I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don’t have to

The wired headphone revolution is here. And there are some you should take into this era, but others that are best left in the past.

Key Takeaways

  • Wired headphones are making a comeback due to affordability, durability, and superior sound quality compared to wireless options.
  • Sony MDR-EX15AP earbuds offer great sound quality and a comfortable fit, making them more than just an emergency replacement.
  • Apple EarPods offer good sound and are a solid option for those who already have them but may not be worth the purchase on their own.

Retro-tech is back more than ever, and that means wired headphones are relevant again in a very wireless age. Not only are they trendy, but wired headphones are more affordable, longer lasting, and allow you to listen to better quality audio than wireless headphones.

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Wired headphones have stood the test of time and prove that they're still worth using. And as a committed member of team wired headphones, I wanted to put the top five best-selling wired headphones on Amazon to the test to see which ones hold up and which ones fall flat.

Amazon's best-selling wired headphones, ranked

Rank Wired headphones Price
1 Sony MDR-EX15AP $20
2 Apple EarPods $19
3 Sony MDR-ZX110 $20
4 Skullcandy Jib $10
5 Panasonic RP-HT161M $23

Sony MDR-EX15AP

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Sony MDR-EX15AP Wired In-ear Headphones with Microphone

The Sony MDR-EX15AP are more than just the temporary earbuds you buy when your old ones break, they’re some of the best affordable earbuds you can buy.

Pros

  • Great sound quality
  • Solid build quality
  • Three ear tip sizes
  • Good in-line microphone

Cons

  • Limited onboard buttons

See at AmazonSee at Sony

This is a pair of earbuds I'm sure most people have bought in a situation where they needed earbuds quickly, like when your old ones break unexpectedly before a long commute, or you forgot them at home and need something cheap. The thing with these earbuds is that they're unexpectedly fantastic. The sound profile is just right — not too bassy, not too tinny, everything sounds about how it should. They come with three sizes of silicone ear tips, and the small size fits my ears perfectly. You can get them with or without a microphone, and the microphone works great for phone calls on the go.

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The biggest qualm I had with these earbuds is that I wish the onboard button on the microphone worked better, and I wish there were more functions. It only serves as a pause and play button, and works some of the time. If it were more versatile and had a volume and playback option, it would be perfect.

The thing with these earbuds is that they're unexpectedly fantastic.

The Sony MDR-EX15AP earbuds deserve to be seen as more than just emergency replacement earbuds. These earbuds are my idea of the gold standard for affordable wired earbuds, and should be respected as such.

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Apple EarPods

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Apple EarPods

These earbuds were iconic for a reason: they look good, and they don’t sound too bad either. The unsealed fit isn’t the greatest, but the drivers still make music loud enough to enjoy if it’s not too loud in your environment.

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Great onboard buttons
  • Looks great

Cons

  • Unsealed fit provides no isolation

$20 at Amazon$20 at Best Buy$19 at Apple

EarPods are iconic as a relic of the iPod era, and they're still a solid pair of earbuds, with some caveats. Obviously, the fact that they don't really go into your ear isn't ideal, since there's practically no isolation, but nevertheless they sound pretty good.

If you dig out the EarPods you've had sitting in a drawer for years, they're absolutely a good option for cheap wired earbuds.

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

They don't lean too heavily bassy or tinny, and if you're in a relatively quiet environment, the lack of isolation isn't an issue. Using these walking down the sidewalk on a busy street is a whole other story — there were many moments where I couldn't hear the audio at all. The microphone on the EarPods is reliably good for phone calls, and the buttons on the mic work well for volume control and playback.

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In my opinion, EarPods aren't really worth purchasing alone, but rather worth using if you already have them, which many people do. If you dig out the EarPods you've had sitting in a drawer for years, they're absolutely a good option for cheap wired earbuds. But I don't think I could justify spending $19 on them when there are much better sounding options out there for cheaper. But if you're in search of the EarPods aesthetic of the 2000s, this is the way to go.

Sony MDR-ZX110

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Sony MDR-ZX110

The Sony MDR-ZX110 work well if you’re using them for a shorter period of time, but bespectacled people beware: they will push on your glasses over time and it will probably hurt your ears.

