Previously touched on, but worth a more detailed look in my opinion. They provide a good amount of sound isolation, blocking out background noise, whilst also keeping the noise in, therefore making them useful for crowded situations as they are less likely to disturb anyone nearby. They’re also much cheaper than typical sound canceling headphones (that normally cost upwards of £65). Although, the cost also means there do seem to be some occasional quality issues, anyway, lets dive in with some of the cheapest…
These four aspects seem to be important when buying and using in-ear earphones: Sound quality, Build quality, fitment, and price, so I’ll rate each based on this, and then give a total score.
Creative Labs EP-630 (Best Overall Value) – from £8 – £12 from Amazon UK
Excellent for the price (value 9/10). Good buds – fitment wise they are very good (9/10). Good cable, build quality and design are very good for the price – assuming you get them for £8 (9/10), or £12 (8/10). Sound (7/10), very good sound but very bass driven, and not as crisp as others.
JVC Marshmallow FX-34 – around £10 on Amazon UK
Cheapest foam earphones available (upgraded by the FX-35), slightly too large plastic can make them too large. Sound quality is very good, although can take some “run in”, and mine started failing after around 3 months! Cable is good and doesn’t seem to tangle. Good value for money – especially compared to other foam earphones – often costing much more. However, you can tell these are cheaply made, as the foam slides on, rather than clips on. Sound 8/10 (strong bass), Build 5/10, Fitment 6/10 (Can be too big for some people), Value 9/10.
Philips SHE-8500 – around £12 on Amazon UK
Very good sound. Not very good rubber buds – too soft making the fitment* lose and difficult to get complete isolation from the surrounding noises. Poor quality cable, not very flexible, feels cheap, and brittle, and tangles easily. Poor design of plastic (square) making any contact with ear while fitting them uncomfortable. Sound quality: 9/10, build quality: 5/10, fitment: 5/10, value: 8/10.
Nokia BH-214 (Best value bluetooth) Bluetooth wireless earbuds – from £15 – £20 from Amazon UK
Great value for money, but sound quality not so great compared to others. You can use the bluetooth wireless numbers with other earphones, so can always use these as an entry into wireless earphones. Sound quality: 6-7/10 (Sound slightly worse when using the bluetooth adapter – less bass and clarity etc), build quality: 7/10 (jack is not gold plated), fitment: 8/10, value: 10/10 (includes Nokia charger as well).
Sennheiser CX-300 IIs (Winner!) – around £18 from Amazon UK^ – but sometimes more.
Good cable. Good buds. Best price / performance / quality in my opinion. In fact , if you can stretch (financially) to these, buy these and never look back. Sound 9/10 (perhaps not as bass driven as some of the others), Build 8/10, Fitment 9/10, Value 8/10 (inludes carry case / pouch).
Overall: The Sennheiser CX-300 II are clear winners, offering the best sound quality, fitment and build quality, at a reasonable price. The Creative Labs EP-630 offer a lot for the price, and are runners up. And the Nokia BH-214 are worth considering because they offer bluetooth connectivity at a very reasonable price.
* Fitment – correct fitment is key / essential to getting the best sound out of the earphones, not getting the correct fitment can mean the sound is completely lacking bass etc. This is the same with all of these in-ear style earphones.
^ Recommend purchasing directly from Amazon, to avoid potentially getting fake earphones.