Best in-ear headphones 2024: top earbuds tried and tested

There are many reasons a person might prefer in-ear headphones, or IEMs (in-ear monitors) as they're sometimes called. Over-ears are great for full sound and lots of features, but in-ears offer a more discrete look, lighter weight and greater portability. If you're a sporting semi-pro or workout king, in-ears are the way to go. 

Once you know you favour in-ear headphones, you'll need to navigate a complex market to see which ones are right for you. Runners may opt for a true wireless pair with winged tips to give a more secure fit, whereas audiophiles will care more about getting a premium set of earbuds focused on audio quality.

Pooling our extensive collective experience testing headphones, we’ve created this guide to help you avoid the duds, detailing the top-performing in-ear headphones money can buy. Our expert team has tested every set to ensure they’re worth your cash, and you can read more about our testing process or scroll down to find the perfect pair. We've listed all types here, so if you want to go completely wireless, check out our pick of the best wireless earbuds and the best cheap wireless earbuds.

Recent updates

31st May: No new entries, but we've made sure all the entries on this list are up to date with current pricing and advice, and added new FAQ answers regarding eartips fit and IEMs.

The quick list

Written by
Andy Madden bio pic
Written by
Andy Madden

I am the Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. I've tested dozens and dozens of in-ear headphones during this time, from wired to wireless models, and across all budgets. The comfort and secure fit of in-ear models are paramount when it comes to long-lasting use, while I also ensure I test out the effectiveness of features such as noise-cancelling, call quality and spatial audio in wireless pairs. Most of all, the sound quality must befit the price tag – I'm confident the best in-ear headphone picks below will have you tapping along to your favourite tunes at whichever budget and type you're looking for.

Best wired in-ear headphones overall

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. These stunning wired in-ear headphones offer a huge step up in quality from cheaper models.

Specifications

Connector: 3.5mm
Cable length: 1.27m
In-line remote and mic: Yes
Bluetooth: No
Noise-cancelling: No
Sensitivity: 108dB

Reasons to buy

+
Awesome dynamics and musicality
+
Insightful and balanced sound
+
Lightweight and comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Understated sound

Anyone who prioritises sound quality above all else but still favours the small form factor of in-ears should seriously consider what the Shure Aonic 3 are offering. They're simple but expertly made IEMs that, as far as we can tell, have few serious rivals at this level thanks to their devotion to superb musical reproduction.

Design-wise, the Aonic 3 look like your classic IEMs, with a wired connection feeding a pair of nozzles alongside some handy in-line controls. Getting a good fit is made simple by a choice of nine different eartips to get superior isolation and comfort, while a built-in mic lets you answer calls without digging out your phone all the time. 

The true reason to recommend the Aonic 3, of course, is for their peerless audio at this price. The current Award-winners are pros at handling dynamics as well as detail, with a sense of rhythm and timing that gives energy and life to the music they convey. If you want a pair of wired in-ear headphones that offer a step up in sound quality from the more budget SoundMagics below, then these Shures are very hard not to recommend.

Read our full Shure Aonic 3 review

Best wireless in-ear headphones overall

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. Sony's latest wireless in-ear headphones are unrivalled all-rounders.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 8 hours (+16hrs from charging case)
Finishes: Black, silver

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading levels of detail and clarity
+
Top-notch musicality and timing
+
Comfortable, discreet design

Reasons to avoid

-
Some rivals produce more bass
-
Could feel more secure

The Aonic 3 are great for serious music lovers, but we understand that this is 2024, a time when most users are crying out for wireless earbuds for their on-the-go listening needs. If that sounds like you, it will come as no surprise that the Award-winning Sony WF-1000XM5 are our pick of the bunch in this highly competitive field.

The sublime XM5 are smaller than their predecessors (the WF-1000XM4), with a more pocket-friendly case to match, but they’re also more comfortable to wear for long periods, even if others feel more secure when lodged in your ears. That's a great boon if you're planning on making the premium Sonys your pair of everyday buds.

Despite their diminished dimensions, there’s a bigger 8.4mm Dynamic Driver X inside each unit, resulting in unmatched levels of detail and clarity alongside absolutely top-notch musicality and timing. Noise cancelling is superb, and while Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are exceptional and highly recommended in this area, the XM5 have closed the gap by minimising unwanted racket more subtly and feeling less susceptible to those loud bangs that the Ultra Earbuds can end up accentuating.

