Wired earbuds may not win any popularity contests in today’s headphone market, but they’re still a great choice for the audio lover who wants the best sound quality for their dollar—and who dislikes the feel of over-ear headphones.
If you like to keep it simple and prefer the reliability of a direct signal over a set of true wireless earbuds, then you are probably keen to know which models on the current market make for the best-wired earphones.
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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).
- 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.
- 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.
10 Best Wired Earbuds of 2021:
|1More Triple Driver||In-Ear||0.80 ounces|
|Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear||In-Ear||1.60 ounces|
|Klipsch T5M Wired||Wired||0.41 ounces|
|Final E4000||In-Ear||2.39 ounces|
|Aukey Latitude EP-B40||In-Ear||0.46 ounces|
If you like your headphones to come with a wire, the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones are the best earbuds you can buy in 2020. After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges.
For $100 / £100 (around AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks.For their price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE’s Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Our first wired in-ear headphones set, with a reasonable price, is designed to fit comfortably within the listeners’ ears. These earbuds have such an ergonomically accommodating design that the model has aptly been named ErgoFit.
The earbud tips are angled from the driver units to ensure they sit in a better position. An ultra-soft foam makes up the tips – they conform to the ears, providing a snug fit that helps keep them securely in place. The earbuds come with small, medium, and large-sized tips to choose from, ensuring an appropriate fit for everyone.
The driver units work very well. Panasonic has widened the frequency range in the new edition models. They have much better bass but manage to provide an excellent balanced sound of higher and lower registered frequencies; nothing overtakes anything else, which helps keep the audio dynamics well defined.
The earbuds come with a generous 3.6 ft cord, which gives the user plenty of length to thread through a jacket or shirt if they want to. They are available in 8 different colors, and the matte, gloss, or metallic finishes present a total of 15 styles to choose from.
Klipsch has form when it comes to excellent, affordable in-ear headphones. In 2018 it was the R6i IIs (below) that stole all the headlines, but for 2020 it’s the T5M Wired causing a stir. Not only are they extremely comfortable, they’re also some of the most musical buds we’ve heard in this price bracket.
Each bud houses a 5mm dynamic driver and features a soft silicone ear tip that offers a great seal that ensures good noise isolation. The rugged cable feels tough enough to withstand the rigours of a daily commute and there’s an in-line mic and one-button control, so they’ll work with most smartphones. While not positioned as ‘sporty’, they are IPX4 sweat- and water-resistant.
Any negatives? Well, they can generate cable noise if you don’t use the supplied clothing clip and the one-button control doesn’t allow for volume adjustment. But overall, the Klipschs combine detailed and dynamic sound with great build quality, meaning they’re a stellar product for the money.
4. Final E4000
The Final E4000 in-ear headphones have a fun sound. Although these earbuds were bass-heavy in our tests, the bass was not overly intense or bloated, and we found good balance through the rest of the frequency range.
Final includes five sizes of silicone tips ranging from XS to XL, as well as optional over-ear silicone hooks, so every ear size can get a comfortable and secure fit. The aluminum earbud housing is lightweight, and the replaceable cable doesn’t make a ton of noise when you move. The E4000 doesn’t include a remote or mic, so you’ll need to pull your device out of your pocket or bag to change tracks, adjust volume, or take calls.
The E4000’s boost in the bass notes is prominent but focused. Just because the bass guitar and kick drum are louder doesn’t mean you can’t hear the lyrics that the vocalist is singing or the riff that the guitarist is playing. Male vocals did sound a tad recessed on bass-forward songs in our tests, but unlike other earbuds that are described as bass-boosted, this pair didn’t increase the low frequencies in a blurry, bloated, reverby way.
If the 1More Piston Fit BT headphones aren’t available, the Aukey Latitude EP-B40 wireless earbuds are a good choice. The two earbuds are connected by a cable instead of the thicker neckband or stiff collar that you find on many budget wireless options, which makes this pick great for occasional gym use.
In our tests, these earbuds sounded pretty good for the money, but in comparison with the 1More earbuds, they sounded blurrier in the guitar range, with less defined bass, and syllables were more intense.
Although they fit us securely and comfortably, the shorter cable that connects the earbuds could tug a bit. With an IPX4 rating, the Latitude EP-B40 can handle some sweat. Magnets in the earbuds let you clip the pair around your neck between listening sessions. The eight-plus-hour battery life will get you through a full workday before you need to recharge, and a two-year warranty will protect against manufacturing defects.
6. JBL Tune 210
JBL is a trusted brand in the audio game, and the JBL Tune 210 wired earbuds offer the benefit of investing in a well-known name while also saving a pretty penny—these retail for under $20. While they sit in the normal 20Hz to 20,000kHz frequency and driver sensitivity at 96dB, they’re designed with what the manufacturer calls the JBL Pure Bass sound found in a range of other JBL equipment used in concert venues or recording studios. That means they capitalize on the rich but balanced bass and mid-range sound signatures JBL is known for.
