The 7 Best Wired Earbuds of 2021

Stay plugged in with the best buds you can buy

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
Shure SE215-CL at Amazon
Shure is one of the leaders in microphones, but they also make some really great headphones as well.
SoundMAGIC's In-ear headphones are a great option if you're looking for nice isolation on a budget.
If you want to go for super high-quality sound, the Shure SE 425 earbuds are some of the best there are.
Best for Comfort:
1MORE 1M301 at Amazon
These earbuds have triple-layered dynamic drivers that are able to put out exquisite sound.
Best for Workouts:
Avantree E171 at Amazon
These earbuds give you good quality sound that's a little heavy on the bass at the expense of the mid and high tones.
Best Apple EarPods Upgrade:
Beats urBeats3 at EBay
These earbuds have a single axial-aligned driver that produces the sound Beats by Dre has come to be known for.
Bass fans will get exactly what they like from the Sony MDR-XB50AP.

The best wired earbuds haven't been replaced by Bluetooth earbuds just yet. While wireless earbuds seem to be the growing trend, it's easy to make a case for wired in today's technology world. Most notably, wired headphones don't need to be powered, so they never need to be charged nor do they run out of battery. Wired headphones also don't get disconnected, or get interference which can cause a degradation in sound quality. 

Of course, that depends on your setup. What device do you plan to listen to with your earbuds? If you want to listen to your phone, you'll need to make sure your phone has a headphone jack. That's not a given in this day and age. If you want to listen to a computer or a stereo system, that's a lot easier to accommodate, but still not a given.  The point is, there are still real uses for earbuds.

If you're looking to pick up a nice set of earbuds, you'll want to look for durability and sound quality. Other things to look for that are nice-to-haves include an inline remote/microphone for calls, carrying pouch or case, and multiple ear tips for different sized ears.

Best Overall: Shure SE215-CL

Shure SE215
What We Like
  • Detachable expandable cable

  • Great sound isolation

  • Rich, detailed sound

What We Don't Like
  • Can be an uncomfortable fit

  • Different cables sold separately

Shure is one of the leaders in microphones, but they also make some really great headphones as well. One of the best you can get is the Shure SE 215 earbuds. These earbuds have a unique fit, which can provide great isolation if they fit correctly (they're not for all ears). But more importantly, these are earbuds that can grow with you.  A good set of earbuds will last you years if you treat them right. Meanwhile, your smartphone probably won't last as long. But the detachable cable for these earbuds makes them very versatile.

You can detach the cable with the 3.5mm headphone jack from the buds and replace it with a USB Type-Cable. Or you can replace it with a lightning cable if you get an iPhone. You can even get a Bluetooth cable for the earbuds.  All of these are sold separately so it's not ideal, but earbuds that are this versatile are rare.

The ear tips provide up to 37db of noise isolation and have a sensitivity rating of 107db. That means you'll get clear sound at safe listening levels.

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

Best Value: SoundMAGIC In-Ear Headphones Wired

What We Like
  • Great price

  • Solid build materials

What We Don't Like
  • Takes a bit to get the right fit

  • Short warranty

SoundMAGIC's in-ear headphones are a great option if you're looking for nice isolation on a budget. The earbuds come with three different-sized ear tips so you can find the right fit. Finding that fit can be a little bit of a challenge because a good seal is necessary to hear the really deep bass coming from the 10mm Neodymium driver. Speaking of which, the drivers have a frequency range of 15Hz - 22KHz which exceeds the human hearing range on both ends.

These are sub-$50 earbuds made with premium materials including machine aluminum and a tangle-resistant silver-plated copper cable. The 90-degree headphone jack is a nice bonus that keeps the cable out of the way. The warranty is only 30 days, which isn't awesome but reports of customer service are unanimously positive. If you're looking for good sound on a budget, these would be a good pickup.

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

Best Splurge: Shure SE425-CL Sound Isolating Earphone

What We Like
  • Detachable cable

  • Comes with 6.33mm adapter

  • Dual drivers

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Extra cords sold separately

If you want to go for super high-quality sound, the Shure SE 425 earbuds are some of the best there are. The dual driver in-ear monitors manage a frequency range of 20Hz to 19KHz along with 37db of sound isolation. These are in-ear monitors that professional musicians can use on stage to hear themselves without blowing out their eardrums. 

Like the SE 215s above, these have a detachable cable that allows you to swap out a Bluetooth cable when needed. These are a lot more expensive due to the dual-driver system built in which can separate the low and high tones with distinct drivers, giving you an even more rich sound experience. Plus, these earbuds also come with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm jack converter, so you can use them on your stereo or band equipment.

