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 52 headphones under $400 and below are our recommendations for the best ones you can buy in the early months of 2018.
Best Over-Ear Headphones under $400: Bose QuietComfort 35
We've tested 52 headphones under $400 and the best over-ear headphones are the Bose QuietComfort 35. They may not isolate as well as the Sony WH-1000XM2 or have the customization options of the Sennheiser PXC 550, but overall, their sound quality and comfort level make 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. The Bose QuietComfort 35 are great headphones for commuting and traveling.
Alternative for Critical Listening: HiFiMan HE-400i
If sound quality and comfort are the only things that are essential for you, then consider the HiFiMan HE-400i instead. 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't compete with the versatility of the Bose QuietComfort 35, but if you only care about sound quality, they are by far the superior choice.
Gaming Alternative: Astro A50
If you mostly use your headphones at home to listen to music, game, or watch movies, then the Astro 50 should be your first choice. They're not as versatile as the Bose QuietComfort 35, since you can't use them outdoors with your mobile devices and they don't sound quite as good as the open HifiMan HE-400i. However, they still deliver a sound quality on par with pricier open headphones like the Sennheiser HD 700 or 650 and their low latency wireless connection makes them an ideal option to use with your console or TV.
They have a premium build quality, they're comfortable, breathable and come with a convenient dock to store and showcase your headphones. They also have a customizable sound, through their app, which is lacking for the other top two recommendations.
Best On-Ear Headphones under $400: Beats Solo3 Wireless
For a pair of on-ear headphones, we recommend the Beats Solo3. They're great sounding headphones under $400 if you like the design and aesthetic of the Beats Solo 2 or the Studio Wireless. They’re well built, decently comfortable headphones with a phenomenal battery life for their quick charging capabilities.
They have a far-reaching wireless range, a pretty balanced sound that should please casual and critical listeners alike, and a good integration within the iOS platform thanks to the W1 chip. Unfortunately, this means you may lack some features on Android.
Better-Built Alternative: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless
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 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.
Best In-Ear Headphones under $400: Bose QuietControl 30
The best in-ear headphones we've tested under $400 are the Bose QuietControl 30. They’re comfortable, portable, stable and have a good set of active features that make them versatile enough for most use cases. They barely leak and also isolate remarkably well, which make them a good pick for the office or if you are often commuting/travelling in noisy environments.
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.
- 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 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 700. 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
- B&O Play H6. 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 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
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.