The best earbuds on the market at the moment can be essential to our daily digital life. Whether it’s voice calls or video meetings, loud train journeys or long plain rides, earbuds are an essential partner for anyone daily driving the best laptops or best MacBooks nowadays. But the best out there are all incredibly hard to separate, making it a difficult choice.
So, we at Gear Nuke thought we’d make your life a little easier. Whether it’s the Apple fanboy or the music maker, we’ve got the experience on hand to explain the options out there. With hours of experience using different types, for different types of tasks, we can help determine which truly are the best earbuds you can buy today.
So, head below to see all the options, from the tried-and-true Sony pairs to Google’s excellent offerings, we’ve picked the best. If you’d rather a comfier fit, we’ve also got a guide to the best headphones so you can get the over-ears perfect for long listening sessions.
Here are the best earbuds on the market today:
- Sony WF-1000XM4 – best earbuds overall
- Google Pixel Buds A-Series – best budget earbuds
- Apple AirPods Pro – best earbuds for iPhone users
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 – best earbuds for Android users
- Sennheiser IE 600 – best audiophile earbuds
- Beats Powerbeats Pro – best earbuds for working out
The Sony WF-1000XM4s are, in our opinion, the best earbuds overall and you can expect to pay $199 (£199).
- Good ANC
- Bluetooth codecs
- Sound quality
- Won’t fit all ears
- Competition is fierce
Sony’s WF-1000XM4s are the go-to choice for anyone who wants the best all-rounder at a decent price. They have excellent sound, combined with a sleek design and good active noise cancellation – the three main things to look for from a pair of wireless buds.
The newer buds come in a smaller form factor, upping their portability. Meanwhile, a wide variety of Bluetooth codecs mean you can actually get the high-quality sound these buds promise.
The main focus is, of course, how they sound. While tastes may differ slightly if you’re really into this sort of thing, there’s very little between these buds and the others out there. Robust bass and surprisingly crisp highs make for a lively sound.
Of course, tastes are tastes – the AirPods Pro Gen 2 are slightly warmer to my ear, in a way I prefer. But splitting hairs like this is not something most people will do. And for the price, these are the best way to go (unless you have an iPhone, which I’ll get to shortly!).
The best earbuds for anyone on a budget are the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, which you can expect to pay $99 (£99) for.
- Clear, no-nonsense sound
- Simple design
- No ANC
- A little barebones
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are the best earbuds for anyone on a budget. While their RRP is $99 (£99), they’re often available for much less, sometimes even as low as $70 (£60) if you find the right deal.
In terms of sound, they’re ace. There’s not much clever digital trickery in the way of things hear – the sound is clear and clean, dynamic enough to pick out different frequencies, with robust bass for this low price.
Meanwhile, the design is pretty sleek, and the charging case, while not exactly an ergonomic thrill, does the job well. The main thing it does is give you up to 24 hours battery life without reaching for a charging cable, which is ace.
They’re pretty comfortable too, not something that’s obvious in the design. And all for such a good price! So, what’s the catch? Well, there’s no active noise cancelling…
Instead there’s adaptive sound, which changes the volume of the music depending on how much noise there is in the world. You can just do this yourself with the volume rocker on a normal phone, and that’s what we recommend. Adaptive sound is weird.
While they may seem barebones compared to the competition, they’re not when you compare it to competitors at the same price. The Google name may make you want to put these up against an Apple pair, but that’s not a fair fight. These are ace next to the likes of Jabra’s Elite 4s (which are also an excellent pair of budget buds, mind you).
The best earbuds for an iPhone user are the second generation Apple AirPods Pro, which cost around $249 (£249).
- Excellent ANC
- Slick integration
- Great sound
- Slightly pricier than competition
- No good for Android users
The second generation of the Apple AirPods Pro could be the best earbuds on this list, if it weren’t for the fact that what makes them so good all depends on owning an iPhone. Sure, they sounds great, are comfortable, and look good to some people, but what sets them apart is their integration with iOS.
