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 740 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 headphones we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These audiophile headphones are top-tier but aren't for everyone. Their high price point can already put them out of reach of most people, but you'll also need a powerful amp to drive them, which can be an extra expense if you don't already have one. However, if you're prepared to shell out the money, these well-known headphones create an incredibly spacious and immersive passive soundstage, thanks to their open-back enclosure.
The Sennheiser bleed audio by design, so it's best to use them in a quiet room. They're also very comfortable, ensuring you don't feel fatigued while wearing them for studio sessions. They have a well-balanced sound profile with a very neutral mid-range, ensuring accurate vocals and lead instruments. Although they lack low-bass, this is normal for open-back headphones, and overall, they still have some warmth to their sound, thanks to a small bump in their high-bass.
If you're looking for high-end headphones that can reproduce more bass, try the HiFiMan Arya. These over-ears have planar magnetic drivers, which help improve their bass reproduction. As a result, they have better low-frequency extension and deliver more thump and punch. However, the HiFiMan aren't as well-built, and their soundstage is less natural-sounding, although it's still quite excellent.
If you're looking for something premium under $1,000 without completely sacrificing performance, you'll want to check out the HiFiMan Edition XS. Unlike the Sennheiser HD 800 S, these headphones have planar magnetic drivers instead of dynamic drivers, which helps them reproduce more bass despite their open-back design. However, their lower price means a compromise in build quality, as they have plastic hinges that don't feel durable.
Their padded headband also feels heavy compared to the ski-band headband styles found on other over-ears from this manufacturer, and the headphones can feel quite large if you have a small head. They're still well-built overall and have a comfortable fit for most people. They have a versatile sound profile that clearly reproduces vocals and instruments.
Although a dip in their high-mid weakens vocals and instruments, they're still present and detailed. Sibilants like hi-hats are also bright without being piercing. They deliver audio consistently, so you don't need to worry much about getting a different sound from use to use. Their open-backed design helps create an open, spacious, and natural passive soundstage, which helps make your audio more immersive.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2020 are more affordable than the pricy HiFiMan Edition XS. You can still expect planar magnetic drivers and a solid sound from these cans, although there are some slight differences. They have a ski-band headband design, which helps distribute the weight of the headphones on your head and ensures a more comfortable fit for long listening sessions. Their ear cups also have a smaller, more circular shape, which looks and feels less bulky than their more expensive counterpart. Although they clamp more tightly onto your head, it's not fatiguing or painful.
They have a neutral sound profile with a flat mid-range, so vocals and instruments sound clear, natural, and accurate. However, they lack more thump, rumble, and punch than the Edition XS. While their passive soundstage seems wide, spacious, and open, the headphones struggle to create an out-of-head audio experience, though it's still quite great overall.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are the best mid-range wired headphones we've tested. Unlike the previous picks, they have a closed-back design and are among the best headphones of this type we've tested. These headphones usually have a cheaper price point than their open-back counterparts and are worth checking out if you want a pair of headphones that can block out some background noise and don't leak as much audio.
However, the Beyerdynamic also produce a less spacious-seeming, immersive passive soundstage than open-backs like the HiFiMan Sundara 2020. They do a better job of reproducing the thump and rumble of low bass compared to the previous open-back picks. They also have a well-balanced, accurate mid-range response, with instruments and lead vocals that sound present and detailed.
However, they have a slightly bright sound profile that makes elements like cymbals or S and T sounds seem piercing. Their audio delivery is inconsistent, so people wearing glasses or having thick hair might notice a drop in bass. If you're looking for a less analytical sound, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x have a more recessed treble range, so sibilants are dull rather than harsh. They have a warmer overall sound, but their soundstage doesn't feel as natural.
The Philips SHP9500 are the best wired over-ear headphones we've tested at the budget level. Unfortunately, they're no longer available through the manufacturer, but you can still easily find them via retailers like Amazon. If you can get a hold of them, they offer a robust audiophile experience. Expect a more plasticky design, as build materials tend to be sacrificed to save money. 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 have an open-back design to create a wide, spacious-seeming passive soundstage that helps make your audio feel more immersive. 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. Like most open-back headphones, they have a very neutral sound profile with a very accurate mid-range response, ensuring vocals and lead instruments reproduce accurately. Their treble response is flat but overemphasized, bringing out details and adding brightness to mixes.
However, they're lighter on bass than the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO and lack a lot of thump and kick. If you're looking for affordable headphones with a bit more oomph in the lower frequencies, consider the Sony MDR-7506. They're closed-back headphones, so their soundstage isn't as wide or spacious as the Philips, but they have a more extended bass, ensuring ample rumble.
For those on a shoestring budget, the best cheap wired headphones we've tested are the Superlux HD 681. You'll have to make larger sacrifices to save money at this price point. Their build is mostly low-grade plastic, the audio cable isn't detachable, and overall, they seem less premium and durable than the Philips SHP9500. However, they're still worth checking out, especially as they have a semi-open design, unlike our previous picks. It helps them create an open and spacious soundstage, making your listening experience more immersive. It also has the added benefit of blocking background noise and reducing audio bleed.
These over-ear headphones are lightweight and have a very comfortable fit. They also have a very neutral sound profile suitable for various 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 MOONDROP Blessing 3 are the best wired earbuds we've tested. These premium in-ear monitors (IEMs) are designed for good sound quality and offer some versatility over the over-ears listed here since you can buy a cable with a mic if you want to make phone calls. They have a hybrid driver design, including dynamic drivers and four armature drivers for the mid and treble ranges. It helps them accurately reproduce higher frequencies, ensuring a natural and detailed sound.
Their bass response is also very neutral, so your audio's rumble, punch, and boom are reproduced accurately. They have a very sturdy design, and the audio cable is detachable, so it's less likely to break if it snags on something. They have a comfortable fit for most people. The cables loop around your ears, which helps prevent them from falling out even if you move your head around a lot. They don't have ANC, which is normal for IEMs, but still passively block out an impressive amount of mid-range noise, like background conversations.
All that said, they aren't cheap and won't be for everyone. If you're looking for less expensive wired in-ears, the MOONDROP Aria are a much more budget-friendly option from the same brand. These in-ears aren't as well-built, block out much less noise, and only use dynamic drivers. While both models have fairly neutral mids, the Aria's treble is more recessed, so sibilants like cymbals are weak.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best wired over-ears 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.