Looking for a great set of headphones? As far as we're concerned, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are the best headphones for most people.
With a new, more comfortable design and slick appearance, plus continued improvements in noise-canceling, call quality, sound quality, and charging speed, Sony leaves almost no box unchecked when it comes to headphone perfection.
We're convinced the Sony WH-1000XM5 will be an outstanding pick for most people, but if you're looking for some alternatives, we have you covered there, too. We've identified a number of other models, each with its own specific strengths, whether they're for use during a workout or merely to keep you from giving your credit card too much of a workout.
Shopping on a budget? Here's a look at the best headphones under $100. Looking specifically for wireless earbuds? These are the best true wireless earbuds overall, and these are the best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds.
The best headphones, period
- Excellent sound
- Very good comfort
- Ultra-clear call quality
- Best-in-class noise canceling
- Very good battery life
- Hi-res compatible (wired/wireless)
- Hands-free voice assistant access
- Classy, modern design
- Fold-flat, but don’t fold up
Why you should buy them: Beautiful wireless sound, plush comfort, top-notch call quality, and excellent noise canceling.
Who they're for: Anyone who wants a top-tier wireless experience and loves silencing the world around them.
Why we picked the Sony WH-1000XM5:
Sony's technologically advanced WH-1000XM5 are the fifth generation of Sony's flagship wireless headphones. Like Sony's previous models, they offer top-tier noise canceling, excellent quality wireless audio, and plush comfort. This enticing combination earned the model a rare five-star rating in our review and — thanks to a series of continued improvements — maintains the WH-1000 series' status as the best headphones you can buy.
At the heart of the WH-1000XM5 is outstanding wireless sound. Though they use smaller drivers than their predecessors, they manage to produce a more refined and more detailed performance that trades big, in-your-face bass, with subtlety and nuance. Perhaps because of this difference from the WH-1000XM4, Sony has chosen to keep selling the older model alongside the XM5.
But the real stars of the show are the XM5's active noise cancellation (ANC) and call quality, both of which are class-leading. In an era where folks are spending almost as much time on Zoom calls as listening to music, these features matter and Sony knows it. So does comfort. The XM5 are both lighter and better balanced than the already-cushy XM4, and you'll have no problem wearing them for hours at a time without fatigue.
The XM3 and XM4 models compared well to Bose's Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, but now that we have the XM5, it's no contest. Sony's top-of-the-line cans outclass the Bose in every meaningful way.
Among the updates Sony has made to the Sony WH-1000XM5, are:
- Significantly better ANC that can automatically adapt to how you wear the headphones
- Vastly improved call quality that all but eliminates background noise
- Ultra-fast charging when used with a USB Power Delivery charger: Every minute spent charging gets you one extra hour of playtime
- Greater comfort and a slick new design that eliminates the traditional metal headband and earcup forks
As amazing as the Sonyare, we expect to see the older begin to drop in price. When they do, they'll be an awesome value. If the XM5 didn't exist, the XM4 would still top our list of recommended headphones.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
The best wireless earbuds overall
- Super comfortable
- Great sound quality
- Excellent call quality
- Very good ANC and transparency
- Good battery life
- Wireless charging
- Tons of customization options
- Excellent water/dust protection
Why you should buy them: From top-notch sound to noise-cancellation and tons of other great features, the Elite 7 Pro do it all and do it at a reasonable price.
Who they're for: Anyone who wants an outstanding set of comfortable, high-performance earbuds.
Why we picked the Jabra Elite 7 Pro:
Our previous pick for this category was the Sony WF-1000XM4, and we still have a lot of love for Sony's flagship earbuds. But when Jabra introduced the Elite 7 Pro with a feature set that's as good — and in some cases, better — and at a lower price than the XM4, well, we were blown away. The Elite 7 Pro do so much and do it all so well, we gave them a very rare 10/10 score on our review.
