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Best headphones 2019: Your definitive guide to the latest and greatest audio

Best Headphones
Image credit: Sony

Best headphones 2019: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best headphones available to buy right now in every style and at every price point.

A good pair of headphones are an absolute essential for many of us. Aside from breathing new life into our favorite songs, they keep us entertained and distracted with music, podcasts and audio books when we're traveling to work, working out or just trying to disconnect from everyone else. 

We spend a lot of time with our headphones – and if you're looking for a new pair, you're going to want a pair of the best headphones you can find. 

What you need to know about Black Friday 2019
It's no secret that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the best times to find fantastic wireless headphone deals. Usually you'll find that mid-range brands like Optoma and Jaybird get the biggest discounts at retailers like Amazon, but it's worth bearing in mind that Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser have all recently released new models – and that means older models could be discounted.

It's our mission to hook you up with a pair of great-sounding headphones – the best headphones money can buy, even when you're on a budget. 

We've put hundreds of headphones through their paces over the years of every make, model and variety to create list-after-list of the best noise-canceling headphones, the best wireless headphones, the best wireless earbuds, the best earphones, the best over-ear headphones, the best running headphones, and many more.

Looking for a specific brand? We also have buying guides for the best Audio-Technica  headphones and the best Sony headphones, with more to come in the near future.

We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar – however, if you're in a hurry and just want to find the best headphones your money can buy, you've come to the right place.

Below you'll find our selection of the best headphones for each form-factor, and we've even picked out a less-costly option for each so that a lack of finances won't stop you from finding a pair of headphones you'll truly love. 

What to look for

How to choose the best headphones for you

Which headphones style is best for you?

Check out TechRadar's exhaustive guides to the best over-ear headphones, best on-ear headphones and the best in-ear headphones.

For some more specialist pairs, take a look at our guides to the best wireless headphones, best true wireless earbuds, best wireless earbuds, and the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Need a specific brand? We have guides to the best Sony headphones, the best Bose headphones, and the best Audio-Technica headphones.

Looking for some headphones you can work out with? Check out our guide to the best swimming headphones and the best running headphones

Choosing the right headphones for you can be an agonizing decision – but it doesn't have to be if you look for a few key features. 

Above all, sound quality is the most important thing to look for. That doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive audiophile headphones on the market; it just means that you should have an idea of what kind of sound you like. 

How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?

If you're all about that bass, you'll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows. 

It's also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you're in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.

You also need to consider the design of your new headphones. Do you want the freedom of true wireless earbuds or the security of a pair of sturdy over-ear headphones?

Wireless or wired is also an important consideration. A few short years ago, we may have tried to dissuade you from buying a pair of wireless headphones (the technology had issues with wireless connectivity over Bluetooth and sound quality took a dive as a result). 

Nowadays however, advances in Bluetooth technology means that wireless headphones can sound fantastic and rarely experience annoying dropouts. If you're going for wireless headphones, make sure the battery life is decent, too.

You should also think about what you'll be using your new headphones for; if you need to soundtrack your workout, you'll want to look at headphones specifically designed for running or swimming.

Lastly, you need to consider price. You don't have to break the bank when your buying a pair of headphones, as evidenced by our guide to the best cheap headphones of 2019.

So, with all that in mind, here are the best headphones we've tested and reviewed this year.

The best headphones of 2019, at a glance

Our best headphone picks

best headphones

(Image credit: Sony )

Best headphones 2019: Sony WH-1000XM3

The headphones that can do everything

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 254g | Cable length: 3.94 ft | Frequency response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Neodymium | Sensitivity: 104.5 dB / mW (1 kHz) | Impedance: 47 ohm | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Outstanding noise cancellation
Fantastic sound quality
30-hour battery life
Mediocre call quality

If there’s anything surprising about the new Sony WH-1000XM3 it’s that they’re so consistent with what Sony has released in the last two years in the form of the Sony WH-1000XM2 and Sony MDR-1000X. To wit, they’re a dominant noise-canceling pair of headphones that can beat anything Bose has with both arms behind its back. 

That’s because, while Bose has done a tremendous job working out its noise cancelation algorithm over the years, Sony has spent that time perfecting audio playback while simultaneously creating an adaptable algorithm that doesn’t just create a single sterile sound barrier, but multiple kinds that can tailor itself to whatever situation you’re in. 

