While it can feel like there's a general trend to move towards wireless headphones, a wired design offers many benefits for a variety of users. A wired connection eliminates lag for gamers and movie-streamers alike, while their cable also can be used to instantly connect with devices that have a 1/8" audio input. You don't have to worry about charging most wired headphones, as they work passively, and although there are some that use batteries for active noise cancellation, they tend to last longer than similarly designed wireless headphones.
We’ve tested over 450 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 we've tested so far. They feature a sturdy, if conservative, design and are quite comfortable thanks to their spacious ear cups. They also include a selection of three different detachable audio cables, which means that even if one gets damaged, you won't have to replace the whole unit or even purchase a new cable. Also, they're available from most retailers since they’ve been on the market for quite some time.
That said, their true strength lies in their well-balanced sound profile. Treble accuracy is very good, with very even bass and mids, making them versatile enough for a wide range of genres and content. Thanks to their closed-back design, sound leakage is better than comparable audiophile-oriented headphones (at the cost of the less expansive passive soundstage), making them a marginally better choice for travel.
However, commuting isn't necessarily their perfect use. Since they lack any sort of exterior control scheme or external microphone, they can't be used to answer phone calls or make on-the-fly volume adjustments. Also, background noise isn't blocked especially well. However, they remain a very good choice for critical listening and studio work thanks to their faithful audio reproduction and good value, making them among the best audiophile headphones we've tested.
The best wired earphones we've tested so far are the 1More Triple Driver. These in-ears combine understated, slightly premium looks, easy-to-use controls, and decent build quality in a highly portable package. Thanks to the included assortment of nine differently-sized ear tips, finding a comfortable fit should be pretty easy.
They deliver a well-balanced sound profile that makes them a good fit for critical listening, with good bass and impressive mid accuracy. Despite their lack of stability fins, they're not a bad choice for sports, either: with their very light weight, they're unlikely to fall out of your ears even when exercising. They also create a tight seal inside the ear, which means commuting neighbors and coworkers won't be bothered even if you're the type to crank the volume all the way up.
Unfortunately, the daily commute might prove to be more disruptive to you, as their noise isolation performance is only mediocre. In addition, the audio cables aren't detachable, which means that the whole unit has to be replaced if they break. All that said, they're still among the best wired earphones we've tested thanks to their accurate, punchy audio performance.
The best audiophile headphones that we've tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. Although their high price may set these headphones out of reach for most people, they have stunning audio fidelity that audiophiles will adore.
Their sound profile is superb. Although they're a touch light on the bass and have a bit of muddiness in the upper bass to lower mids, they're well-suited for a variety of genres including jazz and pop. Their premium metal and plastic build plus their suede-like ear padding make these headphones very comfortable, even for long listening sessions. Thanks to their open-back ear cups, they also have a spacious soundstage that immerses you in your audio.
On the downside, these headphones are prohibitively expensive and if you really want to experience them to their fullest potential, you'll need a good amplifier that can further add to the price. Still, these headphones create a unique, sound experience for any audio lover.
If the price of the Sennheiser HD 800 S is a bit too steep for your wallet, consider the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. Since they're part of a collaboration with Drop.com, this website is the only place to buy them. While they're more affordable, they still have a good build quality and great sound that audiophiles will enjoy. Their sound profile is well-balanced and fairly neutral; however, there's some sharpness in the treble range which can be more noticeable on already bright tracks. Similarly to the other Sennheiser, their open-back design doesn't isolate background noise and they leak sound but they're well-suited for quieter spaces.
If the high price point is affordable for you and you want a unique sound experience, get the HD 800 S, but for those looking for something more affordable without sacrificing too much sound quality, then get the Jubilee.
The best wired headphones for gaming we've tested so far 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 mic delivers great recording quality and excellent noise handling. They also deliver 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 these headphones experience a high degree of leakage and poor noise isolation. Combined with their bulky size and lack of a carrying case, this makes them a poor choice for travel, as not only will you hear everything being said by your fellow commuters, they’ll hear everything you’re listening to. If this represents a significant issue for you, a kit is available for purchase from Astro that can be used 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 the day-to-day grind than the Astro A40 TR Headset + MixAmp Pro 2019, the Logitech G433 are a good choice. They don’t offer the same all-day comfort as the as the Astro, but offer a lighter, more portable design with an included carrying case. They also feature an included secondary cable with an in-line mic and remote, which means that the headphones can be used to make phone calls. Unlike the Astro, they utilize a closed-back construction; this makes them slightly better-suited to louder environments, although their noise isolation and leakage performance are still sub-par. Similar to the Astro, the Logitech’s boom mic delivers excellent performance in regards to noise handling and recording quality.
Get the Astro if you're intending to buy a set of headphones dedicated solely for intense gaming sessions, but if you need something that will see a broader range of uses, from office work to commuting, then the Logitech are a better choice.
06/30/2020: Removed Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25 from recommendations due to current availability. Minor text and structure changes.
03/04/2020: Removed Beats UrBeats3 headphones from recommendations.
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.