The 7 Best Earbuds to Buy in 2016

Shop for the best budget, exercise and sound quality earbuds

When it comes to plugging into our music, there’s no need to settle for the cheap earbuds that come with your portable music player. Plus, there are plenty of options in the market, no matter what you’re looking for; whether you’re an audio aficionado or just want a pair that doesn't break the bank. While it might seem overwhelming to go shopping for your next set of earbuds, we’re here to help. Here are our picks for the best earbuds of 2016.

Best Overall: Etymotic Research ERP-T Micro Pro

Etymotic Research ERP-T Micro Pro
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Earbuds frequently sacrifice sound quality for increased portability, but that isn’t the case with Etymotic Research ERP-T Micro Pro. If you are in search of rich bass and crisp treble, these earbuds promise to impress.

They have 10db-13db frequency, as well as an ACCU-Driver balanced armature transducer, which delivers a very precise sound quality with low levels of distortion. These earbuds deliver 100 percent accurate sound reproduction, thanks to the ergonomic earbud design that keeps sound from escaping and results in an unrivaled acoustic experience.

What makes these the best earbuds overall is their hard-to-replicate noise-isolating technology, which eliminate 98 percent of ambient noise. This is accomplished by not just the earbuds themselves, but also a braided cord that reduces microphone effects.

Etymotic includes a ¼” street adapter, six different sizes of ACCU-fit tips, a storage case and an airline adapter. Buy from Amazon »

Best for Value: Vsonic VSD1S

Vsonic VSD1S
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Sometimes you just want a solid, inexpensive set of earbuds to get you by. Priced around $35, these earbuds offer 11 mm drivers and a frequency range from 10 Hz to 22 kHz. They are also rated at 32-Ohm impedance. This means that there is only a slight drop-off in sound quality from the more expensive cousins of these earbuds currently dominating the industry. The sound is rich and clear, with quality you definitely would not expect out of a budget headset.

The industry standard for in-ear tips is to include three different sizes, and even this budget option is no different. Downsides to these earbuds include their wires occasionally tangling, as well as the lack of controls on the earbuds themselves, something that more expensive options have. Buy from Amazon »

Best for Sound Quality: Etymotic hf5

Etymotic hf5
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The fifth generation of Etymotic’s “high fidelity” earbuds are marketed at audiophiles, and much of their sales pitch is based on Consumer Reports’ “Accuracy Score” that points out the fantastic sound quality produced from these tiny earbuds.

The sound quality is almost exact, though there are spots on either side of the spectrum, high or low, where the sound is not as crystal clear as in the center of the spectrum, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. The frequency range for these earbuds falls between 20 Hz to 15 kHz and features noise isolation in the 35-42 dB range.

Like many of the other earbuds on this list, the hf5s come with three different tip sizes to fit the ear, but they also go deeper into the ear than others do, which might help to explain the sound quality these ones produce. This also means that the earbuds fit snugly in the ear, and securely, so there’s no real danger here that they’re going to fall out. Buy from Amazon »

Best for Exercise: Bose SoundSport

Bose SoundSport
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Bose makes what is arguably the best workout earbuds on the market. Bose’s SoundSport earbuds come with three sizes of their unique ‘StayHear’ tips, designed for both comfort and stability during movement. The earbuds are also sweat-resistant, which is a major plus: When you’re paying for a quality set, you definitely want the added peace of mind knowing that ear sweat isn’t going to break them.

The sound quality of the Bose SoundSport earbuds can be described as above average and the soundstage is mildly tuned to emphasize the ranges outdoor exercisers tend to enjoy the most. Vocals are emphasized and there’s a clear mid-range, with less emphasis on bass.

The earbuds come in five different colors: charcoal, energy green, frost, neon blue and power red. Bose SoundSport earbuds also feature a clothing clip and thin cables, which means they won’t get caught and restrict your movement when you’re working out. Buy from Amazon »

Best Under $10: Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120

Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120
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But if you really want the most budget option, then you don’t get more bang for your buck than with Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds. ErgoFit earbuds start at less than $10, but that doesn’t mean they are uncomfortable on the ears or produce a barely audible sound. Unlike other models at this price point, these are decent quality earbuds, featuring a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. While this isn’t as wide a swath as some of the more expensive offerings on the market, for such a low price point, it’s a fair tradeoff.

Ergofits come in eight different colors: black, blue, green, orange, pink, red, silver and violet. One potential downside is that, with only a 16-Ohm impedance, these are definitely not high-power earbuds, so if you need your music extra loud then these aren't for you. Buy from Amazon »

Runner-Up, Best for Sound Quality: Runner Up: Beyerdynamic DX 160

Beyerdynamic DX 160
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The Beyerdynamic DX 160s offer more than decent sound quality for in-ear headphones and are good enough to appease all but perhaps the most ardent audiophiles, and they can be picked up for about half the price of Etymotic hf5s. These earbuds have a frequency range from 10 Hz to 25 kHz, and offer 47-ohm impedance. They come with flat cables that make for fewer tangles than competing models and have a three button remote that works on Apple and Android devices. Buy from Amazon »

Runner-Up, Best for Exercise: JBL Reflect Mini Bluetooth In-Ear Sport Headphones

JBL Reflect Mini Bluetooth In-Ear Sport Headphones
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If you’re looking for quality workout earbuds and don’t want to risk getting that cord caught in gym equipment, JBL Reflect earbuds feature Bluetooth connectivity. And the sound quality is impressive: The earbuds have a frequency range of 10 Hz to 22 kHz, with 5.8 mm dynamic drivers. They feature comfort tips in three different sizes, and are also sweat proof. In short, these are solid, quality headphones at an attractive price. Buy from Amazon »


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