Throw in a bunch of handy features, including Adaptive Sound Control, Speak-to-Chat, support for hi-res and 360 Reality Audio, not to mention the ability to automatically activate the ANC in certain locations, and you’ve got the undisputed new king of premium wireless earbuds, even if the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds (below) are snapping at their heels. 

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM5 review

Best cheap wired in-ear headphones

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. The best budget wired in-ear headphones you can buy.

Specifications

Connector: 3.5mm
Cable length: 1.2m
In-line remote and mic: Yes
Bluetooth: No
Noise-cancelling: No
Sensitivity: 112dB
Weight: 11g

Reasons to buy

+
Entertaining, involving sound
+
Remote and mic
+
Easy to drive

Reasons to avoid

-
Timing could be better
-
Shure Aonic 3 above offer even greater insight and propulsion

Despite only having been founded in 2005, SoundMagic rose from obscurity to become multiple-Award winners. Most notable for its budget in-ear headphone range, the SoundMagic E11C provides a perfect showcase for why the brand has already enjoyed so much success.

Cheap they may be, shoddy they certainly ain't. The E11C offer a snug fit and an almost unbelievably well-balanced, energetic tone from their 10mm dynamic drivers, with decent depth to a lower end which is always complemented by a clear and crisp midrange. It's also worth noting that their high sensitivity (112dB) means that the E11Cs can deliver plenty of volume which makes them a great fit for smartphones and portable audio players, provided you have a 3.5mm socket, that is. 

Functionality is kept simple with a remote and mic on the cable for the left earphone, but we're not expecting complex arrangements at this level. It’s a standard three-button job, so it should work with Apple and Android smartphones, giving you volume and stop/start functionality. 

Anyone not willing to stretch to the Shure Aonic 3 above can consider the E11C as an excellent, more affordable alternative.

Read our full SoundMagic E11C review

Best cheap wireless in-ear headphones

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. Brilliant budget buds that sound great and are comfortable.

Specifications

Noise-cancelling: No
Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 30hrs (buds: 10hrs; case: 20hrs)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: IPX4
Finishes: 4 (Black, White, Orange, Green)

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and comfortable design
+
Spirited, well-balanced sound
+
Fine control app

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly small-scale sound
-
Rivals offer more punch

If the SoundMagic E11C are our pick for the best wired in-ear headphones, the Sony WF-C500 are streets ahead of the competition in the race for affordable wireless bud supremacy. Sony's record recently for making everything from premium wireless earbuds to superb noise-cancelling cans has been exceptional, with the C500 proving that as much attention is being paid to the budget end of the spectrum as it is to the premium side.

If you want quality wireless buds without the high price tag, this is the only place to start, especially now that discounts are starting to cut 20% or more off the original RRP. Why? The WF-C500 sound far better than they have any right to at this price, with a well-balanced and even presentation that benefits from a detailed midrange and plenty of dynamic expression. Bass sounds are ample, too, while the top end has enough bite and crunch to keep you engaged as you listen to your favourite tunes.

No, they don't have ANC (see the C700N below), but that doesn't mean they're light on features. Battery life is 10 hours from the buds and another 20 from the case, and like Sony's pricier buds, they work with the Headphones Connect app to give you greater control over your sound profile and the buds' various functionalities. They can even upscale audio to near hi-res quality via Sony's DSEE technology, something we didn't expect to find for such a modest price.

All in all, they're the very best cheap wireless buds on the market, offering up great sound, a nice build and a substantial feature set at an unbeatable price. The C500 won a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award before repeating the trick last year, quickly becoming our go-to recommendation for anyone looking for great wireless sound on a tight budget.

Read our full Sony WF-C500 review

Top Tip
Ketan Bharadia
Top Tip
Ketan Bharadia

To wire or not to wire – it's the eternal question. Wireless headphones of all forms have exploded in popularity over the past ten years, but that owes as much to their convenience and extensive feature sets as it does to improvements in audio performance. To be blunt, wired models still beat comparative wireless rivals hands down – wires are simply far a more effective means of transmitting data than via lossy Bluetooth, and even a relatively cheap pair of wired headphones (the SoundMagic E11C, say) can keep up with a much more expensive Bluetooth rival such as the Sony WF-1000XM5.

Best mid-price wired in-ear headphones

A step up from the Aonic 3 above, Shure’s mid-price in-ears deliver sensational musicality.

