Looking for the best pair of headphones for your needs can be quite a challenge. Each company tends to have their manner of doing things; from the way their headphones sound to how they fit, brand differences aren't to be overlooked. However, there are so many different companies out there that it's impossible to know which is the best headphone brand. While many brands offer a wide enough variety of products to work for most people, some cater to specific audiences, like athletes, audiophiles, or gamers. Knowing what purpose your headphones will serve can help you narrow down your selection.
We’ve reviewed headphones from nearly 100 different brands so far, and below are our recommendations for the 15 best headphone brands and the best earbud brands to buy from in 2020. 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 are known for selling high-end audio equipment at a premium price. Their headphones tend to be best for commuting, travel, and office use thanks to their nearly unbeatable levels of comfort and industry-leading noise cancelling technology. They’ve garnered controversy in the past for charging a pretty penny for products that didn’t necessarily live up to industry standards in terms of both build and sound quality, but they’ve upped their game in recent years, especially in respect to comfort and audio fidelity. Although their reputation is still on the rocks in audiophile circles, there isn't a single current model of theirs that we’ve tested and wouldn’t recommend.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are one of the best wireless headphones we’ve tested so far. They’re one of the most comfortable headphones we've tested to date, sound great, and have impressive noise isolation, which makes them very good travel headphones. If you prefer the portability of in-ears, the Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless have a comfortable neckband design and good active noise cancelling as well. The Bose 700 Headphones Wireless are a very good choice for office use thanks to their premium design, good sound isolation, and impressive microphone quality. Bose also makes decent sports earbuds, with the Bose SoundSport Wireless and the truly wireless Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless both being comfortable, compact, and well-built models with versatile sound profiles.
Sony has a very diverse lineup of models at various price points. The majority of their headphones are designed for casual listening, but they have some sports models and studio headphones as well. Many of their wireless headphones are compatible with the Sony | Headphones Connect app, which provides a good amount of customization options, depending on the model. Like most brands with a massive array of products, some of their headphones are downright mediocre. However, they have a fair number of more premium headphones that perform very well, and they're a brand worth considering overall.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless are premium wireless over-ear headphones with the best noise cancelling we've tested to date. They have a bass-heavy sound profile, though this can be fully customized through the Sony | Headphones Connect app, which also allows you to fine-tune the amount of noise cancellation. The Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless are a versatile pair of truly wireless headphones with ANC, something that's rare in a truly wireless design. They do a decent job of cancelling out sound and have a less bass-heavy sound out-of-the-box, though this is customizable. There’s also the inexpensive Sony WI-C310 Wireless, which are among the best budget wireless earbuds we've tested. They offer a well-balanced sound reproduction, decently comfortable fit, and good battery life, all for well under $50.
Sennheiser are known for their dedication to quality audio reproduction and produce headphones for casual and professional use. However, like Sony, as a by-product of having so many models, some of them are rather unremarkable. That said, they’re one of the few companies to offer such a wide range of good-sounding open-back headphones and they have a good selection of more versatile models that perform well, too. Some of their newer, higher-end Bluetooth models can be customized via a fully parametric EQ in the Sennheiser Smart Control app, and most have very good battery performance.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are Sennheiser’s flagship audiophile headphones. They're incredibly well-balanced and have one of the largest and most spacious soundstages we've measured so far. They come at a premium price, however, and require an amplifier to use, meaning they aren't great for daily casual use. If you're looking for your daily drivers, then check out the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless. They're well-built, comfortable wireless over-ear headphones with a well-balanced sound profile and decent noise cancelling. Sennheiser also offers a lineup of headphones specifically made for watching TV, the best being the super easy-to-use Sennheiser RS 185 RF Wireless that come with a transmitter stand to provide a seamless listening experience with no pairing required.
Japanese company Audio-Technica launched the AT-700 series of headphones in 1978. Like Beyerdynamic, they have a wide range of products, from professional studio headphones to wireless sports in-ears. We’ve tested more of their monitor and noise cancelling models and found they’re a versatile brand with many affordable products. Most of their products aren’t particularly noteworthy but provide good value overall.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are internationally renowned for their value as well-priced studio headphones. They have a closed-back utilitarian design that’s fairly versatile. They come with three detachable cables of varying types and lengths and are overall sturdy headphones. They pack a solid punch while still sounding very well-balanced overall. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are a Bluetooth variant which sound slightly less balanced but are compatible wirelessly with your mobile devices for added versatility.
Beyerdynamic released the world's first dynamic headphones in 1937. Today, they’re one of the very few companies left that still make most of their headphones locally. We haven’t yet reviewed their gaming headsets or wireless earbuds, so we can’t vouch for the quality of all their products. However, most models of theirs we've tested so far have been worth recommending. Some people find their sound signature a bit sharp and sibilant, but this isn’t as noticeable to everyone and they’re generally quite well-balanced overall.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are one of the best open-back headphones we’ve tested so far and have better sound and build quality than many headphones that cost significantly more. Their sturdy metal frame and velour ear pads are quite nice and they have a neutral sound profile that even packs a little more bass than most open-back headphones. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO have a similar sound profile and are a great option for those who need the added isolation of a closed-back design. Neither have a detachable cable, though, so if you’re looking for something a little more modular, consider the more premium Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO or the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO.
JBL has been known for their loudspeakers for decades and now they have a diverse lineup of headphones and earbuds suitable for various uses. Their products tend to be designed with more casual users in mind, but they have some decent noise cancelling over-ears and durable sports-oriented in-ears for travel and fitness too. Because they’re a subsidiary of Harman, their products typically follow the Harman target curve which generally results in a well-balanced, neutral sound.
