The best headphones should be comfortable, well-built, and provide a rich and balanced listening experience. More high-end headphones tend to come with a variety of premium features, like multi-device pairing, NFC compatibility, active noise cancelling, unique control schemes, or compatibility with customizable companion apps. Less expensive headphones tend to have less unique features, but there are still lots of well-rounded, versatile options that are satisfying to use.
So far, we've tested over 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones you can buy in 2020. See our recommendations for the best Bluetooth earbuds, the best wireless headphones, and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best headphones that we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They're over-ear headphones that come packed with great features. Bose has kept a familiar design for this new version, which means that we get a comfortable pair of light headphones, with plushy ear cups and minimal clamping force. Their active noise cancelling feature also ranks among the best on the market, able to cut out noise across the entire frequency range. The ANC feature can be controlled through Bose's mobile app, Bose Connect, where you can also keep track of remaining battery life, which averages around 20 hours of continuous playback.
Unfortunately, there isn't an EQ to customize the sound, and you may not need one either. The default sound profile is versatile, suitable for almost any type of content, with a deep, punchy bass, well-emphasized vocals, and a complete lack of sharpness in the treble. If you need to take a call, the microphone is passable. Speech tends to sound muffled and can be difficult to separate from background noise.
Other features include NFC for easy pairing, and you can pair two devices at the same time so that you can switch between them seamlessly. Sadly, without any low latency codecs, they won't be ideal for watching movies or for gaming. On the whole, these are great all-around headphones that are highly recommended.
If having the option to customize your headphones is a must, then consider the Sony WH-1000XM3. They're Sony's answer to the Bose QuietControl 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 and have very similar features. Their customizability comes mainly in the form of their great mobile app, Sony Headphones Connect. Within the app, you'll find an incredible amount of options and features, from preset sound profiles to a graphic EQ, active noise cancelling control, room effects, button mapping, and Sony's DSEE HX, which is their proprietary upscaling tech to make compressed music sound better. All this will come in handy, as the default sound of these headphones can be a bit bass-heavy, more suited to genres such as hip-hop or EDM. One area of weakness is in regards to the touch controls; they work fine under normal conditions but are difficult to use in colder climates.
If you want a pair of headphones that are great out of the box, the Bose are better. But for the ability to customize your headphones, go with the Sony.
The best wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They're sports-oriented wireless earbuds that are connected with a soft braided cable, which houses the in-line remote as well as the connection pins for their proprietary charging cradle. Thankfully, you won't have to charge them often. The 13-hour battery life should be able to get you through a few workouts and is further extended by the auto-off feature, triggered when you snap the magnetic earbuds together. Jaybird provides a variety of tips and fins to help you get a stable fit and the earbuds are rated IPX7 for sweat and water resistance. That's enough to protect them against a splash, but not full submersion.
Another great feature of these earbuds is their mobile companion app, Jaybird MySound. With this app, you can tune the sound profile endlessly through presets, parametric EQ, and even profiles that are created by other users. There's even an option to link your Spotify account to easily access your playlists. If you're on the market for a pair of headphones to bring to the gym, these are a good option to consider.
The best true wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Samsung Galaxy Buds. They have a sleek design and are comfortable to wear since they don't enter deeply into the ear canal. Their noise isolation is decent, especially for ambient chatter and high-pitched noises like the hum of AC units, but fall a bit short when it comes to blocking out noise in the bass range, such as the rumble of bus and airplane engines. Their average battery life on a single charge is around 7.5 hours, and the charging case holds an additional charge to top you off if you run low.
Overall, they have a decent but bright sound profile. It lacks a bit of bass and the treble can sound sharp at times. Fortunately, there's a mobile companion app that lets you customize the sound, though it's limited to presets and it's only available for Android users. You can remap the touch controls through the app, and the earbuds can also be controlled by voice through Bixby, Samsung's digital assistant.
All in all, if you're shopping for truly wireless earbuds, these are a good choice.
If you're looking for more sports-oriented earbuds than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, take a look at the Jaybird Vista. They come with a number of stability fins to help you achieve the most stable fit and they're rated IPX7 for water and sweat resistance. Although their 5.5-hour battery life is shorter than the Samsung's, the charging case holds two additional charges and they have an auto-off feature. The overall sound signature is decent, with good emphasis on vocals and leads, but the bass can sound a tad boomy. However, Jaybird has a great mobile companion app, where you can tune the sound through presets, a parametric EQ, and sound profiles created by other users. Unlike the Samsung, this app is available for both Android and iOS.
Overall, the Samsung are a better choice for everyday use, but for those who need a good pair to take to the gym, go with the Jaybird.