These buds automatically pair up with your phone as soon as you put them in, pause when you take them out, automatically switch between which Apple device your using, and offer added features like Dolby Atmos and head tracking spatial audio. This makes them an excellently slick pair of buds.
Plus, for anyone who’s a bit of a scatterbrain, these feature the same tracking as Apple’s AirTags. You can locate the headphones on your phone if you’ve left them out and about, or if they’re just down the back of the sofa they can make a sound.
All this is great, sure, but it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t sound good. Apple’s AirPods Pro where originally very good, and the second generation is a definite step up. The sound is warm and clear, plus Apple’s ANC is up there with the best.
The downsides are, of course, for anyone who’s not an Apple faithful. The way they work with Android phones is fine, but the extra money these buds cost is only really worth it with all the quality-of-life improvements.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are the best for Android users, and cost around $149 (£99).
- Galaxy integration
- Nice design
- Decent sound
- Average ANC
- Big case
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are the best for anyone with a Samsung phone, thanks to the decent integration across Galaxy devices. Of course, not all Android users use Samsung, but most do – so these are the best for most people.
In terms of sound quality, they’re nice and balanced. There’s nothing massively standout about the sound, but it’s solid and straight. Getting ANC, too, at this price, is ace. There’s probably better out there, but it’s slim margins after all.
Combine this with the auto-pause feature when you pull them out your ears and around 30 hours of battery life in the case too, they’re an excellently well-rounded option for anyone on the hunt for a pair of buds. Plus, you can get them in purple too, so that’s nice.
There are some downsides, but they’re not deal breakers. If you like your bass boomy, these can’t do it. If you spend a lot of time on really loud commutes, the ANC doesn’t quite compete with the best. Oh, and the case isn’t really to my liking – it might be an idea to get your hands on a pair before purchasing to double check.
The best headphones for all you audiophiles out there are the Sennheiser IE 600s. They cost $799 (£699).
- Exquisite sound
- Luxurious design
- No smart features
- Only for audiophiles
The best bet for any audiophile are a pair of wired earbuds, and the Sennheiser IE 600s are the best out there without truly breaking the bank. While the bigger brother 900s offer a bigger soundstage, it’s hard to say the improvement is worth almost doubling the cost.
So, we say go for the IE 600s, which offer a wide, roomy stereo far beyond anything the lower-cost wireless pairs in this list can offer. Anyone into high-quality audio already knows this, but if you’ve never tried higher-end wired buds, it’s a bit of a revelation, mainly because of the sense of scale these tiny things can create.
Beyond that, the build-quality is exquisite, and the design is pretty luxurious. In the box, you have a wide variety of clips and cable to choose from, too, all contained in the carry case.
These may be the best for listening to music, but they’re naturally not as clever as others on this list. That’s why they’re the best for audiophiles, not everyone. If you need ANC, automatic pausing, or voice-activated assistants, you won’t find that here. They’re gorgeous, for some.
If you’re expecting to work up a sweat, the Beats Powerbeats Pro will serve you well. They cost $249 (£269).
- Ear clips
- H1 chip
- Slightly limp sound
The Beats Powerbeats Pros offer the same benefits as a pair of AirPods, except with different branding, aesthetic, and one added bonus: ear clips. Their sleek black design isn’t just pretty, it’s also designed for athletes.
It’s not just a bit of plastic to stop it falling out your ears here, though. There’s also Apple’s H1 chip for all the magic tricks you could want on iOS, as well as IPX4-rated sweat and water resistance if your workout is going to get sweaty.
You can also say “Hey, Siri” while using the pair with an iPhone to ask for assistance, but this, at the same time, highlights an issue: these are designed for Apple users. They’re great for running without the added smart touches, but it feels a bit of a waste without them.
Add this to the slightly limp sound compared to AirPods Pro and their niche gets a little slimmer. But if you’re in that niche, if all you want is an ace pair for a long run, these are the way to go. We didn’t even mention the 9-hour battery life – that’s without the charging case – which is an added bonus. But if you’re not a gym nut, pick something else.
There we have it, the best earbuds in 2023 for all needs. If you need something to pair these with, check out our guide to the best laptops you can buy for under $1,000.