• February 29, 2024, 5:19 pm

The best earbuds for small ears in 2023, tested and reviewed SoftAIT

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Update : Friday, December 8, 2023

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Small earbuds aren’t just for listening to music or podcasts on your commute. They’re your workout companions. Your entertainment portals. Even your primary communication link to the outside world. But none of those scenarios matter if you can’t get the right fit. For those with smaller ears, finding a comfortable and stable pair of earbuds can be an exercise in frustration. Don’t fret; we’ve rounded up the best earbuds for small ears in various styles and price points so you can finally find that perfect pair. 

How we chose the best earbuds for small ears

We chose the best Bluetooth ‘buds for small ears by first seeking out earbuds with lightweight, ergonomic housings, plenty of ear tips sizes, or some combination of the three to ensure a quality fit for all ear types. We also focused on factors like price-to-performance, convenience features, audio quality, and extras like active noise cancellation and transparency mode. To find the top models, we used a mix of hands-on testing by PopSci staffers and contributors, professional and user reviews, and hands-on personal experience.

The best earbuds for small ears: Reviews & Recommendations

Our list of the best earbuds for small ears has a little something for everyone (no pun intended), including a wide variety of styles and feature sets, a mix of high-performance and value picks, and, of course, conscious design. If you’re after the best or the cheapest options, you’ll want first to check out our Best Overall or Best Value picks, but we recommend you survey the entire list to find the best fit for you in more ways than one.

Best overall: Sony LinkBuds S

Specs 

  • Battery Life: Up to 6 hours, 20 hours total with charging case
  • Weight: 4.8 grams
  • Price: $199.99

Pros

  • Light and comfy fit
  • Clear and detailed sound
  • Multiple advanced features
  • Natural transparency mode
  • Stylish color options

Cons

  • Noise-canceling is just OK
  • A bit expensive at full price

Sony’s LinkBuds S earbuds are an intriguing design concept that almost instantly became our go-to pick for small ears. Their namesake earbuds—the original distinct, diminutive LinkBuds—use uniquely crafted ring drivers with a hole through the middle, which, while fully slotting under the antihelix, lets in exterior sounds constantly to keep you aware of your surroundings, for better or worse. That’s great for running, biking, and other activities in constantly changing, equally fast-paced environments. But not great if you need some separation and isolation. The LinkBuds S aim to mimic that approach with an ultra-light design that trades the physical hole for onboard microphones so you can easily let in or suppress exterior sounds for better versatility.

The buds come with four sets of ear tips, including an extra-small size, and their weight of under five grams allows them to almost disappear in your ears. The result is a pair of earbuds that are incredibly comfortable to wear for hours, especially for those with smaller fit requirements.

Like other Sony earbuds, the LinkBuds S offer advanced features like automated ambient sound control that swaps between noise canceling and transparency mode based on your environment, and a Speak to Chat feature that can pause audio playback when you talk. Other features include an EQ for sound adjustment, multipoint pairing (via an update) to connect to two devices at once, and Android-only features like the ability to automatically play sound from services like Spotify when you pop them in.

Their light sound profile is admired for its clarity and detail across genres. Noise-canceling isn’t as effective as flagship Sony buds like the WF-1000XM4 and WF-1000XM5, but it’s got enough grit to tamp down low rumbles and other environmental annoyances. Call quality and transparency mode both rank among the top in their class, with voices and other effects sounding clear and natural. What’s more, you can now often find the LinkBuds S on sale for well below their original $200 price point.

With supreme comfort, a well-rounded feature set, and good audio performance, the LinkBuds S are an excellent pair of everything earbuds for ears of all sizes.

Best for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe Charging Case (USB‑C)

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) earbuds in Times Square

Specs 

  • Battery Life: Up to 6 hours per charge, 24 with the case
  • Weight: 5.3 grams per bud
  • Price: $249

Pros

  • Fantastic features and controls
  • Great noise canceling
  • Adaptive ambient sound
  • Clear and balanced audio quality
  • Light and comfy fit

Cons

  • Highly limited for Android and PC use
  • Fit may jostle during heavy workouts

Apple’s latest version of the iconic AirPods Pro earbuds looks almost exactly like the others, with most upgrades taking place under the hood of both the earbuds and their case (now featuring MagSafe and USB-C charging options). But the new model includes one very important addition when it comes to the fit: a magnetic ear tip in size extra small. That makes their airy fit all the more adaptable for small ears.

So, what else is great about the AirPods Pro (Gen. 2)? If you’re an iPhone/Apple user, you may as well ask what isn’t, and you won’t come up with much of an answer. They’ve got great sound quality and top-notch noise canceling. Their transparency mode is the most natural we’ve tested, while also suppressing dangerously loud environmental noises. They’ve even grown in value over time with the addition of an Adaptive Audio mode that transitions between noise canceling and transparency mode in real-time based on your environment. This means you get the most expansive, responsive sonic experience no matter your location.