What makes them so good? Let's start with the basics. Jabra has always made some of the most ergonomic earbuds you can buy, and the Elite 7 Pro offer further refinements that make them incredibly comfortable. They still make your ears feel "full" as virtually all in-ear buds do, but it's a snug feeling, not a claustrophobic feeling. Jabra has also upped the amount of water protection. With an IP57 rating, the Elite 7 Pro are effectively waterproof and dustproof, so you needn't fear workouts, rain, showers, or even brief periods of submersion in water.
Wireless charging, which used to be a paid upgrade on the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t, is now standard. Battery life has also gotten a boost, with up to eight hours per charge for the earbuds and up to 30 hours of total play time when you include the charging case. A fast charge of five minutes will buy you an extra hour of use if you’re in a pinch.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) is excellent, and so are the buds' transparency mode, which gives you a high degree of awareness of your surroundings, whether for added safety or casual conversations. You can also engage a separate side-tone setting to hear your own voice more clearly on calls.
Speaking of calls, one of the biggest improvements on the Elite 7 Pro is their ability to provide ultra-clear calls in a variety of situations, even those in which there's a ton of background sounds or wind. They're easily one of the best true wireless earbuds for calls.
Sound quality, while not quite as immersive as the Sony WF-1000XM4, is nonetheless superb, especially for the price, and the Jabra app gives you lots of flexibility when it comes to adjusting the EQ to your liking. They aren't quite as bass-heavy as the Elite 75t, but unless you listen exclusively to hip hop, rap, or EDM, their balanced sound signature is going to complement many more music genres.
While we're on the topic of customization, the Jabra app offers loads of them. You can adjust ANC and transparency levels, change how each of the controls work, and pick your preferred voice assistant. There's also a fit test to help you identify the right size of ear tips, and a "find my earbuds" option should you misplace one or both earbuds.
As of January 2022, Jabra has updated the Elite 7 Pro with Bluetooth multipoint — something that was missing at launch — which means that the only thing these buds can't do is hands-free wake-word access for voice assistants.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
1More Triple Driver
Best wired earbuds under $100
- Very good sound quality
- Tons of ear tips sizes and shapes
- Hi-res audio capable
- Very affordably priced
- High frequencies can sound cold
Why you should buy them: These wired earbuds are premium in every way but their price.
Who they're for: Anyone who wants a really great-sounding set of wired earbuds but is unwilling to spend hundreds of dollars for the pleasure.
Why we picked the 1More Triple Driver:
The adage that you get what you pay for is generally true for audio products like headphones. What has made us big fans of the 1More brand is its ability to redefine that expectation in surprising ways. The 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones are a great example of this: They exhibit all of the hallmarks of high-end, expensive earbuds, yet manage to keep the price highly affordable for most people.
Their combination of dual balanced-armature drivers matched with a dynamic driver to pump up the lower end is the kind of engineering normally found on products that cost more than double the price of the 1Mores. Even the smaller details are very well ironed out, such as Kevlar-wrapped cables that increase resistance to wear while simultaneously reducing tangles.
Boasting materials like cast aluminum that has been polished and sandblasted for a luxurious feel, even the included carrying case — normally a throwaway pouch that people ignore entirely — has been obviously crafted and built with care. Their inline mic and control buttons are compatible with both iPhones and Android devices.
The 1More Triple Driver sound amazing, with a wide and complex soundstage that warranted an official THX certification. While 1More has many other budget-friendly products, including the newer Dual Driver ANC Pro Wireless, if you're looking for great sound at the lowest price, we think the Triple Drivers offer the best value.
If the 1More Triple Driver appeal to you, but you want to spend less, check out the Strauss & Wagner EM205. They sound almost as good but cost half the price. They’re also tiny and very lightweight — perfect for tossing in a backpack. If, on the other hand, you want to level up your wired listening, both the $159 and $199 will deliver gorgeously detailed audio. The only caveat: As true in-ear monitors (IEMs), they do not have a mic for calls or buttons for music control.
