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The 8 Best Headphones - Summer 2021 Reviews

Updated
Best Headphones
606 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
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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 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 605 pairs of headphones, 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.


  1. Best Wireless Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless

    7.1
    Neutral Sound
    8.1
    Commute/Travel
    7.2
    Sports/Fitness
    7.7
    Office
    5.8
    Wireless Gaming
    7.4
    Wired Gaming
    6.7
    Phone Calls
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Yes
    Noise Cancelling Yes
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The best headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4. These well-built, comfortable headphones are the upgraded version of the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, and they offer a very versatile overall performance. Their continuous battery life is longer than their predecessor, and they also come with new touch-sensitive control features that help control the amount of ambient noise you hear.

    Out-of-the-box, they have a bass-heavy sound profile that adds extra thump and punch to your audio, making them well-suited to listening to bass-heavy music like EDM. There's even a graphic EQ and presets available in the Sony|Headphones Connect app, so you can customize their sound based on your preferences. They also have an outstanding noise isolation performance, so you aren't distracted by background noise during your commute or while working in a crowded office.

    Unfortunately, while they're stable enough for casual listening sessions, they may fall off your ears if you wear them during your workouts. Also, like most over-ears, they're a bit bulky and may take up some space in your bag if you bring them on the go. Fortunately, you can fold them into a slightly more compact format, which is handy.

    See our review

  2. More Comfortable Alternative: Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018

    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Yes
    Noise Cancelling Yes
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    If you want wireless headphones with a more comfortable fit, try the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. These headphones aren't as well-built as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, and they lack sound customization features, but they're lighter and don't clamp onto your head as tightly, so they should be more comfortable. They also have a much more breathable design. Their default sound profile is more neutral, with a bit of extra bass that brings a little more thump and rumble to mixes, and they have a long continuous battery life of roughly 20 hours. Their ANC feature is fantastic since it's very effective at blocking out noises like rumbling bus and plane engines and ambient conversations.

    If you want the better-built headphones or sound customization is a priority, go for the Sony, but consider the Bose instead if you're looking for extremely comfortable over-ears.

    See our review

  3. Best Wireless Headphones Under $200: Razer Opus Wireless

    8.0
    Neutral Sound
    8.2
    Commute/Travel
    7.4
    Sports/Fitness
    7.9
    Office
    6.1
    Wireless Gaming
    7.7
    Wired Gaming
    7.0
    Phone Calls
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Yes
    Noise Cancelling Yes
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The best wireless headphones under $200 that we've tested are the Razer Opus Wireless. These sleek over-ears deliver an excellent price-to-performance ratio and are versatile enough to please most users. Thanks to their powerful ANC, they have an outstanding noise isolation performance and can block out the rumble of bus engines as well as ambient chatter and high-pitched noise like the hum of a fan.

    They have a very neutral and well-balanced default sound profile that's suitable for most types of audio content. That said, if you prefer a different sound, their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets so you can really adjust their sound to your liking. They have a continuous battery life of over 32 hours, which should get you through long workdays without an issue, and they support passive playback, so you can use them with their 1/8" TRRS cable if you run out of battery. They're also very well-built and have a comfortable fit.

    Unfortunately, their integrated microphone does a mediocre job of separating your voice from ambient noise around you, and it may get drowned out altogether if you're talking in a very loud environment. These headphones don't support multi-device pairing either, so you can't pair to your smartphone and laptop at the same time. However, they still deliver a versatile and customizable performance and are a suitable choice if you're shopping for headphones within this price range.

    See our review

  4. Best Wireless Earbuds: Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless

    7.9
    Neutral Sound
    7.7
    Commute/Travel
    8.4
    Sports/Fitness
    7.3
    Office
    6.1
    Wireless Gaming
    5.9
    Wired Gaming
    6.9
    Phone Calls
    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are the best wireless earbuds that we've tested. These well-built Bluetooth earbuds are lightweight and have a comfortable, stable fit. Their default sound profile is very neutral and well-balanced, making them suitable for a wide variety of genres and types of audio content.