As you’d expect, the AirPods Pro work brilliantly with Apple devices. They offer Find My support to track down the case and the buds, the ability to bounce between devices connected to your iCloud account as needed, and Personalized Spatial Audio support with head-tracking for a more immersive experience with all streaming audio, but especially Dolby Atmos-encoded content on Apple Music. You’ll also get voice-activated Siri for hands-free control, while the intuitive touch controls now include a handy volume slider.

Android and PC users will want to steer clear, as many of the AirPods Pro’s key features aren’t available outside the Apple ecosystem. Otherwise, the only notable downsides include a relatively high price and a semi-open fit that tends to jostle a bit during heavy workouts. There’s also no available EQ outside of iOS, but we rarely felt the need to adjust audio during evaluation. 

The AirPods Pro (Gen 2) are our favorite buds for iPhone users, including those with small ears, providing great performance, top-flight features, and a seriously comfortable ride. And if you have any plans to get the upcoming Apple Vision Pro, these are tailor-made companions that help unlock all the wearable’s AR capabilities.

Best splurge: Technics EAH-AZ80

White and silver Technics AZ80 earbuds for small ears on a wood table

Specs 

  • Battery Life: Up to 7 hours, 24 hours with charging case
  • Weight: 7 grams per bud
  • Price: $299.99

Pros

  • Superb sound quality
  • Three-device multipoint pairing
  • Loads of adjustable features
  • Stable and customizable fit
  • Good noise canceling

Cons

The EAH-AZ80 may not look like the best choice for small ears, with their extruded exteriors and relatively hefty weight of seven grams per bud. But Technics has been hard at work on its concha-fit design, drawing up well-crafted housings that grip snuggly into the exterior of even smaller ears thanks in part to seven different ear tip shapes and sizes for remarkable customization.

While the fit is impressive, it’s the fabulous sound that really sells these earbuds. Their 10mm free-edge dynamic drivers serve up a spacious soundstage with superb detail, a warm and hefty low-end, and a taut upper register that deftly reproduces instrumental timbres. Noise-canceling is also impressive, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of top picks like Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra buds or Sony’s WF-1000XM5.

Along with their great performance, the AZ80 provide plenty of top features within the Technics app, letting you adjust the EQ, noise canceling, touch controls, and other settings to tailor the experience to your preferences. Perhaps the most notable feature is their multipoint pairing, which lets you connect to three different devices at once across Apple, Android, or Windows ecosystems for versatile multi-tasking aided by eight high-sensitivity MEMS mics for voice detection and noise suppression.

While we still recommend those with particularly fussy ears check out the fit first, the AZ80 are among the most adaptable earbuds we’ve tested. Though their price is high, you can usually find them on sale, and their many other spoils help justify the expense. If you’re picky about sound quality, these Technics buds deliver some of the best performance on the market.

Best battery life: Anker Soundcore Space A40

Black Soundcore by Anker A40 earbuds for small ears in their case on a wood table

Specs 

  • Battery Life: 7-10 hours per charge, up to 50 hours with the charging case
  • Weight: 4.9 grams per bud
  • Price: $99.99

Pros

  • Detailed, adjustable sound 
  • Impressive noise cancellation for the money
  • Light and comfy design
  • Customizable features
  • Multipoint pairing

Cons

  • No auto pause
  • Touch sensors can be finicky

Anker’s Soundcore Space A40 are just too good for the money. They start things off with stellar design and great sound. That’s backed by plenty of features, including some of the best noise canceling we’ve heard at their price, and the ability to adjust everything from the EQ and controls to wind noise and even connection latency for mobile gaming.

Of course, one of the qualities we love most about the Space A40 is how supremely comfortable they are for a variety of ear shapes and sizes. They’re notably light at under five grams per bud, and come with five different ear tip sets to help you find the right fit. Their housings are shaped like bullets, gliding smoothly into your ear canal. While they can jostle during serious workouts, they’re stable for most activities, from yard work to hiking.

We found the sound to be a bit snappy at first, but you can easily adjust the profile to taste within the Soundcore app, or even personalize it with their HearID feature. As touched on above, we were also blown away by how good their noise canceling is for the money, easily outdoing most other options in their class, and some well above it.

One of the only features these earbuds don’t offer is (oddly) any kind of auto-pausing, something we generally expect at this price. We also found the touch controls to be somewhat finicky on occasion, but we love the ability to customize the layout, and they generally worked well in most scenarios once we got used to them.

Even if you don’t have finicky ears, the Space A40 are among the very best options for the money, offering sound performance, features, and a general design that feels much more premium than their price tag suggests. Need something specifically for downtime, not go time? The company also offers the Sleep A10 earbuds, which use a four-point noise masking system to block out noise without ANC and Bluetooth 5.2 so that you can listen to audio from your favorite apps or white noise and soothing sounds on the soundcore app, all at low-frequency levels in a low-profile form to help you sleep and relax.

