The best in-ear headphones 2023

Keep your favourite audio as near as possible with these in-ear headphones

In-ear headphones

by Kyle Purves |
Updated on

We all want to get the best headphones for us, but what shape they take depends on your preferences, and one of those styles may be in-ear headphones. Smaller in size and designed to fit into your ears, these headphones are ideal for anyone who wants to be as close to their music as possible while maximising portability.

The other styles you'll often run into are on-ear and over-ear headphones, but they tend to be a lot larger and bulkier. In-ear headphones can easily fit in a case in your pocket, but you would probably need a bag to carry the other two around when not using them.

The best in-ear headphones at a glance:

Best overall in-ear headphones: Bose QuietComfort® Earbuds II - View at Bose
Best in-ear headphone design: Apple AirPods - View at Currys
Best noise-cancelling in-ear headphones: Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro - View at Currys
Best battery life in-ear headphones: Sony WF-C500 - View at Amazon

Whether you want to stick to a strict budget, want a reliable pair for travel, or simply want to listen without interruption, there are plenty of budget headphones that should suit your preferred tastes.

We've selected our favourites based on factors such as comfort, design, and battery life, picking the very best in-ear headphones for any price.

Best overall in-ear headphones

Bose QuietComfort® Earbuds II
Price: $279.95

If you want a pair of in-ear headphones that excels at a little bit of everything, then you'll want to try out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. They have solid audio quality and a respectable 6-hour battery life, but where it really shines is in the design.

The build is lightweight with a focus on comfort, so you'll rarely need to readjust them as you're walking around. Plus, thanks to the intuitive touch controls. Combine all of that with great noise cancellation, and you've got a pair of in-ear headphones that anyone can love.

Pros

  • Very comfortable fit
  • Simple yet useful controls

Cons

  • Connection range could be a bit better

Best in-ear headphone design

The Apple AirPods are the best in-ear headphones for those of us who want to prioritise comfort above all. The design is iconic and instantly recognisable, and we're big fans of how sleek it looks. They're a comfortable fit that doesn't hurt your ears during long sessions of listening, so if you're a fan of podcasts, these are perfect for you.

On occasion they can slip out, but that seems to be dependent on the shape of your ears, so some will have no issue with them. Even if they do fall out, they're large enough to make finding them very easy.

Pros

  • Comfortable feel
  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Can slip out of ears on occasion

Best exercise in-ear headphones

It can feel a bit strange and awkward to get used to at first, but the large and secure design of the BEATS Powerbeats Pro is excellent. Anyone who frequents the gym knows the struggle of loose-fitting earbuds, which is why we adore these headphones so much since they stay in place so well. To further add to that, they are water and sweat resistant, so they're a surprisingly durable pair as well.

It's not just an excellent design either; the 9-hour battery life is on the upper end of playtime. As such, we also recommend this pick to anyone planning outdoor outings like a one-day hike.

Pros

  • Design that stays in place
  • Sweat-resistant

Cons

  • Takes a bit of adjustment at first

Best noise-cancelling in-ear headphones

Cities are noisy, and nothing is more annoying than struggling to hear your audio over loud traffic as you walk around; the noise cancellation from the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro is a great way to counteract that. They also have voice detection tech, meaning that it will pick up when you're speaking and lower your volume accordingly so you can chat away and hear yourself without needing to take them out.

We also want to acknowledge the sturdy case. While most in-ear headphones that come with charging cases are well-protected, these can certainly take an extra bump or too. In fact, thanks to the IPX7 waterproofing, these are some very durable headphones.

Read our full review of the Galaxy Buds2 Pro here.

Pros

  • Handy noise cancellation
  • Case provides solid protection

Cons

  • Not comfortable for all ear sizes

Best battery life in-ear headphones

Sony WF-C500
Price: $99.99

With a seriously impressive 20 hours of playtime, the Sony WF-C500 are the ultimate pick for those tired of running back and forth from charging ports. Even in the rare case that they do run low, the compact charging case is easy enough to bring with you and gives them a quick boost on the go.

