In-ear headphones are often an underlooked segment of the massive earphone market. Yet, while those big, powerful over-ears might be your pride and joy, the portability of in-ears makes them a much more indispensable part of your daily routine — especially if you’ve got a daily commute on the bus or train.
As your go-to sonic companion, a quality pair of in-ears can be your best friend through good days and bad. And trading out those muffled stormtrooper Earpods from Apple for something with quality performance — and maybe a bit of individual style — can be a life changing transition. As such, we’ve collected a few of our favorite recent additions to the wide world of in-ears — some cost a mint, and some barely bend your budget, but all will make you a happy camper next time you hit the road.
Klipsch R6i ($100)
It can be tough to achieve well-balanced sound within an attractive $100 package, but thankfully for Klipsch, the R6i offer exactly that and then some. The oval-shaped earpieces provide a first-class fit and ample comfort, along with gleaming treble and a healthy amount of low end. The “tangle-resistant” cable can be loud when bumping against your clothing, often resulting in a low thumping sound, but the included clothing clip does provide some relief when used. The bundled carrying case and inline microphone are a nice touch, too, especially given the price.
Westone W40 ($500)
Westone products don’t come cheap. However, the company has a penchant for putting out headphones that are as precise as they are durable. The W40 are no exception, showcasing a streamlined, tough-as-nails build and the kind of unassuming matte-black finish you might find on headphones nearly a tenth of the price. Don’t go for the Batman vibe? They also offer red and blue interchangeable plates to mix it up. And the 4-pack of balanced armature drivers provide superior clarity across the entire sound spectrum, capitalizing on their passive noise attenuation and providing accurate, vivid definition. These professional in-ears are also comfortable, though, more apt for audiophiles than the casual listener.
Shure SE112 ($50)
At a mere $50, Shure’s SE112 are likely the most bang for your buck of any in-ear on our roundup. The equipped, dynamic driver is capable of an admirable 102 dB SPL with a claimed frequency response of 25 Hz to 17kHz, allowing for an open soundstage that brims with taut bass and finely-focused mids. The robust build and above-average passive noise isolation of the SE112s help mask the melange of sounds peppering the outside world as well, and though the upper register can come off as a tad snappy at times, we adamantly prefer that over the muffled competitors you’ll find at this price. A inline microphone would still be nice, though…
Bose QC20i ($300)
The DSP suite that accompanies the amplified sound engine of the QC20i might render music a little synthetic and over-digitized on occasion, but the resounding hallmarks of Bose’s signature noise-cancelling in-ears will likely outweigh most cons for many users. Outfitted with dense plastic dimpled with silver accents, the solid headphones absolutely shine when it comes to active noise cancellation, making effective use of Bose’s proprietary ANC technology to drown out the unwanted hum of the outside world. The comfortable headphones also manage to deliver clear, well-detailed sound across genres, with a host of features that compliment the first-class noise cancellation.
Audiofly AF78 ($210)
The Audiofly AF78 prove the hybrid concept in headphones is worth visiting. The quality in-ears combine a balanced armature and a standard dynamic driver into a single earbud, allowing them to attain brilliant detail in both the pristine upper register or the warm, comprehensive low end. The headphones feature spotless instrumental separation, too, drawing out the deep timbres and the tone color from each instrument in a given track. The premium build of the AF78 also leave little to be desired, outputting sound at your convenience via a pair of plastic capsules adorned with chrome alloy ribbons.
RHA T10i ($200)
Believe it or not, the RHA T10i are more luxurious than their plastic-covered wraparound design might let on. These premium in-ears are drafted from mold-injected stainless-steel for sturdy build quality. They also offer three interchangeable tuning filters designed to slightly alter the soundscape to fit your individual listening preferences. The T10i excel when it comes it reproducing instrumental timber, with buttery mids, and a nimble upper register, though the hefty sledge of tight bass may prove too much for some listeners. Still, if that’s your style, the T10i add the heft, without clouding the rest, and provide comfortable listening via a multitude of form-fitting silicone ear tips.