Let’s face it, earbuds kind of suck when it comes to long term use. They aren’t the most resilient things in the world and if they aren’t breaking or fraying, they’re getting tangled. Still, we deal with these issues because if you don’t want to deal with true wireless options, there really is nothing that matches the convenience of a good pair of ‘buds. But if you don’t want to get a pair of ‘buds that are going to need to be replaced often, what options do you have? These are most durable earbuds you can get.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on March 20, 2020 to reflect changes in price.
The best durable earbuds are the Westone 78400 Adventure Series Alpha
If we made a checklist for what the perfect pair of durable earbuds would be, the Westone 78400 Adventure Series Alpha would check almost all of those boxes. The brand isn’t necessarily the first one that comes to mind when you think of consumer audio, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing. Westone has been working with custom earpieces since 1959 and started manufacturing for musicians in the 1980s. They’ve taken everything they learned over that time and taken it into the world of the consumer.
Westone 78400 Adventure Series Alpha
The Adventure Series Alpha live up to the name and have an IPX3 certification, meaning they’re weather resistant so if you get caught in the rain you won’t have to frantically stuff these into a dry spot in your pocket or backpack. They’re rocking 6.5mm micro drivers that help push air for your favorite tunes and the housings for them are made of a lightweight magnesium design with aluminum added in for extra strength.
Halfway down the cable is a three-button remote that lets you pause and play music as well as adjust the volume of whatever you’re listening to. Skipping and returning to previous tracks are also available via double or triple-clicking the multifunction button in the middle. Then of course, there’s the replaceable cable. This means that if they do end up getting damaged some time down the line you can easily swap them out without needing to drop cash on a new pair of earbuds. As long as the actual ‘buds are functional, these should last quite some time. The cable isn’t your average run-of-the-mill cable either. It has an AWACS reflective coating that enables them to reflect light and be seen in low light conditions.
The earbuds come with a sturdy carrying case made of a hard rubber that’s also weather resistant. The top screws on and is connected to the bottom of the case so you won’t accidentally lose it while you’re out and about. Besides that, it also comes with a cleaning tool for maintenance and a number of different ear tips to help get a good fit. You’ll get five silicone ear tips and five comfort foam ear tips, all of them color-coded with its partner so say goodbye to trying to match them up by putting two next to each other and looking at the size. Chances are one of these will be the perfect fit for your ear so it’s good that they come with different options to experiment with.
If you want the best sound, check out the Shure SE215-K
If you’re looking to optimize sound quality as well as durability, check out the Shure SE215-K. These also have a detachable wire so like the Westones you can easily replace them if necessary. The cable uses what’s called Wireform Fit, which is a fancy way of saying that they’re comfortable and it is also reinforced with a durable Kevlar. It’d be difficult to break these even if you tried. You wear them behind the ear and they can be molded into a more comfortable shape to better fit your ears. Shure is big on making earbuds that are fit for on-stage performances as well as casual listening. For the best results, you need a good fit and an even better seal.
That’s why Shure includes three different sized ear tips (S, M, L) that are sure to give you both comfort and solid noise isolation. If that’s not enough you can even take it a step further and order custom sleeves to help with the fit and isolation. Speaking of which, Shure claims that the noise isolation in the SE215s are good enough take away up to 37dB of outside noise. This could definitely be a useful feature if you’re performing on a stage with things going on all around you, but it’s also useful for someone who really wants to disappear into whatever they’re listening to.
For a sleek design that won’t break over time there’s the RHA S5500i
One other pair of earbuds we can’t leave out is the RHA S500i. These are super lightweight yet still made of great materials that can at least withstand your commute if not adventuring in the woods. RHA is more known for its flagship T10 and T20 in-ears with swappable filters and even though the S500i don’t have filters, they still benefit from the knowledge RHA has when it comes to build quality.
The drivers are housed in a durable aluminum alloy that you’re going to have a hard time breaking. Even though the cable isn’t reinforced, it isn’t frail. The bottom of the cable is covered with a flexible braided fabric that improves durability. So even though it may not be able to hold up weights, they’ll definitely live through some regular everyday wear and tear. One other thing to keep in mind is that these aren’t sweatproof. Durable doesn’t mean waterproof, so we wouldn’t recommend wearing them to the gym. These are more for the person that needs a solid pair of everyday headphones without worrying if they’re going to snap in half.
As far as sound these aren’t going to give you the same quality and accuracy as the higher end RHA models, but for under $50 that shouldn’t be expected. Instead, you’ll get a fairly “fun-sounding” pair of earbuds that are fine for casual listening throughout the day or during a commute. If you’re interested in getting a pair for yourself, make sure to check out the full review for a more in-depth description of the sound.
The GOgroove Audiohm RNF prioritize a tough build
The Audiohms have an ultra-reinforced cable that the company claims can hold up to 10lbs weights. While I wouldn’t recommend wrapping these around a pair of weights to find out, it’s still impressive how tough the cable is here. Besides one seriously durable pair of ‘buds, GOgroove promises a lifetime warranty on it so if you find yourself constantly breaking headphones these are worth taking a look at anyway. GOgroove used some heavy-duty cabling here, so don’t expect them to be lightweight. That said, they’re still just earbuds so they’re going to be lighter than most over-ear headphones anyway.
The Audiohms are reinforced with hard plastic at all of the crucial points of the earbuds, including the 3.5mm connector, the Y-connector, and even the earbuds themselves which are encased in a metal housing. These aren’t going to blow you away by any means and there are definitely better sounding earbuds out there, but in the full review we were surprised at how good they sounded for such a low price. These come with some extra tips as well for a good fit and have pretty good noise isolating capabilities. Each ‘bud has a 9mm driver in it and the cable has a built-in mic and control button that is compatible with both Siri and Google Now.
If you’re looking for the best sound quality ever these probably won’t do it for you, but if you want unbreakable in-ears with good sound then you should definitely check out the Audiohm RNFs.
What you should know
Just because a pair of earbuds is durable, doesn’t make them water-resistant or even sweat-resistant. For that, you have to go by the IP ratings, or Ingress protection. This is a standardized way of testing products to determine how well they can hold up to water damage.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
When speaking about audio products, you’ll usually hear terms like “flat” and “under-emphasized” thrown around willy-nilly. If you’ve never heard of these before, it can be hard to know what anyone is talking about. Luckily, this is one of those things that is fairly easy to understand once you get the basics down. We have an entire piece on this explaining the gritty details, but the short version is that some headphones are tuned to make some notes louder than others.
So if a pair of headphones is described as “bass-heavy” such as with the graph above for the Sony WH-XB900B headphones, it just means that the lower notes (where bass kicks and bass guitars reside) sound louder compared to other instruments. If a pair of headphones are perfectly flat, then everything you hear will be equally loud.
Noise-induced hearing loss
One thing that’s always worth mentioning when discussing earbuds is the possibility of damaging your hearing if you listen to music at high volumes. To understand completely how loud volumes can affect the inner workings of your ear, make sure to read our full explainer if you’re curious. A good rule of thumb, however, is to keep your audio levels below 85 dB as prolonged exposure to sound at or above that volume has been shown to damage your ability to hear over time.
As long as audio companies keep making earbuds, they’ll keep breaking. We’ll be sure to update this article in the future to shed light on some of the companies that make quality earbuds. Be sure to let us know if we missed a good pair of ‘buds so we can add it to this list.
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