The reason I am talking about earbuds — and not in-ear headphones — so far, is because most people think that they’re different to in-ear headphones. This is not correct. Well, for the most part. The single main difference between these two types is that while in ear headphones stick deep inside your ear canal, earbuds simply rest just outside of your ear canal.
Due to this, in-ear headphones offer a little bit more noise isolation than earbuds. Rest of the things remain same. This is the reason why most people use them interchangeably for each other. Major advantage earbuds/in-ear pair can give you is that they have small size and compactness. Some people, on the other hand, criticize them for their lower level sound quality when compared with over -ear and on-ear headphones. Let’s be fair, you can’t just compare them. It’s like comparing a Porsche and a Ferrari. Both have their respective pros and cons. Same applies for headphone types.
So enough talk, let’s dive headfirst to find out about some of the best earbuds and in-ear headphones can have in 2016.
Important: Recently I made some changes in this post. As I tested some new headphones I replaced existing ones with those headphones. Doing so, I omitted Klipsch R6i, Bose Freestyle and Polk Nue Voe. You can still read those reviews on this Google Drive link. I replaced these previous headphones with Alpha & Delta AD01, Jaybird X2 and Focal Sphear.
Don’t heard of Beyerdynamic?
Don’t worry you’re not alone. Beyerdynamic is a Deutsche Headphone maker. The fact, that they primarily build high-class focused devices, makes them almost impossible to be popular among mainstream average users. But enough is enough, they may have thought. These DX 160 IE in ear headphones are the latest attempt by the German company to find its feet in the mainstream market. How much have they succeeded? You’ll find out in a short time.
Open up the box and these earphones will say you hello with their 7 different sizes of silicon ear tips. They have a flat tangle-free cable and a shirt clip too. The first thing I noticed while playing MP3 was the rich taste of Bass – which is also common in some other earphones in this list. Bass was equally good in High and Middle notes, but on upper middle notes, bass tends to overshadow volume – that is a minor downside. Another little disappointment is its treble clarity – or lack thereof. In this particular regard, another Beyerdynamic earphone( DX 120 IE) actually does it better.
Another feature you’ll miss is Inline remote. It means you have to grab your phone out of your purse/pocket every time you want to receive a call/change the soundtrack.
With Lack of Inline remote and treble clarity, these earbuds may be a hard pill to swallow for purists. But for those who are on tight budget and still want an excellent noise cancellation earphone – thanks to foamy ear tips – these should be an attractive option.
Like Beyerdynamic, I bet you don’t know much about this headphones brand either. And to be honest, I didn’t know about them until they sent me a review unit. Alpha & Delta is a Singapore-based company that released their first headphones AD01 last year.
These headphones come with a total of 10 different ear tips — 3 Single-flanged ear tips + 3 short double-flanged ones + 1 pair of foam ear tips and 3 others. Its earpieces are a little bit heavier than the normal ones but that’s usual considering that they’re not plastic. One good thing about these earpieces is that they’re detachable from main cord. There is a spare cable in accessories kit that you can use if your main cord is broken or damaged.
Since its ear tips sit down on your ears in conventional straight-down style, comfort is not an issue. But one downside of this conventional design is a little less noise isolation which is still very good for a headphones pair of this kind.
This headphones pair boasts dual dynamic driver due to which it has a v-shaped sound signature. I played songs from various genres — from Pitbull’s Give me Everything to JB’s Baby — and all of them sound pretty good. The sound quality of AD01 is pretty diverse with an added touch of bass. But unlike some other headphones that only emphasis on bass, these headphones also has the right amount of warmth and clarity. Even at top volume, I didn’t notice any distortion in any song I played, including the ones having less-bitrate.
Even though it’s their first headphone, Alpha & Delta have made a pretty good attempt. A diverse sound with an extra pinch of bass, replaceable cable and good accessory kit, all of that in less than 100 bucks. One thing which can potentially hold you from buying this earphone is the lack of in-line controls.
