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Best wired earbuds

Keep using that headphone jack while you still have it.
By
December 28, 2022
Best overall
1MORE Quad Driver in-ears
By 1MORE
The 1MORE Quad Driver In-Ear Earphones against a white background.
Check price
Positives
Great sound
Nice design
Negatives
Expensive
Not a major improvement over its predecessor
The Bottom Line.
1MORE is known for its high-quality audio products and the Quad Driver in-ears is no exception. Read full review...
Best Sound
Etymotic ER4SR
By Etymotic Research
Etymotic ER4SR in-ear moitor studio product image.
Check price
Positives
Flat frequency response
Plenty of ear tip options
MMCX cables
Negatives
Flat sound isn't for everyone
Expensive
The Bottom Line.
Anyone who wants a neutral frequency response will love how this sounds. The Etymotic ER4SR also has great noise isolation so you can block out sounds around you.Read full review...
Best isolation
Etymotic ER2SE
By Etymotic Research
Check price
Positives
Excellent isolation
Great sound
Many ear tip options
Negatives
Can be a bit uncomfortable
The Bottom Line.
If you don't want to hear anything around you, get this. It has a more neutral frequency response like the ER4SR, so this is a great option for anyone looking for solid sound and isolation.Read full review...
Best Sweat Resistance
JBL Endurance RUN
By JBL
A product render of the JBL Endurance RUN wired exercise earbuds.
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Positives
IPX5
Versatile design
Integrated mic/remote
Magnetic housings
Negatives
Not for smaller ears
Cable noise
The Bottom Line.
If you're looking for a pair of earbuds to toss in your gym bag, look no further.
Bang for your Buck
KZ ZSN Pro X
By KZ
Image shows the product photo of the KZ-ZSN PRO X.
Check price
Positives
Price
Sound quality
Good isolation
Fantastic value
Negatives
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...

Earbuds are not a thing of the past, no matter what phone manufacturers want you to think by removing headphone jacks. Earbuds are easy to use, and can be 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 December 28, 2022 to update our top picks, highlights, and notable mentions, add information on frequency response, and address some frequently asked questions.

Why is the 1More Quad-Driver in-ears the best earbuds you can buy?

If you couldn’t tell by the name this headset contains four different drivers in each earbud, each tuned specifically to handle a different frequency range. Yeah, this pair of best earbuds is already off to a strong start. The extra drivers mean less overlap between frequency ranges, as there isn’t just a single driver trying to do everything at once. Now it’s worth mentioning, this headset isn’t cheap. However, you get a good bang for your buck with these buds.

1MORE Quad Driver in-ears
1MORE Quad Driver in-ears
Man holding the 1More Quad-driver in ears in hand, with the logo clearly visible and a plant in a background.A close-up of the metal housings laying sideways on a white background.An aerial view of the earphones and the headphone jack.
1MORE Quad Driver in-ears
1MORE Quad Driver in-ears
Buy now
See review
See review

Though the sound quality definitely favors the low end, it’s not an overbearing experience. It keeps the fun sound that many of us like without overdoing it—or forgetting about the mids and the highs. The treble, in particular, has good detail but it does get kind of harsh at high volume. Luckily the headset also gets pretty loud. Just don’t crank it up too loud if you want to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.

You’ll get the same top-notch quality that was available in the previous Triple-Driver in-ears with an all-metal housing and Kevlar cable. Speaking of which the Triple-Drivers makes a great pair of buds too if you want to save some cash. Overall, we enjoy the sound of the Quad-driver and think most consumers will, too. There’s a reason it remains the best earbuds.

1More Quad Driver In-ear Earphones1More Quad Driver In-ear Earphones
1More Quad Driver In-ear Earphones
Great build quality • Comfy design • Good quality sound
A great pair of earbuds for any listener, with a few drawbacks.
Though the Triple-Driver In-Ear is still a way better value, the Quad-Driver In-Ear improves upon many of its design flaws and also sounds a little better.
$99.99 at Amazon
Save $100.00

The Etymotic ER4SR has the best sound

If you’re going to be monitoring or mixing (or doing any kind of professional work really) with audio, a pair of in-ears with a flat response might be a worthy investment to make. And if you want accuracy, look no further than the Etymotic ER4SR in-ears.

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

It has a thin, smooth aluminum housing and triple flange ear tips so you can be confident that it won’t fall out. The minimalist design doesn’t allow any room for playback controls, but we’ll give it a pass. After all, it is specifically for professionals that work with audio, or anyone who doesn’t like to have an emphasis on certain aspects of the frequency range.

