- Earbuds need to be well constructed to deliver the same kind of audio quality you’d expect out of a bigger pair of headphones.
- Earbuds run the gamut in terms of price and style, but we made sure the ones included here are both comfortable to wear and a joy to listen to.
- Master & Dynamic pulled it off with the ME05BR earbuds. They are still the best earbuds I’ve used, delivering excellent sound quality in a nice, neat package.
Earbuds are easily the most convenient type of headphones. Whether they’re wired or not, good earbuds deliver on sound quality without being big and bulky. While most of us probably remember our first pair being the hard plastic models that came with the first few generations of the iPod, they’ve come a long way since then.
I review a lot of headphones – many of them earbuds – so I’ve included what I consider to be the five best earbuds in this guide. Like all headphones, earbuds run the gamut in terms of price and style – the ones I’ve included here are both comfortable to wear and a joy to listen to.
So whether your main priority is staying under budget, going fully wireless, excellent noise cancellation, making sure your earbuds fit, or trying a lightning pair, you’re covered.
Here are the best earbuds you can buy:
- Best earbuds overall: Master & Dynamic ME05
- Best true wireless earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro
- Best true wireless earbuds for Android: Master & Dynamic MW07
- Best lightning earbuds for iPhones: Rayz Lightning Earbuds
- Best sports earbuds: Jaybird X4
- Best budget wireless earbuds: Panasonic ErgoFit
Updated on 11/20/2019 by Lisa Sabatini: Updated prices, links, and formatting. Replaced products that are out of stock or no longer recommended. We are currently testing new products, so we’ll update this guide soon.
The best earbuds overall
Master & Dynamic has been making some of the best-designed, and best-sounding headphones out there for a few years now – and the Master & Dynamic ME05 earbuds are no exception.
Master & Dynamic has been steadily building a name for itself as one of the top headphone manufacturers – and if you want the best-sounding earbuds, then the Master & Dynamic ME05 in-ear headphones are the way to go. Sure, these headphones may not offer all the flashy features available from some of the others on this list, but they sound great, are relatively comfortable, and look pretty nice too.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is how headphones sound, and the ME05 headphones sound great. They offer a deep, powerful bass response that most will love, but there’s also plenty of clarity in the high frequencies – and a lot more detail than you’ll get on a pair of wireless headphones. Because they’re bass-heavy, those looking for a natural sound may want to look elsewhere, but those who simply want something that sounds great will love these headphones. They’re nicely designed too.
The Master & Dynamic ME05 have gotten very positive reviews since their release. TechRadar gave the headphones an impressive 4.5 out of 5, while they scored 8.8 out 10 at Headphone Review. The only downsides are that despite being relatively cheap compared to some of the wireless headphones on this list, they’re still more expensive than some other options. Also, the bass-forward sound may not be for everyone – though that’s hardly a downside here. Read our full review here. -Brandt Ranj, Christian de Looper
Pros: Nice design, great sound quality, comfortable fit
Cons: A little pricey compared to some similar options
The best truly wireless earbuds
The Apple AirPods Pro look and sound better than previous-generation AirPods, plus they have noise cancellation built right into them and integrate perfectly with other Apple devices.
Apple is moving in the right direction with the design of the AirPods in general. The arm on the headphones is a little shorter than previous-generation AirPods, so they won’t look quite as distinctive. More important is the fact that they create a nice seal in your ears, which directly plays into how they sound and their noise cancellation.
Speaking of how they sound, the AirPods Pro earbuds sound much better than previous-generation AirPods. They offer a little more bass than before, along with clearly better-tuned and more natural mids, and a fair amount more detail in the highs. To be sure, these headphones are bass-forward, but it’s not over the top by any means. The noise cancellation on the headphones is good, but not quite as good as over-ear headphones by the likes of Sony and Bose.
Apple users will also like how well the headphones integrate with their iPhone and other Apple products. AirPods easily pair to an iPhone without you having to go digging through menus, and thanks to their built-in Apple H1 chip, they support Siri and retain a better connection throughout.
But what about downsides? Well, the headphones are a little expensive, and they’re probably not the best choice for sports use. Still, despite that, the headphones have received great reviews. TechRadar and MacWorld both gave them 4.5 out of 5. -Christian de Looper
Pros: Good sound, excellent Apple integration, noise cancellation
Cons: Expensive, don’t fit great for sports
The best true wireless earbuds for Android
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus headphones look great, sound better, and offer noise cancellation.
Master & Dynamic also makes one of our favorite pairs of true wireless headphones. Apple isn’t the only company to recently revamp its true wireless headphones. Master & Dynamic also recently announced a follow-up to the original MW07 headphones, in the form of the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus. The headphones are almost identical to the previous-generation ones, except for the fact that they offer noise cancellation.
It’s not a bad thing that the headphones are similar to the previous earbuds. The design and sound quality of these headphones is great, and even the battery life is far better. You’ll get up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge, and the case will get you an additional three charges.
The headphones sound great too. They’re not the ultra-balanced true wireless headphones that some audiophiles might look for, instead offering an exciting sound that most will love. You’ll get plenty of bass, with a slightly scooped midrange, and decent high end. There isn’t as much detail on offer as the wired headphones on this list, but for wireless headphones, it’s still pretty good.
