7 Best Earbuds  Under $100

7 Best Earbuds Under $100

Best Overall Headphones Under $100
#1
Bose SoundSport
  • Great for all weather and climate conditions; handles heat, humidity, elevation, and cold
  • Top-quality bass without using extra-large speaker
  • Unique design keeps them securely in place
Best Active Headphones
#2
ROVKING Noise Isolating Sweatproof Sport Headphones
  • A pair of headphones that will stay firmly in place
  • Light, comfortable, perfect for runners and athletes
  • Wraparound design keeps them securely in ears
Best True Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
#3
FocusPower F10 Mini Bluetooth Earbud
  • Beautifully small and lightweight, never bother with heavy headphones again
  • Long-lasting battery life and good quality audio
  • No more cables or wires--comfortable design
Best Premium Sound In-Ear Headphones
#4
Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass Earbud Headset
  • Exceptional bass for earbuds; quality overall sound
  • Good balance between mid, low, and highs
  • Excellent isolation to block out ambient noise

After 60 hours of research evaluating 150 products, we picked Bose SoundSport as our top choice.

Music makes us move and takes our mind off our troubles. It truly is one of mankind's greatest creations!

If you like to listen to music from your phone while working out or you love a good audiobook while driving, you will want the best earbuds under 100 you can find. Thankfully, gone are the days of clunky music players and fiddly headphones. Instead, we have tiny iPods/smartphones and sleek, slim earbuds.

Now, earbuds are the perfect combination of quality sound, comfort, and noise cancellation. If your budget is a little more flexible or you want a pair of the best wireless earbuds under 100, we have a recommendation for those as well.

If you simply want the best in-ear headphones on the market, check out our list of The Best In-Ear Headphones money can buy.

Want to know the best part?

If your budget is under $100, you’ll have no problem finding some incredible earphones at a beautifully low price point.

We've spent hours doing painstaking research to find the best earbuds. With so many in ear headphones on the market, we wanted to be sure to give you only the top products. In doing so, we read thousands of earbud reviews and tested/analyzed hundreds of products.

We compared every aspect of the earphones (sound quality, noise cancelation, comfort, price, and so much more) to find the best in ear headphones for you!

Enjoy the jams.


Editorial staff

Quick Look: 7 Best Earbuds Under $100
Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds
  • Very clear, balanced sound
  • Cheap, yet excellent quality 
  • Punchy bass, smooth mids, and quality treble
Check on Amazon
Mpow Jaws V4.1
  • The wireless earbuds that provide convenience and ease of use
  • Highly responsive sound; good build quality and sound output
  • Better-than-average battery life and overall performance
Check on Amazon
Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones
  • Beautiful bass, without artificial amplification
  • Durable cord can take a beating!
  • Crystal clear mix of high, mid, and bass; great for all styles of music
Check on Amazon
Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass Earbud Headset
  • Exceptional bass for earbuds; quality overall sound
  • Good balance between mid, low, and highs
  • Excellent isolation to block out ambient noise
Check on Amazon
FocusPower F10 Mini Bluetooth Earbud
  • Beautifully small and lightweight, never bother with heavy headphones again
  • Long-lasting battery life and good quality audio
  • No more cables or wires--comfortable design
Check on Amazon
ROVKING Noise Isolating Sweatproof Sport Headphones
  • A pair of headphones that will stay firmly in place
  • Light, comfortable, perfect for runners and athletes
  • Wraparound design keeps them securely in ears
Check on Amazon
Bose SoundSport
  • Great for all weather and climate conditions; handles heat, humidity, elevation, and cold
  • Top-quality bass without using extra-large speaker
  • Unique design keeps them securely in place
Check on Amazon
7 Best Earbuds  Under $100

7 Best Earbuds Under $100

Read Video Infographic Tips

After 60 hours of research evaluating 150 products, we picked Bose SoundSport as our top choice.

Music makes us move and takes our mind off our troubles. It truly is one of mankind's greatest creations!

If you like to listen to music from your phone while working out or you love a good audiobook while driving, you will want the best earbuds under 100 you can find. Thankfully, gone are the days of clunky music players and fiddly headphones. Instead, we have tiny iPods/smartphones and sleek, slim earbuds.