    Also, they work with a companion app that gives you access to five different EQ presets, so if you prefer a different sound profile, you can customize it to suit you. Their battery provides roughly 13 hours of continuous playback, which is great, and their sturdy case holds about one extra charge. Also, they have relatively low latency with iOS and Android devices, so they aren't a bad choice for streaming video on your phone.

    Unfortunately, they don't have an ANC system, and they really struggle to passively isolate you from bass-range noise like rumbling bus and plane engines. On the plus side, they do block out a good amount of mid-range and high-pitched noise like ambient chatter or humming A/C units, and overall these are also the best truly wireless headphones that we've tested.

    See our review

  5. Alternative With ANC: Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless

    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling Yes
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    If you're looking for wireless earbuds that do a better job of isolating you from ambient sound, try the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless, they don't have any sound customization features, but they are equipped with an active noise cancelling (ANC) system that does an excellent job of blocking out a wide range of background noise, including rumbling bus and plane engines. They have a very good build quality and a comfortable, stable fit, so they should stay in place during runs or workouts. They also have an IPX5 for water resistance, although we don't test it currently, and their H1 chip makes them very easy to pair with Apple devices. Their sound profile is fairly neutral and well-suited for a variety of genres too. Unfortunately, they struggle a bit to reproduce the thump and rumble of low bass.

    If you want wireless in-ears that have sound customization features and a longer continuous battery life, go for the Samsung, but consider the Apple instead if you want the more premium-feeling option or if noise isolation is a priority.

    See our review

  6. Best Audiophile Headphones: HiFiMan Arya

    8.6
    Neutral Sound
    3.8
    Commute/Travel
    5.3
    Sports/Fitness
    4.5
    Office
    4.8
    Wireless Gaming
    6.9
    Wired Gaming
    1.6
    Phone Calls
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Open-Back
    Wireless No
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic No
    Transducer Planar Magnetic

    The HiFiMan Arya are the best headphones for audiophiles that we've tested. These open-back headphones use a planar magnetic transducer, which helps improve their bass accuracy. Although they're fairly big and bulky, especially when compared to headphones with a dynamic transducer, their passive soundstage is also perceived as wide, spacious, and as if coming from outside your head.

    These very well-built headphones have a neutral and accurate sound profile that's suitable for a variety of audio content. They also have a comfortable design that doesn't clamp too tightly on your head. Their ear cups are spacious as well as well-padded, and their headband can distribute their weight well. They also deliver bass and treble consistently, so you won't need to adjust their fit or positioning each time you use them.

    Unfortunately, they still lack a bit of low-bass, although it's still more extended than the Sennheiser HD 800S. Their open-back design also isn't meant to block out ambient sound, which could be a bit frustrating if you're using them in a noisy environment, and they leak a lot of audio. However, these headphones have a comfortable fit, neutral sound profile, and immersive passive soundstage that should please audiophiles.

    See our review

  7. Best Budget Headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless

    7.0
    Neutral Sound
    7.7
    Commute/Travel
    8.1
    Sports/Fitness
    7.2
    Office
    5.3
    Wireless Gaming
    5.2
    Wired Gaming
    6.6
    Phone Calls
    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The best budget headphones that we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2. These budget-friendly in-ears are quite comfortable and come with a selection of ear tips and stability fins, so you can find the best fit for you. They have a continuous battery life of about seven hours, which is decent, and they come with a case that holds about 12.5 extra charges, so their total battery life is exceptionally long.

    They're great for sports, since they have a stable fit and an IPX5 rating for water resistance, although we don't test for that currently. They have a reasonably well-balanced sound profile, with overemphasis in the bass range that brings extra thump and rumble to mixes without being boomy. While they don't have an ANC system, they do a good job of passively isolating you from office-type noise like ambient chatter or the hum of an A/C unit.