The best audiophile headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. They’re top-of-the-line reference-class headphones that sound outstanding and are the best headphones for soundstage that we’ve tried to date. They have excellent audio reproduction and a neutral, balanced sound profile that caters well to music of all genres. They’re a little shy on bass and sound a bit bright overall, but they don’t sound as sharp or piercing as other open-back headphones we’ve tested.
While they sound superb, they’re a significant investment. You’ll need to drive them with a powerful amplifier, and you may want a dedicated EQ if you prefer a bit more bass. They also benefit greatly from a quiet listening room since their open-back design encourages sound leakage and provides very little noise isolation. If you’re looking for headphones that sound nearly just as good but that aren’t as expensive, then consider the HiFiMan Ananda. They don’t sound quite as spacious as the Sennheiser, but they pack a touch more thump and rumble That said, HiFiMan don’t have the quality control of a brand like Sennheiser, and some of their units are prone to manufacturing defects. All things considered, if you have the right setup and they fit within your budget, the Sennheiser provide an exceptional listening experience that you’ll want to relive time and time again.
If you prefer in-ear headphones, the best wired earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the 1More Triple Driver. Being closed-back in-ears, you won't get the same soundstage as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but these earbuds still sound very good for their price. They're well-balanced with an excellent bass extension, but there's some overemphasis in the high bass that can add some muddiness. The build quality is decent and they come with a nice carrying case for protection.
If you want to use them on-the-go, their noise isolation is passable. They can block out a good amount of noise in the mid and treble range, but won't do much in the bass range, where the rumbles of bus engines sit. There's an in-line remote with a good microphone to take calls, and since they're wired headphones, you won't have to worry about having to charge them. If you want a great sounding pair of headphones with incredible soundstage, go with the Sennheiser, but for those who prefer the convenience and portability of earbuds, get the 1More.
The best budget wireless headphones we've tested so far are the Mixcder E9. They sound pretty good, especially for their price, and are much better constructed than similarly priced over-ear headphones. They have excellent bass with lots of thump and rumble for EDM and hip-hop. They're quite comfortable with a well-built yet lightweight design that makes them feel much more premium than most headphones we've tested in this price range. They also offer a great control scheme with large, clicky buttons that allow you to play/pause, adjust volume, skip tracks, and take calls as well.
While they provide ANC, it doesn't work nearly as well as some of the competition. Thankfully, they don't leak much sound, so you should be able to raise your volume to mask ambient noise without bothering people around you. If you're looking for similarly priced headphones with better noise cancellation, consider the Mpow H10 Wireless, although they have a much cheaper-feeling build quality. Overall, the Mixcder are a decent pair of headphones that offer good sound quality and alright noise cancellation with satisfactory build quality.
The best cheap wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Anker Soundbuds Curve. They provide outstanding value for their price thanks to their exciting bass-rich sound and versatile design. They’re more comfortable than most in-ear headphones we’ve tested and have stable ear-hooks that help keep them securely in place. Their battery provides nearly 13 hours of continuous playback and they support aptX for better-than-average Bluetooth latency performance.
Like most budget headphones, they aren’t compatible with a companion app, so you won't have access to any customizable features and you'll need to use a third-party EQ if you want to change the way they sound. They also can’t be paired with multiple devices, which means you’ll need to reconnect them every time you switch between your laptop and smartphone. The AUKEY Latitude Wireless support multi-device pairing and are better travel headphones since they isolate a lot of noise, but they’re less comfortable. Overall, the Curve perform exceptionally well for their price and are easy to recommend for most uses.
The best noise cancelling earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. They have a comfortable earbud design with very good active noise cancelling. They have a balanced sound and are suitable for most genres of music. Their neckband design ensures your music is always at arm’s reach and they effectively isolate disruptive noises in loud environments without leaking much sound, which makes them the best noise cancelling office earbuds we’ve reviewed to date. They’re easy-to-use and they support multi-device pairing and NFC too.
Although they have a decent battery, they don’t last as long as noise cancelling over-ear headphones. They also have some issues with their build quality since the rubber neckband sleeve tends to peel away after only a couple of months of use. That said, they’re still very well-rounded, versatile earbuds that are worth considering, especially if you value comfort and noise isolation.
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.
01/13/2020: Removed Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, removed Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2, removed SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. Minor text and structure changes.
12/05/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
11/07/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
10/11/2019: Added Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 as a cheaper alternative to our main pick, replaced the Jabra Elite Active 65t with the Jaybird Vista, and changed the Mpow H10 to the Mixcder E9.