Get most out of the headphones with portable, compact and light weight earbuds. Here are our best earbuds ranked based on their sound quality and features in 2015.
The best noise cancelling + wireless Earbuds
The best budget
The best in ear monitor (earbuds to be used as a part of monitoring system)
The best for sports ( specifically designed for sports)
With the popularity of smartphones and tablets, you might have been known that wearing earbuds – in ear headphones is very common nowadays that people are holding smart phones, touching screen and listening music through earbuds. Commuters wear earbuds every where while they are on the public transportation, train or on the bus. Runners, joggers and fitness enthusiasts are considering earbuds as essential items for their workout. You also see students walking around campus or studying in the library with these items. Frequent flyers enjoy audio content from noise cancelling earbuds without interfering from jet engine noise. Wearing earbuds in workplaces also makes you more concentrated on work by escaping from chatters, noise, or phone ringing. Generally, all music lovers like earbuds since they can enjoy their own taste of music privately, without disturbing other people and most importantly it’s about portability and sound quality that has been improved significantly.
The definition of word is not just the meaning itself but what people perceive it. And the word “earbuds” is the case, when people understand it by mean of what it was not supposed to be.”
What Are Earbuds ?
Earbuds refers to in-ear headphones–most portable option for music lovers. It isn’t like wearing on-ear or over the ear headphones since earbuds just sit outside the ear canals. As I read a lot information about earbuds including CNET and Head-Fi, I found out that the term “earbuds” is also used for in-ear headphones/earphones. Additionally, many people prefer to call in-ear headphones as “earbuds” or “ear – buds” and the word ” earbuds” are searched on Google over 30,000 per month and other related terms over 100,000. Put your little finger in to your ears, this is what likes when you wear earbuds. Actually, you should find out other terms before getting into its correct definition.
Canalphone can refer to IEM–in ear monitoring, In-Ear-Canalphone, ear-canalphone, ear-canal headphone.
While Inter Aural headphones, earphones or in-the-ear headphones is similar
There are two different types of in ear headphones, which are Earbuds and Canalphones. They are designed to place differently into your ears. In fact some headphones come with the combination of two types of designs, a hybrid of earbud and in ear headphones.
Today, you rarely see earbuds except Apple and Amazon earbuds, most of them out there are canalphones or headphones called earbud style. However, some of us misconceive about earbuds, so now generally it’s acceptable that earbuds and canalphones are the same.
The canalphones are called IEM only when they are used by artists or singers on stage and audio designers, being part of the In Ear Monitor Systems. For the generral consumer, they are called canaphones.
So, for those who know exactly what earbuds really are, they will never end up reading my post. In this post and the whole website, I used the term “earbuds” for in-ear headphones, earphones, canalphones and IEM for simplicity. That way you don’t need to figure out what all the terms really are.
Here’s The Guide How to Find Great Earbuds for You. Trust your ears! You don’t need special knowledge about technical specification about the earbuds, just the way you feel when you wear the earbud of your choice and listen to your favorite songs or music genres and take other opinions or reviews into your consideration. I gathered some important points about earbuds, which would help when you find a new pair of earbuds, or at least some standard features for you to start with.
How To Find Good Earbuds?
There Are A Lot of Things You Should Consider Before Shopping Earbuds.
1. Ear tips
It’s the matter of fitting.
You could be annoyed for putting a foreign object in to your ears for the first time because of the ear tips which may irritate your sensitive skin in your ear canal, normally you never touch it. That’s true in some case, a few people don’t like in-ear canal fitting.
Most earbuds tips today are made of silicon, the material for most people it is always soft, clean and smooth. The earbud tips also are typically made from rubber or Complfy Foam. However it take times to get used to it.
“It is not something like enormous and heavy over ear headphones, fully enclosing your head. Wearing earbuds is more relaxed even with excercising (of course you don’t want wearing big headphones while exercising).”
Complfy foam gives you a better seal and a comfortable fit, but some owners report they are not durable. Read more about how to choose the best replacement earbud tips to find out which types of tips are most suitable for you ears.
There are some startups offers the custom fits like Normal earbuds and Ownphones. You will get custom fit by uploading picture or video captured from both sides of your ears. You will be expected to get them in the near future.
