You have better things to do than buy earbuds

Busy people like you and I don't have the time nor the inclination to navigate the sea of earbuds out there, so I turned to Wirecutter to find out what they recommended as the best earbuds. They've got a fine recommendation in the $100 category, and now that I've got a pair of them I can verify that they're great. Here's the executive summary as to why:

• Excellent sound, with a little extra bass.
• Flat cable shows you where twists are so they really never get tangled.
• Controls and microphone work with the iPhone and are unambiguous and easy to click.

One important note not on Wirecutter: get these memory foam tips with them. I tried the rubber inserts and molding my own earplugs (from two materials even!) but they always slip out or don't seal properly in my ear. With these foam tips you'll get a nice seal in your ear to project the sound, and they're practically earplugs on their own so you can't hear anything but the music even when it's quiet.

Velodyne vPulse in-ear headphones and Comply memory foam tips

More thorough review at Wirecutter


  1. I’m looking for recs on over ear headsets. Specifically – I do NOT care about sound quality, because I mostly listen to podcasts of people talking, not music. I do care about my ears being properly covered so it will mostly insulate me from street noise, and the ear part shouldn’t make my ears all sweaty, as some have in the past.
    My GF has some Beats for $200, which I like, but… again, I don’t care about the ‘quality’ of the sound for music, so shouldn’t there be something for way less?
    Thanks if anyone has good recs.

    1. Try Sony MDRs – I have 7506s on my desk right now. They’re several years old, and I don’t know what the differences are between all the models these days, but they’re great, comfortable (to me) and block enough noise that people have trouble getting my attention when I’m wearing them.
      They’re not really ‘walking around’ headphones, but neither are the ones posted, or anything else that completely isolates noise. Hopefully these at least give you a jumping off point for searches (‘Sony MDR alternatives’, etc)

      1. I was gonna say the same. Sonys tend to be the go-to ‘this isn’t stupid expensive” for pro audio work (at least on the tv/video end of things). They sound good, they’re durable, and my MDRs cost me around 60 bucks. Usually pretty comfortable too. They’re Sony’s “studio” style headphones, IE heavy duty construction, all black, good sound quality. A lot of your more visual brands, like Beats, actually sound like crap. Basically a fashion accessory. 

        1. I will third the Sony recommendation, with the slight caveat that with mine, the foam piece sometimes slips off. It’s very easy to reattach, though, and all of the other points made are accurate. I’d rather spend $60 on a pair of Sony cans than $200-300 on a pair of poseur cans.

          Also, and this might just be me, I love the default OEM pair of earbuds that came with my Galaxy S3. They don’t sound like the cheapest piece of junk; they sound like a decent pair of earbuds, and they stay in relatively well (though I might buy a pair of foam inserts after the holidays). 

    2. I would seriously reconsider cutting yourself off from street noise; situational awareness is a good thing, and if you’re anything like me you’ll hear an approaching car long before you see it and know to stick to the curb before you get splatted. Also…live in the moment, y’know?

      That said, I’ve heard great things about Sennheiser on the price vs. quality front.

      1.  in ear earphones actually help you hear more of the important ambient sounds then open ear headphones, because they block the lower spectrum of noises and you can play music at a much lower volume and still hear the louder noises like cars passing or honking.


      They’ve been getting pretty good reviews and they’re pretty damn cheap. The easy swap headphone cord is a big plus in my opinion.

        1. Which ones did you get? I bought them along with Comply tips and love them so far. These are the ones I have:

    4. +1 on the Sony 7506’s… great headphones, very comfy, good rejection. 
      I’d also suggest Beyerdynamic DT770’s – i wear headphones every day for work and these are far and away the comfiest headphones i’ve used; they go right over the ear, and are closed-backed which means you can’t hear much background at all. They also make you look like a Cyberman which is just a bonus. 

  2. Just a data point:  On Wirecutter’s recommendation I tried out the Velodynes and I hated them.  For me, way too heavy on the bass and the bass ended up sounding boomy and extremely muddy. I ended up returning them.

    I got a tip off a pro-audio website, in a forum talking about in-ear monitors for live shows, etc.  I ended up getting the AKG Acoustics IP2s, same price range, and for audio quality, I love them.

    Their big drawback is that they don’t have iPhone cord control/mic (which actually is a PITA, but I tolerate it for the audio quality).

