There are many reasons why someone may prefer wired headphones over wireless ones. Wired headphones eliminate lag between what you see and what you hear in movies or video games. They also work instantly with devices that support 1/8” audio inputs and have no annoying pairing procedures. Most wired headphones work completely passively, so you don’t have to keep an eye on their battery levels. Some headphones with active features like noise cancellation do require batteries, but they generally last longer than wireless models with similar features.
We’ve tested over 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best wired headphones to buy in 2020. 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 DJ headphones, and the best headphones for studio use.
The best wired headphones for casual use that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25. They’re versatile over-ear headphones with excellent noise cancelling. They’re outstandingly comfortable, sound very good, are easy-to-use, and are quite reasonably priced compared to Bose’s other noise cancelling headsets.
These headphones have a balanced sound that lends itself well to music of a wide variety of genres as well as podcasts or audiobooks. They isolate a remarkable amount of noise across the board and will help block out everything from the deep rumble of bus and plane engines to the chatter of a lively office quite effectively. They use AAA batteries to power their noise cancelling system and can last for over 30 hours of playback before the batteries need to be changed.
On the downside, they leak quite a bit of sound, so they’re not the ideal headphones to use if you work in a noise-sensitive office since you might bother your colleagues with your music. Also, you can only purchase them in Apple or Android-specific variants, which can be frustrating if you have an Android phone but also an iPad, for example. That said, they’re still the most well-rounded wired headphones we’ve tested so far and are easy to recommend for casual use.
The best audiophile headphones that we've tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. They may be out of reach for most people, as spending this much for headphones seems rather exuberant, but they're a great example of how far we've come in terms of audio fidelity. At this price point, one would expect that the build quality is unmatched, and that's the case here. Their premium build is a mix of metal and plastic, while the ear cups are well-padded with a suede-like material that's very breathable.
The sound signature of these headphones is, in one word, superb. However, they may be a little shy on the bass to our modern ears and there's a bit of muddiness in the upper bass and lower mids. Overall, they're well-suited to a variety of genres, especially instrumental and vocal-centric music. As these are open-back headphones, naturally, they have an amazing soundstage, creating a spaciousness that feels like having a loudspeaker setup next to your ears.
Unfortunately, if you want to experience these headphones to their fullest potential, you'll also need a good amplifier to drive them, which adds to the already eye-watering price tag. That said, if you have the means and you want a unique experience, these headphones are the ones to get.
If the price of the Sennheiser HD 800 S is simply beyond your means, there's a cheaper alternative that may be able to satisfy you: the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. They're a result of a collaboration with Drop.com and it's the only place you'll be able to purchase them. They're much more affordable and still manage to keep a good build quality and a great sound. They're well-balanced and fairly neutral, but there's a bit of sharpness in the treble, which is noticeable if the track is already bright. Unfortunately, their open-back design also means that they won't isolate you from external noise and leak quite a bit, so it's best to use them in a quiet environment.
If you're able to afford it, the HD 800 S will give you a unique listening experience, but for the budget-conscious crowd, the Jubilee are a good option.
If open-back headphones like the Sennheiser HD 800 S don't suit you and you prefer a pair that can be used on-the-go, consider the Audio-Technica M50x. These headphones will provide a moderate amount of noise isolation and don't leak as much, which is great if you need to use them in a less ideal environment. They still sound great, though you won't get the spacious soundstage that open-back headphones provide. As they've been on the market for some time now, they're also much more affordable and widely available. Unfortunately, the cables that are provided don't have an in-line remote or mic for calls, but at least they're detachable, making them much easier to replace.
If you're simply after one of the best headphones money can buy, get the Sennheiser; otherwise, the Audio-Technica are a great choice for closed-back headphones.
The best wired earphones we've tested so far are the 1More Triple Driver. They’re lightweight, ultra-portable in-ear headphones that come with a great carrying case to help protect them on-the-go. They come with nine tip options, including both silicone and foam tips to help you find your ideal fit, and they feel like premium earbuds.
These earbuds have great audio reproduction and are well-suited for a variety of genres. Also, since they're wired, you don't have to worry about any latency, which makes them a solid choice if you like to watch videos on your phone.
Although they feel fairly durable overall, the section of their cable leading up to the earbuds feels thinner than the rest and prone to breakage. The cable is also not detachable, so if it ever breaks you would need to repurchase the earbuds entirely. Consider the KZ AS10 if you’re looking for better-built wired earbuds with a detachable cable, but some find they sound a bit bright.
If you have an iPhone and take a lot of calls on-the-go, then get the Beats urBeats3. They’re a bit less versatile than 1More Triple Driver since they have limited compatibility with Android, but they're a solid choice if you have an iPhone, especially since you can get them with either a regular audio jack or a lightning connector. They have magnetic earbuds for easier cable management, a decent in-line microphone, and sound surprisingly well-balanced, too. Their in-ear fit won't be comfortable for everyone, but their narrow earbud design makes them the best wired earbuds for small ears we’ve tested so far.
Get the 1More if you prefer wired earphones with a more premium look and feel or use Android, but if you're an iPhone user who wants something with a decent mic and sound quality, then go for the Beats.
The best wired headphones for gaming are the Astro A40 TR + MixAmp Pro 2019. They’re among the best Xbox One headphones we’ve tested so far, especially if you don’t like having to worry about battery life or latency. They’re comfortable, well-built headphones that you can get for the Xbox One or the PS4, and they work with PC as well.
They come with a physical control box they call the MixAmp Pro that helps provide a highly customizable gaming experience. When you connect the headphones to the Astro Command Center on your PC, you can create custom EQ presets and assign them to the MixAmp so you can tweak your sound even if you’re gaming on a console.
They're open-back headphones, so they don’t isolate any sound by design. Some gamers will appreciate the openness, but this can be disruptive if you have roommates or live with a partner and don’t want to disturb them while gaming. You can purchase a kit from Astro that transforms them into closed-back headphones, but it’s expensive. The SteelSeries Arctis Pro GameDAC are closed-back wired gaming headphones that are great for PC and PS4, but have limited compatibility with the Xbox One.
If you need headphones with a good mic for gaming but prefer something with a more casual design, then get the Logitech G433. They’re not as comfortable as the Astro A40 TR Headset + MixAmp Pro 2019, but they have a more versatile design. Their boom microphone performs remarkably well, and it's even detachable for a more casual look. The headphones are a bit bulky, and they don’t isolate noise very well, but come with lots of different cable options and adapters, including a cable with an in-line mic and remote, so you can take calls on your phone.
Get the Astro if you're not planning on wearing your gaming headphones while you're out and about, but if you're after something with a more versatile design that works whether you’re gaming at home or listening to your favorite playlist on-the-go, then get the Logitech.
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.
01/06/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
10/28/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.