In-ear headphones that stand out

5 smart picks from our tests of more than 150 models

Last updated: May 19, 2014 02:30 PM

Find Ratings

JBL by Harman J22i

Need new headphones? Maybe you lost yours—or they broke, you want a backup pair, or you're ready for an upgrade. Some people use the device-supplied set for phone calls and keep a higher-quality set for music and movies. Regardless, these are five—of more than 150 wired headphone sets Consumer Reports has tested—that will serve you well.

All of these models earned a very good or excellent overall score for sound quality. If you need a set that performs well for phone calls in noisy places, consider an in-ear headset with electronic noise-canceling circuitry, such as the Bose QuietComfort 20i.

These in-ear sets have an integrated microphone, volume control (except one model), function control, and phone connect/disconnect.

No matter how you'll use the headphones, check the packaging or manufacturer's website to make sure the set you choose is compatible with your device.

—Susan Feinstein

Can't decide whether in-ear or over-the-ear headphones are right for you? Check out our buying guide and Ratings for headphones. And find out whether Flips headphones can double as a party-inducing speaker system?

Polk Audio Nue Era


Price: $100

Why we like them: Our No. 1 in-ear headset, from the respected speaker brand Polk, has very good sound quality and, at only 0.4 oz. is the lightest of the models here. It's also stylish—we love the tortoise-shell pattern, but you can also go with basic black if you prefer.

Bose QuietComfort 20i


Price:  $300

Why we like them: Bose is known for making top-quality over-ear noise-canceling headphones, but this in-ear set provides the Bose noise-canceling capability in a portable format. Along with top-notch sound quality, this model has the best noise-reduction of any in-ear model we've tested. Integrated microphone, volume control, and phone connect/disconnect. Pricey, but you get what you pay for.


JBL by Harman J22i


Price: $60

Why we like them: These JBLs are a great value. Because of their very good sound quality and comparatively low price, Consumer Reports rated this model a Best Buy. One downer: Testers found the volume control a bit difficult to operate by feel. Choose from black or white, both with splashes of bright orange on the earpiece and the cord controls.


Panasonic RP-TCM125


Why we like them: Sound quality as good as some much higher priced models, and you can have them for $10. It has integrated function control, microphone, and call connect/disconnect, but unlike the other models featured here, it does not have integrated volume control. You'd need to touch base with your device to change the volume.

Serious sound: Bowers & Wilkins P5 ($300)

The Bowers & Wilkins P5 are expensive but worth it for devotees of on-ear headphones. They're not as easy to tote around as the in-ear models, but they come with a carrying pouch and a storage box. Two detachable cables come with the headphones: one that attaches to mobile devices and one standard audio cable. They are made with top-shelf materials—aluminum, steel, and leather—so they look more elegant than others of this type. Bonus: They fold flat for travel and storage.

Find Ratings

Headphones Ratings

View and compare all Headphones ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Electronics News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more