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The 9 Best Headphones - Winter 2023 Reviews

Updated
Best Headphones

A great pair of headphones shouldn't only sound rich and balanced but should also be comfortable, versatile, well-built, and feature-packed. While you can get some surprisingly decent budget models, the best headphones tend to come with more extra features, like active noise cancelling (ANC), dedicated companion apps for customization, multi-device pairing, and NFC compatibility. While less expensive pairs of headphones tend to miss out on some of these premium features, you can still find some well-rounded and versatile options that provide great value.

We've tested over 705 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones you can buy. See our picks for the best Bluetooth earbuds, the best wireless headphones, and the best noise cancelling headphones.


  1. Best Headphones

    The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are the best headphones we've tested. These versatile premium over-ears have an ANC system that does an outstanding job of blocking ambient sound, including rumbling engines and background conversations, so they're a great choice for commuting or traveling. Their battery lasts for roughly 37 hours with the ANC on, so you don't need to worry about running out of power during long days on the go. While Sony recently released a newer edition of these headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless, they aren't as comfortable for most people, and their ANC has a hard time blocking out noise in the bass range.

    These comfortable headphones have a bass-heavy default sound profile that emphasizes the thump and rumble in genres like EDM and hip-hop. If you prefer a different sound, it can also be customized with a graphic EQ and presets in their companion app. Unfortunately, even with the EQ, you may find their sound somewhat muddy and cluttered. If that's a deal-breaker for you, you may want to consider the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless instead, which have a more neutral default sound profile with less overall bass. However, their ANC doesn't block out as much noise, and they have shorter continuous battery life.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Headphones

    The best upper mid-range headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless. These headphones are significantly cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, and that comes with a step down in build quality and comfort, as well as a shorter continuous battery life. Still, they offer quite a few of the same features and have a comparable noise cancelling performance. Their ANC does a fantastic job of blocking out a wide range of ambient sound, although it's not quite as effective with bass-range sounds like rumbling engines as the Sony. You can set the ANC to different levels manually or use the 'Adaptive ANC' feature to adjust automatically to your surroundings.

    Their v-shaped default sound profile is well-suited for genres like pop and rock and can also be customized with a graphic EQ and presets in the companion app. They also support LDAC, Sony's proprietary codec for hi-res audio. They last for around 27 hours of continuous use and have physical controls in the form of buttons on the ear cups, which you might prefer if you want to adjust the volume while wearing gloves. Unlike the Sony headphones, they don't have virtual surround sound or customization options like button mapping, but they support multi-device pairing and NFC for quicker pairing.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Headphones

    If you want to spend a little less, consider the Anker SoundCore Life Q35 Wireless instead. These headphones have a similar design to the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless and are just as comfortable and sturdy. They also have an adjustable ANC system that you can set to different modes for different situations. Although they don't cut down as much noise as the Space Q45, they still offer great performance across the ranges. They also have over 44 hours of continuous playback time, support multi-device pairing, and support LDAC for streaming high-res audio. Their bass-heavy sound profile is well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop and can also be adjusted with a graphic EQ and presets if you prefer a different sound.

    However, there's a difference in sound between ANC on and off. With the ANC off, the audio sounds hollow and thin. If audio quality matters to you, and if you're looking for headphones to use only at home, it's worth checking out the Beyerdynamic DT 770 instead. These are audiophile-grade headphones that have an analytical sound profile that reproduces natural vocals and lead instruments with extra brightness. Some people prefer this sound as it can help bring out imperfections in audio, but others may find it too piercing. Keep in mind that they also have an open-back design. This helps them produce a more immersive sound, but they leak audio and won't block out any background noise.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Headphones

    If you're looking for a cheaper pair of headphones, look at another offering from Anker, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless. These headphones are an earlier version of the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless, and even though they come at a cheaper price, they have better overall ANC performance since they do a better job of isolating you from bass-range noise like rumbling engines. They still support multi-device pairing, making it easy to switch between two audio sources, and they're similarly comfortable and well-built.

    Their excited sound profile is well-suited for genres like pop and rock that benefit from extra bass and bright vocals. You can customize their sound to suit your tastes using the graphic EQ and presets in their companion app. Like their successor, their sound profile changes depending on whether ANC is on or off. When off, your audio sounds somewhat hollow and thin. If you like to crank up the volume when you're listening to music, it's also good to keep in mind that they leak some audio, so people around you might hear it even in a moderately noisy place like an office.

    See our review

  5. Best Cheap Headphones

    The best cheap headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. Yes, they're the fourth Anker pick in a row, but it just goes to show how well Anker dominates the lower end of the over-ear market. With these headphones, you can expect the same excited, thumpy sound as their successor, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, but they are the first headphones listed here to lack extra bells and whistles like an EQ to help you fine-tune their sound. They do have a built-in bass boost feature if you want more bass.

    Unlike the higher-end picks on this list, they also struggle at blocking out bass-range noise like bus engines. Still, they have a good ANC system that can block out office chit-chat and the hum of AC units. They have over 32 hours of continuous playback time and can be used passively in a pinch. Their fit is also comfortable enough for long listening sessions. While they're decently well-built, their hinges feel hollow and plasticky, so they may not be the most durable headphones. However, low build quality is fairly common at this price point.

