While it can feel like there's a general trend to move towards wireless headphones, a wired design offers many benefits for various users. A wired connection eliminates lag for gamers and movie-streamers alike, while their cable can instantly connect with devices with a 1/8 inch audio input. You don't have to worry about charging most wired headphones as they work passively, and although some use batteries for active noise cancellation, they tend to last longer than similarly designed wireless headphones.
We’ve tested over 580 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best wired headphones to buy. The picks in this article are intended to showcase a broad range of headphones for various uses that would benefit from a wired connection, from gaming to critical listening to casual use. If you’re looking for our top picks for more specific types of wired headphones, check out our recommendations for the best audiophile headphones, the best gaming headsets, and the best headphones for studio use.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are the best wired over-ear headphones that we've tested. They're well-built and designed for audiophiles, and they're good for neutral sound. Thanks to their wired design, you don't have to worry about them running out of battery life during long listening sessions.
They have a neutral, balanced sound profile suitable for listening to a wide range of music genres. They reproduce vocals and lead instruments clearly and accurately and can reproduce deep thumps and rumbles in bass-heavy music, too. Also, their comfortable fit means you can listen to your favorite songs for a long time without feeling a lot of fatigue.
Unfortunately, they don't come with a microphone, so they aren't suitable for making phone calls. Also, they have poor noise isolation performance, so they can't block out background noises typically found during your commute or in an office setting. However, they rank among the best audiophile headphones we've tested.
The best wired earbuds that we've tested are the 1More Triple Driver. These in-ears are decently well-built, with solid-feeling metal buds and a fabric-coated audio cable. Their also exceptionally lightweight and very portable, and they come with a stylized hard case that should protect them from drops and bumps.
These in-ears have a bass-heavy sound profile that makes them a good fit for genres like EDM or hip-hop, though some users may find that their overemphasized bass response gives some mixes a boomy quality and muddies vocals and lead instruments slightly. Thankfully, they leak very little audio, so you can listen to content at high volumes without annoying people nearby, and their in-line mic makes your voice sound clear and natural.
Unfortunately, they struggle to block out low-end ambient noise, like the rumble of bus or plane engines, though they do a good job of filtering out ambient chatter or the higher-pitched hum of an AC unit. While their audio cable does feel sturdy, it isn't detachable, so if it gets damaged, the entire unit needs replacing. Still, thanks to their reasonably premium construction, portable design, and punchy sound profile, they're also among the best earbuds for bass that we've tested.
The best wired headphones for audiophiles that we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These high-end open-back headphones have a very well-balanced sound profile, making them a good match for a wide variety of genres. Their passive soundstage is also fantastic and provides a spacious, natural listening experience that leads to sounds originating from speakers placed around you.
They're very well-built, with a high-grade plastic and metal construction that looks and feels quite premium. Their spacious ear cups should accommodate many different ear shapes and sizes and are lined with a suede-like material that feels quite nice on the skin. Despite their bulky size, their open-back enclosure allows for a good amount of airflow, and you shouldn't sweat too much while wearing these headphones.
Unfortunately, their open-back enclosure also results in high levels of audio leakage and terrible noise isolation performance. Combined with their lack of onboard controls or a mic, they're only suited for use in a quiet room. Still, if you're looking for an immersive listening experience above all else, these are a great option.
If you're looking for audiophile headphones with a planar magnetic transducer, consider HiFiMan Arya. While they're not as breathable or well-built as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, thanks to the transducer design, they can reproduce a bit more low-bass and deliver audio more consistently. They have a very neutral sound profile with a touch of extra brightness. Their soundstage is also wide and spacious, which can help further immerse you in your audio. They have a comfortable fit, so you can wear them for long listening sessions without too much of an issue, and they feel well-built and sturdy, even if they have a less premium feel than the Sennheiser.
If you're looking for audiophile headphones that come with more accessories like an extra audio cable or a carrying pouch, try the Sennheiser. However, if you want something that can reproduce more low-bass due to their planar magnetic transducer, check out the HiFiMan.
The best wired headphones for gaming that we've tested are the Astro A40 TR Headset + MixAmp Pro 2019. These gaming headphones offer lag-free performance, sturdy construction, all-day comfort, and a high level of customizability, thanks to the included MixAmp Pro controller. The latter has physical controls for volume, channel mixing, EQ presets (which can be modified via a companion app), and Dolby Surround Sound.
Communicating with teammates won’t be an issue even in the rowdiest of gaming tournaments, as the boom microphone delivers great recording quality and excellent noise handling. They also have very good bass and mid accuracy, giving even the most explosive in-game moments a bit of extra punch. That’s further enhanced by their open-back design, which allows for an expansive, natural soundstage.
Unfortunately, that same open-back design also means that they experience a high degree of leakage and poor noise isolation. Combined with the bulky size and lack of a carrying case, they're a poor choice for travel, as not only will you hear everything said by your fellow commuters, but they’ll hear everything you’re listening to. If this is an issue for you, you can purchase a kit from Astro to convert them to a set of closed-back headphones.
If you’re still a dedicated gamer but need something a little better suited for daily life, you may want to consider the Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset. These over-ears offer a less spacious listening experience than the Astro A40 TR Headset + MixAmp Pro 2019 due to their closed-back enclosure, but as a consequence, they leak much less audio and block out a lot more ambient noise. They look somewhat professional, especially since they come with a secondary audio cable with an in-line microphone, so you won't have to use their detachable boom microphone to make calls. They're compatible with Logitech's feature-packed G HUB companion software, which has everything from a graphic EQ to configuration options for surround sound and room effects, not to mention microphone adjustment. Unfortunately, they don't offer the same on-the-fly adjustability as the Astro since they don't have a base station.
Get the Astro if you only plan on using them for gaming in a quiet environment, but consider the Logitech if you want a pair of gaming headphones that you can wear throughout your commute or at the office.
The best budget wired headphones that we've tested are the Samsung AKG Type-C. These lightweight and portable headphones use a USB-C connector, so they're only compatible with devices that support it, like some newer smartphones. While they have a very no-frills design, they're comfortable and have low latency, which is nice if you like to watch videos.
They have a fairly neutral sound profile with a bit of extra boom in the bass range, which fans of EDM and hip-hop may enjoy. That said, their mid-range is still well-balanced, so vocals and lead instruments are clear and detailed. These headphones also have good build quality, and their audio cable is braided, which makes them feel durable. They have an in-line mic, so you can take calls on the go. While your voice sounds thin, it's still natural-sounding and clear.
Unfortunately, their USB-C connector is limiting if your device doesn't already support this connection. They're not designed for use while working out as your head movements can cause them to fall out of your ears, and the cable can easily get snagged on something. That said, these simple in-ears are suitable for a variety of audio content and are easy to take with you on the go.
Apr 23, 2021: Replaced the Philips SHP9500 with the HiFiMan Arya as they represent a better value to most users. Also added the Samsung AKG Type-C as the 'Best Budget' pick.
Feb 23, 2021: Added Hyper X Cloud Revolver + 7.1, Sennheiser HD 560S, and HyperX Cloud Stinger S to Notable Mentions. Verified that primary picks are still available and represent the best choice for their category.
Jan 25, 2021: Confirmed the accuracy and availability of our product picks; minor updates to the text.
Oct 27, 2020: Replaced Logitech G433 Gaming Headset with Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset. Added Philips SHP9600 and Logitech G433 Gaming Headset to 'Notable Mentions'. Minor changes to text for accuracy and consistency.
Aug 28, 2020: Replaced the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee with the Philips SHP9500 to reflect availability.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best wired headphones to buy for most people depending on their needs. 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 for wired headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.