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    Table of Contents
  1. Intro
  2. Best Over-Ear
    1. Alternative
  3. Best On-Ear
    1. Alternative
  4. Best Earbuds
  5. All Reviews
  6. Q&A
Updated

Best Headphones under $400 - Fall 2017
Reviews

Headphones in this price range deliver a good and balanced listening experience. These premium sets of headphones are either very versatile or highly specialized for critical listening. They’re well-built, well-designed, comfortable and deliver a rich and even audio reproduction. They also provide additional features like Wireless Bluetooth, active noise cancelling, unique control schemes and much more.

So far, we've tested 42 headphones under $400 and below are our recommendations for the best ones you can buy today.

Best Over-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
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Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
7.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.5Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.2Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
8.0Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best over-ear headphones under 400$ we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort 35. They may not isolate as well as the Sony MDR 1000x or have the customization options of the Sennheiser PXC 550 but overall, their sound quality and comfort level makes the QC35 the better option.

They're a versatile pair of headphones that do well in most aspects and cancel almost as much noise as the Sony's. They're great headphones for commuting and traveling, but they feel a little plasticky for their price range.

See our review

Alternative for Critical Listening

If sound quality and comfort are the only things that are essential for you, then get the HiFiMan HE-400i. They have planar magnetic drivers and open earcups that help them deliver a slightly better sound than the AKG K702 and the Sennheiser HD 650. This makes them the best critical listening headphone under $400, especially since they are often on sale for much cheaper than other headphones with an equivalent audio reproduction.

Unfortunately, the open design means they can compete with the versatility of the Bose QuietComfort 35, but if you only care about sound quality, they are by far the superior choice.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
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Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
7.3Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.6Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.1Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.3Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
7.2Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

For on-ear headphones under $400, we recommend the Beats Solo 3. They're great sounding headphones and if you like the design and aesthetic of the Beats Solo 2 or the Studio Wireless, then get the Solo 3. They’re well built, decently comfortable headphones with a phenomenal battery life for their quick charging capabilities.

They also have a far-reaching wireless range, a pretty balanced sound that should please casual and critical listeners and good integration with the iOS platform. Unfortunately, this means you may lack some features on Android and they do not isolate well in loud environments, so they won’t be ideal for commuting.

See our review

Better-Built Alternative

If you want a classier-looking headphone, with a better build quality than the Beats Solo 3, then get the Bowers & Wilkins P5 instead. They do not sound as good but they still deliver an above-average audio reproduction that has plenty of bass. They're incredibly sturdy and have the sleek Bowers & Wilkins design that feels premium and durable. They rarely run out of battery thanks to their great power saving feature, long battery life and relatively quick charge time. 

See our review

Best In-Ear/Earbuds Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
Show Help

Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
7.5Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.9Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.7Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
8.0Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best in-ear headphones/earbuds we've tested are the Bose QuietControl 30. They’re portable, stable and have a good set of active features that make them versatile enough for most use cases. They barely leak but also isolate remarkably well, which makes them also a good pick if you are often commuting or traveling.

The around-the-neck design won't be for everyone, and sound-wise, they struggle a bit with higher frequencies but not enough to be an issue even for more critical listeners. 

See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Sennheiser PXC 550. Versatile over-ear headphones packed with features. A good alternative to the QC35 but they have mediocre noise cancellation. See our review
  • JBL Everest Elite 700. Versatile headphones with a customizable sound and a great companion app. Bulky design that's slightly too tight on the head. See our review
  • Sony MDR 1000x.  Great isolation but slightly inconsistent wireless sound and weak headband. See our review
  • Samsung Level Over Wireless. Versatile headphones with a customizable sound. Bulky design and plasticky build. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 650. A good alternative to the HE-400i.  Great, open sound but can only be used for critical listening. See our review
  • AKG 702. A more comfortable option than the other open-ear headphones. Slightly less durable build quality. See our review
  • V-MODA Crossfade 2 wireless. Great build and decent audio quality. A bit too expensive compared to other headphones with more features in this price range. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7NC.  Well built noise canceling over-ears with a closed design and good sound. Average noise isolation and wired design. See our review
  • Oppo PM-3. Great, sturdy build, well-balanced sound, and comfortable design.  Slightly too expensive for what they offer.  See our review
  • Sony MDR-1A. Sturdy and lightweight build, great comfort level and a balanced sound. Also a bit too expensive for what they offer. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $400 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones under $400. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no ideal headphones. Personal tastes, preferences, and listening habits will matter more in your selection. 

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