When you’re looking to invest in earbuds, sound quality and comfort are probably two of the top features on your list. It can be difficult to strike a balance between design and sound quality in a pair of earbuds without spending a fortune. Difficult, but not impossible. Here at Top Ten Reviews, we’ve scoured the web (and various electronics stores) to find the best in-ear headphones that combine great sound quality with designs that will fit comfortably.
In our reviews, we’ve selected the 10 highest quality earbuds that won’t break the bank. In the individual product reviews, we lay out the differences between each of the earbuds and the different features each brand adds to the basic earbud design. Our top products – the INK'D Ear Bud Stereo Headphones by Skullcandy and the Tonic by Earjax – are fantastic examples of how this technology can combine comfort, usability and sound quality.
In addition to our reviews of the top 10 best earbuds, we’ve also researched and written some helpful articles on earbud headphones for your perusal. If you want to learn more about in-ear headphones, including the dangers and myths about them, our learning center is a great place to start.
Earbud Headphones: What to Look For
To rate these earbuds in our side-by-side comparison, we looked at everything from the size of the speaker driver to the variety of earbud sleeve sizes. We tested each to experience their sound quality, bass response and comfort. We looked at the design of the earbuds, from how well the cord stayed untangled in a pocket to how well they fit in a variety of ear types.
Our comprehensive reviews expound on each product's specifications and rank each one in the following areas:
In each review we expound on the sound quality and power handling of each product. We compare the specs for each option – including frequency, driver, impedance and sensitivity – which will help you understand the precise abilities and advantages of each earphone. We further add to the review by sharing our own experience listening to the earbuds and the impressions of others.
We judged the earbuds on comfort through hands-on testing. We tested how easy it was to switch the ear cushions from one size to another. We also looked at how comfortable these were after prolonged periods of use. The best ones were hardly noticeable, even after several hours of listening.
The ranking from this area is determined by the durability and design of each model. We looked into aspects such as custom fitting (multiple sizes of ear cushions), cord material and length, carrying case, weight and color options. We tested the durability of the earbuds and gauged how well they sealed off the ear canal for maximum audio quality.
Help & Support
This ranking judges the creators of each product. We looked at their warranty information, customer support teams and the product manuals. We always want to make sure that our top products have a reliable company backing them up.
As you search for the right earbuds for you, we invite you to view the side-by-side comparison of all top 10 products as well as the reviews for each product you are most interested in.
Immaculate sound quality, sleek design and a lifetime warranty put the Skullcandy INK’D earbud headphones far ahead of the competition. During our testing, we were constantly surprised at how well the Skullcandy headphones performed. They are far-and-away the best sounding pair of earbuds we reviewed (and one of the most comfortable, too). The lifetime warranty carries the caveat that it only applies if a customer service representative allows it and, though this initially concerned us, the warranty is quite lenient in practice.
As soon as you pop the INK’D earbuds into your ear canals and pump your favorite tunes, you’ll see why we ranked them first on our lineup of the best earbuds on the market. The 11 mm driver pushes out impressive amounts of sound, without sacrificing clear highs or thumping bass. Even though they only extend just to the limits of human hearing (20 Hz-20,000 kHz), they cover that range very well. We were able to pick out the high treble notes in the songs we tested, and we could feel the bass response. Of course, we had to test out how powerful the bass could be and, predictably, we were impressed. You won’t be hurting for powerful bass with the INK’D buds.
The 102 dB/mW sensitivity is not the highest in this price range, but it still provides sufficient volume. In the area of sensitivity, the higher the number, the better; the lower numbers require more power to perform at the same level as the best earphones with higher sensitivity. Although the INK’D earbuds require slightly more power, we found their performance comparable with other products offering a slightly higher sensitivity.
As mentioned above, the INK’D Skullcandy headphones come with three different pairs of tips for the earbuds. Although they do not provide a range that accommodates every ear type, they are capable of accommodating more than the headphones designed as simply “one size fits most.” Once you find the size that is right for you, the earbuds should fit snugly into each ear. We found that the earbuds are capable of sealing out background noise that you would rather avoid as well as keeping your music to yourself so you don’t disturb others around you. However, since these are not officially noise-canceling headphones, the noise reduction isn’t 100 percent effective and depends upon the activity in your area.