While we do appreciate the small size and how it makes them so easy to fit in your pocket, they're not the most comfortable choice. That said, they do come with a few replacement heads of different sizes, so there's likely to be one more suited for your ear shape.

Read our full review of the Sony WF-C500 here.

Pros

  • Superb battery life
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Not always the most comfortable

Best in-ear headphones for travel

JBL Wave 200TWS
Price: $49.59

Also sporting an impressive battery life, the JBL Wave are our pick for the best in-ear headphones for travelling. They're more comfortable than the prior entry, giving them that slight edge that makes them preferable for train and plane rides. We're also big fans of how they charge in just 2 hours, so you're never left stranded without music for long.

As with most JBL headphones, the audio quality is brilliant, especially when it comes to bass. Our only real complaint is the lack of colour choices, but white and black match with just about anything.

Pros

  • Great audio quality
  • Quick to charge

Cons

  • Limited colour choice

Best ultra-budget headphones

Sony In-Ear Headphones
Price: $12.50

Now for something a bit different; Sony In-Ear wired headphones. As a wired pair, they feature all the ups and downs you would expect. The most notable, of course, is the fantastic price point. We won't pretend that these sport audio quality like the rest of our list, but they are more than respectable for such a true budget-friendly pick. They're also surprisingly comfortable despite their simple appearance.

Due to the nature of wires, you will find they get tangled frequently. Although finding a way to connect them to modern phones can be a pain, if you can stomach it, you can reap the benefit of not worrying about a battery life restricting you.

Even if you prefer a different design, we think these are more than worth it to have just as a backup emergency pair.

Pros

  • Amazing value
  • No battery life to worry about

Cons

  • Audio quality is outclassed

Best Apple in-ear headphones

Apple's 3rd generation of AirPods brings an air of excellence to in-ear headphone designs. Even without noise cancellation, it sports an impressive volume capable of blocking out most background chatter, so these are another great pick for a commute. They also sport some pretty solid playtime, especially when paired with the charging case.

Perhaps the only notable downside of these headphones is that they have a tendency to slip out during fast movement, so consider which gym activities you do with them.

Read our full review of the Apple AirPods here.

Pros

  • Great battery life and playtime
  • Impressive volume even without it having noise cancellation

Cons

  • Often moves around in ears

Best sweatproof in-ear headphones

Soundcore Sport X10 earbuds

Rrp: $79.99

Price: $49.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$69.99View offer

The Soundcore Sport X10 earbuds are another fantastic choice for those wanting in-ear headphones for a workout or gym session. They have been designed with being sweatproof as a priority, and the wrap-around design ensures they won't fall off even during a sprint on the treadmill.

Read our full review of the Soundcore Sport X10 earbuds here.

Pros

  • Fantastic and stable fit
  • Brilliant sweatproof design

Cons

  • Case itself doesn't feel particularly strong

In-ear headphones vs earbuds?

The differences between these two used to be more notable, with earbuds not necessarily being made to fit in-ear and generally a little more comfortable. Nowadays, however, the two terms are mostly interchangeable, and chances are if you like earbuds, you'll enjoy using in-ear headphones.

Wired vs Wireless?

Most modern in-ear headphones are wireless, and that comes with plenty of handy upsides. They're a lot more portable, you don't need to worry about them getting tangled, and the audio quality tends to be a bit better overall. However, there are still a few solid wired options out there. If you don't want to think about battery life or get annoyed at a wireless connection dropping in and out, then you may favour wired headphones. Best of all, wired in-ear headphones tend to be significantly more affordable than wireless ones.

How to clean in-ear headphones?

Since these headphones are designed to go in your ears, they will end up getting waxy. In order to remove that wax, you're going to want to use a small brush in order to brush it away and then wipe it down to the best of your ability. If you use a damp cloth, make sure it is only damp and not wet, as you don't want to damage your headphones.

Kyle Purves is a Tech Product Writer for What’s The Best, with an avid interest in all things gaming and tech.

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