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Earbud headphones aren’t exactly rare. Most of the time, we are left to judge the best earbuds by appearance, cost, and brand alone. And, who doesn’t want to get great earbuds with remarkable sound engineering? Top earbuds should provide an immersive escape to your music, audiobook, exercise or movies. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a good impression of this through sight, cost, and brand consideration alone.
You have to find the first-rate earphone that offers impeccable and clear music from this boatload of earbuds. Some will be explicitly great, while others will ultimately disappoint you. So, how do you make sure that you do not get the wrong end of the deal?
Here are the key factors to focus on when looking for top earbuds.
Factors to Consider
Do you want to go wireless or wired? Wireless earbuds may be the craze, but both of them have their pros and cons.
- Wireless Earbuds
Wireless earbuds are not only stylish, but they are also convenient. You can do many things handsfree like picking calls, chores, walking while you talk, etc. Manufacturers have also substantially upgraded the wireless technology, especially Android producers. Now the sound quality and connectivity are at its best.
The downside is how easy it becomes to lose wireless earbuds. You also have to factor in battery life. But, some models can give you a solid 45 hours (battery plus charging case power).
- Wired Earbuds
We may hate going around with the gadget along with our earphones, especially at home. And sure, we all dislike the tangling and the hold-ups on doors or handles, but wired earbuds will still be around for years to come.
If you go for wired earphones, you get to enjoy lower prices and better sound quality. They do not have lag or interference issues. Also, you have no worries about battery life or limited time usage. Another boon is the simplicity of their mechanics and ease of usage.
You will also never experience connectivity or pairing issues.
Simply put, the drivers produce sound. The components of drivers are a voice coil, diaphragm, and a magnet. For most medium-range and budget earbuds, the sound quality depends on the size of the drivers.
The issue has always been the earbuds’ small size. It is harder to make remarkable drivers for them when compared to headphones. It is the reason most headphones’ four drivers produce better sound quality than most earbuds.
Drivers are responsible for boosting the bass and giving a crisper sound. If you get high-end earbuds with four drivers, they will provide a better experience. Each driver will have its use: bass, mids or treble. Budget earbuds, on the other hand, have two drivers which is why the sound quality is a bit subpar.
Manufacturers find it expensive to include additional drivers in earphones. And if they do, this cost will trickle down to the consumer. Look at the Ultimate Ear Pro 18’s which has six drivers in each earbud. It costs a whopping $1400. Beats by Dre headphones, on the other hand, have 40 mm drivers and they go for around $300.
Do you want some bass? When you buy your earbuds, you will see specifications such as 20-20,000 Hz (20Hz-20 kHz). Hertz is the measurement unit for sound. And these numbers usually show the range of the earbuds’ frequency.
If you go for a lower hertz, you get a deeper bass. It means that our 20Hz earphones will have a deeper bass than one that promises 50Hz. The upper limit of the range is the treble. If you choose one with more hertz, you get more treble.
Keep in mind that a human ear can hear between 20Hz-20 kHz. That is why most earbuds come in this frequency. Going out of this frequency range won’t matter unless you are an audiophile or the other factors are so compelling that you are willing to overlook the frequency.
The power that makes sure your earbud is working is called impedance. Earbuds use electricity, and if you have a weak pair, they can wear with use. At some point, you’ve probably heard a hum in your earbuds, and it becomes quite unpleasant. Electricity is also known to produce a vibration frequency which in turn produces such sounds.
Impedance measured in ohms offers active resistance to the alternating current from the source of electricity. It means if you buy earbuds with higher impedance, your sound quality improves significantly. Go for the earbuds with the highest impedance within your budget to eliminate other noises in your music.
The sensitivity indicates the loudness levels of your earbuds. It is measured in decibels and sound pressure levels (SPL). If you love your music loud, this is the factor to consider.
Standard earphones have 80 to 125 dB SPL/mW sensitivity rating. Simply put if you have 122 dB SPL/mW, one milliwatt of power will give out 122 dB SPL. Keep in mind that such high sensitivity can result in permanent hearing loss within a matter of minutes.