Specifications

Connector: 3.5mm
Cable length: 1.27m
In-line remote and mic: Yes
Bluetooth: No
Noise-cancelling: No
Sensitivity: 119dB
Weight: 24.5g

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated, mature sound
+
Superb levels of detail
+
Exceptional sense of timing

Reasons to avoid

-
Require suitable content and amplification
-
Unforgiving of poor recordings

Shure's Aonic 5 certainly know how to catch the eye thanks to the transparent section on each earpiece that allows you to see their inner workings, but it's how they sound that earns them their place on this list. Some of Shure's most premium wireless monitors, these are the in-ears to go for if you truly care about sound quality and you're willing to pay handsomely to get it.

The Aonic 5 employ three high-definition balanced drivers in a dual woofer and single tweeter configuration - provided you've got the right source and material, the result is quite sensational. There's an embarrassment of detail and a wonderful sense of clarity within their presentation, with vocals sounding particularly rich and natural. Bear in mind that they're incredibly sonically transparent, so any ropey recordings will be exposed as the Aonic 5 take no prisoners with their clear, "tell-it-as-it-is" style.

As usual, Shure provides plenty of tips to help you find the right fit for the bud, but you also get two extra nozzles that you can use to change the balance of the sound. The ones labelled 'Bright' put too much emphasis on the top-end for our liking, but the 'Warm' pair offer a subtle increase in weight and substance. We'd still recommend sticking with the default ones, though, as this is where you'll get the most balance.

If you've got a decent DAC/headphone amp to drive them, the Shure Aonic 5 will show you exactly what they're capable of. If you don't, the Aonic 3 might be worth a look. 

Read our full Shure Aonic 5 review

Best mid-price wireless in-ear headphones

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. Five-star wireless in-ear headphones that deliver terrific value for money.

Specifications

Noise-cancelling: Yes
Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 7.5hrs (+7.5hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: Water resistant
Finishes: (White, Black, Sage Green, Lavender

Reasons to buy

+
Very comfortable fit
+
Refined presentation for the money
+
Detailed, dynamic and musical sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Charging case doesn't add a lot to battery life
-
No aptX or LDAC support

Ah, the Sony C700N, truly worthy to be our current Award-winners. The point of the C700N is to be a budget pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, so anyone who still wants ANC but isn't willing to splash the cash on the rather more premium WF-1000XM5 can still enjoy those isolating benefits without paying a fortune. It's a clever corner of the market, and one Sony is filling with great skill.

The C700N buds are relatively small, and while they may be more affordable than the XM5s, their lightweight design helps make them more comfortable than a whole host of more expensive rivals. Battery life is competitive at seven and a half hours, although the fact the charging case can only offer one extra charge does seem just a tad stingy.

They lack aptX HD and LDAC, which is a shame, but do feature that noise-cancelling that the WF-C500 lack. Adaptive Sound Control automatically switches listening modes depending on your location, and Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) effortlessly upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality.

Noise cancelling is nothing if the sound quality isn't there, but Sony has once again shown why they're the best in the game in this field with audio that feels supremely balanced and refined, offering up deep, detailed bass, expressive mids and engaging highs to concoct a very musical listen for the money spent.

Multipoint Bluetooth, which lets you switch seamlessly between devices, arrived as part of a recent software update, and while the lack of support for aptX HD and LDAC is disappointing, it's not the end of the world at this price. Either way, the superb level of comfort, sound quality, and great feature set make these in-ear headphones easy to recommend as a supremely well-priced pair of Award-winning wireless buds.

Read our full Sony WF-C700N review

Best noise-cancelling in-ear headphones

Bose's ANC qualities are sublime and they sound effervescent, musical and superbly revealing.

Specifications

Noise-cancelling: Yes
Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 6hrs (+18hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: IPX4
Finishes: 2 (Black, White Smoke)

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional noise-cancelling
+
Fantastic sense of refinement
+
Beautifully balanced sound
+
Excellent detail levels

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life can be bettered
-
Call quality is nothing special
-
No Bluetooth Multipoint
-
No wireless charging

There are two clear frontrunners in the premium wireless earbuds space right now: the Sony WF-1000XM5 and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. You'll likely have been sold by the XM5's credentials above, so what do the Ultra Earbuds offer that the Sonys don't?

For a start, they look a lot nicer. The XM5s are a little plain and stale in appearance, but these sleek, luxurious Bose buds are handsome fellas, with a secure fit and a bit more aesthetic flair than their rivals - that's a plus point in terms of perceived value.

