When the first iPods and mp3 players were released, they included an inexpensive pair of earbuds to allow you to upload some music and start listening to your new player right away, without having to make an extra headphone purchase. These initial earbuds provided only “adequate” sound quality, and often did not fit well in the ear. We’ve come a long way since those early days of marginal earbuds.
Today you can find many fine brands of earbuds that deliver sound that rivals the finest over-the-ear studio reference headphones, in price ranges from as little as $15 or $25, all the way up to well over $500, offered by trusted consumer electronics companies like Shure, Klipsch and Monster, and boutique in -ear monitor specialists like Westone, Etymotic and Ultimate Ears. There’s even a new crop of wireless earbuds that use Bluetooth or Kleer technology to transmit your music from your mp3 device to the earbuds without the tangle of wires.
The sheer volume of choices and price-ranges can be overwhelming, so let’s first clarify the various types and uses of earbuds, and even throw in a little history about the growth of this music-listening sub-niche:
First, the term earbuds is a catch-all term used to describe any kind of lightweight phone/music-listening earphones that either rest lightly just outside the ear canal, or are actually inserted into the ear canal, as opposed to larger headphones which sit over the whole ear. Technically, the earbud type that rests on the outer ear are referred to as earbuds, whereas the higher-quality ones with a molding or stem that allows you to insert them into the ear canal are referred to as in-ear monitors, or IEMs.
It’s an important difference, because while the mp3-iPod industry was knocking out cheap earbuds for inclusion with their players, companies like Shure and Logitech were already building super-quality in-ear monitors for major music acts to use on the concert stage, in place of bulky floor monitors or unattractive headphones. These music artists demanded a sound quality and mix balance previously only available in the finest stage monitors, right in their ears, and these top pro audio companies supplied the need. Even today, if you look closely, you can still see the molded outline of these superior in-ear monitors sitting in one or both ears of Lady Gaga, Mick Jagger and thousands of other music pros, as they listen perfectly to their vocal notes and the rest of the band while performing.
The studio reference quality of these artist in-ear systems made regular music consumers salivate for something higher quality than the cheesy, shrill freebie earbuds included with the purchase of their mp3 player, and slowly the two echelons have merged, so that now the average consumer can purchase artist-quality earbuds that will make their music catalog sound like it never has before.
So how do you choose which earbud is best for you? Do you really need a set of fine earbuds that often cost as much or more than the player itself? Can’t you do fine with a set for under $100? And if you can hear the difference, and do decide you want to purchase one of the higher-end best earbuds, are their good discounts and deals available? Relax. WirelessEarbudsShop.com is your earbud headquarters for in-depth reviews of the best wireless earbuds and each model, honest comparisons and great prices.
A lot of your choice will depend on what kind of a music listener you are, and how discriminating your ear is. There are many companies – Radius, Yamaha, Bose, Jays, even Skull Candy – offering decent earbuds under $60 that are a definite upgrade from the stock set that came with your device. If your earphone-music listening is restricted to just a few times a week while walking or exercising, and you do most of your music listening over speakers in your car, office or home, one of these may be fine for you, and we’ll cover some of these models on our website.
If you love music, and listen often through headsets, and if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks to make sure your music sounds as realistic and full-spectrum as it can, you are a candidate for some of the finer in-ear monitor earbuds we review here. You can compare different models at different price levels, and find the perfect balance of budget and high-quality sound for you. Be warned – once you’ve heard what your music can sound like through one of the top-quality IEMs by Monster, Shure, Ulitmate Ears, Westone, Etymotic, Klipsch or Sennheiser, you may never be able to return to listening through one of those marginal earbuds again!