As technology improves, we expect devices to become progressively smaller, better, and less expensive. Wireless bluetooth earbuds are a product where this trend has remained largely true.
A few years ago, the only products on the market were bulky and poor quality. Now, it is possible to find small and discreet invisible earbuds that provide surprisingly great sound quality.
Here, we will take a look at some of the smallest wireless earbuds, in a search for the best invisible earbuds on the market. For anybody trying to sneakily wear earbuds in the office or at school, or just trying to find small earbuds that can’t easily be seen, this discussion should be well worth the read!
Quick Buying Guide, And a Note on “Invisible” Earbuds
For buyers that want a truly invisible earbud, or a wireless earbud that cannot be seen at all, sadly you will be disappointed. This product simply does not exist on the mass market.
Bluetooth earbuds are a relatively new technology, and the small size limits the amount that can be accomplished. Simply put, you need to have a battery and speaker components, and all of these things take up space. So, even though earbuds are becoming progressively slimmer and more discreet, an invisible earbud just doesn’t exist yet.
Top 8 Picks
If you are seeking the smallest earbud, the GoNovate G11 (which is smaller than a nickel) belongs at the top of your list. It also comes in a beige color which is designed to blend in with skin tones as much as possible.
Having said that, during testing the earbud still doesn’t feel as small as you would hope. And the awkward beige color doesn’t blend in with most skin tones the way you would hope, either.
The sub-$30 price tag is nice, and feels appropriate considering the mediocre quality of the earbud overall. Also note that this is a single, mono earbud (not a pair).
One final point to consider is that this earbud looks very similar to a hearing aid. While this doesn’t score any style points, you may actually be able to pass it off as a hearing aid, in which case nobody will likely question you for wearing an earbud at work or school.
Say what you want about this product, but the price is certainly right. With an MSRP that is well shy of $20, the good news here is that the earbud is cheap enough that it won’t ruin your day if it gets lost or stops working.
Like the GoNovate product above, the AIYIBEN Bluetooth Earbud has an awkward design that looks more like a hearing aid than an earbud. It features the same, odd-colored beige that is supposed to blend in with skin tones yet tends to be very noticeable.
The earbud comes as a single, mono earbud (rather than a pair), and is smaller than the size of a quarter. However, when wearing the earbud, it still doesn’t feel as small or discreet as you would hope.
Battery life isn’t anything special, but that is typical with invisible earbuds. You can probably get ~3 hours moderate use from a full charge when the device is new, but this battery life degrades pretty quickly.
The NENRENT S570 is probably the most discreet and smallest earbud on our list of invisible earbuds. However, it still isn’t the perfect product by any means.
The MSRP is ~$30, but it is fairly common to find the S570 on discount. This earbud comes as a single mono earbud and isn’t available in the neutral “flesh tone” that the above products are. However, the black color of the S570 looks much nicer, and somehow less noticeable, than the beige earbuds that try to pass themselves off as “invisible.”
The fit is different for some users (depending on the size/shape of your ears), but most users will find this to be the most slimline and discreet earbud on this entire list.
You will get ~3-4 hours per charge, and the device actually comes with a 1 year warranty. Sound quality is nothing special, but that is pretty typical for the product type.
The good news on this product is the price tag (sub-$20), small size, a 10 hour battery life, and the three different sizes of earplugs that are included. The single earbud uses Bluetooth 5.0 and has a built-in microphone for voice calls.
The brand is unproven, and the sound quality is unremarkable. Other downsides to consider are the fact that the earbud still protrudes slightly from your ear and it also comes in only black, rather than a nude or flesh tone.
But if you are looking for the smallest earbuds, the NVAHVA J18 (which is smaller than a quarter and weighs just 0.15 ounce) should be on your list.
This product is actually marketed as a “spy” device, so it is supposed to be truly invisible.
The design of the COOMAX is a little different than the above products, as it includes wires and a microphone that you wear around your collar, and then a tiny earbud that is pretty darned close to being truly invisible.