Bowers and Wilkins analyzed their two of the most popular headphones and tweaked to make both of them even better. C5 is one of them, the other is over-ear model P5. So rather than designing another in-ear headphone from scratch, they changed (a little bit) a model which was already popular. That was quite a sensible decision – from my point of view. B&W must have hope that it would do even better than its predecessor.
As far as I am concerned, I didn’t notice any major exterior design changes, this headphone offers, from its predecessor. Instead, B&W seemed to be focused largely on its interiors and performance. If you’ve previously owned old C5, the first thing you’ll notice in series 2 C5 is its all-black design which is different from previous version’s transparent cable cover. Another apparently visible changes are ear-tips – they are made from improved rubber material but still may put a little more pressure on some people’s ears. B&W has included a few different ear-tips in the box, though, to choose what fits you best.
Performance wise, Original C5 wasn’t bad either. Its sound was rich and dynamic. Its just lacked some clarity. But now this base has been covered too. Because new C5 SII beats the original one by quite a margin in terms of clarity. Its clarity is impressive in almost all modes, not just treble. But one important downside of this “extra clarity” is that it’ll suck the life out of low-bitrate/poor quality MP3s, literally. But it still has some good features to mention like Micro Porous Filter which will help you if you want to recreate a concert-like environment in your music and Noise Isolation to lost in your music world.
Like I said, B&W C5 S2 is an evolution, instead of a revolution. And that’s what it make an all-round package.
Apart from these earphones, all of the other headphones are relatively new. On the other hand this headphone – Etymotic hf5 – was first released more than 6 years ago. Despite all of that, it is still one of the best Noise isolating in-ear headphones you can buy. You’re shortly gonna know why I’m saying so.
For Etymotic hf2 users, hf5′ design brings nostalgia. The two in-ear headphones are identical, the only difference is the microphone. Upon looking, you’ll notice its unusually long earpieces. These earpieces have triple-cone shaped silicone fittings that will help them in sticking deep in your ears. So now you may know why I’ve called them the best in ear headphones for Noise Isolation.
You’ll get two pairs of these triple flange eartips and one pair of the foamy ear tips. Now you may worry that these large ear tips may cause discomfort to your ears, but these are very soft and comfortable. Apart from these, you’ll get a “filter-changing” tool and an extra set of filters. These filters are inserted in the opening of earpieces in order to smooth frequency and block earwax from ruining your headphones.
Apart from noise reduction, Etymotic has some other sound tricks in its hat. Most prominent aspects are its detailed level of music and clarity. Some people have noted that it is not best for high-frequency music but it gives you decent sound overall. Add A-class Noise isolation into the equation and you’ll get a pretty fair deal.
There are many audiophiles I know, who don’t rate Sony’ headphones that much. For them (and for you too), here is Sony XBA-h1. These headphones are giving devices, 50% pricier than them, a run for their money. In fact, The Wire Cutter rated them: The Best $200 In-Ear Headphones.
Though these earbuds are much less expensive than 200 bucks. The reason for them topping The Wire Cutter’ Test was simple:
Solid Performance, Catchy + Sporty design and a touch of style.
Many of us think that in-ear headphones can’t give you audiophile experience you crave for. Pretty much true they are, some exceptions still exist – XBA-h1 is one of them. Earphones that are applauded for their overall sound quality are very few. Even those can be panned out for their bulky design. Shure SE215 is an example. But XBA-h1 shows that you can deliver impressive sound while being compact.
Other things worth mentioning in its design are its plastic-and-rubber-coated ear tips. Despite the lack of premium material in their design, they make up for it by a solid construction. You’ll get three silicon and four foam ear tips. These foam ear-tips will help you achieve even more noise isolation. One major downside is the lack of any inline remote controls. So switch to phone when/if you need to change song/make call.
Inside the headphone, we have a hybrid 2-way Driver Unit, which gives it an extended bass and vocals. For those who don’t know.
Hybrid Driver Unit is the blend of two common driver designs found in earphones – Dynamic Driver design and Balanced Armature design. While Balanced Armature design gives you detailed middle tunes and less bass, Dynamic Driver Design gives you extra bass and warmer sound. So, Sony’s Hybrid Driver Unit combines the attributes of both designs.
