If you’re like a fair percentage of the population (and me), traditional “in-ear earbuds” simply don’t work as designed. Perhaps you even HATE earbuds. These products aren’t one-size-fits-all—even with the extra inserts.
Oftentimes wireless earbuds are cumbersome to put in and the constant ear canal-ramming (from trying to make them fit) is just a painful, miserable experience. And worst of all—they fall out! We’re talking…during a brisk walk, a light jog, when turning your head to look at something, or when you’re simply bending over (usually by a toilet, sewer grate, or some other vulnerable scenario). And more importantly, in-ear earbuds can be quite dangerous. When those silicone ear tips block all ambient noise, you can’t hear cars, trains, or rabid dogs to save your life. All of this is simply a no-go.
But how do you search for an alternative? I mean this quite literally…what do you call such an earbud product? Earphones? Not-earbuds? Not-in-ear earbuds? Almost-in-ear, earbuds? Open earbuds? Shopping online for something this specific is almost impossible, as this silly terminology battle has been waged for years on electronics websites. To that end, I hope this article can help shine a light on this issue for good.
Fortunately, there are indeed products to resolve these problems, and we’ve looked high and low to find them for you. Below you’ll see a short list of the best not-in-ear earbuds we could find on the web.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (1 and 2): $99-150
You may have seen my review on this one. After trying multiple different open earbuds, these little guys are my go-to for walking, jogging, watching Netflix quietly on the couch (Fire Sticks with Bluetooth are king!), etc. The Galaxy Buds Live’s bass level can get up there, clarity for podcasts and movie dialogue is great, and pumping up the jams is no problem.
Obviously the best part is that they don’t fall out! You can hear ambient noise in your home and outdoors just wonderfully. And if you need some peace, you can still tune people out if you like with active noise canceling. Galaxy Buds Live are shaped like a little bean and fit more people more comfortably than circular earbuds. Samsung also has a handy diagram showing how Galaxy Buds Live fit so nicely in your ears.
Apple AirPods 2 or 3: $89-169
Yes, Apple has some of the greatest wireless Bluetooth earbuds around. Just like Samsung, you can tap to control music and phone calls to your fingers’ content with Apple AirPods 2 and newer version 3.
These models actually leave some room for hearing things, too. With the standard oval insert, AirPods will stay in so long as you don’t mind the notoriously weird sticks at the end. With sound quality that can’t be beat (outside of their traditional Pro models) and the most iPhone-friendly setup on this list, you may want to pick some up ASAP. We recommend trying out the second gen AirPods for your wallet’s sake.
Sony LinkBuds: $178
Obviously, we can’t have a 1-2-3 best earbud setup without including Sony! Sony’s engineers have their own ear-friendly tricks up their sleeves with the Sony LinkBuds. These ones DO come with silicone wings to stay put, but they have a round insert rather than those pesky tips. I like to think of them as “donut-buds.”
Why? Their unique design includes an actual hole in the middle of each speaker. This sets Sony apart from other products, allowing you complete awareness of surroundings and ambient noise while listening to your favorite podcasts or music. It’s perfect for jogging or urbanite jaywalking (not recommended).
Reviews suggest you can easily hold a conversation with a friend without even taking them out or pausing! Sound quality and bass are lackluster compared to other options, but this is purely a product built for urban commuters and athletic types.
TaoTronics SoundLiberty 92: $49.99
If you still want open earbuds but want to make calls in noisy places, SoundLiberty 88 and 92 come with “Smart Noise Reduction” tech. This is different from noise-cancellation, as it cuts background noise out that hits over 50db, so your voice can cut through a Starbucks (without shouting) or clashing dishes interrupting your Zoom. Similar in design to AirPods, they have oval buds and stems. They’re IPX8 waterproof, have touch controls, work with Siri, and can charge an hour of playback in five minutes. Better yet, they’re the cheapest on our list at only 50 bucks. Even if these do fall out (they shouldn’t), you won’t have to spend much to get another pair.
True Wireless FIIL CC2 Earbuds $69
With a beautiful industrial design (think of black rectangular AirPod sticks/stems) and ergonomic, egg-shaped buds, True Wireless FIIL CC2 Earbuds are a more frugal option that still looks sleek and functions as it should in 2022.
Like the other recommendations, reviews rave about their fit compared to in-earbuds and their sound quality and features for the price. With touch control, one-step pairing, Bluetooth 5.2, a charging case that is magnetic with USB Type-C, and decent battery life (5 hours, depending on who you ask), these are a great open earbuds option for anyone on a budget. Even the charging case is told to hold five “FIILs,” as it were.