If you are looking for an earbud that is as discreet as possible, this is a good product to consider. Build quality and sound quality are both unremarkable, and you pay a bit more for this product than some of the other options on our list. But the upside here is that the device is truly hidden, rather than the other choices which are basically just slimfit earbuds.
The Earin brand is a former Kickstarter project that had a pretty simple mission — to construct tiny, lightweight, and high-quality true wireless earbuds.
Earin A-3s generally accomplish the goals of being small and lightweight, but the sound quality isn’t what you would hope for in the $150+ price range. These earbuds are significantly more expensive than the other products on our list, but for anyone looking for an invisible earbud that is a Bose or Sony competitor, this is about the closest you can find.
The fit isn’t great for most ears, and there is nothing in the design that holds the earbuds in place. So you may find yourself frequently repositioning the earbuds, and they aren’t usable for working out or running.
A-3’s aren’t perfect, but they are slimline and much closer to being “invisible” than your typical pair of earbuds.
TOZO earbuds are not invisible, and there are certainly smaller earbuds on the market. However, the T10s still make the list because they offer a decent combination of quality and price while also being fairly slimline and discreet.
With a sub-$30 MSRP, these aren’t earbuds for audiophiles. However, the TOZO earbuds provide much better build quality and sound quality than many of the single mono earbuds that are marketed as “invisible” earbuds (such as the first three products on this list).
In other words, if you want an earbud with a subtle appearance that also provides adequate sound quality, the TOZO T10 is one of your few options. For a full write-up and comparison with other TOZO earbuds, click here, or here for noise-cancelling options.
The upsides are obvious here — an MSRP of ~$15 and a tiny, nearly-invisible earbud.
The downsides are that the product is unproven, with fairly unspectacular quality and from a relatively unknown brand. And this product is a single mono earbud, rather than a pair.
Ultimately, this product makes the list because it is tiny, cheap, and fits the criteria. But if you need Sennheiser level sound or a three-year warranty, look at alternative options instead.
Detailed Buying Guide
Now, we will spend some time discussing the features that matter.
As mentioned above, there really aren’t any invisible earbuds on the market today. The above products that we have highlighted all feature a subtle and discreet design, but these products are still visible when you are wearing them.
If you want to avoid people knowing that you are wearing earbuds, you will still have to conceal them in some fashion.
For people with long hair, this is the easiest way to avoid detection. Simply style your hair in a way that covers your ears, or utilize a headband that covers the earbuds.
For those of us with short hair, you will have to be a bit more creative. In certain environments, this may be as simple as wearing a hat or headband that conceals your earbuds. For school and work environments, this likely won’t be possible. So you will have to get more creative.
One further option, which we won’t officially recommend, is to choose an earbud that has the appearance of a hearing aid. The top two products on our list each have an unimpressive design, but the advantage of this design is that it can easily pass as a hearing aid or some kind of electronic ear protection. In many environments, such as school and the workplace, people will allow you to wear a device if they think it functions as a hearing aid. Again, we won’t officially recommend this strategy, but it has been successfully done by many users of these products.
Ultimately, if you are looking for a “nearly invisible” earbud, there are many options on the market. But there isn’t anything that I would consider a truly invisible earbud.
Single vs. Dual Earbuds
If you have previously purchased earbuds, you expect a pair of two. With invisible earbuds, things are different.
Because a small, discreet size is the goal, many invisible earbuds come as a single earbud rather than a pair. Even though this is usually plainly listed on the marketing materials, many users are still surprised when they find that only one earbud is included.
Before buying, be sure to confirm the number of earbuds that you are buying. If you need 2 earbuds, be aware that most single earbuds cannot be linked to another mono earbud to make a pair.
There is no way around it – the slim footprint of invisible earbuds is an impediment when it comes to sound quality. The smallest earbuds are forced to have fewer drivers, smaller drivers, and smaller components.