These Skullcandy headphones were designed not only to perform at peak capacity, but to look sleek as well. And they succeed in both categories. We were thrilled with the feel of the earbuds while using them, and we appreciated that Skullcandy includes three sizes of earbud tips (small, medium and large) to accommodate more ears and provide comfort to more users. The earbuds come in purple/black, white/black, Paul Frank pink, Paul Frank black/red, blue, green, orange, pink, silver/black, and rasta colors.
The Skullcandy website provides users with contact information for their customer service department. The customer service team can be reached via email or by calling the telephone number provided on their website for live support. The team is available from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. MST, so be sure to take note of the time restrictions when contacting them.
They have a page of frequently asked questions which cover topics such as: warranty, product information, Bluetooth products, MP3 products, sponsorship, international, return policy and board FAQs. The questions and answers were extremely helpful, and we suggest all users read up on at least the warranty information for general consumer knowledge.
We are confident that users who select Skullcandy INK’D earbud stereo headphones will receive a quality product and will be pleased with their purchase. The earbuds are great based on their features, design, ease of use and available help and support. We were pleased with the earbuds in each area of our rating criteria, and we recommend them to users in search of a quality product.
The Earjax Tonic by BodyGuardz is a fantastic set of earbuds that match sound quality with smart design and comfort. We were impressed with the performance of the Earjax, especially given the relatively unknown company it comes from.
The Earjax Tonic by BodyGuardz earbuds' frequency range stretches across the scope of human hearing, from 20 Hz on the low end to 20,000 Hz on the top end. The 10 mm drivers create fantastic, high-fidelity tones, though they don’t put out as much power on the low end as we would have liked. The 32 ohm impedance is slightly higher than we would like, and it makes it difficult to get as much sound out of them as you can with comparable 16 ohm impedance models, but it’s still plenty for a pair of earbuds.
The Earjax Tonic by BodyGuardz earbuds come with more silicone tips than any other product we reviewed, which made finding the perfect fit remarkably simple. The included medium-sized tips are backed up by a selection of seven other options, covering the standard small-medium-large spectrum as well as different color varieties, like black or transparent. We found ourselves switching tip sizes just for the fun of it, though we did settle in with a three-tiered black tip that fit nicely. It insulated the sound well, canceling out a great deal of background noise.
The earbud tips were simple to use and it was easy to change the tips from one size to another. The carrying case added to the simplicity of travel. We felt confident knowing that we could put the earbuds in a bag without worrying that they’d be safe, thanks to the protective case.
As mentioned above, the Earjax Tonic by BodyGuardz earbuds provide users with one-of-a-kind accessories to accompany their earbud purchase. In addition to the earbuds themselves, the package includes an aluminum carrying case with a lanyard which provides a safe place to keep your earbuds when they are not in use. The carrying tube is lightweight and was convenient to stick in a pocket or purse or wear around the neck. Available in green/white or black/silver, the earbuds can top off any look – from professional to fun – and deliver quality sound while doing so.
The earbud cord is wrapped in TPW rubber, which reduces tangling. If it still occurs, the rubber makes it easier to get the cord detangled. The cord is 4 feet long, which provides an adequate length for users to move around while listening to their MP3 players and not feel confined or restricted. The plug is straight and gold plated to reduce corrosion and ensure optimal performance.
Through the BodyGuardz website you will find a plethora of information on every BodyGuardz product. Via the Contact link at the top of the page, you will be taken to a page of contact information for BodyGuardz. You can contact BodyGuardz customer support via email or by phone. The company also offers a help section and online access to the manuals that come with the product.
BodyGuardz offers a lifetime warranty on all of their earbuds, which we found extremely convenient and comforting. We believe that a company who is willing to stand behind their products until the end is a company that we want to work with. One additional fact about BodyGuardz is that with every product sold they give a portion of the proceeds to help fund hearing aids for children who can’t otherwise afford them.
