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The 7 Best Headphones under $400 - Fall 2018
Reviews

Best Headphones under $400
285 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

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 211 headphones under $400 and below are our recommendations for the best ones you can buy in 2018.

  1. Best Over-Ear Headphones under $400: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.4
    Mixed Usage
    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:
    7.9
    Critical Listening
    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:
    7.7
    Commute/Travel
    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.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    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.
    Score components:
    7.8
    Office
    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:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.6
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best over-ears under $400 are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They're a slight upgrade to the QuietComfort 35 with a bit more control over their noise cancellation feature and Google Assistant built-in. They're one of the more versatile over-ears that we've tested, and they do well for most use cases thanks to their excellent noise cancellation, comfortable, lightweight design, and easy to use controls. They can pair to multiple devices at once so you can easily switch between your Bluetooth sources. They also have a good auto-off timer that conserves a lot of power and makes them last longer than some of the other over-ear noise canceling headphones we've tested. 

    They don't have the customization options of the Sony WH-1000XM2 or the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless, and they're also not built as well and do not look as premium as the Bowers and Wilkins PX.

    However, they have a good and well-balanced sound that you do not need to EQ to enjoy most of your music and they deliver a more well-rounded package overall.

    See our review

  2. Alternative for Critical Listening: AKG K702

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Open-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you consider yourself a critical listener and do not plan on using your headphones outdoors, then get the AKG K702 instead. They won't be as versatile as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which is to be expected for an open-back critical listening headphone. They're also wired with no active features, by design, so they won't be your first option to use outdoors with your mobile phone. On the upside, they deliver a well balanced, immersive and spacious-sounding audio reproduction that's better balanced in the mid-range than the Bose.

    Their sound quality also caters better to vocals and instrumentals. They pack a fair bit of bass but since they are open headphones, their bass range won't sound as deep or as extended as some of closed back critical listening option we've tested. Overall, if you're looking for a great sounding headphone, mostly for listening to music at home, then the AKG K702 are a good option.

    See our review

  3. Gaming Alternative: Astro A50

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you're primarily looking for a gaming headset, then the Astro A50 are the best gaming headphone you can get under $400. They won't be practical enough to use outdoors like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or even the HyperX Cloud Flight. They're also not open like the AKG K702 so they won't have the most spacious sounding soundstage. However, for strictly gaming, they are one of the best headphones that we've tested so far. 

    They have a great base station which gives them multiple connection options and makes them suitable for gaming and watching movies. They have low latency, a good wireless range, and a well-balanced sound that caters to all genres and that you can EQ via the Astro Command center. This makes them a good critical listening option as well. Overall the A50 are a great choice for gamers and for most indoor use cases.

    See our review

  4. Best On-Ear Headphones under $400: Marshall MID ANC

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    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:
    7.6
    Critical Listening
    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:
    7.0
    Commute/Travel
    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.
    Score components:
    7.2
    Sports/Fitness
    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.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Office
    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:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.7
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer on-ear headphones to over-ears due to their compact more portable designs, then get the Marshall MID ANC instead of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They won't be as comfortable as the Bose for most listeners and their noise canceling is also not as good. 

    However, they have a more compact form factor that takes less space in your bag than the Bose or the AKGs. They have an excellent control scheme that's easy to use, good wireless range and battery life and a simple and stylish design. They're also one of the best sounding on-ears we've tested, although they can be a bit sharp on some tracks.

    They won't look quite as premium and high-end as the B&W P5 Wireless and do not have the long lasting and quick charging battery life of the Beats Solo3 Wireless but they are the better headset overall.

    See our review

  5. Better-Built Alternative: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a classier-looking headphone with a better build quality than the Marshall MID ANC, then go for the Bowers & Wilkins P5 instead. They do not sound quite as good as the Marshall or the Beats Solo3 Wireless. They're also passively isolating on-ears so they will not do as well as the Marshalls in louder environments.

    On the upside, they deliver a good overall battery life thanks to their auto-off saving features which conserve a lot of power. They also have an easy to use design and an excellent build quality that feels durable and more premium than any of the on-ears we've tested so far. If you really care about the look and feel of your headphones, and also want a portable design that's a bit more travel-friendly than the bulky over-ears on this list, then get the P5 wireless.

    See our review

  6. Best In-Ear Headphones under $400: Bose QuietControl 30

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    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:
    7.0
    Critical Listening
    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:
    7.5
    Commute/Travel
    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.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Sports/Fitness
    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.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Office
    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:
    5.6
    TV
    Score components:
    5.1
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a headphone that blocks noise as well as the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II but need something a bit more portable for traveling, then get the Bose QuietControl 30 instead. They won't have the spacious sound of some of the over-ear recommendations on this list. They also will not last as long as the QC35 II on a single charge. However, on the upside, they have a comfortable earbud design that isolates incredibly well in loud environment thanks to their excellent noise canceling. They're also portable enough to have on you at all times if you tuck the neckband under your shirt.

    They barely leak, which combined with their strong noise isolation, makes them a great choice for the office and for commute and travel. Their sound quality is balanced enough that they will sound good with most music genres or audio files you will throw at them. If you're looking for a portable and versatile option in an earbud/in-ear format, then the QuietControl 30 are the best option under $400.

    See our review

  7. Truly wireless alternative: B&O PLAY E8

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer truly wireless designs to neckband/around-the-neck style headphones, we recommend the BeoPlay E8. They are not active noise canceling like the Bose QuietControl 30 so they will not block as much noise as the Bose in really noisy conditions. They also do last as long on a single charge as the Bose or most of the other headphones recommended here since they only have about 4 hours of continuous play time in the earbuds.

    But on the upside, they have a decently well-balanced sound and a great, premium-looking design that feels high-end and durable. They also have 2 additional charges in the case for a total of 12 hours of battery life, which is decent and should be enough for most use cases. They don't sound quite as good as the QC30 but have an EQ via the BeoPlay app which some will prefer over the fixed sound of the Bose. Overall, they are one of the better truly wireless designs we've tested, and they're versatile enough for most uses cases, including commuting and sports. 

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. Versatile over-ear headphones packed with features. A good alternative to the Bose QC35 II but they have mediocre noise cancellation. See our review
  • Bowers and Wilkins PX. Excellent noise canceling and great design. A good alternative to the Bose QC35II and Sony WH-1000XM2. 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 WH-1000XM2. 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, open sound but can only be used for critical listening. See our review
  • B&O Play H9. Great build and good 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 WH-H900N. A well-designed noise-canceling headphone with a well-balanced sound quality. Mediocre at best isolation and worse in most aspects than the WH-1000XM2. 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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