The best wired earbuds in 2024, tested by editors | CNN Underscored (2024)

The best wired earbuds we tested:

Best wired earbuds overall: Sennheiser IE 600

Best budget wired earbuds: Final E500

Best wired earbuds for Apple users: Apple EarPods With USB-C

Best entry-level wired earbuds: Sennheiser IE 200

Best modular wired earbuds: Shure Aonic 3

Best value wired earbuds: 1More Penta P50

Best wired earbuds for sound personalization: 1More Penta P50

Wired earbuds are more popular than ever. Their viral presence on social media, along with Apple finally launching a USB-C version of the EarPods (a clever strategy used to push accessories for the USB-C-compatible iPhone 15), may be to thank.

Reliability is their strongest trait, using analog signals to produce better sound quality than wireless earbuds, while transferring over data that gets lost over Bluetooth. Batteries aren’t required for operation. Affordable price points also make them more appealing and economically easier to replace.

For the past year, the CNN Underscored team has tested dozens of leading models in real-world situations to gain a greater sense of their overall value. Here are the best wired earbuds based on performance, practicality and purpose.

Best wired earbuds overall

A mid-range model with flagship performance, the IE 600 grants listeners signature Sennheiser sound that rivals many of the industry’s top in-ear monitors.

Best budget wired earbuds

The Final E500 are an unbeatable deal that bring excellent sound to all media content, including music, movies, podcastsand video games. They’re also well constructed and provide great comfort for lengthy listening sessions.

Read our review

Best wired earbuds overall: Sennheiser IE 600

$800 $500 at Sennheiser, Amazon and Best Buy

The best wired earbuds in 2024, tested by editors | CNN Underscored (3)

The Sennheiser IE 600 are the most highly rated wired earbuds out there and have the hallmarks to back up their universal acclaim. They blend engrossing and expansive sound into a premium design worthy of their steep price tag.

Proprietary 7mm True Response transducers bring out every detail and nuance from tracks, which you’ll be shocked to hear for the first time. I’m talking everything from the recognizable solo keyboard gaffes on Led Zeppelin’s “All My Love” to the infamous buried cowbell on Blue Oyster Club’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” an effect that sounds more prominent on these buds.

The IE 600’s extended frequency range pumps out the perfect mix. Instrumental and vocal arrangements are well defined and placed properly on the soundstage, bringing a more intimate feel to songs, specifically ballads and live performances. Bass is rich and punchy without compromising the mid or high ranges. Installing the bundled foam tips adds warmth to the soundstage and passively reduces ambient noise better than the silicone tips.

Sennheiser spared no expense constructing the IE 600. The exterior is composed of durable amorphous alloy that’s abrasion resistant and has a rugged, but shiny texture that pops when exposed to light. Pliable earhooks allow for comfortable and stable positioning behind the ear. Details like the gold-plated MMCX connectors are a nice touch, plus the bundled carrying case is a generous offering that houses a secondary cable for the 4.4mm jack.

Currently marked down to $499, the IE 600 are relatively attainable for audiophiles seeking a more depth-filled music listening solution than what they’ll get from their AirPods.

Best budget wired earbuds: Final E500

$25 at Amazon

The best wired earbuds in 2024, tested by editors | CNN Underscored (4)

An overlooked gem celebrated by many critics, the E500 earphones deliver the sound performance of an upscale in-ear model for a fraction of the price. They’re terrific for mobile gaming and even better for critical listening, giving music accurate and detailed presentation, no matter the format or streaming service.

Final’s 6.4mm diameter dynamic driver unit and binaural hardware work together to produce vibrant, spacious audio. As mentioned in our review, “bass was bold and crisp right out of the box.” Low-heavy effects like 808s and kick drums come off deep and transparent. Frequency range is nicely balanced on contemporary music tracks. Vocals shine and show off the E500’s underrated midrange, which emphasizes harmonies and instruments better than most luxury wired earbuds.

