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 560 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're well-built and designed for audiophiles, and they're good for neutral sound. Thanks to their wired design, you don't have to worry about them running out of battery life during long listening sessions.
They have a neutral, balanced sound profile suitable for listening to a wide range of music genres. They reproduce vocals and lead instruments clearly and accurately and can reproduce deep thumps and rumbles in bass-heavy music, too. Also, their comfortable fit means you can listen to your favorite songs for a long time without feeling a lot of fatigue.
Unfortunately, they don't come with a microphone, so they aren't suitable for making phone calls. Also, they have poor noise isolation performance, so they can't block out background noises typically found during your commute or in an office setting. However, they rank among the best audiophile headphones we've tested.
The best wired earbuds that we've tested are the 1More Triple Driver. These in-ears are decently well-built, with solid-feeling metal buds and a fabric-coated audio cable. Their also exceptionally lightweight and very portable, and they come with a stylized hard case that should protect them from drops and bumps.
These in-ears have a bass-heavy sound profile that makes them a good fit for genres like EDM or hip-hop, though some users may find that their overemphasized bass response gives some mixes a boomy quality and muddies vocals and lead instruments slightly. Thankfully, they leak very little audio, so you can listen to content at high volumes without annoying people nearby, and their in-line mic makes your voice sound clear and fairly natural.
Unfortunately, they struggle to block out low-end ambient noise, like the rumble of bus or plane engines, though they do a good job of filtering out ambient chatter or the higher-pitched hum of an AC unit. Also, while their audio cable does feel fairly sturdy, it isn't detachable, so if it gets damaged, the entire unit needs to be replaced. Still, thanks to their reasonably premium construction, portable design, and punchy sound profile, they're also among the best earbuds for bass that we've tested.
The best wired headphones for audiophiles that we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These high-end open-back headphones have a very well-balanced sound profile, making them a good match for a wide variety of genres. Their passive soundstage is also fantastic and provides a spacious, natural listening experience that leads to sounds originating from speakers placed around you.
They're very well-built, with a high-grade plastic and metal construction that looks and feels quite premium. Their spacious ear cups should accommodate many different ear shapes and sizes and are lined with a suede-like material that feels quite nice on the skin. Despite their bulky size, their open-back enclosure allows for a good amount of airflow, and you shouldn't sweat too much while wearing these headphones.
Unfortunately, their open-back enclosure also results in high levels of audio leakage and terrible noise isolation performance. Combined with their lack of on-board controls or a mic, they're really only suited for use in a quiet room. Still, if you're looking for an immersive listening experience above all else, these are a great option.
If you're looking for a cheaper pair of wired headphones for audiophiles, consider the Philips SHP9500. They aren't as well-built as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, and their passive soundstage performance isn't as exceptional, but they're still a great choice for neutral sound at a more affordable price. They're very comfortable, and their neutral sound profile makes them a suitable pick for listening to lots of different music genres. Due to their open-back design, they still have a very good passive soundstage performance. Their soundstage is perceived as open and speaker-like, though it may sound a bit unnatural compared to the Sennheiser. They also struggle to block out ambient noise, and they leak a lot of sound.
If you're looking for a more premium pair with a more impressive soundstage, check out the Sennheiser. However, if you're looking for open-backs that provide a neutral sound without breaking the bank, consider 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.
Feb 23, 2021: Added Hyper X Cloud Revolver + 7.1, Sennheiser HD 560S, and HyperX Cloud Stinger S to Notable Mentions. Verified that primary picks are still available and represent the best choice for their category.
Jan 25, 2021: Confirmed the accuracy and availability of our product picks; minor updates to the text.
Oct 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.
Aug 28, 2020: Replaced the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee with the Philips SHP9500 to reflect availability.
Jun 30, 2020: Removed Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25 from recommendations due to current availability.
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.