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8 Best Earbuds That Don’t Go in Ear (Classic Earbuds) – 2022

Last updated: 4 weeks ago
6 min read

Here are the best open classic earbuds (non-in-ear) you can get right now. Sometimes in-ears don’t feel right, and these are the best alternatives.

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Rating Price Connection Mic & Controls Water protection More info
Apple AirPods 3 Best true wireless
Apple AirPods 3 small image
4.6
Under $180
Bluetooth 5.0
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IPX4
4.2
Under $80
Bluetooth 5.0
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IPX8
Edifier P180 Best wired
Edifier H180 s
4.2
Under $20
Wired – 3.5mm
P180 model
None
4.4
Under $40
Bluetooth 5.0
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IPX8
4.1
Under $25
Bluetooth 4.1
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n/a
4.0
Under $50
Bluetooth 5.0
checkmarkcheckmark
IPX8
4.2
Under $30
Wired – 3.5mm
crosscross
None
4.4
Under $10
Wired – 3.5mm
Optional
None
CONTENTS (show more)

    What’s the Difference Between Classic Earphones and In-ear Headphones/In-ear Monitors?

    The difference between classic earbuds and in-ear earbuds (also known as in-ear monitors (IEMs) or in-ear headphones) is their 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 ones 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-professional users alike.
    Shure SE215 in-ear headphone example

    What Does That Mean for User Experience?

    Classic Earphones

    • 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 sound 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

    • 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 (IEMs), 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 expect.

    If you go to a store, most people will understand what you mean if you say classic earbuds or in-ear earbuds.

    Now, let’s check detailed reviews of each classic earbud model below.

    8 Best Classic Earphones/Earbuds

    1. Apple AirPods 3

    1st-place BEST WIRELESS CLASSIC EARBUDS
    Apple AirPods 3 buds in case

    Apple’s Airpods 3 are the best classic earbuds combining a desirable look with an impressive Apple ecosystem integration.

    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
    • Overpriced

    You get a (surprisingly) punchy, somewhat balanced sound quality that is suitable for casual listening. By design, the low-end is lacking sub-bass extension.

    These wireless earphones work great with an Apple device. The H1 chip inside is making 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 earphone, 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.

    2. TaoTronics Soundliberty 80

    2nd-place RUNNER UP
    TaoTronics Soundliberty 80 earbuds

    TaoTronics Soundliberty 80 take the best things out of Soundliberty 88 and Soundliberty 92 and merges them together, making the one of the best classic earbuds.

    TaoTronics Soundliberty 80 review

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 12mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 4h + 16h in case | Wireless range: 50ft (15m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: Quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX | Water resistance: IPX8 | Features: Mono mode, touch controls
    • Good overall sound
    • IPX8 water-resistant rating
    • Excellent microphone quality
    • Support for both AAC and aptX
    • No audio lag with videos and games
    • No passive isolation whatsoever
    • Subpar battery life
    • Poor stability

    The Soundliberty 80 audio quality is surprisingly full, despite the open-air design. You get a decent punch without bass distortion or driver rattling, whereas the mid-range and treble stay clean, articulate, and sibilance-free.

    Earbuds are rocking AirPods design with long, pointy stems. They sit in your ears quite comfortably but don’t expect excellent stability.

    On the inner earbud side, they have built-in proximity sensors. They’re extremely sensitive, and you can’t disable them.

    These are the best classic earbuds for call quality. Active noise cancelling for microphones does a great job picking up your voice, even in the loudest situations.

    Buds are overall very sturdy, more so than most other earbuds, and have a water-tight IPX8 rating.

    3. Edifier P180

    wired BEST WIRED
    Edifier H180 earphones

    The Edifier P180 earphones deliver great sound in a traditional earbud design that fits well for a low price. These are quality replacements for your smartphone earbuds.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 16mm
    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: /
    • Great sound for the price
    • Good soundstage
    • Decent build quality
    • Users with smaller ears might find them uncomfortable

    The exceptional sound quality of the Edifier H180’s powerful drivers is rather impressive, even at higher volume levels.

    Bass frequencies are presented with a solid presence but aren’t overwhelming or over-pronounced like in best bass earbuds.

    Highs are crisp and clear with good sibilance control. The soundstage is reasonably wide and provides good depth.

    Most users will find Edifier H180 earphones more comfortable than other brands. The provided foam covers add an extra layer of padding and comfort level, with no pressure points.

    The H180 earbuds tend to fit better and stay more secure than a lot of stock earbuds supplied by phone and electronics manufacturers.

    The lack of ear tip insertion means poor ambient noise isolation. On the other hand, that can be a good thing for safety measures if you want to be aware of ambient noise.

    The P180 version comes with an in-line mic.

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    4. TaoTronics SoundLiberty 92

    TaoTronics SoundLiberty 92 on a stack of vinyls

    An excellent budget and better-sounding alternative if you find Apple AirPods too expensive.

