Rewind a few years ago and earbuds were still reserved for sci-fi, the FBI and heavy metal gigs. Nowadays, with earphones getting lighter, smaller and techier, earbuds have become commonplace.
Over the ear headphones are too cumbersome for some people, particularly those of us with big ears. In comparison, earbuds offer accessibility, comfort and are a lot easier to use for sport and exercise.
We’ve rounded up the best earphones on the market to find the best pair for you, whether you’re popping them in for the commute or stepping onto the treadmill.
There’s tonnes to say about each pair so we’ve picked up on our favourite features for each.
Jabra Elite 75t – £169.99
HITC says: The best value for money earbuds around.
Jabra aren’t the best known audio manufacturer in Britain but they are a brand worth keeping an eye on. They have a finger on the pulse of the consumer, dealing with some of the pet peeves that often keep a good pair of earbuds from being a great pair of earbuds.
The Elite 75t by Jabra aren’t annoying. That is just about the best compliment to give a pair of earbuds. They don’t fall out of your ear, phonecalls are doable no matter the weather or whereabouts and best of all, they sound amazing.
These earbuds fit snugly without being uncomfortable, it’s a headline feature and we can understand why – with earbuds you often have to choose between comfortable and loose or secure and invasive.
Four microphones are employed to pick up and isolate your voice when making phonecalls, even shutting out the wind. We were particularly impressed by the responsiveness when connected to our voice assistant – these earbuds can communicate with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
One charge lasts 7.5 hours and the charging case can store an impressive 27 hours of juice. We can’t find a fault in these earbuds.
Where to buy: Jabra online
Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro – £219.95
HITC says: The best earbuds for athletes and gymgoers.
Beats by Dre is one of the best known names in the audio game. Founded by music moguls Dr.Dre and Jimmy Iovine, the now Apple owned brand is known for its industry leading design and superstar cliontel.
Given that a guerilla marketing campaign at the Olympics helped cement Beats’ place in the public consciousness, it is fitting that they’ve made earbuds so perfect for athletes.
The Powerbeats are hooked over your ear and are tight enough to be secure but loose enough to be comfortable. Both sweat and water resistant, we were impressed by the reliability of comfort and positioning these earbuds offered during an intense workout. Well, we ran around the park. Ok we ran and then walked. The important thing is that we started.
The touch features are handy – a long press on that emblematic B will decline an incoming call. The microphone was impressive when used with Siri – iPhone users will definitely get more out of these earbuds than Android users.
We were impressed with the battery life – with the charging case handy the Powerbeats Pro should last 24 hours, a single charge lasting 9 hours. A quick 5 minute charge will give you 1.5 hours listening time.
The sound is as bassy as you would expect from Beats by Dre and the dynamic range won’t win over any audiophiles but hey – that’s not what they’re here for. The Powerbeats Pro are the only choice for those looking to invest in their workout gear.
Where to buy: Beats by Dre
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless – £279.99
HITC says: Ideal for the audiophile on the go.
Sennheiser are dons of the audio world. Founded in Germany, this company has made microphones for everybody from the Stasi to Hollywood filmmakers. They’ve even received an Emmy Award for their technological advancements.
The Momentum True Wireless are Sennheiser’s on the go offering. The noise isolation is incredibly impressive and the sound is as balanced and crisp as you would expect from this audiophile friendly brand.
We were big fans of Sennheiser going for noise isolation as opposed to noise cancellation. Focusing on noise cancellation can sacrifice comfort when it comes to earbuds, isolation works just fine.
The quality of life features promise a lot and for the most part deliver. One tap on the right earbud wakes up your Siri or Google Assistant, a double tap adjusts how much of the outside world you can hear. Removing one of the earbuds will pause your music for you. We found these gesture features super easy to pick up and reliable in their function.
Battery life clocks in at four hours, the carry case can hold enough for two more full charges. These earbuds were easy to use and boast the best sound out of any earbuds we reviewed. If you are a music geek with a bit extra in your budget, these are the earbuds for you.
Where to buy: Sennheiser
Cleer Ally – £149.99
HITC says: Earbuds that sound great for hours on end.
Cleer have been making waves in the last couple of years. Emerging on British shores to rival the likes of Sony, these San Diego sound guys have been churning out some top of the range audio equipment of late.
The Ally earbuds are helpful in that they come with three different wingtip sizes in the box. We went full Goldilocks and tried all three on, eventually finding the perfect fit. This added touch really aids your comfort and helps keep the earbuds as secure as possible.
Whilst the Cleer Ally earbuds are bigger than you’d expect they pack a punch battery wise. With one charge lasting a marathon 10 hours and the charging case offering you two more full charges, we can accept that added bit of bulk to the shape.
The sound of these headphones is as impressive as we’ve come to expect from Cleer. Despite being newbies in comparison to their established rivals, the company has nailed down a sophisticatedly balanced sound – at a push it is a little bassy but this isn’t a complaint.
Overall these earbuds are a solid choice. The battery is impressive, your music sounds crisp and the touch controls are easy to use. You can do a lot worse than the Cleer Ally eabuds.
Where to buy: Harrods (in store)
Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless – £220
HITC says: A premium offering from a premium brand, Sony never disappoint.
When you are making a big investment like this, you want to go with a brand you can trust – Sony is one such brand. They have been around seemingly forever, they aren’t pitched to audiophiles or fashionistas, they are the ideal middle ground – always balancing form and function.
These headphones are great for two main reasons: noise cancellation and musicality. They sound great and they will be the only sound you hear.
The earbuds themselves look slick, they are a lot smaller than you’d expect from something with such great noise cancellation. They are pretty comfy too, coming with a range of appendages to choose from to get the right fit for you when you put them in.
Battery life is six hours, with the charging case giving you an extra 16 hours of juice. The touch controls are reliable and easy to use – the left earbud switches the ANC on and off, the right earbud controls playback and summons your voice assistant. You can even use the companion app to flip the controls round if you wish.
The noise cancellation is the standout feature for us though. You can enjoy total isolation with these in your ear, for how small the earbuds are we really must applaud Sony for their efforts here. The outside world is shutout and your music sounds fantastic – we were impressed by the balance but also the discipline, the sound never goes too heavy with the bass for example.
Where to buy: Sony
HITC best buy: Jabra Elite
It’s got to be the Jabra Elite 75t – you cannot top them for value for money. With the battery so impressive, the comfort so personalised and phonecalls so clear you just cannot go wrong. However, if you are looking for something to exercise in then splash the extra cash and go for the Powerbeats Pro.