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 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 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. 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 are the 1More Triple Driver. These earbuds are decently well-built, reasonably comfortable, and come with a wide range of silicone and foam ear tips to help you find a secure fit. They're lightweight and exceptionally portable, with a hard case that should protect them from drops, bumps, and minor water exposure when not in use.
They have a bass-heavy sound profile that adds a bit of extra thump and rumble to your favorite EDM and hip hop tracks, though their overemphasized low-mid range can muddy some vocals and lead instrumentals. They leak little audio, so you should be able to listen to your music at fairly high volumes without disrupting people nearby. While their in-line microphone isn't the best at isolating your voice from background noise, it does do a good job of making your voice sound clear and mostly distortion-free to those on the other end of the line.
Unfortunately, they don't block out all that much ambient noise, so they aren't the best choice if you want to tune out the distractions of daily life. In addition, their audio cable can't be detached, so you'll need to replace the whole unit if you end up damaging it. Still, thanks to their punchy sound profile and decent build quality, they're among the best earbuds and in-ear headphones we've tested.
The best wired headphones for audiophiles that we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These premium open-backs have large, spacious ear cups that make them very comfortable, which is great for long listening sessions. They have durable, premium build quality, and they're excellent for neutral sound.
They 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.
Unfortunately, like most open-backs, 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, and they have a more open and spacious soundstage than most closed-backs. Unfortunately, these aren't the most versatile, 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 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 they 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 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 of 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 can also be worn throughout your commute or at the office.
10/27/2020: 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.
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 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.