The best headphones for 2019

Throw away those EarPods — we dug up the best headphones in every style

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Time to invest in a new set of headphones? It’s a hugely crowded market with hundreds of models to choose from, so here’s a handy timesaver: The Sony WH-1000xM3 are the best headphones. In fact, their combination of top-notch audio quality, superb noise cancellation, and dependable wireless performance is such a strong formula, we named the WH-1000xM3 the best wireless headphones and the best noise-canceling headphones, too.

That is an extraordinary set of claims to make, and we don’t make them lightly. Our team has a combined 50 years in the consumer and pro audio industries. We reviewed hundreds of headphones, using them in all kinds of locations, with audio sources that range from surround-sound movies to the most aggressive hard rock and rap.

We’re totally convinced the Sony WH-1000xM3 will be the best pick for most people, but if you’re looking for some alternatives, we have you covered there, too. We identified seven other models that are more than worthy of your consideration — each with their own specific strengths, whether it’s for use during a workout, or merely to keep you from giving your credit card too much of a workout.

Best headphones Category Our rating
Sony WH-1000xM3 Best overall 4.5 out of 5
Audeze Sine Best on-ear headphones 4.5 out of 5
V-Moda Forza Best in-ear (earbuds) 4.5 out of 5
Samsung Galaxy Buds Best true wireless earbuds 4.5 out of 5
TaoTronics TT-BH060 Best budget over-ears 4.5 out of 5
Shure SE112 and SE112 Wireless Best budget in-ears 4.25 out of 5
Jabra Elite Active 65t Best workout headphones 4.5 out of 5
Yamaha HPH-MT8 Best for the studio 4.5 out of 5

Sony WH-1000xM3

The best

Sony WH-1000xM3 headphones
Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Beautiful wireless sound, plush comfort, 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-1000xM3:

Sony’s technologically advanced WH-1000xM3 are the third generation of Sony’s flagship wireless noise-canceling headphones (following the excellent WH-1000xM2 and MDR-1000x models) that 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 few notable improvements — makes the latest version the best headphones you can buy.

At the heart of the WH-1000xM3 is outstanding wireless sound. Sony’s LDAC technology delivers a wireless signal at what the company claims is three times the quality of standard Bluetooth streaming, and the headphones also support the latest aptX HD codec (with supported devices). The 1000xM3 even “upscale” wireless music from high-resolution audio devices using a special chip, helping to make music sound dynamic and beautiful, with authoritative bass and clear treble response held together by a well-rounded midrange.

The WH-1000xM3’s excellent noise-canceling technology ranks second only to the new Bose QC35 II, from the brand that has long dominated the market in terms of sheer noise-blocking abilities. That said, the Sony cans sound much better than the new bass-forward Bose option, and offer numerous features that help to create a much better overall experience.

The WH-1000xM3’s advanced control systems allow you to let in various levels of ambient sound, with advanced features like voice-only mode, which helps filter through vocal frequencies so you can hear your music and the voices around you while blocking out other sounds. Responsive touch controls let you navigate volume, make calls, and play and pause music with ease, all while helping to maintain a clean aesthetic. Best of all, the WH-1000xM3 offer a staggering 30 hours of battery life, providing even heavy users with days of use from a single charge, and offering a quick charge feature that allows you to enjoy 5 hours of listening after just 15 minutes of charging.

If you’re looking for a pair of extremely comfortable wireless over-ears with great sound and a massive number of features, these are the best you’ll find.

Our full Sony WH-1000xM3 review

Audeze Sine

The best on-ear headphones

Audeze Sine
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Supreme clarity, durable design, and an optional Lightning connection.

Who they’re for: Anyone who wants the best on-ears money can buy — especially Apple fans.

Why we picked the Audeze Sine:

The Sine 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 +size and efficiency unimaginable just a few short years ago.

Like Oppo, whose PM-3 over-ears also make our best-of list, Audeze has helped push planar magnetic headphone 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 (iPhone folks, 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 equalization through Audeze’s app, which allows you to sculpt the sound as you see fit. Even if you don’t roll with Apple, the Sine’s low impedance, cushy yet robust design, and minimalist design make them an obvious choice for audio nuts who want to bring fantastic sound everywhere.

