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 can seem 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, they naturally 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, making this website the only place you'll be able to purchase them from. 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 they 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 ATH-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, although 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. Lightweight and ultra-portable, these in-ear headphones are a great choice if you're looking for wired headphones.
They have a balanced sound profile, making them good for a variety of audio genres. They're also decently comfortable: coming with nine tip options including silicone and foam, you'll be able to find your ideal fit. If you're using these at the office or school, you don't have to worry about cranking the volume - these earbuds barely leak so most people won't hear what you're listening to. When you're on the move, the stylized hard case is great for protecting your earbuds from drops and falls.
While the earbuds themselves are well-built, the cables leading to the earbuds feel thinner than the rest of the audio cord, making them prone to wear and tear. Unfortunately, the cable also isn't detachable - you'll have to replace the entire thing if the wire is damaged. Being wired has its advantages, though: there's no latency, making them great for playing video games and watching video.
The best wired headphones for gaming are the Astro A40 TR + MixAmp Pro 2019. Comfortable for long gaming sessions, they reproduce sound well and are among the best Xbox One headphones we’ve tested so far. They also work with PC and PS4, making them a great choice for wired gaming.
Unique to these headphones is the MixAmp Pro: this is a physical control box that offers more customization of your audio experience, including volume control for both regular and channel mixing. If you want to make more adjustments, you can also connect these headphones to the Astro Command Center on PC and create custom EQ presets to use while playing on a console. The microphone is great; you'll be heard clearly when you're calling the shots, even in loud environments like gaming tournaments.
As open-back headphones, they don't isolate sound well by design. This can be good if you like openness in your audio, but your roommates or partner might find this disturbing while you game. However, if you don't mind paying extra, you can purchase a kit from Astro to turn them into closed-back headphones.
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.
03/04/2020: Removed Beats UrBeats3 headphones from recommendations. Minor text changes.
01/06/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.