Five Best Earbuds

Solid sound doesn't have to come at the expense of portability. Earbuds used to get a bad rap for offering lacklustre sound, but they've come a long way and many can seriously compete with their over-ear cousins. Some even offer noise isolation and super-comfortable fits. Here's a look at five great earbuds.

Photo by Anssi Koskinen.

Note: earbuds are a competitive category, so shop around. Prices are indicative of the best deals we could find at the time of writing.

Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones ($120)

Shure's sound-isolating SE215 earphones offer a great balance of comfort and sound quality for a good price. Often reviewed as offering sound comparable with earbuds much more expensive, the SE215s aren't even Shure's most expensive or audiophile-angled models, but those of you who nominated them praised their value and effectiveness in isolating outside noise while you listen to music or take a phone call. They're comfortable and designed to rest low in the ear, with the cable going either over or under your ears. The SE215s also come with multiple sound isolating sleeves so you can fit them to your ears. Shop around and you can find them for $120 or less.

Klipsch Image S4 In-Ear Headphones ($80)

Klipsch's Image S4 range offers a lightweight pair of earbuds that produce remarkable sound in a portable and comfortable package. The flexible and interchangeable tips let you pick the best fit without sacrificing sound isolation, and the drivers in the S4s provide full, deep bass and remarkable clarity in all ranges, considering their size. The more recent S4 IIs update the design of the original, adding flat cables for fewer tangles, fatter tips for a more snug fit, and bigger drivers in the earphones for better sound.

Etymotic Research HF3 Earphones ($180)

Etymotic Research claims its HF3 earphones are the most accurate noise isolating set under $200. That's a bold statement, but those of you that nominated them praised their comfortable fit, exceptional noise isolation and gorgeous sound quality. Many of you highlighted the fit of the HF3, which comes with multiple sets of tips designed to fit ears of any shape or size. If those don't feel right, the company will work with you to mould and fit a custom pair of tips for your earbuds. Combine this with Etymotic's smartphone controls on the headset cable and its Awareness app for iOS and Android, and you can boost the noise isolation to levels normally seen in over-ear headphones. They're not cheap, but they're impressive.

Bose IE2 Headphones ($120)

The Bose IE2 offer Bose's StayHear eartips, designed to keep the earbuds in place in your ears even during vigorous activity, with an eartip attachment that nestles inside the bowl of your ear while you listen. Those eartips also come in three sizes so you can find the one that fits you the best, or swap them out depending on what you're doing. The IE2s aren't specifically noise-isolating, but owners praise Bose for its sound quality and the design of the earbuds. For its part, Bose also touts the "natural" and "smooth" audio from the IE2s, noting the earbuds have an added audio port specifically to boost sound quality.

Logitech Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10 Noise Isolating Earphones ($180)

Although technically discontinued, the Ultimate Ears TripleFi from Logitech earbuds are still widely available online (and substantially cheaper than when they first launched). They're great earbuds — comfortable and sporting three different speakers with a sizable driver in a tiny package.


    Add the jays a-jays one, they are only $50 and great

      I got the One +
      And they are pretty good, although when I flicked them off the other day one of the ear bugs landed in my coffee >_

      I had a pair of a-Jays Four.

      Sound from them was great, but they were uncomfortable as sin (though this no doubt is personal preference). The flat cables were more of a curse than a blessing; the microphonics on them were horrible!

      Mine ended up going back under warranty due to a defective bud and I got a refund.

      In any case all round, I'd say they were good - I wouldn't say they were great.

      Love my ajays four. Had Klipsche S4i previously and the Ajays sound heaps better. Better mid-range, better bass, and the treble isn't as harsh as the S4i.

      A-Jays One are the best inner ears I've owned.

      Punchy bass, clear mids and hi's - you really should get a pair

      Love my a-JAYS One+, great sound, love the flat cable for it's lack of tangling ... Dislike the "interference" (for lack of a better word) when the cables touch anything :( Still love them though :)

    I found somewhere selling Beats By Dre Tour earbuds, brand new shrink wrapped for $70 AUS. Is that worth it?

      Beats By Dre, despite the high price, are actually not very good headphones.