Beyond being exceptional at keeping external noises at bay, these impressive Sony headphones are Hi-Res Audio-ready, sporting aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs, plus offer will offer Google Assistant support right on-board. If you need a headphone that can live up to any challenge and excel in any environment, these are the pair for you.

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3 review

in-ear headphones

(Image credit: 1More)

Best in-ear headphones: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone

Your search for great-sounding, good value headphones ends here

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Lush sound quality
Excellent build and design
Unmatched value
Plastic remote feels cheap

After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges. 

For $100 / £100 (about AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.

There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Its rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks. But, for its price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones. 

Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review

budget in-ears

(Image credit: RHA)

Best budget in-ear headphones: RHA S500u

Great-sounding, incredibly cheap in-ear headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 14 grams | Cable length: 1.35m, dual material | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: Micro Dynamic | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100dB | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Excellent build quality  
Balanced, rich audio  
Sibilant at times 
Narrow soundstage 

If you have a tendency to lose or break headphones but still value sound quality, it’s hard to think of a better value than the RHA S500u. 

These headphones have no business sounding so good for the price, sporting a  balanced soundstage with a slight mid-bass bump. 

Bass is slightly emphasized but not egregiously and features good impact while maintaining good control – and highs, while sibilant at times, makes music sound more exciting.    

Read the full review: RHA S500u review

on-ear headphones

(Image credit: Grado)

Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e

Truly excellent sound performance for a stellar price

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99db | Impedance: 32 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Very comfortable
Impressive definition for the price
Highly recommended
No in-line controls

For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. 

The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. 

Its open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. In a few words, it's our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.

(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance.)

Read the full review: Grado SR60e review

budget headphones

(Image credit: Urbanears)

Best budget on-ear headphones: Urbanears Plattan II

A perfect value buy if you want headphones that are cheap and comfortable

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99db | Impedance: 32 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Very comfortable
Good value
Narrow soundstage
No volume controls

While the original Plattan headphones were just fine for a pair of on-ear headphones, Urbanears wasn’t satisfied with being mediocre. The company took customer feedback to heart and addressed many complaints about comfort, sound quality and isolation. 

For the most part, Urbanears succeeded, making the Plattan II a worthy sequel to the company’s most popular headphone.  

In short, these are basic headphones without a ton of features. But, because they're feature-light, you get a good-sounding pair of wired headphones for significantly less than you would otherwise. 

Read the full review: Urbanears Plattan II review

best over ear headphones

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

Best over-ear headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Professional headphones that know how to have fun

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 370 g | Cable length: 9.8ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 5 – 40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 250 Ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Built like a tank
Excellent comfort
Breathtaking resolution
Slightly recessed mids
Highs may be fatiguing

While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770DT880 and DT990 were renown for their excellent build and sound quality. 

Above them all, however, stands the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, a headphone which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($599 / £589 / AU$1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound. 

As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out but the good news is that the open-back design gives you the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. Soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.  

If you've been searching for a pair of Hi-Fi headphones that are used by some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are them.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review

cheap over-ear

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

Best budget over-ear headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT

These over-ear headphones bring both performance and value

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .64 pounds | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.7" drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB | Impedance: 35 ohm | Battery life: 40 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

Stellar battery life 
Balanced sound 
Wired mode sounds even better 
Highs can be too energetic

Audiophiles typically shun wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years. There are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.

That said, the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT feature some of the best wired and wireless sound quality for a headphone under $200 /£150. They play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. They're extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built. 

Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a charge, and while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelling and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.

Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT review

Bose headphones

(Image credit: Bose)

Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Class-leading noise cancelation, but not the best battery life

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Outstanding noise cancelation
Fun, lively sound
Elegant design
Battery life could be better
More expensive Sony WH-1000XM3s

While we think the Sony WH-1000XM3s are the true best noise-canceling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are a close second – and for the sake of offering an alternative, we've included them in this list.

Traditionally, noise-canceling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight). 

This can be really effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you, whether you’re standing on a busy street or trying to speak on a rumbling train.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancelation to phone calls as well as music, which is fantastic feature.

The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.

If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise-cancelation is out of this world. 

Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

noise canceling headphones

(Image credit: JBL)

Best budget noise-canceling headphones: JBL Live 650BTNC

Great noise-canceling headphones for those on a budget

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 249g | Cable length: 3.93ft | Frequency response: 16Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dBSPL@1kHz/1mW | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: 20-30 hours | Wireless range: 30ft (10m) | NFC: No

Great sound
Compact design
On-ear form-factor gets uncomfortable
Initially confusing controls

For the money, the JBL Live 650BTNC punch above its weight in terms of sound quality, build, and features. They offer your choice of either Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, and can have their EQ customized by the JBL Headphones app.  Battery life is rated at 20 hours with ANC and wireless enabled and if you use the JBL Live 650BTNC with a wire with ANC enabled, you can get upwards 30 hours on a single charge.

If you don’t want to splurge on the Bose QC35 II or Sony WH-1000XM3, you’ll be satisfied with the JBL Live 650BTNC knowing that you’re getting 80% of the performance at 50% of the price tag.

Read the full review: JBL Live 650BTNC review

wireless headphones

(Image credit: Jabra)

Best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 85h

Giving Sony and Bose a run for their money

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 2960g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 10 - 20,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 36 hours | Wireless range: 33ft | NFC: No

Class-leading battery life
Excellent ANC performance
Stylish and comfortable
No support for high-end codecs

Again, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our true winners in this category, but if you want an alternative, the Jabra Elite 85h is it. 

Offering class-leading battery life, terrific style and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h is easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier headphones on the market at this price point. 

When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.  

Read the full review: Jabra Elite 85h review

budget wireless headphones

(Image credit: Plantronics)

Best budget wireless headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810

Solid, affordable, mid-range noise-cancelling headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.64 lbs (289g) | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 24 hours | Wireless range: 100 meters (330 feet) | NFC: No

Excellent build quality
Warm, balanced sound
Reliable wireless connection
Average ANC
Hiss when music isn't playing

For years, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 were one of our favorite wireless headphones because of their excellent sound, build quality and features. Unfortunately, though, they were also kind of expensive. 

For a lot less ($150 / £140 / AU$240), Plantronics now sells the still-very-good BackBeat Go 810, which uses less premium materials but sounds nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor. 

That being said, we feel the Go 810 are an affordable pair of ANC headphones that will please travelers and commuters who don’t want to spend too much money on headphones.   

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review

focal stellia

(Image credit: Focal)

Best luxury headphones: Focal Stellia

Luxury cans with a luxury price tag to match

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.96 lbs (435g) | Cable length: 1 x 4ft OFC 24 AWG cable, 1 x 10ft OFC 24 AWG cable | Frequency response: 5Hz - 40kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz | Impedance: 35Ohms | Battery life: NA | Wireless range: NA | NFC: No

Stunning, precise sound
Open soundstage
Comfortable
Opulent design
Extremely expensive
A bit big

The Focal Stellias sound absolutely fantastic. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.

If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias' precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.

If you like to keep things minimal in the headphones department, you probably won’t like the showy, opulent design of the Focal Stellias, and they can feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work. 

But if luxury is your thing, the full-grain leather cups, woven cables, brushed copper accents, and matching carrying case are likely to appeal. 

That luxury feel is translated right down to the presentation of the user manuals in a neat little leather-style wallet – and you may well expect to find this level of detail in exchange for parting with $3,000. Ouch. 

Read the full review: Focal Stellia headphones review

bluetooth headphones

(Image credit: Optoma)

Best Bluetooth earbuds: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

Practically flawless wireless earbuds

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 15 grams | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 92dB +/-3dB | Impedance: 32 Ohms | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 feet | NFC: No

Impressive audio
Customized eartips
Practical design
Not suited to one-ear listening

The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations, whether you're looking to take them out on a run or just wear them around town. 

They're ideal for exercise, although any urbanite will also find their lightweight functionality and impressive sound isolation highly appealing. 

If you want proof that wireless headphones can now compete with the best of them, look no further.

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 review

Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)

Best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3

Noise cancelation without the wires

Weight: 70g | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dome Type | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life (charging case): 18 hours | Wireless range: 30ft | NFC: Yes

Efficient noise cancelation
Inconspicuous looks
Great fun to listen to
No volume control on earbuds
Not suitable for sports

Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancelation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed. 

The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancelation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – it won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it. 

That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: not only are these hands down the best-looking True Wireless headphones out there, but they combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. 

If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive alternative.

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds review

Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.

Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.

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