Let’s face it, earbuds kind of suck when it comes to long term use. They aren’t the most resilient things in the world and if they aren’t breaking or fraying, they’re getting tangled. Still, we deal with these issues because if you don’t want to deal with true wireless options, there really is nothing that matches the convenience of a good pair of buds. But if you don’t want to get a pair of buds that are going to need to be replaced often, what options do you have? These are most durable earbuds you can get.
Editor’s note: this list of the most durable earbuds was updated on October 30, 2020, to add information regarding the sound quality of the Shure SE215-K.
The most durable earbuds are the Jaybird Tarah
Jaybird is synonymous with manufacturing durable earbuds, especially since their products are among the most popular for workouts. With the Jaybird Tarah, you’re getting most of the features from the flagship Jaybird X4 earbuds for $30 less.
Jaybird TarahFull Review
While these may not have a fancy all-metal housing, the Jaybird Tarah features an IPX7 waterproof rating, certified to withstand complete submersion at 1 meter for 30 minutes. While you shouldn’t go out of you way to take a swim with these buds, take comfort in the fact that they’ll survive despite an accidental dip in the pool, or even after a sweat-heavy workout.
In terms of sound quality, these earbuds won’t impress any audiophiles. Lower-end sound are slightly under-emphasized, though there is a little bump in the mids—ideal for listening to music during workouts. While the Jaybird Tarah won’t blow you away with its sound signature, it will definitely give you peace of mind knowing that these won’t just fall apart, lasting longer than most other earbuds on the market.
If you want the best sound, check out the Shure SE215-K
If you’re looking to optimize sound quality as well as durability, check out the Shure SE215-K.
Its cables are made of what’s called a Wireform Fit, which is a fancy way of saying that they’re comfortable and it is also reinforced with a durable Kevlar. It’d be difficult to break these even if you tried. You wear them behind the ear and they can be molded into a more comfortable shape to better fit your ears. Shure is big on making earbuds that are fit for on-stage performances as well as casual listening. For the best results, you need a good fit and an even better seal.
That’s why Shure includes three different sized ear tips (S, M, L) that are sure to give you both comfort and solid noise isolation. If that’s not enough you can even take it a step further and order custom sleeves to help with the fit and isolation. Speaking of which, Shure claims that the noise isolation in the SE215s are good enough take away up to 37dB of outside noise. This could definitely be a useful feature if you’re performing on a stage with things going on all around you, but it’s also useful for someone who really wants to disappear into whatever they’re listening to.
In regards to sound quality, the Shure SE215-K features a low-end heavy sound signature, allowing bass guitars, kick drums, and deep male vocals to cut through mixes. This sound profile is best suited for fans of electronic or hip-hop music. There is some de-emphasis in the treble frequencies, which reduces the clarity of higher-pitched vocals, and shortens the reverberation of hi-hats and snare hits.
For a sleek design that won’t break over time there’s the RHA S500
One other pair of earbuds we can’t leave out is the RHA S500. These are super lightweight yet still made of great materials that can at least withstand your commute if not adventuring in the woods. RHA is more known for its flagship T10 and T20 in-ears with swappable filters and even though the S500 don’t have filters, they still benefit from the knowledge RHA has when it comes to build quality.
RHA S500Full Review
The drivers are housed in a durable aluminum alloy that you’re going to have a hard time breaking. Even though the cable isn’t reinforced, it isn’t frail. The bottom of the cable is covered with a flexible braided fabric that improves durability. So even though it may not be able to hold up weights, they’ll definitely live through some regular everyday wear and tear. One other thing to keep in mind is that these aren’t sweatproof. Durable doesn’t mean waterproof, so we wouldn’t recommend wearing them to the gym. These are more for the person that needs a solid pair of everyday headphones without worrying if they’re going to snap in half.
As far as sound these aren’t going to give you the same quality and accuracy as the higher end RHA models, but for under $50 that shouldn’t be expected. Instead, you’ll get a fairly “fun-sounding” pair of earbuds that are fine for casual listening throughout the day or during a commute. If you’re interested in getting a pair for yourself, make sure to check out the full review for a more in-depth description of the sound.
