Update, 07/04/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have replaced our best overall headphones pick with the newly released Sony WH-1000XM5s.
Choosing the right headphones for yourself can be nerve-wracking. Everyone appreciates a good quality sound and comfortable fit, but that’s not always easy to find with the sheer number of headphones out there.
To start, you’ll need to pick a form factor of headphones: Do you want a wired or wireless pair? You can find a good pair of wired ones in every price range and expect great sound quality overall.
Wireless headphones offer you freedom from wires and the ability to use them seamlessly with different gadgets. Many of them now offer faster charging and also work over a wired connection. It really just depends on your preference and the devices you use at this point!
An excellent pair of headphones will have a sturdy build and a premium look and feel. The cushions for the earcups should provide enough comfort and isolation that you can use the headphones for hours. In general, they should fit just right and shouldn’t be too tight, or else they’d end up hurting your ears.
The best headphones have an open-back design to allow air to pass through from the back of the ear cups, preventing low-frequency build-ups and offering a more natural soundscape. The only downside is sound leakage, which means people next to you can hear the song you’re listening to easily at moderate volumes. If you’re using public transport, open-backs may not be the best option.
We’ve divided our picks for the best headphones by their features along with the promise of the best possible sound quality.
- ✓ Even better Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
- ✓ Improved battery life
- ✓ Gesture controls are as handy as ever
- ✓ Bluetooth Multipoint lets you connect to multiple devices
- ✗ No IP rating
- ✗ More expensive than the previous model
For years, Sony has been the brand to beat when it comes to wireless noise-canceling headphones. With the Sony WH-1000XM5, the brand’s beloved over-ear wireless headphones have gotten even better.
What keeps people coming back to this series is the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and this feature is improved in the latest model. While previous models blocked lower frequencies well, sounds with higher frequencies like babies crying could still make their way through. The WH-1000XM5 will block these out better, and you can fine-tune the ANC with Sony’s Headphones Connect app.
The gesture-based controls that owners loved in past models have returned in the WH1-000XM5. For example, cupping your palm over the right ear cup temporarily allows ambient noise to pass through, making it easy to hear if someone starts talking to you.
Bluetooth has been updated to version 5.2 in these headphones, which doesn’t add much yet but could via later firmware updates. That said, the Bluetooth Multipoint technology is still here, which lets you pair the WH-1000XM5 with multiple devices.
Battery life is also improved in the newer model. While the previous generation topped out at around 20 hours of playback time, the newer models deliver the 30-hour battery life promised on the back of the box.
You don’t get a ton of color options as you might with other headphones, and many people will likely opt for the standard black finish. If you prefer something a little brighter, the XM5s are also available in white.
There is one downside to these when compared to the previous model—the price. Sony raised the price by $50 with the WH-1000XM5. If you would rather not spend the extra money and aren’t bothered by less battery life and slightly less effective ANC, the Sony WH-1000XM4 remains a great set of headphones. They’re both less expensive and regularly go on sale.
Best Headphones Overall
With the WH-1000XM5, Sony has shown once again why it is the current king of noise-canceling wireless headphones. These headphones are better than ever with gestures, improved noise cancellation, and better battery life.
- ✓ Good sound output for the price
- ✓ Premium-like build quality
- ✓ Swappable cable
- ✗ Open-back design causes sound leakage
- ✗ No cable with in-line microphone bundled
You don’t have to settle for subpar and creaky budget headphones anymore. There are plenty of quality options out now under $100. However, the ones we recommend are the Philips SHP9600.
Music will sound delightful on the SHP9600s with an extended bass response with an extra punch. It can produce a good and balanced soundscape comparable to the pricier and premium open-back headphones.
The earcups padding is a little soft, but the headband comes well-padded for the best comfort. Also, the build quality makes it look more premium than the price implies. They fit comfortably and aren’t too tight, though the 50mm neodymium audio drivers make it bulky.
