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 genres are the Sony WH-1000XM3. These over-ear Bluetooth headphones are comfortable and don't cause any fatigue even when you wear them for long periods. They're well-built with a clean design and come in two colors: black or white.
Sony brings a lot to the table when it comes to features. Besides already having outstanding passive isolation, these headphones have one the best active noise cancellation technologies on the market, which is very effective at dampening environmental noises, such as subway trains, buses, and low chatter in a coffee shop. Of course, this feature does take a toll on battery life, but surprisingly, these headphones are still able to manage a 27-hour playtime with ANC on.
Their default sound is bass-heavy, with deep punchy bass more suited for R&B, house, funk, or dubstep. If that isn't to your liking or you have a more eclectic taste, Sony has a great companion app that lets you adjust the sound profile easily, either through a different preset or manual tuning through the equalizer. One other feature worth mentioning is DSEE HX, a feature specific to Sony products, which is an upscaling effect to make compressed music sound closer to hi-resolution.
All in all, these headphones are pricey, but their versatility makes them easy to recommend, even if you're not a bass head.
If you like the bass-heavy sound of the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless but you find the price a bit too steep, there's an alternative: the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. A bit bulkier and not as stylish as the Sony, these headphones still deliver good build quality, good sound reproduction, and easy-to-use controls. Their sound can be qualified as exciting and energetic with an emphasis on bass. Unfortunately, their companion app doesn't allow as much customizability as the Sony app, lacking controls for active noise cancellation, room effects, and equalizer.
Overall, if budget allows, go with the Sony, but if you're looking for something cheaper that retains a lot of the features, the Plantronics are a very decent choice.
If you prefer a basic wired pair of headphones, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X may be for you. They're about as basic as it comes: no Bluetooth connection, no active noise cancellation, no touch controls, and no microphone for phone calls. What they lack in features they make up for in sheer sonic quality. It's been a few years since these were released, and they're still highly regarded as an exceptional pair of headphones with a balanced sound. As with other models in this lineup, Audio-Technica kept the same function over form aesthetic. The ear cups are large and comfortable, but there's some squeaking noise when moving or adjusting the headphones.
Overall, if you need Bluetooth connection or active noise cancellation, go with the Sony, but for a versatile pair of headphones that can handle any genre, the Audio-Technica are a fantastic choice.
The best headphones for vocals and instruments that we’ve tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. Having an open-back design, these aren't made for traveling or to listen to in crowded environments, as they don't isolate you from environmental noises and also leak sound, which can be bothersome to others nearby. Although these headphones have large ear cups and soft padding, there is significant clamping force, which makes them harder to wear for an extended period. Thankfully, the open-back design allows for decent airflow and doesn't get too hot.
As for sound, these headphones have great bass and the mid-range is exceptional, which is crucial to reproducing vocals that are accurate and balanced. Overall build quality is good, but the joints holding the frame can feel a bit fragile.
All things considered, the Sennheiser provide outstanding value for their price thanks to their great sound quality and they are very easy to recommend.
If the build quality of the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee concerns you, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are a good alternative. The build quality is much improved on the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO, with a rugged metal frame that will last for years. These are also open-back headphones, but with a brighter sound than the Jubilee. Although they have a fairly well-balanced sound, there's a bit of sharpness in certain tracks, which may be bothersome for those who are sensitive to higher frequencies. The fit can be a bit tight due to the clamping force, but it does loosen up over time.
If you're looking for the best headphones for vocals and instruments, go for the Sennheiser, but if durability is a concern for you and you don't mind a brighter sound, the Beyerdynamic are great sounding headphones.
If you like the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee but portability is what you're looking for, the Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless headphones are a decent choice. They're the best sounding wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far. They have a well-balanced sound with a bass that can thump. Although they don't have a mobile EQ in their companion app, their default sound is sure to please most people. Unfortunately, they do distort a bit when playing near max volume. These earbuds don’t isolate you from environmental noise either, but that's by design, as it helps with awareness, particularly for runners.
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.
If you're simply looking for the best sounding headphones and you can afford them, the Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best sounding headphones that we've tested so far. The build quality is excellent and feels durable, being mostly made out of metal. Although they're comfortable to wear for long listening sessions thanks to their big ear cups and suede-like padding, portability is not their strong suit, as they're heavy, open-back headphones, made for listening in a quiet environment. They're also high impedance headphones, which means that they require a powerful amplifier to sound at their best.
These headphones lean towards a bright sound but are still able to maintain a good, punchy bass with an even mid-range and treble. The open-back design delivers an incredible soundstage that's spacious and natural, along with outstanding instrument separation.
These headphones truly cater to the most demanding audiophiles. These headphones may be out of reach for most people, but for those who are looking for the best experience possible, they're exceptional.
If you like the Sennheiser HD 800 S but are looking for closed-back headphones, consider the Audeze Mobius. Even though closed-back headphones aren't ideal for a wide soundstage, there are some that can still deliver an immersive and engaging listening experience. Technically a gaming headset, these headphones can produce a well-balanced sound with their planar magnetic drivers. They don't sound as good as the Sennheisers, but they do come with features that can simulate a wider soundstage, through a type of "virtual surround sound". Combined with their head-tracking feature, it does effectively deliver a perceived spaciousness. 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 better, but if the open-back design doesn't suit you, the Audeze are worth considering.
If you don’t want to spend much on good-sounding headphones, the best headphones for music in the budget category are the Superlux HD 681. They have a simple, no-fuss wired design for music enthusiasts and critical listeners. They sound great for their price and provide very good value overall.
These headphones deliver a good, well-balanced sound that's easily on par with headphones two or three times their price. 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, but they don’t sound quite as open as the Sennheiser HD 800 S or the Audeze Mobius with their active 3D audio effect.
Unfortunately, they feel pretty cheaply made, even for their price. They’ll likely survive a couple of drops and falls, but they look very plasticky. If you can stretch your budget a bit, consider the Philips SHP9500. They feel much more durable and they’re a lot more comfortable, but they’re a bit more expensive. If you’re trying to keep costs as low as possible, the Superlux are hard to beat.
If lugging around a big pair of over-ear headphones like the Superlux HD 681 isn't your style, the TIN Audio T2 could be a good fit. They're basic wired in-ear headphones with a fantastic build quality. Although some people may find in-ears uncomfortable, TIN Audio does provide a good selection of ear tips to help achieve the best fit, which is essential to get a proper bass response. Sound-wise, they're a little light on the bass, with an emphasis in the mid-range. The treble does lack a bit of detail and can sound a bit sharp in certain tracks. Overall, they sound adequate and are versatile enough for almost every genre of music.
The Superlux still sound better, but for something a bit more portable, the TIN Audio are a better choice.
If you like the Superlux HD 681 but want more comfortable, wireless budget earbuds that still sound decent, then get the Anker SoundBuds Curve. They have an exciting bass-rich sound that delivers great thump and rumble without drowning out vocals and lead instruments. Although they feel better-built than you might expect for their price, they still have pretty thin cables that feel prone to breakage. The JBL Endurance Sprint have a more neutral sound and feel more durable, but are less comfortable.
Get the Superlux if you like the reliability of wired headphones and a brighter, more spacious sound, but if you prefer the freedom of wireless earbuds and a more bass-heavy sound, then you'll want to go for the Anker.
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.
11/20/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.