A great pair of headphones shouldn't only sound rich and balanced but should be comfortable, versatile, well-built, and feature-packed as well. While you can get some surprisingly decent budget headphones, the best headphones tend to come packed with more 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 450 pairs of headphones to date and below are our recommendations for the best headphones you can buy. See our recommendations for the best Bluetooth earbuds, the best wireless headphones, and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. These premium over-ear headphones are packed with all the features you'd expect from a top pair of headphones, including ANC, multi-device and NFC pairing, and a dedicated companion app.
Their ANC is one of the best we've tested so far, and they do a great job of giving you some peace during a long flight or bus ride and are excellent at blocking out background chatter. They're very lightweight and comfortable and should be able to survive a few accidental drops and bumps. Their physical buttons are very easy to use and give you quick access to all common media/call controls. They also sound very well-balanced, with just a little extra bass that will add fullness and kick to your music without being overpowering or boomy. Their sound profile is very versatile and is well-suited to a wide range of content and genres, from EDM to audiobooks.
Unfortunately, their dedicated companion app doesn't include any EQ settings, so you can't customize the way they sound, which is a shame. While their battery life isn't as high as some other options, it's still great and will last you 20 hours before you need to reach for their charging cable. Overall, these are a good, well-rounded pair of headphones that make a great travel companion thanks to their superb ANC and very comfortable design.
If you like being able to customize the way your headphones sound, get the Sony WH-1000XM3. These very popular over-ear headphones aren't quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 and don't support multi-device pairing, but their excellent companion app gives you access to a graphic EQ and their ANC works even better. Their out-of-the-box sound profile is slightly more bass-heavy than the Bose, but can easily be adjusted with presets or a graphic EQ within their companion app. They last 27 hours off a single charge, and their ANC is the best we've measured to date. It does an outstanding job of blocking out all frequencies, making these headphones a great option to give you some peace wherever you are. Unfortunately, their slightly bulky design is heavier and fits a bit tighter on the head, making them a bit more uncomfortable for extended listening periods.
If you want a pair of headphones that's more comfortable for extended listening and like having an accurate and well-balanced sound profile without needing to tinker with it, get the Bose. However, if you like to be able to customize your sound to better suit your preferences and want the best ANC you can get, go for the Sony.
The best wireless earbuds that we've tested so far are the Samsung Galaxy Buds+. These truly wireless in-ears really pack a punch with their performance.
These truly wireless in-ears are surprisingly comfortable and have a very premium look and feel. Thanks to their neutral and well-balanced default sound profile, they're suited for all genres including audiobooks and pop. If you like a little more kick and thump in your music, their companion app also comes with five EQ presets, so you can tweak the sound to your liking. Their outstanding 13.5 hours of continuous battery life is one of the longest we've tested so far for truly wireless headphones and their Qi-enabled charging case comes with an extra charge.
On the downside, they don't have an ANC feature and while they can help to reduce chatter in the office, they don't really block out low sounds like the rumbles of bus or plane engines. They also use touch-sensitive controls that can accidentally trigger a command and some may find them limiting to use while wearing gloves. Overall, these truly wireless headphones have an extremely balanced sound with an impressive battery life that all users can enjoy.
If you want a pair of wireless earbuds for taking to the gym, get the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They aren't truly wireless like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless and they aren't quite as comfortable, but they feel even better-built and have easier-to-use controls. They have an in-line remote on their braided cable that connects the two earbuds, making it easy to change your music in the middle of a workout. They come with stability fins to give them a good, stable fit, and they're rated IPX7 for water and sweat resistance, though this isn't something we test. Their default sound profile is well-balanced but with a bit of extra kick, and their excellent companion app gives you access to a fully parametric EQ so you can fine-tune the way they sound. They last just over 13 hours off a single charge, but unfortunately, they require a proprietary charger, which can be a pain if you lose or forget it.
If you want a more versatile pair of every-day headphones, get the Samsung, but if you want something that feels a bit more durable for taking to the gym, go for the Jaybird.
The best headphones for audiophiles that we've tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These comfortable open-back over-ears have an expertly-tuned sound profile that lends itself well to most genres of music. They feel extremely well-made and have a detachable audio cable, so you can easily replace it should it get damaged over time.
These are top-of-the-line reference-class headphones with an open-back design that provides a wide and spacious soundstage to immerse you in your music. While their sound profile is well-balanced, the bass range is a little shy and the mids are slightly muddy. Still, these headphones are great for a variety of genres and can provide an excellent listening experience.
Unfortunately, these headphones don't come cheap. Not only do the headphones themselves carry a hefty price tag, but you need a powerful amplifier to drive them. Also, as with most open-back headphones, they're designed for listening in a dedicated and quiet room, as they leak a ton of audio and don't block any background noise, though this is by design. Overall, if you're looking for an exceptional listening experience, these are among the best audiophile headphones we've tested to date.
The best headphones in the budget category that we've tested so far are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20. These Bluetooth over-ear headphones are quite comfortable thanks to their well-padded ear cups and headband. They have an excellent 32-hour battery life, decently easy-to-use physical controls, and feel fairly well-made for their price.
They have an excited sound profile that provides a fair amount of extra thump and kick. While they're best suited for bass-heavy music like EDM or hip-hop, they should be versatile enough for most popular genres. Unfortunately, they don't have a dedicated companion app, so they lack an EQ to change the way they sound. Despite their low price point, they have a surprisingly decent ANC feature that'll help cut down on the low rumble of bus and plane engines, though it does much better at blocking background chatter.
Overall, they may lack some extra features compared to some more expensive options on this list, but their good ANC performance, well-balanced and excited sound profile, and comfortable and fairly well-built design makes them among the best budget wireless headphones that we've tested to date.
The best cheap wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Anker Soundbuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These Bluetooth earbuds deliver not only great performance for their price point but are versatile enough for most everyday needs.
They have a somewhat balanced sound but fans of EDM and hip-hop can especially enjoy the extra bass that brings kick and thump to their mixes. They're still well-suited for a variety of genres and their wireless design makes it easy to play whatever you like to listen to from your mobile devices. They're also great for sports since they have a stable, ear-hook design, and their over 18 hours of battery life should be able to get you through even the most grueling of work days on one charge.
On the downside, they don't have a companion app so you won't be able to really tweak their sound profile. The cable that connects the left and right earbuds also feels thin and particularly prone to wear and tear. Still, at their price point, these earbuds are a solid choice for anyone looking for good headphones on a budget.
05/15/2020: Changed wireless earbuds alternative from 'sports' to 'working out' for consistency.
04/17/2020: Replaced the Mixcder E9 with the Anker Soundcore Life Q20. Made Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 'Best Wireless Earbuds' and moved Jaybird Tarah Pro to 'Alternative For Sports'. Updated text for accuracy and consistency.
03/18/2020: Replaced Samsung Galaxy Buds with Samsung Galaxy Buds+. Removed some alternative picks for a more comfortable article length.
02/17/2020: Removed "Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds" category, changed Anker SoundBuds Curve for Upgraded 2019 model, updated text.
01/13/2020: Removed Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, removed Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2, removed SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. Minor text and structure changes.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones in the world for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones wins 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.