With a crystal-clear soundstage and insane separation between instruments, the Audeze Sine will enable you to hear things in your favorite songs that you never have before — providing a truly audiophile-grade listening experience on the go.

Our full Audeze Sine on-ear review

V-Moda Forza

The best in-ear (earbuds)

best headphones
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy them: A near-perfect blend of comfort, sound, and portability.

Who they’re for: The active everyday listener who wants great fidelity in a small package.

Why we picked the V-Moda Forza:

V-Moda’s excellent Forza in-ears offer the perfect blend of fidelity, affordability, and sport-ready performance for any audio adventure.

The water-resistant V-Moda Forza are a no-frills pair of earbuds 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 in-ears 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 that beg for a crisp and clear soundtrack. We’ve used them both in office and on long, rainy runs around Portland, Oregon, 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.

Our full V-Moda Forza review

Samsung Galaxy Buds

The best true wireless earbuds

Samsung Galaxy Buds

Why you should buy them: Comfort, six-hour battery life, sweatproof performance.

Who they’re for: People who want affordable, comfortable wireless earbuds with great battery life.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Buds:

With a compact, ergonomic fit, an included wireless charging case, and six hours of listening time on the go, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds offer listeners the cutting edge in terms of both tech and design.

The small headphones are designed for go-anywhere, do-anything performance, with built-in earfins and IPX2 sweatproofing that allow them to be a companion during rainy walks and sweaty workouts alike.

Well-thought-out, app-based customization allows you to adjust equalization, find your headphones, and even hear sounds from the outside world — which is especially useful during outdoor workouts or unfamiliar trips on public transit. Such an assortment of useful features make Samsung’s Buds your best everyday listening pal, providing you with just what you need, right when you need it.

The best part? The Galaxy Buds cost less than models from Apple and Jabra, making them an absolute no-brainer when it comes to choosing the best true wireless headphones.

Our full Samsung Galaxy Buds review

TaoTronics TT-BH060

The best budget over-ears

Taotronics TT-BH060
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: They’re cheap, comfortable, and bursting with features.

Who’s it for: Those looking for a great-sounding, feature-packed, pair of headphones at a very low price.

Why we picked the TaoTronics TT-BH060:

With 30 hours of battery life, active noise cancellation, and a simple and understated design that’s geared toward business trips and long commutes, TaoTronics’ TT-BH060 are the low-budget champion of the headphone market.

Where other active noise-canceling models with such long battery life (like the Sony model at the top of this list) cost many multiples the price, this plucky TaoTronics model costs less than a single night out on the town.

But that doesn’t keep them from feeling premium: The headphones come inside a woven hard case with an included 3.5mm cable for wired listening, and easy-to-use controls make it quick and easy to change songs, adjust volume, and turn off and on the active noise cancellation. One thing that’s worth noting is that you’ll want to turn the noise-canceling off when you’re not wearing them. That’s because the power to the noise-canceling doesn’t turn off when the headphones themselves are powered off.

The sound is better than you’d ever expect for their low price. Our favorite music comes across as warm and balanced, with the headphones offering tight and energetic bass performance, but not overwhelming with muddy layering in the midrange. Such well-balanced sound is benefited greatly by the active noise cancellation, which provides a blank slate over which the TT-BH060 can project your favorite sounds.

If you’re in the market for a great pair of over-ear headphones, but you don’t want to touch your savings account, these are exactly what you need.

Our full TaoTronics TT-BH060 review

Shure SE112 and SE112 Wireless

The best budget in-ears

best headphones shure se112

Why you should buy them: Great sound, comfort, and the best price-to-performance ratio on the planet.

Who they’re for: Those who want great-sounding headphones at the lowest possible price.

Why we picked the Shure SE112 and SE112 Wireless:

If there’s one category the A/V staff at Digital Trends gets asked about most, it’s affordable in-ear models. The fact of the matter is that many of you headphone hunters want something simple, affordable, and great-sounding, and can’t (or don’t want to) spend more than a moderate amount of your hard-earned dollars. So what are the headphones we find ourselves recommending over and over again? Shure’s SE112.

