Headphones are everywhere, vying to invade our ears like a conquering horde. And like most hordes, they come in every style, color, and configuration you can imagine. As reviewers, it can be daunting. As shoppers, searching for the best headphones for you can be downright intimidating.
Never fear. Whether you’re a new iPhone owner who needs a set of excellent wireless cans, (i.e. not the Pixel Buds) a frequent traveler looking to block out the outside world, or a runner in need of a sweatproof option for your workouts, we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled this master list covering several price points and a wide variety of styles and sound signatures for real-world scenarios.
The headphones on this list are the ringers. The value picks. The top guns. So stop tearing your hair out and peruse our curated collection of the absolute best headphones for you, your ears, and your wallet.
Why should you buy this: Beautiful sound, plush comfort, and top-tier noise-canceling make the Sony MDR-1000x the top dog.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to squeeze the best listening experience out of each and every dollar.
How much will it cost: $250
Why we picked the Sony MDR-1000x:
Sony’s technologically advanced MDR-1000x wireless headphones took direct aim at Bose’s QC35, two microphones on each earcup (one inside and one outside) analyze the sound around you to provide a whisper-quiet interior.
Sony’s special LDAC technology delivers audio at what Sony claims is three times the quality of standard Bluetooth streaming. The 1000x even “upscale” wireless music from high-resolution audio devices using a special chip. Music is dynamic and beautiful, with authoritative bass and clear treble response held together by a well-rounded midrange.
The headphones’ advanced control systems allow you to let in various levels of ambient sound should you desire to hear announcements in an airport or train station. They even let you choose a voice-only mode that’s designed to filter through vocal frequencies so you can hear your music and the voices around you, while keeping much of the outside world at bay. Touch controls let you navigate volume, make calls, and play and pause music with ease, all while helping to maintain the headphones’ clean look.
If you’re looking for a pair of extremely comfortable wireless over-ears with great sound, a massive number of features, and a shockingly low price tag, we’re convinced these are the best you’ll find.
Our full Sony MDR-1000x review
The best over-ear headphones
Why should you buy them: A potent mix of style, functionality, and performance.
Who’s it for: The discerning listener who wants stylish modern looks without bass-laden sound.
How much will it cost: $210-250
Why we picked the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7:
A pleasant blend of premium performance and slick style, Audio Technica’s MSR7 produce clear and detailed audio embellished with a welcome touch of bling. Sleek cuts of laser-etched metal sparkle along the oval earcups, and a touch of red on the inside of the gunmetal gray model adds just enough style to liven up the classic design.
From microphones to gaming headsets, Audio Technica has a reputation for making some of the best-sounding audio gear, and the ATH-MSR7 are no exception, showcasing a balanced, hyper-clear sound profile that unearths impressive detail from every track. From the moment you put them on, you’ll be taken with the colorful midrange and restrained low end offered by the 45mm dynamic drivers — a shade larger than most in the genre – bringing every instrument, vocal track, and effect to the forefront of the mix.
The potent mix of style and performance found in this premium headphone easily gives Audio Technica the gold in our best over-ear category. You’ll have to spend a lot more money to find something better than these.
Our full Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 review
The best on-ear headphones
Audeze Sine on-ear
Why you should buy them: Supreme clarity, plush comfort, durable design, Lightning connection.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants the best on-ears money can buy — especially Apple heads.
How much will they cost: $450, $500 with Lightning cable (we know, we know)
Why we picked the Audeze Sine on-ear:. They don’t come cheap, but as pricey as they are, you’re still getting a bargain. That’s because Audeze has done something incredible with the Sine, leveraging technology from its pricier (and bulkier) EL-8 headphones to create a pair of planar magnetic drivers that fold down to offer a size and efficiency unimaginable just a few short years ago.
We know what you’re thinking: What’s all the hubbub with planar magnetics? Unlike traditional dynamic drivers, which create sound by pushing air like a piston for a more-hatchet-than-scalpel approach, planar drivers use a micro-thin membrane excited by a magnet to create subtle vibrations that more accurately reproduce the music you love. What’s that mean to you? Crystalline clarity, ruddy warmth down low, and a veritable wilderness of textures and sonic colors extracted from your favorite instruments.