Overall we were very pleased with the whole Earjax Tonic by BodyGuardz earbud package. We enjoyed the options they provided in look and feel by including eight different earbuds with each earbud set. The BodyGuardz representatives were easy to work with, very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. From using the product to dealing with the company, we recommend the Earjax Tonic by BodyGuardz earbuds for quality sound and reliable support.
The next product on our list of the best earbud headphones is the Skullcandy Riot. These no-frills earbuds pump out some impressive sound, with above-average driver sizes and excellent sensitivity. Don’t be fooled by their plain appearance; the Skullcandy Riot earbuds go above and beyond when it comes to sound quality.
The neodymium magnets in the Riots power two 11 mm speaker drivers, which is just slightly larger than most of the products on our lineup. The larger surface area has the potential to increase the sound fidelity to more closely match the music source, and it shows. The Skullcandy Riot earbuds produced some impressive sound in our tests, with full, powerful bass response and clear high-frequency tones.
The Riot earbuds come with silicone sleeves that act as passive noise-cancelation devices, keeping you close to your favorite music. By sealing off the ear canal, the drivers inside the earbuds can reproduce notes with incredible fidelity without requiring obscene amounts of power or volume. The Skullcandy headphones are among the most impressive-sounding earbuds we reviewed, so it’s no surprise that these no-frills headphones made it to this level in our review.
One downside to the Riot earbuds is their lack of frequency response in ranges outside of human hearing. At first mention, this may not seem like an important feature – if you can’t hear it, why does it matter? – but these “extra” frequencies add body and fullness to the sound you perceive, which becomes apparent once those frequencies are taken away. While it’s not a large omission, it’s enough to keep these earbuds from a spot at the top of the heap.
The gold-plated audio plug gives these earbuds great conductivity, resulting in lossless fidelity from the files on your MP3 player or computer.
The Riot earbuds are also available in a wide variety of colors, from standard solid colors to patterns and specialized designs. If you crave variety in your earbuds, Skullcandy is a great place to look.
Skullcandy Riot earbuds come with a lifetime warranty guaranteeing that they will function for the life of the product. They stand behind the quality of their products, and they will replace any product free of charge if a customer service representative allows it. We were hesitant when we learned that it was up to a customer service rep to decide whether we got new headphones, but their support team is very friendly and understanding; don’t be afraid to give them a call if your earbuds fail or wear out.
The lifetime warranty and fantastic sound quality of the Skullcandy Riot earbuds land them a spot near the top of our side-by-side comparison. If you’re looking for a pair of high-quality earbuds, these simple, effective buds will compete with any pair of earbuds you can find.
Sennheiser CX 200
The next pair of earbuds on our lineup is the Sennheiser CX 200. These exceptional earbuds come in at a surprisingly reasonable price point, given Sennheiser’s pedigree of high-priced, high-quality headphones. And even though they place these earbuds right around $30, you can be confident that you’re going to be getting the same high-end product that Sennheiser is known for.
The frequency response is about as impressive as you would expect; the CX 200’s stretch from 20 Hz on the low end to 20 kHz which, if you’ve been reading our reviews, you know that this covers the average human’s entire hearing range. Unfortunately, they don’t dip below into the subsonic frequencies or above into the ultrasonic range. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal, but to an audiophile, this is the difference between good sound and great sound. These frequencies that fall outside normal ranges give music an additional “feel,” allowing you to feel the vibrations of the ultra-low notes and experience the airy buzz of the ultra-high notes. Couple this with a smaller-than-average driver and you get a bit of a disappointment in the sound quality category from Sennheiser. While it sounds comparable to other Sennheiser headphones we’ve tested, it’s just a bit poorer.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Sennheiser CX 200’s is their comfort factor. Even after extended periods of listening (over three hours), we had no ear discomfort. In a world dominated by cheap, uncomfortable earbuds, we were pleasantly surprised by how little we noticed the earbuds while we were using them.
Sennheiser’s two-year limited warranty hurt their earbuds in this comparison, largely because the best players in the industry provide lifetime guarantees. The shorter warranty makes the Sennheisers a more risky investment, but if you take good care of your earbuds, these will serve you well.