Now, earbuds are the perfect combination of quality sound, comfort, and noise cancellation. If your budget is a little more flexible or you want a pair of the best wireless earbuds under 100, we have a recommendation for those as well.

If you simply want the best in-ear headphones on the market, check out our list of The Best In-Ear Headphones money can buy.

Want to know the best part?

If your budget is under $100, you’ll have no problem finding some incredible earphones at a beautifully low price point.

We've spent hours doing painstaking research to find the best earbuds. With so many in ear headphones on the market, we wanted to be sure to give you only the top products. In doing so, we read thousands of earbud reviews and tested/analyzed hundreds of products.

We compared every aspect of the earphones (sound quality, noise cancelation, comfort, price, and so much more) to find the best in ear headphones for you!

Enjoy the jams.


Editorial staff

Quick Look: 7 Best Earbuds Under $100
Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds
  • Very clear, balanced sound
  • Cheap, yet excellent quality 
  • Punchy bass, smooth mids, and quality treble
Check on Amazon
Mpow Jaws V4.1
  • The wireless earbuds that provide convenience and ease of use
  • Highly responsive sound; good build quality and sound output
  • Better-than-average battery life and overall performance
Check on Amazon
Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones
  • Beautiful bass, without artificial amplification
  • Durable cord can take a beating!
  • Crystal clear mix of high, mid, and bass; great for all styles of music
Check on Amazon
Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass Earbud Headset
  • Exceptional bass for earbuds; quality overall sound
  • Good balance between mid, low, and highs
  • Excellent isolation to block out ambient noise
Check on Amazon
FocusPower F10 Mini Bluetooth Earbud
  • Beautifully small and lightweight, never bother with heavy headphones again
  • Long-lasting battery life and good quality audio
  • No more cables or wires--comfortable design
Check on Amazon
ROVKING Noise Isolating Sweatproof Sport Headphones
  • A pair of headphones that will stay firmly in place
  • Light, comfortable, perfect for runners and athletes
  • Wraparound design keeps them securely in ears
Check on Amazon
Bose SoundSport
  • Great for all weather and climate conditions; handles heat, humidity, elevation, and cold
  • Top-quality bass without using extra-large speaker
  • Unique design keeps them securely in place
Check on Amazon

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Best Budget Earbuds

75
Score 75
$13
812 Bought | Save: $7 (35% OFF)

Why People Love it

  • Very clear, balanced sound
  • Cheap, yet excellent quality 
  • Punchy bass, smooth mids, and quality treble

Incredibly affordable, excellent sound quality, comfortable designs, and the controls are compatible with all Android/iOS devices.

These headphones have been done to have issues with durability and tend to fall out of your ears.

Details

Design: These come with the classic in ear headphone design, with the silicone tips to form suction to hold them in place. They work well for some, but many find that they tend to fall out with more active use. However, they are a comfortable pair of headphones that won't irritate your ear canals even after hours of use.

Performance: The sound quality on these headphones is on par with many of the $50+ headphones, with a well-balanced sound that hits the highs, lows, and mids clearly. They're able to handle the sound of movies, music, audiobooks, and video games.

Noise isolation/cancellation is average. You will hear ambient sounds (gym, airplane, train, traffic), but they won't interfere with your listening experience. They're a good pair of headphones to use in the car or on the street--anywhere you need to be aware of your surroundings.

Durability is an issue with these headphones, but that's to be expected for the price. The plastic housing is water and sweat-resistant, but the cable has a tendency to break. The headphone jack isn't gold-plated, meaning it is vulnerable to connectivity problems. 

Features: The headphones come with a built-in microphone, along with a switch that allows you to change between listening to music and answering calls. Simple, but effective.

Price: If you are an audiophile on a budget, these $11 headphones are the purchase for you! You get quality sound at an incredible price.

Best Headphones for Hands-Free Driving

75
Score 75
$20
318 Bought | Save: $6 (23% OFF)

Why People Love it

  • The wireless earbuds that provide convenience and ease of use
  • Highly responsive sound; good build quality and sound output
  • Better-than-average battery life and overall performance

Convenient earbud storage included, noise canceling design, easy Bluetooth pairing, dynamic sound, flexible, lightweight, comfortable, long battery life, hands-free calling, sweat-proof, and very convenient design.