Audeze has helped push planar tech by leaps and bounds in recent years, letting you take a highly sophisticated mechanism out of the audio lab and into the real world, and the Sine are the company’s tour de force on this front. Pushing that technology further (potential iPhone buyers should take note here), the Sine can also be equipped with a $50 Lightning cable that receives digital audio directly from your iPhone and transfers it into pristine analog sound. That’s accomplished by a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that doubles as a three-button iOS mic piece. The design also allows for a digital EQ, with other options expected to follow.
Even if you don’t roll with Apple, the Sine’s low impedance, cushy yet robust design, and stylish looks make them the obvious choice for audio nuts who must take fantastic sound along for the ride.
The best durable headphones
V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless
Why should you buy them: You want a set of stylish headphones that can take a licking and keep on ticking.
Who’s it for: The everyday listener who wants excellent, life-proof performance.
How much will it cost: $330
Why we picked the V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless:
Durability, iconic style, and groovy bass. Sounds like a pretty great combination, right? Those are the hallmarks that make the V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless a killer choice. These are the latest version of the M-100 headphones that put V-Moda on the map — a pair of cans that helped the brand become so popular that musical titan Roland eventually decided to buy it.
One of the Crossfade II’s biggest selling points is the robust headband, which can be twisted, wrenched, and generally abused with little to no ill effect. The hexagonal earpieces are made from rock-hard plastic, and they’re also customizable thanks to removable plates, which V-Moda will make to order in just about any style you can think of.
Under the hood, the Crossfade II Wireless boast 50mm custom drivers that deliver high-quality sound highlighted by striking clarity up top, smooth and precise mids, and powerful bass. Instruments like bass guitar and string bass are rendered with chocolatey goodness and dance grooves are delivered with booming force, all without upsetting the balance required for a quality sonic experience. Throw in a nimble case crafted from Batman-esque putty armor and you’ve got a winning blend.
With a battery playback of around 14 hours and an included 3.5mm listening cable for when the battery runs dry, the Crossfade II Wireless are about as life-proof as it comes in terms.
Our full V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless review
The best in-ear (earbuds)
Why should you buy them: A perfect blend of comfort, sound, and portable convenience.
Who’s it for: The active everyday listener who wants great fidelity in a small package.
How much will it cost: $100
Why we picked the V-Moda Forza:
V-Moda’s excellent Forza in-ears offer the perfect blend of fidelity, comfort, and sport-ready performance for any audio adventure.
The water-resistant earbuds are a no-frills product that put excellent sound quality at the forefront, with a round and warm sound signature that pairs well with virtually all genres. A wide assortment of sport fins and tips means that almost any listener will find a perfect seal, and they’re made from a soft rubber compound that ranks them among the most comfortable we have ever encountered.
Because the earbuds are designed to resist the elements, they are a perfect companion for workouts, rainy commutes, or any other outdoor activities they can provide a crisp and clear soundtrack for. We’ve used them both in office and on long, rainy runs around our Portland office, and they’ve never let us down.
If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that will go with you everywhere and never disappoint, there isn’t a better pair of headphones for $100 or less. (But if you’re looking for choices, we’ve got a few more earbud options for you.)
Our full V-Moda Forza review
The best Lightning earbuds
1More Triple Drivers
Why you should buy them: A sweet mix of style, performance, and shocking affordability.
Who’s it for: The discerning listener who craves quality, but hasn’t yet landed that corner office.
How much will they cost: $100
Why we picked the 1More Triple Drivers:. For this kind of build quality and performance, we’d expect to pay at least double. If you’re an iOS user who hates adapters – and you don’t want to deal with the loss of fidelity that comes with wireless connection — these provide the best value you’ll find in a pair of Lightning headphones (they can also be had with a standard 3.5 mm adapter).
So what specifically do the Triple Drivers offer over similarly priced competitors? A gorgeous aesthetic, solid construction — and you guessed it — three dynamic drivers inside for excellent sound. That includes one balanced armature driver each for the midrange, and treble, and a dynamic driver for the bass. The result is sparkling clarity, smooth and powerful bass, and balanced sound that outdoes virtually everything we’ve heard at the $100 line. Need we say more?