Most of the people prefer a range of around 60-80dB. And if you dare go between 80-90dB, or more, you should use the earbuds for the least time possible.
If an earphone has higher sensitivity, you will get improved driver performance while using lesser power. But these high sensitivity settings at higher volumes will mean damage to your ears and perhaps the drivers. Some earphones also become lose clarity with higher earbud volume.
Low sensitivity earbuds provide a stark contrast to the high sensitivity ones. They may use more power, but they last longer because they minimize the chance of spoiling your drivers.
Nominal Power Handling Capacity
Nominal Power Handling Capacity indicates how much power your earbuds can withstand without breaking down. Exceed the power, and you risk your earbuds sounding like someone is pounding from inside. You have to use the earbuds at an ideal power, which means using them at an optimum volume.
You will find different wireless technology if you are looking for wireless earbuds.
Most earphones that you find in the market use Bluetooth technology. The good thing is that you can pair your earbuds with any devices that support Bluetooth. Most Bluetooth earbuds are Class 2 devices which means they connect to a radius of about 10-33 meters. Another advantage of Bluetooth is that they are entirely secure.
The downside is that the sound they produce is not the most pleasant, especially with older models. Bluetooth’s initial design was not to transfer high-quality music. It compresses the audio when transmitting, which makes it worse.
- Near Field Communication (NFC)
Some earbuds may add NFC tech to the Bluetooth one. NFC tech relies on proximity to connect to the other device. All you have to do is to get closer to another NFC-enabled gadget such as the iPhone 6. If you have an NFC-enabled phone, it will be an upgrade over Bluetooth.
An excellent example of NF supporting earbuds is the Bose SoundSport.
- Radio Frequency (RF)
RF earbuds use radio frequency, which is more effective for wider areas. When you buy it, you get a charging station (transmitter). You need to plug your audio device into the RF transmitter, and the transferred sound will broadcast to your earbuds.
These earbuds will work excellently with your TV or your desktop setup. The RF sound transmission is also better than Bluetooth. But a disadvantage may arise if you find a similar radio frequency transmission from other RF gadgets. The chances are low, but you have to consider it.
The Sennheiser IS410 applies this technology, and it is among the few that use it. Buyers mostly ignore it because you have to be directly within the infrared for it to work. However, you may use your infrared earphones for Home Theatres with this tech.
Research the codecs that are compatible with the earbuds. A combination of coder-decoder, these are programs or devices that encode and decode signals. Budget earbuds will mostly use SBC codecs. These codecs have a limited transmission speed making the sound seem tasteless plus you can’t play high-resolution sounds.
For Apple users, check for the device’s compatibility with the AAC. Apple gadgets only support high-value AAC and SBC codecs. Android users will particularly enjoy since these devices are compatible with the latest Bluetooth codecs, which includes the High-Resolution aptX HD.
AptX tech takes sound flavor a notch higher. It should be a choice for everyone who wants remarkable sound quality from gaming to music. With it, you will transfer audio through Bluetooth without the unclear sound as mentioned above. aptX compresses differently. If your device supports it, you are in luck.
Ear tips comfort
If your earbuds feel are too small or too shallow drop them. These are earbuds that limit your movement- you won’t be able to exercise. The same goes for those that graze your ears.
Some wired earbuds allow you to replace the whole tip with one that perfectly fits you. Others will even come with different ear-tips sizes: small, medium and large. You can also go for foam tips. Foamed ear-tips may feel uncomfortable at first, but after some time you won’t want silicone, metal or plastic ear-tips.
For wireless earbuds, you can buy memory foams to replace silicone on the ear-tips. The downside might be that the design of the casing may be for smaller ear-tips. It means that you can’t close it well with bigger foam replacements.
It is advisable to get it right the first time. Buy ear-tips that perfectly fit your ears or from a company that will have a variety of sizes. Some manufacturers have an ear-fin that helps your earbuds to fit more snugly.
Battery life is vital for wireless earbuds and the few wired ones that use batteries. Budget earbuds will give you about an hour of playing time. However, the most common ones in the market will estimate about three to five hours. Remember you will mostly get about 80% of what has been quoted.
