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 262 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $400 you can buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best wireless headphones and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best over-ear headphones under $400 that we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. The QC 35 II are a versatile wireless headset with great noise cancelation, a well-balanced sound, and a comfortable over-ear fit that is almost unmatched by competing models.
They deliver a good battery life with power saving features and work completely passively (without noise cancellation) when the battery dies as long as you have the provided 1/16" TRRS cable on you. They're very easy to use with a simple, tactile and responsive control scheme and they can connect to two devices simultaneously so you can easily switch between your phone and PC once paired.
They may not have the customization options of similar headsets like the Sony WH-1000XM3, or Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. They're also not as well-built and do not feel as premium as the Bowers and Wilkins PX, but they deliver a great overall experience that is more comfortable to wear for longer listening sessions and sound balanced enough that you don't need an EQ for most tracks you listen to. If you're looking for a hassle-free headset that just works and will isolate you on your noisy commutes, then the Bose QC35 II are an excellent choice.
If you want an all-purpose, wireless noise cancelling headset like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II but find their lack of customization options a bit limiting, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3 instead. They won't be quite as comfortable as the Bose QC35 II, although they are much closer in design and comfort to the Bose than the older WH-1000XM2 model. They also do not sound as neutral or as balanced out-of-the-box as the QC 35, since they have a bit more bass that makes them sound slightly boomier overall. On the upside, some may prefer their more pronounced bass, especially on more bass-heavy music genres, and they come with a much better app that gives you a lot more control over their active features.
You can tweak their sound profile to better match your taste and listening preferences with a good 5-band EQ, room effects and even codec options. Their noise-canceling performance is also slightly better than that of the Bose, since you can calibrate it for the level of ambient noise in your environment, which gives you a bit more flexibility. They have good battery life, great wireless range, and they are fairly easy to use, although their touch-sensitive control scheme does not work as well in colder climates which may be a deal breaker for some listeners.
If you're the type to dive into the settings of your headset, to make them sound just the way you like, the Sony WH-1000XM3 will be a better choice for you than the Bose QC35II.
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 the closed-back critical listening options we've tested. Overall, if you're looking for great-sounding headphones, mostly for listening to music at home, then the AKG K702 are a good option.
If you're primarily looking for a gaming headset, then the Astro A50 are the best gaming headphones 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 uses.
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.
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.
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 Bose QuietComfort 35 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.
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.
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.