These headphones will also serve well during some grueling gaming sessions since the audio reproduction favors mid-range the most. However, the open-back design means others can hear the sound as well.
If you don’t want to disturb others with your music, getting the Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a good idea. They’re a bit more expensive than our main pick, but Audio Technica’s offering is still in the budget headphones range. The closed-back design helps to deliver good bass and excellent all-around performance.
Best Budget Headphones
Philip’s headphones are the best bang for your buck promising pair that sounds great, looks impressive, and has a removable cable.
Best Noise-Canceling Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4
- ✓ Class-leading Active Noise-Canceling
- ✓ Specific EQ and Presets for music
- ✓ Lightweight and comfortable
- ✓ Impressive battery life
- ✗ Average microphone quality
- ✗ Only audio mode in wired mode
- ✗ Lacks aptX support
Sony WH-1000XM4 is the wireless headphones that top any list of wireless headphones with Active Noise Cancellation. Apart from canceling most ambient noise, it provides enjoyable sound quality. Also, it lets you switch between music and calls effortlessly thanks to Bluetooth Multipoint support.
The pair is light and comfortable, so they’re easy to use on road trips or long flights. The XM4s aren’t really suitable for working out, though—you’ll need to look elsewhere for some workout headphones.
The companion app lets you customize the EQ settings for tuning music as per your preference. The microphone is good enough for calls, but it captures ambient sounds and noises easily. Thankfully, those are settings you can also tweak from the companion app.
Sony’s XM4s can last 38 hours on a single charge on continuous usage, and the quick charging works well. You can extend battery life by using the auto-off timer feature in the companion app or using it in a wired mode.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are a worthy runner-up for ANC headphones that are commuter-friendly, have a serviceable microphone, and feature a neutral signature.
Best Noise-Canceling Headphones
Sony has the best noise-canceling capabilities, while managing to sound great with stellar battery life.
- ✓ Rich and detailed sound
- ✓ Premium design
- ✓ Comfortable and well-built
- ✓ Intuitive controls on the earcup
- ✗ Lackluster battery life
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ Not forging to the lower frequencies
The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless works effortlessly with streaming services and high-resolution tracks to deliver a well-detailed and rich sound. The headphones support AAC, SBC Bluetooth, aptX, and aptX Low Latency, making them suitable for gaming and watching movies online.
The earcups are well-padded for wearing comfort and can collapse inwards to store the headphones easily. You’ll find the control buttons the earcups very easy to access. Also, with the companion app, you can control the EQ settings, switch between different sound modes, and even enable the Alexa voice assistant.
Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 has a built-in Tile-compatible Bluetooth tracker to trace your Momentum 3 if you have lost or misplaced them, which is really neat considering how expensive these are. You just need to pair the headphones in the app, and you’ll be able to find them.
That said, an unfortunate downside to Momentum 3 is its 17 hours of battery life after switching off the ANC feature. Otherwise, you’ll get roughly 13 hours with ANC enabled.
Shure AONIC 50 is a worthy alternative to the Momentum 3s, and versatile if you want to enjoy lossless music and slightly longer battery life. It delivers 20 hours of battery life with the ANC enabled and has an average microphone, though it lacks controls on the earcups.
Best Wireless Headphones
Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
The Momentum 3s are premium wireless headphones to enjoy richer sounds with a comfortable built and intuitive controls on the earcup.
- ✓ Fantastic clarity and sound reproduction
- ✓ Sturdy build quality
- ✓ Replaceable cable prevents damage from cable snags
- ✗ Open-back design means those nearby will hear what you’re listening to
Look for headphone advice on the internet and you won’t read for long without seeing a mention of the Sennheiser HD 650, and for good reason. These provide a perfect balance between everyday headphones and the extremely high-end headphones audiophiles obsess over.
The HD 650 headphones are easy enough to drive that the power from your smartphone or laptop will be adequate to use them. That said, if you have a quality headphone amp, these headphones will take advantage of that extra power, offering up more low-end extension and midrange detail along with crisper highs.
When it comes to comfort, the Sennheiser HD 650 headphones look after you in more ways than one. The headband is comfortable enough to wear these for hours, practically without listening. The sound also plays a part here: even after hours of listening, these headphones won’t fatigue your ears the way some other headphones will.
Multiple replaceable parts also mean these headphones will keep up with you for years to come. The replaceable earpads let you opt for custom-designed pads or simply replace them after they wear out. Similarly, the removable cable is proprietary, but Sennheiser and other companies sell compatible replacement cables.
If you’re looking for headphones for professional audio use, the Sennheiser HD 650 are a great choice. That said, if you’re looking to save a little money, the Sennheiser HD 600 are more affordable and some audio professionals actually prefer these to the more expensive alternative.
Best Wired Headphones
Sennheiser HD 650
The Sennheiser HD 650 provide much of the sound quality and comfort of their more expensive siblings at a more affordable price.
- ✓ Comfortable fit while working out
- ✓ Washable earcup covers
- ✓ Sweatproof
- ✓ Decent sound quality
- ✗ No built-in microphone for calls
- ✗ Lacks Active-Noise Cancellation
After sorting out your sports shoes and clothing for workouts, the next challenge is grabbing a good pair of headphones. You shouldn’t use your regular wireless headphones for exercises, especially if they aren’t waterproof or sweatproof and can slip off your head mid-workout. You’ll want something that works a bit better, instead.
Adidas delivers a surprising package with their RPT-01 headphones. With an IPX4 rating, these headphones are sweatproof and water-resistant, making them perfect for a workout. Besides that, you can remove the cushion covers and wash them. The fabric design makes them breathable compared to the leather or faux-leather finish on many headphones as well.
With a comfortable fit, you can carry on a variety of workouts like lifting weights or running. The action button on the earcup also lets you change the EQ settings between different types of music. You’ll need to use the Adidas Headphones app on iPhone and Android to configure it, but it’ll be worth it when you’ve tweaked the settings.
The TREBLAB Z2 is a worthy alternative if you want better sound quality and want to take calls. The Z2 is waterproof with an IPX4 rating, has a built-in microphone for voice calls, and comes with a micro USB port for charging. It offers Active Noise Canceling to mask external sounds, but that is average at best, and the material isn’t as workout-friendly as the Adidas headphones, though.
Best Workout Headphones
With washable cushions and an IPX4 rating, you can focus on your workout while listening to a decent sound quality without worrying about sweat.
- ✓ Closed-back construction prevents audio leaks
- ✓ Sounds dynamic, open, and neutral
- ✓ Very comfortable and stable fit
- ✓ Durable build
- ✗ Non-removable cable
- ✗ Too bulky to carry around
For studio production and sound mixing, we like the Beyerdynamics DT 770 Pro headphones for their neutral sound profile. That’s the reason why it is also quite popular among musicians, sound engineers, and track mixing enthusiasts.
Its neutral sound profile and well-balanced audio production make it excellent for studio monitoring and production. They help you to identify any audio niggles while mixing tracks or editing podcasts.
The DT 770 Pros deliver a solid feel and are lightweight. You can carry them along and work from anywhere while its closed-back design stops sound from escaping and velvet-covered cushions for an even better feel.
The 80 Ohms headphones can work with iPads for home audio production and it costs $160. The 250 Ohms version, which costs the same, requires additional power to eke its full potential and works best with professional audio interfaces and sound mixing gear, so we recommend the 80 Ohms model for its versatility.
For an alternative, there is the Sony MDR 7506, which is relatively affordable at $100. The large ear cups are comfortable, but the build quality isn’t robust. That said, you can rely on it for punch bass response and better vocals, but they don’t isolate ambient noises well.
Best Studio Headphones
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Headphones
This affordable pair of studio headphones promises a neutral sound to pick up any odd glitches in the audio while mixing tracks and studio monitoring.