The Sennheiser CX 200 earbud headphones bring good sound quality and exceptional comfort to the table, though they make a few exceptions with other features, like a longer warranty. These are still great earbuds, and unless you plan on sitting on them, we’re confident you’ll be happy with the purchase.
Wicked Jaw Breaker
Our next set of earbuds comes from Empire Brands Incorporated, the brains behind Wicked Audio. Their Wicked Audio Jaw Breaker earbuds do quite well in our comparison, bringing with them a 10 mm driver, 16 ohms of impedance and a sensitivity level of 102 dB/mW. If these specifications don’t impress you, the sound you hear when you try them on will.
The extraordinary bass response of the Wicked Jaw Breakers is one of the most impressive and unexpected features of these earbuds. Given that these earbuds don’t dip into frequencies below the normal floor of human hearing (20 Hz), the exceptional bass is even more impressive; if you’re in the market for a pair of bass-cranking earbuds, the Wicked Jaw Breaker earphones will feed your low-frequency hunger.
Other standard features included with the Jaw Breakers are interchangeable silicone tips, so you can switch the tips out until you find the fit that’s best for you. We found the right fit for us in the medium-sized tips, and even though they were comfortable, they did wear on our ears slightly after prolonged use.
The plug is gold plated to prevent corrosion, and the cord is covered in a plastic coating that makes it easier to detangle. The cord measures 3.94 feet long and was long enough that it allowed movement while we were wearing the earbuds. Unlike wireless earphones, there was a little bit of restriction, but that is to be expected when you are purchasing earbuds with a cord.
We found the earbuds comfortable and well fitting. The earbud tips were easy to take on and off, and the design made them fit perfectly in our ears, resulting in easy use. We never had to worry about them falling out unless the cord was somehow jerked or pulled with a decent amount of force.
Although they aren’t noise-canceling, the earbuds seemed to seal our ear canals from outside noise. The earbuds make it possible for you to feel like you are in a world of your own with only the audio accompanying you.
Empire Brands provides customer support through email and over the telephone. To contact them via email, you can visit their website and fill out the contact form available via the Contact link at the top of the page. Once they have received your email, they respond within 24 hours. If you prefer to talk to a representative over the phone, calling is another great option. Either way you choose to contact them, Empire Brands has excellent customer service and representatives who are very knowledgeable about their products. Additionally, there is a lifetime warranty offered with all Wicked Jaw Breakers Headphones.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed using the Wicked Jaw Breakers headphones. They provided an outstanding bass, clear sound, an excellent design and the much-hoped-for customized fitting. Considering this is one of the most inexpensive options on our list, we believe that users will be just as surprised and pleased as we were regarding the performance and fit of these headphones.
JVC Marshmallow HA-FX35
The next best earbuds we reviewed are the JVC Marshmallow Inner-ear headphones. JVC has been a big player in the audio and home theater industries for several years, but we were surprised to see them branching out into the personal audio arena with these earbud headphones. While they make a good case for themselves, they ultimately come up short in our side-by-side comparison due to oversights in design, customization options and warrantees. Still, the robust bass response makes this pair of earbuds worth investigating, and gives it enough of a kick to land a spot in our comparison.
What most impressed us about the Marshmallow Inner-ear Headphones were their exceptional frequency response; it stretches from 23 kHz on the top end down to 8 Hz on the low end, giving it a range of tones that passes the thresholds of human hearing on both sides. You’ll be able to feel tones that you can’t actively hear, and that’s a beautiful experience. The frequency response range is the primary reason that the JVC Marshmallow Earbuds landed a spot on our matrix.
Like other headphones, this pair brings a nominal impedance of 16 ohms; you’ll be able to push enough power through these buds to burst your eardrums if you want, but we recommend against it. The sensitivity rating of these earbuds is 102 dB/mW, which is right on par for earbuds at this price point. You’ll be able to crank adequate volume out of these headphones on the extreme highs and lows, but the sound quality falters with the mid-range tones.
These headphones come with two additional sizes of earbud tips so you can find the size that gives you the most comfort. Through our testing, we found that users found these additional sizes extremely beneficial. The design of the cord for the Marshmallow headphones is slightly less than 4 feet long. That length allows users the ability to move around while wearing the headphones and not feel confined to a single area.
