Why settle for Apple‘s boring earbuds when you can upgrade to something that sounds better? These are the very best earbuds and headphones you can buy for your iPod or iPhone.
1. Apple AirPods
Love them or hate them, the Apple AirPods are the obvious choice for anyone looking for iPod earbuds in 2019. First released in 2016, the AirPods played a significant role in the “true wireless” revolution in Bluetooth headphones, and they are still among the most popular true wireless earbuds available today.
The second-generation AirPods linked here are simply a great pair of headphones. The audio quality is very strong, with surprisingly good bass for earbuds, and they have that iconic AirPod look that many people love. Other winning features of the AirPods are the included charging case, which greatly increases the AirPods’ effective battery life, the built-in microphone, and the first-party integration with iPhone and iPod.
Though the AirPods are a solid product overall, they do have some downsides. The most obvious of these is the relatively high price tag. The AirPods are not significantly more expensive than most of other products on this list, but they aren’t cheap either. Another downside is that the look of the AirPods, though iconic, is not for everyone. Critics call them Q-tips because of how the stems extend somewhat far outside the ear—making a statement rather than being discrete. This isn’t helped by the lack of color options (white only).
A final downside is that the AirPods are not a great fit for everyone’s ears. Unlike some other earbuds, the AirPods do not have rubber buds that can be swapped out for different sizes. If they don’t fit your ears as is, you’re out of luck.
Still, none of these downsides is a dealbreaker if you like the look and you don’t mind the price. It would obviously be disappointing if you purchased a pair and they didn’t fit your ears, but that’s something you’ll have to try for yourself to find out. And the AirPods are definitely worth trying: They sound great, have some really nice features, and are the go-to choice for many Apple fans.
2. Jabra Elite 65t
The Jabra Elite 65t true wireless earbuds are a much-heralded alternative to Apple’s AirPods, and it’s easy to see why. The Elite 65t has great sound quality for both music and calls, stellar microphone quality, good noise reduction, and a discrete design that essentially mirrors the attention-grabbing look of the AirPods. If AirPods remind you of Q-tips, you might want to give the Jabra Elite 65t a closer look.
The Jabra Elite 65t has a couple of unique features that help differentiate it from other headphones on the market. One of the product’s biggest selling points is the 4 built-in microphones, which offer stellar outgoing call quality. It’s also IP55 rated for dust and water resistance and even comes with a 2-year warranty against damage from water and dust. Other great features include integration with the Jabra Sound+ app, which gives you access to an EQ that allows you to tailor the sound of your headphones to your exact preferences, and one-touch integration with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
However, the Jabra Elite 65t does have some notable drawbacks that are especially glaring given the price. For one, the battery life is on the short side for true wireless headphones at 5 hours on a single charge (the same as AirPods) and up to 15 with the charging case. The overall build quality also leaves a lot to be desired. Both the headphones and the charging case are made of plastic. The earbuds feel solid enough, but the charging case does not feel especially durable. Finally, many users find that the earbuds are not as comfortable as they would like. This is, of course, an issue that varies from person to person, but it is something to be aware of.
All in all, the Jabra Elite 65t is a solid alternative to Apple AirPods. They boast great sound quality, sound isolation, and microphone quality, and the overall design is stylish and professional.
3. Powerbeats Pro
The Powerbeats Pro earbuds are Apple Beats’ stylish alternative to AirPods. The main selling points of the Powerbeats Pro are the sleek design, the earhooks—which help ensure a secure fit, particularly while exercising—and Beats’ characteristic bassy sound.
Another strong point of the Powerbeats Pro is the battery life. These earbuds will last up to 9 hours of playtime on a single charge—nearly double the battery life of AirPods—and just 5 minutes in the charging case nets an extra 1.5 hours of playtime. This makes the Powerbeats Pro an excellent choice for audiophiles who take their headphones with them on long outings.
The Powerbeats Pro do have some downsides: They’re expensive, the charging case is a little large, and the bassy sound isn’t ideal for everyone or for all types of music. But those who love the Beats brand and are willing to pay the price for them will likely be very pleased by what they get from this product. The Powerbeats Pro are also great for people looking for a pair of workout/everyday earbuds that will stay on securely.
4. Sony MDR-XB50AP/R
The Sony MDR-XB50AP/R Extra Bass Earbud Headset delivers surprisingly high-quality sound at a very affordable price. Though there are some budget headphones available for cheaper, paying a little more for the Sony MDR-XB50AP/R gets you a noticeable increase in sound quality over less expensive products, and they are a solid upgrade over stock Apple headphones.
The biggest selling point of the Sony MDR-XB50AP/R headset is the built-in Extra Bass feature. As you would expect, these earbuds emphasize the bass frequencies, but thankfully, the bass is not at all overbearing. We’ve found it to be a pleasing balance, especially for modern pop, rap, or electronic music—where bass is king. Other noteworthy features of this headset include the built-in microphone, which has good quality for phone calls; the multiple color options; and the stylish overall design.
Downsides of the Sony MDR-XB50AP/R include the fact that it is wired and that it may be too bassy for some, particularly if you generally enjoy a balanced sound. The body of the earbuds (not the buds themselves, the metal part attached to them) is also on the large side, which may be uncomfortable to some.
Still, if you are looking for an affordable pair of wired headphones and you love bass, you can’t go wrong with the Sony MDR-XB50AP/R. Just make sure to pick up a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter if you have a newer iPhone model.
