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The 10 Best Headphones for Music - Fall 2018
Reviews

279 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

Depending on your music preference, some headphones will perform better than others. If you're into a lot of bass-heavy genres like EDM, Hip Hop, House, then getting a headset with a deep yet well balanced low end will sound more exciting and really emphasize the rumbling and thumping sensations of these genres. However, if you're more of a classical, jazz, folk and ambiance type of listener, then an open and neutral sounding headphone may be a better option since they typically reproduce instruments, vocals, and soundstage more accurately than closed-back bass-heavy over-ears or in-ears.

We've tested 272 headphones and below are our best recommendations for listening to music based on sound profile, features and price range. See also our recommendations for the best headphones for audiophiles and the best wireless headphones.

  1. Best Headphones for Bass-Heavy Genres: Sony WH-1000XM3

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.2
    Critical Listening
    What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best bass-centric headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They are versatile, wireless noise-canceling headphones, good for most use cases, with a decently balanced sound that packs a lot of bass. You can EQ their sound profile via the app to add or reduce the amount of bass depending on what you are listening to. The app also makes them a very customizable headset overall since you can tweak a lot of settings to enhance your listening experience. You can add room effects, you can choose between regular and high-quality audio codecs and even optimize the noise cancellation depending on your environment.

    They’re also one of the best wireless noise-canceling headphones we’ve tested, making them a great choice for commute and travel, and since they have a bass-rich sound profile, they’re a great option for listening to bass-heavy music genres like hip-hop, EDM, House, dubstep, RnB and much more.

    The Bose QuietComfort 35 II have a slightly more neutral sound which some may prefer. They’re also a bit more comfortable than the Sonys. However, if you want a feature-packed headset that is versatile enough for most use cases in your daily routine and you also like a bit of bass, then the XM3 will not disappoint. 

    See our review

  2. A cheaper alternative: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

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

    If you want a slightly cheaper bass-focused headset, then consider the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 instead. They do not have the premium design of the Sony WH-1000XM3. They’re also not as customizable so you won’t be able to EQ their sound profile.

    However, if you're a fan of bass, then the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 offer the best value for any wireless noise-canceling headset at this price range. They have a deep and powerful low-end that sound exciting with bass-heavy genres, but also balanced enough that they do not drown instruments and vocals in the mid-range.

    The Plantronics are also feature-packed, well-built and comfortable over-ear headphones with a fantastic battery life, and excellent wireless range. They easily last 30 hours on a single charge, and thanks to the auto-off feature you rarely run out of battery, even on long trips. You can also use them wired when the battery dies which is very convenient. Overall, they're one of the best headphones for music we've tested.

    See our review

  3. A wired alternative: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer a wired design and a more accurate bass reproduction, then go for the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. They won’t be as convenient as the Sony or the Plantronics since they're not wireless or noise canceling. They also do not have any customization features, so you can’t change their sound profile like the WH-1000XM3.

    However, the ATH-M50x are one of the more popular closed-back headphones for music and studio use thanks to their great audio reproduction and durable design. They pack a good amount of bass that sounds exciting yet balanced enough to reproduce most tracks with great audio fidelity. They are a suitable choice for all genres of music.

    The Sony MDR-7506 have a similar design and pack a bit more low-bass than the M50x. However, they are not built as well and do not come with as many accessories. Overall, if you want a simple over-ear for just listening to music that you can also use outdoors, unlike some of the open models on this list, then you can’t do much better than the ATH-M50x.

    See our review

  4. Best Headphones for Vocals and Instrumentals: Sennheiser HD 600

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.8
    Critical Listening
    What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Open-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you love to listen to more instruments and vocal heavy genres, like classical, folk, and jazz, then the Sennheiser HD 600 are a great choice. They have open ear cups that won’t be suitable for outdoors use by design. They’re also a bit bulky and do not have the best build quality for their price. This means they won't be as versatile as some of the closed-back, wireless recommendations on this list.

    However, they have a good, well-balanced sound that caters well to instruments and vocals without sounding too sharp, unlike some of the other open-back models we’ve tested. The ear cups are well padded and large enough to fit well around most ears and they're fairly lightweight for their size, which makes them decently comfortable despite being a little tight on the head.