The lightweight 2.82-ounce design and lay-flat cord make these wired earbuds portable and convenient to stow away in your everyday bag. They don’t offer many frills beyond a small carrying pouch and two silicone tip size options. But you can also use these to take hands-free phone calls on the go with the one-button inline remote that also controls music playback.
The best cheap earbuds that we’ve tested are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These Bluetooth in-ears are comfortable and have a stable in-ear fit thanks to their ear-hook design. Their build quality is decent, though the cable connecting the two earbuds is quite thin. With such a good price-to-performance ratio, they rank among the best headphones we’ve tested.
With a slightly bass-heavy sound profile, these in-ears do a good job reproducing the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy music genres. Overall, their sound is still versatile enough for most music genres. They also can last for over 18 hours from a single charge, which is among the longest battery life we’ve ever tested for Bluetooth in-ear headphones. They even have an IPX7 rating for water resistance, although we don’t currently have a test to measure this feature.
Unfortunately, they don’t support multi-device pairing, which may be disappointing if you frequently switch between Bluetooth sources. Also, their microphone’s mediocre noise handling performance may make it difficult for the person on the other end of your phone call to hear you if you’re in a noisy environment. However, compared to others in this price range, these earbuds offer a decently versatile performance that should please most listeners.
At $30, the RHA MA390 Universal is a wired in-ear stunner that boasts a bass-forward and wide soundstage in a beautifully crafted design. Lows are emphasized and blend nicely with mids and highs, producing clear, warm audio on most recordings. The earpieces are covered in durable aluminum casing, while the universal remote module is housed in a solid plastic mold and the wire is wrapped in braided fabric to ensure the protection of cable components. You also get a bunch of accessories (ear tips, shirt clip, mesh carrying pouch) and a three-year warranty as part of the purchase.
The inline mic is disappointing, as it struggles to pick up vocals during phone calls and when using Siri. Then again, it’s a small complaint when compared to the overall value these buds offer at such a low price.
They might look like something that you would find behind the glass countertop at your local grocery store, but Panasonic’s tiny in-ears have been considered the best bang-for-the-buck deal for the past several years. The ErgoFit earbuds deliver crisp highs, warm mids, and deep lows despite their low price. Compared to other earbuds in their price range, the ErgoFit produces cleaner audio; the soundstage lends itself well to modern music genres like alternative rock, EDM, and hip hop.
Even better, they conform to the shape of your ear canal, creating a snug, but comfortable fit for those long jam sessions. Those who love to accessorize their headphones with their outfits will find a variety of colors, which should appeal to the fashion-conscious. You’re looking at 15 bold shades in total. Panasonic also sells the ErgoFit with or without a built-in mic, though the latter is preferable since it grants you the ability to answer calls.
10. Beats urBeats3
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.
How we test the wired earbuds
When creating our list of the best cheap earbuds, Tom’s Guide looks not only at price, but also design, sound quality, and ease of use. Our reviewers also test available features such as controls, mics, and digital assistant support (if applicable).
During the testing phase, each pair of headphones are worn for 2 hours at a time throughout the course of a week. We evaluate how securely they fit and noise isolation.
In terms of sound quality, we listen to many tracks across multiple music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronic, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. Movies, podcasts, and video games are considered, when necessary. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance.
Who should get this
Not everyone obsesses over sound quality; people who aren’t particular just want headphones that work well enough, don’t cost much, and can take a phone call without sounding terrible. Cheap earbuds are for those folks.
Maybe you need something to listen to podcasts while you’re walking the dog or doing housework, or you want a spare pair of headphones to keep in your bag. Maybe you have a loved one who loses their earbuds frequently. Or maybe you’re frugal.
Wired, Wireless, or Wire-Free?
Earphones can connect to your smartphone through a 3.5mm cable or wirelessly over Bluetooth, depending on the model.
Wired earphones are generally less expensive, and you don’t need to worry about keeping them charged. Bluetooth earphones are more convenient because you don’t have to physically connect them to your smartphone, but they need battery power to work. For the most part, you won’t find a 3.5mm port and removable cable on Bluetooth earphones; when they’re out of power, they’re out of commission until you charge them again.
There’s also true wireless earbuds, which we also call wire-free. These are essentially Bluetooth earphones, but with no cable connecting the individual earpieces. It took a solid year for the bugs to get shaken out of this category, with issues like short battery life and awkward design plaguing early devices.
We’re starting to see some very compelling wire-free earphones now, with companies like Bose and JLab offering sets with the power, longevity, and intuitive controls necessary for us to recommend them.
Even with the wireless movement, there is still a place in society for a decent set of old-school earbuds with wires. As long as you know just what you’re looking for, there are a lot of choices available, so you can find the best wired earbuds for you.
We have reviewed a plethora of products in the past, so feel free to stick around and have a nose, but hopefully, the options we’ve rustled up in today’s article will prove useful.
- If you want to know more wired earbuds, you could click here for details.