5. COWIN E7
The COWIN E7 wireless headphones are significantly better than they have any business being: They have great sound quality, impressive bass, active noise cancellation, a built-in microphone, solid construction, and top-notch customer service—all at a price that can’t be beat. Other noteworthy features of the COWIN E7 include the 40mm audio drivers, the onboard controls for music and calls, and the estimated 30-hour battery life. All of these features, in combination with the generally good sound quality, make the COWIN E7 a tremendous value for anyone looking for a budget pair of wireless headphones.
That being said, there are some downsides to keep in mind. Though the sound quality is good for the price, it is still noticeably inferior to other more expensive headphones. The same can also be said for the E7’s active noise cancellation, which is good but not great. Other points that could be improved are the overall build quality and the onboard controls, which, while nice, are a little unintuitive.
All in all, the COWIN E7 wireless headphones are a great option for shoppers on a budget who want a pair of wireless around-the-ear headphones. They certainly aren’t perfect, but they feel like a steal at this price.
6. Bose SoundLink II
The Bose SoundLink II around-the-ear headphones are a well-priced pair of headphones that offer great sound quality and top-notch noise cancellation. The SoundLink II also stands out from many other pairs of wireless headphones due to its lightweight construction. At only 6.9 ounces, this headset is incredibly light. This is a feature that’s easy to overlook, but the lightweight build makes the SoundLink II really enjoyable to use while going about your day.
The SoundLink II comes with a handful of other noteworthy features. It has a built-in microphone that delivers good voice quality, it is equipped with the latest Bluetooth technology, and it can be paired with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously and switch between the two with the flick of a switch. Possible applications of this last feature include connecting to your phone to take a call and then flipping back to your iPad to continue watching a movie. It’s not something everyone will use, but it feels very convenient if you have multiple devices.
Downsides of the SoundLink II fall into three categories: sound, build quality, and price. In terms of sound, the SoundLink II sounds great for most kinds of music, but it is light on bass compared to other headsets. This will likely be especially noticeable if you enjoy bass-heavy music like rap, pop, or electronic, as opposed to classical or rock music where the bass plays a less important role. You can EQ the headphones using the Bose app, but many users still find the performance underwhelming in the bass department.
Regarding build quality, many users have expressed frustration with the earpads and headband, which are constructed of a material that looks like leather but is closer to something like plastic. This material wears and peals over time, which is neither attractive nor comfortable, and is disappointing given the SoundLink II’s relatively high price point.
The Bose SoundLink II is still a great headset overall, and it is hard to overstate how good it sounds for most kinds of music. The lightweight build is another great selling point if you’re looking for an everyday headset that you can put on and forget about.
7. Sony WH1000XM3
Last but not least, the Sony WH1000XM3 is our pick for the best premium wireless headphones. It boasts stellar sound quality, including very strong bass; top-of-the-line noise cancellation; and a handful of other great features that help differentiate it from other headphones in its price range.
The most important thing to know about the WH1000XM3’s sound is that it puts an emphasis on bass. Some may find this to be overbearing, particularly if you listen to music in which the bass plays a supportive, rather than a lead, role. However, the level of bass is perfect for bass-heavy music like rap, pop, and electronic. The WH1000XM3 also gives you access to the Sony Headphones Connect app, which includes an equalizer that allows you to adjust the sound balance of your headphones to fit with your personal taste.
Other great features of the WH1000XM3 include a 30-hour battery life, built-in Amazon Alexa, and innovative touch controls that can be used to adjust volume, play/pause music, take/make phone calls, or activate your phone’s voice assistant. There’s also an interesting feature in which you can cup one headphone with your hand and it will temporarily disable the noise cancellation until you remove your hand. This is a great little convenience that allows you to hear someone speaking to you without requiring you to take off your headphones altogether.
Downsides of the WH1000XM3 include the steep price tag, the bass-heavy sound (which many people enjoy, but some will not), and the fact that it is less comfortable than some other headphones in its price range, particularly the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. If you know that you like a bass-heavy sound and you aren’t intimidated by the price tag, the Sony WH1000XM3 is a stellar headset. If, on the other hand, you aren’t a big bass enthusiast and enjoy a more balanced overall sound, then go for the Bose QC35.
Choosing Earbuds or Headphones for iPhone & iPod
Choosing which headphones or earbuds are right for you is a difficult task, particularly because you can’t really judge the sound quality of these products without trying them for yourself. Still, there are a few basic considerations that can get you most of the way there.
Price is the most obvious consideration. The above list contains products in a variety of price ranges, hopefully with something that fits everyone’s budget. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to audio equipment, but many of the more affordable products on this list deliver great value for the money.
The most basic consideration beyond price is simply whether you want earbuds or headphones. Headphones are bulkier than earbuds but generally have better bass and often come with active noise cancellation. Earbuds offer some noise isolation (that is, they block out outside noise) but they aren’t as effective in very noisy environments like planes compared to headphones with active noise cancellation.
The last thing to consider is what kind of music you like to listen to and how much you enjoy bass. Certain products like the Bose SoundLink II and the Jabra Elite 65t are a little light on bass and produce a generally balanced sound. Other headphones like the two Sony models put bass at the forefront, which is valuable if you like bass-heavy music like pop, rap, or electronic. Many of the above headphones also include a partner app which allows you to balance the sound to your preferences.