I've tried a number of earbuds over the years in search of the elusive "perfect pair". But with all the danger that can befall a set of earbuds (sometimes admittedly to replace a pair that went through the laundry or got chewed up by a cat), I've never been inclined to spend too much on them. The following few models earned my recommendations after testing/owning myself, with a few others noted for their excellent review feedback...
- Fit. I use my earbuds mostly when I'm being active: at the gym, walking in my neighborhood, occasionally even cycling. Earbuds that don't fall out of my ears when I move are key, so I always look for a pair that fit well or have multiple size options so that I can adjust them to fit my ears well. Since you're not usually able to try earbuds on, be sure to read reviews carefully!
- Microphone. I often use my earbuds plugged into my phone, and I like to be able to pick up a call if it comes through when I'm listening to music and podcasts. A built-in microphone is a must-have for me. Also look closely at how the microphone buttons function. Apple's earbuds have a volume control, but some other brands have a pause/play button or even something else. Do your research if this feature is important to you.
- Sound quality. Of course, you want to be able to hear your jams, audiobooks, or other sound files in high-quality, crystal-clear sound. Look for features like noise isolation or noise cancellation for clearer sound in louder environments. Sound quality is another place to dig into reviews to confirm what the manufacturer promises. This Lifehacker post on buying headphones is a useful general guide, and includes some great tips on picking out headphones that will sound great.
- Style. Along with all the above, I still want to look good. Personally, I avoid brightly-colored earbuds and go with something white or black to match the devices they'll be plugged into. There are totally great neon earbuds out there though, if you want to rock the look. There's plenty to choose from, so finding a set of earbuds that jives with your style and your devices should be easy.
- Portability. Is this cord going to tie itself in knots in your purse every day? Do these earbuds come with a carrying case or a quick way to wrap them up, tangle-free? If you'll be on the go with your headphones often, be sure to check out these factors in the description and reviews!
And finally, here are 10 pairs of earbuds that should serve you well in each of the above categories:
- JLab JBuds ($33)
- SkullCandy Ink'd 2.0 Earbud Headphones ($20)
- XDU Noise-Isolating Earphones ($23)
- Panasonic In-Ear Headphones ($6.50)
- JVC Headphones Xtreme-Xplosive ($17)
- Sony Earbud Style Headphones ($30)
- MEElectronics Sport-Fi Noise-Isolating In-Ear Headphones ($19)
- Sennheiser Precision Enhanced Bass Earbuds ($34)
- Audio Technica QuietPoint Active Noise-Canceling In-Ear Headphones ($50)
- Klipsch In-Ear Headphones ($46)
(Images: as credited above)