        I am happy with mine. I got them for $80 delivered and are comparable to my old Sennheiser CX 300-II earbuds which are also very good

          $80, odds are they're fake (google how to tell if you have a fake pair).
          Paid $300 for mine and they are much better than CX 300s.

          However i wouldn't recommend them to anyone due to the high price.

          Last edited 12/11/12 12:13 pm

            I wouldn't recommend them to anyone due to them being terrible sounding pieces of crap sold to clueless chumps who think they have 'mad bass bro'.

            But full props for paying $300 for junk when you could have bought Westone UM3s, Senn IE8s, Triple Fis, Shure SE535s, and any number of infinitely better (but non-rapper endorsed) phones.

            Dre thanks you for your generous donation.

        Not true. It all depends on the equaliser. With the correct settings they are exceptional. Granted if you just use flat or no equaliser they don't sound good

          IMHO - if you need to change the EQ, then you're not using good speakers.

      The fakes probably sound better than the originals.

    None of these are earbuds. They're called canalphones.

    @rederikishejoe - check out the "Recommended" canalphones at

      Headphonic's recommended list is always a great place to start.

      I've been enjoying some Vsonics - initially the GR06s and now the GR07s. The 06s are a bit muddy, but for bassy stuff they are pretty decent if you can grab 'em for $50-60.

      Jess, are you a male or female? Not sure based on pic :S But yeah Headphonic have some great stuff, and great service.

      Last edited 12/11/12 12:25 pm

      Finally, there's at least one person who's been enlightened!

    Does anyone know of any earbuds that have a lifetime warranty, or are near indestructible!? I go through them like there's no tomorrow and its costing me a fortune!!

    Someone needs to invent some with a metal casing around the cord or something.

      I've got a set of A-Jays Four which sound great, have a built in mic and buttons (suitable for Apple devices, but only the play/pause button worked on my Galaxy S2 when I had it) and feature a flat tangle free cord which seems to be far more durable than the standard tooth floss cable on most other ear pieces. Highly recommended if you have an iDevice. Otherwise I'm sure A-Jays have other models without the buttons for less.

    Sony MDR-EX60LP.. $49.95.. had two pairs now, the first I misplaced, and have had nothing but solid performance across a vast range of audio..

    +1 for Shure and Ety's. Also, Soundmagic PL50's are not bad.

    One pair to blow them all out of the water: Sony XBA3

    I just bought (waiting on delivery) a pair of Brainwavz M4 ( ). They're on for $29.50 at the moment, and even cheaper with the code thats on OzBargain at the moment. Can't vouch for them yet, but they're extremely well reviewed, and at the current price there's little to loose.

    I have some Brainwavz M3's. They're reasonable priced in the field of high fidelity and have a great balanced, but not lacking, sound to them. The only downside is the cable seems to have a memory that causes them to try and keep all sorts of shapes. I highly recommend giving them a look though.

    The main thing I look for in a set of earpbuds is a thicker (or flat) cord and a decent rubber taper into the buds and plug, as I seem to chew through a pair every few months. I'm pretty careful with them too, but it is really hard to find a pair that are decent build quality.

    TF10's comfortable? Lol. I love my Triple Fi's, but the last thing they are is comfortable.

    Believe me, you will be amazed by the Reject Shop hl-5304 earphones. It's got really great sound and cost me $2.49. Aside from the occasional rash on my ear it has great mids and high lows or whatever you 'philes say

    I think what lifehacker/gizmodo/kotaku needs to do for "best products" in a range is to list "best" products for certain price ranges rather than whats best and expensive.

    e.g $30-50, $50-70: etc

    it'd help for those who are on budgets and also you'd be missing out on value for money products

    Last edited 12/11/12 6:56 pm

    One more vote for the Shure SE215, absolutely brilliant at that price point. I have them and use them on a daily basis. I also have UE400 that I sleep with, very comfortable earbuds.

    I want to correct a very important misconception here. The earphones in this article are NOT earbuds. Earbuds are like the ones that come for free when you buy a ipod. These are In-ear earphones. They are very, very different from earbuds.

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