Not water-resistant, and larger and heavier than other earbuds.

Details

Design: This pair of earbuds comes with the added design of the neckband, which allows the manufacturer to include a larger battery (ergo more battery life) and more controls. The neckband keeps the earbuds sitting comfortably on your head while you listen, and you can simply place the earbuds in your ear when you want to listen. It's one of the most innovative designs—mixing the comfort of behind-the-neck headphones with the versatility of earbuds.

Of course, the fact that there's a large, bulky neck band makes it much less compact/heavier than your classic earbuds.  

Performance: In terms of sound quality, these perform about as well as any of the other earbuds on our list. The headphones produce the best sound of any neck band-style earbuds, but the sound isn't on par with studio-quality headphones or earbuds.

However, you get longer-than-average battery life from these bad boys: 13 hours of continuous use and 350 hours on standby. The charge time is just under 2 hours, and sadly you can't use them while charging. The Bluetooth compatibility is excellent, and it's one of the easiest sets of headphones to pair with any Bluetooth device.

Features: The main feature of these headphones is their around-the-neck band, which keeps them sitting comfortably in place while you run, drive, walk, or work out. The headphones are sweat-proof, though not water-resistant. And, thanks to the built-in controls, you can make and take calls hands-free. When the earbuds aren't in use, you can clip them to the magnet for easy, comfortable storage.

Price: At $20, these are a total steal! They deliver comfort, quality, and convenience in a user-friendly design, and at a price tag you can love.

Best Noise Isolation Earbuds

84
Score 84

Why People Love it

  • Beautiful bass, without artificial amplification
  • Durable cord can take a beating!
  • Crystal clear mix of high, mid, and bass; great for all styles of music

Peerless sound isolation for both indoor and outdoor use, beautifully lightweight, unlikely to fall out of your ears, comfortable design, high quality sound, and detachable headphone wires.

Pricey with very few additional features.

Details

Design: This is a pair of headphones designed for studio musicians, but can be used by anyone who wants to block out background sound. The sound-isolating sleeves stop as much as 37 db of ambient noise, ensuring that no outside noise affects your listening experience.

The unusual shape of these headphones keeps them sitting comfortably in your ears, though the noise isolation can mess with your balance/spatial awareness if you leave them in for too long. They're a good fit for long-term use.

Performance: Sound quality on these headphones is excellent--on par with any pair of studio headphones. The headphones are built for professional musicians, and will easily hold up under daily use. With MicroDrivers for dynamic and detailed sound, acoustic seals to ensure proper balance, and a sound-isolating sleeve, it's a pair of headphones built for your listening pleasure.

Noise isolation on these bad boys is impressive, thanks to the Shure Sound Isolation technology. Whether you're playing at a rock concert or walking down the street, you will be in your own little "audio bubble".

The headphone cord comes unplugged, reducing the risk of damage or breakage to the earbuds. With the Kevlar coating, these headphones are built to last!

Features: This is a "no-frills" pair of headphones, with no added features. They just do what they do best: deliver quality sound and peerless noise isolation.

Price: The $97 price tag on this pair of headphones may seem steep, but when you consider that they're built for professional musicians, you can understand the cost. If you need studio quality sound and top-notch noise isolation, they're worth the price.

Best Premium Sound In-Ear Headphones

88
Score 88
$30
2,953 Bought | Save: $20 (40% OFF)

Why People Love it

  • Exceptional bass for earbuds; quality overall sound
  • Good balance between mid, low, and highs
  • Excellent isolation to block out ambient noise

Superior bass quality, excellent noise cancellation, beautifully affordable, built-in mic and music controls, and extremely comfortable.

Average overall sound and not the most comfortable or secure.

Details

Design: These headphones are designed like any other pair of earbuds or in ear headphones. They have a 12 mm driver for powerful bass and you can control your playback from your smartphone through the inline control. The silicone tip is meant to create suction to hold them in place, which of course means that they fall out if you move around or sweat too much. They're not the most comfortable, especially if you're doing exercise. Wear them too long, and they can irritate your ears (normal with earbuds). However, they're perfect for sedentary indoor activities like gaming, movie watching, and listening to music.