Jaybird X2 headphones are a refined version of Bluebuds X. Bluebuds X was made as a Sports and wireless headphone and after all these years, it’s still quite popular among Jaybird’ fan-base. On design, X2 looks exactly like Bluebuds X. Same ‘wings’ attached to those earpieces and the same type of wire. But there are much improvements in other areas like better sweat proofing — even though Bluebuds X had a decent amount of sweat proofing — as well as comfortable fit and improved battery life.
Since this is a wireless headphone, it uses Bluetooth technology. This pair can store connection settings of 8 devices at a time, and it’ll discard previous connections every time you’ll make new ones, but it will happen once you’d connect more than 8 devices. Its battery life is more than 8 hours which is pretty good. You can use it as a Bluetooth headset in order to make phone calls, but this is no way near a pro-grade Bluetooth headset. Whenever you pause/stop the music for a longer period, this device will automatically go into a standby state. This pair comes with a USB charging cable as well as a carrying case. In addition to these, X2 comes with 6 pairs of ear tips and 3 pairs of ear-fins aka ‘wings’ that enable better fit for its ear tips.
Performance wise, X2 gives you complete noise isolation, unlike powerbeats and Plantronics backbeat which let some noise into your ear. Although it’s a sports headphone, X2’s sound quality is pretty good too. Its sound is bass-centric but not bass-obsessive and accurate too. Even at high volumes, its lows don’t distort.
Other than being a little pricey, there isn’t much fault in this headphone.
Focal Sphere is the first in-ear headphones pair from focal which is a relatively lesser-known french headphones manufacturer. So let’s talk about how was my experience with it.
Nothing extraordinary here. There are 2 metal-build earpieces connected through a little thick wire which connects to any device through a normal L-shaped plug. You will get a total of 5 ear tips with this headphone. One each pair of small, medium and large ear tips + 1 set of both silicone and foam ear tips.
That thick cord I mentioned above has a Y-junction which, in turn, has a single button in order to make/end calls, pause/play music. You can even skip your tracks through the very same button. Press it twice to skip forward and thrice to skip back to the previous song. Call quality is good. That’s why you can make it work like a headset. On a rather technical side, these headphones have an impedance at 16 ohms and it also has 10.8mm headphones drivers.
Unlike some other headphones in this list, the sound of the focal sphere is truly all round. Bass is rich, treble is crisp, the sound is clear and mid-range is there too, what do a person need more in earbuds? Its noise isolation level is less than ideal but even then, its sound quality remains perfect. Unlike other headphones that give balanced sound but mess up the treble, the focal sphere has persistent clarity. So I can safely say that this headphones pair is the one for audiophiles. That being said, if you want to have a livelier sound, check out something like Sennheiser Momentum.
On a fun fact, this company — focal — is actually pronounced as “foe-cal” instead of “focal” because they’re french. I read about this while reading another review of this product.
“A gorgeous pair of in-ears that have a full-bodied, detailed sound that’s engaging to listen to” — What HiFi
For RHA, T10i is their first flagship and most advanced in-ear headphones to date. Build on the moderate success enjoyed by entry-level RHA MA450i, T10i clearly shows RHA’s intent to flourish in this market. And they are deadly serious about it too.
On the design front, T10i’s shells are made from stainless steel. No matter how sleek and stylish they look, they have a minor flaw. As you know that steel is somewhat heavier than titanium and aluminum, this little bit extra weight can annoy some users. And also, their design, which is large from outside resembles more like hearing aids, instead of earbuds. And for your information, Experts Reviews called ’em “supremely comfortable”.
If you want a lot of ear tips, then RHA has something for you. A total number of 9 ear tips which include two impressive Comply foam tips. But one thing I missed was a removable cable. Though original cable is great, but what would happen if your L’il cousin breaks it. One feature I would love to mention is its “Noise Isolating Design“. Its design naturally eliminates virtually every noise from outside.
On performance, T10i was looking pretty impressive. These earbuds put much more stress on bass than usual. But that feeling was soon over. Since t10i come with three metal filters – bass, treble, and reference. Bass and Treble sets suggest what you should expect them to be. And reference somewhere in between.
