The 7 Best Headphones For Music - Fall 2021 Reviews

Updated
Best Headphones For Music
631 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
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If you're looking for headphones that are great for music, the choices can be overwhelming. Depending on what kind of music you like, some headphones are better suited than others. Those who listen to more instrumental or vocal-centric content like jazz or folk may like a more neutral or balanced sound with a wide, immersive soundstage. Fans of EDM, hip-hop, and R&B, on the other hand, may like their bass to give their favorite tracks extra thump and kick.

We've tested over 615 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones for music based on sound profile, features, and price range. Also, check out our recommendations for the best wireless headphones, the best noise cancelling headphones, and the best audiophile headphones.


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

    7.1
    Neutral Sound
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Yes
    Noise Cancelling Yes
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    The best headphones for music with extra bass that we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. These comfortable Bluetooth over-ears have an overemphasized bass response that may be perceived as a little boomy by some listeners but should please fans of EDM and hip hop who crave some extra thump and rumble.

    They're compatible with the Sony | Headphones Connect companion app, which grants you access to a graphic EQ as well as audio presets to fine-tune your listening experience. They have a remarkably effective ANC system that filters out a wide range of ambient noise, from passing trucks to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit, so you can enjoy your music even in loud or crowded environments. While they should last for over 37 hours on a single charge, they come with a 1/8" TRS audio cable, allowing for passive audio playback if you've run out of battery.

    Unfortunately, their integrated microphone delivers sub-par recording quality and makes your voice sound thin and muffled, so they may not be the best option if you also happen to make a lot of phone calls through your headphones. Their touch-sensitive control scheme may also take some time to get used to, though it's quite intuitive once you've figured it out. If you're looking for extra thump and rumble, these are also among the best bass headphones that we've tested.

    See our review

  2. Truly Wireless Alternative: Jabra Elite Active 75t Truly Wireless

    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    If you like the look and feel of truly wireless headphones, check out the Jabra Elite Active 75 instead. While they're not as comfortable as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless and they can't block out as much ambient noise around you, the Jabra have a lightweight design, which makes it easier to grab them and go. Out of the box, these in-ears have a very excited sound profile that packs extra thump and punch to your mixes while vocals and lead instruments sparkle. If you find this sound a bit intense, their companion app has a graphic EQ and presets, which allows you to really adjust them to your tastes. Although their roughly 6.5-hour continuous battery life doesn't last as long as that of the Sony, their carrying case holds three additional charges if you need it. They also support multi-device pairing, so you can stay connected to your laptop and smartphone at the same time.

    Try the Sony if you prefer a more comfortable, over-ear fit with a powerful ANC system to help cut down sound around you. However, if you're looking for smaller, more portable headphones, try the Jabra.

    See our review

  3. Best Headphones For Soundstage: Sennheiser HD 800 S

    8.5
    Neutral Sound
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Open-Back
    Wireless No
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic No
    Transducer Dynamic

    The Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best headphones for soundstage that we've tested. These premium open-backs generate an incredibly natural, spacious, and wholly immersive listening experience that makes your music sound like it's coming from all around you. Their well-balanced sound profile should also please audiophiles, as their very neutral mid and treble response makes vocals and lead instruments sound clear, present, detailed, and airy, though some may find them to be a little too bright.

    They're very well-built with a sturdy-feeling design made of high-grade plastic reinforced by a metal frame and a braided detachable audio cable. Their spacious, well-padded ear cups should ensure you don't experience any discomfort, even during long listening sessions. They're also fairly breathable, so your ears shouldn't sweat too much while wearing them.

    Unfortunately, they're very expensive. That's without mentioning an amplifier is needed to get the most out of them. As to be expected for a pair of open-backs, they do an awful job of blocking out ambient noise, so they're particularly ill-suited for listening in a loud environment. Still, considering their ability to provide an impressively well-balanced and immersive listening experience, these are among the best open-back headphones we've tested.

    See our review

  4. Planar Magnetic Transducer Alternative: HiFiMan Arya

    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Open-Back
    Wireless No
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic No
    Transducer Planar Magnetic

    If you're looking for headphones with a planar magnetic design, check out the HiFiMan Arya. While they don't feel as well-built as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, the HiFiMan have a planar magnetic transducer that helps create an open and natural passive soundstage to really immerse you in your favorite tracks. Thanks to this design, they can also reproduce slightly more low-bass than the Sennheiser. They still have an impressively flat and neutral sound profile. If you tend to listen to music for hours on end, they also have a comfortable fit and are well-padded so that you shouldn't feel too much fatigue over time. Their audio cable is detachable, so you can easily swap out their cable if it gets damaged. Unfortunately, their premium design also means that they may be out of the price-point of some users. Since they're open-back headphones, they also leak a lot of audio and can't block out background noise by design, so they're better suited for use in a quiet space like a studio.

    If you prioritize build quality with a more breathable fit, try the Sennheiser. However, if you want to go the planar magnetic route or prefer headphones that can reproduce a bit more low-bass, take a look at the HiFiMan.

    See our review

  5. Best Headphones For Vocals And Instruments: Philips SHP9500

    8.3
    Neutral Sound
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Open-Back
    Wireless No
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic No
    Transducer Dynamic

    The best headphones for vocals and instruments that we've tested are the Philips SHP9500. They have a very flat and neutral mid-range, so vocals and lead instruments are reproduced clearly and accurately. Thanks to their open-back design, they can create a spacious and open soundstage that can help immerse you in your audio.