Most earbuds on the market offers universal ear tips–from 3 to 5 pairs with different sizes. All of them might not fit right to your ears. An alternative for earbud tips supplied with earbuds are custom molded earbuds, you can DIY at home with Custom Molded Earbuds Adapters BZ200. Note that getting custom fit doesn’t meaning you’ll get the true sound targeted by audio designers.
Searching for a while I found a service called RK audiology, in which an audiologist will examine your ears then they will create the custom eartips that perfectly fit to your ears. As the result, the comfort, performance and noise-isolation of earbuds are virtually maximized, and you can wear them in a long period of time no matter what activities involved: running, cycling, working…without discomfort and falling out.
For some kinds of earbuds, there can be an additional ear hook worn with eartips for more secure fit. If they are not supplied, you can find them on online stores budlok or earhoox may be compatible with your earbuds. The earhooks will contour to the ear in ear or around the ear.
2. Noise-Cancelling or Noise-Isolating
Do you have any idea about what active noise cancelling (ANC) is? This is a process in which microphones on the earbuds work with circuitry in an attached dongle create inverse sound waves that cancel out incoming noise from ambient sounds. What make the noise-cancelling so effective and different, it lays on the function of earbuds that can capture ambient sound and generate the inversed waves. To fuel the noise-cancelling feature from earbuds, the battery is a essential part of earbuds of types: intergrated or AAA-replaceable and you’re expected to re-charge them daily depending on the frequent use. The longest battery life recorded with ANC ON is up to 8 hours. Check out best noise cancelling earbuds. If you are in a noise office-telephone ringing, colleage chatting.., and more from crowded streets, car horning,.wearing passive noise-cancelling earbuds may reduce slightly such noise because it’s just noise-isolating feature by the function of ear-tips. To reduce the noise as much as possible an ANC earbuds is better choice.
3. Dynamic Driver Vs Balanced Armature Driver, Which One is Better?
Like human need air to breathe, without air you can not hear the sound the earbuds with dynamic drivers need external air to guide to sound by vibrating the diaphragm.
Most earbuds today are placed inside the housing dynamic drivers, which is a speaker vibrates air to produce sound. The dynamic drivers can produce the wide range of frequencies covering the large musical frequency range (1Hz – 20,000 KHz). Known as “moving coil”, dynamic drivers are the important components of earbuds that process the sound.
Dynamic driver requires the external air that fill the space between the diaphragm and the coil by mean of a vent located at stratagic position on either the diaphragm or driver housing to produce sound. The vent position and diameter of diaphragm affect how the bass bumps.
Most earbuds on the market use the dynamic driver machanism. Dynamic drivers tune the sound by transfer electric signal from the sources such as smartphones or tablet to vibrate diaphragm, which is the whole process how the sound is produced. As the nature of structure, the diaphragm will vibrate strongly, so it can pump more pressure to air. In effect, the bass is more powerful than other type of drivers.
Because of the simplicity of driver, earbuds with dynamic drivers are cheaper. In addition, you feel bass more powerful and sound warmer. Dynamic driver can produce the wider range of sound: as indicated for instance, 1Hz-25kHz in the specifications. However when comparing the sensitivity, due to the dynamic machanism larger drivers will perform better, therefore the earbud housing have to be bigger in size. As you can see some sony earbuds label extra-bass like Sony MDR XB90EX, they have larger drivers, 13.5 mm and look sturdier.
The balanced marmature driver is found in hearing air and IEM. Unlike dynamic driver, the balanced armature (BA) driver can make your ear drum react without air. As a sound source and they don’t require external air to create sound so they can be smaller and deliver sound with more stable, clear and accurate in term of sensitivity. Normally the balanced armature earbuds is lighter than dynamic ones. However BA earbuds can fail to deliver the low frequencies that in turn, bass response is missing at some levels. Earbud manufactures solved this heck by equipping more BA drivers from Lows, Mids, to Highs and these earbuds are bloody expensive, for example, JH Audio JH16 Pro typically is a premium earbuds with 8 BA drivers, it charges you ~$1000 and additional fee for an appointment with an audiologist who will make custom earbud tips for you. The Sony XBAH3 comes with 2 dynamic drivers and 1 balanced armature driver, which is believed to solve all the problems related to the downside of both types of driver.
Magnet Material plays a role in the sound quality of earbuds. It is made of cobalt or ferrite, some stronger magnet can be ultilized other material.