But what I found was the most unbalanced bass I’ve ever encountered in two of their three sets – precisely in Reference and somewhat less in Treble set. Only ‘Bass’ set can provide you with some satisfaction. It emphasizes much on bass but a more important thing – Balance – pretty much returns to normal. In addition, an increase in treble presence gives you sweeter, mid-range sound.
One more thing to tell is the ‘i’ is their name T10i which suggests that they have an inline remote control. But as was the case with B&W C5 S2, it’ll work only for IOS device (Is there any racism against Android lovers?). These headphones come in two versions – Headphones only and With remote and mic.
As I said earlier, these are the first attempt by RHA in top-tier earbuds niche. As expected, they didn’t tick all the boxes. Though T10i offer good sound in Bass filter, they are terribly unbalanced in other two. Not to forget is its inline remote for IOS devices only. It’ll be pretty hard for an Android user like me – to find a reason – to buy them. But it’s still a considerable option for iPhone users.
Shure is a very big brand in headphones market. There are many models in their lineup that are just upgraded version of their cousins, very few products are made from scratch. SE425 is no exception, it is an updated version of SE420. Though there are some differences between them. Unlike SE420, SE425 can’t be split from Y-junction to wear it in a shirt pocket. Speaking about Y-junction, I must tell you that it – and L-plug housings – are well rugged. Add a two-year warranty in it, and these earbuds will be hellishly durable.
You would expect 200+ bucks earphones to perform well. And SE425 doesn’t disappoint you either. Its earpieces have dual High-Definition MicroDrivers speaker type. In layman’s terms, each of its earpieces has its own woofer and tweeter. That’s why these in-ear headphones deliver simple and pure sound. No exaggerated bass or treble. No detail is lost, whether it’s high or mid notes. So if you’re a person who listens to a diverse range of genres (like me), these earphones definitely won’t disappoint you. One little disappointment – as the case with many earbuds in this list – is that its Inline-remote controls are IOS-only.
What Others Say About It
The SE425s may not be the best sounding earphones in Shure’s line-up, but they’re almost certainly the best value. The audio quality offered by the dual-driver design is nothing short of astounding, and coupled with the excellent build quality, makes the SE425s an almost irresistible set of earphones. — Trusted Reviews
Sennheiser Momentum series is well-appreciated among users. Momentum On-Ear also had a decent amount of success. Yet, Momentum In-Ear is the most affordable headphone by Sennheiser till now. But being affordable doesn’t imply that it is short in features. The fact that it the Best In-Ear Headphone in our list – naturally promises it to be a real deal.
If you look on its design, it will give you a sporty look. Similar to the one in Momentum Wireless. Red and black give you matte and glossy Finish, to make it look like expensive. This headphone also have flat cable. Sennheiser also gave attention to its packaging. Open up the box and you’ll get headphone and inline remote neatly packed side-by-side. If default ear-tips aren’t good enough for you, you can choose from four different sized ear-tips.
In terms of performance, Momentum In-Ear didn’t carry on its historical balanced-sound. Instead, you’ll get a lot of bass and treble. But in mids, there isn’t any fun. These earbuds come in two different models – Apple IOS version and Samsung Galaxy version. Samsung Galaxy version will work for most android devices – by the way.
Sennheiser’s Momentum In-Ear raise the bar for sound performance in sub-$100 earphones. The inline controls and microphone bolster the offering to make this almost too good a value to pass up – Tech Radar
Well, these were some of the best in-ear headphones and earbuds 2017 that you can get, in my opinion. Every headphone has its own merits and demerits. Now it’s up to you which type of and in which price range you want your headphone. Momentum is a good all-around option. On the other hand, Shure 425 gives a truly great experience but it’s a bit expensive.
Muhammad Asfand Yar, or Asfand as his friends call, is Author cum Owner of List Enthusiast. Blogging is his old new-found love. He writes to boost his Knowledge - and yours too. He usually remains in front of computer screen - even when he isn't writing any Blog post - doing computer programming. C++ is his passion. Catch him on twitter @asfandyar12.