Compact Sound: The Best-Sounding In-Ear Headphones

There’s two types of people in this world: those who wear over-head headphones, and those that wear in-ear headphones. Of course, some straddle the two for sport and fitness, but generally it’s one or the other. While over-ear headphones can be a bit bulky in certain scenarios, in-ear is able offer great sound with compact portability and the all-important phone connectivity for calls.

Comprising wired and wireless, luxury and budget, here’s our pick of the best in-ear headphones on the market right now.

Sony WF-1000XM4

Best For: Value For Money

We really like these mid-market wireless earphones from Sony. Fully bluetooth compatible, great noise cancelling capabilities and a battery life of around eight hours, they more than justify the price point with the quality of sound.

It’s at this level that you realise what small earphones can really do: deep clear bass, well-balanced sound… and they look pretty slick too.

Buy now at Amazon

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ

Best For: Truly Immersive Audio

If you really want an immersive sound experience from a compact pair of earbuds, then look no further than luxury audio brand Bang & Olufsen. Its Beoplay EQ earphones feature advanced adaptive noise cancellation, meaning they compensate for background noise, and a snug, in-ear fit to passively reduce disturbances too.

As you would expect from B&O, the sound quality and aesthetics are second to none, while six microphones and market-leading directional beamform technology ensures calls are crystal clear. Worth the price tag.

Buy now at Bang Olufsen

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Best For: Extended Use

Another wireless design courtesy of German audio giant Sennheiser, which has long been a dependable brand for premium in-ear headphones. A super-simple design and range of interchangeable buds mean they fit nice and snug in the ear, which is imperative if using them while working out or commuting. The sound is also beautifully balanced with rich bass, and there’s noise cancelling and solid bluetooth connectivity to ensure stable performance.

It’s worth pointing out that although the headphones will do roughly 7.5 hours on a single charge, the case itself when full charged allows 27 hours of playback overall, so you’ll never get caught short.

Buy now at Amazon

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best For: All-Round Package

A superb all-round package from Bose. The sound is incredible and the noise-cancelling technology is some of the best on the market. As well as an in-built mic you get a comfortable, snug fit, a charging case that’ll boost the admittedly smaller six-hours battery life and an excellent associated app that allows you to adjust the level of noise cancellation when you need to be more alert to your surroundings.

The buds are also IPX4 rated, meaning they’re suitable to wear in all weather conditions and for exercise.

Buy now at John Lewis

Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Best For: Android Devices

You can’t do a phone to rival Apple and not bring out some matching earphones. Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series are a feature-packed alternative to others on this list but lack a few keys features including volume control. Nonetheless they pack a punch sound-wise and are IPX4 water-resistant, so you can sweat it out in them while exercising and not worry about them breaking.

As you would expect, they pair intuitively with Android devices and echo the Pixel phone with their clean, minimal white design.

Pre order at Google Store

Bowers & Wilkins PI3

Best For: Working Out

If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced pair of sports earphones, consider these from Bowers & Wilkins. Balanced sound with clear, immersive bass, they’re built to take a beating and the neck-band design with integrated controls ensures comfort and practicality when exercising.

Eight hours battery life, minimal weight and easy bluetooth connectivity make them an essential addition to any gym bag.

Buy now at Amazon

Apple AirPods Pro

Best For: Ease Of Use

Apple’s AirPods have quickly become a must-have for iPhone users (which is most of the population), and for good reason: they connect seamlessly, sound great and generally just make your life easier. Pairing automatically with all your Apple devices and with a multitude of in-built shortcuts that allow you take calls, play/pause/skip music and use Siri at the touch of the buds, they really are the ultimate life hack.

We would recommend the Pro versions as the extra investment secures you noise cancellation – which can be turned on and off instantly for when you need to be more present – and multiple size silicone buds for an improved fit. Exceptional audio, crystal clear call handling, superb battery life and sweat- and water-resistance come as standard.

The Silicone Valley behemoth knocks it out of the park again.

Buy now at Amazon