Performance: When it comes to bass, nothing beats these bad boys! With high-efficiency 9mm drivers built into ear earbud, you get booming bass no matter what you're listening to. And yet, the bass doesn't drown out the mids and highs. While the overall sound quality is average, the bass on these earbuds is superior to even the higher-priced brands (Beats, SkullCandy, etc.).

They're water- and sweat-proof, so you can use them for exercise or outdoor activities. They're about as durable as any other $30 pair of earbuds. Noise cancellation on these headphones is also average. You can use the larger silicone tip to block out all ambient noise, or use the small ones to let in background sounds if you're out and about.

Features: The headphones come with a multi-button control, allowing you to play, pause, rewind, and skip your music. No volume control, though. The built-in microphone makes it easy to take and receive calls, though it's not too sensitive.

Price: For the price (under $30), these headphones are an excellent choice for gamers, DJs, or anyone who listens to bass-heavy music and sounds.

Best True Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

89
Score 89

Why People Love it

  • Beautifully small and lightweight, never bother with heavy headphones again
  • Long-lasting battery life and good quality audio
  • No more cables or wires--comfortable design

Super small, compact, and lightweight; compatible with 2 devices at once; longer-than-average battery life; decent Bluetooth range; no wires or cords; super easy to charge with magnetic inductive charging; concealed design; good sound quality; and excellent noise isolation.

May fall out of ears during sports and easy to lose.

Details

Design: These headphones are tiny: less than 1 inch long and ½ inch wide. They’re designed to be super easily concealed beneath your hair, hat, or hoodie, so you can listen to music on the sly. Despite their small size, they deliver excellent noise isolation and surprisingly good sound quality. If you want to avoid heavy headphones or anything with wires that could get tangled, these are a great choice.

Performance: Audio quality on these headphones is excellent, with rich, dynamic sound—suitable for audiobooks, movies, TV shows, and music. The volume is loud enough that you can hear everything clearly, and the design helps to isolate noise to ensure solid sound clarity.

Battery life on these headphones is surprisingly good—up to 6 hours of audio playtime, which is as much as twice what you get from other competing products. Charging the headphones (via USB-powered magnetic inductive charger) takes just half an hour. The range claims to be just 33 feet, but you can get up to 60 feet before the connection starts to waver.

Features: These headphones are designed to connect to two mobile devices at once, allowing you to answer calls while enjoying your music or TV shows. They’re suitable for hands-free driving, though the operation (using the buttons on the headphones) can be a tad tricky to learn.

Price: At $26, these headphones are a steal! They’re cheaper than competing products, have a longer lifespan, and comparable audio quality and noise isolation. Definitely a good choice if you want something lightweight and compact!

Best Active Headphones

93
Score 93

Why People Love it

  • A pair of headphones that will stay firmly in place
  • Light, comfortable, perfect for runners and athletes
  • Wraparound design keeps them securely in ears

Sweatproof, good noise isolation, quality sound, lightweight, comfortable, inexpensive, compatible with small and average-sized ears, customizable fit, hook around your ear, solid bass, and no risk of falling out.

No built-in controls and the cord is prone to damage.

Details

Design: These headphones are designed in the classic sport earbud style: a hook that wraps around behind your ear and holds the tip in your ear canal as you run. The hooks will ensure the headphones stay securely in place as you run, play sports, or lift weights, making them an athlete’s best friend. They are corded, so there’s no need to worry about battery life, though you will have to tuck them out of the way when running or training. However, if you want a pair of headphones that will stay put through any workout, this product is a great option.

Performance: In terms of audio quality, you’ll be surprised by how rich, crisp, and clear the sounds from these headphones. We’re not talking top of the line, but considering the price tag, you’ll find few pairs of sport headphones that can compete. The headphones deliver good noise isolation, a secure fit, and clear, dynamic sound that makes listening to any movie, TV show, audiobook, or music playlist a joy.

Features: These headphones don’t have a built-in music control, but do have a microphone and an answer/hang-up button to make answering calls easy. The 4 sets of accompanying ear tips will make it easy for you to customize the fit so you’re always comfortable when running or training.

Price: At $15, this pair of active headphones just can’t be beat. Though some users complain the cord is damaged a bit too easily, they’re fully waterproof and sweatproof, so you won’t have to worry about their being destroyed by rain or perspiration. At this price point, they’re as good as you could ask for!

