can be confident they won’t fall out. The minimalist design doesn’t allow any room for playback controls. Still, this is specifically for professionals that work with audio or anyone who doesn’t like to have undue emphasis on certain aspects of the frequency range.

The cable is braided for extra durability. Like the IE 200 from Sennheiser, the ER4SR use MMCX connectors. You can replace he cable once it breaks instead of buying a new set of buds.

Etymotic ER4SREtymotic ER4SR
Etymotic ER4SR
Flat sound • Removable cable • Plenty of ear tip options for best fit
MSRP: $281.00
Flat as hell, in a good way.
If you're not into accuracy, it's hard to recommend these. That said, these are easily my new favorite pair of in-ears. If you want to hear your music with little embellishment, these live up to the Etymotic legacy.

Best isolation: Etymotic ER2SE

The Etymotic Research ER2SE also go have multi-flanged ear tips that go deep inside your ear canals for excellent passive isolation. Not everyone finds this design to be very comfortable, and I fall into this camp, so you’ve been warned. If you don’t mind the fit, you’ll find that the ER2SE handily blocks background noise, akin to the Shure AONIC Free.

Etymotic ER2SE
Etymotic ER2SE
Tthe Etymotic ER2SE wired earbud housings in front of a matte-black backdrop.A picture of the Etymotic ER2SE wired earbuds with the triple-flange ear tip turned upward to illustrate how to install different tips.A picture of the Etymotic ER2SE housing removed from the MMCX cable and without an ear tip, revealing the thin nozzle.A picture of the Etymotic ER2SE wired earbuds' Y-splitter with the company logo.A picture of the Etymotic ER2SE wired earbuds connected to a Microsoft Surface Book laptop with a Samsung Galaxy S10e on top of it.
Etymotic ER2SE

The frequency response more closely mirrors studio headphones than consumer earbuds. The bass and midrange outputs are nearly the same. Bassheads may find this underwhelming, but it’s quite good for studio use and audiophile tastes.

These buds also use an MMCX cable, meaning that if you can find a USB-C to MMXC DAC cable, you can listen to it through a device that lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack. For the price, you’ll have a hard time finding a pair of buds that better block out background noise.

Etymotic ER2SEEtymotic ER2SE
SG recommended
Etymotic ER2SE
Excellent isolation • Carrying case • Removable MMCX cable
MSRP: $109.95
The Etymotic ER2SE is a great piece of hardware for enthusiasts. As with all Etymotic IEMs, you’re paying for sheer performance rather than gimmicks. The detachable housings elongate the ER2SE lifespan as listeners can easily replace the cable if it frays. The small-diameter nozzles are extremely comfortable, even more so than the famed Shure SE215. If you’re looking for high-quality in-ears, Etymotic’s headset is a smart pick.

Best durability: Shure SE215

Shure makes plenty of audio equipment, but the Shure SE215 buds are a classic. Don’t let the plastic earbud housings fool you: these things are durable. I had a pair for years that endured undergrad without any signs of wear and tear.

Shure SE215
Shure SE215
On a brass colored surface the full set of ear tips and the Shure SE215 sit outside on a black table with plants in the backgroundOn a wood surface the Shure SE215 rests with its case, an extra set of ear tips.A man faces right wearing the Shure SE215 cabled around the top of the ear with the cable running down behind the back of his ear.A hand holds the Shure SE215 in front of a wood table.This chart shows the isolation performance of the Shure SE215, which does more to block out noise than many noise canceling earbuds.A chart depicts the frequency response of the Shure SE215 compared to the house curve; the SE215 closely follows our consumer curve, with high-range under emphasis.
Shure SE215

The sound quality is identical to the Shure AONIC 215, and it is very good. You get a bit more bass than the ER2SE provide, making these a bit more versatile and appealing to a wider audience. The gently boosted bass response bodes well for popular genres of music. Attuned listeners may hear the under-emphasized treble that begins at 6kHz.

