Skip to main content

10 Best Earbuds That Don’t Go in Ear (Classic Earphones) 2024

Last updated: 7 months ago
8 min read

In-ears don’t feel right? In this guide we’ll cover:

  • The best earbuds that don’t go in the ear (that are comfy & sound great)
  • Our honest opinion on each pair of earbuds
  • Clear-cut explanation and comparison of non-in-ear and in-ear earphones
  • A/B sound tests, so you know exactly how they sound

We test and evaluate headphones using a standardized 9-point methodology. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

More info Price Connection Mic & Controls Water protection
Apple AirPods 3 Best overall
Apple AirPods 3 small image
Under $180
Bluetooth 5.0
checkmarkcheckmark
IPX4
SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS Best under $50
SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS small image
Under $50
Bluetooth 5.2
checkmarkcheckmark
IPX4
SoundPEATS Air4 Best for noise
SoundPEATS Air4 small image
Under $100
luetooth 5.3
checkmarkcheckmark
IPX4
Sennheiser MX 365 Best wired
Sennheiser MX 365 s
Under $50
Wired – 3.5mm
checkmarkcheckmark
None
TOZO OpenReal Best open
TOZO OpenReal small image
Under $50
Bluetooth 5.3
checkmarkcheckmark
IPX8
Under $10
Wired – 3.5mm
Optional
None

+Honorable mentions (#7-#10)

Classic earbuds on our list are evaluated based on 9 key factors (Sonic9Score).  The main criteria we looked at to recommend the best are audio quality, comfort & fit, and user experience.

We have tested 193 headphones and earbuds so far. Dozens of them are classic earbuds without ear tips. We compared them and judged them based on the 3 main criteria above. Read more on how we tested and picked them.

And explore our general testing and ranking methodology.

CONTENTS (show more)

    Best Earbuds that Don’t Go in Ear

    1. Apple AirPods 3

    1st-place Best Overall
    Apple AirPods 3 buds in case

    Apple’s Airpods 3 are the best classic earbuds we’ve tested. They combine a desirable look with an impressive Apple ecosystem integrationRead the Apple AirPods 3 review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: Custom Apple driver
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 6h + 24h in case | Wireless range: 50 feet (15.2m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: Quick charge – Lightning + Qi wireless + MagSafe | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX4 | Features: H1 chip, Spatial Audio, multipoint
    • Good sound quality
    • Comfortable fit
    • Useful features (for Apple users)
    • Excellent microphone quality
    • No audio lag in videos/games (on iOS)
    • Basic functionality with non-Apple devices
    • Not the most stable fit
    • Poor passive noise isolation
    • Pricey

    Hear the Apple AirPods 3 A/B Sound Test:

    Apple AirPods 3 Sound Quality Test – HeadphonesAddict

    You get a (surprisingly) punchy, somewhat balanced audio quality that is suitable for casual listening. They’re a good choice for music as well as watching videos or listening to podcasts.

    These wireless earphones work great with an Apple device. The H1 chip inside makes sure that pairing with an iPhone or MacBook is both super fast and stable.

    There are also intelligent touch sensors on the outside of the earphones that work really well. The new 3rd generation AirPods are equipped with a new case that can be wirelessly charged (Qi wireless and MagSafe compatible).

    Another improvement compared to the previous generation is that they now support Spatial Audio and have an IPX4 rating, offering full sweat resistance.

    Furthermore, earbuds are very comfortable to wear and provide decent stability thanks to the special “grippy” plastic they’re made of.

    For top-notch earbuds that don’t go in ears, check them out.

    Best Earbuds that Don’t Go in Ear under $50

    2. SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS

    2nd-place Best under $50
    SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS earbuds in case

    SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS are the best non-in-ear earbuds under $50 we’ve tested. You get good audio quality and a fully-fledged companion appSoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.2
    Driver size icon Driver size: 14.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-40.000Hz
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 6h + 15h in case | Wireless range: 35ft (10.6m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 1.5h – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC | Water resistance: IPX4 | Features: Custom EQ, Adaptive EQ, Game Mode
    • Clear sound with natural midrange (after EQ tweaks)
    • Good battery life for classic earphones, with 6 hours per charge
    • Good call quality, especially in quieter environments
    • Light & comfortable to wear during long listening sessions
    • Wide selection of features & an app at a budget price
    • Poor passive noise isolation & sound leakage
    • Below average Bluetooth indoor range of 35 feet (at best)

    Hear the SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS A/B Sound Test:

    SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS Sound Quality Test – HeadphonesAddict

    SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS are, so far, the best neutral-sounding classic earbuds on the market. Even though they only cost $50.