    Their bass range does not pack as much thump and rumble as the more bass-heavy recommendations, and their soundstage is not as spacious as the HD 800 S. However, they're one of the best headphones for music and if you typically listen to your music to hear the finer details in the track, then the HD 600 are a solid option that won’t disappoint.

    See our review

  5. A Cheaper alternative: Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Open-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a cheaper alternative and like the more instruments and vocals focused sound of the Sennheiser HD 600, but wish it had more bass, then consider the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. The 990 Pro are open headphones that won’t be versatile for all environments by design. They also do not have the best soundstage despite their open ear cups. However, they deliver a much more durable build quality than the Sennheiser HD 600. They also pack a lot more bass even with their open design. They sound great with most tracks and genres and reproduce instruments and vocals accurately. 

    Unfortunately, they have a slight peak in the treble range that makes them sound a bit sharp on some S and T sounds. However, for their sound quality, they deliver a great value that is almost unmatched at this price range. They are often compared to headphones that cost twice or three times more, and their build quality feels premium despite not having a detachable cable. If you want a similar sounding headset that is a bit more high-end, then consider the DT 1990 PRO or even the HiFiMan Sundara but for their price, the DT 990 are one of the best headphones you can get for listening to music.

    See our review

  6. A compact wireless alternative: Bose SoundSport Free

    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Semi-Open
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer a more compact headset that you can easily fit in your pockets but refuse to sacrifice sound quality, then get the Bose SoundSport Free. They are not the most feature-packed truly wireless headphones we've reviewed. You also can’t customize their sound profile like the Jabra Elite Active 65t, and they do not have a wireless connection as reliable as the Apple Airpods or the Beoplay E8. However, they more than make up for it thanks to their neutral and well-balanced sound. They have an extended bass range that packs a lot of thump and rumble for an earbud design.

    They also have a well balanced mid and treble range that caters to instruments and vocal better than most of the other truly wireless headphones we’ve tested. They’re also a lot more comfortable than typical in-ear designs thanks to their earbud fit. They have a decent 15-hour battery life overall thanks to the two additional charges provided by their charging case. Unfortunately, unlike other truly wireless headphones, their case is rather bulky and makes them less portable which is somewhat disappointing but not a significant issue for all listeners, especially if your primary focus is music listening and not sports or commute.

    See our review

  7. Best Headphones for Soundstage: Sennheiser HD 800 S

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    8.5
    Critical Listening
    What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Open-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you consider yourself an audiophile and like to be immersed in your music, as if you're listening to a good speaker set up instead of just headphones on your head, then get the Sennheiser HD 800 S. They are quite expensive, so they may not be the best value for your money even for more dedicated critical listeners. They also have a bulky, cumbersome design that's specifically made for listening at home or in very quiet and isolated environments, so like most open-back headphones, they are not very versatile. 

    On the upside, the HD 800 S are one of the best sounding headphones we’ve tested so far. They have an exceedingly well-balanced mid-range that reproduces instruments and vocals accurately, and their soundstage is spacious and immersive. Also thanks to their slightly brighter than average audio reproduction, they feel even more open while delivering a crisp and detailed representation of instruments and vocals. 

    However, they are a tad bass light compared some open headphones like the HiFiMan Ananda or even the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO. They’re also not the best entry point if you want to get into critical listening due to their high price tag. However, for the experienced, they are definitely worth it.

    See our review

  8. A Closed-Back Alternative: Audeze Mobius

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Planar Magnetic

    If you like the idea of having a spacious, speaker-like soundstage when listening to your music but prefer a headset you can use in more varied environments, then get the Audeze Mobius. They do not have the best design for their price. They’re also gaming oriented headphones so they come with a mic and gaming-centric features that won’t be ideal for all critical listeners. However, their unique implementation of head-tracking to help create a simulated soundstage experience is well worth the investment since there aren’t any other headphones with this feature built in for now.

    They’re also Bluetooth headphones with a detachable boom mic so you can use them more casually than any of the open headphones with the better passive soundstage. This makes the Mobius a lot more versatile without sacrificing a great soundstage experience. If you want your headphones to sound like you're listening to a speaker setup, but also don't want to be limited by an open design, then the Mobius are the way to go.

    See our review

  9. Best Budget Headphones for Music: Superlux HD 681

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.7
    Critical Listening
    What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Semi-Open
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you do not want to spend much on a good headphone, the best budget headphones for music are the Superlux HD 681. Like most budget critical listening headphones, they do not have the best build quality. Also, since they’re a more listening focused headphone, they do not come with any features like noise canceling wireless or even an in-line remote.

    On the upside, for their price, they deliver a good, well-balanced sound that is easily on par with headphones twice or three times their price range. They also have a semi-open design, so they have a slightly more spacious soundstage than that of the closed-back models on this list, although they will not sound as open as the HD 600, the HD 800 S or the Mobius with their active 3D audio effect. 

    The Philips SHP9500 are a better-sounding budget option, but they are often out of stock or discontinued by most retailers. On the other hand, the HD 681s have a simple budget design for music enthusiasts and deliver a good sound for their price, which is even better.

    See our review

  10. A budget in-ear alternative: Anker SoundBuds Curve

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

    If you want a good sounding in-ear for listening to music, but also do not want to spend more than $50, then consider the Anker SoundBuds Curve. They do not offer any fancy active features like noise canceling. They’re also not truly wireless like the Bose SoundSport Free, so they may be a bit more cumbersome for some users, especially when getting these headphones for sports. On the upside, thanks to their ear-hook design, they’re a good choice for running and physical activities. 

    They also have a decently well-balanced sound that packs a lot of bass without drowning the instruments and vocals in the mid-range, and they're also quite comfortable for an in-ear design. Unfortunately, they do not have the best build quality; in this case, consider the Anker Soundcore Spirit X, which have a slightly more premium look and better water resistance. But on the upside, they have a good 12-hour battery life that should last you long enough for most activities, a decent wireless range and a comfortable and stable design for sports and listening to music. 

    See our review

Notable Mentions

For bass

  • Polk Audio UltraFocus 8000. Great sound with a pronounced bass but poor soundstage. A good substitute for the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. See our review
  • Beyerdynamic DT 770. A closed-back alternative to the DT 990 for more versatility. However, they do not sound as good due to the reduced soundstage. See our review
  • Sony MDR-1A. A more comfortable design than the Audio Technica ATH-M50x with good audio reproduction. Slightly too pricey for what they offer. See our review
  • Beats Solo3 Wireless. A good sounding on-ear with a decent bass. See our review

For vocal and instruments

  • Bose QuietComfort 35 II. A well-balanced noise-canceling headset and a great substitute to the Sony WH-1000XM3 if you prefer a more neutral sound. See our review
  • Oppo PM-3. The planar magnetic drivers deliver a good sound. They're comfortable and sturdy. However, they may sound a bit too sharp for some. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 650. Good audiophile headphones, open sound, and a spacious soundstage. They're a viable and cheaper alternative to the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but they're not as well designed. See our review
  • AKG K702. Good and balanced sound. Incredibly comfortable design but slightly bulky and a bit flimsy for their price. See our review
  • Bose SoundSport Wireless. A more typical wireless earbud design and more practical alternative to the truly wireless Soundpsort Free. See our review

For soundstage

  • HiFiMan Ananda. An excellent sounding critical listening headphone with great soundstage, a cheaper alternative to the 800 S but does not sound as open. See our review
  • HifiMan Sundara. A cheaper alternative to the Ananda with a great sound and a compact design but poor quality control. See our review

For budget range

  • Philips SHP9500. A great budget and open-back critical listening headphone with a surprisingly good sound and build quality for their price. Unfortunately, they are discontinued on Amazon and most retailers. See our review
  • Anker SoundCore Spirit X. Good and balanced sound. Incredibly comfortable design but slightly bulky and a bit flimsy for their price. See our review
  • Logitech G433. A surprisingly good sounding gaming headset with a lot of accessories and casual design you can use outdoors. No the most consistent sound across users. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones for music to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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. 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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