Best in-ear headphones – reviewed

We try out products from Bowers & Wilkins, Shure, Bose and SoundMAGIC

SoundMAGIC E10 Earphones (£34.99)


In-line mic/remote control: No  Noise cancelling: No

At the price, you might think the bright red E10s are like bolting a spoiler on a clapped-out hatchback. But no, the arrogance is entirely justified. These have astonishing sound quality for their bracket (you can easily find them for less than £30). The bass is solid, but what truly blows you away is the level of detail. At this price, you have no excuse for still rocking the crappy headphones that came with your phone.

Bowers & Wilkins C5 (£149.99)

In-line mic/remote control: Yes Noise cancelling: No

Few people enjoy jamming two bullets in their ears, unless they’re Clint Eastwood taking a nap. The tungsten C5’s are the least comfortable of the luxury phones, but they have a warm and lively sound that will make the most of any genre. Plus, they’re more gorgeous than a pair of in-ear headphones has any right to be.

Shure SE425 Sound Isolating Earphones (£239)

In-line mic/remote control: No Noise cancelling: No

The kidney-ish shape of the SE425s can be baffling to wear at first, but once you get the knack they fit as snug as a bug in your ear. They’re so comfortable you’ll forget you’re wearing them, and the sound quality is unmatched: clear and expansive without being cold. Warning: you will find yourself singing along on the bus. 

Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (£260)

In line mic/remote control: Yes Noise cancelling: Yes


Feeling these gelatinous tendrils probing around your ear is like being seduced by an alien. The sensation is worth getting used to, as the Bose’s noise cancelling technology is stunning. Hit the switch and the world falls quiet, from train noise to screaming children. Music comes across a bit subdued, but with noise cancelling you can listen at much lower volumes and still hear it clearly. Other headphones scream and shout, these whisper sweet nothings.