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus true wireless headphones are also pretty good at staying in your ears. They’re still probably not the best for sports use, but thanks to their fit wings, they should still stay firmly in place.
The main downside is that they’re pretty expensive, but there’s also the fact that, while nicely designed, the case scratches pretty easily. Still, most reviewers love them – they scored 9.1 out of 10 on Headphone Review and a little more conservative but still respectable 7 out of 10 on The Verge. -Christian de Looper
Pros: Well-designed, great sound, comfortable fit, good noise cancellation
Cons: Scratch-prone case, expensive
The best lightning earbuds for iPhones
With the Rayz Lightning Earbuds, Pioneer eliminated the worst part about using wired headphones with an iPhone 7 or later.
The iPhone 7 (and now the iPhone 8) has a lot going for it. It’s fast, sleek looking, and is generally more powerful than an “actual computer” was only a few years ago. The problem is that without a headphone jack, you’ve had to decide whether to charge your phone or listen to music – unless you made the jump to Bluetooth headphones.
Pioneer’s Rayz Lightning Earbuds make that a non-issue. They connect to your iPhone’s lightning jack, but they have an addition lightning port built into them to charge your phone.
Overall these headphones sound pretty good, and you’ll be happy whether you listen to top 40 music through a streaming service or audiophile lossless versions of jazz albums. There are earbuds that sound better, but at this price, you’re getting a really good pair.
That’s especially true when you consider that these earbuds actually make good on Apple’s promise that lightning headphones would be able to do more than normal wired headphones. Through an app, you can adjust noise canceling, and enable a couple of extra features called “Smart Mute” and “Hear Thru.”
The former mutes the microphone on these earbuds when you’re on a phone call, but not speaking, that’s hugely beneficial if you’re in a windy area. The latter automatically pauses your music when you take the earbuds out of your ears, which is a lot more elegant than fumbling for the pause button when someone asks you a question. -Brandt Ranj
Pros: A bunch of extra features, good sound quality overall, lets you use wired headphones and charge your iPhone without a dongle
Cons: Only works with iPhone
The best sports earbuds
The Jaybird X4 earbuds offer wireless connectivity, sound great, and are excellent at staying in your ears – making them an ideal choice for sports use.
Jaybird has long made some of the better wireless sports headphones out there, and the Jaybird X4 wireless headphones are a perfect example of that. The headphones are pretty well-designed, and they sound good – plus they fit extremely well in your ears for sports use.
The sound quality of these headphones is great for a pair that you’ll mostly use running or at the gym. There’s a solid amount of bass, with a slight boost in the upper mids, and a good amount of high-end response. The Jaybird app allows you to tweak the frequency response to your needs, too, which is a nice touch.
Perhaps even more important than sound for sports headphones is how they fit, and the Jaybird X4s come with a number of fit wings and ear tips so you’ll easily be able to keep them in your ears. They’re water-resistant with a rating of IPX7, too, so you won’t have to worry about damaging them if you sweat a lot or run in the rain.
There are a few downsides to consider. The headphones are a little expensive compared to some others, and there seem to be some quality control issues – though I’ve personally used the headphones and didn’t experience any problems. Still, they’ve gotten some great reviews. TechRadar gave the headphones 4/5, while MacWorld gave them an even better 4.5/5. -Christian de Looper
Pros: Nice design, comfortable, good at staying in ears
Cons: A little pricey, some quality control issues
The best budget wireless earbuds
The Panasonic ErgoFit headphones sound good and fit well, but the best thing about them is their affordable price.
Looking for a pair of great-sounding earbuds at a reasonable price? The Panasonic ErgoFit headphones may be simple, but they sound pretty good – so if you don’t mind the wired design, they may well be the way to go.
Easily the best thing about these headphones is how they sound for the price. The headphones aren’t audiophile-grade, but they offer a solid amount of bass and decent high-end for the price. They fit well too – as the name suggests, these headphones are built for an ergonomic fit, so if you want something relatively comfortable, they’ll do the job well.
There are downsides to these headphones. While they’re inexpensive, that’s also reflected in the build quality (design and materials), which is not on par with pricier earbuds. That, however, is about the only thing wrong with them at this price. Keep in mind that if your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, you may need an adapter. Read our full review here. -Christian de Looper
Pros: Inexpensive, excellent value for money, comfortable fit
Cons: Some build quality issues
Check out our other great headphone guides
True wireless earbuds don’t have wires, connect to your phone with Bluetooth, and are stored inside a small case that recharges the earbuds when they’re inside. Here are the best ones you can buy:
- Best wireless earbuds overall: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
- Best for sound and design: Bang & Olufsen E8 Motion
- Best for Samsung phone owners: Samsung Galaxy Buds
- Best for iPhone owners: Apple AirPods
- Best for audiophiles: Sennheiser True Momentum
Great noise-cancelling headphones don’t just offer excellent noise cancellation – they’re also comfortable and sound great. Here are the best noise-cancelling headphones you can buy:
- Best noise-cancelling headphones overall: Sony WH-1000XM3
- Best noise-cancelling headphones for comfort: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Best on-ear noise-cancelling headphones: AKG N60 NC
- Best in-ear noise-cancelling headphones: Bose QuietComfort 30
- Best-sounding noise-cancelling headphones: Sennheiser HD 1 Wireless