Expecting hi-fi sound isn’t realistic with any of the products on our list. Further, if you are an audiophile that demands excellent sound quality, I would recommend avoiding earbuds if at all possible. Instead, choose a quality pair of full sized headphones.
For anybody looking for decent sound quality, we have some more bad news. None of the big players in headphones – Bose, Apple, Sennheiser, etc. – make earbuds that are invisible by any stretch of the imagination.
Sony WF-1000XM4, Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2, and Bose QuietComfort are all great earbuds, but each of these models will protrude from your ear during use. In all likelihood, these brands don’t want to risk their reputation by producing an invisible earbud that lacks the brand’s signature sound profile and quality.
The products on our list are largely from unknown manufacturers, and all are designed to be ultra-small rather than high quality. If you want an invisible earbud with decent-to-good sound quality, choose either the Tozo or Earin products on our list.
Because earbuds actually fit inside your ear, comfort is essential. With headphones, there are workarounds for an uncomfortable fit. But with earbuds, you simply need to choose a product that is comfortable and well-fitting.
Before purchasing an invisible earbud (or any earbud, for that matter), be sure to consider the number and size of eartips that are available, the style of tips (rubber, foam, etc.), the ease of replacing the tips, and customer feedback about the product’s comfort.
Since everyone’s ears are slightly different in size and shape, you need to spend some extra time and effort to find an earbud that fits you properly. In addition to comfort, the fit of earbuds will affect the leakage of sound, the noise-canceling and/or noise reduction of the earbuds, and the overall sound quality.
Price & Value
This is an obvious point, but it needs to be discussed anyway. When choosing a set of earbuds, you want to weigh the price point versus the quality of the product. If you are paying $200+, it really should be a product from Sony, Sennheiser, Bose, Apple, or another reputable manufacturer. On the other hand, if you are purchasing a $15 special, don’t expect it to last for many years.
Unless sound quality is extremely important to you, most people find that it makes more sense to purchase cheaper earbuds and plan to replace them more frequently. For example, even if you have to buy two pairs of $15 earbuds in a year, that still only amounts to $30 for the year. The only way that your Bose QuietComfort earbuds provide that much value is if you wear them for a decade or longer!
Although NFC is a buzzword in tech right now, most invisible earbuds will function perfectly well using the tried-and-true bluetooth connection.
Quality earbuds that use Bluetooth 4.2 or Bluetooth 5.1 function great, even though there are newer versions available. In fact, many tests show that Bluetooth 4.2 tends to outperform Bluetooth 5.1 and newer.
However, the good news when seeing Bluetooth 5.2 or Bluetooth 5.3 is that you know the product is relatively new, up-to-date, and has updated software. If you see a product listing that advertises Bluetooth 4.1 or 4.2, it may be an older product that is being sunset by the manufacturer, and won’t receive any updates or technical support.
Due to their small size, many earbuds are lacking in battery life. And even though many products advertise a lengthy battery life, there are a few things that users need to consider.
First, know that advertised “total” battery life usually refers to the battery life of the earbuds multiplied by the number of charges that are stored on the battery of the charging case. So, if your earbuds advertise a 32 hour battery life, it may actually be that the earbuds themselves last 8 hours but you can also charge the earbuds 3 additional times from the charging case (for a total of 32 hours of use).
Second, know that earbuds are notorious for having batteries that degrade quickly. Many earbuds have an 8 hour battery life right out of the box, but this battery life drops to less than 4 hours after the earbuds have been charged and drained multiple times. This degradation is primarily due to the small battery and/or the use of a low-quality battery.
And, of course, these batteries cannot be swapped out or replaced. So once the batteries fail to hold a charge, the whole device becomes useless.
Technological Challenges with Miniaturization
An important area we’ve touched on briefly but not dived deep into is the challenges related to the miniaturization of earbuds. As you might imagine, it’s not as simple as just shrinking all the components. Here’s the thing: good sound requires good technology, and good technology requires space.
