Best Earphones Under $500 (Top 5 for 2024)

Hey there earbud hunter! Welcome to my round-up review of the best earphones under $500.    

Let’s be straight with each other here…

I don’t use my earbuds for making/taking calls, and I don’t use my earbuds for gaming.

I don’t use my earbuds when I’m listening to music at home, DJing, or for studio work…because that would be mental right?

I use my earbuds when I’m out and about and I want to listen to music delivered direct to me ear with outstanding sound-quality.

So with that in mind, I’ve rated my best earphones under $500 based on the following:

Do they sound great?

Are they comfortable and totally hassle free…true wireless?

Do they keep trying to fall out of my ear?..

…and last but not least, battery life!

 Let’s get into this!..

best earphones under $500 in black text on green and yellow diagonally split background

Top 5 Best Earphones Under $500

If you’re super tight for time and just want to get straight into which are my top 5 best earphones under $500…

…here they are:

Best True Wireless Earphones Under $500

  1. Technics EAH-AZ80 (best blend of sound, comfort, noise-cancelling, battery)
  2. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 (best for true natural sound)
  3. Sony WF-1000XM4 (best for battery life)
  4. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 (best for noise-cancelling)
  5. Beyerdynamic Free BYRD (best of the rest)
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I’ve got to say that figuring out the very best earphones under $500 has been a lot tougher than I’d ever imagined it would be.

A couple of years ago, the Sony’s would have cleaned up without breaking a sweat. But I’ve got the newest Sony’s in third place…albeit there’s a wafer-thin cigarette paper between the top 3.

Got a little time? Here they are in a lot more detail…

#1. Technics EAH-AZ80

Do you value exceptional sound quality?

Are you prepared to pay a little bit more for an outstanding audio experience?

If yes to both of the above, you may have found exactly what you’re looking for without having to go any further.

I am one seriously picky fella when it comes to sound quality, so much so that I even get on my own nerves now and again!

Like the Sennheiser’s next on this list, these Technics earbuds are some of the very few earbuds, earphones, in-ear headphones, whatever you want to call them, where I have struggled to find anything to fault concerning audio quality.

Of course, as you know, when we’re getting into the finer details of audio quality, subjectivity starts to come into play.

We all tend to hear the frequencies at their wider parameters slightly differently, and we also have personal preferences as to how we like to experience sound.  

For me, these earbuds deliver audio pretty much just how I like it. They have a true and natural sound rarely apparent in a pair of wireless, noise-cancelling earbuds.

I listen to a lot of house music and techno, and I find the bass that these Technics deliver to be spot on…

…but, that said, I’m not sure anyone who has got used to the current bass-heavy trend offered by many of the newer headphone brands, will find these AZ80’s offer enough sub-bass for their liking.

What You’ll Love About these Technics’:
  • Great sound quality: All through the frequencies, natural bass, good mids, sparkling highs.
  • Soundstage is exceptional for a pair of earbuds: There is a width and depth of sound that you rarely get with a pair of in-ear phones.
  • Mid-bass is just right: Sub-bass is natural to my ear, but the sub-bass extension is a little lighter than previous models.  
  • A great, comfortable fit: A very personal thing obviously, but these fitted and stayed in my ear nicely.  
  • Multipoint connection to 3 devices simultaneously: An easy and convenient 3-way Bluetooth connection for anyone who is big on multitasking.
  • Good battery life: If you leave the noise-cancelling turned off, you’ll get 7.5 hours per charge in the earbuds, with a total of 25 hours if you include the case. 
  • Plastic-free packaging: Nice move Technics.
What You Won’t Love:
  • ANC is okay: Yeah, it’s okay, and to be fair it’s pretty hard for earbuds to do much better than okay.
  • Sub-bass: For me there is no problem, but if you’ve got used to bass-heavy phones, you could find these to be too light. 
  • They are expensive: $300 or thereabouts.

Technics EAH-AZ80

Technics EAH-AZ80

  • Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Codec: LDAC, SBC, AAC
  • Noise-cancelling: Yes 
  • Weight: 7g each
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3
  • Battery: 7hrs with ANC on, 7.5hrs with ANC off; total 25hrs with charging case (ANC off)

#2. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

The audio quality delivered by wireless earbuds these days is outrageous compared to just a few years ago.

Both these Sennheiser’s, and the Technics’ above, are a real testament to how far true wireless earbuds have come!