They also excel in two key areas: ANC and sound quality. The former is back and as good as ever, taking even the noisiest environments and reducing their impact quite dramatically. Every time you pluck the buds from their case and place them in your ears, Bose’s CustomTune calibration tech lets out a tone as it surveys the noise in your environment and adjusts the sound accordingly. Bose knows noise cancelling better than almost anyone, and it shows again here.

The Ultra Earbuds have undoubtedly improved over the QC II regarding sound quality, too. This isn't a case of being better or worse than the XM5s, rather it's about preferring a certain style of sonic presentation. There's a familiar richness and fullness to the sound, but the new buds have a bit more of a skip in their step than the outgoing QuietComfort Earbuds II, as well as more detail around the edges of tones and instruments. For getting out the timbres of instruments, the Ultra Earbuds take things to the next level, offering a style that rewards you with genuine verve, dynamism and impact. The Sony XM5 are more refined and measured, but for musical insight and joie de vivre, the Ultra truly live up to their name.

Feature-wise, the big news for the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds is they feature Bose Immersive Audioao (their version of spatial audio) and while the results are a little mixed, the ambition is definitely there. Elsewhere, though, call quality has improved while battery life remains the same, but we'll admit that the lack of Bluetooth Multipoint is a bit of a puzzler at this level.

All in all, a five-star alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM5 and a very, very decent pair of wireless earbuds full stop.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review 

Best high-end in-ear headphones

The best in-ear headphones for those with a big budget.

Specifications

Connector: 3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm
Cable length: 1.2m
In-line remote and mic: No
Bluetooth: No
Noise-cancelling: No
Sensitivity: 123dB

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed, articulate sound
+
Refined yet entertaining presentation
+
Clever engineering

Reasons to avoid

-
Cable transmits noise
-
No in-line remote

Rest assured, Shure aren't the only ones who can pull out a pair of great wired in-ear headphones. Sennheiser’s excellent IE 900 earbuds will appeal to purists who want to get the best audio possible from a high-quality source, and they certainly come packaged like premium in-ear headphones thanks to six ear tip options and three cables with a choice of normal 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm / 4.4mm connectors. The only thing they don't have is an in-line remote, but that's just about forgivable given how these bad boys sound. They're not at all cheap (retailing currently at around £1,000), which makes them a step up even on the remarkable Shure Aonic 5 above.

So what are you paying for? Well, with rigidity and minimal vibrations in mind, Sennheiser's engineers have chosen to go with a single driver rather than the more fashionable multiple-unit approach that many rivals take, and the results are exceptional. The IE 900 are impressively clear and open-sounding, able to dig deep into the production of a recording with skill and enthusiasm. They also come over as confident and insightful, uncovering layers of low-level information and organising every track they are faced with into a structured and cohesive whole.

Partner these in-ear headphones with good-quality files and a high-quality outboard DAC (see the Chord Mojo 2) and you'll hear just why the IE 900 justify their hefty price tag. A sensational pair for serious audiophiles.

Read our full Sennheiser IE 900 review


Also consider

  • Apple AirPods Pro 2: The AirPods Pro 2 felt like the moment when Apple finally delivered the sonic goods from a pair of its wireless earbuds. As one of the first pairs to earn our full five-star plaudits, the Pro 2 seriously closed the gap on the class leaders with a sound that blended detail and precision with power and excitement. Add to that a great feature set and lovely build and, for iOS users at least, they make a huge amount of sense.  
  • Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4: At last, a pair of wireless earbuds to break the Sony / Bose duopoly! The Momentum TW4 are the real deal, wowing us with a refined, detailed sound presentation that feels rewarding and effortlessly musical. They're also comfortable, responsive and laden with useful features and fully earned five stars across the board. Sony and Bose, you have competition!
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Just because the new Ultra Earbuds are here, doesn't mean the previous-gen QC Earbuds II are redundant. Despite the excellence of the newer model, the QC Earbuds II remain sonically superb, keeping up with the Sony WF-1000XM5 thanks to their emphatic, hugely vibrant sonic sensibilities and peerless, near-unbeatable noise cancelling. Thanks to their recent "ousting", prices are plummeting, and that can only be a good thing for the consumer.
  • Shure KSE1200: Got a wad of dosh burning a hole in your wallet? Shure's KSE1200 may be costly (really, really costly to some onlookers), but boy are they an outstanding pair of wired in-ear headphones. Blending astonishing detail and agility with some of the most striking clarity and insight we've heard for a long time, these are an audiophile's dream pair of in-ears.