You have to recharge whenever you finish your charge. Do this by plugging your earbuds into the charging case. The charging case can be used three or four times before it has to be charged itself.
Invest in earbuds that will fit their purpose. If you go to the gym for two hours, what a killjoy if it goes flat in an hour!
Noise Isolating Vs Noise Canceling Earbuds
Are you always in a public place while listening to your music? Then you probably dislike the distracting noise around you. Both the noise canceling and noise isolating models are made to reduce this kind of ambient noise but in different ways.
There are some experts that tout one over the other. But, it is difficult to gauge them because of different brands that make them and the difference in design. Each comes with its own merits, and the following differences may help you choose the best for you.
Noise isolating earbuds keep the sound out by a seal covering your ear while noise-canceling ones form an equal but opposite wave to the incoming waves. The resulting collision cancels the noise.
Noise isolating earbuds do not have any active mechanisms, and they just seal off your ears. You will find them in many budget earbuds. They also come in different shapes and sizes.
The active mechanisms in the noise cancellation varieties form the main difference. The anti-noise signals barricade the ambient noise, leaving you to your sweet music.
- Noise Reduction Capability
The sound-isolating models are meant to muffle noises from about 25-30 dB (decibels). Some companies have however advertised up to 42 dB. Humans whisper at about 15 dB. They can block out that. But not your neighbor’s 95 dB engine. They also have to fit very snugly to work well.
If you want to block engine noises, usual talk around you, the AC noises, noise cancellation models are better. Your audio becomes more precise, and you may turn your volume a bit lower (at least to save your ears). Remember that they may cancel low-pitch noises but not the high-pitched frequencies.
- Power Consumption
With their passive tech, the noise-isolating earphones won’t require batteries. However, even if you buy those that need power, they won’t drain your charging case fast.
When you get noise-canceling ones, they will drain power both from the charging case and from your connected gadgets at a quicker rate.
- Sound Quality
There is no discernible difference between their sound qualities when used in a quiet place. Commuters, however, will enjoy the noise-canceling models more. Sound isolating ones are better suited for the home environment.
Controls vary from earphone to earphone. High-end earbuds have buttons, control pads or touch displays for volume adjustments, voice commands or skipping to next or previous. Other earbuds lack such controls. It means you have to have your gadget nearby for any commands you need to enter.
Some are more sophisticated, and your music pauses the moment you remove your earbuds and resumes if you wear them. You will have convenient and pleasant moments with earbuds that have responsive controls.
Durability seems like a no-brainer, but it is something we often overlook. It is all so easy to get excited by brand, beauty, and cost.
Check the quality of various parts. Weak joining points, thin wires, fake plastic components show the fragility of the whole unit. How will you feel if your money goes down the drain after a few months?
Unless you specifically need short-term replacements, look for sturdy and long-lasting components. You can obtain more info and even test the earbuds if you plan to buy them from a shop. Check for different sound levels because the sound you feed the drivers is also crucial.
Earbuds casings should also be durable to ease your worries while traveling.
If you research the market with your facts at hand, it is easy to find a cheaper model with better features than the expensive one. Understanding the specs beforehand ensures that you avoid this trap. Price is also among the main things that people consider.
The brand, noise cancellation features, quality audio, number of drivers, long-lasting batteries will drive the cost higher. If these factors among others are there, then do not hold back. And if it is within your budget, avoid the cheapest earbuds.
Having a favorite brand is a good thing. And most of the time this rule works. But for some products, your famous brand may fail you. Earphones’ saturation in the market means most companies want a share of it. Some manufacturers are going as far as buying generic earbuds and branding them for better leverage.
It is less risky to research companies that are renowned for making quality earbuds. Quality, durability and cost will be higher with these manufacturers.
Do you prefer beauty to go hand in hand with functionality? Many top earbuds will offer you precisely that. However, other brands prefer functionality over beauty, and this is where you may have to make a choice.
However, you will surely get your trendy earphones because there are thousands of them out there.