I’m not sure they’ve quite come so far that I would describe the sound as exciting, but it’s definitely high-quality enough for out-and-about use.

These Momentum True Wireless 3’s deliver clear, refined and spacious sound with a detailed resolution that belies their Bluetooth, in-ear status.

I tested these out by playing The Prodigy’s ‘Warrior’s Dance’ through them, which, love it (I love it) or hate it, is a tricky track for any pair of headphones to handle perfectly, let alone a set of earbuds.

Sure, they don’t deliver quite the same depth of sound that the track was produced with…

but they handle the throbbing bass-line, and the equally urgent drums and vocals with a definite ease.

To add some equilibrium, I also played London Grammar’s ‘How Does It Feel’ to see if they could do justice to the pure accuracy of sound that the band produce.

I was similarly impressed with what I heard. Of course, they’re earbuds, so not quite that depth and warmth to the audio, but pretty damn good.

If you like to fiddle about with the EQ of your earphones, Sennheiser have made your life a whole lot easier by introducing an easy-to-use ‘Sound Check’ feature to the Sennheiser Smart Control app.

The app asks users to choose a preferred sound: A, B or C, in three different instances, to find your preferred tonal balance. Once you have been through this once, your preferred sound profile is set.

Comfortable, stable, great sound, these are some of the best true wireless earbuds around.

What You’ll Love About these Sennheiser’s:
  • Beautifully spacious and refined audio: These earbuds come real close to making you feel like you’re listening through a pair of decent over-ear cans…but not quite.  
  • Bass is well replicated: But as with the Technics above, those who like bass pumped up to where it was never meant to be won’t like it.
  • Smart Control ‘Sound Check’ will save you time: A great solution to un-complicating the EQing/personalisation set-up process. 
  • Lightweight and a nice fit: They don’t ever feel like they’re a burden. 
  • Improved noise cancelling: Noise-cancellation has been improved from previous models. But please don’t expect the noise-cancellation to be on a par with a pair of over-ear, closed-back, active noise cancelling headphones. 
  • Stabilising fins: A good addition that definitely make the fit more stable.
What You Won’t Love:
  • Earpieces don’t look as premium as they should: I just think that for the money they could look a little more swish.
  • Fins not as effective as ‘wing-tips’: Dedicated sports earbuds with wing-tips still beat the new stabilising fins for stability.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

  • Frequency Range: 5 Hz – 21 kHz
  • Codec: SBC, AAC, aptX™, aptX adaptive™
  • Noise-cancelling: Yes 
  • Weight: 5.8g each
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 7hrs with ANC on, total 25hrs with charging case (ANC off)

#3. Sony WF-1000XM4

Oh my gosh, it’s a close-run thing between the top three best earphones under $500.

I got so excited testing out the Technics’ and the Sennheiser’s above that I almost forgot how brilliant these Sony’s are.

These are outstanding all-rounders in the true wireless earbuds market. It’s fair to say that Sony have led this market for a while now, and have done more than their fair-share in advancing the overall market offering.

The WF-1000XM4 comes with an all-new design, a new charging case and new audio processor.

These are one of the most user-friendly, feature-rich, and sonically brilliant wireless earbuds around.

There’s good audio quality through the frequencies, but they have maybe over-done it at the lower end. For me, there’s a little too much bass-bump as I prefer a more neutral replication of sound.  

What might see some users prefer these Sony’s is their unbelievable battery life.

Eight hours of play with both noise-cancelling and Bluetooth turned on, plus the case can supply a further sixteen hours of charge.

With the noise-cancelling turned off, play time is extended to twelve hours from a single charge and twenty-four with the case.

I know that battery-life isn’t the most exciting of features, but these are mind-blowing numbers. 

Noise-cancelling is excellent for earbuds, and these XM4’s have been given new ear-tips to give you a more secure and stable fit. 

What You’ll Love About these Sony’s:
  • Nice sound quality: Especially the mids and highs, but a little too much sub-bass for me.
  • Comfortable and stable: Newly designed ear-tips provide a good seal and add to the stability.
  • Solid noise cancelling: Not the absolute best but pretty good for earbuds.
  • Ridiculously long battery life: 8 hours of play with both noise-cancelling and Bluetooth turned on.
  • Plastic-free recycled packaging: Made from a special blend of paper, good work Sony.
What You Won’t Love:
  • A little too much sub-bass: Not a crazy bass-bump, but still not a natural sound.
  • No multipoint technology: Or NFC

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony WF-1000XM4

  • Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Codec: LDAC, SBC, AAC
  • Noise-cancelling: Yes 
  • Weight: 7.3g each
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 8hrs with ANC on, 12 hrs with ANC off; total 24hrs with charging case (ANC off)

#4. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

For sure, if noise-cancellation is your big requirement, these earbuds have to be way up on your shortlist.

