Canstar Blue’s 2021 earphones review has compared Sony, Samsung, Apple and Kmart on sound quality, audio enhancements, comfort, practicality, design, value for money and overall satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
If you have an active, busy lifestyle, you’ll need products in your life that are able to keep up with you. And if you also happen to be a big fan of music, you’ll need a good pair of earphones that provide the quality and comfort you need to keep you moving at a fast pace. And of course, you’ll want them to look great, too.
Whether you’re a regular walker or runner, earphones are the perfect companion to keep you company, and motivated, while you’re out and about. However, not all earphones are created equal and there can be a big difference between those that enhance your outdoor experience, and those that make it less enjoyable.
So, to find out which brand has struck the perfect balance between sound quality, audio enhancements, comfort, practicality, style and value for money, we asked nearly 600 consumers who have purchased earphones in the last two years to rate them across a range of categories. Brands that received the minimum survey sample size of 30 responses are featured in our ratings. Having ‘road tested’ their earphones, our respondents are well-placed to offer you some guidance for the next time you need to buy a new set.
It was a sweet victory for tech brand Sony this year, rating best for overall satisfaction, ahead of big names like Apple and Samsung.
Here are the best brands of earphones in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s latest review:
Sony hit all the right notes in our earphone ratings, rating five stars for overall satisfaction and most other categories, including sound quality, comfort, practicality, design and value for money. Runner-up Samsung was the only brand to score full marks for audio enhancements, and also got five stars for practicality, sound quality and design. Tech giant Apple received a five-star review for practicality.
Read our guide to learn more about the brands compared this year, with details on what they have to offer if you’re in the market for a new set of earphones.
Global company Sony features in virtually every entertainment industry including movies, gaming and music. With an audio range that covers small earphones, earbuds right up to professional mixing tables, there’s plenty to choose from. Earphones come in a variety of colours and range in price from $9 to $2,499.
One of Sony’s standout models is the Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones (pictured) for $449.95 RRP*. This set is said to offer superior noise-cancelling performance using a new Integrated Processor V1 and QN1e chip. It also comes with Ambient Sound mode for those who still want to hear what’s going on around them. Other features include a speak-to-chat function, wireless high-resolution audio for better sound and call quality, earphones with an ergonomic surface, plus more. This set comes with an IPX4 water resistance rating and offers 24 hours of listening time for every full charge of the case.
Sony’s range of earphones features:
Sony earned five-star reviews for sound quality, comfort, practicality, design, value for money and overall satisfaction. It got three stars for audio enhancements.
Aside from fridges and washing machines, South Korean tech giant Samsung offers several earphones in its line-up. Most models are wireless, including the AKG N200 Wireless Headphones (pictured) for $199 RRP*. It comes with metal magnetic buds and fabric cables for impact, plus Bluetooth capability, eight hours of playback per charge and a single remote for access to your music, calls, and even your phone. You can also access Bixby, Siri or Google just by double clicking the multifunction button. Prices for Samsung’s earphones range from $199 to $499.
Its next-generation Galaxy buds are among the most expensive of the lot. Featuring a pocketable slim design, these are claimed to deliver high-resolution live sound as if you’re in the front row of a gig. Plus, they’re stated to recognise your surroundings and switch between inner and outer mics, so that you can stay in the conversation and listen to your music, according to the brand.
Samsung’s range of earphones includes:
Samsung achieved five stars for audio enhancements, practicality, sound quality and design. It got four stars for comfort, value for money and overall satisfaction.
Multinational tech company Apple features a modest range of earphones, mainly aiming to deliver increased audio performance and sound isolation. The design of Apple EarPods is said to be defined by the geometry of the ear and in turn, this is aimed to make it a comfortable fit, according to the brand. All Apple earphones also allow you the convenience to answer and end calls. Prices for its line-up range from $29 to $899.
Probably one of its most well-known models is its AirPods. Coming with a wireless charging case, they can even sense when they’re in your ears, and pause when you take them out. They can be controlled with your voice, so by saying “Hey Siri”, you can change the song, adjust the volume, make a call or get directions.