    1. I once bought $100+ earphones, not sure if this brand but the same style where the rubber is intended to seal out sounds.  I could never get them to feel good;  the instant they were on, they felt like two worms trying to wriggle out of my ears… an unpleasant sensation, and they never in fact stayed in longer than thirty seconds.  I tried swapping the sizes of the rubber parts, but never got it “right”.  Don’t know if it’s my ears or what, but I felt downright foolish for having spent the money.  Std earbuds work just great for me.

    2.  Plus 14$ for the proper foam tips because the included rubber tips, as the reviewer points out “…always slip out or don’t seal properly…”.

      I think that qualifies as both a product, and a review FAIL.

    1.  have to agree. for a redesign that was suppose to be an improvement for a huge percentage of the population they don’t work for me as well as the old design. I can only assume then that the old design fit 10% of the population?

    2. Please don’t remain content with apple earbuds. Not for your own sake, but for the sake of people around you. Those damn things seem to emit as much sound outwards as they do inwards.

  3. Am i the only one who really dislikes these “earplug” style earphones? They push the earwax deeper into my ears, and make my ears feel really waxy and clogged up.

      1. Using Q tips is a terrible, terrible idea that is universally recommended against.
        There are liquid solutions that are relatively good at breaking up ear wax, and don’t have the same severe risks of ear damage.

  4. 100.00 earbuds?  If that sounds reasonable, I have these wonderful Monster HDMI cables I can sell you.

    1. Get back to us after you’ve compared some to your $14 earbuds and still feel like throwing around the old “anything involving sound quality is automatically for audiophile suckers with more money than sense” herp derp.

    2. No. Not even remotely the same thing. Believe it or not speakers actually have a very large effect on sound.

      Just upgrading from my last $40 Senny’s to newer $80 Senny’s was a huge improvement confirmed double-blind.

  5. $100 is midrange price. There’s plenty of earbuds > $300

    But … so far I haven’t found many that don’t have serious microphonics issues. Apparently microphonics is the name given to the sounds made when something brushes against the wires and conducts physically, not electrically, down the cable and into the ear.

    For me, I’ve yet to find a single pair of earbuds that I can walk with or commute with where the sound of wires rubbing on my clothes doesn’t completely drown out the music.

    You can test this. Put on a pair of headphones and then tap the wires with your fingers. If it makes loud noises in your ears that’s microphonics. Turn your head back and forth, left and right and see if the motion of the wires across your clothing ends up making loud sounds in your ears.

    1.  Thank you for sharing that name. I HATE wires and that’s the reason right there. It’s even worse in cold weather when the wire gets stiff and every step causes a scratch/bump/scratch/bump sound.

      I had wireless Bluetooth for a while, but like most high tech, it didn’t last. Though they worked great while they did.

  6. I think you’re overselling the comply ear tips… they are an improvement, but not a categorical one.

    they fall far short of acting as earplugs, probably to maintain sound quality. also, for some reason the material degrades significantly after a month of use. it becomes puffy and prone to tear and eventually falls apart, no matter how well you treat it. repeatedly paying $5 per pair for a few grams of foam which don’t even last is just ridiculous to me.

  7. Tweaked Audio – Cheap, lifetime warranty, tangle reducing (flat cables – they really work!) free shipping, even to Europe. And if you listen to a certain Stitcher Award/Podcast Award nominated Morning Show there is a 33% discount.

  8. I just buy whatever earbuds costco is currently selling, and have always gotten great sound and comfort for about $50.

  9. People bitching about spending over $100 on earbuds should probably read this:

    Short version is, anything under $100 is probably going to be functionally equivalent. $10 generics will be just as good as $50 colorful ones with a rapper’s name on the blister pack.

    Going over $100 taps you into the second tier that actually gets you some decent hardware.

    1. Only partially true…

      The Gizmodo article correctly points out that you’re paying a lot for re-branded merchandise. As a result, the most highly marketed ones almost always sound like crap compared to the price.  The cheapness of the components combined with design and marketing drives their margins.  There are plenty of lesser-known companies, however, that focus on delivering the best sound quality or user experience (not always the same thing) for the price.  Oftentimes, they’re simply distributors of the same vendors without paying much more than the cost of production/distribution.

  10. So some reasons why these earbuds are ‘great’… and here is one reason why they aren’t great;

    Earbuds damage your ears. Ask any quack and they’ll tell you not to put anything ‘smaller than your elbow’ in your ears. ie, don’t put stuff in your ears; i see people screwing these things into their ears like they have a thread on and that ramming them also into your eardrum will make them stay in for more than 2 mins. 

    Get some decent over-ear headphones, or even the outer-ear one like the ones that Apple supply. Just don’t shove stuff in your ear canal. 