Like the other picks on this list, the Shure SE215 handily block out high frequencies. You’ll get the best isolation when you use Shure’s memory foam ear tips. Ambient noise will be effectively inaudible when you get a proper fit with these buds. The removable MMCX cable is a nice touch, too. We think these are some standout earbuds for around $100.

Shure SE215-KShure SE215-K
Shure SE215-K
Sound quality • Wireform Fit • Sound isolation
MSRP: $99.00
If you want good sound quality, isolation, and a comfortable fit, these might be for you.

Best budget: KZ ZSN Pro X

The KZ ZSN Pro X are excellent wired earbuds for the $30 price. We like these buds because most people can afford them, and their sound quality punches way above their price point. With a frequency response that gently boosts bass and treble notes, the ZSN Pro X are sure to make just about any genre of music sound good.

Image shows the KZ ZSN PRO X centered on a wood surface with the gold outside and translucent interior showing.Image shows the KZ ZSN PRO X with its four ear tip sizes.Close up of the KZ ZSN PRO X highlighting the 2-pin connection cable.From a spiked branch the KZ ZSN PRO X hangs showing the shape of the cable bends.A man faces left holding the in-line mic towards his mouth while wearing the KZ ZSN PRO X.

Isolation is surprisingly good here too, and KZ provides four sets of silicone ear tips that range from 10-14mm in width. It’s important that you take a minute to find which ear tips fit your ears best because this will block out the most background noise, therefore optimizing the buds’ bass response.

While this headset is not feature-rich, you still get an integrated in-line mic and remote to take phone calls and control music playback. Interestingly, our headset’s “return to previous track” function does not work, but all others do. The buds come with a removable 2-pin cable that extends the product’s life. The KZ ZSN Pro X are likely not a good option for those with tiny outer ears since the housings are fairly large. Still, most people will find these buds comfortable. For the price, it’s hard to beat the Pro X.

Linsoul KZ ZSN Pro XLinsoul KZ ZSN Pro X
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Linsoul KZ ZSN Pro X
Affordable earbuds • Good sound • Replaceable two-pin cable
MSRP: $24.99
And what's a Knowledge Zenith anyway?
For an all-around great experience, the KZ ZSN Pro X wired earbuds will fit anyone's budget. The microphone sounds clear and these earbuds connnect with a 3.5mm jack.

Yes, you can purchase a KZ AZ09 Bluetooth module. This will add Bluetooth functionality to the earbuds but will double the cost of the affair. Even still, bundling all this together will be cheaper than most of our best wireless earbuds under $100.

You get a microphone integrated into the 2-pin detachable cable, and it sounds all right. Some background noise comes through the headset, but it’s still generally better than embedded mic systems in cheap true wireless earbuds.

KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Street conditions):

KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Check out the Linsoul TIN HiFi T2 for the basics done well

A woman's hand with long nails holds the Linsoul TIN Audio T2 buds at a close up.
The Linsoul TIN HiFi T2 is a solid choice for sound and build quality.

Sometimes you don’t need anything crazy, you just need some solid sound that you can fit in your back pocket. For that, grab the TIN HiFi T2 earbuds. These make the rounds on forums everywhere because of their good sound and build for the price. The TIN Audio T2 do a pretty good job of following our studio curve, with some under-emphasis on the sub-bass and treble.

While you shouldn’t expect this to blow you away, you can rely on the HiFi T2 to get the job done, whether working from home or commuting to the office. These earphones use a detachable MMCX cable, so you can just swap out the wire when it frays. You can even turn these into wireless earbuds with the correct adapter.

Linsoul TIN HiFi T2Linsoul TIN HiFi T2
Linsoul TIN HiFi T2
Good sound • Replaceable cable • Affordable earbuds
MSRP: $59.99
Affordable earbuds with good sound.
The TIN Hifi T2 wired earbuds connect via a 3.5mm jack. The cable is replaceable, and these earbuds have a better frequency response than some of the most expensive headphones.

