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Whether you’re on a noisy train, enjoying a leisurely run, or streaming the latest episode of one of your favorite shows, the best wired earbuds can keep you tuned in and (safely) distraction-free when you want to be. You can’t beat the ease of plugging and playing.
And they’re arguably just as portable as the best wireless earbuds—with some distinct advantages. You never have to worry about your battery draining, dealing with pairing or connectivity issues, or misplacing an individual bud. Plus, many products are designed to fit snugly in and around your ears, which means they’re good to go for workouts.
Just like their wireless counterparts, though, wired headphones come in so many options that it can be dizzying to decide on the right pair. Not all products are created equal, of course. Simply designed and inexpensive earbuds can deliver surprising quality and longevity—or be an immediate disappointment. But even the most tricked-out and technically excellent pair of headphones may not be right for you if you don’t like the sound dynamics, fit, or price point.
Our top choice is the Shure SE215-CL at Amazon. It's a professional in-ear monitor with a high-definition single-driver. With a sensitivity range of 107dB, it can also block 37dB of ambient noise while delivering rich bass. It's hard to go wrong for the fairly reasonable price.
If you're in the market for wireless options, take a look at our list of the best wireless earbuds. To help you narrow your choice to a quality option that can handle your busy lifestyle and slow down with you, too, consider this list of the best wired earbuds that hit all the right notes.
Great sound isolation
Rich sound clarity
Awkward fit for some users
The Shure SE215-CL wired headphones offer a professional in-ear monitor look and feel without breaking the bank. This particular model features a high-definition single-driver that Shure says delivers rich, extended bass. And the sensitivity rating of 107dB, which is somewhat high but still within the safe range for everyday listening, delivers volume power without sacrificing sound details.
Another pro is the distinct earbud sleeve design, which Shure promises blocks out up to 37dB of ambient noise. One drawback is the over-the-ear fit. Some users have noted difficulty with achieving a perfect seal in the inner ear and figuring out how to lay the cord just so around the back of the ear. Glasses-wearers could find this even trickier.
But for most people, a little finessing will come with the benefit of a customized fit, thanks to the variety of earbud sizes, a cable cinch, and the Kevlar-reinforced wireform that flexes to lay flat around the back of the ear. The heavy-duty cord also detaches easily, which helps preserve the cord quality and offers easy cleaning access to the earpieces.
Full-bodied sound at all frequencies
Limited number/kinds of sleeves
The SoundMAGIC E11C buck the convention that costlier headphones deliver the best overall quality. The one thing you won’t find with these single-driver earphones is a variety of fit options. There are only three silicone sleeves to work with. But these $50 earbuds are backed by a savvy 10-millimeter single driver with a frequency of 15Hz to 22kHz, a sensitivity of 112dB, and 42Ω impedance. All of these stats place the SoundMAGIC E11C above average and in good company with higher-end and much more expensive models.
The E11C earphones deliver a pleasantly strong and versatile listening experience. You won’t just get booming bass from these earphones. Midrange details and vocals are clear and high-frequency ranges are well detailed, too. While the cord doesn’t detach, it’s made with silver-plated copper cable that is tough against tangling and signal interference. These earbuds also deliver strong microphone performance for phone calls.
Foam sleeves for better sound isolation
Triple-flange sleeves for stay-put fit
Excellent, detailed sound
If you’re interested in investing in a dual-driver earphone, the Shure SE425-CL presents plenty of appeal as an upgrade pick. Like the Shure SE215-CL, these inner-ear monitors feature a sound-isolating build to block out up to 37dB of outside noise and a flexible, detachable wire cable that offers a customized fit around the ear. This more expensive pair of earphones (about $170 more) offers more fit flexibility than the already generous options that come with the SE215-CL. Yellow foam sleeves are included to create an even more sealed-in arrangement and if you have longer ear canals, triple-flange sleeves can help you achieve a closer fit.
This fit quality along with the high-definition microdrivers that offer a frequency of 20Hz to 19kHz and 20Ω impedance create a layered and rich listening experience. Many users say that this pair delivers superior audio quality that is clearer and more nuanced than the SE215-CL. Like that model, the SE425-CL comes with a handy carrying pouch for neatly storing all of the accompanying accessories in between uses.
Triple-driver balanced armature build
20Hz to 40kHz frequency
Limited fitting accessories
More isn’t always better, but in the case of the Monoprice Triple Driver Earbuds, the inclusion of three drivers ups the value prospect. While these earbuds aren’t flashy by any means—featuring a basic black design with just one play/pause inline remote button and three basic sets of rubber earbud sleeves—they’re designed with an advanced triple-driver balanced armature system.
That means that more frequencies are covered to produce sound quality that mirrors having three speakers in both ears. The 10-millimeter dynamic driver in each earbud is helped out by a 3.8-millimeter mid-range armature and a 2.8-millimeter counterpart that handles high frequencies. While most affordable headphones have a frequency range between 20Hz to 20kHz (which is what the human ear picks up), the Monoprice earbuds up the higher end to 40kHz. The result is a boost in sound quality that’s dynamic and powerful too.
Balanced bass frequencies
Sleek but simple design
Sound could be “flat” to some
If you’re a music lover that doesn’t appreciate overly aggressive bass, the Status Audio IEM-2X will be right up your alley. This brand’s philosophy is rooted in engineering streamlined, high-quality products, and the IEM-2X follows that to a tee. There’s nothing remarkable about the look of these earbuds, but this simplicity is an asset. You’ll enjoy a multi-functional inline remote that allows easy transitions between listening to your music and taking phone calls on your smartphone. The durable machined aluminum body is sturdy without being overbearing, and the deep inner-ear fit lends to a close-fitting seal.