How to choose the best in-ear headphones for you

First of all, you need to decide how much you are willing to spend. That will be somewhat determined by how you are going to use your new in-ear headphones – there's no point forking out hundreds of pounds or dollars for something that will sit in a drawer for most of the year.

Are you going to plug them into a smartphone or will they be used with a premium portable music player packed with hi-res music? You can go the wired route for the ultimate performance-per-pound value, but there's always the wireless option should you want a bit more convenience from your earbuds.

Compared with the best over-ear headphones, which can look and feel big and bulky, the best in-ear headphones offer a more discreet listening experience, while the use of eartips tends to deliver decent levels of isolation from the outside world. So, you will also want to ensure the in-ear headphones you go for (and the tips you get with them) are comfortable. And, if you want to block out more of the outside world, you might want to consider active noise-cancelling, which is an increasing feature on all but the very budget true wireless earbuds these days.

There's a pair of earbuds for everyone on this list, including budget wired headphones and premium models, plus noise-cancelling headphones and Bluetooth headphones, too. Rest assured, we have tested all the in-ear headphones mentioned above, which is why you can be confident they are all up to the job. Check the most recent pricing to bag a possible discount and also don't forget our page dedicated to the best headphone deals.

How we test in-ear headphones

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Reading where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door, including in-ear headphones.

Testing in-ear headphones, whether it is the wired or wireless variety, naturally doesn't require us to be in a test room all the time, although when we want peace and quiet and to compare pairs with their closest rivals, then a dedicated room does come in handy. For the most part, we test in-ear headphones in our daily life and in the outside world: on a train during our commute, when walking around town, around the house and even when on a run or workout session.

We treat in-ear headphones as though they are speakers, so we give them plenty of time to run in, and then we use them with the equipment they are most likely to be partnered with, be it a smartphone, headphone amp and DAC, or portable music player.

We also try a wide range of music and music file types, and if the earbuds offer extra features such as noise-cancelling, we also test this and use them in different environments to make sure it's up to scratch.

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we are being as consistent and thorough as possible with our reviews. There is never any input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the overall verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for nearly five decades.

FAQ

Which is better: wireless or wired?

If you are looking to get the absolute best sound quality you can for your budget, wired headphones still have an advantage over their wireless alternatives. Wired headphones, be they in-ear or over-ear, are generally more sustainable, too, as they don't require batteries or frequent charging to run. You can see a selection of great options in this category in our best wired headphones guide.

That said, wireless performance is improving all the time, while certain features such as ANC, spatial audio and transparency modes, are increasingly only found in Bluetooth models. Best of all, the massive convenience brought about by not having a trailing cable is a huge benefit, especially when wearing headphones outdoors. Wired headphones are practically obsolete when it comes to running and workout models.

This one all depends on priorities. If it's sound and nothing else, go wired. If it's convenience or next-gen features you can't live without, go wireless.

Are premium wireless earbuds worth it?

Higher price doesn't necessarily mean the earbuds sound better, but they do  tend to come with a full set of features that more affordable models don't. Premium earbuds do come with the expectation that they should sound the best, too. In our opinion, the best pairs are most definitely worth it, provided they meet your given use case.

The best premium wireless buds, such as the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds and the Sony WF-1000XM5, offer a clear step up as far as sound quality goes, granting more detail, greater dynamics and a more overall polished performance. Many budget models don't have the same spread of features as more expensive designs, and might be missing key things like active noise-cancelling, spatial audio and niche benefits such as Bluetooth Multipoint, in-app ear fit test, customised sound profiles, personalised hearing tests and more.

To state the obvious, premium buds aren't worth it if you're not that interested in improved sound and extensive features. Many decent, mid-range buds such as the Sony WF-C700N offer a decent raft of benefits, including ANC and Bluetooth Multipoint, alongside eminently pleasing sound for an affordable price. If you just want a pair of headphones that you can live with, it's worth doing your homework to decide where you draw the line. 

In-ear headphones vs in-ear monitors: what's the difference?

As we've stated in our full-length IEM explainer, there is none! Well, there's certainly no definitive categorisation that distinguishes some in-ear monitors (IEMs) from a pair of wired in-ear headphones. 

For us, IEMs are pretty much a pair of in-ear headphones with pro-market connotations, in that they're usually built for the professional market for musicians and to use in studios, offer a robust, hardy finish and fit deeper inside your ear canal. These are all general terms, though, and you'll notice that these could all be aspects of what many people would simply term "in-ear headphones". 

