Top five best in-ear headphones for 2021
In-ear headphones are the most portable type of headphones you can buy. Whether you opt for a pair of truly wireless earbuds, such as the Apple AirPods, or prefer a more traditional wired pair, their small size makes them ideal for taking out and about.
Below we've listed the five best in-ear headphones on the market this year, so you can get great sound, stay comfortable and find the perfect pair for your commute or a morning jog.
Best earbud and in-ear headphones
Below, we've highlighted our pick of the top in-ear headphones from our expert lab tests and the verdicts of our professional listening panel.
Pricing and recommendations correct as of April 2021.
Earbud and 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 boomy bass and a lack of detail.
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.
What type of in-ear or earbud headphones should I buy?
There are three main types of in-ear headphones to choose from:
- Truly wireless headphones, like the Apple AirPods. These come with hard charging cases for the separate earpieces.
- Corded wireless headphones, which have a wire attaching the two earpieces together.
- Wired in-ear headphones.
The earpieces you put in your ears can be either soft or hard-tipped.
Most in-ear headphones, such Sony's popular truly wireless WF-1000XM3s, come with different sizes of detachable, flexible tips that you can swap around to fit your ear size. This gives the headphones an acoustic seal, reducing sound leakage and the amount of background noise you hear.
Hard plastic earpieces
Some headphones simply have hard plastic earpieces, including the standard Apple AirPods. This one-size-fits-all approach is simpler, but without an acoustic seal there is more chance those around you will hear your music if you play it at higher volumes.
Some in-ear headphones are designed for sport, with features to keep them more secure in your ears compared with normal earbuds. This is often in the form of a rubberised 'wings' or 'fins' that are shaped to fit 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.