If you're in the market for a new pair of headphones, it can be hard to know where to start. Even if you've narrowed down your needs to something fairly specific, like earbuds for sports, how do you know what's the best earbuds brand? While the biggest brands tend to make something for everyone, some brands focus more on specific groups, like athletes or professional musicians. While you can get a decent pair of headphones from most brands these days, there's no hard and fast answer to what's the best headphones brand for you. Each headphone company has their unique way of doing things, even when they cater to similar needs. That said, some brands stand out among the rest.
We’ve tested headphones from over 100 different brands, and below are our recommendations for the 15 best headphone brands. The recommendations aren’t ordered by rank or position; the first brand listed isn’t necessarily our top pick overall, and the last brand isn’t the worst. Instead, we’ve listed the brands by use or specialty, keeping brands with similar audiences together to make it easier to find what best suits your needs.
Bose is best known for comfortable, noise cancelling headphones. While the company has faced criticism in the past for not delivering the same build or audio quality one might expect for the price, they've improved in recent years. Their latest models typically sound very well-balanced, have good battery performance with Bluetooth support, and are still very comfortable. While their headphones still don't feel as well-built as competing brands, Bose still delivers some of the top-performing models we've tested.
The best Bose headphones that we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. These over-ears are among the most comfortable we've ever tested, and they're quite well-built and durable. They have a well-balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. Their ANC feature also does an outstanding job blocking out background noises typically found during your commute or in a noisy office setting. Athletes and gym-goers may prefer the more portable, breathable design of the Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless. These earbuds have a balanced sound profile and a stable in-ear fit that's ideal for intense workouts.
Sony has a very wide range of models, from cheap wired earbuds to top-of-the-line premium noise cancelling headphones. Whether you need something for mixing tracks in the studio or riding the subway to work, Sony likely makes something for you. That said, a number of their models are rather unremarkable, and with such a large selection, some models in their lineup feel redundant. Their high-end Bluetooth headphones are among the best we've tested, especially since their great companion app provides more customization options than most brands.
The best Sony headphones we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. These premium over-ears have a similar performance to their predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, but they come with a few more features including multi-device pairing and longer continuous battery life. Thanks to their incredible ANC feature, they rank among the best noise cancelling headphones that we've tested. Their default sound profile is a bit bass-heavy, but their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets so you can adjust their sound. If you prefer an in-ear design, the Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless are customizable, premium-looking in-ears with a balanced sound profile. The Sony WF-SP800N Truly Wireless are a solid choice for working out at the gym, too.
Sennheiser is a reputed brand among audiophiles for their wide range of open-back headphones at various price points. They also make Bluetooth models for more casual listening and dedicated TV headphones so you can enjoy your favorite shows wirelessly without lip-syncing issues. They make both over-ears and in-ears, but don't have very many truly wireless models. Also, like Sony, because they have so many different types of headphones, it can be hard to know which ones provide the best value since there are so many overlapping models with only minor differences. That said, they're still a reliable brand with a good reputation that makes lots of different products worth recommending.
The best Sennheiser headphones we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These reference-class over-ears have a spacious, open soundstage and an expertly-tuned sound signature that makes listening to your favorite high-fidelity tracks a memorable experience in a quiet room. They're quite the investment, though, so audiophiles on a budget will want to consider the more affordable Sennheiser HD 560S, which don't sound as immersive but provide better value for the price. If you prefer the versatility of a wireless noise cancelling design, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless have a bass-rich sound and a stylish yet comfortable style for everyday use but offer a less immersive listening experience due to their closed-back design.
Audio-Technica is a Japanese brand that produces a wide range of different headphone models. They're best known for their M-Series lineup, which includes closed-back studio headphones geared towards professional use. There are quite a few models in this lineup, so it's not always apparent which models provide the best value for the price. That said, their top performers excel when it comes to build and sound quality, and are easy-to-recommend for all different types of audio professionals. They also make noise cancelling headphones, as well as Bluetooth models for use on-the-go, although we haven't tested as many of these.
The best Audio-Technica headphones that we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. These closed-back and quite comfortable over-ears feel very durable, with high-grade plastic construction. Thanks to their well-honed, extremely accurate sound profile, emphasized with just a touch of extra bass, they’re an excellent choice for both critical listening and studio work. If you find them to be a tad too bulky, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x, which have a marginally less balanced sound profile in exchange for a lighter on-ear design. If you want something a little cheaper but still to stay within the Audio-Technica product ecosystem, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x; they don’t perform as well as the M50x or M60x, but their lower price makes them a good option if you need to buy several to outfit a new studio space.
Beyerdynamic is one of the world's oldest headphone manufacturers, and many of their products are still made in Germany to this day. Like Audio-Technica, they have a wide range of products, but their most popular models are designed for studio use. They're well-known for making solid, durable headphones that feel built-to-last, with a keen eye for sound quality. Their open-back models tend to have less bass roll-off than other open-backs we've tested, but they still tend to sound quite bright. Those sensitive to the higher frequencies sometimes find Beyerdynamic headphones to sound too sharp or piercing on sibilants like 'S' or 'T' sounds, but this can vary from person to person. All things considered, the brand still makes very good models for critical listening overall.
