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 680 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.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are the best headphones we've tested. Even though they're the previous generation of the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless, these premium over-ears have the edge when it comes to noise cancelling. Their ANC system 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 harder 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. Their ANC doesn't block out as much noise, and they have shorter continuous battery life.
The best upper mid-range headphones we've tested are the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless. These over-ears are a lot less bass-heavy than the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, and while they still have a touch of extra thump, punch, and boom, it doesn't muddy or bloat vocals. As a result, genres like folk or classical sound clear and detailed. You can finetune their sound to your liking using their companion app's parametric EQ and presets, though. For their price point, they also have excellent noise isolation, and while their ANC doesn't block out as much engine noise as the Sony, they can still tackle office chatter and computer fans effectively. With their ANC on, they last over 20 hours continuously and are equipped with an auto-off timer to help conserve battery life when not in use.
Since they support multi-device pairing, you can connect them to your PC and smartphone simultaneously. If you're on the go, they also come with a great hard case to protect them from damage. While they're also comfortable and well-built, some users have reported that their unit's hinges broke over time, which is a little disappointing given their price.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless are the best mid-range headphones we've tested. At this price point, these over-ears offer quite a versatile performance. They have an adjustable ANC system, so you can set it to block out more commuter-related noise like bus engines, outdoor noise like wind, or indoor noise like ambient chatter. Although they don't cut down quite as much noise as the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless, they still offer great overall performance across the ranges. They also have over 44 hours of continuous playback time and can be paired with up to two devices at a time. They even support LDAC, which is Sony's proprietary codec for streaming high-res audio.
They have a bass-heavy sound profile that's well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop. Their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets if you prefer a different sound. That said, there's a difference in sound between ANC on and off. With the ANC off, 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.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless are the best budget headphones we've tested. They've also been replaced by a newer version, the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless. However, their adjustable ANC has better overall performance, meaning they can block out more ambient sound, like voices and 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.
The best cheap headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. Yes, they're the third 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 lack extra bells and whistles like an EQ to help you finetune their sound. They 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 overall 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 out there. However, low build quality is fairly common at this price point.
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 for them, 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 they 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 some 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 have excellent build quality, and their fit is comfortable enough for long listening sessions.
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.
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.
The best earbuds we've tested are the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3. If you're looking for lighter and more portable headphones, these premium earbuds offer versatile performance, whether you're jogging in the park or parked at your desk. They have a decently comfortable fit and have stability fins to keep them in place when you're on the move. They also have an ANC system that outperforms competitors like the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless. They can effectively block out sounds like engine rumbles and office chatter so that you can focus on your audio.
These buds last over eight hours continuously while their carrying case supplies an additional three charges if you need them. Their bass-heavy sound profile is also suitable for thumpy, boomy genres like EDM and hip-hop, but you can adjust them to your preferences using their 3-band graphic EQ and presets. They support aptX Adaptive codec too, which helps lower latency and improves audio quality while streaming.
Looking for more earbuds? Check out our earbuds and in-ear headphones article!
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.
Jul 06, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
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.
Apr 28, 2022: Added the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text for accuracy.
Mar 29, 2022: Replaced the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless with the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless as the QC35 II have been discontinued.
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.