The 7 Best Wired Earbuds of 2021

Stay plugged in with the best buds you can buy

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A good quality pair of wired earbuds will keep you listening all day without ever having to worry about recharging - and they're also far cheaper. If you're still using the headphones that came with your phone, the difference in sound quality will amaze you if you upgrade to one of our picks.

There are hundreds to choose from, but if you have an iPhone, our experts say you should just buy the Beats urBeats3. Apple removed the headphone jack on the iPhone back in 2016 with the introduction of the iPhone 7, and these have the right connector built in.

If you're constantly losing your headphones or putting them through the wash, just buy the budget friendly 1MORE 1M301 in-ear earbuds.

If your budget is a little bigger, our reviewer loved the slightly more expensive Shure SE215-CL (and for iPhone users who really want high quality audio, they're also great, but you'll need to use an adapter cable). The Shure earbuds are not your everyday no-big-deal-if-you-lose-them earbuds, but they sound really good, and you’ll appreciate the noise isolation thanks to their tight fit.

Our Cyber Week headphone pick is the Shure SE215CL, which are currently $79 at Amazon, down from $99.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Shure SE215-CL at Amazon
They sound great, have a detachable/replaceable cable, and offer really good sound isolation.
These earbuds are lower-cost than our top pick and sound nearly as good.
If you're an audio lover and you have some disposable income, these will enhance your music in subtle, but important ways.
Best for Comfort:
1MORE 1M301 at Amazon
This low-cost option is perfect for people who often misplace their earbuds.
Best for Workouts:
Avantree E171 at Amazon
Low-cost workout headphones you can wear regardless of what you’re doing.
Best Apple EarPods Upgrade:
Beats urBeats3 at Amazon
If you are an iPhone owner and love the sound profile of Beats-branded headphones, get the Beats urBeats3.
These are really bass-heavy and they are physically heavy.
What We Like
  • Detachable/expandable cable

  • Great isolation

  • Rich and detailed sound

What We Don't Like
  • Can be uncomfortable

If these earbuds fit your ears, you will love them. They sound great, and have a detachable/replaceable cable you can swap to use a lightning cable for an iPhone or even a wireless Blutooth cable.

They also offer really good sound isolation so you don’t have to crank the volume to hear your music - although bear in mind this does cut you off from the outside world (the difference is like reducing a the noise of a lawnmower down to a normal conversation volume in a restaurant). However, that relies on them fitting well, and it is well worth experimenting with the six different sized tips supplied to find the one that works for you.

If you're still using the headphones that came with your phone, you'll be blown away by how good these sound. They are on the pricier side, but you do get really good sound for your money.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm Audio Jack | ANC: Sound Isolating | Water / Sweat Resistant: N/A

Best Value: SoundMAGIC In-Ear Headphones Wired

SoundMAGIC In-Ear Headphones Wired
What We Like
  • Good value

  • Premium build

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky fit

  • Short warranty

If you are in the market for good budget headphones, the SoundMAGIC In-Ear Headphones are a great choice. They are lower-cost than our top pick and sound nearly as good. You’ll still be bummed if these end up in the wash, but you won’t be out as many bucks. Like our top pick, they come with three different earbud tips to help you get a good fit without much hassle.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm Audio Jack | ANC: None | Water / Sweat Resistant: N/A

Best Splurge: Shure SE425-CL Sound Isolating Earphone

Shure SE425-CL Sound Isolating Earphone
What We Like
  • Detachable cable

  • 1/4-inch jack included

  • Dual drivers

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Cables sold separately

Based on the tech that musicians use to listen while on stage, these Shure in ear headphones are expensive, but if you're serious about music, worth it. While most people will probably be just as happy with the cheaper Shure SE215-CL, if you're an audio lover and you have some disposable income, these will enhance your music in subtle, but important ways. As with all Shure products, it's also well worth spending time working out which of the sic supplied tips fit you best - it'll make a huge difference.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm Audio Jack | ANC: Sound Isolating | Water / Sweat Resistant: N/A

Best for Comfort: 1MORE 1M301 In-Ear Earbuds

1MORE 1M301 In-Ear Earbuds
What We Like
  • Triple drivers

  • Great value

  • Inline remote

What We Don't Like
  • Durability question marks

Look, we've lost, ruined, put through the wash some of the best earbuds (and woe our poor old AirPods Pro) we’ve ever owned. We bet it even happens again before we give up and just start mumbling to ourselves as we walk around. But maybe we wouldn’t have to if we bought the quite affordable 1MORE 1M301 in-ear earbuds.

These are low-cost earbuds, so we can’t say first-hand how long these will last, although we are not under the impression they’ll fall apart with normal, careful use. Still, if they end up in the drink, you won’t get overly mad. Oh, we didn’t mention the sound quality. They wouldn’t be on the list if they didn’t sound good. While they may not sound as good as our top pick, they cost a heck of a lot less.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm Audio Jack | ANC: Sound Isolating | Water / Sweat Resistant: N/A

Best for Workouts: Avantree E171

Avantree E171
What We Like
  • Sweatproof

  • Good value

What We Don't Like
  • Bassy

  • Ear hook not removable

The Avatree E171 earbuds almost became our best budget pick, but we decided since not only are they better suited for working out, they are also a bit bass-heavy and that might not be pleasing to everyone.