3. Voice Coil–the moving coil, it’s material affects how the sound produces. Originally, it is copper wire like PCOCC (Pure Copper by Ohno Continuous Casting) and Hi-OFC (a class of oxygen-free copper). However, other materials, proved to be better performance, have been used.
4. Sound quality: With the same money you can get a better sound quality from over the ear headphones–not a great option for portability. Since the sound from in ear headphones go directly into the ear without interacting with pinna, it sound less realistic than full-size headphones. It’s also hard for you to compare different types of earbuds because there are countless manufacturers and no one wants to use the rest of year to compare them, you can only compare them in the same class and price range from the standard one–low end to high end. And you will see the sonic improvement of these earbuds at least in 2 or 3 years when new earbuds are introduced.
The sound quality are getting better because the manufacturers are taking advantages of technology to create tiny drivers that fit into the earbuds, and the question is “Are earbuds good enough?” because the recorders can’t make the audio better and some kind of music don’t require much details or enhancement of harsh sound, the answer is some sort of, so it’d be better to stick to earbuds that sound good the music you like rather than chase great things.
Some features of good earbuds include clear, true, separation of sounds, highly detailed sound, harmony, balance, equality, strong bass, strong treble, deep audio layer, resonating bass, fidelity…But perfect earbuds for sound quality don’t exist since earbuds sound great for the music the reviews tested may not sound the same for the music the users listen to. Some earbuds sound can be customizable by changing the filters, and this in turn will change how the sound is reproduced.
Music is varied, so are headphones, when picking earbuds for sound quality choosing the pair that sounds great for the music you always listen to.
You can obtain the better sound quality by using a portable amplifier, the device by mean of significantly improving the sound quality-high audio definition. Being a small part of electric circuit, the SQ output of portable device like smartphones or table sucks.
5. Portability and Convenience: Light and very portable, neatly put in your pocket, and now the Bluetooth technology you can use them wirelessly. The well-designed earbud tips will keep itself into your ears tightly, so the earbuds rarely drop out of your ears even when you run, work out or cycle.
6. Where to use? Do you plan to use earbuds in office, yes most people do. For those of you who often exercise will need sport earbuds. Other folks eye on earbuds for travelling. So before deciding how much to spend on this personal gadget, it’d better know where you’ll mostly be using them.
8. Price: A few bucks to a few thousand bucks for standard to ultimate high-end earbuds. These days in ear headphones have been never better. It depends on your budget to help decide how much money you want to spend on these small items for better sonically improvement. For me, when I purchase online, it’s not just how expensive it is, but it’s buying things you like makes you happy and satisfied with the cheapest price bring about fun and strange feelings. I’ve struggled to search for my new pair of earbuds since there are a lot of brands and variety in price from extremely cheap (around $10), under $50, hundred options in the range of $60 to $100, above $200 for high-end selections. However in between $100-200, it’s quite difficult to get ones, because I think it’s a medium transaction point to ultra high end earbuds. Does a more expensive earbuds will sound better? check out
– Best cheap earbuds to buy: You can find cheap earbuds in many brands, and each brand produces their standards for under $30. Seemingly the sound quality is indentical in most of them, mainly the design is particularly different.
– Best earbuds under $50: more features such as ANC and Bluetooth connection, better build quality.
– Best earbuds under $100 which is designed with high quality material and technology, at this point you can specify you taste.
9. Connectivity: You can choose between wired or wireless earbuds. Despite, wireless earbuds and Bluetooth earbuds’ sound isn’t as good as wired earbuds, they become more and more popular because of their convenience, ease to use. If you go jogging or walking, wired earbud cables will stick or bounce around your body and make noise–microphonics. Wearing wireless earbuds you will never hear noise caused by cable bounce that except your device’s battery drain fast and wireless earbuds require battery (built-in) to run its function. So you need to re-charge the earbuds regularly when it’s run out of battery. The newest Bluetooth version available is Bluetooth 4.0 to pair your earbuds with portable devices.
10. Design: Earbuds today is not just all about sound, but about fashion and style, so design is another factor to consider. Which color do you like or black, yellow, green, red, pink? are these small items necessary to be a part of your style? You may like the earbuds because of the stylish design, playful color and fashion, which partly contribute to your lifestyle.
