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9 Best Earplugs (2023): For Concerts, Sleep, and Listening

9 Best Earplugs (2023): For Concerts, Sleep, and Listening

You only get one pair of ears, so it’s a good idea to look after them—and a good set of earplugs can come in handy in all kinds of situations. A proper set is a much better solution for blocking out noise during the night than a pillow over the head and is more comfortable than headphones. What you’re looking for in earplugs really depends on what you want them to do. When you’re sleeping, for example, comfort is paramount. Plus, you need an indiscriminate approach to blocking out snores, traffic noise, or a car alarm down the street.

If you’re watching a band play live, though, you want to maintain as much fidelity as possible and just cut out the frequencies that might be harmful to your hearing. The average concert pumps out about 100 decibels, but if you’ve ever seen My Bloody Valentine, you’ll know some bands seem to have a personal vendetta against your ears—and continuous exposure to sounds over 85 dB can cause permanent damage to your hearing. That means it’s not possible to pick out one pair of earplugs that’ll work in every situation. Instead, we’ve picked several that satisfy different needs.

Be sure to check out our other buying guides, like the Best Sleep Gadgets, Best Wireless Earbuds, Best Wireless Headphones, and Gifts for People Who Need a Good Night’s Sleep.

Updated April 2023: We’ve added the Vibes High Fidelity Earplugs and Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds for travelers.

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16 Best Wireless Earbuds (2023): Truly Wireless, Cheap, Luxe, and More

16 Best Wireless Earbuds (2023): Truly Wireless, Cheap, Luxe, and More

Wireless earbuds are one of those ideas that sounded like a dream at first: Pop a little headphone into each ear and listen to music or take calls untethered from everything. The first wireless buds were gigantic, died after a few hours, and had a bunch of other problems. Times have changed. There are tons of new models that sound fabulous and work perfectly. After testing dozens over the past four years, these are our favorite wireless earbuds, in a wide range of styles and prices.

For more top picks, check out our other audio guides, like the Best Wireless Headphones, Best Noise-Canceling Headphones, Best Cheap Headphones, Best Workout Earbuds, and Best Wired Headphones.

Updated March 2023: We’ve added the Anker Soundcore Space A10, Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2, and Raycon Everyday Earbuds.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.

10 Best Wireless Earbuds for Working Out (2023)

10 Best Wireless Earbuds for Working Out (2023)

Not only are the Beats Fit Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends) one of the best workout buds for Apple users, they’re one of the best everyday buds, period. They have squishy ear tips and elegant fins (that may be a little big for smaller ears, unfortunately). They have the Apple H1 chip and pair seamlessly with Apple products, but they also have a great app for Android that includes one-touch pairing, customized controls, and a fit test.

The noise-canceling works extremely well, and you can click on a physical button on the buds to pause and let ambient noise in. The sound signature is remarkably sculptured, according to WIRED associate editor Parker Hall, meaning you can enjoy music in all genres, movies mixed in Dolby Atmos, and get great-sounding Zoom calls. Most important, unlike many of our other picks, they come in a signature Beats-style eye-catching purple (they now also come in coral, pink, and blue). I also wholeheartedly recommend Beats’ previous, and now cheaper, Powerbeats workout buds; they work reliably after years of heavy use.

Apple Alternative: If you must have Apple-branded buds, go for the AirPods Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends). They are IPX4-rated so they’re sweat-resistant, and the sound quality, fit, and battery life have all improved over the years. I especially like that they now have a speaker, so you can ping them when you’ve lost them at your desk or under the couch. However, I still don’t find the fit as secure as any of the Beats headphones.

Master & Dynamic MW75 Review: Premium Sound, Premium Price

Master & Dynamic MW75 Review: Premium Sound, Premium Price

Battery life is on par with other high-end noise-canceling headphones at 32 hours, and the headphones come with a USB-C cable inside a great hard-shell carrying case that allows them to plug into a computer or phone and act as their own high-quality digital-to-analog converter—pretty awesome for those who love to listen to high-end audio on the go. If you’re without a USB port, there is also a 3.5-mm converter for standard powerless listening and a quarter-inch converter for headphone amps and other higher-end sources. That’s two wired ways, and one wireless way, to listen to the MW75, which is pretty nifty.

Sound Quality

The 40-mm beryllium drivers inside the MW75 combine with Master & Dynamic’s excellent onboard digital-to-analog conversion to provide one of the most vivid and enjoyable soundstages I’ve ever heard from a pair of wireless headphones.

I thought that the AirPods Max sounded fantastic, but these somehow beat their excellent reproduction, with the MW75 offering a soundstage so dynamic you feel like you could bathe in it. The bass in particular stands out above many other options in the category, with punchy, assertive sounds never muddying the waters for tones right above them. If you like bass-heavy music, this acts like a clear canvas to hear it anew, with records like Kaytranada’s 99.9 percent coming through like they’ve never done for me on active noise reduction models in the past. 

