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
The Shure SE215-CL are one of the best pairs of earbuds you can get in terms of sound quality and sheer value.
If you're looking for great sound on a budget, these earbuds are a great pick.
The Shure SE 425 earbuds are some of the best earbuds you can buy in terms of sound quality.
Best for Comfort:
1MORE 1M301 at Amazon
If you're looking for a premium experience, without paying a premium price, the 1MORE 1M301 is a great choice.
Best for Workouts:
Avantree E171 at Amazon
If you're looking for a great set of earbuds to last you through a workout at the gym, the Avantree E171s are a great pick.
Best Apple EarPods Upgrade:
Beats urBeats3 at Walmart
The buds have a single axial aligned drive that produced the bassy sound the Beats by Dre have come to be known for.
Bass fans will get exactly what they like from the Sony MDR-XB50AP.

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to pick up some of the best wired earbuds out there. Bluetooth hasn't taken completely over just yet. Wired headphones don't need power, so they don't have to be charged. They also don't suffer from signal loss or signal degradation like Bluetooth headphones can.

Of course, this depends largely on your setup. What device are you going to use to listen with the earbuds? Most laptops will be fine while high-end smartphones will likely not have a headphone jack. Whatever the case, you'll want to make sure that whatever device you plan to listen to has a headphone jack. If you're listening to a computer or a stereo system, you're in good shape, but it's still not a given. Whatever the case, there are still good uses for wired earbuds today.

Some things to look for in a set of earbuds include durability, length of the wire, and sound quality. Other nice-to-haves include an inline remote and microphone for calls, a carrying pouch, and multiple ear tips for different-sized ears. Our experts have looked at (listened to) dozens of earbuds, and we've rounded up our picks for you. See them below!

What We Like
  • Cable is detachable and expandable

  • Solid sound isolation

  • Sound is rich and detailed

What We Don't Like
  • Uncomfortable

  • Different cables sold separately

Shure is a leader in sound both in microphones and in headphones. It's the latter we're looking at here. The Shure SE215-CL is one of the best pairs of earbuds you can get in terms of sound quality and sheer value.  One of the most valuable assets these earbuds have is the ability to change the cable, so they can grow along with you and your device choices. You can detach the 3.5mm cable, and attach a lightning cable. Or take that off and swap in a Bluetooth-connected cable. Of course, all of these cables are sold separately, so it's not ideal, but that's the kind of versatility you don't often see in a set of earbuds. 

The fit on these earbuds is not for everyone. The ear tip that goes into your canal comes at a tight angle, so depending on how your ear is shaped, it may not work for you. If they do fit correctly, they give you great isolation. The ear tips provide around 37db of noise isolation and have a sensitivity rating of 107db. That will give you clear sound at safe listening levels. Combine that with the interchangeable cables and these are an easy pick for our top earbuds.

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
  • Good price

  • Great build materials

What We Don't Like
  • Finding the best fit is hard

  • 30-day warranty

Soundmagic's In-ear headphones are one of the best values in earbuds that you can find. One of the best attributes of these earbuds comes from the isolation you get. Each earbud comes with three different tips for finding the right fit, which can be tricky. Once you do, you'll love the deep bass coming from the 10mm neodymium driver. The earbuds have a frequency range of 15Hz - 22KHz which exceeds human hearing on both ends. 

But these earbuds cost less than $50 and they're made with premium materials like aluminum and a tangle-resistant copper cable. That's great value and they deliver quality sound. The 90-degree headphone jack is a nice bonus for pocket and laptop listening. The warranty is only 30 days, and we'd like to see a longer warranty there, but reports of customer service are unanimously positive. If you're looking for great sound on a budget, these earbuds are a great pick.

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
  • Interchangeable Cable

  • 6.33mm adapter included

  • Dual drivers

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Other cables sold separately

The Shure SE 425 earbuds are some of the best earbuds you can buy in terms of sound quality. They share a lot of attributes with our top pick, the SE 215CLs above. The difference is that these earbuds have dual drivers in them with a frequency range of 20Hz all the way up to 19KHz. The main difference comes from those dual drivers which indeed drive up the cost, but the reason you'd pick these up is if you're an audiophile who wants to get more subtle detail out of your music.