1More Triple Driver
Adidas RPT-01 Sport Headphones
The best for workouts
- 40 hours of battery life
- IPX4 waterproof rating
- Durable build
- Easy-to-use controls
- Contradictory setup instructions
- Tight fit
- Narrow audio range
Why you should buy them: Workouts are sweaty affairs, and these headphones are built to handle it.
Who they're for: Athletes looking for a set of headphones that can keep up with their demanding routines.
Why we picked the Adidas RPT-01:
When it comes to true wireless earbuds for workouts, there are a lot of great options, like theand . But if you want a set of over-ear or on-ear headphones that are made specifically for workouts, you've got fewer choices. One of the best are the Adidas RPT-01.
From a purely technological or audiophile point of view, these cans won't win any prizes. They don't have ANC or transparency or wear sensors, and you aren't likely to choose them for critical listening sessions. But that's OK because when it comes to getting you through the toughest of workouts, be it at the gym or your daily run, the RPT-01 have everything you need.
Their biggest draw is removable and washable fabric covers for the ear cushions and headband. When it comes to workouts, sweat is just part of the territory. But most headphones aren't built for this reality, and they certainly aren't designed to absorb sweat. Adidas knows its customers aren't just out for a Sunday stroll, so the RPT-01 can take whatever you throw at them.
That goes for their ability to handle rain, too. With an IPX4 rating, they'll easily deal with the occasional downpour if that's what your workout demands. Their light but strong headband frame can also exert plenty of clamping force, which, when combined with the fabric wrap, will keep the RPT-01 rock steady on your head. Our reviewer found that they were almost too tight for his large head, but on balance, we'd say that's a good thing.
You can access your preferred voice assistant with these cans, and the joystick-like multifunction button on the right earcup gives you easy and intuitive access to all major functions like play/pause, track skip, and call answer/end. Better yet, the RPT-01's massive 40-hour battery life means you'll never have to halt your workout before you're ready to call it a day.
As we hinted at above, the Adidas RPT-01 are not the cans for discovering hidden details in your favorite tracks, but they score highly when it comes to deep, driving bass. And really, whether you're going for a personal best in powerlifting or hitting your 12th mile, that powerful low-end is what will give you the beats you need to push yourself just a little harder.
Adidas RPT-01 Sport Headphones
Sennheiser HD 560s
The best for music
- Amazing, lifelike sound
- Comfortable, lightweight design
- Great build quality
- Insane value
- Not great for loud spaces
Why you should buy them: Audiophile sound quality from a legendary brand, in a comfortable design that is also remarkably affordable.
Who they're for: Those who take their music listening seriously, and want an uncompromising set of headphones.
Why we picked the Sennheiser HD 560S:
Audiophiles generally agree that if you're passionate about music, and you have a listening space that is relatively free of outside sounds, nothing beats a really good set of open-back headphones.
As far as we're concerned, you won't find a set of open-back headphones that manage to combine superb sound quality and a reasonable price better than the Sennheiser HD 560S. They're built to the same audiophile standards as our previous pick, the HD 6XX/HD 650, but use an updated and sleeker design, with angled drivers that do an even better job of reproducing the sound of in-room speakers.
The included detachable cable comes with a 1/4-inch headphone jack, which underlines that Sennheiser considers these to be home/studio critical listening cans, but you'll also find a 1/4-inch to 3.5mm adapter for use with smartphones and other media playback devices. It's also worth noting that the Sennheiser HD 560S are the only selection on this list that do not support voice calls or any remote control of a phone or media player's functions like play/pause.
We haven't published our full review of the HD 560S yet, but in our time with these amazing cans, we can already confirm that what we observed about the HD 650 is equally true of the HD 560s: "Warm and rigid bass, a midrange that dips close to the ruddy colors of analog tape saturation (without sacrificing an ounce of detail), and a laser tight response up top that helps illuminate vivid clarity and granular instrumental texture across the board."
If that sounds like the kind of performance you want in a set of headphones, we think you need look no further than the Sennheiser HD. You can certainly spend more to get this level of quality, but you don't have to.