Then again, anything sounds good through these headphones. I love listening to jazz, classical, folk, and other acoustic music through them because the high-side tuning really lends a directness, making the digital-to-analog sound like the instruments are right there in your ears.

The M&D Connect app lets you adjust noise-canceling and ambient sound modes, as well as messing with EQ, but I found that these headphones sound best with noise canceling on high and the EQ set to standard, as you might expect most people to leave them out of the box. That said, the ambient mode can come in handy on flights or when you want to have a quick chat with a loved one, pet, or coworker (or some combo thereof).

Boo, Hiss

Master and Dynamic MW75 headphones

Photograph: Master & Dynamic

Noise-canceling quality is excellent, with the headphones easily tuning out the sounds of my HVAC system and my clacky mechanical keyboard. I’d say that it’s as good as I’ve heard from any of the top brands of late, though Sony and Bose might slightly outclass these when it comes to midrange sound reduction. I can still sometimes hear the 600-hz whine of my air filter through the Master & Dynamic algorithm. Likewise, the onboard mics are good, just not as good as those from Apple and Bose. They’re still entirely useable on calls.

The only real bug in the ointment is that the MW75 have a low level of noise-canceling hiss at all times, only audible to me when nothing is playing. It reminds me of the super low-level tape hiss when I record on analog gear. I’m a stickler for a low noise floor, and it doesn’t bother even me (literally disappearing as soon as I hear any music), but if you’re the type of person who needs no noise at all, I recommend another pair.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time with the MW75 and firmly recommend them to high rollers and aspirational audio nerds alike. The sound is so good that I can forgive a bit of noise-canceling hiss when nothing is playing, and the fact that you can listen to them so many ways—wired or wireless, with or without an external digital-to-analog converter—is pretty awesome. If you like bells and whistles, especially the way they sound in high fidelity, these are a pretty awesome pair.

Skullcandy’s Jib True 2 Earbuds Are Cute and Affordable

Skullcandy’s Jib True 2 Earbuds Are Cute and Affordable

We’ve ranted, raved, and reminisced on times when tech was cool-looking and not industrial. It was colorful, unique, and, in its best form, it was clear. Somewhere along the way, someone decided we were no longer deserving, and now we have boring-looking cell phones and headphones for true-crime podcast listening. We’re so desperate for personality, some people have taken to converting retro MacBooks into iPad cases … for $1,000. Would I sell a kidney for a chunky clear iPhone? Yes (someone forward this to Tim Cook). Will I pay a grand for a case? No. 

When an email came across my inbox from Skullcandy touting earbuds made to raise awareness about environmental impact, and those earbuds came in a “nostalgic clear color,” my eyes glazed over. Could it possibly mark the return of good, cool-looking tech?

The answer: kind of. The Jib True 2 Transparency Series buds are adorable in their blindingly bright green. I want to chew on them. And when I’m not debating putting them in my mouth, I’m pretty happy to put them in my ears. Besides a subpar microphone and the fact that I want a touch more visual clarity in their inner workings, these are solid earbuds.

In the Clear

Skullcandy Jib True 2 Transparency earbuds and case

Photograph: Skullcandy

As much as I love the way the Jib True 2 Transparency look, it does feel a bit like a swing-and-miss when compared to other clear plastic products I’ve loved. It feels like Skullcandy could have knocked the opacity down a few hundred notches, maybe even add colored wires like the world’s best landline phone. This limited-edition series (the standard True 2 buds are available long-term), also includes the Hesh Evo over ears, and while they are equally as adorable, they’re even less see-through.

While I think they could be more transparent physically, I do appreciate the idea behind this limited line: more transparency about the company’s impact on the environment. As long as people want things like phones, computers, and even headphones that are made from rare Earth materials and plastic, there’s going to be waste and an impact on an already struggling environment.

Skullcandy says it’s continuing to reduce its carbon footprint and has recycled nearly 650,000 headphones so far (saving around 544,000 pounds of landfill trash). If you return your old Skullcandy buds to the company, you’ll get a 30 percent discount for a new pair. All of the brand’s packaging is 100 percent recyclable, and the Jib True 2 contains a carbon emissions equivalent of 5.70 kilograms. Skullcandy purchases carbon offset credits to neutralize that. In addition, a portion of the profits from the Jib True 2 goes to Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit working to act against climate change.

Is this going to heal the world? No, of course not. But it’s time big brands own up and make some sort of commitment. You don’t see anything similar from any other major headphone brands.

Sounding Off

Skullcandy Jib True 2 Transparency earbuds

Photograph: Skullcandy

Looks and environmental efforts aside, the Jib True 2 buds sound good. I used to be a person who never used headphones that didn’t come in the box with her cell phone. Then last year I bought myself a pair of Beats Solo Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends) and realized I was missing out a little bit.