Color options are blue, black, orange, green, pink, red, white, purple and yellow. JVC consistently provides the most color options, which has made their line of earbuds a popular choice.
JVC customer support offers assistance in purchasing, registration, downloads, help and repair. From their website you can email JVC or access a variety of other resources including frequently asked questions, user manuals and warranty and repair information. Soon after emailing JVC we received a prompt reply addressing our inquiry. JVC had one of the fastest response times compared to other earbud manufacturers we contacted. The only thing we would like to see change with JVC customer support is for them to add a live chat and a telephone number.
The JVC Marshmallow Inner-ear Headphones are a great choice for users who want comfort and quality as well as a great value. These earbuds have customizable earbud tips that provide more users with additional comfort; our reviewers praised them countless times during testing. In addition to the comfortable design, users were also very pleased with the sound quality and the value of these earbuds. These earbuds are breakable, and users should be aware that there is no carrying case provided to ensure their safety when not in use.
The next set of earbud headphones in our comparison comes from BodyGuardz, a relatively new player in the audio world that’s been making a name for itself with its high-quality earbuds. Their Earjax Gig by BodyGuardz earbuds land a spot on our lineup thanks mostly to their lifetime warranty. While their less-than-optimal sound quality put them further down in our reviews, they still deliver music in a comfortable, long-lasting way.
The Earjax Gig by BodyGuardz earbuds cover the standard range of human hearing when it comes to frequency response, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. We were pleased by the clarity of the high notes during our testing, but weren’t as happy with the low-end frequencies. The lack of bass in these earbuds could be due to the size of the driver; at 6 mm, these earbuds’ drivers are close to half the size of other models, making it less able to pump out high levels of bass.
On the upside, the impedance of the Earjax Gig by BodyGuardz earbuds is only 10 ohms, which is also significantly below the average impedance rating of earbuds at this price point. The lower impedance allows the Earjax Gig by BodyGuardz to convert power into sound more efficiently, so you get more audio power for your electrical power.
At first, these earbuds didn’t fit as comfortably as we had hoped. They were long and felt almost flimsy poking out of our ears. The length made them somewhat uncomfortable to wear as they would occasionally pop out of our ears when we turned our head, but the longer we wore them, the more we appreciated the lightweight feel they provided. The 4-foot cable covered in PVC rubber made them hard to tangle and allowed us to move around without feeling restricted while we were wearing them. They weigh a mere 0.11 ounces; they're so light and comfortable you might forget you're wearing them.
We were pleased with the overall functionality of the earbuds. They came with three tips for finding a more customized fit. Switching the tips was easy and truly made the difference in our comfort. The earbuds come with a black felt pouch that we were able to not only store the earbuds in but also the extra tips. The pouch was convenient to pack with us, and although there was no hard shell around the earbuds we felt more at ease knowing that they were protected by the pouch.
Every pair of Earjax earbuds comes with a manual to give additional information regarding the product. The Earjax Gig by BodyGuardz manual detailed helpful tips, general care and maintenance as well as precautions pertaining to the earbuds. Manuals are also available online via the BodyGuardz website. This website will also provide you with contact information for customer support. Contact methods include email and phone; each time we contacted the company we were quickly connected to a representative and received an almost immediate response. The representatives were extremely helpful and always able to address our needs.
A unique fact about BodyGuardz is that every time a set of earbuds is purchased they will donate money to help underprivileged hearing-impaired children to receive hearing aids. We appreciated their effort to reach out to communities and work with their users to accomplish a common goal.
The Earjax Gig by BodyGuardz earbuds may surprise you. Although they do not provide optimal sound features, they are still an excellent choice and provide crisp and clear audio. We chose to include these earbuds as one of our top10 best earphones because of the durable build, lifetime warranty, design and accessories that BodyGuardz includes with each purchase.
JVC Gumy Air
Despite what appears to be a misspelled name (it is actually spelled “Gumy”), the Gumy Air earbud headphones by JVC landed a spot on our list of the top 10 best earbuds due to their driver sensitivity and comprehensive frequency response range. The 11 mm driver, 16 ohm impedance and 105 dB/mW sensitivity give these earbuds the potential for great sound quality, but the overwhelming discomfort you feel after a relatively short period of time makes it hard to appreciate the sound.
