The best headphones 2023: top cans from Sony, Bose and more

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

A pair of the best headphones are pretty much indispensable to modern living, but there are many different types and models to choose from now, it's hard to know where to start. 

That's where we come in – we’ve tested all the best headphones and earbuds over the years, and know exactly what makes a great pair, including sound quality, comfort and convenience. Our recommendations also also consider extra features, such as battery life, noise cancellation and control apps. 

Many people still prefer the best wired headphones for their audio quality, so we do have wired models here, but the convenience of wireless cans means that these are by far the most popular option, which is why so many options in our guide are wireless. You’ll also find the top immersive options in our best noise-cancelling headphones list, which are great for travelling and drowning out ambient noise in offices. 

Our picks of the best headphones stretches across all kinds of budgets, but if you're looking to buy a new pair right now then you're in luck as there are plenty of savings to be had – just take a look at our roundup of the best Black Friday headphones deals or best Black Friday earbuds deals. Also, check out our list of the best cheap headphones for more affordable options. 

Written by
Becky Scarrott
Written by
Becky Scarrott

Becky is a senior TechRadar writer (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team in early 2022, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage.

The quick list

Want to cut to the chase and find out which headphones are the best? Below, you’ll find a roundup of our choices. You can also jump to a more detailed review of every pick, along with our price comparison tool to help you find the best deals.

The best headphones of 2023

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best headphones in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best headphones for most people

Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones

(Image credit: Future)
The best headphones for most people

Specifications

Weight: 253g
Frequency response: 4Hz to 40kHz
Drivers: 1.57-inch dome-type
Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Great active noise cancellation and sound
+
DSEE Extreme audio upscaling

Reasons to avoid

-
Not water-resistant
-
Newer, more expensive headphones can beat them
Buy them if:

✅ You want versatile headphones that sound good: The Sony WH-1000XM4s deliver hgh-quality sound in a lightweight folding design.

✅ You're working from home and need some peace and quiet: With the volume turned up and the noise cancelling on, the WH-1000XM4s can provide an aural nirvana.

Don't buy them if:

You plan on bringing them to the gym or beach: A looser fit and lack of water-resistance should make you think twice before putting them inside your gym bag.

❌ You take tons of conference calls: While these are great for travel, their call quality isn't that strong. 

Released in August 2020, Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones have remained a firm favorite. They were voted as the best wireless headphones at TechRadar Choice Awards in 2021 and even though the WH-1000XM5s have since been unveiled in 2022, we still think they're the better all-rounder. 

With features such as multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor, they're still full of great tech. A substantial 30 hours of battery life (with ANC turned on) is also in line with competing headphones at this price point.    

The WH-1000XM4s offer warm and balanced audio quality thanks to 40mm drivers as well as excellent noise cancellation. They also support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, which delivers spatial audio on stereo headphones, plus the LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps.

On the design front, we found them to be incredibly comfortable and lightweight in our testing. While they do lack water resistance, these minimalist headphones (they only have two physical buttons for turning them on/off and pairing) are nonetheless still very sturdy. 

While the Sony's WH-1000XM4 can be beaten on sound and ANC quality by newer and more expensive models, they're usually available for cheaper now, which makes them even better value than they were before. 

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

The best earbuds for most people

sony wf-1000xm4 sitting on some grass

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best earbuds for most people

Specifications

Weight: 7.3g
Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz
Drivers: 6mm
Battery life : 8 hours (earbuds) 16 hours (charging case)