    See our review

  6. Best Audiophile Headphones

    The Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best audiophile headphones we've tested if you're looking for an immersive audio experience. If you have the budget, these premium over-ears offer some of the best sound money can buy. However, keep in mind that you'll need to purchase a high-grade amp if you want to properly drive them, which can be an additional investment if you don't already have one. They have an open-back design, which allows audio to escape the ear cups and bounce off the walls around you, creating a spacious and open passive soundstage.

    On the flip side, they're designed for use in an enclosed room as they won't block out any background noise and leak audio across the range. While this isn't a problem if you're listening to tracks in a quiet space like a studio, audio bleed can ruin a recording, while ambient sound can make it harder to monitor a live session properly. They also have a well-balanced and neutral sound suitable for most audio content. Although they have trouble reproducing a thumpy low-bass, they have a touch of extra high-bass to add warmth to audio. Their mid-range is flat, so vocals and lead instruments are clearly and accurately reproduced. They also have excellent build quality, and their fit is comfortable enough for long listening sessions.

    See our review

  7. Best Mid-Range Audiophile Headphones

    The best mid-range audiophile headphones we've tested are the HiFiMan Edition XS. These open-back headphones have planar-magnetic drivers instead of more common dynamic drivers like the Sennheiser HD 800 S. Although they have a larger, bulkier frame due to their driver design, it helps them reproduce bass more accurately and create an immersive audio experience. As a result, they have a very neutral sound profile with clear and present vocals and lead instruments. Their passive soundstage also seems fairly natural, wide, and spacious.

    However, they aren't as well-built as our top pick, and their headband feels heavier than other headphones in this manufacturer's lineup. It may be problematic if you want to wear them for long periods, so you may want to check out the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 instead. Their ski-band headband can distribute the weight more evenly across your head, which results in a more comfortable overall fit. That said, they produce sound audio less consistently and create a less out-of-head passive soundstage.

    See our review

  8. Best Entry-Level Audiophile Headphones

    The Philips SHP9500 are the best entry-level audiophile headphones that we've tested. If you're an audiophile on a tight budget, these headphones offer a fairly neutral sound suitable for various audio content. Although they lack more thump and rumble than the HiFiMan Edition XS, they have a bump of extra high-bass to help add warmth to mixes. Their mid-range is also very neutral, so vocals and lead instruments accurately reproduce, while the overemphasized treble helps brighten these sounds.

    Thanks to their open-back design, they can create a spacious and natural passive soundstage to help immerse you in your audio too, and if you like to listen to your mixes for long periods, they have a very comfortable fit. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of their affordable price point is their build quality. Overall, they feel a bit plasticky, and the padding seems prone to tearing. Luckily, they have a detachable audio cable, so you can purchase a replacement cable separately if you damage it.

    See our review

  9. Best Earbuds

    The best earbuds we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. If you're looking for lighter and more portable headphones, earbuds can offer versatile performance, whether you're jogging in the park or parked at your desk. They're the newer generation of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and offer an improved ANC performance, so they do a fantastic job of isolating you from ambient sound, including rumbling bus engines. Their bass-rich default sound profile is well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop but can also be customized with a graphic EQ and presets in the headphones' companion app. They support aptX Adaptive codec too, which helps lower latency and improves audio quality while streaming.

    They last around 8 hours of continuous use and have a comfortable design. There are a few different sizes of ear tips and stability fins included, and once you get a good fit, they'll easily stay in place during workouts. They have a good build quality but don't feel as well-made as the previous generation or competitors like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless. The Apple headphones' ANC feature doesn't block out as much noise, but you might prefer them if you want smaller, sleeker earbuds or if you use an iPhone and want extra features for Apple users, like faster pairing and virtual surround sound.

    Looking for more earbuds? Check out our earbuds and in-ear headphones article!

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Apple AirPods Max Wireless: The Apple AirPods Max Wireless are premium over-ears with an Adaptive EQ that adjusts their sound to the fit and seal of the headphones on your head. They have an outstanding noise cancelling performance, and their H1 chip allows you to seamlessly pair them with your Apple devices. Unfortunately, there have been user reports of condensation forming on and in the drivers after using them for a few hours. See our review
  • Bose 700 Headphones Wireless: The Bose 700 Headphones Wireless are worth considering if you're looking for something to use for calls or meetings. They have an excellent noise isolation performance, and their integrated mic has a good overall performance, like all Bluetooth headphones, their audio and mic quality dips when you want to use both modes at once. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jan 06, 2023: Replaced the AKG with the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless because the AKG aren't easy to find in stock. Replaced the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless, in part because they have a better ANC performance.

  2. Aug 22, 2022: We've added the AKG N700NC M2 and the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 to highlight the wide range of headphones available at different price points. We've also replaced the Apple AirPods Pro with the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3, as the Sennheiser offer better noise isolation and more customization, and added some picks to Notable Mentions that didn't quite make the cut.

  3. Jul 06, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.

  4. May 24, 2022: Full article overhaul to provide picks that better match user expectations. Added the following picks: Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless, HiFiMan Edition XS, and Philips PSH9500. Moved the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless, and the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless to Notable Mentions.

  5. Apr 28, 2022: Added the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text for accuracy.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best earbuds and headphones for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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 headphone reviews. 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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