The cable is braided for extra durability. Though because the earbuds connect via MMCX connectors, you don’t have to worry too much about breaking the cable because you can just get another one.

Etymotic ER4SREtymotic ER4SR
Etymotic ER4SR
Flat sound • Removable cable • Plenty of ear tip options for best fit
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.

The Etymotic ER2SE blocks out everything

The Etymotic Research ER2SE earbuds use an MMCX connector cable, meaning that if you can find a USB-C to MMXC cable, you can listen to it through a device that lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack.

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

If you don’t mind the fit, you’ll find that the ER2SE melts background noise away, akin to the Shure AONIC Free. This excellent isolation performance is due to the narrow-diameter nozzles and multi-flange ear tips. Once you get a good seal, you’ll be able to observe new musical detail from your favorite tunes.

Etymotic includes an array of ear tips that you can play around with and a carrying case for transport. For the price, you’ll have a hard time finding a pair of buds that does a better job of blocking out background noise.

Etymotic ER2SEEtymotic ER2SE
Etymotic ER2SE
$99.95 at Amazon
Save $10.00

Make gains with the JBL Endurance RUN workout earbuds

The JBL Endurance RUN is a great option for exercise enthusiasts on a budget. These earbuds are IPX5-certified, meaning that they can withstand all the sweat your glands can spill onto them.

JBL Endurance RUN
JBL Endurance RUN
A complete product render of the JBL Endurance RUN wired exercise earbuds.A product render of the JBL Endurance RUN wired exercise earbuds.
JBL Endurance RUN
JBL Endurance RUN
Buy now

You can wear the earbuds the standard way, with the cables descending directly down from the ear, or hook the buds over and around the ear. The latter may be preferred if you’re usually aggravated by cable noise; doing so mitigates it. An around-the-ear fit provides more stability, so you don’t have to worry about the buds falling out while you complete your circuit training. Need more? JBL includes an in-line mic and remote, and extra ear tips. Overall, the JBL Endurance RUN a steal for workout earbuds.

JBL Endurance RunJBL Endurance Run
JBL Endurance Run
Affordable • Comfortable • Durable
IPX5 wired earbuds designed to join you on your next run
A comfortable wired earbud design, and great starting price make the JBL Endurance Run a solid choice for audio on the go.

Get the best bang for your buck with the KZ ZSN Pro X

The KZ ZSN Pro X is an excellent set of wired earbuds that comes with a removable 2-pin cable, which extends the life of the buds. The KZ ZSN Pro X gives you a great bang for your buck at under $30 USD, meeting most people’s budgets, and its sound quality punches weigh above its price point. With a frequency response that gently boosts bass and treble notes, the ZSN Pro X is sure to make just about any genre of music sound good. (See the last image in the gallery below to view the frequency response chart.)

KZ ZSN Pro X
KZ ZSN Pro X
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.
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 so you can take phone calls and control music playback. Interestingly, our headset’s “return to previous track” function does not work but all others do.

The KZ ZSN Pro X is likely not a good option for those with particularly small outer ears since the housings are fairly large, but most people will find these buds comfortable. For the price, it’s hard to beat the Pro X.

KZ ZSN Pro XKZ ZSN Pro X
KZ ZSN Pro X
Affordable earbuds • Good sound • Replaceable two-pin cable
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.

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):

KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Street):

KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Wind):

The Moondrop Chu blocks out plenty of background noise

The Moondrop Chu hangs over the side of a SoundGuys branded mug on a teal metal table.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
For the price if you can get over the make-do solution of the over-ear cable sleeve, the Moondrop Chu is worth a try.

The Moondrop Chu is another surprisingly good set of budget in-ears with a simple, yet elegant design. It blocks out more noise than some earbuds with active noise cancelling, and can cut the loudness of midrange frequencies down to one-quarter their original perceived loudness.

The black plastic housings have a gold accent that looks a bit like a spark, and the earbuds have an ergonomic fit that angles the nozzles into your ear canals. You get three sets of silicone ear tips to choose from, a cable holder, and ear hook-like guides.

The over-the-ear cable guides are a bit tricky to fit right and they sometimes pop out of place, cheapening the look of the headset. If you can get past that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how the Chu sounds as it follows the same “shape” of our target curve with some under-emphasis to the lows and mids.