For fashion-conscious consumers, the Gumy Air Headphones might be one of your best options; you can get these earbuds in a variety of colors, allowing you to match your music to your style. If you want earbuds in your favorite color, then the Gumy Air earbuds might be the option for you.
Our biggest complaint about the Gumy Air earbuds is their inflexibility; they don’t offer multiple size options, so you’ll have to deal with a painfully tight bud if your ears are smaller, or a loose, insecure earbud if your ears are larger. Even those of us with medium-sized ears felt uncomfortable with these earbuds after as little as 30 minutes of listening
JVC has several resource options available for users through their website via the Support tab on the top right corner of the page. The resources include frequently asked questions, user manuals, warranty and repair information and contact information for JVC. You can contact JVC through their email form or by calling the toll-free telephone number listed at the bottom of their website.
Since JVC is one of the largest and most well-known companies on our list, we were surprised by how quickly they responded to our email. They were one of the fastest companies to respond to us and to address our email. The customer support representatives that we dealt with were very knowledgeable and friendly; we felt they truly strived to make our experience with JVC a positive one.
As we mentioned above, these JVC Gumy Air Earbud Headphones are going to provide you with more quality than you would receive with one of the default headphones typically offered with new MP3 players. They do not come with customizable tips, which means they're a one-size-fits-most solution. They have a good driver that produces excellent sensitivity and a decent range. JVC has fantastic customer support; they provide a one-year warranty and will stand behind their products. Overall, these are an excellent choice if you typically have no problem with average-sized earbuds.
The next earbuds in our lineup are the Sony Fontopia Earbud Headphones, a pair of durable and exceptionally uncomfortable headphones. The bass the Fontopia buds produce is impressive, and the overall sound quality is respectable, but these earbuds were so uncomfortable that it makes them difficult to recommend. In the end, their high-fidelity sound keeps them on our comparison and outweighs the discomfort factor for brief listening sessions.
The Fontopia earbuds have all the components of a great set of earbuds: a large 16 mm speaker driver, great sensitivity and frequency response, and a protective case that practically guarantees that your cords will never get tangled. Unfortunately, the buds themselves are oversized and the only marginal attempt at comfort is a pair of thin foam sleeves that you can put on the end of the headphones. We enjoyed listening to our favorite music with these earbuds, but we quickly tired of the poor fit and lack of customizability.
We were hopeful that the built-in carrying case would balance out the discomfort we experienced with these earbuds and, to an extent, it did. The carrying case keeps your cords tangle-free and well-protected, making these earbuds super portable and easy to manage. It’s also a bit too short, and we occasionally found our earbuds popping out when we turned our heads quickly or took these out jogging.
The disappointment in this area comes from the design of the earbud tips. The earbuds are made of hard plastic and come with a thin foam cover to make them more comfortable. We discovered that many users, especially those with smaller ears, found the earbuds to be uncomfortable. Other users found the size and design to fit them perfectly and enjoyed listening to the earbuds for hours on end.
Sony offers a 90-day warranty on all of their earbud products. Warranties are always nice to have just in case. Also, there are several companies that offer earbuds within this price range that offer a lifetime warranty on their products. If you are hard on your earbuds or not sure what to expect in coming years, we suggest you take a look at some of the products with lifetime warranties.
Through the Sony website users can access all of the tools and services Sony Support has to offer. There are frequently asked questions, support forums, online product support, technical support and extended service plans. We attempted getting in touch with Sony via email, and although we received an automated response directly after sending the inquiry, our email was never addressed. Our recommendation is to contact Sony via the toll-free phone number available on their website.
There are a lot of qualities that make these Sony Earbud Headphones with Winding Case a great purchase. The sound quality and audio range, including the powerful bass, provide a sound difference that users can hear. Its portable case is a great bonus as well because not all earbuds come with this great accessory. If the earbuds were capable of fitting more users with additional tip sizes these earbuds would rank higher on our list and come more highly recommended. In summary, these earbuds are a good choice, but users must take note that they may not fit their ears.