Some reviewers said they have a hard time justifying the high price here considering the great sound you get from the 215s; there's a reason those were our top-ranked choice after all. These earbuds are for the more discerning audiophile that can pick out the subtle but important differences between the two.  If you've got the cash to splurge, these are a good choice.

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

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

What We Like
  • Triple layered dynamic drivers

  • Great price

  • Inline remote controls

What We Don't Like
  • Some durability question marks

1MORE is making waves in the earbud space, catching up to notable mainstays such as Shure, Sony, and Audio-Technica. One part of the consumer experience that 1MORE pays attention to is in the packaging. Unboxing these earbuds is a treat with attention to detail. They come at a great price as well. The inline remote controls volume and your voice assistant if you have a smartphone with a headphone jack.

These earbuds have triple-layered dynamic drivers that are able to put out exquisite sound. The 45-degree earbud is more comfortable for many ears because they're not going straight into your ears and ear canal. The earbuds produce a frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000kHz and have a 98db sensitivity. Both are on par for typical earbuds in this price range. There is a question of durability with some reviewers reporting breakage between 18 and 24 months after purchasing. These don't seem like they were built for the long haul, unfortunately. But for the price, it's hard to go wrong.

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

Best for Workouts: Avantree E171

What We Like
  • Sweatproof

  • Great price

What We Don't Like
  • Too much bass

  • Ear hook not removable

When you're getting your workout in, you need a good pair of earbuds to go with you. The Avantree E171s are a great choice due to their sweat proofing and ear hooks that will prevent the buds from falling out. Admittedly, ear hooks are not for everyone, and these are not removable, so keep that in mind. These earbuds give you good quality sound that's a little heavy on the bass at the expense of the mid and high tones. 

But they're hard to argue with considering the price. They cost under $20 which is a great deal for a pair of earbuds that will last through a long jog, or even a day in the gym. The three-button inline remote lets you adjust volume and even access your assistant if you need to. They're not totally waterproof, so don't include them in your swimming regime, but otherwise, they'll keep you covered regardless of how hard you're working out. 

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
  • Big bass

  • Magnetic earbuds

  • Siri support

What We Don't Like
  • No carrying case

  • Only for iPhone

Apple's Earpods are iconic, but let's face it; they're not very good. You don't get very good sound or isolation which is why you might be looking to upgrade. The Beats urbeats3 are a great upgrade from Earpods and not just because of the low bar. These earbuds have a single axial-aligned driver that produces the sound Beats by Dre has come to be known for. That's a heavy bass sound along with good mids and highs. These buds have a lightning connector which means they'll only work with iPhones; Android users need not apply. Of course, since you have an iPhone, you'll also be able to directly access Siri via the inline remote. 

There is no carrying case that comes with these earbuds, but that is somewhat assuaged by the fact that these earbuds have magnets that let you stick them together for storage. Overall, these are a great upgrade over your Earpods, and we recommend them for the isolation alone. Great sound is just a bonus.

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

Best Bass: Sony MDR-XB50AP

What We Like
  • Deep bass

  • Extra small eartips

What We Don't Like
  • Single button remote

  • Earbuds are a little heavy

Music with deep bass is awesome, and it's hard to find a good set of earbuds to play the music the way you like it. The Sony MDR-XB50APs are designed for bass with a frequency range from 4Hz all the way up to 24,000 Hz. That far surpasses the average frequency range for earbuds. The 12mm dome drivers are tuned to provide emphasis on the bass.  There's also a wide variety of ear tips that allow you to get a great fit, even if you have smaller ears. 

The earbuds have a single-button inline remote which provides some playback controls, but most inline remotes have three buttons. There's usually one for playback control and two others for volume. That's missing here which is disappointing. The earbuds themselves are built very sturdily, but that also means they're a little on the heavy side. They're earbuds, so they're still light, but they're noticeably heavier than most contemporaries.

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

Final Verdict

Overall, we have to give our nod to the Shure SE215-CL (View on Amazon). The combination of great sound quality, isolation, and value is hard to ignore. These are earbuds that aren't cheap, but they give you excellent sound and a removable cord that can grow with you. They're good enough for musicians and very good for the average audiophile.


If those are too pricey for you, it's hard to go wrong with 1MORE. The 1MORE Dynamic Driver In-Ear earphones (View on Amazon) are comfortable and sound great. If you're willing to take a little better care of them, you can overcome the delicacy issue. Plus, unboxing those things is always a treat.

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. 

FAQs

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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