The 8 Best Headphones - Fall 2021 Reviews

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Best Headphones
648 Headphones Tested
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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 635 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.


  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 very lightweight, well-padded headphones have a comfortable fit and a great build quality. Their ANC feature does a fantastic job blocking background noise, including bass range noise like rumbling engines.

    They have good touch-sensitive controls with helpful features like Speak-to-Chat, which automatically pauses your audio and lets in ambient sound when you cover the right earcup. Their default sound profile delivers extra thump and rumble, making it well-suited for bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. You can also customize their sound with a graphic EQ and presets in the Sony|Headphones Connect app.

    Unfortunately, the ANC feature automatically switches off when you answer the phone, and the headphones enter 'Talk-Through' mode so that you can hear your surroundings. It may be a little annoying if you use them for a call in a noisy environment since you can't turn ANC back on until you hang up. That said, their superb ANC feature makes them some of the best travel headphones we've tested.

    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're looking for more comfortable over-ear headphones, go for the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 instead. These aren't as well-built as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, but they have a much more comfortable fit and don't clamp onto your head as hard. Their ANC feature is similarly fantastic, although it's not quite as effective at isolating you from bass-range noise like rumbling engines. They support multi-device pairing and have roughly 20 hours of continuous battery life. They also have a less bass-heavy, more neutral sound profile, which some may prefer, but they lack sound customization features like an EQ or presets.

    If you're looking for headphones with a customizable sound profile, go for the Sony. However, if a more comfortable, breathable fit is important to you, go for the Bose.

    See our review

  3. Best Wireless Earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless

    7.4
    Neutral Sound
    8.1
    Commute/Travel
    8.4
    Sports/Fitness
    7.3
    Office
    5.7
    Wireless Gaming
    5.5
    Wired Gaming
    6.3
    Phone Calls
    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling Yes
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless are the best wireless earbuds that we've tested. These earbuds have a powerful ANC system that can block out the low rumbles of bus engines as well as office chatter. They also have an H1 chip, so you can seamlessly pair them with other Apple devices.

    If you like to listen to lots of audio content, they have a versatile and fairly neutral sound profile that's well-suited for most genres. Although they lack a bit of a thumpy low-bass, they can reproduce vocals and lead instruments quite accurately. They also have a comfortable and very stable in-ear fit, which is great if you want to use them during a run in the park. Their sleek and well-built design is certified IPX4 for protection against splashes of water.

    Unfortunately, their companion interface is quite limited, and they don't have any sound customization features to help you tweak them to your liking. They also have a continuous playback time of over five hours, which may not be enough to last you through your workday without pausing to recharge them. On the upside, their carrying case holds roughly five additional charges, and you can even use one while the other charges.

    See our review

  4. Alternative With ANC Presets: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless

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

    If you prefer to adjust the amount of noise cancelling provided by your earbuds, check out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless. While they aren't as comfortable as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, their companion app offers several ANC presets with different degrees of noise isolation. On their highest setting, their ANC does a great job of reducing ambient noise around you, which is handy for noisy commutes or busy days at the office. They also have a neutral sound profile that you can tweak to your liking using their app's graphic EQ and presets. They feel well-built, and their battery delivers over seven hours of continuous playback time. Their carrying case supplies an extra two charges if you need it, and they have a standby mode to help conserve battery life when you're not using them.

    Try the Apple if you're looking for more comfortable earbuds with an H1 chip for seamless pairing with devices in your Apple ecosystem. However, if you want headphones with ANC presets to help block out different amounts of background noise, take a look at the Bose instead.

    See our review

  5. 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 best audiophile headphones that we've tested are the HiFiMan Arya. These unique-looking headphones have an open-back design and use a planar magnetic transducer, which gives them certain advantages over more common headphones with dynamic transducers. They can reproduce a more extended bass response and create a passive soundstage that seems wide, spacious, and as if coming from speakers placed in the room around you.

    These headphones are well-suited for lots of audio content, thanks to their neutral and accurate sound profile. They're comfortable enough for long listening sessions, and their well-built design feels premium and durable. Once you've taken the time to adjust their fit, positioning, and seal on your head, they can deliver bass and treble consistently each time you use them.