Sennheiser HD 560s
Apple AirPods Max
The best for iPhone
- Best-in-class ANC
- Amazing transparency mode
- Excellent build quality
- Excellent sound quality
- Top-notch call quality
- Charges via Lightning cable
- Heavy on head
Why you should buy them: Class-leading ANC, transparency, and call quality, plus superb sound, in a beautifully designed set of wireless headphones.
Who they're for: iPhone users, who want the best money-is-no-object set of wireless headphones.
Why we picked the Apple AirPods Max:
The AirPods Max, at $549, are very expensive. So if you're on a smaller budget, you may want to consider the $249instead — before the Max arrived they were our top pick for its category.
But now that the AirPods Max are here, we have to say, we're very impressed. The design, materials, and build quality alone are almost worth the price of admission. Once again, Apple has paid attention to the smallest of details and produced a set of headphones that are at once incredibly simple and very high-tech.
The aluminum earcups and stainless steel headband sliders feel fantastic in your hands, and all of the parts move together with invisible, clockwork-like precision. The mesh fabric on the unusually-shaped headband all but eliminates pressure points and the ear cushions provide ample comfort.
The digital crown, which Apple repurposed from the Apple Watch, is surprisingly effective as a combo control that lets you adjust volume with much better precision than a set of buttons. The dedicated ANC/transparency mode button is equally intuitive and easy to use.
Speaking of ANC and transparency, Apple has knocked these features out of the park. Our reviewer found that the transparency was so good, it felt like he wasn't wearing the headphones at all. That's also an apt description for the head-tracking spatial audio that you can do with these cans when they're paired to an iPhone or an Apple TV 4K — it's like sitting in full surround sound home theater, but without any actual speakers.
Sound quality can't quite match what you'll get with the Sony WH-1000XM5, but there's no denying the AirPods Max are a delight to listen to.
That isn't the case, however, with the AirPods Max weight. Far heavier than any other headphones on this list, the Max are perfectly comfy for a couple of hours, but beyond that, we think folks will grow fatigued with all of that weight on their heads.
The included carry case, if you can call it that, is another weakness. It doesn't fully protect the headphones and it doesn't help you pack them in a backpack or suitcase. But using anything else isn't really an option as its internal magnets are needed to push the AirPods Max into ultra-low-power mode — there's no other way to turn them off.
Speaking of power, at 20 hours, the AirPods Max won't win any endurance prizes, but that's still enough juice for all but the longest of flights.
Apple AirPods Max
Samsung Galaxy Buds2
The best for Android
- Effective ANC
- Good sound
- Solid battery
- Annoying touch controls
- Many Android-only features
Why you should buy them: They're comfy, sound great, and have a wealth of features at a very attractive price.
Who they're for: Android users who are looking for the ideal complement to their smartphones and mobile devices.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2:
As true wireless earbuds become commodity items, the trick is to find a set that offers you the features you want, at a price you can afford. Samsung has always done a great job with this formula, and it continues to add new features to its line of Galaxy true wireless earbuds while managing to keep its prices reasonable. Its latest effort are the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, which sit in between the Galaxy Buds+ and the Galaxy Buds Pro, both in terms of features and price.
Though shaped similarly to both the Galaxy Buds+ and Pro, the Buds 2 are smaller than both of these models and that produces a very comfortable fit. So comfortable, in fact, that our reviewer dubbed them "among the most comfortable wireless earbuds I’ve ever worn." The charging case is also very small, which makes the whole package very pocketable.
That case supports both USB-C and Qi-standard wireless charging. If your Android phone supports reverse wireless charging, you'll be able to use it to top up the charging case. Battery life is very competitive with other true wireless earbuds that offer active noise cancellation: You get 5 hours in each earbud, with an additional 15 hours in the case. That's with ANC turned on. If you turn it off, that jumps to 7.5 hours and 29 hours respectively.