    These decently well-built headphones are very comfortable with large, well-padded ear cups that allow for some airflow. Even if you're wearing them for long periods of time, you shouldn't feel too much fatigue. They have very good audio delivery, so once you get the right fit, seal, and positioning, you should experience a consistent sound each time you use them.

    Unfortunately, they lack low-bass, which is to be expected from open-back headphones. They also aren't designed to block out any background noise and others around you can hear your audio, even if you're in a moderately noisy environment. Still, these headphones are well-suited to cater to genres with vocals and lead instruments.

    See our review

  6. Closed-Back Alternative: Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless

    Type In-ear
    Enclosure Closed-Back
    Wireless Truly Wireless
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic Yes
    Transducer Dynamic

    If you're looking for headphones with a closed-back enclosure, try the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless. While they're not as comfortable as the Philips SHP9500, and their passive soundstage doesn't seem as immersive or spacious, the Samsung have a closed-back design that helps them block out background noise around you. These well-built in-ears have a very neutral sound profile so vocals and instruments sound clear, detailed, and accurate. They can also reproduce more low-bass than the Sennheiser, and their companion app offers EQ presets to help you adjust their sound to your liking. Since they're designed for casual use, they have an integrated mic so that you can take calls too, and their wireless design offers over 13 hours of continuous playback time. If you need it, their carrying case holds an additional charge, which is handy in a pinch.

    Consider the Philips if you're looking for a more immersive, out-of-head audio experience that can help immerse you in your favorite audio. However, go for the Samsung if you want more versatile headphones that can block out more background noise.

    See our review

  7. Best Budget Headphones For Music: Superlux HD 681

    8.3
    Neutral Sound
    Type Over-ear
    Enclosure Semi-Open
    Wireless No
    Noise Cancelling No
    Mic No
    Transducer Dynamic

    The Superlux HD 681 are the best budget headphones for music that we've tested. They have a very neutral default sound profile with a touch of extra brightness. Although some people may find sibilants sound overly piercing, they're still well-suited for a variety of audio genres.

    These headphones have a comfortable and lightweight fit with large ear cups. Thanks to their semi-open fit, their passive soundstage seems large, natural, and open. While they don't come with much in the way of additional accessories, they have a cloth pouch to help protect them from dust and scratches when you're not using them.

    Unfortunately, they have a cheap and plasticky build quality that feels low-grade. They also don't isolate you from much ambient noise around you and leak audio at high volumes. That said, if you're looking for more affordable headphones for music, they offer a more immersive audio experience due to their design.

    See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Aug 31, 2021: Replaced the Superlux HD 668B with the Superlux HD 681 as the 681 represent a better value to most users.

  2. Jul 02, 2021: Confirmed the accuracy of our text and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.

  3. May 11, 2021: Replaced the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless with the Superlux HD 668B as the Plantronics aren't currently available at this price point.

  4. Mar 12, 2021: Removed the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019 as they aren't currently available and replaced them with the Plantronics BackBeats Go 810 Wireless. Also replaced the Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless with the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless and added the HiFiMan Arya, as these headphones represent a better value to most users.

  5. Jan 13, 2021: Removed the Audeze Mobius and the Corsair HS60 from Notable Mentions as they aren't widely available. Added the HiFiMan Sundara, the Superlux HD 668B, and the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text, but no changes in product picks after re-evaluating their position and their availability.

Notable Mentions

For Bass

  • Skullcandy Crusher Evo Wireless: These over-ears deliver extra thump and boom by default, but if you're looking for even more bass, they have a haptic bass slider that you can adjust to your liking. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x: Simple and straightforward without sacrificing punch or body, but they have a wired design that can be less versatile. See our review
  • Jabra Elite 85h: These comfortable over-ears have excellent bass that can be personalized with their companion app. See our review
  • Beats Solo Pro: As wireless on-ears, they have a well-balanced sound that delivers deep bass. See our review

For Vocals and Instruments

  • Sennheiser HD 600: Open-back over-ears that lack bass and are more expensive than the Philips SHP9500. See our review
  • Bose QuietComfort 35 II: These noise cancelling headphones have a well-balanced sound profile, and if you prefer a more neutral sound, they're a great substitute for the Sony WH-1000XM4. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee: Open-back over-ears with a very neutral sound profile. However, since they're the result of a collaboration between Sennheiser and Massdrop, they can only found directly from the Drop website, so availability is limited. See our review
  • Philips Fidelio X2HR: These open-back over-ears provide a very well-balanced sound profile overall and feel better built than the Philips SHP9500, but their treble response isn't quite as neutral. See our review
  • Philips SHP9600: These open-back over-ears are effectively a newer version of the Philips SHP9500, but they have a slightly more extended bass response and less neutral mids. See our review

For Soundstage

  • HiFiMan Ananda: Although cheaper than the Sennheiser HD 800 S, their soundstage doesn't sound as open. See our review
  • HiFiMan Sundara: These open-back headphones have a balanced, neutral sound profile with an amazing soundstage, but they aren't as well-built as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, and their soundstage isn't as outstanding. See our review

For Budget Range

  • Superlux HD 688B: These budget open-back over-ears deliver audio quite consistently and have a neutral mid-range, which helps their reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. However, they feel quite plasticky and aren't as comfortable as the Superlux HD 681. See our review
  • Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless: These closed-back over-ears can sometimes be found at this price point. They have a very neutral sound profile, but some users have reported that their units have cracked or broke over time. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones for music to buy for most people. 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 reviews, ranked by their suitability for neutral sound. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and where you use the headphones will matter more in your selection.

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