It's the same with design, in that there are no set rules as to what a pair of IEMs should be. Generally, most IEMs use memory foam eartips which are placed around or upon a small nozzle, with higher-end monitors opting for balance armature drivers over the dynamic drivers that most mainstream earbuds use. That isn't always true, as products calling themselves IEMs may use dynamic drivers, planar magnets or even electrostatic drivers. 

In short, though, there's no true distinction between a pair of wired in-ear headphones and a set of IEMs, so you don't have to worry about it too much. Focus on the form, features and sound you want from your wired in-ear headphones and the rest will fall into place. 

How do I make sure my in-ear headphones fit properly?

This is such a basic aspect of earbud / in-ear headphone ownership, and yet it's something we see even seasoned professionals sometimes fail to check properly. How your tips fit inside your ears makes a dramatic difference to the sound and comfort you'll experience, so much so that you could be fooled into thinking you've bought a pair of duds if the tips aren't as nestled and secure as they should be. 

Most in-ears should provide a choice of tip sizes (often small, medium and large), with many also offering those same size options but with a material of a different consistency (one set of foam and one set of silicone, say). Make sure you try every iteration before settling on one pair, all while actively listening out for how the tips are affecting the sound. Headphones will sound thin and lacking bass weight if they're too loose, or else thick and muffled if they're too big. They'll also be uncomfortable and/or prone to falling out if you've selected the wrong size, naturally.

To get a decent fit, we recommend trying each size out by gently furrowing the tips into the ear canal and then twisting them 45 degrees to lock them in place. The best fit will give you a solid seal with the walls of your ear canal and also block a degree of external noise without making your ears feel congested. If you have modern, often pricier pairs of wireless earbuds, your companion app may offer an earbud fit test that runs a few tests while you’re wearing them to provide feedback on your fit.

Recent updates

  • March 2024:  Added also consider section to offer more alternatives for buyers
  • February 2024: Added FAQ section to help with buying decisions and commonly asked questions.
  • January 2024: Replaced the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II with the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds following a five-star review for the latter.
  • November 2023: What Hi-Fi? Award winners labelled after Awards Best Buys and Product of the Year announcements.
Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.

With contributions from
  • Kuala
    So I should believe in author's expertness when he thinks earbuds and iems are the same thing...
    I'm outta here...
    Reply
  • JoaoCarlos
    Almost every single one has 5 stars. How are we supposed to pick one?
    Reply
  • Blasterinn
    I could probably name 10 iem's that are better, cheaper and better looking than many of those you mentioned.
    This is more like "The big label consumers list for the uninformed from the uninformed"
    Sorry to rain on you but this is just supermarket stuff alot of the time.
    Reply
  • brettone2002
    You forgot the B&O e8 third generation. 107, 109db sensitivity (higher than any I've seen in buds), longer battery life, bluetooth 5.1, far better than anything mentioned here - what gives? lol
    Reply
  • brettone2002
    You also listed some with wire lol - not in 2021
    Reply
  • bristollinnet
    What would we all do without What Earbuds...
    Reply
  • musicphile
    brettone2002 said:
    You also listed some with wire lol - not in 2021
    The sentiment is true and very unfortunate. Lately only manufacturers in China, and a few smaller ones in the West, seem to be putting sound quality first and produce wired IEMs, some even with balanced inputs. The bigger manufacturers are bluetoothing everything. The irony is that any wired headphone can turn into wireless very easily but the opposite is impossible - the Chinese get it.
    Reply
  • Salty Maud
    brettone2002 said:
    You also listed some with wire lol - not in 2021
    Yes in 2022. Wireless is a convenience feature for use on the go, I'm looking for quality for stationary home use. As much as I love my LCD-2C, I'm looking for something lighter for casual use and possibly gaming.
    Reply
  • Bamabams80HD
    brettone2002 said:
    You also listed some with wire lol - not in 2021
    You do realize this is an audiophile site, right? Bluetooth doesn't support lossless audio....you can't find a pair of bluetooth headphones that can produce the same quality of sound as wired.
    Reply
  • Navanski
    Bamabams80HD said:
    You do realize this is an audiophile site, right? Bluetooth doesn't support lossless audio....you can't find a pair of bluetooth headphones that can produce the same quality of sound as wired.
    I can't fault your logic. However to presume that this is an audiophile site I think is a mistake. Time and time again lists of the 'best' devices are produced by this site which are, in reality, very little to do with audio fidelity. There is very little variety - it seems to always be the same old brands. If one was being cynical one might suspect that brown envelopes are involved.
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