Hi-fi music streaming services boosted sound. Lossless tracks on Apple Music resulted in CD-quality audio (16 bit/44.1 kHz). Tidal MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) tracks streamed at a whopping 9,216 kbps for optimal audio, while desktop features like Exclusive Mode and Passthrough MQA increased midrange and volume for more immersive listens.

Wired earbuds aren’t known for their noise isolation, but the E500 do a surprisingly good job of minimizing incidental sounds from entering the soundscape. They silenced the construction sounds that took place outside my office window, as well as common household distractions such as kitchen appliances and loud TVs.

There are drawbacks that keep the E500 from being perfect. The lack of an inline remote to control playback or small canvas pouch for portable storage are two that come to mind. Then again, we’re talking about $25 earbuds. These are forgivable absences when taking sound into account.

Other wired earbuds we recommend

Best wired earbuds for Apple users

The $15 Apple EarPods are the next best thing for iPhone enthusiasts that want the most cost-effective alternative to AirPods. Apple’s wired earbuds come in three versions — 3.5mm, Lightning, and USB-C — making them compatible with all iPhones, iPads, Macsand Android phones. The inline controls are great for call management, playback and summoning Siri. Mic performance is excellent for calls and voice commands. Sound could be better, but it’s sufficient for the price.

Read our review

Best entry-level wired earbuds

For those who can’t afford the pricey IE 600, the entry-level IE 200 are a solid backup that feature the same flexible wrap-around-the-ear design and similar Sennheiser audio technologies. Underneath the sleek plastic hooding lies 7mm extra-wideband True Response transducers that produce clean, weighty sound with zero harmonic distortion. The braided wiring is a major selling point since it’s tougher than the silicone used on the IE 600.

Best modular wired earbuds

Shure has ushered in a new audio subcategory: modular earbuds. The company has released several fantastic entries that can be used wired and wirelessly, the Aonic 3 being our current favorite. These buds deliver accurate imaging that places sonic elements in their proper positions while nailing every detail and nuance on music tracks. Multiple ear tips in different styles are included for a personalized fit. The True Wireless Secure Fit Adapter (2nd Gen) is sold separately but well worth the investment since it lets you enjoy much of the same audio performance cable-free.

Best value wired earbuds

1More has put out several great audio products this year, including the best budget noise-canceling headphones we’ve tested: the $70 SonoFlow. The Penta in-ear headphones are even more impressive, powered by a hybrid five-driver acoustic structure that brings sonic elements to life via a wide soundstage. Strong bass and stellar clarity create a pleasant-sounding mix that complements most music genres. Hi-Res Audio certification gives you every detail on hi-fi and lossless tracks. The vast selection of ear tips accommodates listeners of all ear shapes and provides a decent seal for adequate noise isolation.

Best wired earbuds for sound personalization

Known mostly for their portable amps and DACs, FiiO has a tremendous lineup of wired earbuds and in-ear monitors available. The FD3 Pro get you the most performance for your dollar. Customization plays a vital role in sound performance, as you can swap between two nozzle filters for different results: One balances tuning and the other extends treble and upper mids. Bass is prominent and slaps hard, and instruments sound precise.

What to look for in wired earbuds

Whether you’re grabbing wired earbuds from behind an encased shelf or the bargain bin, you want them to meet the basic criteria. Compatibility is major and can vary depending on your device. Most wired earbuds come with a 3.5mm jack, which most smartphones have eliminated, though adapters are available that support the input. New market entries have USB-C inputs. Most iPhones use Apple’s Lightning connector, though Apple has switched over to USB-C starting with the iPhone 15.

Strong drivers that can deliver music the way it was intended to be heard is something else to check off your list. Anything under 6mm won’t give you the audio performance you most likely desire. Multiple ear tip sizes are essential for a personalized fit. And you need earbuds that are comfortable to wear all day.

Nearly every wired earbud manufacturer provides these features and more. In the end, it all comes down to what integrates best with your listening setup — desktop, mobile or studio — and what suits your sonic palette.

