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 nearly 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones you can buy in 2019. 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 remarkably comfortable and have a simple, physical control scheme that’s responsive and easy-to-use. They sound great and have impressive noise cancelling, which makes them very good travel headphones. Their 20-hour battery life is perfect for international flights or long car rides, and they also have an auto-off timer to help save power if you forget to turn them off. They can also be used passively without noise cancelling when the battery dies, as long as you have a 1/16" TRRS cable on you. They can connect to two devices simultaneously, so you can switch between your laptop and smartphone without having to reconnect each time, and they support NFC pairing as well.
Unfortunately, they leak a considerable amount of sound, especially compared to the newer Bose 700 Headphones Wireless, so you might bother others if you like to listen to your music a bit loudly. Their noise cancelling performance also weakened a bit after a recent firmware update (4.5.2), but it’s still great. While the Bose Connect app doesn’t offer many customization options, the QC 35 II deliver a great overall experience thanks to their comfortable fit and well-balanced sound. If you're looking for hassle-free headphones that just work, then they’re a great choice.
If you prefer more customizable wireless headphones, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless. They’re not quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but their companion app gives you a lot more control over their active features. They also isolate considerably more noise, which makes them the best noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested so far. Unfortunately, their touch-sensitive controls don’t work very well in freezing temperatures, which can be a deal-breaker for those who live in colder climates. They also sound a bit boomy when you first try them on, but fans of more bass-heavy music may actually prefer their default sound profile, and you can EQ the way they sound with the app if you don’t. Get the QC 35 II if you’re looking for something with a more ergonomic design and balanced sound right out-of-the-box, but if you like spending a bit of time to customize your headphones so they really feel like yours, then you’ll want the XM3.
If you want a decent pair of headphones that are significantly less expensive than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, go with the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. Their noise cancellation isn't as good as the Bose, but they’re among the best headphones for bass that we’ve reviewed to date, with overemphasized bass that fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop will like. They have excellent battery life and should last for 30 hours, which is more than enough to get you through multiple days without needing a charge. It's worth nothing that we tested the SE model which offers additional NFC connectivity, though the regular model without can be found for less money and should offer the same overall performance. Get the Bose if you want the best overall wireless headphones you can get, but if you want to save some money, go with the Plantronics.
The best wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They’re sports-oriented earbuds that are rated IPX7 for superior water resistance and have rotating earbuds so you can find the most stable yet comfortable fit for you. They’re very well-built with a smooth braided cable and curved in-line remote that’s easy-to-use. They have magnetic earbuds that snap together for easier cable management and, in doing so, trigger an auto-off timer that helps extend their 13-hour battery life. They sound decent and are compatible with the Jaybird MySound app, which provides access to a great parametric EQ, community presets, button mapping options, and dedicated Spotify playlists for athletes.
On the downside, like most Jaybird headphones, they use a proprietary charging cradle that can’t be used with any other device except these headphones. This means that if you leave the charger at home, you won’t be able to just borrow a micro-USB cable off your friends or colleagues, which can be annoying. That said, it’s a small price to pay for these otherwise very-well performing wireless earbuds.
The best true wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Samsung Galaxy Buds. They’re quite comfortable for truly wireless in-ear headphones and have a compact, portable design that makes them great for use on-the-go. They have great audio reproduction out-of-the-box and are compatible with the Samsung Wearable app, which provides a couple of EQ presets so you can slightly customize the way they sound. They have a decent 7.5-hour battery life, which is surprisingly good for truly wireless earbuds, and their charging case even provides an extra charge so they can last all day.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Wearable app is only available on Android, so iOS users won’t be able to access their customizable features. This can be disappointing to fans of bass who use an iPhone, since these headphones are a little bass-shy and can only be EQ’d on Android. Also, volume controls are also only available via the button-mapping feature in the app, so iOS users are stuck with the default control scheme. That said, they’re the best wireless earbuds for Android that we’ve tested so far thanks to their comfortable fit and solid performance.
If you want good quality, durable earbuds for working out, go with the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless as they're the best truly wireless earbuds for sports that we've tested so far. They don't block noise as well as the Samsung Galaxy Buds, but are better for working out thanks to their more durable design. Their charging case is similarly robust and should be able to withstand some small accidental abuse. Like the Samsung, they're decent sounding but offer much better bass performance with a small amount of overall boominess but if your a fan of a customizable EQ, they also offer a companion app so you can fine-tune the sound to better suit your needs. They are rated IPX7 for water and sweat resistance so should be able to handle your most strenuous workout. If you're an Apple user, The Beats Powerbeats Pro are more comfortable and are great for iPhone, but the Jaybird Vistas are more versatile overall.
You’ll want to get the Galaxy Buds if you’re looking for a more low-profile design and only expect to do a bit of light exercise, but if your primary use is for working out, get the Jaybirds.
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 want great-sounding open-back headphones but don’t want to break the bank, then get the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. They don’t have the same outstanding soundstage of the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but they’re significantly less expensive and pack quite a bit more bass. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are a great choice if you need closed-back headphones for studio use, but they sound less spacious than the Jubilee. If you’re looking for open-back headphones that deliver a remarkable listening experience and they’re within your budget, get the Sennheiser HD 800 S. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more modest that still sounds great, the Jubilee are the way to go.
The best headphones for gaming that we’ve tested so far are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. They come with a great base transmitter that has lots of input and connectivity options, as well as a bunch of customizable features at your fingertips. The transmitter provides a low-latency wireless connection for gaming, and the headphones themselves support Bluetooth, so you can even chat on your smartphone while playing your favorite game. They have impressive sound quality with a very neutral frequency response that’s great not only for video games but also for TV and movies. They have a great boom microphone and come with two swappable, rechargeable batteries so you never run out of power.
Unfortunately, they don’t have full wireless audio and microphone support on the Xbox One. If you’re an Xbox gamer, consider the Astro A50 Wireless with the Xbox One + PC Platform. They’re fully compatible with the Xbox One and are slightly more comfortable. However, if you prefer being able to use your headset with Bluetooth too, you might want to check out the SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless, which are very similar to the Pro Wireless but don’t come with a base transmitter since they support Xbox Wireless. That said, if you’re a PC or PS4 gamer looking for one pair of headphones to do it all, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless are a solid choice.
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 are 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, although they have a much cheaper-feeling build quality. Overall, the Mixcder are a decent pair of headphones which offer good sound quality and alright noise cancellation with a 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 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 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.
The best wired earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the 1More Triple Driver. They’re well-built headphones that are fairly comfortable and come with 9 different earbud tips to help you find a perfect fit. They’re pretty easy to use and come with a nice hard carrying case. They have great audio reproduction and a balanced sound that’s suitable for nearly all genres of music. Their in-line microphone has good recording quality too, which makes them a decent choice for casual use and even gaming.
Even though their earbuds feel very solid and durable, they don’t have a detachable cable. This means that if their cable breaks, you’ll need to replace them entirely. The TIN Audio T3 and the KZ AS10 are also wired earbuds that perform well overall, but they don’t sound quite as balanced as the 1More Triple Driver and they aren’t as comfortable.
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.
11/10/2019: 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.