Best Overall Headphones Under $100

97
Score 97

Why People Love it

  • Great for all weather and climate conditions; handles heat, humidity, elevation, and cold
  • Top-quality bass without using extra-large speaker
  • Unique design keeps them securely in place

Designed to be comfortable even with active use, good sound quality, great for outdoor use, sweat-resistant ear tips, and ideal for running in the outdoors.

The volume control button is not sweat-resistant, increasing risk of wear and breakage.

Details

Design: These bad boys are designed to be a combination of over-the-ear and in-ear headphones. They have a hook that keeps the headphone sitting on your ear, but the earbud tip is firmly in your ear canal--giving you quality sound and good noise cancellation. The fit is beautifully comfortable, and you can listen to music for hours without feeling the irritation that comes with traditional in-ear headphones. They stay in place and will NEVER fall out, no matter how much you run, jump, and move.

Performance: Bose products are known for their sound quality, and the SoundSport is no exception. You get a solid balance between responsive treble and thrumming bass, and the sound is clear no matter what type of music or audio you listen to. There is no distortion, only a strong, crisp sound piped straight into your ears.

The headphones aren't designed for "total" noise cancellation, meaning they let in a bit of ambient sounds. This is ideal for those who run outside or listen to music as they drive, as they keep you aware of what's going on around you. But the noise cancellation is sufficient that the ambient sounds won't detract from your listening experience.

The headphones themselves are sweat- and water-resistant, with a durable design that will keep them working well for years. However, the volume control button, the joint between left and right earphone, and the headphone jack are the "weak spots" that are most likely to break or get damaged. Be aware of that as you exercise!

Features: For under $100, you get a simple pair of high quality headphones with a volume control button and 3 pairs of Bose's Stay Hear silicone tips. It comes with a clothing clip and a carry case, but not much else.

The SoundSport does offer a control button for Android/Samsung/iPhones, but only on the $130-priced models.

Price: Priced at $99.95, these are the most expensive in-ear headphones on the list. However, when you consider their sound quality, extreme comfort, and sporty fit, they're worth it for anyone who does a lot of exercise and wants a pair of headphones that can keep up with their high intensity workouts!

Earbuds vs. Headphones: Pros and Cons

Earbuds (also known as "in-ear headphones") and over-the-ear headphones are the two most popular types of headphones available today. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, as well as their uses in different situations. Below, we do a thorough comparison to show you which suits you best, depending on your listening habits, lifestyle, style preferences, and activities.

Earbuds Pros:

  • Designed for active use. How many runners and professional athletes do you see using over-the-ear headphones while they run or train? Not many! Earbuds are the sportier option, especially sports or running earbuds designed to stay firmly in place as you run, jump, and play. Over-the-ear headphones are too bulky for active use.
  • Lightweight and discreet. A set of earbuds weighs less than 50 grams, while a pair of headphones weighs anywhere from 0.50 to 1 pound. You can tuck earbuds in your pocket for easy storage, but even the most collapsible and portable headphones still require space to carry.
  • Less likely to be stolen. Big, fancy headphones are much more attractive to thieves, but the easy-to-conceal earbuds are far less likely to be stolen.
  • Versatile. Whether you're DJing a party, running a marathon, or listening to music in your car, earbuds can do anything and be taken anywhere.
  • Available in waterproof design. Swimmers and athletes can find a wide selection of waterproof and sweat-resistant earbuds. It's nearly impossible to find over-the-ear headphones designed to be even water-resistant, much less waterproof.
  • Inexpensive. You can find earbuds priced as low as $2 or $3, while the cheapest set of headphones will run you anywhere from $5 to $10. However, the difference in sound quality will be significantly more noticeable with cheap headphones. Cheap earbuds don't lose as much in terms of quality.
  • Comfortable. Thanks to their light weight and slim design, you can usually wear a pair of earbuds for hours without overheating. The only real threat to your comfort is the itching/irritation caused by the earbud being inserted into your ear.
  • Better noise isolation. The fact that there is something inserted into your ear means you get much better noise isolation with earbuds. The silicone tips help to block out all surrounding sound, and the directional speakers send the sound directly into your ear. Properly fitted earbuds are the best for noise isolation.