Some wireless earbuds like LG tone series typically features around-neck-design.
Look at the design of earbud tips and earbud housing. Some earbud tip designs were patented meaning you can only see them in certain brands. The earbud housings are designed to deliver the optimum sounds, which gives them unique shapes–curved or straight. Another thing makes you feel while wearing those is the material of earbud housing, it can be made from such as wood (Grainaudio IEHP.01) or brass brown(SONY MDR-EX650). There will be an article about the beautiful and funny earbuds, please subscrible you will be notified about it.
Earbud cord design: There is a little science behind the reason why earbud get tangled in your pocket. This heck was solved by flat cable or zipper, which will reduced the probability that cable get knotted or tangled. Zipper earbuds like Zipbuds JUICED 2.0 totally eliminate tangling but you have to do an additional task “zipping up” after use. Many audio manufacturers have been taking advantage of this solution by making their cable more flat to kill the knotting. It seems “flat style” can solve a lot of problem, as seen on the famous logo of window 7 upgraded to window 8 :). If you value the convenience and want to try free-tangle cable earbuds, there are retractable earbuds, the cable will be pulled into the winder case after use. These cheap earbuds normally are not very durable or offering good sound quality.
11. Inline mic/controls: Enable you to pick up the call for handfree, navigate tracks, stop/play and ajdust the volume and with mic you talk on the phone calls much easier.
12. Some sport earbuds have additional sport hooks, clip (adjustable loop) or neckband for more secure fit. The sport hooks will fit outer ear, while the clip or loop will go behind the ear. And the neckband will rest behind your head, they mostly come with Bluetooth earbuds.
13. Your Lifestyle: Are you an athlete or a workout enthusiast? Well, this is very important when you want to buy it for your own use. While exercising we do not care much about sound quality but the beat, the rhythms, secure fit. However, bass must be clear, crisp, deep and solid and treble is not too high and crunchy. While you are running the earbuds may drop out your ears, so you have to choose the ones sticking well to your ears.
You also may need earbuds for your kids (limited volumes to protect kids) or for traveling, working out and jogging. Or if you often go swimming, and want to hear music ” under water”, you can get water proof earbuds.
14. Brand Flagship: The first earbud was invented date back to 1920’, It didn’t fare well at that time until now. It’s becoming more popular and so far it has been 80 years. And Apple reinvented it by the Apple M8394G/C iPod In-Ear Headphones. Since then Boom! We heard of a lot of earbud manufacturers, which are Sony, Beat, Panasonic, Jawbone, Klipsch, Bose, Shure and many more because of the convenience of earbuds used with portable devices.
When you look at the technical specifications from the manufacturers, we would say you don’t know how to find good earbuds until you plug in the devices and listen some sounds from it, but for the first time It’s quite difficult. Look for reviews and owner’s experiences.
SPECs About Earbuds: Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Frequency: You will see this on every package of earbuds, What does that mean for these number 4-27,000Hz?. This means the frequency the earbuds can generate for bass is low as 4Hz, for treble is as high as 27kHZ. The higher Hz, the earbuds can hanlde more treble and the sound might be clearer. The lower Hz the earbuds can handle more bass, but the bass is only achievable if eartips have a very tight seal to prevent sound leakage. Some earbuds offer high frequency up to 33kHz or low as 1Hz, but it does not mean sound quality will always improve. If the frequency is below 20khz, you can feel the bass rather than hear. You can hear up to roughly 20,000 Hz. So we could not judge the earbuds based on the frequency alone.
Impedance: Measured by Ohms and to make it clear, we go with high and the low impedance. The impedance of earbuds is considered high if it is 100 Ohms then they can stand to the output of devices with high power (amplifier or home audio devices for example) like a strong donkey can carries heavy weight package, however there is no such earbuds with that high impedance. High impedance headphones are protected when it’s overloaded, high impedance also eliminates “hiss” created the electricity cause it carries the vibrational frequency emitting sounds. The higher impedance also means the better clear sounds and less distortion and well protected, so they can be used for various devices.
It is safe to say the impedance of earbuds is low (under 50 ohm), so if you plug your earbuds into home devices that generates the power output that the earbuds cannot stand earbud transducers are going to be “blow out”. Most earbuds on the market have an impedance in a range of 12 – 36 Ω. This makes it easier for them to work with portable devices. The actual impedance is varied depending on the frequencies tuned from sources.
