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Whether you need them for your endless daily Zoom calls, want to listen to your hype-up playlist while running, or just want to binge that new podcast you’ve become obsessed with, a really good pair of earbuds can go a long, long way.

There are a lot of different brands of earbuds out there, and it’s easy to get swamped by the options. How do you know you’re picking up something that sounds good? That’s where we come in.

If you’re looking to replace your old pair that’s crusty with years of earwax, or you accidentally put your current pair through the wash (it happens to the best of us), here’s what we like to stick in our ears.

AirPods

AirPods (2nd Gen), $319

“Call me basic, but I love my Apple AirPods. Not the AirPods Pro. Not even the regular ones with wireless charging. Just plain old AirPods. They fit super comfortably in my earholes, the sound is decent enough for me, and the charging case fits snugly in my pocket without making any weird bumps. Speaking of the case, I love how it’s sturdy enough to survive being thrown around all day long, but the magnetic flip-top means it’s still effortless to open. The microphones are also excellent for making hands-free calls which means I’m free to live out my fantasy as an overwhelmed call centre employee.” – Zac

“It’s me, your basic bitch white girl reporting for duty. I love my Apple AirPods. Like, really love them. They feel comfortable in my ears, they tell my iPhone when they’re low on battery, and they signal to every other basic bitch in my basic bitch neighbourhood (Bondi) that I’m one of them. Truth be told I tried to buy a pair of highly reviewed ‘running ear pods’ during a sale last year and hated them. I felt like I couldn’t get them in my ears properly. So, I sold them and bought AirPods instead. I’m painfully aware I’ve paid an ‘Apple Tax’ and that some tech bro could tell me about why their sound quality isn’t that good, actually, but I could not give a single shit. AirPods for life.” – Alex

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

best earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, $399.95

“At $400, a pair of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds aren’t exactly cheap, but if you’re someone who wants some of the best audio quality and noise-cancelling currently available, you really can’t go past them. These things sound fantastic. No matter what you listen to, everything comes through so clean, crisp and balanced. Even at high volume, there’s very little in the way of distortion.

Not that you’d need to pump up the volume to full, thanks to its noise-cancellation feature. The first time I used noise-cancelling at full power, I was shocked by how powerful these earbuds are. I’m talking ‘I-Couldn’t-Hear-Cars-Driving-By-Me-While-Walking-Down-The-Street’ powerful. If you consider yourself to be a bit of a music lover, these don’t disappoint.

While its design is a bit chunkier than most other earbuds, the QuietComfort’s strengths greatly outweigh this shortcoming by a lot. And for the sake of comparison, you’d be paying the same price for a pair of AirPods Pro, which for my money, aren’t quite as good as these.” – Chris

Jabra Elite Active 75T

best earbuds
Jabra Elite Active 75T, $249

“I switched from a pair of overhead headphones to the Jabra Elite Active 75Ts and I love them so much. They have incredible noise-cancelling capabilities that have resulted in my housemates having full conversations with me without me even hearing. They’ll stick in my ears while I’m out for a run or walk without the risk of falling out, and I only have to readjust when I’ve moved my jaw too much from talking or smiling at dogs. They’re also quietly very good for lying in bed and listening to ASMR videos, because you can lay on your side without the earbuds getting in the way too much while maintaining that crisp surround sound.” – Courtney

NuraTrue Wireless Earbuds

NuraTrue Wireless Earbuds, $299.99

“I’ve always been hesitant about wireless earbuds as my ears don’t tend to accommodate for them particularly well – countless earbuds have fallen onto the footpath if I go for anything more active than a sloth-like walk. Conveniently, the NuraTrue earbuds come with a variety of fittings, so after some tinkering, you should be able to find one that fits snuggly in your ears. The most impressive feature of the NuraTrue earbuds is the initial calibration. The app asks you to sit still while it configures the sound to the way you hear, a feat I didn’t know existed and one that can’t be found on any other earbud currently on the market.

There’s also a handy option in the app that lets you switch between normal and ‘social mode’, which amplifies the background noise so you can have a clear conversation with someone without having to physically take your earbuds out. The sound quality is top-tier and most noticeable when you switch between ‘neutral’ and ‘personalised’ mode – the latter sounds infinitely richer which makes me think the calibration process at the start is far more than a gimmick.” – Louie

Powerbeats Pro

Powerbeats Pro, $349.95

“I picked up my current pair of Power Beats Pro 2 years ago, primarily to have wireless headphones that I could exercise in without the risk of them falling out. The Powerbeats have been perfect for this, especially with the on headphone controls. They’re also still trucking on despite all the sweat and heavy-duty daily use through lockdowns. In addition, the battery life and fast charging features are still delivering.
– Matt

Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds

best earbuds
Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds, $299

“The Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones single-handedly got me through my first year of parenthood — they are big enough so I don’t lose one (like Airpods) and they’re really easy to externally control, unlike Airpods which you’ve really gotta get in there and squeeze. The noise-cancelling function is A+ (what newborn screams?) and they are really quick to charge. They also have really great sound, which is probably due to some technical spec that is gibberish to me, but I watched many an episode of Schitt’s Creek on these bad boys in my kid’s room at 3am and it sounded like I was in a bloody cinema.” – Josie

Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds

best earbuds
Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds, $449.95

“The Sony WF-1000XM4 are great for a bunch of reasons, but they’ve been particularly handy during the pandemic. I’ve got a lovely family living next door with some super enthusiastic kids, and when I plug the WF-1000XM4s in, I can’t hear any screaming or fighting. It’s pure bliss, really. On top of that, the headphones are really comfortable, the sound quality is gorgeous, and I’m discovering a bunch of the songs I listen to have deeper backing tracks and bass I’ve never heard before. If you’re looking for headphones that feel good, sound great and give you a small slice of peace on a loud afternoon, the WF-1000XM4s are simply fab.” – Leah

“I’m a long-time fan of Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones, so I was super keen to try out the earbud versions. You get everything you get from the headphones in terms of audio quality, except for some perks that you can only get with earbuds. These include the simple things like being able to wear sunnies or earrings without it being wildly annoying (and they’re less in-your-face to others during video calls), through to the less obvious things like touch-sensors for turning off the earbuds. It’s made getting coffees a breeze as I don’t have to pull the whole thing off to order. I still have both styles on rotation, because they serve different purposes for me!” – Chantelle

Love our humble opinions? Get around the rest of the review series here.

Image: White Lotus / Her