How we tested

The best wired earbuds in 2024, tested by editors | CNN Underscored (10)

Our testers put the best wired earbuds through a series of listening tests and used them daily over several months. They focused on audio quality, comfort, functionality and usability — the issues that are important to most users.

We carefully reviewed design elements and tested every major feature for each model, including accessories, built-in controls, equalization, and transparency. Another factor we considered was warranty, which we carefully compared with competitors.

Audio performance

The greatest variable for any audio product is sound quality. We played tracks across numerous music genres to hear how detailed and realistic the soundstage was while paying attention to clarity, depth, frequency range, reverberation and separation. Isolation was also integral; a tight seal lets you hear music fully with little background interference.

Build quality

Construction is thoroughly assessed with every material accounted for. This includes the cavity (outer shell), connector, drivers, ear tips, inline remote, microphones, speaker covering, wire, and any accessories. Durability is part of our examining process as well, as we tested each model to determine their longevity in any condition.

Comfort is just as important to the overall design of wired earbuds. Our reviewers tested every entry for hours on end to provide general feedback on adequate listening times before experiencing fatigue or soreness. We also took notes on flexibility and portability.

Special features

The feature set on wired earbuds pales in comparison to the best noise-canceling headphones. Still, many models offer some of the same functionality such as playback, call management and digital assistant support (Google Assistant, Siri) for voice commands via inline remote and mic. Some carry multiple ear tip sizes, along with more advanced accessories such as a 1.4-inch adapters (ideal for musical instruments and stereo systems) and sound tubes. We’re even seeing wired earbuds come with detachable cables and wireless adapters for true wireless listening.


Basics such as latency and playback functionality are studied to see if they meet the expected user performance of this style of earbud. Models carrying an inline remote are given extra attention: We rate the responsiveness and tactility of each button, as well as the control scheme.


Our team researched the warranty for all devices, what periods they are covered and whether extended warranties or service plans are available through the manufacturer or online retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy.

Other wired earbuds we tested

EarFun Hi-Fi IEMs EH100

$100 $80 at Amazon

We’re huge EarFun supporters and recommend several of the brand’s best budget earbuds. These wired earbuds are an impressive hi-fi debut, though there are notable performance issues that keep them from ranking higher on our list. Hi-Res Audio certification and a triple-driver hybrid system with high-frequency balanced armature come together to produce crisp, bright sound. Highs are notably emphasized, while lows remain smooth and mids are given prominence throughout most tracks. Just know that you’ll have to deal with random bugs, such as speedy music playback and disabled MacBook volume controls, when listening to certain streaming platforms (*cough* Tidal *cough*).

Logitech G333

$50 From $70 at Amazon

Another pair of quality inexpensive gaming buds, the Logitech G333 serve as a viable wired option for mobile and portable console gamers who prefer an in-ear design. Effects, in-game dialogue and soundtracks are detailed and don’t suffer from any sound compression. Aluminum housing protects the internals and the tangle-free cord is durable enough to survive several yanks. Oddly, using the buds in aux mode results in a bloated mess. Music sounds better when employing the bundled USB-C adapter and playing music on lossless platforms like Apple Music and Tidal. | Read our review


$20 $10 at Amazon

Before settling for the JVC Gumy earbuds on the bodega countertop, know that you can put that $10 to better use by purchasing these ridiculously inexpensive Sony in-ears. Expect neutral sound with punchy bass and quality noise isolation, thanks to the hybrid silicone gel tips that create a tight seal. Highs have some brightness to them, though mids are recessed on most tracks. The inline mic also works well for playback and call management. Build quality is what you would expect for the price, so be careful not to yank them if caught on something.

Marshall Mode

$100 $54 at Amazon

The oldest model on our list is also a reliable choice for music lovers who want bass-heavy mixes in a retro-looking package. Crisp highs and rich lows are fed through the Marshall Mode’s 9mm drivers, offering up a coherent frequency range that balances well when switching from the flat sound signature to the warmer EQ. There are other options that feature better-built designs and higher frequency sounds at similar price points.

The best wired earbuds in 2024, tested by editors | CNN Underscored (2024)
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