This one’s a twofer because whether you go wired or wireless, you’re getting great value. A long-established pair of earbuds from one of the most reputable audio companies on the planet, the SE112 offer clean looks, a comfortable fit, and shockingly good sound for the money in either iteration.

These headphones set the bar for low-cost performance, with a pure, open sound signature that easily outclasses competitors in their price range. A snappy high end and punchy — but not too rumbly — bass combine to provide clean detail. Though they aren’t quite as clear as premium headphones, the SE112 easily hold their own against several more expensive models, allowing you to save your cash for something special down the road.

Our full Shure SE112 review

Jabra Elite Active 65t

The best workout headphones

Jabra Elite Active 65t review

Why you should buy them: Good sound, battery life, and waterproof functionality.

Who they’re for: Listeners who want total wireless autonomy without sacrificing sound quality or sweatproof performance.

Why we picked the Jabra Elite Active 65t:

With small extrusions emerging from otherwise understated fully wireless in-ears, Jabra’s Elite Active 65t look like miniature versions of the Bluetooth headsets that helped put the brand on the map. But don’t be fooled by the looks — with competitive battery life, sweatproofing, excellent sound quality, and a myriad of useful features, these little guys beat out every other pair of headphones on the market as the best workout headphones.

The Elite Active 65t come with three sets of silicone tips and feature an ergonomic design that guarantees a good seal, which is a big reason we prefer them to other fully wireless models. With outstanding comfort and excellent passive noise isolation, you get the most out of every note, and you can also lower the volume for less ear strain. Overall sound quality is solid, and sound comes through clear and balanced, with a punchy bass response and a surprisingly dynamic treble range.

Unlike their excellent — and slightly cheaper — predecessor, the Jabra Elite 65t, the Elite Active add an IP56 rating, which means they are protected from high-pressure water jets and limited dust ingress, making them perfect for virtually any excursion, and allowing you to rinse them off after particularly sweaty workouts.

In terms of juice, the Elite 65t offer 5 hours of battery life — matching the AirPods and ranking among the best you’ll find — and the included charging case adds two refills on the go. Jabra also matches many of the best features we’ve seen elsewhere in the fully wireless space, with the company’s Sound+ app allowing you to adjust settings like equalization, or whether you want to use your phone’s built-in smart assistant (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or Amazon Alexa. Sensors built into the headphones can be set to play and pause music when you remove the buds, and they can even be set to pipe in different levels of ambient sound, which is great for hearing announcements on the plane or your office mate.

But perhaps the main reason to buy the Jabra Elite Active 65t is that they always do what you want them to — and never drop the connection. That’s shockingly rare in the fully wireless space right now and, when combined with the other features, it makes these some of the best true wireless buds you can buy right now.

Our full Jabra Elite Active 65t review

Yamaha HPH-MT8

The best for the studio

best headphones yamaha hph-mt8
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy them: Simple style, solid construction, and excellent sound for the money.

Who they’re for: Music purists, studio regulars, or podcast pros who want quality cans that take a licking.

Why we picked the Yamaha HPH-MT8:

If you’re a music or media creator in need of a solid pair of headphones that will provide an honest glimpse at your creations — and withstand countless hours of use in demanding settings — look no further than Yamaha’s excellent HPH-MT8 over-ears.

Designed by audio professionals for audio professionals, these studio monitor headphones feature two detachable cables (a 1.5-meter coiled cable, and a 3-meter straight cable), and include a screw-on quarter-inch connector for use with audio interfaces. Plush leather pads and a padded band join solid metal earcup brackets to create a nice seal and comfortable long-term fit, making them feel great during extended work sessions while keeping sound from bleeding into your microphone during overdubs.

Even if you don’t work the audio hustle, the MT8 are a killer pair of cans for price-conscious music fans. Punchy bass and detailed treble are the most prominent sound features, allowing you to hear and adjust every individual element of the sound with astonishing clarity, especially considering their $200 price point.

In many ways, you can think of the Yamaha HP8-MT8 as a trusty pair of audio workboots. They may not be the flashiest-looking accessory, but they get the job done every time. If you’re looking for some excellent studio headphones, or just seriously accurate sound, these are among the best you’ll find.

Our full Yamaha HPH-MT8 review

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.

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