Sound quality on the Galaxy Buds 2 is decent. You'll likely notice a bass-forward quality to the EQ, and Samsung's Galaxy Wearable app lets you pick from several EQ presets if that balance isn't to your liking. We also found that both noise cancellation and transparency modes were similarly capable, even if they don't quite measure up to some of Samsung's claims. The marketing material promises a 98% reduction in outside sounds. That might be a tad optimistic.
Our only caveat in recommending the Galaxy Buds 2 comes down to their touch controls. They're responsive (a good thing) but when you combine them with the earbuds' tiny shape, it makes it impossible to avoid triggering the controls when inserting, removing, or simply adjusting the buds in your ears.
You can modify these control or disable them entirely in the Wearable app, but this is also why we say the Galaxy Buds 2 are best for Android users: There's no version of the Wearable app for iOS, so iPhone users will lose out on all of the advanced features like the built-in fit test, quick switching between devices and compatibility with Samsung's smartwatches.
Still, this one minor quibble aside, we think most Android users will love the Galaxy Buds 2.
Want an alternative? Our previous pick for this category, thedon't have ANC or transparency, but they're $50 cheaper and are also extremely comfortable.
Samsung Galaxy Buds2
The best for gaming
- Superb sound quality
- Bluetooth and wired operation
- Independent mic and sound volumes
- Immersive 3D head-tracking
Why should you buy this: It does everything right, connects to everything, and has incredibly granular features.
Who’s they're for: Primarily PC gamers who crave 3D and 7.1 surround sound with specificity to the type of games they play.
Why we picked the Audeze Mobius:
The Audeze (pronounced odd-eh-see) Mobius is the kind of headset you buy when you have deep pockets and an even deeper wish list. Compatible with PC, Mac, and consoles, the Mobius is a wallet-crushing $400 7.1 surround sound headset of nearly unparalleled quality. From how it feels on your head to how you perceive game audio across multiple genres, the Mobius earns its top-dollar price with equally premium performance.
Offering Bluetooth or wired connectivity, the Mobius also boasts a stellar 10 hours of play per charge and allows you to adjust mic and headphone volume independently with two different toggle switches. It also offers seven different EQ presets to match different audio needs for different game genres. For example, you can prioritize footsteps to give yourself an edge in first-person shooters.
Its 3D mode centers your audio experience to your screen so that as you turn your head, sounds come from their source in your video game in relation to the perspective of your ears in actual space. It can track your head up to 1000 times per second and identify sound sources, changing them dynamically as you move.
That feature aside, the pure sound quality is stellar, and though you’ll get the best quality out of Bluetooth or USB wired connection (the 3.5mm jack into a console controller doesn’t get quite as loud as we would like, and won't remember your audio settings when you turn them off), audio is spectacular through the Mobius, and in competitive gaming, your voice will be well transmitted to your teammates.
Beyond the laundry list of features and customizations the Mobius offers, it’s also relatively lightweight and comfortable to wear. It features both a memory foam headband and replaceable contoured memory foam earpads that combine to make long gaming sessions less fatiguing.
The microphone is removable, making the Audeze Mobius suitable for other audio activities like listening to music or TV wirelessly, which we highly recommend. As expensive as it is, the Audeze Mobius is absolutely worth the high investment and is our top pick for a premium gaming headset.
PuroQuiet On-Ear Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
The best for kids
- Effective noise cancellation
- Volume-limiting (85db)
- Great size for kids' heads
- Good sound quality
- Very good battery life
- A bit pricey for kids' headphones
Why you should buy them: The PuroQuiet protect your kids from dangerously loud sound levels while they cancel out external sounds.
Who they’re for: Parents who want to provide their kids with high-quality headphones, without exposing them to loud sounds.
Why we picked the Puro PuroQuiet:
Noise cancelation for kids? Doesn't that mean they'll ignore their parents even more often than they already do? Perhaps, but it's a risk worth taking if it means your kids' hearing will be protected over the long term. That's exactly the premise behind the Puro PuroQuiet headphones.
