Most smartphones will come bundled with a pair of free in-ear headphones, but more often than not they're not exactly high-quality. For occasional music listeners they're fine, but if you want to get the most out of your tunes then an upgrade is in order.
When looking for a new pair of in-ear headphones, you'll want to make sure they're comfortable, fit snugly in your ears to provide a tight seal and thus better bass and improved noise isolation.
You will also need to decide if you want a wired or wireless pair. Wired pairs tend to sound slightly better on the whole, but wireless offer convenience. So what are your options if you want to upgrade? Read on to find out.
Bose QuietComfort 30
Bose is a brand synonymous with good quality sound and even better noise-cancelling. For years the company's over-ear QuietComfort models have reigned as some of the best cans to block out external noise. The QC 30s take that tech and put it into an in-ear pair, with fantastic results.
You're able to adjust how much ambient noise is blocked out using the companion Bose Connect app. If you need to be aware of your surroundings, when you're cycling for example, but still want to listen to music, the QC 30s are an ideal choice.
Whilst we do like a neckband design, the way Bose has designed it and the controls to change tracks or adjust the volume could have been thought out a bit better, as it can occasionally tug on one of the ear pieces. But otherwise they're a tremendous pair of in-ear headphones.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 30 review
Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless also employ a neckband design, like the Bose QC 30, but we feel it's been carried out in a much more effective way. The earpieces themselves have enough slack thanks to the cabling, and all the electronics are housed in the neckband, leaving little to no weight in your ears.
Sound quality is excellent and on par with the company's on-ear and over-ear models in the Momentum range. It's well-balanced, detailed and clear and worth every penny of the asking price.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless review
Bragi The Headphone
Odd naming aside, the Bragi The Headphone is a completely wire-free pair of in-ear headphones. Bragi was among the first companies to launch a truly wireless pair of in-ears with The Dash, but they're more sports orientated. The Headphone are a more stripped back affair, focusing solely on sound.
The wireless connection to your phone, and between each ear piece is superb, and we didn't notice any dropouts when testing. We'd suggest taking care when putting them in your ears, as you'll want to get the most snug fit you can to get the best possible sound out of them. Once they're in though, you're rewarded with a well-balanced sound that's easy to listen to.
Read the full review: Bragi The Headphone review
Buy from Amazon UK
The RockJaw Resonate are a simple pair of in-ear headphones, or as Rockjaw likes to call them, "over-ear in-ear monitors". This is because the cable is designed to go over and around your ear before you put the earpieces in. We're not entirely sure why Rockjaw has done this, and we did find it a little uncomfortable, but it didn't detract from the sound on offer.
There's no noise-cancellation, Bluetooth or companion apps with the Resonate, but you are able to attach different filters to adjust the sound profile. All of them worked well under testing and combined with the wide range of eartips available to ensure a secure fit, we were very impressed with the sound the headphones produced, especially for the price.
Read the full review: Rockjaw Resonate review
If it's booming, powerful bass you're after, but with all the high-frequency detail thrown in too, these Denon in-ears are well worth a listen. They exude a premium feel thanks to aluminium housings and a thick, silicone cable that doesn't tangle.
Turn the volume up on your phone or music player and the Denon in-ears will give you big, powerful sound that doesn't distort. They have good rhythm and even better detail too, so you need not worry that your music will get drowned out by low-frequencies.
A companion app will let you adjust the sound profile and play your music collection, provided you have your own files on your phone and not any from a streaming service. The only downside is that you have to pay for this on top of the cost of the headphones themselves.
Read the full review: Denon AH-C821 review
The Beats X wireless in-ear headphones also have a neckband design, but it's entirely cable that runs around the back of your head and not a housing for electronics. These aren't a noise-cancelling pair of in-ears, but they do have some clever tech inside nonetheless. They're fitted with Apple's W1 chip which, for the benefit of iPhone owners only, will instantly pair them with your phone when they're placed nearby.
They're typically bassy for Beats headphones, but it's not overly dominating and they provide a good fit too, which aids noise-isolation. Overall, they're an accomplished pair of in-ears and well worth a listen if you're an iPhone owner who listens to music on a regular basis.
Read the full review: Beats X review
Buy from Apple
The AirPods did what other Apple products have typically done in the past; take something that's already out there, evolve it, and make it popular. They're not the first completely wireless pair of in-ear headphones, but they were the first to introduce the W1 chip which allows for instant pairing with iOS devices. It really is very clever.
The look of them may divide opinion, but they're unmistakably Apple. Sound quality is decent, although we wouldn't say it's the best in this list. However, for the majority of on-the-go listening, they'll do the job well.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods review