Best Clip-On Headphones

Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for best clip-on headphones

Did you know that it’s pretty common to have more than one pair of headphones? While some people love their earbuds or gaming headphones, the truth is they’re not ideal for certain activities. Many prefer clip-on headphones for working out, commuting, or use at school or work.

The one attribute that stands out the most with these headphones is the way they attach to the ears. While this mechanism is fairly secure, it’s flexible enough to be comfortable for prolonged periods of time. Some designs are even moldable to provide a nearly custom fit. Best of all, unlike earbuds, you don’t need to worry about these headphones falling off during periods of vigorous activity.

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Wireless clip-on headphones often require a few hours of charging to get a full battery. For that reason, many consumers decide to charge them overnight or at their desk while they work.

Key considerations

Benefits of clip-on headphones

In some situations, clip-on headphones are the most convenient design to wear. Here are a few scenarios when they’ll serve you best:

You can wear them with helmets and hats. Clip-on headphones are a popular choice for those who wear helmets and hats. Brims often rub against the ears, causing earbuds to dislodge and pop off. Clip-on headphones stay put.

You can wear them while you exercise. Earbuds and bulky headphones don’t always work well for high-impact exercise. Earbuds can fall out while you’re jumping or jogging, and bulky headphones can make you feel weighed down. Given their design, clip-on headphones are ideal. No matter how much you jump around, they stay secured to your ears.

You can wear them with any hairstyle. Like “hat hair,” there is such a thing as “headphone hair,” distinguished by kinks and creases in the hair after wearing headphones with an overhead band. To preserve your hairstyle, clip-on headphones are considered a better option since they tuck beneath your hair.

You can wear them if you find other headphones uncomfortable. Some people simply aren’t comfortable wearing earbuds or regular headphones. Clip-on headphones are an ideal alternative, mostly because they offer a lightweight fit without any pressure or tension. In some designs, the clips are adjustable or moldable for added comfort. Avoid pinching or pulling the cord on clip-on headphones. This can damage internal components or deteriorate the connection and ultimately affect the sound quality.

If you enjoy outdoor sports or activities like running or camping, it’s recommended that you get clip-on headphones that are durable and water resistant.

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Features

Sound quality

When it comes to clip-on headphones, you get what you pay for. Cheap options often have static or poorly balanced sound. High-end headphones are uniquely designed to offer an exceptional audio experience, but you’ll pay a premium for it.

Premium clip-on headphones that boast superior sound quality often have high-definition (HD) sound or adjustable settings for bass and treble. Some are designed to deliver an improved media experience and have dedicated settings for music, movies, and video games. Others are equipped with noise-cancelling technology that reduces or eliminates ambient sounds.

Volume controls

Some clip-on headphones have volume controls, but others do not. Those with volume controls have buttons either on the outside of the earpieces or attached to the cord. If you intend to use these controls, it’s recommended that you lower the volume on your phone, tablet, or media player to avoid distorted sound quality.

Power

Regular clip-on headphones draw power directly from the device to which they’re connected by a jack. Some premium headphones, including those with Bluetooth compatibility, are cordless and have rechargeable batteries. Depending on the design, some clip-on headphones in this category offer between 10 and 24 hours of mixed-use listening.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth-compatible clip-on headphones are ideal if you’d like to listen to music, movies, or podcasts without being tethered to a cord. Well-engineered pairs offer fast and stable signal transmission, as well as lag-free audio.

The only thing to keep in mind with Bluetooth clip-on headphones is that your device must be compatible. In some cases, you’ll need to update or download drivers onto the device for seamless pairing with the headphones. Unfortunately, some Bluetooth headphones aren’t compatible with older smartphones or tablets.

Durability

Durability is a top concern when shopping for clip-on headphones. For one, the earpieces should be fairly compact. If you shake them gently, nothing should rattle or jostle around inside them. The clip mechanism should also be durable. If it feels loose or unsecure, it’s a sure sign that the headphones won’t last too long.

Water resistance: If you intend to wear clip-on headphones outdoors or while exercising, invest in some that tout water resistance. This information is often expressed as an IP rating, which reflects how much exposure to water or moisture the clip-on headphones can tolerate without malfunctioning.

Keep in mind that an IP rating for clip-on headphones doesn’t mean they’re waterproof. As a result, you won’t be able to submerge them without permanently damaging them. With that said, most water-resistant clip-on headphones can tolerate sweat, humidity, and occasional splashes of water.

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DID YOU KNOW?
With wireless clip-on headphones, it’s important to understand the difference between listening time and mixed use. Listening time refers to the amount of time you can listen to media. Mixed use is the sum of listening time and the amount of time the headphones will last in stand-by mode.
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Accessories

Case: Music Tracker Earphone Case
Protect your clip-on headphones by investing in a protective case. This design by Music Tracker has plenty of room to fit the headphones as well as a jack or power cord for your device. It even has a carabiner that clips to your belt.

Electronics cleaner: Care Touch Cleaning Wipes for Electronics
Keep your clip-on headphones clean with these wipes specially formulated for use on electronics. Since they’re individually packaged, it's easy to tote a few in your pocket or wallet. Best of all, the cleaning solution is 70% alcohol, which is high enough to sanitize the headphones.

Clip-on headphone prices

Clip-on headphones cost between $12 and $250. The price often depends on sound quality and other capabilities.

Inexpensive: Budget-friendly clip-on headphones cost $25 or less. These are mostly simple models that get the job done and offer decent sound quality. Construction quality and durability can be very hit or miss.

Mid-range: These clip-on headphones cost between $35 and $75. The sound quality of these headphones is quite good, and many models come with adjustable settings or Bluetooth compatibility. They also have significantly longer lifespans than their less expensive counterparts.

Expensive: Premium clip-on headphones cost between $100 and $250. Most of these headphones are wireless and boast impressive listening time on a full charge. Their sound quality is the best around, plus they’re durable enough to last through several years of regular use.

Avoid pinching or pulling the cord on clip-on headphones. This can damage internal components or deteriorate the connection and ultimately affect the sound quality.

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Tips

  • Wrap the cords gently. Rather than tightly wrapping the cords of clip-on headphones, loosely gather the wires to avoid damaging internal components.
  • Buy an adapter. Clip-on headphones come with a regular jack, but depending on the device you’re using, you might need to spend extra money on an adapter.
  • Buy discontinued colors. To snag a great deal on clip-on headphones, buy them in a less popular or discontinued color. They’re usually much cheaper than those in more popular colors.
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Save the receipt and purchase information for your clip-on headphones. If your headphones are defective, you'll need this information to open a claim with the manufacturer.

FAQ

Q. Will clip-on headphones sit differently on pierced ears?

A. It depends on the design. Headphones that pop into ears won’t bother most earlobe piercings; however, disk-style headphones may not sit flat on pierced ears. Because most clip-on headphones have an arm that goes over the top of the ear, they could irritate cartilage piercings.

Q. Will people around me hear music from my clip-on headphones?

A. At louder volumes, yes. With that said, it’s more common for inexpensive headphones to leak sound more often than premium ones, which are engineered to localize sound. Of course, the leaking of the sound isn’t as much of an issue on a busy street as it might be when you’re surrounded by people in other environments.

Q. Can kids wear clip-on headphones?

A. Yes, though younger kids with smaller ears may experience difficulty with them. Since the arm of the headphones is contoured to fit over adult ears, it might be extremely loose on the ears of younger kids. As a result, the headphones could pop off easily. The lack of a snug fit also means that the clip-on headphones won’t rest against their ears, making it somewhat difficult to hear the audio properly.

 

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