Earbud Cons:

  • More prone to irritating your ear. The fact that the earbuds are inserted INTO your outer ear canal means there is a higher risk of irritation and infection. Ear wax, dust, debris, sweat, and even water can build on the silicone tip of the earbuds. When you insert that into your ear, you increase the chance that you'll develop an ear infection. The inserted object also stimulates the increased production of ear wax, meaning there's a greater risk of clogged-up ears.
  • Sound quality good, but not great. With earbuds, you never get the same truly responsive, versatile, and well-rounded sound of headphones. The sound quality may be good, but never truly professional-quality.
  • Break more easily. The compact design of earbuds works against you in terms of durability. Earbuds are more prone to damage and breakage, especially with regular use. And don't get us started on how easy it is to lose those silicone tips!
  • Lacking bass. Earbuds tend to produce very well-rounded sound, but they can't match the depth of bass offered by the larger over-the-ear headphones. You get a good mix of mids, lows, and highs without the ability to emphasize any specific range of sound.
  • Greater risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss affects roughly 16% of American teenagers, and it's largely caused by music played at loud volumes being piped directly into the ear canal. Given that smartphones and MP3 players can play music at 120 decibels (significantly higher than the 90 decibels that can lead to hearing loss), it's no surprise that earbuds carry this potential risk.

Over-the-Ear Headphone Pros:

  • Better sound quality. If the quality of your sound is the most important thing, ALWAYS opt for over-the-ear headphones. The over-the-ear cups provide space for larger, more responsive speakers, providing a depth and range of sound that no earbuds could ever match. Even the best-quality earbuds will never come close to the sound quality provided by high-end over-the-ear headphones.
  • More professional. If you're a musician, DJ, recording artist, transcriptionist, or someone who needs high quality sound output, over-the-ear headphones are the more professional option.
  • Excellent noise cancellation. Your average pair of over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones will be far more efficient at cancelling out noise (detecting and inverting ambient sound waves—see the next section for more information!) than a pair of earbuds. Only the very highest-end earbuds can provide decent noise cancellation. 
  • Longer lifespan. Your average pair of earbuds will last 1-2 years, maybe 3-5 if they're high-end running/sports earbuds. A good pair of over-the-ear headphones, however, will last up to 10 years. The fact that you're only using them indoors and away from water, sweat, dust, and debris extends their lifespan beyond any pair of earbuds.
  • Better frequency response curve. Over-the-ear headphones have a significantly better frequency response, meaning there is a lower risk of distortion as the headphones transmit all frequencies (pitches) of your music, audiobooks, or podcasts. Headphones also have a better range of frequencies than earbuds.

Over-the-Ear Headphone Cons:

  • Bulky. There's no getting around it: over-the-ear headphones are bulky. Not only do you have the heavy over-the-ear cups, but there's the headband as well. Even the most portable and collapsible headphones will still take up a good deal of space in your bag and there's no way to transport them in your pockets!
  • Heavy. High-quality over-the-ear headphones tend to weigh more due to the internal components built into the ear cups.
  • Inefficient noise isolation. There's no way to get a complete seal with a pair of over-the-ear headphones, meaning some of the ambient noise will leak in through the headphones.
  • Awkward in daily life. You'd look goofy wearing headphones to walk down the street, hit the gym, or hang around the mall. Over-the-ear headphones are an "indoors-only" pair of headphones suitable for use at work, in front of the TV/gaming system, or in the studio.'
  • Easier to steal. You can't fold up your over-the-ear headphones and put them in your pocket, which means they are always visible. Even cheap over-the-ear headphones look pricier than high-end earbuds, so they'll be a much more attractive target to thieves.
  • Hot and applies pressure to your ears. Have you ever worn noise-isolating/cancelling headphones for upwards of an hour or two? The thick fabric/foam used for the ear cups can cause your ears to sweat and get very hot. Plus, the pressure placed on your ears by the ear cups can be uncomfortable.

As you can see, both earbuds and over-the-ear headphones have their unique pros and cons. It's up to you to examine both types of headphones to determine which suits you best!

How Noise Cancellation Works

Many people mistakenly use the terms "noise cancellation" and "noise isolation" to mean the same thing.