Once you find the right ear tips for you, you can sit back and enjoy what Status does best: produce premium sub-bass sounds between 20Hz and 100Hz. This isn’t necessarily the same kind of attention you’ll find in other products in this price range that tends to produce big and bold bass frequencies. In the IEM-2X, you’ll enjoy balanced bass that’s never muddy, and the 9-millimeter dynamic driver and balanced armature work together to provide all the detail you appreciate in your music. Translation: natural and neutral sound that sharp ears will love.
Ear hook offers snug fit
Three-button inline remote
Sweatproof rating unspecified
Finding a pair of workout headphones that stay put and repel sweat while still looking stylish can be a bit tricky. The Avantree E171 wired earphones are pleasantly low-priced and come with a handy three-button inline remote for quickly receiving phone calls in between reps, engaging with your smartphone’s voice assistant feature, or raising and lowering the volume without too much trouble.
While the exact sweatproof power of these earbuds isn’t specified, Avantree has designed this accessory with sports in mind. That shows in the ear hook design that provides a little more stability than the typical inner-ear bud build. Another stay-put bonus is the shirt clip that can reduce unruly cord bounce. You won’t be treated to booming bass notes, but the balanced treatment of low to high frequencies offers a decent amount of listening versatility for the price.
Built-in Siri support
No carrying pouch
Apple iPhone users looking for a wired earbud alternative to the class Apple AirPods will find a lot to like in the Beats urBeats3. These stylish earphones come in a sleek all-black or “defiant” red and black combo and in either 3.5-millimeter jack or lightning cable variations. Whichever connecting option you choose, you’ll enjoy a flat, stay-put cable and the convenience of magnetic earbuds that stay neatly in place around your neck or together when you’re not using them. A carrying pouch would be an even better touch, but you shouldn’t have trouble tucking them away in a pocket or bag.
As for sound quality, the single axial-aligned driver does a pretty good job of covering all your bases, music-wise. The signature, rich bass tones Beats is known for are well represented and enhanced by a venting system that Beats says produces “micro-pressure balanced bass.” The inline remote also features RemoteTalk functionality, which means you can activate Siri with just a touch of a button.
Produces deep bass
Comes with an extra-small earbud option
Stick slightly out of ears
Bass fans will get exactly what they like from the Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass In-Ear Headphones. The 12-millimeter dome drivers sit in the low frequency range from 4Hz to 24,000Hz, which means these earbuds register those deep bass frequencies captured in a lot of contemporary hip hop and rock. To support this locked-in booming bass, Sony says the bass duct design isolates sound to extend the bass response.
Some users have noted some difficulty with finding a close inner-ear fit, but the MDR-XB50AP earbuds offer more fit options than most wired and wireless earbuds. These Sony earbuds come with extra-small, small, medium, and large hybrid silicone pads to help you find a close, noise-isolating fit that prevents ambient noise from seeping in. The tangle-free Y cord and carrying pouch offer easy organization in between listening sessions
Great value for price
Good overall sound
Single button remote
JBL is a trusted brand in the audio game, and the JBL Tune 210 wired earbuds offer the benefit of investing in a well-known name while also saving a pretty penny—these retail for under $20. While they sit in the normal 20Hz to 20,000kHz frequency and driver sensitivity at 96dB, they’re designed with what the manufacturer calls the JBL Pure Bass sound found in a range of other JBL equipment used in concert venues or recording studios. That means they capitalize on the rich but balanced bass and mid-range sound signatures JBL is known for.
The lightweight 2.82-ounce design and lay-flat cord make these wired earbuds portable and convenient to stow away in your everyday bag. They don’t offer many frills beyond a small carrying pouch and two silicone tip size options. But you can also use these to take hands-free phone calls on the go with the one-button inline remote that also controls music playback.
Snug, ergonomic earbud design
Remote performance inconsistent
The 1More Dynamic Driver In-Ear Earphones are a stylish and sturdy pair of wired earbuds that also happen to be extremely affordable. But it’s their superior comfort and quality build that earn them high marks. Each earbud is constructed with lightweight aluminum alloy and the enameled copper cord is protected by sturdy but flexible Kevlar fiber and a tangle-free nylon coating. The cord also features a three-button remote that supports music play, volume control, and phone call interactions, but some users have reported some delay or inconsistency with remote button responses.
As for overall form factor, while most wired earbuds aren’t going to weigh you down by any means, at just 15 grams, these 1More earbuds are almost unnoticeable despite the durable build. And the ergonomic 45-degree orientation of the drivers mimics the angle of your ear canal to deliver a more noise-isolated fit. The frequency (20Hz to 20,000kHz) and sensitivity (98dB) are on range with the averages for typical single-driver earbuds, but you’ll notice more balanced sound than on some competing models. That means no booming bass and a more high-fidelity sound that pays tribute to the artist’s intent.
The Shure SE215-CL (view at Amazon) earns our top spot for the best wired earbuds. Design elements such as a variety of sleeve accessories and the detachable, reinforced cord that supports a secure over-the-ear-fit are big assets in a relatively small package. The price reflects the rich and crisp sound quality, which offers appeal for the everyday user and the musician that wants an inner-ear monitor for on and off stage. As a second option, we like the SoundMAGIC E11C (view at Amazon). it's a great pair of noise-isolating wireless earbuds with an excellent single-driver and pleasant audio.
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.
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.
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.