Top five best in-ear headphones for 2020
By Oliver Trebilcock
Article 1 of 3
We round up the best in-ear headphones of 2020 to help you pick the perfect pair for comfort, sound quality and more.
In-ear models are the smallest and most portable type of headphones you can buy. They're ideal for taking with you when you're out and about, whether it's on your commute or your morning jog.
Below we've listed the five best in-ear headphones on the market this year, so you can get great sound and stay comfortable when you're on the go. See all the best headphones by checking out our Best Buy headphone reviews.
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Looking for a different type of headphones? See our guide to the best headphones.
Best earbud and in-ear headphones
These headphones are some of the best-sounding our lab has tested. They're designed to pair perfectly with iPhones, and even allow you to control Siri without having to get your phone out of your pocket. They’re light and comfortable, so are easy to take out and about with you.
These noise cancelling truly wireless headphones are one of the leading rivals to the Apple AirPods Pro, exceeding them in many areas – not to mention being considerably cheaper as well. There’s lots of customisation options for both Apple and Android devices, and they last more than six hours per charge in our independent tests. Noise cancelling is exceptionally strong and sound has lovely depth, bass and exquisite detail.
If you want to save yourself from the daily chore of untangling wires, truly wireless headphones could be ideal. These big-brand headphones come with a charging case that provides two full charges. They are suitable for exercise and are sweat and weather-resistant, plus the sound quality is strong. Find out how our expert panel rated the comfort of these headphones, and whether there’s anything you should watch out for.
This lightweight Bluetooth corded in-ear pair has plenty of detail in the treble frequencies, and sound is natural and punchy with a lovely strong bass. They have a cord which you wear round the back of your neck and are generally comfortable to wear, with a good snug fit in your ears. The earphones have small magnets on them, to minimise tangling, with them tidily clipping them together around your neck when not in use.
These wired headphones prove it's possible to deliver superb sound at an affordable price. Music and speech sound great through these headphones, with punchy pop and clear vocals. They also keep sound leakage to a minimum, so you shouldn't get too many disapproving looks on your morning commute.
Recommendations correct at February 2020.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.
And here are the in-ear headphones to avoid
A bad pair of in-ear headphones isn't really worth having at all. They'll be so uncomfortable in your ears that you won't want to listen for long, and your music will sound terrible, with a lack of detail and boomy bass. To help you avoid making an expensive mistake on your next purchase, we've rounded up three of the worst models we've seen in shops this year.
In-ear headphones to avoid
Don’t be tempted by these copycat headphones that look eerily similar to those of a leading brand – they don’t even come close to the real deal. In fact, they’re so truly awful Don't Buy headphones they’ve got the lowest-ever score in our lab tests. The sound quality is utterly dreadful and that’s just the start.
A choice of three different ear tips means that you can adjust the sound from these in-ear headphones to your liking. Unfortunately, though, the choice is between bad, worse and all over the place. Like the vast majority of headphones, they have in-line remote controls built in to the cable, but these controls are more basic than most.
Don't be fooled by all those five-star reviews on Amazon. It's rare to find in-ear headphones with noise cancelling, and even rarer to find ones this temptingly priced. But these in-ear headphones have such poor sound the passable noise cancelling is worthless. Out independent lab tests reveal the truth – they’re a clear Don't Buy.
Wireless in-ear headphones
You no longer need to put up with untangling wires if you're an in-ear headphones fan. There are two main types of wireless in-ear headphones:
- Corded wireless headphones, with a wire between the two earbuds and a Bluetooth connection to your phone. This includes models with a neckband.
- Truly wireless headphones, with two independent earbuds and no wire between them. These usually come with a charging case to compensate for low per-charge listening times from the earbuds.
In-ear wireless headphones usually have pretty low battery life compared to larger types – around 5 or 6 hours compared to 15 or 20 – but they're now good enough that most will last through a day of use.
Some in-ear headphones are designed for sport, with features to keep them more secure in your ears compared with normal in-ear models. This is often in the form of a rubber ‘wing’ that sits in your ear to provide extra grip. Some sports models are also water resistant, meaning you can take them for a run in the rain and not worry about damage. Manufacturers have also started selling headphones that have fitness-tracking features too, so watch out for these extras if your interested in these.
For more info on the best sports headphones, read our guide to the best headphones for running.