Best wired earbuds: Notable mentions

A man is showing how to angle the Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless into his ear for a good fit.
You have to gently rotate the IE 100 bud into your ear for it to stay.
  • JBL Endurance RUN: These IPX5-certified buds are great for exercise enthusiasts on a budget.
  • FiiO FH5s: Building off of our previously reviewed FiiO FH5, the FH5s have a semi-open design. There are physical tuning switches that allow you to affect the sound and the detachable cable ensures these buds will last a long time.
  • KZ ATE copper in-ears: If you’re not looking to spend too much but prioritize sound quality over all else, then this might do it for you.
  • Moondrop Chu ($21 at Amazon): These buds offer excellent sound quality at an entry-level price. Isolation and fit are great, but we wish the cable was replaceable.
  • Moondrop Aria ($79 at Amazon): These are surprisingly good budget in-ears with a simple, yet elegant design. They sound great, and do an okay job of isolating you from your surroundings.
  • Panasonic Ergo Fit ($13.56 at Amazon): Affordable, reliable, what’s not to love? This classic pair of earbuds comes in a lot of colors too.
  • Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless ($149 at Amazon): These wireless earbuds use an MMCX connector, so you can use a compatible 3.5mm cable to enjoy wired playback too. The module supports SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency over Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Shure SE112: With great sound and a comfortable fit, the Shure SE112 is a simple pair of wired earbuds that will cover the basics for anyone.
  • Sony MDRXB55AP: The 12mm dynamic drivers and bass duct yield loud bass, while the eargonomic fit and four sizes of ear tips make the buds comfortable. There’s an in-line mic and remote for hands free calls too.
  • 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear ($68 at Amazon): These earbuds have three drivers inside each tiny housing — two of which are tiny balanced armature drivers that act as tweeters. You get an in-line mic and control module here and nine sets of ear tips that vary in size and material.

What you should know about the best wired earbuds

Whether you’re looking to buy $200 earbuds or $20 earbuds, you want to know that your money is going to a good product. When shopping around, you may encounter features or technical jargon you’re unfamiliar with. We recommend that complete newbies read our headphone buying guide, but those who may be a bit more experienced can skate by with the highlights below.

How should earbuds fit?

A picture of Sony WF-1000XM3 extra ear tips on a black table, demonstrating that listeners who buy the best earbuds under $20 likely won't receive this same vast array of options.
Sony provides plenty of ear tips with its WF-1000XM3 noise canceling true wireless earbuds, something you won’t find even with cheaper earbuds.

One of the most important factors when it comes to earbuds is seal and fit. A cogent seal will vastly improve sound quality because it isolates you from ambient noise. Bass reproduction is the first to go when a seal isn’t formed to the ear. By allowing external noise in, you’re degrading the overall sound quality of your earbuds, because of auditory masking. Investing in third-party ear tips will vastly improve sound quality.

Can you use wired earbuds if your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack?

A picture of two smartphones, one with and one without a headphone jack, to show that not all of the best headphones under $20 will immediately work with readers' phones.
If your phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone input, you may have to invest in a USB-C dongle adapter.

If your phone manufacturer nixed the headphone jack, you can always pick up a USB-C adapter. It’s a bit cumbersome but does the trick. Otherwise, you can always look into cheap true wireless earbuds or USB-C headphones. Regarding the latter, though, the technology has yet to impress us. In fact, it seems like a dead market at this point.

What frequency response is good for wired earbuds?

A chart depicts the Etymotic ER2SE (cyan) frequency response compared to the SoundGuys Studio Curve V1.1 pink), showing the ER2SE's under-emphasized bass.
The ER2SE (cyan) under-emphasize bass and sub-bass frequencies.