Noise isolation refers to a headphone design that prevents sound from entering your ear. Earbuds have the best noise isolation, as the silicone tip creates an airtight seal that blocks out ambient sounds and prevents the sound from your headphones escaping.

Noise cancellation, on the other hand, refers to one of two specific technologies built into the headphones:

  • Passive noise cancellation refers to the materials used to build the headphones' ear cups, which blocks out sound. The circum-aural (over the ear) headphones use materials that maximize noise filtering, such as high density foam or sound-absorbing materials. This adds weight to the headphones but reduces ambient noise by 15 to 20 decibels.
  • Active noise cancellation is a combination of a microphone, speaker, and noise-cancelling circuitry built into the headphones. The microphone "listens" to the ambient sounds, and the noise-cancelling circuitry matches the "sound fingerprint", the amplitude and frequency of the incoming sounds. An "opposite" sound is generated and fed into the headphones' speakers to cancel out the ambient sounds without altering the sound waves of your music, audiobook, or podcast.

Active noise cancellation is complex and highly sophisticated, and requires a rechargeable battery to power. However, with noise cancellation, you can effectively block out most ambient sounds so you only hear whatever you're listening to.

Note: Noise cancellation will work for general sounds, but sudden/sharp/loud sounds will filter through the headphones before they have time to generate the cancellation sound waves.

Noise cancellation technology can reduce around 20 decibels, or 70%, of background noise. It's typically used by those who travel on airplanes or trains, work in public, or spend a lot of time in high-noise environments (like an open-plan office or home with small children).

With noise cancellation technology, there is a chance that the sound will seem muffled, potentially compromising the sound quality overall. However, thanks to the fact that they can cancel out background sounds, they're highly effective for people looking for a bit of peace and quiet in noisy places.

Running and Sport Earbuds vs. Regular Earbuds

Active earbuds—designed for runners and athletes—are similar to regular earbuds in many ways. They have most of the same features, including the noise-isolating silicone tip, the in-ear placement, and the same limited range of sounds.

However, there are a few features that make them more suited to active use:

Water and sweat resistance. Not only can you find earbuds that are water and sweat-resistant, but you can find 100% waterproof earbuds (used by swimmers). This ensures that the earbuds are safe to use in the pool, in the rain, or anywhere with a lot of sweat or water exposure.

Secure placement. Each type of sport earbuds has their own unique design, but they're all built with one important purpose: staying in place in your ears. Considering how much you run and jump, you need headphones that won't fall out.

Some sport earbuds (like the Bose SoundSport) come with a hook that slips into the triangular fossa (the indentation of the outer ear), while others actually hook around behind the ears. Some sport earbuds are attached to headbands or neckbands that keep the earphones securely in place. Others are designed with a special tip that creates suction in your ears to prevent them from falling out.

Lightweight. Sport headphones are designed to be as lightweight as possible so you don't notice them as you're running or moving.

Outdoor sound responsiveness. The ambient noise of an indoor/gym environment is different from outdoor environments. Most sport headphones are designed to isolate outdoor ambient noise, and offer a depth of sound you don't get with regular low-budget earbuds.

Controls. While most earbuds offer basic controls (volume, skip/rewind, etc.), sport headphones usually have more comprehensive controls built into them. Some allow you to answer your phone hands-free as you run/train, change songs, activate Siri/Google Voice commands, adjust volume, and more. Sport headphones tend to have more control options than your basic earbuds.

Durability. This goes hand in hand with water resistance. Your average pair of earbuds is built for casual use, but sport/running earbuds are built for heavy-duty athletic activity. This means the cables are covered with a thicker wire, the earphones themselves are built to be a bit more durable, and the wire connections are more solid/less prone to breakage.

These few features can make a huge difference when it comes to your athletic activity, runs, or training sessions!

Editor: Health & Active, Food & Drink, Entertainment

Fitness has come hard for Andy; he's had to work for it. But, his trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, a NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise and healthy living. That’s why he’s our resident fitness expert.

His favorite food is lettuce-leaf steak tacos – though he’ll admit to a love of hot wings if you leverage the right pressure.

We know him as the guy who understands British humor and wishes everyone was as passionate about life as he is. His previous forays into the worlds of international business and education have left him wildly optimistic. And, if that wasn’t enough, he also writes comic books. Can you say renaissance?

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