Best budget: JLab JBuds Mini 

JLab JBuds Mini

Specs 

  • Battery Life: Up to 5.5 hours per charge, 20 hours total with charging case
  • Weight: 3.3 grams per bud
  • Price: $39.99

Pros

  • Feather-light weight
  • Adjustable sound
  • Multipoint pairing
  • Transparency mode
  • IP55 water resistance

Cons

  • Only three ear tip sizes
  • No noise canceling

The JBuds Mini are among the smallest earbuds you’ll find, making them especially appealing to those with fit issues in the interior canal and exterior concha. Unlike most choices on our list, these minuscule buds only include three ear tip sizes, meaning they won’t be as adaptable to particularly challenging ear canals.

Still, they’ve got a lot going for them, starting with a strikingly light design of just over three grams per side. They also offer relatively balanced sound, which is adjustable in the JLab app. At this price, that already puts them ahead of the game.

Their size means they’re not only easier to fit in your ears, but also in your pocket, barely making a dent. Seriously, these things are shockingly tiny. They also offer features you might not expect at this level, including transparency mode to keep you aware of your surroundings and multipoint pairing, something plenty of pricier buds don’t include. They add good water resistance, quick charging, and an array of color options for a whole lot of value packed into very tiny frames. If you’re price-conscious, we’re also comfortable recommending Skullcandy’s $30 Dime 3 earbuds if you like a stemmed body and TOZO’s A1 earbuds, which can be had for under $20. And if you just want to explore other brands, the 1MORE PistonBuds Pro ANC Earbuds offer a bullet body closer to $40 with discounts (or the ComfoBuds Mini for a ridiculously compact design at a slightly higher price).

Things to consider before buying earbuds for small ears

There are many factors to consider when shopping for the best earbuds for small ears; these are the ones we deemed most important when conducting our research.

Ear tips 

When it comes to ear tips, the more sizes, the better. For small ears, in particular, we generally aim for four ear tip sizes, including at least one pair in “extra small.” Earbuds that come with more than four or five pairs of ear tips usually also include a variety of shapes, which can help those with tricky ears find that elusive snug yet comfortable fit.

Weight

Five grams. That’s the unofficial weight for earbuds that tend to feel like they’ve disappeared in your ears. Lower-weight buds are always appreciated, but we’ve also found enduring comfort in earbuds that weigh a fair bit more, as long as the designers are adept in ergonomics. A few years back, almost all earbuds weighed more than five grams, and most were shaped poorly enough to begin to offend your ears after an hour or two. These days, we’re surprised when any earbuds of note fail to offer at least a few hours of comfortable listening.

Nearly any pair of earbuds on our list will offer basic features like comprehensive onboard controls and accessible sound, but most modern earbuds offer a lot more if you’re willing to cough up around $100 or so. At that price, you can expect conveniences like active noise cancellation to suppress the world around you and transparency mode to keep you aware when you’re in high-traffic areas.

An app to adjust settings is also something to look out for, especially handy for audio adjustments like EQ, personalized listening, or an earbuds finder to track down your minuscule buds when they’re misplaced. You may also want to seek out features like auto-pause when you take an earbud out or a QI wireless charging case.

FAQs

Q: Why won’t earbuds stay in my ears?

Even with all the choices on our list, some ears may just be too finicky to keep regular earbuds in place. For those cases, we recommend trying out some of the choices on our best headphones and best headphones for work guides. If those are too bulky, you could also try some of the best workout headphones, which offer earbuds that include ear hooks or fins that ensure increased stability.

Q: What is the safest volume for earbuds?

While we’re by no means health professionals or auditory experts, most recommendations agree that you should refrain from exposure to sound that exceeds 85dB (decibels). Some earbuds, such as the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC, even include a volume limiter to ensure playback doesn’t reach unsafe levels. 

One reason people often turn the volume too high is because they’re having clarity issues, so we recommend trying high-performance earbuds for clearer details and better definition. It’s hard to rely on your ears alone for safety, as our hearing tends to adjust to louder noises over time, but a good rule is if there’s any doubt, and especially if you’re feeling uncomfortable or ringing in your ears after listening, simply turn the volume down.

Q: How do I clean my earbuds?

You can certainly buy a cleaning kit from Amazon or any number of brands, but we’ve found great results with simple household cleaning materials. Using a Q-tip and a light dab of alcohol (making sure not to drench the area), you can usually clear away unwanted dirt, wax, or other debris from earbuds or ear tips in just a few minutes. 

Final thoughts on the best earbuds for small ears

If you’ve been laboring to find a pair of earbuds that will finally fit your tricky ears, our list above should be a great guide. Frankly, this is the best time to buy earbuds for any number of needs or use cases, thanks to advanced technology, more options, and falling prices. That means even those with small ears should uncover a glut of available options. These are our favorites and, as we hope you’ll agree, some of the best buds on the market for ears big or small.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.



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