It is not easy to remember about spare parts when it comes to earbuds. Do you need spare parts for earbuds! Yes, since there is a real possibility of getting attached to your earbuds. You can also lose a component or spoil a part of an expensive earphone within a short while of buying. You will need a replacement.
It is essential to find out if the spare parts will be easy to come by. Also, does the company pack extra pieces such as spare ear-tips?
Can you use them for different purposes?
Maybe you want to read an audiobook, go jogging then join your gaming friends. Will the earbuds be useful in all your daily activities? It is wasteful if you have to buy one for every occasion (unless you can afford them). The design and functionality should suit various hobbies.
Compatibility with several, if not all, of your devices should also be considered. The good news is that newer equipment from TVs, radios, phones, gaming consoles, etc. have adapted similar ports and compatible connectivity tech.
The cord is vital for wired earbuds. For example, rubber cords tend to tangle. Kevlar ones may be flexible, robust and won’t tangle in your pocket. You can also factor in length but don’t go too long.
Researchers agree online reviewing has taken a significant chunk in the present market and marketing techniques. Comments from previous users can be a great way to gauge earbuds. If 75% of the reviewers give a product five stars, it is safe to assume it is good.
You get to see how other buyers interacted with the product what they gave the thumbs up and what they downvoted. However, only seek reviews during the last stages of buying.
We’ve seen the factors that will lead you to your dream earbuds. Now let’s debunk some myths that surround earphones.
Myths to Avoid
With the increasing popularity of earphones, unsupported claims were always going to arise to make the consumer spend more (or less). To find the best earbuds, these are the rhetoric to avoid:
Sweating Too Much Spoils the Earbuds
Sports enthusiasts and gym-goers may become worried that their earbuds may get spoiled with all that sweat. Waterproof earbuds always dry out whenever you finish your hard work. It is only in extreme cases when the water is too much where the sound output becomes distorted.
You can buy the best waterproof earbuds that can withstand up to half an hour in water. These earbuds should give you complete protection.
Earbuds Come In a Universal Fit
Human ears come in different shapes, and you will never find a universal fit. You can get your customized earphones, but you have to spend more. Alternatively, choose earbuds that have various sizes in their packaging. Some even come with more than six pairs of ear-tips.
If you rotate your wireless earbuds, you can find a place that just fits.
Earbuds Are Bad For Your Ears
This is the most prevalent one. Using your earphones is not harmful to your health, but higher decibels for extended periods will damage your ears.
NOTE: To avoid damaging your ears, check the NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) for a comprehensive guideline on the exposure allowance time for various noise levels. An example is that NIOSH recommends less than 2-hour exposure for 100 dB.
You Get the Best Quality from the Widest Frequency Range
You will find earphones with frequency ranges like 10Hz-50 kHz. These are specs that are beyond the normal hearing range. We are most sensitive between 100Hz-10,000Hz. So, we are unable to hear what is going on beyond those high frequencies.
You Have To Replace Ear-tips When They Accumulate Dirt
With time, ear wax and other dirt will undoubtedly accumulate on your earphones. It not only affects the sound produced, but it may not be pleasant to wear. You can clean them.
First, remove the silicone cover and soak them in warm water with soap. After soaking, get cotton and remove any accumulated dirt. Rinse and make sure that they dry completely.
To remove dirt off the earbuds, dry brush them gently. The hearing part should face downward to prevent pushing the wax and dirt in. If there is any wax left, use alcohol since it dries fast. Dip cotton in it, ensure the swab is not very wet then use it to wipe the earbuds.
The earbuds may have had some odor but avoid perfumes, detergents or soap when cleaning them. Cleaning the earbuds with alcohol every month will do wonders.
Now that we know what’s what in the world of earbuds let’s head straight to the recommended earbuds
BEBEN 5H Continous 25H True Wireless Earbuds
These earbuds have amazing wireless charging systems. With its stylish charging case, you can recharge your earbuds up to four times. The case design is made to accommodate portability, robustness and the magnetic body shape.