The three key components in an earbud that deliver sound are the driver, the battery, and the chip. Now, while strides have been made in technology that have allowed these components to be miniaturized, there’s a limit to how small they can get without sacrificing performance.
For instance, reducing the size of the driver, which essentially is the speaker in the earbud, can severely compromise sound quality. A small driver can struggle to deliver a full range of sound, which is why you might find that very small earbuds lack a rich, deep bass or crisp, clear treble.
The battery, another key component, also presents a challenge when downsized. Simply put, a smaller battery equals less power, which equals shorter life between charges. As you’ve seen from our top picks, many ‘invisible’ earbuds only offer a few hours of playback time before needing a recharge.
Lastly, let’s consider the chip – the brains of the operation. It’s responsible for processing sound, managing connections to your device, and in some cases, even supporting advanced features like active noise cancellation. Just like with the other components, a smaller chip can mean less processing power and a potential loss in sound quality and functionality.
So, while advancements in technology are constantly pushing these limitations, it’s clear to see why a truly invisible earbud still remains a bit of a holy grail in the audio world.
The Role of Materials in Earbud Design
The role of materials in the design of earbuds is another factor we’ve not fully explored yet. Different materials have different effects on sound quality, comfort, and even the size of the earbuds themselves.
Starting with the earbud casing, the most common materials used are plastic and metal. Plastic is lightweight and cheaper to produce, but might not deliver the same premium feel or durability as metal casings. On the other hand, metal, while durable and high-quality, can add to the weight and bulkiness of the earbuds.
For the ear tips, which directly impact comfort and fit, silicone and memory foam are the two main materials used. Silicone is durable, easy to clean, and comes in a variety of sizes to fit different ears. However, some people find them uncomfortable for prolonged use. Memory foam, on the other hand, molds to the shape of your ear for a perfect fit and can provide better noise isolation. However, they can get dirty more easily and may need replacing more frequently.
Finally, the materials used in the construction of the driver – like neodymium for the magnets and various metals or bio-composites for the diaphragm – can significantly affect sound quality. This is one reason why smaller earbuds, which may require compromises in materials to achieve their size, often have lesser sound quality.
Understanding the role materials play can guide you in making a better-informed decision when shopping for your next pair of ‘invisible’ earbuds.
There are a great number of use cases for earbuds that you can’t see. Students that want to hear some tunes during class, as well as factory and office workers that want to play music on the job, could certainly benefit from a good pair of invisible earbuds.
Sadly, the technology just isn’t good enough yet. Though we have compiled a list of the best invisible earbuds on the market today, each of these products has one or more deficiencies. Ultimately, your best bet is to accept a “nearly invisible” earbud, or use some creativity (like hair styling or a headband) to conceal your earbuds.
Why do smaller earbuds have shorter battery life?
Smaller earbuds have less space for larger batteries. The battery size directly influences the length of playtime between charges. Therefore, smaller earbuds tend to have shorter battery lives.
Can small earbuds deliver good sound quality?
While small earbuds can deliver decent sound quality, they often can’t match the sound of larger earbuds or headphones due to the limitations in driver size and materials. However, advancements in audio technology are continuously improving the sound quality of smaller earbuds.
Do smaller earbuds compromise on comfort?
This largely depends on individual preferences and ear sizes. Some people find smaller earbuds more comfortable as they are lightweight and less intrusive. However, others might find them less comfortable or secure due to their small size.
Are smaller earbuds more prone to connectivity issues?
The size of earbuds doesn’t directly impact connectivity. Instead, the version and quality of the Bluetooth technology used, as well as the device it’s being connected to, will determine connectivity performance.
What makes earbuds ‘invisible’?
‘Invisible’ earbuds are typically very small earbuds designed to be as unnoticeable as possible when worn. They might also use skin-matching colors to further blend in.