Not sure why this is so hard for me, maybe my ears are just weird.
I’m looking for something simple: earbuds or whatever you call the things you plug into your iPhone (and for me, my laptop also) to listen to music, audible books, podcasts, etc. I have purchased some inexpensive but highly rated (on Amazon) sets from Panasonic, Sony, etc. and they either just don’t fit in my ears very well (and I try the various size earcanal adapters they come with) or they sound pretty lousy (too bassy, no bass, tinny, etc.)
All I want is some that fit my ear well enough that they don’t fall out when I’m working out, fit in well enough to block out external sounds (e.g. while on an airplane) and sound decent. I don’t expect the sound quality of my Sennheiser full coverage earphones, just decent. I DID buy an expensive pair from a big name years ago (gave them away) and they did indeed sound great and fit into my ears well enough they blocked out external sound well, but they hurt like hell. Later I saw that as a common complaint.
(Also - is the correct way to wear an inexpensive pair to loop the wire over the ear and insert them that way, or just straight into the ear. The reason I ask, the current set I have, the left and right buds actually fit better if I look the wire over my ear and insert them backwards from how they would go in if I just left the wire hanging down normally.)
I suppose, as much as I use them, I’d be willing to pay up to say $125 if they were worth it. But I don’t want to pay a hundred bucks for something when a set at $50 is just as good. (yeah, that’s a duh statement. ;) )
Incidentally, used to rock foam tips on my Shure e2’s way back when. Great phones, man I wish I knew where they were. I swear one day I am going to open some long forgotten container and find them hidden away.
I used a pair of Etymotics for years but found them fairly uncomfortable. They recently died and I picked up the Sony XBA-H1 recommended at Wirecutter. They have a pretty big range of ear plugs for the headsets included and I found the smallest, non foam ones stick great in my ear and cause no discomfort. Big upgrade from my Ety’s in comfort.
Earbuds are so subjective in both terms of fit and sound, that it’s hard to give a recommendation for any particular ones. However, I bought a set of Sennheiser CX300B earbuds 8 years ago and I love, love, love them. They fit well in my ear, block out most sound, and reproduce highs/lows so well that the first time I used them I remember hearing instruments in a song or two that I never realized were there. And the kicker was they were only $30 at the time. It looks like there’s a newer model, Sennheiser CX 300 II, but I can’t speak to if it’s a good follow-up or not.
One thing I will mention, I’d be a little concerned sinking a lot of money into wired headphones right now. I think I’ve read that there’s a move to get rid of the 3.5mm jack on phones, or at least iPhones. It’s possible in a few years that we could be in a world where headphones have gone completely wireless. While I won’t miss dealing with tangled up headphone wires, I will miss the simplicity of just plugging them in and having the things work (no charging, no pairing issues, etc.). The bluetooth earphones also look so bulky to me, and they definitely seem more expensive for comparable sound quality.
I have a set of Klipsch Image S4 that I’ve been pretty happy with overall.
And for the gym, I really like the Koss KSC75, which clip on to the ear rather than going in it. They sound incredible for the price, though they don’t isolate the environment, so you can’t use them in situations where that’s necessary.
I bought some yurbuds a while back because my headphones broke an they happened to be in stock near my office.
I like them they’re sold as sport earbuds, and have a pretty elaborate looking tip that conforms pretty well to the shape of your ear so they don’t fall out. Thy are quite large though, so may not fit everybody’s ears.
Sound quality, I guess is fine. But in terms of not falling out of my ears, they’re great.
Remember the trick with foam tips is to treat them a bit like normal ear plugs, choose a lightly larger tip and roll it smaller before placing in your ear, where the memory foam will expand, conforming to your canal for a snug isolating fit.
If I recall correctly the CX300’s have been a tremendously good bang for buck headphone for years. Think I have some of them floating around somewhere as well!
I got these $50 AKG Y23’s a couple of months ago for my phone
They were wirecutter recommended and they work fine. The fit is not as tight as the $200 etymotics I had way back in the day, but that’s actually a good thing. When it’s too tight it is a huge PITA to put inside, and the pressure bothers me more. This set I still have to lift my ear in a bit, but they are not that snug so it’s comfortable. YMMV of course.
It also means they are real easy to put in compared to the fancy tips.