Frequency response denotes how well a pair of earbuds can reproduce the audible range of sound frequencies. Basically, it refers to the ability of each component in your playback chain to accurately reproduce the signal that’s being fed to it.

In our reviews, to help you interpret the product’s measured frequency response, we also display a reference curve (colored pink) on the same chart, that represents what we consider to be the ideal frequency response shape for the kind of product you’re looking at. You might see this referred to as the SoundGuys “House Curve,” “Preference Curve,” or “Target Curve.” You can learn more about it here. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and it’s further confounded by the fact that our ears aren’t perfect. This is why some manufacturers allow you to modify the frequency response of their products to help compensate for variations in our hearing, or for specific listener preferences for bass and treble.

How we choose the best wired earbuds

A picture of the AKG Samsung Galaxy S10e earbuds, which are some of the best earbuds under $20, on a lens filter against a black background.
The AKG earbuds included with Samsung Galaxy S10 phones feature angled nozzles for a comfortable fit.

We’ve been covering the audio industry for some time, so it’s not a huge mystery which companies are great at this sort of thing, and which ones aren’t as much. However, we give everyone their fair shot because there are always some surprises out there. That said, we’ve culled countless wired earbuds to find the best possible options for you.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

We’re stationed at this site daily and understand that consumer and professional needs constantly evolve. As we’re inundated with audio products, we can easily sift through the noise to pick out the good from the disappointing. We have multiple years of experience keeping tabs on the audio industry and rely on that to guide our review process.

A close-up image of a man holding the control module of a former best earbuds under $20 pick against an out-focus black and white background.
Not all wired earbuds will include a control module.

We rely on objective measurements of products where we can. None of our writers may profit or benefit from steering readers to or from a certain audio device. While the site uses referral links, none of our writers will know whether or not a link was clicked. If you so choose, our ethics policy is publicly available.

Frequently asked questions about the best wired earbuds

There are a few different types of dongles, and USB-C audio has both benefits and drawbacks. Let me direct you to this explainer article which will hopefully answer your questions about USB audio.

Your best bet for a good pair of earbuds for small ears is one that comes with a lot of ear tip sizes. Of our top picks, the Etymotic ER2SE and ER4SR both have plenty of ear tips to choose from.

Noise isolation refers to the amount of ambient noise that is physically blocked by your earbuds or headphones. The degree to which noise is blocked depends on the design of a product, such as how well a pair of earbuds create a good seal. This form of noise attenuation is passive, since there’s no electronic circuitry involved. On the other hand, noise canceling is the process of using active circuitry to cancel out ambient noise, which works on top of noise isolation. Because of the processing needed, you’ll find that noise canceling headphones and earbuds can be expensive.

The good news is we know audio quality doesn’t correlate to price, so cheaper products don’t necessarily sound bad. One of the first things to go when hunting even for the cheap wired earbuds is build quality. Materials are predominantly plastic. You certainly won’t find any sort of Kevlar-reinforced braided cable like you will with pricier products. Additionally, few research and development resources are allocated to cheaper products. Things are passable and could be good for the price. However, they won’t outperform professional IEMs.

Other than the Sony WI-C310 and the JLab GO Air POP, there aren’t many options out there. At such a low price point, there are bound to be compromises. Sure, there are other wireless earbuds available for less than $20, but they tend to sacrifice audio quality for the sake of wireless connectivity. You’re better off spending your cash on a pair of good-sounding wired earbuds.

The simple answer is no, you don’t need an external amp or a DAC.

Consumers often worry that their phones aren’t enough to power their earbuds or headphones. While that might be the case if you’re spending hundreds of dollars on specialized in-ears and plan on plugging them into a computer from 1997, it isn’t necessary for anyone listening to music on a modern smartphone or somewhat recent computer. Especially with these earbuds under $100 that we chose. They were designed to be powered by typical electronics, assuming of course, that your phone still has a headphone jack. You still shouldn’t have any issues with power if you’re using a dongle, but it’s definitely annoying.