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 also instantly connect with devices with a 1/8" 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 480 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 so far. They feature a sturdy but 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. They're also 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, since they lack any 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 because they're unlikely to fall out of your ears when exercising thanks to how lightweight they are. 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 up.
Unfortunately, the daily commute might prove to be more disruptive to you, as their noise isolation performance is only mediocre. Also, the audio cables aren't detachable, which means that the whole unit has to be replaced if they break. That said, they're still among the best wired earphones we've tested thanks to their accurate, punchy audio performance.
The best wired headphones for audiophiles that we've tested to date are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These premium, open-back headphones have large, spacious ear cups that make them very comfortable, which is great for long listening sessions. They have a durable, premium build quality, and they're excellent for neutral sound.
These headphones stand out from the crowd thanks to their balanced, neutral audio reproduction. Their balanced mid-range makes voices and lead instruments sound clear and present, though they lack a touch of low-bass. Thanks to their open-back design, they also have a very wide and spacious soundstage, so music will sound like it's coming from all around you instead of in your head.
On the downside, like most open-back headphones, they aren't very versatile and aren't designed for casual everyday use. Their bulky, open-back design means that they can't block out background noise, and they leak a lot of noise, so you may not want to use them when you're on the go. However, if you're a critical listener, these headphones can deliver an immersive listening experience.
If you're shopping for audiophile headphones on a budget, consider the Philips SHP9500 instead. They don't have as wide or elevated of a soundstage as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but they're more comfortable and available at a more affordable price. These open-back critical listening headphones deliver an impressively well-balanced, neutral sound profile that can reproduce your favorite music with fidelity. They're also open-back headphones, and they have a more open and spacious soundstage than most closed-back headphones. On the downside, these aren't the most versatile headphones, so they also aren't ideal for more casual, outdoor use.
If you want a more spacious, immersive soundstage, choose the Sennheiser, but if you're looking for a cheaper and more comfortable alternative, go with the Philips instead.
The best wired headphones for gaming that 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 microphone 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 Astro, but they 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. Like the Astro, the Logitech’s boom mic delivers excellent performance regarding noise handling and recording quality.
Get the Astro if you intend 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, the Logitech are a better choice.
08/28/2020: Replaced the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee with the Philips SHP9500 to reflect availability.
06/30/2020: Removed Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25 from recommendations due to current availability.
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 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.