    Earbuds produce a relatively full, detailed sound, with natural mids and clear treble. They’re surprisingly clearer than Apple AirPods 3. To get the best result, you should enable LDAC audio codec (standard Air3 Deluxe support aptX Adaptive, which offers better latency).

    Furthermore, they have an app that works on iOS and Android, supplying both systems with extra features: Adaptive EQ, Game mode, in-ear detection, and custom EQ.

    The latter can make the sound even more natural (you can find our settings in the full review).

    On top of that, the wireless earbuds are very comfortable to wear but only passable at providing a secure fit. They also have IPX4, whereas most of the competition is fully waterproof. But the 6-hour+ battery life offers plenty of music.

    Nonetheless, for a low price of under $50, the Air3 HS are a top choice for non-inear earbuds.

    If you’re looking for value, here are more best earbuds under $50.

    Best Non-In-Ear Earbuds for Removing Noise

    3. SoundPeats Air4

    anc Best for Noise
    SoundPEATS Air4 on the stone

    SoundPeats Air4 are the best classic non-in-ear earbuds for noise we’ve tested. While alternatives don’t block a lot of noise, these do a good job – SoundPeats Air4 review.

    $58.99
    $79.99
    in stock
    2 new from $58.99
    as of June 13, 2024 3:18 am
    Amazon.com
    $61.99
    in stock
    Walmart.com
    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Driver size icon Driver size: 13mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 4h + 20h in case | Wireless range: 40 feet (12 meters) | Noise cancelling: Yes. adaptive | Charging: 1.5h (for buds) – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Lossless | Water resistance: IPX4 | Features: App, custom EQ, multipoint, Game mode
    • Full sound that needs some EQ tweaking
    • Comfortable & with decently stable fit
    • Well-packed with features, Bluetooth multipoint included
    • Classic earphone design makes for a subpar ANC performance
    • Low battery life at slightly over 4 hours per charge

    It’s a known problem of classic earphones. They don’t isolate much noise. And while the Air4 lag behind the in-ear counterparts, they do a better job than most open earbuds. The addition of active noise cancellation helps, albeit only a little.

    What matters more is their full audio quality with strong bass. You can equalize and change it as you like in the companion app.

    They’re packed with features, and you can even connect them to 2 devices at the same time (multipoint).

    The only caveat is a shorter battery life (all the features eat up power), though 4 hours is still plenty of music.

    If you want wireless earbuds that don’t go in ear but still remove noise, the SoundPeats Air 4 are your top choice.

    For stronger noise removal, check the best noise cancelling earbuds.

    Best Wired Earbuds that Don’t Go in Ear

    4. Sennheiser MX 365

    wired Best Wired
    Sennheiser MX 365

    The Sennheiser MX 365 are the best wired earphones in our opinion. They sound much better than you might expect.

    $48.88
    in stock
    2 used from $44.81
    as of June 13, 2024 3:34 am
    Amazon.com
    $79.39
    in stock
    Walmart.com
    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: Earphones | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Weight: n/a | Cable length: 4 feet (1.2m) | Features: /
    • Smooth, balanced sound
    • Spacious soundstage (for in-ears)
    • Comfort depends on ear sizes

    The soundstage is much better than in most earbuds, and the overall sound signature is quite smooth and balanced. The bass is present and forward enough without sounding exaggerated and over-produced.

    Mids are balanced warm, and deliver good vocal clarity that isn’t too sharp. Highs are strong but can sound just slightly turned down, which can work well to combat ear fatigue if you’re listening for a long period.

    The plastic enclosure on Sennheiser earbuds feels lightweight, which is ok for comfort and stability. The included foam earpads add a nice cushion if you want to soften the feel of the plastic earbud shell.

    We know wired earbuds are out of fashion, but if you’re in the market for a pair, give Sennheiser MX 365 a try.