A unique lanyard is included in the case to allow you to fasten it to your belt or bag. You can easily carry the charging case. Also, the earbuds feel comfortable even after a long time of use.
BEBEN 5H is among the best budget earbuds because it is waterproof allowing you the comfort of using it when raining. The disadvantage is that the earbuds take a bit longer to charge.
- The device can maintain up to 5 hours of use.
- It provides quality volume.
- Its audio is clear, with no hum or static sounds.
- The microphone is a bit below par.
- Some reviewers claim earbuds can discharge without warning.
- You can charge one ear-tip while using the other one. However, it is the left one that you can always use.
1More Triple Driver Earbuds
If you prefer wired noise-isolating earphones go for 1More Triple Driver. These earbuds, alongside their 1More Quad Driver sibling, are among the best at their price range.
They may lack some luster, but they feel good when you handle them. The earbuds are made of aluminum. They are also angled a bit to give you the snug fit. Their biggest boon is the three-button remote that supports both the Android and iOS software. Compatibility with both is not something that we see every day.
When it comes to performance, IMore offers superb audio quality, and the music is remarkably detailed. You will have a good time listening to complex music. Bass lovers will also enjoy these.
The rubber cord and the remote control may be their downside. But for $100 budget the Triple Driver is great.
- Superb audio quality.
- Sturdy design.
- Excellent in the price range.
- Plastic remote.
- Rubber cord.
Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds
This Sony model has upgraded the noise cancellation tech overshadowing many brands in that category. It won’t beat the best noise-canceling headphones, but it does stand out among the earbuds. It costs around $230.
Aesthetic enthusiasts will love this Sony product. They come in black and champagne silver. And apart from the beauty, they are light and comfortable fitting into your ear with the creative twist. The charging case is also remarkable with its trendy copper lid, and it holds the earbuds in place using the magnetic tech.
You can also opt to use power controls, but their size makes this a little challenging. More impressive is the wearing detection sensors. Whenever you remove them, the music pauses, resuming when you wear them again. They also offer exceptional clarity and rhythmic sounds for their size with reasonable bass.
The battery life is pretty decent, and you can quick charge. Give it a 15-minute charge, and you’ll get 90 more minutes.
- Great noise cancellation.
- Fantastic audio quality.
- Not great for sporting.
ENACFIRE E18 Plus Wireless Earbuds
If you want great sporting wireless earbuds under $50, go for ENACFIRE. They offer a comfortable fit, compactness, and portability. They use Bluetooth 5.0, and they cover a remarkable connectivity radius.
Remarkably they support both Android and Ios. The Android system goes for 5 hours while the Ios goes for 8 hours after charging. The charging case can hold up to 40 hours of charge.
Their sound quality is a bit low, and rock lovers may experience some cracking.
- It has a remarkable waterproof tech.
- Excellent dustproof technology.
- The charging box is fragile since it is made of plastic.
- They have a constant flashing blue light on the right ear-tip that can’t be turned off.
LETSCOM Bluetooth Earphones IPX7
They are not truly wireless earbuds but neck buds. If you love music streaming, we recommend these earbuds for you. The design also enables a solid fit. A 2-hour charge should take you up to 8 hours of playing time. And Google Assistant activation takes a decent 3 seconds.
- It has great noise cancellation tech.
- Great for making calls.
- It comes with two additional pairs.
- The cord isn’t uncomfortable during exercise.
- Left ear-tip has no controls.
- The bass can sometimes be uncomfortable.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
The Cambridge Audio company has now ventured into the world of wireless buds. With its Melomania model, they have shown why they are among the top producers. The earbuds offer 45 hours of action (9 hours from earbuds, 36 hours from the case) coupled with exceptional tech.
They currently cost about $129. The earbuds’ design is great with its trendy bullet-shaped appearance. And the case is equally amazing. On top of that, you can tell the battery’s status on the case.
The earbuds are extremely compact, making them perfect for jogging. Their Bluetooth connectivity does not have the usual drop in quality. This is most likely because of their AAC and aptX codecs. And they further offer amazing touch controls.
When it comes to sound quality, the earbuds can even compete with some great headphones out there.