Moondrop ChuMoondrop Chu
Moondrop Chu
Affordable earbuds • Decent ANC • Good fit

With the microphone, your voice will sound fairly good during calls, and it blocks out background noise fairly well. The biggest thing to be aware of is the mic’s direction relative to your mouth. It can swivel a bit due to the cable dangling near your mouth, so you may have the best luck holding the mic in place next to your mouth while speaking.

To be clear, the in-line microphone is an optional purchase; you can also buy the Chu without an integrated microphone.

Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Office conditions):

Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Street 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, it’s hard to beat the TIN HiFi T2 earbuds. This makes the rounds on forums everywhere because of its good sound and build for the price.

While you shouldn’t expect this to blow you away, you can definitely rely on it to get the job done whether you’re working from home or commuting to the office. The Linsoul TIN Audio T2 uses an MMCX detachable cable, so you can just swap out the wire instead of buying a brand new pair of earbuds. You can even turn it into a pair of wireless earbuds with the right adapter. Toss some memory foam ear tips on here, and this is hard to beat.

The TIN Audio T2 does a pretty good job of following our studio curve, with some under-emphasis to the sub-bass and treble.

Linsoul TIN HiFi T2Linsoul TIN HiFi T2
Linsoul TIN HiFi T2
Good sound • Replaceable cable • Affordable earbuds
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

  • Razer Hammerhead Duo: Gaming earbuds are difficult to come by, but this is a great option for gamers who want the option to use their earbuds outside of a console setting. You can find it for $79.95 at Amazon.
  • 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear: These earbuds have three drivers, the objects that actually project sound, 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 along with nine sets of ear tips that vary in size and material. It’s available for $64.99 at Amazon.
  • Panasonic Ergo Fit: Affordable, reliable, what’s not to love? This classic pair of earbuds comes in a lot of colors too. Pick it up for $13.56 at Amazon.
  • 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.
  • Beyerdynamic Soul BYRD: This is a great pair of lightweight earphones. It doesn’t offer anything fancy, but if you want something that’s comfortable and has a good mic system, get the Soul Byrd. It’s available for $103 at Amazon.
  • 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.
  • OnePlus Type-C Bullets: If you have an Android phone that is no longer rocking a headphone jack, then you might want to check out the Type-C Bullet earbuds from OnePlus. For only $24.95 at OnePlus, it offers a decent option that won’t break the bank. Alternatively, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 is an excellent wireless option at $99 at OnePlus.
  • Shure SE-215: Shure makes plenty of audio equipment, but the Shure SE-215 buds just might be a classic. Its sound quality is identical to the Shure AONIC 215, and it is very good.

What you should know about the best wired earbuds

Whether you’re looking to buy $200 USD earbuds or $20 USD earbuds, you want to know that your money is going to a good product. When shopping around, you may come across features or technical jargon that 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 cancelling 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 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-emphasizes bass and sub-bass frequencies are half as loud as our studio curve (pink) suggests.

If you keep seeing the words frequency response everywhere and don’t know what it refers to, don’t worry you’re not alone. Frequency response denotes how well a pair of earbuds can reproduce the range of frequencies of sound; in the case of human hearing, this ranges between 20Hz-20kHz, assuming you haven’t damaged your stereocilia too much. 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” 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 either. This is why some manufacturers allow you to modify the frequency response of their products to help compensate for variations in our hearing, or in the case of a brand like Beats, to add some emphasis to lower notes.

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.

Being that we’ve been covering the audio industry for some time, we’re acutely aware of what the top of the market is. It’s not exactly 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 through countless wired earbuds to find the best possible options for you.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

We’re stationed at this site day-to-day and understand that consumer and professional needs are constantly evolving. Seeing as we’re inundated with audio products, we’re able to easily sift through the noise to pick out the good from the disappointing. Each of us has multiple years of experience when it comes to 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 also take objective measures when applicable and just want our readers to enjoy their purchases. 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/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 additional circuitry involved—just physics. On the other hand, noise cancelling is the process of using active circuitry to cancel out ambient noise, which typically works on top of noise isolation. Because of the additional circuitry, you’ll often find that noise cancelling headphones and earbuds can be expensive.

If you’re in the market for more affordable wired earbuds, there are bound to be some significantly cut corners. Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off.

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 1MORE products. Additionally, few research and development resources are allocated to cheaper products. This means that ergonomics and sound quality fall to the wayside. 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.