    Best Open Earbuds

    5. TOZO OpenReal

    earbud Best Open Earbuds
    TOZO OpenReal compared to SoundPEATS RunFree Lite

    TOZO OpenReal are the best open earbuds with surprising sound quality. These are even less intrusive than AirPods as the earbuds barely touch your skin: super comfy and ergonomic – TOZO OpenReal review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Driver size icon Driver size: 16.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Air-conduction | Battery life: 12 hours | Wireless range: 65 feet (20 meters) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: Quick charge – Proprietary charger | Mic & Controls: Yes (physical & touch) | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX8 | Features: Custom EQ
    • Incredibly natural tuning, especially after EQ
    • Ergonomic design for rock-solid stability
    • Comfortable to wear & compatible with bike helmets
    • Good battery duration of 12 hours per charge
    • Exceptional Bluetooth indoor range of 65 feet
    • Annoying proprietary charger with weak magnets
    • No support for Bluetooth multipoint or Game mode

    During our testing of the open earbuds we found the sound quality is surprisingly good (better than any bone conduction headphones). They’re great for listening to all music genres, thanks to their balanced signature. More sound details are in the review.

    The behind-the-neck design is ergonomic. You can even wear them under a bicycle helmet. So they’re great for activity and on-the-go use.

    You get a long 12-hour battery life, which is more than most comparable wireless earbuds. And a long Bluetooth range of 65 feet.

    And you can use them under a shower, too. With a high IPX8 water-resistance rating, you can easily take them swimming or wash them under a tap.

    The only criticism we can make is their proprietary charger that snaps off due to weak magnets.

    Apart from that, the TOZO OpenReal are superb open earbuds that won’t bother your ear canals. Get the details in our review.

    See the best open-ear headphones for alternatives that don’t touch your ears.

    Best Cheap Non-In-Ear Earbuds

    6. Venture Electronics Monks Plus

    earbud Best Cheap
    VE Monks Plus classic earphones

    VE Monks Plus are well-known earbuds in the audiophile community, holding a deserving spot in our best classic earbuds guide. Get them if you want Hi-Fi audio on a tight budget.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 15.4mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 8-22.000Hz
    Type: Earphones | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Optional | Impedance: 64 Ohm | Weight: 0.5 oz (15g) | Cable length: 4 feet (1.2m) | Features: /
    • Enjoyable, Hi-Fi sound
    • Warm/smooth presentation
    • Good soundstage
    • Memory wire
    • Poor quality foam covers

    Monks are a bit midrange forward, with a warm presentation and smooth, rolled-off highs. The bass response has a punch and a decent speed but doesn’t go very low.

    They are overall very dynamic and natural, with a good-sized soundstage, which makes their listening experience enjoyable.

    The plastic earbud enclosures feel quite hard and durable. However, the strain relief isn’t very reassuring.

    They come in different color choices. With the lightweight housing and foam covers, you don’t even know you are wearing them in your ears.

    VE Monks Plus are a quality set of earbuds that you should have even if you already own much more expensive gear. They are a great example of how good the best cheap earbuds can be.

    Though, it’s hard to get them nowadays. So they’re not always available (if that’s the case right now, see alternatives in the list).

    Or check other cheap options among the best earbuds under $20.

    Honorable Mentions (#7 – #10)

    7. Apple AirPods 2

    Apple AirPods 2 true wireless earbuds

    The second-generation AirPods 2 have come down in price, offering a decent deal for those who want seamless Apple ecosystem integration. And they have a good microphone quality for phone calls too.

    Apple AirPods 2 review

    8. Apple EarPods Wired

    Apple Earpods Wired classic earphones

    The iconic earphones from the year 2012 were included with the new iPhones in the past. You can see many people using them on the streets. Soundwise, they are similar to more expensive AirPods; therefore, they are a solid option for Apple users on a budget.

    Check EarPods price

    9. TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80

    TaoTronics Soundliberty 80 earbuds

    SoundLiberty 80 are the best-performing earbuds from TaoTronics that don’t go in the ear. With a modern true wireless design and features like an excellent microphone, fully waterproof IPX8 protection, and no video lag, they’re a contender. The only reason why we didn’t list them higher is their subpar fit.

    TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80 review

    10. The Edifier H180 (P180)

    Edifier H180 earphones

    The Edifier H180 (P180) wired earphones deliver exceptional audio in a traditional earbud design. Bass has a solid presence but isn’t overwhelming like in bassy earbuds. But they’re hard to get and may never be available again.

    How We Tested and Picked Them?

    Each pair of earbuds in our list is objectively tested by measuring frequency response (see graphs in full reviews).

    Then, we listen to them personally and describe what we hear. Altogether, we test them on 9 key points: Sound quality, comfort & fit, noise isolation, ANC, battery life, features, etc. (see all of them in our scoring methodology). This helps us objectively compare and pick the best-performing earbuds that we can confidently recommend. Read more on our testing methodology.

    How did we choose the models?

    As mentioned above, we primarily focused on 3 key points: audio quality, comfort & fit, and user experience.

    Audio quality: Many earbuds without eartips lack bass due to their open design. This is why taking into account their sound plays a vital part. We only recommend models that sound good.

    Comfort & fit: Ergonomic design isn’t as common as you might think. And for non-in-ear earbuds, it’s more important. Earphones that fall out are too common, and we want you to avoid them.

    User experience: This is a combination of many different things. Like how you charge them, how they feel in your hands, is something annoying you, etc. All these things either create a pleasant or lousy experience.

    Once we knew what models we wanted to include in the list, we ranked them. We ranked them at different price points and types of headphones. You can find cheaper ones at the bottom.

    Why … Didn’t Make The List?

    There are many great classic earphones that don’t go in ear that didn’t make the list for one reason. They’re almost impossible to get.

    Either because they’re foreign and don’t have a distributor in the USA and Europe or because they’re a smaller company with limited production.

    For us, it makes little sense to recommend models that most people won’t have a chance to buy. These models include but are not limited to the likes of: Simphonio Dragon 2+, Yuin OK1, Degauss Labs Pocket, Astrotrotec, Shozy BK, Edifier H180, etc. (actually, these are mentioned because sometimes you can still get them).

    Earbuds that Don’t Go in the Ear vs. In-Ear Headphones (In-Ear Monitors)?

    What is the difference between classic earbuds and in-ear earbuds (also known as in-ear monitors (IEMs) or in-ear headphones)?

    The difference is the design.

    • Classic earphones lay on the outside of your ear canal. There is no ear canal irritation, which can occur in in-ears. The classic Apple earbud design is one of the most popular designs to date. These earbuds don’t go into your inner ear but stay on the outside of the ear.
    Apple Calssic Earbuds
    • In-ear earphones enter further in the inner canal. They’re also called in-ear monitors (IEMs). The in-ear headphones come with rubber or foam ear tips that you can replace to adjust the fit. Shure SE215 are one of the most popular in-ear earbuds by musicians and non-professionals alike.
    Shure SE215 in-ear headphone example

    Non-In-Ear vs. In-Ear user experience?

    Classic Earphones (don’t go in the ear)

    • Better environmental awareness since they don’t use tips to seal your ear canal.
    • Airier sound due to open design without in-ear insertion.
    • They’re more comfortable for most people since some dislike the in-ear fit with silicone ear tips.
    • Sound can be quite good but not on par with proper in-ear headphones. Still, if you want a simple solution for audio books or casual listening, these are the way to go.
    • Poor passive noise isolation means worse overall audio quality due to louder ambient noise. Also, the bass doesn’t get very deep due to the lack of a proper seal.
    • Unstable fit for most users, which makes them a poor choice for intense workouts or commuting (since you don’t want them to fall out on the street).

    In-Ear Headphones (go in the ear)

    • Wider frequency range due to better seal and deeper bass response. That also means that the sound quality can get much higher, even at lower volume level.
    • Good passive noise isolation block more sound from the outside world.
    • Superior stability since tips creates traction between them and the canal, preventing earbuds from falling out.
    • Some users find in-ear fit uncomfortable due to tips scratching the ears, especially if they have smaller ear canals, or the tips creating unpleasant pressure.
    • Due to deeper fit, tips push more earwax back into your ears, which could lead to infections.

    The Confusion About the Name

    Since the in-ear design (in-ear monitors, in-ear headphones) has become the standard in popular consumer electronics, most people call them just “earbuds”, even though that is technically incorrect.

