Man sitting under subway sign wearing earbuds

The Best Wired Earbuds of 2021

By Jordan Nottrodt SoundNo Comments

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Over the years, we’ve covered a number of different headphone and earbud styles: the best noise-canceling headphones and earbuds, earbuds for sleeping, cheap headphones, Bluetooth headsets, and more.

What’s clear is that everyone has their own style preferences, along with very different opinions on what matters most between performance, convenience, and cost. 

In general, while over-ear headphones offer better sound quality than comparable earbuds, the latter are much more compact, easy to travel with, and ideal for exercise. Wireless earbuds are particularly convenient, but you need to charge them regularly and again, deal with reduced sound quality.

For many people, wired earbuds offer a middle of the road approach that balances portability and convenience with audio quality they’re happy with. Today we’re sharing our favorite wired earbuds, including the best wired earbuds for working out, those with with noise-cancelation, and the ideal pick for those on a budget.

Best Wired Earbuds: Shure AONIC 215
  • Microphone?: Yes
  • Inline controls?: Yes
  • Official water resistance: None
  • Other features: Noise isolation, travel case

Runner Up, Best Wired Earbuds: 1MORE Quad Driver
  • Microphone?: Yes
  • Inline controls?: Yes
  • Official water resistance: None
  • Other features: Wide range of accessories

Best Wired Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20
  • Microphone?: Yes
  • Inline controls?: Yes
  • Official water resistance: None
  • Other features: Noise cancelation

Sale
Best Budget Wired Earbuds: Panasonic ErgoFit
  • Microphone?: Yes (some models)
  • Inline controls?: Yes, for calls (some models)
  • Official water resistance: None
  • Other features: Wide range of colors

Sale
Best Wired Sport Earbuds: JBL Endurance RUN
  • Microphone?: Yes
  • Inline controls?: Yes
  • Official water resistance: IPX5
  • Other features: Earbuds magnetically clip together

Best Wired Earbuds: Shure AONIC 215

Shure AONIC 215 Wired Sound Isolating Earbuds, Clear Sound, Single Driver, Secure In-Ear Fit, Detachable Cable, Durable Quality, Compatible with Apple & Android Devices - Clear

Put simply, the Shure AONIC 215 wired earbuds offer excellent sound quality and noise isolation without breaking the bank. 

Given they don’t have active noise cancelation, these earbuds are surprisingly good at reducing background noise thanks to their dense silicone tips. In relatively quiet places, you don’t even need to listen to music to block out the sounds around you; the earbuds themselves are enough.

In louder environments, listening to music on low volume is more than adequate to drown out the worst of the surrounding din. 

Sound quality is impressive, with deep, controlled bass and rich tones. Although the treble could be crisper and the soundstage is somewhat narrow, for the price these earbuds offer excellent sound quality no matter what you’re listening to.  

They come with thick, durable cables, a small carry case, and three different sizes of foam earbuds. These wired earbuds are great for travel (we’ve used them on the road for years): they’re comfortable, well-made, good at reducing surrounding noise, and affordable to replace if you lose them. 

The AONIC 215’s have an inline remote and mic that controls everything from voice commands and phone calls to media playback and volume. The call quality doesn’t compare to over-ear headphones like the Bose 700, but these are some of the best wired earbuds for phone calls if cabled buds are a must.

We’d still recommend these earbuds if they were twice the price, but since they’re typically available for under $100, the AONIC 215’s are our number one pick for wired earbuds.

Pros
  • Great sound quality
  • Good noise isolation
  • Inline mic and remote
  • Durable plugs and cables
  • Reasonable price
Cons
  • Cable loops over the top of the ear, which takes a bit of getting used to
Buy on Amazon

Runner Up, Best Wired Earbuds: 1MORE Quad Driver

1MORE Quad Driver in-Ear Earphones Hi-Res High Fidelity Headphones Warm Bass, Spacious Reproduction, High Resolution, Mic in-Line Remote Smartphones/PC/Tablet - Silver/Gray

It’s tough to match the value of the 1MORE Quad Driver In-Ear Earphones. While they usually cost a bit more than our number one pick, they offer similar sound quality to some earbuds that cost two or three times as much.

The Quad Driver earphones have four drivers in each ear (hence the name) to help ensure clear highs, crisp mids, and rich bass, which means they’ll sound good no matter your music preferences. They provide a balanced sound that will keep all but the pickiest audiophiles happy, especially for the price.

Just like the Shure’s above, this 1MORE model has an inbuilt remote and mic for controlling calls, voice assistance, playback, and volume. The remote works well, making these some of the best wired earbuds with mic controls if that’s what you’re after.

1MORE has done a great job with the unboxing experience: there’s a lot more than just a simple pair of earbuds on offer here. Along with nine different ear tips to ensure the perfect fit, you get an airplane adapter, a ¼” adapter for amplifiers, and a shirt clip to stop the cable from flapping around. 

If you’re happy to sacrifice a little sound quality, the 1MORE Triple Driver, as the name suggests, only has three drivers in each earbud. We’re not as impressed with the audio, but they otherwise offer many of the same features and are notably less expensive. If you’re on a budget, they’re definitely worth a look.

Pros
  • Inline mic and remote
  • Good, balanced sound
  • Handy extras, inducing a carrying case and adapters
  • Impressive unboxing experience
Cons
  • Price tag may be too high for some
Buy on Amazon

Best Wired Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Apple Devices, Black

If you’re specifically looking for active noise cancelation (ANC) and are able to invest in a set of high-end wired earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort 20 is by far the best on the market when it comes to keeping unwanted sound out of your ear canals. 

The QuietComfort 20 buds are capable of reducing the volume of certain lower frequency sounds, such as plane engines, snoring, and traffic noise, by as much as 45 decibels. That’s an impressive achievement for any set of earbuds, even compared to other premium models. 

When you want or need to hear what’s happening around you (like when you’re crossing a street or listening to an announcement), tapping a button on the inline remote enables “Aware mode.” This turns down the noise-cancelation level while still keeping your music or podcast playing.

Battery life is very impressive, lasting for 16 hours with ANC enabled. You can still use the earbuds without battery power, but you won’t be able to use noise cancelation until you charge them back up. The good news is it doesn’t take long to do so: you’ll get back to full power with a two-hour charge.

There are plenty of positives, but one major negative: the sound quality isn’t as good as comparably-priced wired earbuds that don’t offer noise cancelation. Before making a purchase, then, consider how much you’ll use the ANC. It also means carrying around a bulkier set of earbuds, due to the box that houses the battery and power controls. 

The QC20 earbuds are available for both Samsung and Apple devices, so make sure you choose the right version when you’re buying.

Pros
  • The best noise-cancelation of any earbuds
  • Good battery life
  • Comfortable for sleeping and extended use
Cons
  • Audio quality could be better
  • Expensive
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Wired Earbuds: Panasonic ErgoFit

Panasonic ErgoFit Earbud Headphones with Microphone and Call Controller Compatible with iPhone, Android and Blackberry - RP-TCM125-KB - In-Ear (Matte Black/Red), S/M/L Included

If price is your number one concern, the best cheap wired earbuds are Panasonic’s ErgoFit headphones. These earbuds cost less than going to see whatever Marvel movie is in theatres right now, and they’ll last a lot longer than a couple of hours. 

The sound quality is decent for what you’re paying, and superior to a number of earbuds that cost three times as much. It lacks some detail when listening to soft genres like folk music with a lot of acoustic guitar, but if you’re looking for something inexpensive to take to the gym or on a plane, these are easily the best option for the money. 

The Ergofits come with three sets of silicone ear tips in small, medium, or large to comfortably accommodate most ear sizes. When the earbuds are fitted properly, the silicone tips help to reduce background noise a little as well. Not a lot, but better than nothing.

If you like a little color in your life, the Panasonic ErgoFit Headphones come in 15 different colors and shades, including plain old black and white. A long, albeit thin 3.6ft cord comes included, and while it’s easily tangled, the extended length lets you easily thread it through your bag or clothing to help keep it from getting caught up.

Pros
  • Decent sound quality
  • Several color options
  • Very low price
Cons
  • Cord is prone to tangling
  • Minimal noise isolation
Buy on Amazon

Best Wired Sport Earbuds: JBL Endurance RUN

JBL Endurance RUN - Wired Sport In-Ear Headphones - Black

If you plan to listen to music while exercising, you need audio gear that’s durable and sweatproof. For the price, the JBL Endurance RUN are the best wired earbuds for running, sports, and other workouts. These IPX5-rated wired earbuds are well-made, but if you lose, break, or otherwise need to replace them, you can do so without breaking the bank.

The earbuds deliver good sound quality given how little they cost. They’re not what an audiophile would look for, but the deep bass response and clarity are impressive for such a low-cost sport headphone, and works well for high-energy workout tracks. 

The earbuds can be worn one of two ways, either in-ear or behind-the-ear, depending on your preference and what you’re doing at the time. The earbuds magnetically clip together for simplified storage and to prevent the cable from getting tangled.

There’s a control button to activate the inline microphone for hands-free calling or voice assistance. It’s convenient for quick calls on the go, but the quality isn’t great, so set your expectations accordingly. The controls can also pause and play music and skip tracks, but you can’t adjust volume this way.

Pros
  • Good sound quality for the price
  • Earbuds magnetically clip together to help avoid tangle
  • Hands-free calling and voice assistance
  • Sweatproof
  • Low price
Cons
  • No volume function on the control button
  • Mic quality isn’t great
Buy on Amazon

Final Thoughts

If you don’t mind dealing with cables, wired earbuds generally have better sound quality than wireless options. The Shure AONIC 215 earbuds are what we’d recommend for most people, since they offer excellent audio and good noise isolation at an affordable price. If you can spend a bit more, Bose’s QuietComfort 20 are the best you’ll find for noise cancelation. 

You should get acceptable voice quality from the Shure 215’s or Bose QuietComfort 20’s, but there isn’t a pair of wired earbuds we’d truly recommend for making frequent calls. If you need something specifically for meetings, check out our list of headphones and wireless earbuds for calls instead.

It’s also worth thinking about how, when, and where you’re likely to use them. If you’re not all that bothered by audio quality, or frequently lose or break your earbuds, a cheaper option like the Panasonic ErgoFit may suit just fine, and save you a bunch of money.


Main image via Shutterstock, product images via Amazon

About the Author
Jordan Nottrodt

Jordan Nottrodt

Jordan works remotely, from home or abroad, to help businesses conquer their online messaging. When she's not working or relaxing outside, she's watching movies and shows to contribute to her goal of creating the largest database of online drinking games. Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Mad Men or Game of Thrones.

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