Different earbud impedance will not receive the same amount of power put out from the earbud sources like smart phones or portable Mp3 players. And the impedance of a earbuds relies on the diver’s coil. Yes, low impedance means to require very thin voice coils, which is very complicated to produce and make it way to the in ear headphones.
This guy explains impedance and ohms very well. Check out the video.
Sensitivity: Sensitivity is measured in decibels and sound pressure levels (dbSPL). The decibel (dB) is used to measure sound level. The dB is equal to zero when you take the log(sound level/reference level)=0, mean, sound level=reference level. This is as close to as total silence as it can get while still giving us the ability to hear something. The dB can get the negative values for example -1 when the sound level is less then reference level 10 times. You definitely don’t want to go higher than 85db’s, because this can cause or end up with hearing loss if listening for a long time. A more sensitive earbuds will play louder than a less sensitive one at the same volume setting on your phone. Unfortunately, you have no way to figure out which earbuds play loud enough for your needs, because your phone deliver Volts, while sensitivity relies on mW.
Burn-in: Do you feel the sound from earbuds significantly better after several days or few weeks you got a new pair of earbuds, it’s true or it’s not. Do the earbuds sound better itself or you get used of sound? believe or not your earbuds will be “Burning-in”. Electric components and drivers need time to exercise before they ground to the stable performance that could be a optimal sounding. The time required for the burn-in process is at least 40 hours recommended by audio manufacturers, so let they tune music from your smartphones at average volume level for a few days. There is a technical measurement that the intensity will become more stable with more time burning-in. As said on many forums and official audio brands, the burn-in process will help to loosen the diaphragm and to stress the earbuds driver. Though, some people believe, the burning-in is actually the adaption of brain. Because listening to loudy-music may hurt to ears, so the brain will boost your enjoyment to overcome the hurt caused by loudness of sound. That is why you feel music better over time using earbuds. Some audio reviewers provide the evidence that some earbuds actually are not burning-in, because the sound remains unchanged after 50 hours.
Durability: One of the problem with electric devices today is that they remain “silent” without notice. All the cables of earbuds made of plastics if you used them for a long time, they are going to wear out. The circuit will be damaged or burned because of corrosion by humid air. The thin wires are easily to get broken. Some sport earbuds with loops even are broken within a week. I would say 1 or 2 years are the time for you enjoy your earbuds then you should find the new one, of course, some high-end earbuds can last longer. If you plug your earbuds to devices where produce the power is much higher than the capacity of the earbuds and let them tune long time at high volume level then they are going to be “burned”. So always keep your device volume at certain levels before you plug your headphones.
Drivers: As I mentioned there are two type of drivers used for quality earbuds: Dynamic driver and Balanced amature Driver. This is one of the important parts of earbuds, drivers will process the audio such as bass, treble level or separation of audio from various instruments. Well, I would say, this is the main factor separate good earbuds different from each other. The bigger headphones the more easily drivers are placed inside. In order to get excellent sound in earbuds, we must engineer powerful drivers in them as well. But you know earbuds are small so tiny drivers cost a lot of money, I say tiny but functional would deliver the better, and 6.5mm drivers easily generate very deep bass. If the drivers perform well because of their bass functions you will receive the richer experience with bass. Apparently, earbuds with 2 drives do not provide the very good sound. The more drivers mean to the higher price. You would see the $140 Beats headphones by Dr. Dre have a 40mm driver set within them. The Ultimate Ear Pro 18’s, in direct comparison, cost nearly $1400. I have read where else that shopping for earbuds is a strange process so Let me know how do you pick your earbuds.
How earbuds (in-ear headphones) are measured technically?
An example of how Shure in-ear headphones were measured?
The bass earbuds Shure 215 with highest bass response (with the frequency range from 10-200Hz) among 4 models, including, Shure 535, Shure 425, Shure 315 and Shure215.
If this is the first time you buy earbuds or you don’t like earbuds supplied with your new purchased smart devices and need a replacement. My recommendation you invest from inexpensive earbuds first. Note that cheap earbuds tend to break easily. If you seriously value the quality and sound, you should invest more above $50 or ideally over $100, this price range normally offers more than what you look for.
