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Getting your hands on the best wired earbuds means never having to worry about your 'buds falling out during even the most intense workout session (much less during your walk to the train/office). While their counterparts, the best true wireless earbuds and best wireless headphones, certainly have their perks, a great wired pair saves you the time you'd waste charging them. They also mean never worrying about the battery blinking out on you when you're out and about and nowhere near a convenient power source.
The quality of wired earbuds varies dramatically, however, so narrowing down the field to make sure you're getting your money's worth can be tricky. Some expensive sets aren't meaningfully better than the cheap pair you'd pick up at the gas station, while some of those less expensive options will fray and die on you within a few weeks of purchase. We scoured tons of the top models to find the very best of the best, and help you dodge any lingering buyer's remorse.
Excellent sound clarity
Fit issues with glasses
Despite true wireless offerings from Apple and Bose, the earbud space still carries high-quality, wired earbuds. Take Shure's in-ear monitors, for instance — the SE215 has a snug fit, excellent isolation, and a pretty flat response across the spectrum. This gives great clarity, which is important for musicians looking to hear themselves on a noisy stage, but it's also ideal for those who want quality earbuds.
Some of the earbuds' standout features include its high-definition driver that produces 107dB of sound with a spectrum that covers most of the human hearing range at 22Hz-17.5kHz. You'll also get killer isolution (Shure claims you'll block about 37dB of outside noise), thanks to the various sizes of foam tips to choose from. Finally, the rugged 3.5mm aux-ended cable can detach from each bud, meaning if you happen to fray the wire, you won't have to replace the whole unit — just a cable or two. This all makes it a great earbud solution for under $100.
Excellent sound quality
Can attract dust
For good quality, well-priced wired earbuds, consider the IEM 2X from Status Audio. Aimed at both musicians and everyday listeners, these earbuds sport dual drivers — that’s one 9mm dynamic driver and a balanced armature driver, giving solid support to sound.
At under $30, they are still built in a premium way, with a machined aluminum casing and a substantial braided cable. The sound covers 20hz-40,000hz, and they push a whopping 102dB, making them one of the most powerful pairs of earbuds at this price point. Rounding out the fit and finish is a premium-looking, pinchable carrying pouch.
Three separate drivers
Broad frequency spectrum
Premium build quality
Slightly shrill high tones
The headphones from Monoprice provide great value, and their Triple Driver Earbuds are particularly good buys. These buds feature three separate drivers, including one big 10mm driver, pumping out 115 dB of pressure, while most other budget earbuds can only manage around 98 dB. They also cover 20-40,000Hz, meaning these earbuds can produce everything a human ear can naturally hear.
What’s great about the multi-driver setup is that each one is tuned to its own part of that spectrum, meaning each driver can handle its share of the load more effectively. Plus, for around $50 with a decent premium build, you'll feel like you're getting a lot more for your money.
Multi-click inline remote
Snug wraparound design
No IP rating provided
Whether you’re looking for backup earbuds to toss in your gym bag or prefer plugging your headphones on a run, the Avantree E171 is ideal for a few reasons. First, they use a wraparound design that folds over the top of your ears that, when combined with the four different sizes of ear tips, ensures a solid fit. This is key when working out as it’ll be much harder to push them out of your ears.
They're sweat-proof as well, though it’s important to note that Avantree hasn't provided an IP rating. The inline remote features a few buttons and even supports multi-click functions to control your iPhone. On the microphone side, there’s also a shirt clip to make sure the wire doesn’t get tangled. Plus, the wire is almost five feet long and the 3.5mm jack is gold plated.
Massive frequency range
Excellent DualCoil drivers
Great high-res audio
Wire cover can bunch over time
RHA focuses mainly on in-ear monitors for musicians, and its T20i headphones stand out for its massive frequency range: 16-40,000Hz. This is much wider than other premium, multi-driver earbuds and is pretty impressive considering how small the drivers are. The earbuds are loaded with the brand's proprietary DualCoil drivers, with two independent voice coils that carry their own side of the spectrum. This allows for what RHA calls high-res audio and should give you plenty of performance across everything you’ll need to hear.
The earbuds are constructed of molded stainless steel, and the cable is a reinforced, oxygen-free copper material to ensure longer life. There are a few different fits and materials of ear tip, and there’s even a flexible over-ear wing to ensure they stay in place (great for moments on stage or on the go).
Durable build and features
Slightly awkward audio jack
The wired versions of the Sennheiser Momentum present a nice option for those wanting to invest in sound quality, but don’t want to spend as much on musician-specific headphones. They’re designed to look and feel premium, with design options of black chrome and a stitched red style. The specs are also top-notch with 15-22,000Hz on the frequency front, 18 ohms of impedance, 118dB of power, and less than 0.5 percent harmonic distortion.
The 1.3m cable is rubber, not braided, but it's slightly flattened to help deter tangling. Another great feature is the durable, tiny plastic loop against each earbud housing that pulls the cable away from any contact point. This means that if you tug on the cable too hard, it won’t snap out of the earbud. The carrying case also feels premium — a great addition to your everyday bag.
Innovative sound design
Small and sleek
Built-in Siri support
Volume buttons incompatible with some phones
The Beats urBeats 3 earns top marks for sound quality — its small physical driver has a couple of ports to help project bass around your ear rather than into it. Combine this with an acoustically resonant housing and you have a tuned sound response that doesn’t rely on multiple drivers, as well as an innovative approach to sound.
The sleek microphone/remote is compatible with your iPhone, including the ability to use Siri voice assistance, and the flat, tangle-resistant cables and magnetic earbud backs make it easy to store. Plus, they’re small and sleek, with color options of black or black and red. You can also opt for a Lightning connector with these, which makes a handful of other colors available. All in all, these are a simple, all-around pair of headphones that are great for most applications.
We haven't tested any of our top picks for wired earbuds just yet, but our experts will be listening to music and making calls on a variety of mobile devices as well as their own computers. They keep track of the overall input and output quality.
Jason Schneider is an experience tech journalist and copyeditor with almost a decade of industry experience under his belt. His specialization in audio gear, headphones, and smartphone technology made him the perfect candidate to build our list of the best wired earbuds.
Comfort/fit - Earbuds are most commonly used on the go, so it's important to find a pair that suits your ears well, and won't tumble out if you're walking to work or on your daily run. A lot of the best wired models come with a variety of detachable rubber buds to ensure the snuggest fit, and many also include over-ear loops to keep them secure during the most vigorous activities.
Noise cancellation - A lot of wired earbuds don’t sport noise cancelation features, but if you’re mainly using these earphones on a crowded subway or during flights, white noise and noise cancelation features may be important to you. Keep in mind that active noise cancelation can affect battery life, though.
Exercise - Are you going to be using your wired earbuds to exercise? If you plan to work out frequently with your earbuds, make sure you get a water-resistant pair with a snug and secure fit and enough power to deliver the heart-pounding tunes that get you hyped to push yourself.