    1. utter rubbish. earplugs fit much deeper than in-ear headphones and they’ve been studied by OSHA and a million other regulatory agencies for decades. result? perfectly safe. it’s the inner ear canal that’s dangerous, and these devices just don’t reach.

      yes, there’s an EXTREMELY small chance that you can cause a vacuum and burst your eardrum, but it’s very unlikely and impossible if you just pinch the phones before removing them.

      as for volume, since the human ear hears intensity relative to background noise, in-ear headphones allow you to listen to music at a LOWER absolute volume by blocking some of the background noise.

        1. Not sure fun is the right word. It’s all the joy of finding the right pair of jeans but moreso. Add in the technojargonsalesbullshit with the warring cults of sound products and it’s pure headache.

  11. I have some Jays a One plus £39 ($60), I’m not bothered about sound quality it was mostly that they have a decent remote on them that works with Android and they’re anti tangle too. Turns out the sound quality is pretty good anyway.

    The Comply foam tips are a must though. I bought them for my Jays. Much much better than the rubber earpieces which always fall out for me, no matter what size I try.

  12. I bought a pair of earbuds at the dollar store about six months ago, for use at work.  Now, I went to the _good_ dollar store, and I actually bought the $2 set instead of the $1 set, so I was hoping to get decent quality.

    As per usual, I put a square knot in the cables to prevent the wire separation from going any further down the main cable.  Still holding up well.

    These earbuds sit comfortably in my ear, and the sound quality, given that I’m listening to whatever streaming radio station has not been blocked by my company firewall, is acceptable.

    As an added bonus, one of the two earbuds stopped working four months ago.  I actually find this to be a benefit, since it’s the one on the left, and my left ear faces the entrace to my cubicle, which means I’m more likely to hear people approaching.

    All in all, I’d like to give these earbuds a positive review, and say that they’re well worth the $2 plus tax that I paid for them.  I would recommend them to others, as long as your cubicle entrance is to the left of your workstation, rather than to the right.

  13. Earbuds are like wine… the come in multiple varieties and levels of quality. Whats good to me may suck to you. You can’t just skip the weeding through hundreds of buds step if you want to get your moneys worth.

    If you don’t like syrah, you can’t spend enough on a bottle to make it good.

    Save your money and stick to cheap buds if you can’t hear the ones you like.

  14. For 100 bucks you can get (low end) studio monitor headphones. If you’re using them for running, then I understand needing buds. But fidelity is a low priority with running phones. Unlike not getting hit by a car. I kind of feel like there are the two classes of headphones for a reason – throwaway buds that you get free with an ipod that are INTENTIONALLY not ‘sensory deprivation’ style phones, and the big obnoxious helmet phones that tell everyone on the subway your an audiophile. The memory foam seems like the only reason you would pay more than 5 bucks for a pair of running earbuds. 

  15.  For anyone who does not have a fortune (or even 100USD) to spend on great earphones: MEElectronics.

    Have been using mine for a while now. Fantastic quality inner earphones for 20-30USD.

  16. After my Klipsch S4s shit the bed a couple weeks ago I too went to Wirecutter. I was about to get the Velodyne, but was curious about their Monoprice sub-$30 recommendation. I spent over an hour reading the forums they linked to and the Amazon reviews. Decided to try them (I love a good deal). Low-price is good for me since I sweat like crazy on my head phones and I usually get a year or so out of them. After breaking the Monoprice ear buds in for 24 hours, replacing the tips with the Comply tips, and figuring out the right way to wear them, I really like them. They sound as good as my Klipsch ear buds for sure. They might not be the world beaters some Head-Fi forum fans make them out to be, but they perform WAY above their price level ($9). We’ll have to wait and see on the endurance issue. If I get 6 months though, I’ll be happy. Here’s a link: 

    Other earbuds I’ve owned: Klipsch, Sony, V-moda, Skull Candy, old Apple (can’t wear these for long due to discomfort), new Apple (better than last gen, but the left one falls out constantly for some reason).  

    1. if your name-brand phones are not too old (1-2 years) and they died spontaneously, try mailing them in for a replacement. i always get at least one through sennheiser; two-for-one makes the price more reasonable.

      1. I’d still take the Monoprice over the Klipsch. I’d maybe go Klipsch if the Comply tips fit them, but they don’t. 
         I did have my Vmoda’s replaced. Twice. Awful build quality on those.  

        1. are you sure you’ve checked the tip finder at ? there are more varieties than just the standard one.

          also, just ordered a monoprice. not much to lose. thanks.

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