- Impeccable audio quality.
- Excellent for its price.
- Control buttons may be complex.
Are you an audiophile? The RHA T20i comes with filters that you can tweak to your liking. You can fine-tune the Bass, Treble, and Reference with ease to get personalized audio for your music taste.
Apart from its trendy looks, the earbuds also offer a cozy fit with its noise isolation design. The remote does not work for Android users, but Ios users are in luck because they work superbly. They also have an in-line mic.
These are earphones made for listening to music. The bass, mids, and highs blend in a unique fashion to provide an excellent end result. Going for around $200 they offer excellent competition to both 1More Quad Drivers and 1More Triple drivers.
- Stylish appearance.
- Customizable functions.
- Lack of remote control for Android.
Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
While these earbuds are designed for sport and fitness, they are greatly multi-purpose. Optoma earbuds are among the best in the market. The reason being that every new release is always better than its predecessor. They strive to upgrade their audio quality while maintaining a practical design.
The NuForce BE Sport4 comes in glossy black color with a splash of green at the tips. The ear-tips further offer a nice fit with their creative design. They come in three different ear-tip sizes with an additional nine pairs of ear wings. Sporting activities are quite smooth with these earbuds.
Exercise earbuds are always light, and these ones weigh a mere 15g. The caveat is that you cannot use only one earbud. The manufacturers also covered the ‘loss of earbuds’ angle by having them connect together magnetically when not in use. The earbuds offer decent noise isolation, making them suitable for commuters and home use.
When it comes to battery life, it is among the best earbuds. A full charge offers up to 10 hours, and a quick 15-minute charge will give you to hours. That, coupled with great sounds across various music genres, elevates your exercise routine.
- Fantastic sound.
- Practical look.
- Customizable ear-tips.
- You have to use both the ear-tips.
Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless
Jabra Elite 65t is a well-balanced earbud that has great returns to justify its price. They come in a unique style and impressive wireless connectivity that beats almost all true wireless buds out there. The average cost is $130.
The earbuds have a cozy fit and a great charging case. You may not even realize that they are made of plastic like other models.
The holes on the side are designed for the mic to pick your voice when calling. They also allow outside noise to blend with the music. And you can fine-tune how much outside noise you want in through the Jabra app available on both Android and Ios. The app also lets you adjust for various situations like traveling, quiet locations etc. Android users will, however, have to download a different Jabra Service app still so as to gain access to Jabra Sound+app.
The earbuds switch off automatically when put in the case and vice versa. It may not match the RHA T20i, but it offers solid audio quality. The battery life is 5 hours of action while the charging case gives you an additional 10 hours.
The case does not hold the buds magnetically, which is a huge letdown. It means you have to double-check that you’ve packed them right.
- Balanced sound quality.
- Ease of use.
- Unique look.
- Lack of a wide ear-tip range.
- Limited waterproof.
1More Quad Driver earphones
The 1More Quad Driver may be almost twice as expensive as the popular Triple Driver sibling, but they have more to offer. They are designed with three equal armature drivers and an extra diamond-shaped carbon driver. It is a combination that works wonders on its audio quality
The remote and connection points are usually the caveat for many earbuds. Not here. Its remote is built with solid aluminum made to match the rest of the robust device. The remote also functions with both Ios and Android. Similarly, the cord is made of hard-wearing Kevlar.
They also come with different ear-tip sizes for an easier fit. The modish case also comes packed. You will find a 3-5mm-6.5mm adapter, airline adapters, a shirt clip, and several foam and silicone ear-tips.
The sound produced by Quad Driver is smooth and relaxing. This creates an aura where you can use the earbuds for a long time without fatigue. They will work great with almost every music genre.
- Impressive audio.
- It has a remote control that is compatible with Android and IOS.
- Modish look.
- The triple driver may be better value for your money.
Finding the best earbuds in the market may not be as easy as many think. If you want quality, durability, and reliability, there are more factors to think about. And depending on your preferences, some may outweigh others.
Strike a balance among the major factors and the best earbuds will come knocking whether they are budget, mid-range or high-end.