The GOgroove AudiOHM RNF prioritize a tough build
The Audiohms have an ultra-reinforced cable that the company claims can hold up to 10-pound weights. While I wouldn’t recommend wrapping these around a pair of weights to find out, it’s still impressive how tough the cable is here. Besides one seriously durable pair of buds, GOgroove promises a lifetime warranty on it so if you find yourself constantly breaking headphones these are worth taking a look at anyway. GOgroove used some heavy-duty cabling here, so don’t expect them to be lightweight. That said, they’re still just earbuds so they’re going to be lighter than most over-ear headphones anyway.
GOgroove AudiOHM RNFFull Review
The AudiOHM are reinforced with hard plastic at all of the crucial points of the earbuds, including the 3.5mm connector, the Y-connector, and even the earbuds themselves which are encased in a metal housing. These come with some extra tips as well for a good fit and have pretty good noise isolating capabilities. The ‘buds have a built-in mic and control button that is compatible with both Siri and Google Now
These aren’t going to blow you away by any means and there are definitely better sounding earbuds out there, but in the full review we were surprised at how good they sounded for such a low price. Its 9mm drivers deliver a neutral bass response that doesn’t seem to mask any vocals or guitars. In terms of treble reproduction, sounds like tambourines and cymbals can be heard loud and clear—though may sound a little harsh at higher volumes.
If you’re looking for the best sound quality ever these probably won’t do it for you, but if you want unbreakable in-ears with good sound then you should definitely check out the AudiOHM RNF.
Most durable earbuds: notable mentions
- 1More Triple Driver In-Ear: For under a hundred bucks, these earbuds are an absolute bargain—featuring a solid metal construction and decent sound quality for the price.
- RHA MA750 Wireless: These earbuds are a significant upgrade from the RHA S500, in terms of durability and performance. With aptX support and IPX4 certification, these earbuds deliver amazing sound, and are built to last.
- Sennheiser IE 80 S: If you’re willing to pay a premium, these earbuds produce some of the best sound in its class. Built with durability in mind, these earbuds are guaranteed to stand the test of time.
What you should know
What is an IP rating?
Just because you’re looking at a pair of the most durable earbuds doesn’t automatically mean the buds are water-resistant. For that, you have to go by the IP ratings, or Ingress protection. This is a standardized way of testing products to determine how well they can hold up to water damage.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
How does frequency response impact sound?
When speaking about audio products, you’ll usually hear terms like “flat” and “under-emphasized” thrown around willy-nilly. If you’ve never heard of these before, it can be hard to know what anyone is talking about. Luckily, this is one of those things that is fairly easy to understand once you get the basics down. We have an entire piece on this explaining the gritty details, but the short version is that some headphones are tuned to make some notes louder than others.
So if a pair of headphones is described as “bass-heavy” such as with the graph above for the Sony WH-XB900B headphones, it just means that the lower notes (where bass kicks and bass guitars reside) sound louder compared to other instruments. If a pair of headphones are perfectly flat, then everything you hear will be equally loud.
Preserve your hearing
One thing that’s always worth mentioning when discussing earbuds is the possibility of damaging your hearing if you listen to music at high volumes. To understand completely how loud volumes can affect the inner workings of your ear, make sure to read our full explainer if you’re curious. A good rule of thumb, however, is to keep your audio levels below 95dB as prolonged exposure to sound at or above that volume has been shown to damage your ability to hear over time.
As long as audio companies keep making earbuds, they’ll keep breaking. We’ll be sure to update this article in the future to shed light on some of the companies that make quality earbuds. Be sure to let us know if we missed a good pair of ‘buds so we can add it to this list.
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Frequently Asked Questions
While true wireless earbuds have yet to conquer specific problems, such as having a short battery life, there are a few options here and there that sport a relatively durable design. The Jabra Elite Active 75t are a pair of true wireless earbuds that feature an IP57 rating, which means they can withstand normal exposure to dust and water (or sweat). If you want a pair of true wireless ear buds for workouts, check out our best list for the complete rundown!