The JBL Live 650 BTNC Wireless are well-rounded, versatile noise cancelling headphones. They have a very comfortable and durable build and a bass-heavy sound profile that's great for genres like EDM and hip-hop. Their ANC is decent and will do a better job at blocking out chatter rather than engine noise. If you prefer truly wireless earbuds, the JBL FreeX Truly Wireless are a well-designed, comfortable option for casual use, while the JBL Endurance Peak Truly Wireless have a more sports-oriented design. For athletes on a budget, the JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless provide great value and are among our best-sounding wireless earbuds, too.
Founded by two pilots in 1961, American company Plantronics have done it all, from aviation headsets to gaming rigs. They have a diverse line-up of headphones that tend to be quite reasonably priced. Although we’ve only reviewed a few Plantronics headphones so far, the ones we’ve tested tend to have a great combination of active features and provide very good value for their price. The BackBeat line-up features great physical controls, long-lasting batteries, and decent sound too.
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless have held the title of the best headphones under $200 we've tested for years. They're wireless, noise cancelling, over-ear headphones that feel much more durable and sturdy than their price point would suggest. They have an excellent 30-hour battery with an auto-off timer and offer completely passive playback for when your battery does die. Their bass-heavy sound profile is great for EDM or hip-hop but is still decently well-balanced enough to make them well-suited for most music genres. There’s also the wireless Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless which have less effective noise cancelling but a more neutral sound profile.
Also known as Beats by Dr. Dre, the American audio company founded by rapper Dr. Dre and producer Jimmy Iovine in 2006 produce stylish and fashion-forward designs. The first Beats headphones were known for being notoriously bass-heavy; however, since being acquired by Apple Inc. in 2014, recent models deliver a much better-balanced sound. Beats headphones are still expensive and may not provide the best value for everyone, but the brand has proven itself well over the past few years and makes products likely to please those who appreciate the aesthetic and premium feel.
The best Beats headphones we’ve tested are the truly wireless Beats Powerbeats Pro. They have a very stable fit, efficient physical control scheme, surprisingly well-balanced sound, and excellent battery performance. Since Beats are now a subsidiary of Apple, their wireless headphones also feature Apple’s W1 or H1 chip for seamless integration with Apple devices, which is great if you have an iPhone. The Beats Solo Pro Wireless are on-ears with surprisingly great noise isolation thanks to their ANC feature, but some people might find them to be a bit too tight for long listening sessions. The Beats Studio 3 Wireless are a lot more comfortable, but their noise cancelling isn't quite as good, especially for the price. Those looking for a more budget option can look to the wired Beats EP on-ears which have surprisingly accurate audio reproduction and are among our top DJ headphones.
Jaybird was founded in 2006 by athlete Judd Armstrong who felt there was a lack of adequate sports headphones at the time. We’ve reviewed nearly every Jaybird model available to date and have found them to be great sports headphones. Their headphones are compatible with the Jaybird MySound app, which is a great program that provides a fully parametric EQ along with community presets. Unfortunately, Jaybird uses a proprietary charging system that differs between models, which can be rather inconvenient, and some of their models struggle with battery life compared to the competition. Their best headphones tend to be rather expensive, but they deliver good products overall.
The best Jaybird headphones for mixed usage are the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They're one of the best wireless earbuds we've tested to date thanks to their decently comfortable design, good controls, and great build quality and stability. They have a versatile sound profile out-of-the-box but can be fully customized through Jaybird's great MySound app. For athletes who prefer a truly wireless design the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless are among the best truly wireless earbuds for sports we've tested. Though their battery performance isn't quite on par with the competition, they have a more stable, secure fit than most.
Jabra have a strong focus on business-oriented products, including headsets for offices and call centers, but also provide consumer products as well. Their Elite line-up is designed with wireless calls in mind and features improved microphone quality over regular Bluetooth headphones. They also have an Active series of headphones that provide great performance for sports. Like Plantronics, their pricing is in-between budget and premium ranges and feels reasonable given the quality of their products.
The Jabra Elite Active 75t are great truly wireless headphones for sports, with a more comfortable earbud design than their predecessor, the Jabra Elite Active 65t Truly Wireless. The bulkier earbuds of the Active 65t isolate a lot more noise though, making them better travel headphones, even though some people might find them a bit big for their ears. If you like a truly wireless design but need a better microphone, the Jabra Evolve 65t Truly Wireless come with a proprietary dongle that helps enhance their mic performance. The Jabra Elite 65e Wireless, while not truly wireless, have the best mic of them all and even have decent ANC. If you like the mic and ANC quality of the 65e but prefer over-ear headphones, the Jabra Elite 85h Wireless are a good option too, with a fantastic 34-hour battery life, balanced sound, and simple controls all wrapped up in a well-built and very comfortable design.
Anker is a relatively young Chinese company that began selling budget products on Amazon in 2011. They’re known for providing relatively high-quality products at a low price and have some stellar in-ear models that outperform even the most expensive competitors. Many of their products provide excellent value for their price; however, like many budget brands, they can be hit-or-miss at times. Their in-ear headphones tend to perform better overall than their over-ears, but most of their headphones are decent enough to be alright for most uses.
The Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019 are among our most frequently recommended earbuds and the 2019 upgrade makes them an even better bang for your buck. They now deliver a whopping 18 hours of battery life, have better controls and an IPX7 rating for water protection, while their exciting bass-heavy sound and comfortable in-ear fit remain untouched. If you're looking for something truly wireless, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Truly Wireless are among the best wireless earbuds under $100 we've tested so far, with a surprisingly good companion app that provides lots of neat customization options. As for over-ears, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless provide solid value for the price, with a bass-heavy yet still fairly balanced sound, decent noise cancelling, and an excellent 32-hour battery life.