Quick note on this article. Times have changed, and earbuds are even better now. Please check out our latest article on wireless bluetooth earbuds.
Life’s too short for shoddy earbuds. And I am talking about the little ones that fit inside the ear. Not those pink big jobbers you see at Urban Outfitters. I do own a pair of big ones, Sennheiser RS 170 Digital Wireless Headphone with Dynamic Bass and Surround Sound, and the sound quality is great; they’re perfect for movies and music. But if you log most of your podcast hours during runs or working outs, the big DJ cans don’t make a lot of sense.
I’m not personally affiliated with any of the companies listed below, but I am familiar with each model, and I think they’re all pretty great.
Etymotic ER-4PT $223 — I have three pairs of these. One lasted me three years, and I still use the handy shirt clip accessory on my current pair (not Etymotics). These things sound great, but they do have a bit of a microphonic issue, a feedback kind of sound that starts up when you move the jack around. The company is renowned for its noise isolating technology, so be prepared to block out the world when you stick them in. But pay attention when you’re near traffic. You WILL NOT hear the cars around you. You’ll want to read the manual when you get them too; when they stop working you’re supposed to change the filters with this little screwdriver they give you, and it’s not exactly an intuitive process. If you’re tightening your belt, these probably aren’t for you. I found all of mine on Ebay for under $100, but there are plenty of models out there just as good for a fraction of the price.
Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones $179— These have the best cord out there. The number one reason your earbuds are going to die will have to do with cord corrosion. These have kevlar coating so they don’t break, corrode or tear. The cord conveniently fits behind the ears. They won’t fall in front of your face when you move your head. The sound quality is what you’d expect for buds in this price range. There is one issue I have with them though: The plug won’t fit in your iPhone if you’re using a protective case. It’s too big. I’m sure there’s a workaround, but I haven’t found it.
Moshi Mythro Earbuds with Headset Mic $30 — Here’s a set of earbuds that don’t cost much, and work if your in the car expecting a call. They have a mic like the iPhone native buds. The mic doesn’t have the best sound quality, however. You may get a few “you’re breaking up on me” declarations when you’re on the phone. Other than that, they’re sturdy earbuds with stylish design and comfortable ear pieces. One more thing, there’s no right and left indicators on the actual buds, so be prepared to live dangerously.
MEElectronics Sport M6 $29.99 — Great sound quality for the price. Maybe great is too strong a word. Let’s call it good sound quality. And the isolation component is as effective as the Etymotics.
I’m not wild about the over-the-ear design, but they’re good earbuds if you’re on a budget. I believe they come in other colors if clear is not your bag.
Panasonic RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphone $5.38 — Here’s what I’m using currently, and I really only foresee one problem: The cord is a bit thin. It may wear out on me pretty quickly. But the sound is good; they’re comfortable, and they come with different size ear plugs. I also added the clip from my old Etymotics to keep from ripping them out of my head when I run. In opinion, this is the best bargain for your money.