Bose have been nailing earbud noise-cancellation for a long-time now, and the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 have raised the bar yet again.

This latest generation is roughly 30% smaller than its predecessors, and the case is about 40% smaller. 

More importantly, they also boast improved sound to previous generations. Mainly due to Bose’s new ‘CustomTune’ calibration system that lets you tune the sound to your preference.

Apparently, voice-call performance has also been improved, but I didn’t test his out myself so don’t hold me to that one. 

What I can say for sure, is that the ear-tips are a big improvement.

Bose have brought in a system that gives you separate ear-tips and stability bands, in three size options, giving you better flexibility and a much more comfortable and secure fit.

What You’ll Love About these Bose’s:
  • Nice, balanced sound: The sound is good through the frequencies. They may not set the world alight but the audio is more than good enough.
  • Exceptional noise-cancelling: The best you will find as far as earbuds go.
  • Superb transparency mode: As above.
  • Very decent stability: The new stabilising system works.
What You Won’t Love:
  • Battery life could be better: Bose’s claimed 6 hours is starting to fall behind the competition.
  • No Bluetooth multipoint: And at the price there should be.
  • No wireless charging: As above.
  • Expensive: Priced too high given the competition…in my opinion. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

  • Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Codec: SBC, AAC
  • Noise-cancelling: Yes 
  • Weight: 6.2g each
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3
  • Battery: 6hrs with ANC on, total 24hrs with charging case (ANC off)

#5. Beyerdynamic Free BYRD

Beyerdynamic make outstanding headphones, and they’ve been doing it for 100 years.

But they’ve never come to the market with a true wireless earbud before now.

So on the one-hand, I’m pretty impressed that what they’ve created already hits the spot with me enough to make it straight on to my best earphones under $500 list.

But, I have to say, I feel they are quite a way off the other four!

The audio experience is all important for me, and while I found the sound to be mostly good, the sub-bass is just way too aggressive for my liking.

For sure, a large section of the market these days does love a massively boosted bass, but I prefer my music to sound like it was produced to sound.

On the upside, these Free BYRDS look good, come in a snug little case, offer good noise cancellation, and have very decent battery life.

What You’ll Love About these Beyerdynamic’s:
  • Good active noise cancelling
  • Variety of silicone and foam ear-tips
  • Wireless and fast charging
  • Good battery life
What You Won’t Love:
  • Significant bass-boost
  • No multipoint connectivity

Beyerdynamic Free BYRD

Beyerdynamic Free BYRD

  • Frequency Range: 10 Hz – 22 kHz
  • Codec: aptX™ Adaptive, AAC, SBC
  • Noise-cancelling: Yes 
  • Weight: 7g each
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 8hrs with ANC on, 11hrs with ANC off; total 30hrs with charging case (ANC off)

Which Bluetooth Earphone is Best Under $500?

All of the earbuds that are on my list are Bluetooth compatible.

So how I’ve ranked the earbuds on this list, is also how I rank the best Bluetooth earphones under $500.

Nice and easy.

Which Earphones Have the Best Sound?

It’s an outrageously tight call between the Technics EAH-AZ80, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3.

I’m a little biased because I love the Sennheiser sound. For me, they have totally figured out natural and true replication of audio.

On pure sound quality I will give it to the Senny’s, but hey, personal preference is a thing.

Truth be told, most people who love a true sound experience, and who also accept that earbuds are inherently not the absolute best for top-level sound quality…

…will be very happy with either the Technics or the Sennheiser’s.

Which are the Best Noise Cancelling Earphones?

I don’t believe you would find many users arguing that when it comes to earbuds with the best active noise cancellation…

…that the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 pretty much lead the market.

The Wrap Up!

Not too much left to say really.

It’s all up there.

Just…carefully consider your own priorities and needs.

How will you be using your new true wireless earbuds? What environment will you mainly use them in?

Music all calls…or a bit of both? Travelling or around the home?

Give it some thought. Happy listening.

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