The Best Earphones of 2015
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Portable sound for the active lifestyle.
The Chops ($50) pump out fullrange audio with deep bass. The ear clips keep them dependably in place, and the tangle-free cord adds durability, though we heard some crackling from a loose connection. As with all the models here save for the Underwater Audio, a mike in the cable lets you take calls without breaking stride. skullcandy.com
You order these exciting newcomers via a smartphone app that captures images of your ears. A custom pair is then 3D printed and shipped to you ($199). Unlike premium, molded earphones, these don’t sit deep inside your ear canal (which is risky for your hearing), but they do slot nicely into place. They’re also some of the bestsounding ’buds we’ve ever heard. nrml.com
Outdoor Tech Orcas
The sweatproof, Bluetooth Orcas ($100) are our go-to model for bouncy runs, with a secure fit (aided by stiff snapon fins) and feather weight. The sound is a small step below the pricier models here but well above average, and the rechargeable Orcas will keep pumping through at least a halfmarathon. outdoortechnology.com
Underwater Audio Swimbuds Sport
Most submersible earphones sound tinny (cheap components) or muffled (a water-proof filter that also blocks sound). The Swimbuds ($70) use high-quality parts and a filter that lets through crisp, well-rounded audio. A short cord lets you plug them into an MP3 player clipped to your goggles. Available with a waterproofed iPod Shuffle for $175. underwateraudio.com
Bose’s water-resistant workout ’phones ($150) are more finely tuned instrument than extreme athlete’s gear. They let in some ambient sound instead of blocking it out entirely (some listeners prefer this) and focus on clarity over bass—think Schubert, not Flea. That said, the highs and mids are as lush and textured as you’ll find. bose.com
Bowers and Wilkins C5 Series 2
For concert-hall sound, you can’t beat the sleek black C5s ($180). B&W improved on the already stellar Series 1 with redesigned drivers that bring out booming, undistorted bass. The powerful innards make them a bit heavy, and they can be challenging to secure in your ears, but it’s worth the effort. bowers-wilkins.com