    Due to their open-back design, they can't isolate you from ambient noise, and they leak a lot of audio, so others around you may be about to hear your music if you're listening to it at a high volume. They also have a slightly underemphasized low-bass, though it's more extended than the Sennheiser HD 800 S. That said, if you're looking for audiophile headphones, they're a suitable choice.

    See our review

  6. 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 Truly Wireless. These budget-friendly in-ears are comfortable and come with a selection of ear tips and stability fins, meaning that you can find the best fit for you. They have a continuous battery life of about seven hours, which is decent. They come with a case that holds about 12.5 extra charges, meaning that 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. They have a reasonably well-balanced sound profile, with an 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 since there's only one button, and it can take some time to get used to it. That said, these offer a fairly versatile overall performance, and they're worth considering if you're looking for affordable in-ear headphones.

    See our review

  7. Over-Ear Alternative: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless

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

    If you're looking for budget-friendly headphones but prefer an over-ear fit, you may prefer the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless. Their ANC feature isn't as effective at blocking out ambient sound as the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless. However, they have a much longer continuous battery life, a better control scheme, and they support multi-device pairing. Their default sound profile is more neutral, which some may prefer, and they have a companion app with presets, so you can customize it to suit you. Unfortunately, while they feel decently well-built overall, the headband creaks a lot, and some users have reported that it cracks or breaks after a few months of use.

    If you want more portable headphones with a better ANC feature, go for the Anker, but consider the Plantronics instead if you prefer over-ear headphones or want to customize your headphones' sound.

    See our review

  8. Best Cheap Earbuds: JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless

    7.0
    Neutral Sound
    7.6
    Commute/Travel
    8.2
    Sports/Fitness
    7.1
    Office
    5.4
    Wireless Gaming
    5.3
    Wired Gaming
    6.8
    Phone Calls
    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are the best cheap earbuds that we've tested. These very inexpensive earbuds come in a few different colors and include a matching case. They also come with multiple ear tip options, feel quite sturdy, and have an IPX4 rating for water resistance.

    Their default sound profile is bass-rich and punchy, making them well-suited for genres like EDM or hip-hop. Although they don't have app support, they have a few EQ presets you can cycle through with the earbuds' onboard controls. Their nine-hour continuous battery life can last through a 9-5 workday or long flight, and the case stores about three additional charges.

    Unfortunately, the case's built-in charging cable feels like a weak point, and since it's not detachable, you need to buy another pair of headphones if it breaks. Also, their onboard controls aren't the most intuitive. Otherwise, these earbuds offer solid all-around performance for a low price.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Truly Wireless: The Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Truly Wireless are sleek headphones with a great noise isolation performance, thanks to their ANC system. However, they last for under five hours when used continuously and lack robust sound customization features like a graphic EQ. See our review
  • Anker SoundCore Life P3 Truly Wireless: The Anker SoundCore Life P3 Truly Wireless are in-ears with an excellent noise isolation performance, thanks to their ANC system. However, they lack power-saving features and have high latency on iOS, Android, and PCs. See our review
  • 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 700 Headphones Wireless: The Bose 700 Headphones Wireless are well-built noise cancelling headphones that perform especially well for business users on the go. However, the more comfortable Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 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 many sound customization options. However, they don't block out as much background noise as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. 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 QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 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 many sound customization features. However, their noise isolation performance isn't as impressive as some 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
  • Skullcandy Dime True Wireless : The Skullcandy Dime True Wireless are cheap earbuds with a more neutral default sound profile than the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless. However, they lack sound customization features and have a much shorter continuous battery life. 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. Nov 15, 2021: Replaced the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless with the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless as the 'Best Cheap Earbuds'. Removed the Razer Opus Wireless and the 'Best Wireless Headphones Under $200' category because the variant we tested may be difficult to find in stock. Added the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless as the 'Over-Ear Alternative' to the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless.

  2. Oct 21, 2021: Replaced the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless with the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless as the Samsung have been discontinued. Also added the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless as 'Alternative With Adjustable ANC'.

  3. Sep 24, 2021: We've checked our picks for product availability and accuracy. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.

  4. Aug 26, 2021: Checked our picks for accuracy and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.

  5. 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.

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 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.

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