The 7 Best Wired Earbuds of 2021

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
Shure SE215-CL at Amazon
"These wired headphones offer a professional in-ear monitor look and feel without breaking the bank."
"Midrange details and vocals are clear and high-frequency ranges are well detailed, too."
"Offers more fit flexibility than the already generous options that come with the SE215-CL."
Best for Comfort:
1MORE 1M301 at Amazon
"At just 15 grams, these earbuds are almost unnoticeable."
Best for Workouts:
Avantree E171 at Amazon
"The ear hook design provides a little more stability than the typical inner-ear bud build."
Best Apple EarPods Upgrade:
Beats urBeats3 at Walmart
"The magnetic earbuds stay neatly in place around your neck or together when you’re not using them."
"Bass fans will get exactly what they like from the Sony MDR-XB50AP."

While wireless earbuds seem to get all the attention, a good pair of wired earbuds still have their place. Capable of providing noise cancellation and high-quality sound without having to worry about whether you charged them last night. Furthermore, wired earbuds are generally far less expensive than their wireless counterparts while usually offering better sound quality. Just make sure your device has a compatible 3.5mm audio jack or adapter available.

With headphone jacks slowly going the way of the dodo, connectivity isn't always guaranteed so check out our list of wireless earbuds too.

Best Overall: Shure SE215-CL

Shure SE215
What We Like
  • Detachable cable

  • Great sound isolation

  • Rich sound clarity

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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
  • Inexpensive

  • Quality build

  • Full-bodied sound at all frequencies

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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
  • Foam sleeves for better sound isolation

  • Triple-flange sleeves for stay-put fit

  • Excellent, detailed sound

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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.

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
  • Snug, ergonomic earbud design

  • Extremely lightweight

  • Quality construction

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like
  • 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 the 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 par 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.

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

Best for Workouts: Avantree E171

What We Like
  • Ear hook offers snug fit

  • Inexpensive

  • Three-button inline remote

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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

Best Apple EarPods Upgrade: Beats urBeats3

urBeats3
What We Like
  • Solid bass

  • Magnetic earbuds

  • Built-in Siri support

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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

Best Bass: Sony MDR-XB50AP

What We Like
  • Produces deep bass

  • Tangle-free cord

  • Comes with an extra-small earbud option

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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

Final Verdict

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.

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?
Wired earbuds typically have better sound quality than Bluetooth headphones, though this will depend on their drivers to some extent. Unlike wireless earbuds, audio doesn't suffer from latency or compression, so you get a "purer" version of the sound through a wired input.

What are the best wired earbuds for a Pixel?
Assuming you have a Pixel that can take wired earbuds (or an adapter), we would like the Shure SE215-CL. It's our top pick for most people due to its detachable cable, excellent sound isolation, and rich sound clarity. It's also quite durable.

What are the best wired noise-cancelling earbuds?
Most wired earbuds don't have active noise cancellation, but most offer passive sound isolation which can work just as well. They rely on forming a physical seal between your ears and everything else outside. We like the Shure SE215-CL's sound-isolating build. They can block up to 37dB of outside noise while not compromising on excellent, detailed 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.

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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