Apple’s range of earphones includes:
Apple was rated five stars for practicality and four stars for audio enhancements, comfort, design, sound quality and overall satisfaction. It got three stars for value for money.
The cheap and cheerful department store has always got you covered, from homewares to clothing and even electronics. Resembling the likes of other brands, Kmart delivers on a range of earphones, including true wireless earbuds and fun Disney-theme options for the kids. Starting from as little as $2 and maxing out at $55, you can certainly find a budget-friendly option here.
Kmart’s True Wireless Earphones (pictured) for $25 RRP*, feature up to 2.5 hours of talk time, with an extra 12 hours of playtime with the charging battery case. To recharge, it’s stated to take approximately an hour. It features call-answer functionality, plus its Bluetooth operating distance is said to be around 10 metres.
Kmart’s line-up of earphones features:
Kmart rounded up the scores on four stars for practicality and value for money. It got three stars for comfort, design, sound quality and overall satisfaction, plus two stars for audio enhancements.
The four tech brands featured in this year’s review aren’t the only options worth considering. Here are a couple more you should check out:
One of the biggest players within the audio industry, Bose has been operating for more than 50 years, providing audio home systems and speakers, professional audio equipment, as well as earphones and headphones. The Bose audio line-up includes earphones for all occasions, covering wireless, water-resistant and noise-cancelling models. Expect to pay around $299.95 to $449.95 for its in-ear range.
One of Bose’s most expensive set of earphones includes the QuietControl Earbuds, which feature simple touch controls, high-fidelity sound, clear calls, and up to six hours of playtime on a single charge.
Operating for over 70 years, JBL is well-known within the audio industry, manufacturing a range of speakers, earphones and headphones. You can sort its earphones range by colour, price, as well as features such as noise-cancelling, waterproof or wireless. Prices for JBL earphones start from just under $15 and can go up to as much as $300.
One of the products to expect is the JBL Tune 215TWS (129.95 RRP*) featuring JBL Pure Bass Sound to add a powerful punch to your playlist, according to your taste. These earphones are wireless and allow you to manage calls hands-free or workout without getting tangled in a messy cable. In terms of battery life, this pair of true wireless earphones is claimed to max out after 19 hours and requires two hours for charging.
They may be relatively cheap to buy, but you’ll still want earphones that offer decent sound quality and that won’t let you down mid-run. Our survey found the drivers of customer satisfaction for earphones to be as follows:
Unsurprisingly, the top three drivers of satisfaction are sound quality, design and comfort which suggests Aussies want earphones that offer good audio and sound quality and that look and feel good to wear. Value for money is also an important factor to consider, especially because a set of earphones isn’t cheap. Our survey found Aussies spend an average of $97 on new earphones, so it’s definitely worth shopping around for the best price.
In terms of shopping habits, over a quarter of people (26%) we surveyed bought wireless earphones to avoid wires, while 14% chose the same option simply to keep up with technology. A handful of respondents similarly purchased earphones specifically for gaming (7%). For others, it was simply a matter of picking the cheapest earphones or any that were on sale (19%).
In this review of earphones, we’re specifically referring to in-ear earphones – which include earbuds and in-ear canal earphones. Basically, any type of headphones that are placed inside your ear. Click here for our review of larger headphones.
Small earphones can cost a bunch, especially if you’re forced to replace them either because they don’t live up to your expectations or don’t work as they should. Our research shows 25% of people have tried multiple brands of earphones to find their perfect fit, while 12% tried multiple models of earphones from the same brand. It’s also worth mentioning that a few of our survey respondents also had to buy an adaptor for their earphones to work with their phones (6%), adding to the overall cost.
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s Home & Lifestyle Content Lead, Megan Birot. She’s an expert on household appliances, health & beauty products, as well as all things grocery and shopping. When she’s not writing up our research-based ratings reports, Megan spends her time helping consumers make better purchase decisions, whether it’s at the supermarket, other retailers, or online, highlighting the best deals and flagging anything you need to be aware of.
Picture credits: Damir Khabirov/Shutterstock.com, marvent/Shutterstock.com, Shift Drive/Shutterstock.com.
*Prices are taken from retailer websites, correct as of September 2021.
Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased new earphones in the last two years – in this case, 585 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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