But if you are mostly looking for low-cost workout headphones you can wear regardless of what you’re doing, grab the Avatree E171 earbuds.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm Audio Jack | ANC: Sound Isolating | Water / Sweat Resistant: Yes

"To clean your wired earbuds without damaging the sound system, use a moist soft rag." — Andrew Ewing, Senior Manager, HyperX

Best Apple EarPods Upgrade: Beats urBeats3

urBeats3
What We Like
  • All about that bass

  • Magnetically attach to each other

  • Siri support

What We Don't Like
  • Does not come with a case

  • Only for iPhone

If you are an iPhone owner and love the sound profile of Beats-branded headphones, get the Beats urBeats3 and don’t worry about it.

It’s got the needed Lightning connector, the Siri-summoning button, and the earbuds themselves are magnetic so they’ll stick together in your bag or pocket (hopefully making for less untangling when it comes time to use them).

Type: Wired | Connection Type: Apple Lightning Cable | ANC: No | Water / Sweat Resistant: N/A

Best Bass: Sony MDR-XB50AP

Sony MDR-XB50AP
What We Like
  • Solid low end

  • Lots of ear tip options

What We Don't Like
  • Single button on inline remote

  • Very heavy

You already know whether you like a lot of bass in your music. If that’s you, the Sony MDR-XB50AP are what you’re looking for. Two things to keep in mind: These are really bass-heavy and they are physically heavy. Earbuds are usually pretty light, so these might take some getting used to. These are also a really good price, too.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm Audio Jack | ANC: No | Water / Sweat Resistant: N/A

Final Verdict

For most of us, there are only two on this list we need to know about. The best overall and the least expensive. Best overall: You’ll be really happy with the Shure SE215-CL (view at Amazon). If cost is the biggest consideration, the 1MORE Dynamic Driver In-Ear earphones (view at Amazon) sound great and could almost be labeled cheap (in the money way, not the sound quality way).

About Our Trusted Experts

Yoona Wagener is a copywriter and product reviewer who specializes in wearables, peripherals, and home gadgets. She has reviewed a healthy variety of wireless and wired earbuds for Lifewire from brands such as Bose, Sennheiser, Cambridge Audio, Aukey, and 1More. 

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

FAQ
  • Are wired earbuds best for sound quality?

    A lot goes into sound quality for earbuds. It's true that wireless earbuds will suffer from some amount of signal degradation because of the codecs involved. So put simply, it's easy to say yes, wired will sound better. But a set of Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds with triple drivers almost certainly will sound better than a cheap pair of earbuds that comes with your phone.

  • Can you use wires earbuds with your phone?

    Most modern flagship smartphones have dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack which would allow you to use earbuds with your phone. However, there are two ways you can use earbuds with your phone. Either your phone needs a 3.5mm headphone jack or your earbuds need to have a connector that works with your phone, such as the urBeats 3 (View on Ebay).

  • What are the best wired noise-cancelling earbuds?

    Most wired earbuds don't have active noise cancellation. There are exceptions, notably the Bose QC-15 earbuds, but for the most part, earbuds rely on isolation for noise-cancelling rather than active noise cancellation. Isolation is how well the seal of the earbuds inside the ear keeps out sound.

What to Look for in Wired Earbuds

Ergonomics

Since wired earbuds sit inside your ear canal, fit quality is one of the most important factors to consider when shopping for your perfect product. Most earphones come with at least three sizes of ear tips (small, medium, and large). But if you have longer or smaller ear canals, you’ll probably want to look for models that come with a variety of sleeve types outside of the typical silicone—such as foam and triple-flange for a snug, secure fit. 

Sound Isolation/Noise Cancellation

To make sure you’ll be able to enjoy the tones and dynamics of what you’re listening to, some type of sound isolation is critical. Unlike active noise cancellation technology that cancels out environmental chatter, sound-isolating earbuds are focused on creating a physical block. These earbuds create a tight seal with sound-proofing earbud and sleeve designs to dampen ambient noise.

"The most obvious feature you lose by buying a cheaper set [of wired earbuds] is a full and rich sound. You are losing the bass, or the lower end of the music, which drastically alters the quality of sound. The bass is lost because speakers inside cheap sets of earbuds are typically very small and do not support the full frequency spectrum that your ear so desires in a listening experience." — David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices

Audio Quality

Even if you don’t think of yourself as an audiophile, you know your ears and preferences best. It’s good to look at audio quality specifics that influence the listening experience. Impedance, which describes amplification efficiency, is a number to consider if you’re a music enthusiast or musician. So is sensitivity, which has to do with how loud headphones can get. Frequency is another important thing to keep in mind since it relates to the quality of low bass, midrange, and high frequencies you’ll hear. It could also be worth paying attention to the driver technology. A higher number of drivers doesn’t always mean better sound, but it could play a crucial role in audio output.

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