    TaoTronics SoundLiberty 92 review

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 13mm PU
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 5h + 20h in case | Wireless range: 50ft (15m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 2h + quick charging – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX8 | Features: Touch controls
    • Comfortable and lightweight
    • The fairly neutral sound signature
    • Responsive touch controls
    • 5-hour battery life on a single charge
    • Good build quality
    • IPX8 water-resistance
    • Loose fit
    • Poor noise isolation

    The sound quality is surprisingly close to neutral, with a full-bodied midrange. That makes them musically superior to the AirPods and more enjoyable for all sorts of music genres.

    TaoTronics classic earphone design makes them very comfortable. There is a small dip at the beginning of the stem, which grabs your ear lobe better, providing a slightly more stable fit.

    Soundliberty 92 offer a crazy IPX8 water resistance rating, giving you the option to submerge or wash them fully.

    You can command them via an intuitive remote control, with up to 5 hours of playback on one charge, with another 20 hours inside the charging case. A 5-minute quick charge gives you an hour’s worth of juice.

    Here are similar alternatives. The best earbuds under $50.

    5. JBL Tune 205BT

    JBL Tune 205BT

    Simple wireless buds with classic design and surprisingly full sound.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 4.1
    Driver size icon Driver size: 12.5mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: Wireless in-ear | Battery life: 6h | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 2h – Micro-USB | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC | Water resistance: n/a | Features: JBL Pure Bass Sound
    • Decent sound quality
    • Comfortable
    • Older tech (Bluetooth 4.1, Micro-USB)
    • Below average battery life

    You usually don’t expect earbuds around $40 to sound good, especially earphones. While JBL advertises Tune 205BT as bass-heavy earbuds, they aren’t as monstrous.

    Instead, you can expect good detail and control in the bass, reasonably balanced mids, and smooth higher frequencies that avoid being sibilant.

    Otherwise, the wireless earbuds sport a minimalistic design, with flat, tangle-free cable. There are 2 modules on the wire, one is the battery, and the other houses a multi-function button and an in-line microphone.

    The latter offers all the essential commands for controlling earbuds without touching your smartphone.

    The battery life isn’t all that impressive, boasting only around 6 hours of playtime.

    6. TaoTronics SoundLiberty 88

    Taotronics Soundliberty 88 earbuds inside the case

    Another great substitute for AirPods, with good sound quality and the best microphones in even higher price ranges.

    TaoTronics SoundLiberty 88 review

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 10mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 5h + 20h in case | Wireless range: 50ft (15m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: Quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX8 | Features: Touch controls, auto play/pause
    • Comfortable and lightweight
    • Exceptional midrange clarity
    • Responsive touch controls
    • IPX8 water-resistance
    • 5-hour battery per single charge
    • Poor fit
    • Lack of noise isolation

    10mm neodymium drivers output a balanced frequency response with a slight emphasis on the midrange. If you’re a vocal-centric music lover, you’ll like their audio performance.

    As with all classic earphones, SoundLiberty 88 only hang in front of the ear canals. However, they do offer a comfortable fit for long listening sessions.

    Build quality is also quite impressive, with an IPX8 rating and durable housing from hard plastic.

    These are fantastic for making phone calls, with some of the best microphone noise cancellation in the price range. It can effectively eliminate outside noises.

    Check the best noise cancelling earbuds if you want to block background noise.

    5 hours of playback should be enough for a regular user, and you can always fast charge them if you need a quick refill.

    7. Sennheiser MX 365

    Sennheiser MX 365

    Don’t let the low price fool you on these Sennheiser MX 365 earphones. The sound quality is much better than you might expect from a sub-$20 earphones.

    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. 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 periods.

    The plastic enclosure on Sennheiser earbuds feel very 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.

    8. Venture Electronics Monks Plus

    VE Monks Plus classic earphones

    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 a Hi-Fi sound quality 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. Although 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 definitely have. Even if you already own much more expensive gear. They are a great example of how good the best cheap earbuds can be.

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    Honorable Mentions

    Apple AirPods 2

    Apple AirPods 2 true wireless earbuds

    Previous, second-generation AirPods 2 have come down in price, offering a decent deal for that who want earbuds for seamless Apple ecosystem integration and need great microphone quality.

    Apple AirPods 2 review

    Apple EarPods Wired

    Apple Earpods Wired classic earphones

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

    Check EarPods Wired price

    For more earbuds, check the guides below:

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

    If you still find classic earphones too irritating, the bone conduction headphones are your next best bet. They transmit sound by vibrating your cheekbones, which is picked by your middle ear (headphones skip the outer ear entirely).

    Of course, that doesn’t mean this solution is perfect. The bigger problem is the clarity of the sound and bass response, which is quite weak.

    Related:

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    Have your own opinion about classic earphones? Leave a comment below, we want to hear it!

    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

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