    Among the audiophile community, people understand the difference between earbuds and in-ear monitors and name them accordingly.

    Since most people aren’t audiophiles, we use the name “earbuds” for in-ear monitors/in-ear headphones because this is what people understand.

    If you go to a store, most people will understand what you mean if you say classic earphones that don’t go in ear or in-ear earbuds.

    Why Trust HeadphonesAddict?

    At HeadphonesAddict, we provide honest headphone tests through a rigorous methodology and a transparent process.

    When choosing the best earbuds that don’t go in the ear, we looked at the sound, fit, price, durability, do they have a microphone and controls, and price-to-value ratio.

    More reasons to trust us:

    • We test headphones ourselves on 9 key points (wired models require fewer tests).
    • We don’t take money for tests and reviews.
    • We don’t delete or edit “bad reviews.” Even when brands ask us to, if the headphones sound bad or have other faults, we tell you about it without embellishment.

    FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

    Are there earbuds that don’t go in the ear?

    Earbuds that don’t go in the ear exist and are called earphones, classic earbuds, or open earbuds. Their advantage over in-ear earbuds is comfort.

    Are open ear earbuds good?

    Open-ear earbuds are a more comfortable alternative to in-ear earbuds. But generally, their audio isn’t as good due to a lack of noise isolation. So, if you’re looking for comfort, they’re a great option. If you prefer sound quality, then get in-ear headphones.

    Related:

    Conclusion

    Classic earphones are much comfier and don’t irritate the skin around the ear canal. If you pick one of the above, you’ll make a good decision.

    And in our opinion the best choice for most people are the AirPods 3 with all the bells and whistles.

    • #1 Best Non-In-Ear Earbuds
    8 Comments
    1. Hey there, i’m searching for in ears on your site, but came across this comparison and looked if i found my pair of classic earbuds. I can recommend the “Pocket” from the swedish brand Degauss Labs. They now only have the one version with one button control in the shop, earlier they had these with 3 button control (the one i have). And overall i can say i like them a lot. And if you like try looking at their other more high class in ears.
      I hope i didn’t gave you a hard time understandung me.

      Reply

    2. Are there any bluetooth earphones in this style??

      Reply

      1. Not that we know of. The classic earphones are an older technology that has been replaced by in-ear buds due to superior sound isolation and audio quality. Most major brands completely stopped developing the classic earphones so my bet would be it’s very unlikely we’ll see a lot of quality wireless models of this type.

        Reply

    3. 7 Best earphones? Where is Yuin OK1 or Simphonio Dragon 2+, Shozy BK, Astrotrotec? just to name a few.

      Reply

    4. I will always use these kind of classic earphones, my ear canal can’t stand the in-ear layout.
      1) I used MX375 for many years, I bought a dozen of them. Why ? Sound was great but got damaged every 6 months or so, always the same problem, one side would suddenly stop working, even as they were being used. It was not the cable, the problem was the inside the case, the filament near the coil would break. Poor quality, bad testing.
      2) As they went out of stock, I switched to MX365. MX365 sounds nearly as good, although a little less bass (I compared using one L MX365 and one R MX375).
      Unfortunately, MX365 also suffers from poor quality. The inner filament did not break, but after only 1 month of usage, the transparent cone inside degraded and low frequency sounds like the cone has been perforated. Probably the glue.
      3) Recently, I switched to the Edifier H180 Hi-Fi. And oh boy, it is good. I only dislike the cushions, they are too small.
      Edifier all the way.

      Reply

    5. THANK YOU so much for this review. The trend is now all IEMs, and it is so difficult to find a review that actually compares non-IEM earbuds like the AirPods. Like, 99% of the “AirPod alternatives” are not alternatives because they are in-ear and that’s a different product.

      I don’t want to lose perception of my environment, I don’t want anything pressing into my ear canals, and, above all, I don’t want to hear my own voice amplified when I speak. How is everyone else fine with it, it’s beyond me.

      Reply

    6. the top 2 options go in the ear. how is this titled “don’t go in ear”

      Reply

      1. Thanks for the question Jenna.

        The earbuds on the list don’t have the stem nor the ear tips that is common for in-ear headphones (in-ear monitors). They sit close to the ear canal but you don’t insert anything into it.

        Reply

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *