Finding the best headphones for music can be quite a challenge. Depending on your music preference, some headphones will perform better than others. If you're into a lot of bass-heavy genres, getting headphones with a deep, yet well-balanced low end will sound more exciting and emphasize the rumbling and thumping sensations of these genres. If you're more of a classical, jazz, folk, and ambient type of listener, open and neutral sounding headphones may be a better option since they typically reproduce instruments, vocals, and soundstage more accurately.
We've tested over 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones for music based on sound profile, features, and price range. See also our recommendations for the best wireless headphones, the best noise cancelling headphones, and the best gaming headphones.
The best headphones for bass-heavy music we've tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. These comfortable Bluetooth over-ears have a very premium, feature-packed design. They have a very customizable sound profile, one of the best active noise cancelling features on the market and an excellent 27-hour battery life all wrapped up in a comfortable, premium design.
Out of the box, they have a warm sound with deep punchy bass suitable for R&B, house, funk, or dubstep. If their default sound signature isn't to your liking, however, you can use their companion app to adjust it in great detail. Not only do you get a graphic EQ with presets, but you'll also find a dedicated bass slider and various room effects, as well as virtual soundstage options to personalize your listening experience even further.
While all their customization options can help you find the right sound profile, they can be a bit overwhelming to dive into. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x have a simpler, more straightforward design that packs a satisfying punch, but their wired design is less versatile. The Sony may seem a bit daunting at first, but it's thanks to all their customization features that they remain among our most recommended headphones, especially for fans of bass.
If you crave deep, thumping bass but prefer the portability of in-ear headphones, then get the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. They're less feature-packed than the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, but they're a lot cheaper and provide outstanding value for the price. They have a bass-rich sound profile that'll bring out the deep rumble and punch of EDM and hip-hop, but they still sound very well-balanced overall. Their 18-hour battery life is outstanding for wireless earbuds, especially considering how little they cost, and they even come with a nice carrying case to keep them protected when you're on-the-go. They don't have any customization features, though, so you can't modify the way they sound if you'd prefer more, or less, bass.
If you've got money to burn and want the most feature-packed over-ears for bass we've tested, get the Sony. However, if you're looking for something more sensibly priced with a bass-heavy earbud design, then go for the Anker.
The best headphones for soundstage we've tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. They're comfortable to wear for long listening sessions thanks to their big ear cups and suede-like padding, and they feel very well-built. They have an expertly-balanced sound profile and an excellent, open soundstage.
These headphones truly cater to the most demanding audiophiles. Their open-back design delivers an incredible soundstage that's spacious, natural, and immersive. They lean towards a brighter sound but are still able to maintain a good, punchy bass with an even mid-range and treble, resulting in impressive instrument separation.
These headphones aren't intended for listening on-the-go, however. They sound their best in a quiet listening room, driven by a powerful amplifier. They're also exorbitantly expensive. That said, while they may be out of reach for most people, they provide an exceptional listening experience for those willing to pay the price.
If you prefer the versatility of closed-back headphones but still want something with a wide soundstage, consider the Audeze Mobius. They don't sound quite as balanced as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but they have several virtual surround sound and head tracking features that effectively deliver a perceived spaciousness that's surprisingly immersive. Although our current measurements couldn't capture the full extent of their sound localization, head-tracking, and room emulations, the effect is still quite impressive.
If you only care about sound quality, the Sennheiser are the better choice, but if the open-back design doesn't suit you, the Audeze are worth considering.
The best headphones for vocals and instruments that we’ve tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. They reproduce audio very accurately and even outperform more expensive models. They're not ideal for use in busy, noisy environments since their open-back design reduces isolation, but this helps them sound more spacious, which is nice when you're listening to your favorite folk or jazz album at home.
These headphones have exceptional mid-range accuracy, which is crucial to reproducing vocals and instruments that sound clear, balanced and present. They have good bass and treble too, providing a solid listening experience all around. Overall build quality is good, but the joints holding the frame can feel a bit fragile.
Although these headphones have large ear cups and soft padding, there's significant clamping force, which makes them harder to wear for an extended period. Thankfully, the open-back design allows for decent airflow so they don't get too hot. All things considered, they provide outstanding value for their price thanks to their great reproduction of vocals and instruments and are very easy to recommend.
If you prefer the portability of truly wireless earbuds but want something that still has a balanced, spacious sound, then get the Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless. They don't provide the same listening experience as the over-ear Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, but they're the best sounding wireless earbuds we’ve tested so far. Although they don't have a mobile EQ in their companion app, their well-balanced sound profile should please who care about the reproduction of vocals and instruments. Unfortunately, they tend to distort a bit when playing near max volume. They also don't isolate you from much environmental noise, but that's by design, as it provides a more open sound.
If critical listening is your main goal and you're able to do so in a quiet room, the Sennheiser is a better choice, but for portability, the Bose are the way to go.
The best budget headphones for music we've tested so far are the Superlux HD 681. They're semi-open headphones that deliver a remarkably well-balanced sound at an affordable price. Although their build quality feels a bit cheap, they're very comfortable to wear due to their light weight and large, well-padded ear cups.
They have an overall sound signature that's well-balanced, with great bass extension; however, the treble can sound overly bright for some, especially on tracks that are already bright or poorly recorded. Like most open or semi-open back headphones, they're not made for portable use, as they let in a lot of ambient noise and leak as well, so it's best to use them in a quiet environment. That said, the semi-open design allows these headphones to produce a very good soundstage - a quality often associated with headphones that are much more expensive.
Overall, if you're willing to compromise a bit on build quality, these headphones are worth considering.
03/13/2020: Minor text and structure changes, removed Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and Tin Audio T2 for conciseness.
01/14/2020: Removed Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016, removed Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. Replaced Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless with Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. Minor text and structure changes.
11/20/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
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. 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.