Not only are they wireless and great-sounding, but they also come equipped with a software limiter that keeps the volume at or below 85dB, which is considered the maximum volume that anyone (but especially children) should be exposed to for prolonged periods. Above that threshold and kids risk developing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The noise-canceling feature means they'll actually be able to listen to lower (therefore safer) volumes.
These headphones pack about 35 hours of non-ANC playtime (23 hours with ANC) which is very good even by adult ANC headphone standards, but there’s also the option of using an analog cable instead. An external switch lets you turn the noise cancellation on and off. Make no mistake, these might be aimed at kids, but the quality of construction, selection of materials, and color choices give them an appearance that will still appeal to your young charges long after they've outgrown their Disney phase (some of us still haven't).
While not the cheapest kids' headphones you can buy, the Puro PuroQuiet are very reasonably priced for what they offer. We think your kids’ ears are worth it.
Like the idea of the PuroQuiet but need something more adult-sized? Check out the PuroPro. Want volume-limiting without active noise cancellation? Check out the .
PuroQuiet On-Ear Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Who makes the best headphones?
- What’s the best place to buy headphones?
- Over-ear/On-ear headphones vs. earbuds: Which is better?
- What type of headphones are best for working out?
- What headphones should I buy if I don’t want others to hear?
- How does active noise-canceling work?
- Do any headphones use a lightning connector? Or USB-C?
- Do headphones include a microphone?
- Do headphones have audio lag?
Who makes the best headphones?
There are a ton of manufacturers currently making awesome headphones, from major brands to smaller boutique outfits, so there is no clear winner when it comes to the best company in the headphone world.
What’s the best place to buy headphones?
We typically recommend buying from a major retailer like Amazon, Best Buy, or Walmart. But smaller, more specialized local audio retailers might have a set of headphones that you can actually try, which is the ideal way to buy these personal audio gadgets.
Over-ear/On-ear headphones vs. earbuds: Which is better?
That depends on what you’re using them for and how much you’re willing to spend. At the high-end, over-ear and in-ear headphones can both perform fantastically. For those of us not willing to spend thousands on headphones, over-ear headphones typically offer better bass response and a bigger soundstage, but in-ear headphones are more portable and convenient — especially wireless earbuds. And, because they're placed right up against (or even inside) your ear canals, they offer the most intimate sound quality you can get, though not everyone likes that inside-your-head sound.
What type of headphones are best for working out?
Either wireless headphones, like the, or true wireless models like the , both of which feature sweat proofing, are far and away the best headphones for working out because you’ll never have wires to deal with. These workout-specific models also put an emphasis on low-end bass, which lets you feel the rhythm of your chosen tracks.
What headphones should I buy if I don’t want others to hear?
Closed-back over-ear headphones or snugly fitting in-ear headphones are the best way to ensure your favorite tunes won’t leak out into the world around you.
How does active noise-canceling work?
Headphones with this feature use exterior microphones to capture the sound around you. They then reproduce matching frequencies with their phase inverted to cancel ambient noise. How well the system works depends on a wide variety of factors from software to hardware to how well the headphones fit.
Do any headphones use a Lightning connector? Or USB-C?
Yes, you can find both Lightning and USB-C headphones on the market, but given that you might want to use your headphones with something other than a cell phone, we typically recommend you buy an adapter or wireless headphones, rather than headphones with such a specific kind of connector.
Do headphones include a microphone?
These days, virtually all wireless headphones and earbuds include a built-in microphone. That said, some wired models rely on a cable with an inline microphone, while others possess no calling features at all, so be sure to check before you buy if you want to make phone calls.
Do headphones have audio lag?
Some lower-quality wireless models do lag when watching movies and YouTube on your cell phone, but in the vast majority of cases, they do not have audio lag. If you experience lag and your headphones have a companion app that lets you adjust EQ, try disabling those adjustments. Wired headphones won’t have any audio lag at all, and most Bluetooth models have such a small lag it's mostly imperceptible.
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair through a rigorous testing process over 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.
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