Our full 1More Triple Drivers review
The best noise-canceling headphones
Why should you buy them: You’re looking for the best noise-canceling tech that money can buy.
Product Card: With the best noise-canceling tech money can buy, the Bose QC35 give the gift of silence.
Who’s it for: People who frequently listen to music on airplanes, trains, or in other noisy settings.
How much will it cost: $330
Why we picked the Bose QC35:
When it comes to noise-canceling technology, the Quiet Comfort line from Bose has long been the industry leader and the company’s current flagship, the QC35, is no exception. While we prefer the Sony MDR-1000x overall, if noise cancellation is your guiding light, the Bose QC35 are the best you’ll find.
Light and extremely well-padded, the QC35 will remain comfortable even after spending the whole day on your head. They’re also even more understated than Sony’s model, with a jet black appearance and a slimmer overall profile. The noise-canceling bests the MDR-1000x by a tad, with the longtime industry leader showing exactly how it made it to the top of the pile in the first place.
Overall sound quality is extremely high with the QC35s, though they do offer the same boosted-bass signature that Bose has prided itself on for a generation — something that has proven divisive among audiophiles. The QC35 also add the convenience of wireless connectivity for a winning combination. If you need more options, we’ve rounded up all of the best noise-canceling headphones for you.
The best fully wireless earbuds
Bragi The Headphone
Why you should buy them: You’re looking for the best-sounding, most-comfortable, and most value-packed true wireless earbuds on the market.
Who’s it for: Listeners who want total wireless autonomy without sacrificing quality.
How much will they cost: $150
Why we picked the Bragi The Headphone:, got a little too caught up in their own web of features to focus on basics like reliability. The company changed its tune with impressive results for its second model, known simply (and a bit audaciously) as The Headphone. Though Bragi has since offered an updated version of The Dash it calls The Dash Pro , it’s The Headphone that we still think of when recommending fully wireless earbuds to friends and co-workers.
The Headphone cuts features like waterproofing and workout functions that are offered by The Dash and Dash Pro, even dropping what has become a staple in the true wireless earbuds movement — a portable wireless charging case. But these no-nonsense earbuds make up for their somewhat limited feature set by delivering on all the most important elements for those looking to join the true wireless revolution. The Headphone offer a smooth and easy fit, impressive audio performance, and an industry-leading six hours of battery life — doubling many competitors (and there are quite a few) — all at a fantastic price.
But our favorite thing about The Headphone is that these babies just work. No dropouts, no stereo sync issues, no problems. That’s something many pricier peers ask double the money for – even if they can’t get it right. Those looking for a reliable pair of true wireless buds that fit great and outlast the crowd for hours will find solace in The Headphone’s simplicity.
The best workout headphones
Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Special Edition
Why you should buy them: Heart-rate tracking, solid audio performance, and snug and secure fit.
Who’s it for: Those who spend more time on the treadmill than the couch.
How much will they cost: $160
Why we picked the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Special Edition:. These feature-packed headphones have everything you need to keep your workout goals moving forward, including a built-in heart rate monitor, an intuitive smartphone app, and maybe best of all, serious sweatproofing. The app tracks your progress, and even calls out pertinent metrics after you finish your session.
In terms of overall sound, the Special Edition headphones are a significant audio upgrade from the first Sport Pulse Wireless, with Comply foam tips providing an improved seal that helps to create a notable bass boost.
With good sound, wireless connection, and a slew of sports-focused features, the Sport Pulse Wireless Special Edition are the best headphones for the workout grind we’ve tried so far.
How we test
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair through a rigorous testing process over the course of several days or weeks. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios — be it on a bus, in the listening room, or at the office — and playing back from a wide array of sources. We know most people use their headphones with a smartphone, often with lower-quality MP3 resolution tracks, so we do, too.
However, we also move up to high-resolution audio files, as well as a wide variety of sources, including plugging in directly to a PC or Mac, using USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters), and employing high-quality, dedicated portable players and amplifiers. Finally, we compare the headphones to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight.