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 720 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best you can buy.
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.
For more wireless headphones, check out our picks for the best wireless Bluetooth headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless are often named alongside the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless as the best noise cancelling wireless headphones on the market. While their ANC doesn't block out as much noise and their default sound profile delivers less bass overall, they're still one of the most premium headphones on the market and our pick for the best upper mid-range headphones that we've tested. These headphones are well built and excellently comfortable, with a nearly 22-hour continuous battery life that, while not as long as the Sony's roughly 37-hour battery, will still get you through a few long workdays without needing a recharge.
Out of the box, they have a neutral sound that's well-suited for most kinds of audio content. There's a touch of extra thumpy bass to compliment genres like hip-hop and EDM, but it doesn't overpower the rest of the mix. Voices and lead instruments sound clear and bright, but a little harsh. While they don't feature support any codecs for higher-res audio streaming, their companion app has a graphic EQ and presets to help you fine-tune the mix to your liking. Their ANC also does a fantastic job of blocking out background noise, from the rumble of a plane or bus engine to chatty coworkers and whiny PC fans. However, some users have noticed feeling high pressure inside the ear cups with the ANC on, which can lead to discomfort after wearing them for a long time.
Check out our article on the best noise cancelling headphones for more picks.
From this price point onwards, Anker dominates the market. Their Q lineup targets each price range, and most options in the lineup are well-equipped with features like ANC, multi-device pairing, and companion app support, which make them hard to ignore. That said, their top-of-the-line model is the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless, which are significantly cheaper than the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless, but come with a step down in build quality and comfort, as well as shorter continuous battery life. Still, they offer 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. If you're looking for a slightly cheaper pair, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless have similar comfort and sound customizability via the companion app, but aren't as well built and don't have the Q45's adaptive ANC system.
Looking for more mid-range headphones? Our article on the best headphones under 200$ has more picks!
If you're looking for a cheaper pair of headphones, look at another offering from Anker, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. While they aren't as well-built or feature-packed as the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless, they still have ANC and are just as comfortable for long listening sessions. These budget over-ears last longer than their more expensive counterpart, nearly 33 hours on a single charge. As such, you'll be able to use them during long trips or repeat days at the office without needing a recharge.
These headphones have an excited sound profile. The extra bass and treble compliments genres like rock and pop, but muddies the mix and makes content sound harsh and piercing. Unfortunately, these headphones aren't compatible with Anker's companion app, so you can't change the sound to better suit your preferences. While their ANC can't completely isolate you from the low rumble of a bus or plane engine, it does a much better job cutting out background chatter and shrill AC units. However, their integrated mic only performs decently, making your voice sound clear but quite thin.
If you aren't looking to spend much, our best budget and cheap headphones article should give you more recommendations for low-priced options.
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, 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.
These over-ears 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. Another great audiophile option are the HiFiMan Edition XS. These headphones are significantly cheaper and feature planar-magnetic drivers that can reproduce more bass than the Sennheiser. However, their headband doesn't do as good a job of distributing their weight across your head, which can impact comfort during long listening sessions.
If you're looking for more options for hi-fi sound, check out our article on the best audiophile headphones.
The best entry-level audiophile headphones we've tested are the Philips SPH9500. These budget headphones are a great choice if you're interested in hi-fi audio, but don't want to put the investment in right away for a more expensive pair. They have the same open-back design as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but their build is a lot less sturdy, so they won't hold up as well over time. Fortunately, they're more comfortable and their ear cups are smaller than the Sennheiser, which may be preferred if you have a smaller head.
These headphones have an extremely neutral sound profile. While their open-ear design negatively impacts their ability to deliver sufficient low and mid-bass, the mid and treble ranges are excellently balanced, ensuring that your music sounds clear, accurate, and detailed. The soundstage feels open and immersive like audio is coming from all around the room. However, their open-back design doesn't keep you isolated from any background noise and they leak a lot of audio, meaning they're really only meant for use in a quiet room where your music won't disturb others. Fortunately, their low impedance means you'll get good sound out of them without needing to use an amp.
If you're interested in more headphones with this design, check out our picks for the best open-back headphones.
The best earbuds we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. Earbuds have the benefit of portability and can be a great choice for a variety of uses, from work to workouts. These are an updated version of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless and have an improved ANC performance. They can isolate you very effectively from a broad range of ambient sound, including rumbling engines and background conversations. Their sound profile also has more bass than our rig measured, but this is due to the shape of our rig's ear canals affecting the buds' bass delivery.
Subjectively, their bass-rich sound profile brings out the thump and rumble in genres like EDM. While this muddies vocals and instruments, if you prefer a different sound, it can also be adjusted with a graphic EQ and presets in the companion app. They support aptX Adaptive codec, which helps lower latency and improve audio quality via Bluetooth. Their roughly eight-hour continuous battery life can last through a day of work, and they have a comfortable fit for most people. There's a selection of differently-sized ear tips and stability fins included.
Once you get a good fit, they're stable enough to stay in place if you use them at the gym or on a run. However, they aren't as well-built as the first Bose QuietComfort earbuds or other premium buds like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless. Those earbuds have a weaker ANC performance, but you might like their smaller design and features for iOS users, like virtual surround sound and easy pairing.
Looking for more earbuds? Check out our best earbuds and in-ear headphones article!
May 11, 2023: Overhauled the article in order to give users a greater range of available products, and link them to other articles where those categories are discussed further.
Mar 08, 2023: We've replaced the Anker Soundcore Q35 Wireless with the Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones Wireless and the Anker Soundcore Q20 Wireless with the Logitech G435 LIGHTSPEED Wireless. We've also added the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x to Notable Mentions.
Feb 10, 2023: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
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.
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.
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.