While it can feel like there's a general trend to move towards wireless headphones, a wired design offers many benefits. A wired connection eliminates audio lag, which is beneficial for studio use, while their analog cable can instantly connect to devices with an AUX input like an amplifier or DAC. Wired headphones work passively, so you don't need to worry about running out of battery. While the gap between wired and wireless headphones is growing smaller and smaller when it comes to audio quality, you may still prefer to use a wired design to ensure you hear all the detail your audio has to offer.
We’ve tested over 680 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best wired options. If you’re looking for our top picks for more specific types of wired headphones, check out our choices for the best audiophile headphones, the best headphones for studio use, and the best DJ headphones.
The best wired over-ear headphones we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. Although they're audiophile headphones, these well-known and premium over-ears can create an incredibly spacious and immersive passive soundstage, thanks to their open-back enclosure. They bleed audio by design, so it's best to use them in a quiet room. You also need a powerful amp to drive them, which can be an extra expense if you don't already have one.
These headphones have a well-balanced sound profile. Their mid-range is very neutral, ensuring the accurate reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. They struggle to reproduce low-bass, so if you're looking for open-back headphones with more bass, check out the HiFiMan Arya. These headphones have planar magnetic drivers, meaning they can reproduce more thump, punch, and boom to mixes. Their design is bulkier and less premium than the Sennheiser headphones, which have a very well-built, breathable, and comfortable fit.
The best upper mid-range wired headphones we've tested are the HiFiMan Edition XS. They aren't as well-built or comfortable as the premium Sennheiser HD 800 S, especially as they're large, so they may not fit well if you have a small head. However, these over-ears have planar magnetic drivers. If you value a bit more bass in your listening experience, they can reproduce a bit more thump and rumble than their dynamic driver competitors, and they even have a small bump of extra warmth to help balance out their bass.
Whether you like instrument-driven genres like classical or vocal-centric content like pop, these over-ears have a fairly versatile and neutral sound profile. They also have very consistent audio delivery, so you should get consistent sound each time you use them. Although they aren't designed to block background noise and leak audio, they have an outstanding, out-of-head passive soundstage.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are the best mid-range wired headphones we've tested. These are the first closed-back headphones on our list and are worth checking out if you prioritize blocking out background noise and reducing audio leakage. However, one of the trade-offs is that their soundstage doesn't sound as immersive or spacious as open-backs like the HiFiMan Edition XS since audio is prevented from interacting with your environment. While their metal frame gives them a sturdy feel, their audio cable isn't detachable either, so if it gets damaged, you'll need to replace the entire unit.
Their mid-range is well-balanced and neutral, so instruments and lead vocals are present and detailed. However, their slightly bright sound makes cymbals a bit piercing. They're also prone to inconsistent audio delivery, and you may notice a drop in bass if you wear glasses or have thick hair. That said, if you're looking for closed-back headphones with a less analytical sound, check out the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. Their treble range is a bit more recessed, which dulls sibilants. Their sound is a bit warmer overall, though, and their passive soundstage doesn't feel as natural. On the upside, they come with three different sets of audio cables you can swap out.
The Philips SHP9500 are the best wired over-ear headphones at the budget level we've tested. At this price point, it's common to find more plasticky headphones, and these affordable over-ears are no exception. Although their swiveling ear cups feel prone to breakage over time, they still have a very comfortable fit, meaning you won't feel fatigued during long listening sessions. They also have an open-back design, so they can create a wide, spacious-seeming passive soundstage that helps make your audio more immersive.
Like most open-back headphones, they have a very neutral sound profile with a very accurate mid-range response that ensures vocals and lead instruments reproduce accurately. Their treble response is flat but a bit overemphasized, bringing out details and adding brightness to mixes. Still, they're a lot lighter on thump and rumble than the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, which could be a little disappointing if you're looking for more bass in your audio. On the upside, they deliver sound consistently and come with a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter, meaning you can connect them to a mixer or amp out-of-the-box.
The best cheap wired headphones we've tested are the Superlux HD 681; if you're on a tight budget, these headphones are worth checking out. Unlike the Philips SHP9500, these over-ears have a semi-open design. It helps them create a soundstage that seems open and spacious, making your listening experience more immersive; however, it also has the added benefit of blocking some background noise and reducing audio bleed. Their price reflects in their build quality since they're mostly made of low-grade plastic, and the audio cable isn't detachable.
These over-ear headphones are lightweight and have a very comfortable fit. They also have a very neutral sound profile suitable for a variety of genres and types of content. Their bass response is slightly overemphasized across the range, adding some extra rumble, punch, and boom to mixes, but instruments and lead vocals are present and detailed. They have fairly consistent bass and treble delivery, but you may notice a drop in bass if you have thick hair or wear glasses.
The best wired earbuds that we've tested are the MOONDROP Aria. These in-ear monitors (IEMs) are our most versatile pick on this list. Even though they lack controls and a mic by default, you can purchase an audio cable with an in-line mic so that you can take calls. They're also small, lightweight, and portable, making them a solid choice if you want to listen to audio on the go. They even come with a small carrying case to help protect them from damage when not in use.
These buds have a fairly neutral sound profile with a touch of extra warmth. Vocals and lead instruments are present and clear, so they're a solid choice for most kinds of audio content. They also have a well-built design that loops over your ears. This design means you can wear them during a run in the park and not worry about them falling out. Although they don't block out much background noise, audio leakage is low, so you can crank up your favorite tunes without disturbing others around you.
Aug 02, 2022: We've revamped this article to help provide better picks for users. We've added the HiFiMan Edition XS and removed the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. We've also cleaned up some out-of-date Notable Mentions.
May 02, 2022: Replaced the MOONDROP Kato with the MOONDROP Aria because the Kato have a more comfortable fit and a more neutral sound.
Mar 03, 2022: Verified that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are available.
Jan 31, 2022: Major article overhaul to better match our picks to user expectations. Added the following headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, MOONDROP KATO, Philips SHP9500, and the Superlux HD 681. Removed the following headphones: 1More Triple Driver, HiFiMan Arya, Astro A40 TR Headset + MixAmp Pro 2019, SteelSeries Arctis Pro GameDAC, and the Samsung AKG Type-C.
Jan 06, 2022: Checked our picks for availability and accuracy. There hasn't been a change in our 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.