    Unfortunately, they don't have a companion app that offers sound customization features like an EQ or presets. Their control scheme is disappointing as well since there's only one button and it can take some time to get used to. That said, these offer a fairly versatile overall performance, and they're definitely worth considering if you're looking for affordable in-ear headphones.

    See our review

  8. Best Cheap Earbuds: Skullcandy Dime True Wireless

    7.2
    Neutral Sound
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    8.1
    Sports/Fitness
    6.8
    Office
    5.3
    Wireless Gaming
    5.2
    Wired Gaming
    6.4
    Phone Calls
    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The Skullcandy Dime True Wireless are the best cheap earbuds we've tested. These well-built headphones have a lightweight design and a stable fit in your ears, so they're a solid choice for listening to music during your workouts. They're also rated IPX4 for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this.

    They have a slightly bass-heavy sound profile that adds a little extra thump and punch to your audio without being too overwhelming. They don't leak a lot of audio, and escaping audio sounds quite thin, so you can crank up the volume without really bothering those around you. They also have a decent noise isolation performance, especially against higher-frequency ambient noise, so you don't hear the sounds of people talking around you or the hum of AC units while listening to your audio.

    Unfortunately, they're a bit bulky, and they sit pretty deep in your ears, which may not be comfortable for everyone. They also only last for about four hours off of a single charge, which may not be enough for some listeners. That said, their portable charging case offers around 2.5 extra charges, which is handy.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless: The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless are versatile noise cancelling over-ears, but they don't have as many features as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 800 S: The Sennheiser HD 800 S are amazingly well-built open-back headphones with a dynamic transducer. They're an excellent choice for neutral sound thanks to their wide, spacious soundstage, but they don't deliver audio as consistently as the HiFiMan Arya, and they don't reproduce as much low-bass. See our review
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless: The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless are high-end earbuds with a great noise isolation performance thanks to their ANC system. However, they're fairly bulky and lack sound customization features. See our review
  • Bose 700 Headphones Wireless: The Bose 700 Headphones Wireless are well-built noise cancelling headphones that perform especially well for business users on the go, but the more comfortable QC35 II provide better value for most. See our review
  • Jabra Evolve2 85 Wireless: The Jabra Evolve2 85 Wireless are professional headphones with good noise isolation and lots of sound customization options, but they don't block out as much background noise as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Bose QC35 II. See our review
  • Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless: The Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless are versatile over-ear headphones packed with features. They're a more stable-fitting alternative to the Bose QC35 II but not as comfortable. See our review
  • Jabra Elite 85t Truly Wireless: The Jabra Elite 85t Truly Wireless are semi-open truly wireless in-ears with a neutral sound profile and lots of sound customization features. However, their noise isolation performance isn't as impressive as some of the other in-ears we've tested. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 600: The Sennheiser HD 600 are well-balanced open-back critical listening headphones but are more expensive than others that perform similarly. See our review
  • SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless: The SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless are surprisingly versatile and remarkably feature-packed gaming headphones, but they still have a bulky design that makes them limited for more casual use. See our review
  • Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless: The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless are over-ear headphones that have an adjustable ANC. They isolate you from an outstanding amount of background noise, but they leak some audio at high volumes. See our review
  • Sony WI-C310 Wireless: The Sony WI-C310 Wireless are cheap headphones with a more comfortable fit and a longer continuous battery life than the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless, but they aren't as well-built or as stable in your ear. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jul 30, 2021: Replaced the FIIL T1X True Wireless with the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 as the 'Best Budget Headphones' because the FIIL aren't currently available. No other changes to product recommendations.

  2. Jun 30, 2021: Checked the text for accuracy and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.

  3. Jun 03, 2021: Replaced the Jaybird Tarah Pro Wireless with the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless as the Jaybird aren't currently available.

  4. May 07, 2021: Replaced the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless with the FIIL T1X True Wireless as 'Best Budget' since the Plantronics' price rose. Replaced the Sony WI-C310 Wireless with the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless. Added the Sony to Notable Mentions.

  5. Apr 08, 2021: Minor changes to the text for accuracy; no changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.

All Reviews

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.

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