The best Beyerdynamic headphones we've tested are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. Thanks to their large, generously padded ear-cups and very neutral sound profile, these open-back over-ears are great for long critical listening sessions in a quiet room. They’re better-built and cheaper than some open-back offerings from other brands, although their soundstage isn’t quite as natural or expansive. If you’re looking for a more isolating listening experience for studio work, check out the closed-back Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO. If wired connections aren’t your jam, the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless provide a high-end listening experience at a high-end price, although their fit is frustratingly inconsistent.
JBL is well-known as a household brand thanks to their successful loudspeaker innovations. They also have a large selection of consumer headphones largely designed for casual listening and sports use. As a Harman subsidiary, most of JBL's headphones tend to have a versatile, balanced sound profile that lends itself well to a wide variety of music genres. Many of their newer Bluetooth models are also compatible with a companion app that gives you a full parametric EQ to tweak the way they sound to your liking. They don't always have the best build quality, and many of their designs aren't the most comfortable. That said, their models tend to be quite fully-featured, with good battery and power-saving options, multi-device pairing, and voice assistant compatibility.
The best JBL headphones we've tested are the JBL CLUB 950NC Wireless. They have a comfortable and stable fit, and their over 25-hour continuous battery life is great for long days on the go. While their default sound profile is quite well-balanced, you can easily customize the sound to your liking using the parametric EQ and presets available in the dedicated companion app. If you're looking for something with a better microphone performance, check out the JBL Live 650 BTNC Wireless. They pack a lot of punch in the bass range, ideal for fans of hip-hop and EDM, and they come with sound customization features, too. If you're on a budget and prefer a pair of wireless in-ears that can be used while working out, consider the JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless instead.
Plantronics have been at the forefront of mobile communications for decades. While their roots are in the aviation industry, they're arguably best-known for their Bluetooth wireless business headsets. They also make several wireless consumer products. We've yet to test their full lineup; however, the models that we've tested are very well-rounded, providing good value for the price overall. Like JBL, they tend to have great Bluetooth features and impressive battery performance. They also generally sound very well-balanced, but their companion app doesn't provide many customization options. They also tend to make pretty bulky designs that aren't always the best-built, but they still feel reasonably durable for the price.
The best Plantronics headphones we've tested are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016. These well-built, comfortable over-ears have a decently neutral sound profile, and they pack an extra thump in the bass range that'll please fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. Their continuous battery life of over 30 hours means that you won't have to worry about recharging them daily, which is convenient. With a decently versatile performance, they can please lots of listeners. But if you aren't a fan of over-ears and want truly wireless in-ears, consider the Plantronics Voyager 5200 Bluetooth Headset instead. They're comfortable, well-built, and stable in your ear, and their app comes with lots of customization options for phone calls. That said, they lack a lot of low bass, so they may not be the best choice for listening to your favorite tunes. If you prefer gaming-oriented headphones, check out the Plantronics RIG 800LX Wireless instead.
You don't have to be outside for long before seeing a pair of Beats headphones. For years, they've had a reputation for making over-priced, plasticky, models that were too bass-heavy. However, since their acquisition by Apple Inc. in 2014, Beats by Dre have released many well-rounded, versatile headphones that provide better value than before. They generally sound surprisingly well-balanced, are often quite comfortable, and the wireless models can now pair seamlessly with Apple devices. None of their headphones are customizable, and build quality is still not quite on par with brands in the same price range. All things considered, the brand has still come a long way, and their wireless earbuds, in particular, are now quite easy to recommend.
The best Beats headphones we've tested are the Beats Powerbeats Pro Truly Wireless. These well-built in-ears have a very stable fit, and they're a great choice for sports or working out at the gym. Their fairly well-balanced sound profile is suitable for lots of different music genres, and they even have an IPX4 rating for water resistance. Prefer on-ears? Check out the Beats Solo Pro Wireless, which have a well-balanced sound profile and an ANC feature that can block out a lot of background noises like voices or the hum of nearby AC units. These wireless headphones also offer over 24 hours of continuous playback with their ANC feature turned on. If you'd rather not worry about battery life or latency, you can also check out the wired Beats EP instead.
Jaybird is dedicated exclusively to providing audio for athletes. They started making Bluetooth earbuds for sports in 2006 and haven't looked back since. We've tested most of their products, and they're all great for sports. Their companion app is also excellent and provides some of the best sound customization options around. However, the company designs their own proprietary charging cradles and changes them between model versions, which is annoying since you can't use the charger from an older model on a new one. That said, their earbuds are still some of the best for running and working out we've tested and are worth considering for serious athletes.
The best Jaybird earbuds we've tested are the Jaybird Tarah Pro Wireless. These wireless in-ears are great for sports, thanks to their durable build and portable, breathable design. Their sound profile is decently well-balanced, and the bit of extra boom in the bass can help you stay motivated during your toughest workouts. You can even use the graphic EQ and presets in the Jaybird MySound App to customize their sound. However, listeners who prefer a truly wireless design can check out the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless instead. They're comfortable and customizable, and they even come with a portable charging case that's suitable for long days on the go. If you're shopping on a budget, you can also consider the Jaybird Freedom F5 Wireless 2016, which aren't as well-built as the other models but still offer decently versatile performance.