Considering comfort, sound, and style these earbuds will be the standard ones for casual listening.
|#1. Panasonic RPTCM125KThe upgrade of Panasonic Ergo Fit 120, The Panasonic 125 is built in with mic and inline control.>> Read more…|
How earbuds are catergorized? Explore the art of sound through earbuds
– Material To Construct Earbuds Housings: Earbud housings can be constructed by Brass brown, wood, aluminum, stainless steel, plastic or their combination, the materials have a significant affect how the sound travel to your ears, since as their properties, they reflect or absorb sounds differently. Other factors such as shapes and inner volumes, thickness also play a role how the sound is tuned. There is a reason why some musical instruments like Violin or Guitar wouldn’t be made from other material than wood, this is because the acoustical properties of wood gives them the unique sound. Some plastic build earbuds are coated with sleek nickel will wear out for several months. What material do you likes?
– Sound signature: Earbuds with enhanced bass, V-shaped, Warm and smooth, Balanced (the headphonelist.com). V-shaped stands for a frequency response curve of earbuds with prominence in lows and highs, and the sound with frequencies in mid-range are recessed. Each kind of sound signature is great for specific music genres.
+ What’s now if you want some extra bass for your favorite music? You probably know some earbuds at entry levels produce just a moderate bass. It goes without saying that some of these have bad or no bass response. I will give some information about bass earbuds and hope you can get the best best bass in ear headphones. If you are dance music fans, bass earbuds will make you feel more stimulated. And bass earbuds is a great choice since they were manufactured aiming to fortify the low tones in term of harmony and rhythm, exactly what a bass head looks for. Check out: The best bass earbuds under $100
– Active Noise-Cancelling (ANC) Earbuds: these earbuds have the features to block out the ambient sounds. Actually, they produce the wide range of frequencies inversely to ones coming from ambient sounds, as the result +1 and -1 will be equal to ZERO. Since the ambient sounds comes with the range of frequencies 1Hz to over 20kHz, and ANC earbuds can only handle certain ranges, therefore, not all ambient sound can be cancelled out. The ANC earbuds are very helpful if you work in a noise environment, on the flight, traffic…The best noise-cancelling earbuds availble is the high-end model: Bose quiet Comfort 20.
– Wired Noise Cancelling Earbuds: They need a cord to connect to you devices via 3.5 mm Jack(L-shape or Straight-Jack) with 3 or 4 poles. These earbuds also have to carry a battery pack to fuel the ANC.
– Wireless or Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Earbuds: these earbuds connect to your devices through Bluetooth connection. You can find the best bluetooth earbuds for running. The battery is normally short, and they can last roughly 4h hours.
– Lifestyle: this personal audio gadget is interestingly matched to your lifestyle. Working out, running, swimming, traveling and more each requires an appropriate design of earbuds associated with weight, secure fit or waterproof. Earbuds are specially designed for certain activities.
– Earbuds For Playing Games: Unlike music, in games you can hear a lot of different effect sounds which makes players more engaged in the virtual world. Today, it’s common that everyone has touch screen devices in pocket or bag, enable them to players games on the go. There are few earbuds specifically designed for gamer, they give users have better experience in games by enhancing bass or sounds like explosion, shouting, foot step, ..
– Earbuds For Kids: If it is Christmas or the birthday of your kids, buying the the earbuds for kids as gifts could be meaningful. These earbuds not only let your kids enjoy the music but also keep their hearing safe by limiting the loundness. Check out the best earbuds for kids.
– Do you know there are earbuds with smart features that can track your heart rate? LG HRM Earphone bluetooth model (FR74) and SMS Audio BioSport Wired earbuds supported by chip from Intel are the 2 first earbuds monitoring your fitness. It’s not limited to HRM, they can measure the distance, calories burned, voice guide prompts by apps. Other smart earbuds are integrated with mp3 player. With new tech, it is now possible that your can adjust how much ambient sound you want to cancel out via companion app installed in your phone.
Finally, if you’ve already decided to get earbuds for your determined budget, just go for it otherwise, this is merely a resource for newbie to the art of sound through earbuds, note that this guide might contain error. I’ve experienced with many electric devices that when I was impressive with some reviews, carefully analyzed the features and satisfied with how much money to spend on them, I would search for more positive review until feel enough to click Order button from the online store. What is your experience please comment below!