These are the earbuds that musicians wear on stage in order to hear their music without bowing out their eardrums. The 37db of isolation is perfect for that use case, taking a dull roar around you down to a whisper. Plus, these earbuds come with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm converter for musical equipment. That being said, some reviewers point out that the sound in the SE 215CLs is so good, you don't need to drop the extra cash here. That's a fair point, but if you love your audio and you have the disposable income, these will plus up your music in small but important ways.

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

  • Amazing price

  • Inline remote on the cord

What We Don't Like
  • Questionable durability

If you're looking for a premium experience, without paying a premium price, the 1MORE 1M301 is a great choice. One area that 1MORE focuses on is the packaging. You're blown away before you even put your hands on the product. Once you do, you're treated to triple-layered dynamic drivers with a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz and a 98db sensitivity. You'll get exquisite sound for a low price.

The headphones also include a three-button inline remote for starting and stopping music and adjusting volume. The 45-degree earbud fits comfortably into a lot of ears and ear canals. The earbuds come with multiple-sized ear tips so you can find the right fit for you. There is a question of durability with these earbuds. Some reviewers noted the earbuds broke down around the 18-24 month mark, which is not ideal. 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

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like
  • Very bassy

  • Non-removable ear hook

One of the most common use cases for wired earbuds is working out. There's a lot of motion when you're working out, and that can cause disruption with Bluetooth headphones. Plus, the Avatree E171 earbuds are sweatproof and come with ear hooks that will prevent the earbuds from falling out. If you're not a fan of ear hooks, you'll want to look elsewhere because these are not removable. 

But these cost under $20 and they bring you really solid if bass-heavy sound. They'll last just fine during a long job or a day at the gym. There's also a three-button remote for controlling volume and your music. Plus the middle button can access your phone's assistant if you need it to. They're not completely waterproof, so no swimming with them; be sure to keep that in mind. But if you're looking for a great set of earbuds to last you through a workout at the gym, the Avantree E171 earbuds are a great pick.

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
  • Very bassy

  • Magnetic

  • Support Siri

What We Don't Like
  • No case

  • iPhone only

Apple's Earpods have an iconic look, but honestly, they're not very good. They produce fine sound, but with virtually no isolation which lets the outside interfere with your music or podcasts. The Beats urBeats3 are built by Apple subsidiary Beats, so they're a great upgrade over the not-great headphones that Apple designed. These buds have a lightning connector so they're only for iPhones though. No Android for you. The buds have a single axial aligned drive that produced the bassy sound the Beats by Dre have come to be known for.

There's no carrying case for these buds, but they are magnetic, so when you're not using them, they stick together. That's quite convenient. Plus the button on the inline remote summons Siri which is also convenient. Overall they're a great upgrade over your EarPods which set an admittedly low bar. Great sound and isolation are just a bonus here.

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

What We Like
  • Deep bass

  • Ear tips come in extra small

What We Don't Like
  • Remote only has a single button

  • Heavy

If you're into music that just thumps, you'll want a set of earbuds that also hit those super-low beats. The Sony MDR-XB50AP earbuds are designed for bass with a frequency range that starts at just 4Hz and continues all the way up to 24KHz. This far surpasses the range for average earbuds. Plus the 12mm dome drivers are tuned for extra bass. The wide variety of ear tips ensures you will find a set of tips that fit snugly into your ear canal, even if you have smaller ears. 

The inline remote carries only a single button, as opposed to the more typical three buttons, so there are no volume controls, just playback. The earbuds themselves are built very sturdily, but that also means they're a little heavy. They're still earbuds, so they're light, but they're noticeably heavier than your typical set of buds. All the same, if you're into music with a wide range of frequencies, or you just want to jam on some music that is all about that bass, these are the buds for you.

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. If those are too pricey for you, it's hard to go wrong with the 1MORE Dynamic Driver In-Ear earphones (View on Amazon). They're 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. 

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.

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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