5 Best Unsealed Earbuds [Flat In-Ear] for 2018

Flat earbuds

While the headphone market shifts toward wireless Bluetooth earbuds, wired earbuds still take a substantial portion of the $13 Billion headphone market. There are pros and cons to all earbuds, and sealed or unsealed is simply a matter of preference.

While just a decade ago it seemed everyone was using them (back in the early days of MP3 players. However now, unsealed, flat earbuds like the Edifier H180 Hi-Fi Stereo Earbuds don’t sell as well as popular in-ear earbuds that go into your ear and form a tight seal because most people prefer the sounds and isolation they provide.

Actually In the last couple of years it’s become harder and harder to find this style as many brands are abandoning the unsealed models for in-ear canal (IEC) earphones…what most of us just call “earbuds”. Many of the models we previously recommended have been retired but we’ve updated the article with some other options for you to look at.

Why is this? First and foremost, they are very comfortable to wear since the buds don’t go deeply into the ear canal. They also allow users to be aware of their surroundings since they provide very little noise cancelling or noise isolating ability.

There are some positives to unsealed, flat earbuds, not only is it nice to hear the sounds of nature as you run, but this style of earbud will keep you aware of traffic and other safety hazards as you exercise. Nevertheless, unsealed earbuds have issues like bloated bass, lack of detail and durability.

Here is our list of the:

Best Unsealed Flat Earbuds in 2018

Sennheiser MX 985: Best of the Best

Style: Unsealed earbuds | Frequency response: 16 – 23000 Hz | Nominal Impedance: 16 Ohm

The Sennheiser MX985 may be the last unsealed earbuds made by Sennheiser.

2018 Update: Actually we are no longer able to find these for sale. The last time we checked the MX 985 on Amazon (and other online retailers) they were not in stock anywhere. We do still see the Sennheiser MX 365 on Amazon although these are more of a budget pair of earbuds.

Their recent budget set, Momentum in-ear earbuds, are some of the best on the market for under $100, and they look more stylish than average Sennheiser products. The high quality, high-end brand Sennheiser recently started to make affordable earbuds with outstanding sound.

The MX985 earbuds are a premium set at a premium price. The box is packed nicely with many accessories like a leather carrying case, shirt-clip, foam pads and flight adaptor. Unfortunately, the foam tips catch dust and particles easily, and you may have to replace them after several months of heavy use. The earbud housings are plastic and metallic which give them a high-end look and feel.

For sound quality, they have an impressive low-end. The bass is very crisp and roars with a deep, warm tone. The mid-range is extremely smooth and reveals great detail. The treble is an asset for the MX985, as it is sparkling, bright and uplifting. These earbuds will fully immerse you in an amazing listening experience.

AUGLAMOUR RX-1: The Runner-Up

AUGLAMOUR RX-1 Earphones in Black
High Quality Earbuds and at Great Price

Style: Unsealed earbuds | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20000Hz | Nominal Impedance: 18 Ohm

The build quality of the RX1 earbuds is great for the price with an untangled, durable cable and metal housings. The entire construction is rugged and looks classic. Unfortunately they are not meant for sports and they are not sweat-resistant.

2018 Update: These have since been retired. As a better alternative we recommend the Edifier H180. As we explained here in our full review of Auglamour RX-1, the Edifers have similar design, sound and price range but come with the option of microphone and in-line control that the R1-X lacked.

In terms of sound quality, listening to some tracks matches the sound of a good set of headphones. The mid-range is wide and smooth. They bass is fairly good bass with a solid punch and impact. Lastly, the high is not only pleasant to hear, but able to sparkle without a noticeably crunchy sound. The sound does turn a little crunchy when the volume is over 60%, but all in all this is a great set of earbuds.

Pros:

  • Great sound for the money
  • Impressive design
  • Lightweight and comfortable

Cons:

  • No inline control

Yuin PK1: Average Looking with Above Average Sound

Yuin PK1 Earphones
Amazing Sound Quality From an Average Looking Pair of Earbuds

Style: Unsealed earbuds | Frequency response: 20Hz – 24000Hz | Nominal Impedance: 150 Ohm

If you judge the Yuin PK1 on looks alone, you might miss their wonderful sound.

Yuin, a Chinese audio maker, has been making audio components since 2006. They have been struggling to build a reliable Chinese brand since their products look cheap and customers aren’t yet convinced of their high quality sound.

These earbuds sound warm with a wide soundstage similar to full size headphones. The PK1 are unconventional earbuds that offer deep, strong bass that is full bodied without being distorted. In addition to the bass, the mid-rang is balanced and pleasant. The treble is lush and bright without any hissing sounds.

Headphones with impedance over 50 Ohm may not sound loud enough if used with portable devices and they require an amp for the best sound and volume. The PK1 earbuds, however, do sound loud enough for phone users.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Small
  • Ordinary look

Cons:

  • Because of a high Impedance level of 150 Ohm, they require a high power output audio source and are not recommended for iPod Shuffle users
  • Premium price

Bang & Olufsen A8 Earphones

Bang & Olufsen A8 Earphones in White
Around the Ear Design

 Style: Unsealed earbuds | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20000Hz | Nominal Impedance: 19 Ohm

Earbuds today vary greatly in design. The clip of the A8 earbuds seems to be obsolete, but it is adjustable and does the job for keeping earbuds in place. The Bang & Olufsen A8 sounds best in the highs, but the bass is only average.  The last time we checked (2018) the A8s were out of stock on Amazon.

If you like the style of headphone with this B&O clip design, take a look at the newer B&O PLAY Earset 3i with similar design. These flat earbuds are finished in brushed aluminum and soft rubber coating that makes the contours comfortable if you live and active lifestyle and plan to use them for running or working out. While most unsealed, flat buds tend to fall out, these B&O clips are better ergonomically designed to keep them snugly in your ear. The 3i includes Inline remote and microphone and comes with a 2-year Limited Warranty.

Pros:

  • Smooth sound
  • Stylish design and solid build quality
  • In-line control

Cons:

  • Clip is not for everyone and may loosen
  • Lacking in bass
  • Expensive

Unsealed earbuds

Conclusion:  While the tendency is for this style of earbuds to be in decline as more manufacturers and consumers have moved from wired to wireless and flat to in-ear canalphones that forma tight seal for better surround sound, noise isolation and less ambient noise. Many people associated these with cheap earphones that you get for free on flights.

There are still people that prefer the simplicity of this style and do not like the feeling of the earbuds jammed up into their ear. While they are harder to find there are still a few models, most of them low budget that have descent sound quality and some come with in-line controls and microphone which make the practical for users that just want to be able to listen to their music and take an occasional phone call.

Retired from this page 

Sony STH32

Style: Unsealed earbuds | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20000Hz | Nominal Impedance: 18 Ohm

The STH30 earbuds don’t isolate sound well and are almost identical to Apple EarPods, but this set reaches a much higher level of sound performance. The mids are neutral and smooth while the highs are crisp and clean without breaking or sounding crunchy. They sound spacious and airy with decent detail. The bass is present enough, but not on par with other sets for bassheads like Sony MDR-XB90EX. That being said, if they fit properly in your ears the bass is even more crisp and powerful than other sets with eartips like Sennheiser CX300ii.

Stock earbuds like the Apple EarPods sound decent, but not great. Many pairs on the market provide better sound, features and durability. Many of these earbuds even function perfectly with your smartphone as far as playback control, inline mic and calling options. If you are in the market for a higher quality listening experience from unsealed earbuds, get out there and find the best pair to suit your needs.

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