Pros

  • Affordable on-ears
  • Very portable and foldable
  • Good sound quality

Cons

  • On-ear fit isn't very comfortable

See at AmazonSee at Sony

To me, the Sony MDR-ZX110 headphones are library headphones. They don't really serve a greater purpose for longer-term use than just loaning them out at a library for an hour to get some work done at one of the computers there. They're on-ear, not over-ear, so they put some pressure on your ears, which can be especially uncomfortable if you wear glasses like me.

I wouldn't recommend these headphones for most people because of the comfort factor.

I owned a pair of these when I was at university and wore them on my commute every day, and regularly found my ears hurting after extended use. But they work in a pinch, and if you don't wear glasses you can get some more long-term use out of them.

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I wouldn't recommend these headphones for most people because of the comfort factor. They sound fine, but you can get better headphones for not that much more. These might suffice for a person who wants to spend as little as possible on headphones they only need occasionally, especially for anyone who doesn't like the feeling of in-ear headphones.

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Skullcandy Jib

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Skullcandy Jib Wired Earbuds

These earbuds are super affordable, but that comes at the cost of cheap build quality. They also have that infamous overwhelmingly heavy bass sound that Skullcandy is known for, for better or for worse.

Pros

  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Unintuitive onboard buttons
  • Creaky and cheap plastic housing
  • Bass is way too loud

See at AmazonSee at Best Buy

I expected to like these earbuds more than I did, but the build quality leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, I wasn't expecting a ton for $10, but compared to the Sony earbuds that are only $10 more, they feel incredibly cheap. The plastic casing of the earbuds creak when I put them in my ears and have a tendency to slide out a lot, so every time I push them back in, I hear clicking and creaking noises. They also only come with two ear tip sizes, both of which don't fit me that well.

Close

In terms of sound quality, Skullcandy has a tendency to lean bassy, but these lean a little ridiculous. The bass frequencies are so loud it overwhelms the tracks I listen to and masks higher frequencies very often. The bass is also not very clear because of how loud it is, it's rather muddy and muffled sound, despite being the overwhelming frequency. The button controls also don't work in a very intuitive way.

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

It feels as if there's a middle, up and down button, but instead the whole thing is just one button. Pressing it once pauses music as expected, but because there are no up and down buttons, there are no volume controls, which is what I would normally use these buttons for the most on any other pair of earbuds.

Pressing it twice skips to the next track, and three presses goes back. While I could eventually get used to this, it just feels strange that there are no volume controls at all when it feels like there would be based on the way the button feels and looks.

Panasonic RP-HT161M

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Panasonic RP-HT161M

These headphones don’t sound very good, nor are they comfortable, since the earcups don’t swivel at all. These could work if they were your only option, but I wouldn’t recommend them to most people.

Pros

  • Lightweight build

Cons

  • Earcups don't swivel
  • Bad isolation from lack of seal
  • Poor sound quality

See at AmazonSee at Panasonic

The Panasonic RP-HT161M headphones really missed the mark in a few ways. The earcups don't swivel or rotate at all, so they sit on your head however they want, and if that means the earcups don't seal your ears, that's just too bad. So isolation is not guaranteed with these headphones. The sound profile is also really unfortunate.

It's advertised as having extra bass, and while there certainly is a bass boost (albeit a muddy one), the highs are also really tinny, and overall it sounds like a pair of toy headphones. Pair that with bad isolation, and the listening experience can get pretty unpleasant.

Close

The biggest positive I could find with these headphones is that they're lightweight, and so, if you don't care about the cons, you might like these if you're looking for very light headphones. The Panasonic RP-HT161M was a real miss for me, and half of the problems I had could've been solved with earcups that swivel at least a little bit. Like I said about the Sony MDR-ZX110, you can get a lot better for not that much more money.

I tested the 5 best-selling wired headphones so you don't have to

Ultimately, the top five best-selling wired headphones on Amazon all have a few things in common: they're all fairly affordable, and have some major caveats. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Sony MDR-EX15AP earbuds and even the Apple EarPods, both of which are about the same price and do their jobs well.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Sony MDR-EX15AP earbuds and even the Apple EarPods, both of which are about the same price and do their jobs well.

You do get what you pay for when you buy cheaper earbuds and headphones, but what really makes a good pair of headphones is a good sound profile and good fit. With those boxes checked, it's hard to go wrong.

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