Finding the best headphones for you depends on a range of factors, including your preferences – like earbuds or over-ears? – your style and your budget. This guide will help you find the top headphones for you whether you’re looking for the best quality sound, the top affordable cans on the market or the most minimal earbuds.
We’ve selected the best headphones you can buy today, from true wireless earbuds that cut the cord completely, through to super immersive, noise-cancelling headphones that can block out all ambient sounds, allowing you to focus on your work, music, or podcasts.
We believe a good pair of headphones is a must-have for anyone who loves their music – and that's true whether you're listening on your smartphone, your laptop, or one of the best MP3 players.
Although they might look different, the top-performing headphones in this list all have some key things in common: comfortable designs, class-leading audio performance, and a range of fantastic extra features, such as built-in voice assistants and wireless connectivity. So whether you’re looking for audiophile sound quality or budget-friendly earbuds that can handle a sweaty workout session, we've got you covered.
Are wired headphones better than wireless?
Generally speaking, wired headphones do deliver better sound quality than wireless headphones. But there have been so many advances in audio tech in recent years, that with many of the best wireless headphones you're unlikely to notice a difference.
That's why we often recommend audiophiles continue to opt for wired headphones. But for everyone else, it's mostly be down to personal preference. If wireless headphones suit you and are more convenient, they're a better choice for you. Get a good quality pair and you won't be missing out when it comes to sound quality.
What are the best headphones I can buy right now?
That depends on your preferences, style and budget.
One of the most important considerations is design. Do you want a pair of in-ear headphones for running that are discrete and will stay snug all-day? Do you want a pair of true wireless headphones to give you ultimate flexibility? Or how about a big pair of over-ear headphones, the ultimate in noise cancellation and comfort?
We've included a number of different headphone types below, like in-ear, on-ear, over-ear, wireless and true wireless.
However, our top pick has to be the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones. They're fantastic all-rounders, offering a long battery life, noise cancellation, and excellent audio quality for the price.
Our best headphone picks
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones deliver excellent noise-cancellation and sound quality in a design that we found both comfortable and lightweight when we tested them.
They don’t look different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3, but new features, including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor, mean they’re a significant upgrade.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones also support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, which enables spatial audio on stereo headphones plus the LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps. However, it no longer supports aptX or aptX HD, so your Hi-Res Audio support mileage may vary.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is a wonderful pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones. They deliver exactly what they promise and then some thanks to their exceptional noise cancellation and cutting-edge codec support.
- Read more: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones review
After testing the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones for a few weeks, we were blown away by their fantastic value for money. That's why we consider them to be the best headphones for those who like wired earbuds.
For $100 / £100 (about AU$168), it’s hard to find a better-sounding and more well-built pair of earphones than the 1MORE Triple Drivers. Although, if you do want a little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.
At this price with such excellent build and design, it’s hard to fault the Triple Drivers. Sure, the inbuilt remote feels a little cheap, but that's more than made up for by the lush sound quality offered by these luxe-looking earbuds that are unmatched in value and sound. For the price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
If you have a tendency to lose or break your headphones, but you still want good sound quality, it’s hard to recommend a better value pair of earbuds than the RHA S500u.
These in-ear headphones have no business sounding so good for only $40 / £30 / AU$52. They offer a balanced soundstage with a slight mid-bass bump to power you through your workouts and make your music sound great.
During our testing, we found that bass is slightly emphasized but not egregiously and features good impact while maintaining good control – and highs, while sibilant at times, make music sound more exciting. All of that considered, these truly are the best headphones you can buy if you're on a strict budget or need a second pair for work or the gym.
- Read more: RHA S500u review
If you’re looking for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation and you're not put off by the $399 / £349 / AU$600 price tag, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones are well worth considering. The title of best wireless headphones still goes to the Sony WH-1000XM4 of course, but there's not much in it between Sony’s cans and these from Bowers & Wilkins.
With sophisticated noise cancellation, much-improved sound quality, and a honed aesthetic, we found the PX7 a delight to test and think they could give any of the headphones on this list a run for their money.
Plus, they're packing aptX Adaptive for improved stability and latency between the headphones and your device, as well as high-quality (24-bit) streaming aptX HD brought to the table. That's why they're the best headphones if you're looking for a strong pair of all-rounders.
Now, for a lot less ($150 / £140 / AU$240), Plantronics offers the brilliant Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. These over-ear headphones use less premium materials but during our testing we found the sound nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor – and these headphones sport an equally chic design.
With that in mind, the BackBeat Go 810 are the best headphones for those that want wireless connectivity without the high price tag.
- Read more: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review
Sony is a big name in audio tech and with the Sony WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before in a noise-cancelling true wireless package.
During our testing, we found that compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.
While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – in terms of noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.
- Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review
When we first reviewed the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 true wireless earbuds (then known as the Lypertek Tevi), we were blown away. The Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds are their successors. They’re very similar to the originals, with a few key improvements, and yet still come in at the same affordable price point of $99 / £99.
This gets you everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3, including detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons. But on top, the Z3 2.0 earbuds add wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality and a hear through ambient mode.
Our own issue is that app connectivity is patchy at best, and the ambient hear through mode is pretty much useless in comparison to the competition from the likes of Sony’s noise cancelling WF-1000XM4.
Yet, with the price still so low, and nothing to detract from the quality standard the originals set out, with a few notable improvements, they remain must-have earbuds, more than a match for headphones two or three times the price.
- Read more: Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review
NuraLoop has boiled down the essence of the company's first product, the Nuraphone, into a much more compact, rugged, and affordable package, and doesn't lose much in the process with the NuraLoop headphones.
When we reviewed these headphones, we found the star of the show to be the adaptive audio technology, which automatically determines a customized listening profile and feeds you well-balanced, lush sound tailored to you as a result.
Although that's the USP of these earbuds, there are plenty of other features that make the NuraLoop headphones stand out, including active noise-cancelling, social mode, an IPX3 rating, Immersion mode, a great battery life, and the ability to attach an analog cable for 3.5mm headphone jacks.
- Read more: NuraLoop headphones review
If the Sony WH-1000XM4s are the true king of noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are next in line for the throne – and for the sake of offering a few alternatives, we've included them in this list.
By applying noise cancellation to phone calls as well as music, Bose has made great strides in the field of noise-cancelling headphones. We found the sound quality to be undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.
If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM4s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life – they're the best headphones for a reason. 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 cancellation is out of this world.
- Read more: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
The AKG N60NC headphones are award-winners, with a coveted 5-star rating from TechRadar. Now the price of these headphones has fallen considerably, they’re an even better buy.
The noise cancellation is very good, and like other AKG headphones there’s good, solid bass without overpowering the midrange and treble. They’re comfortable, too, which is an important consideration if you’re using them on your travels.
The battery is decent for cheap noise canceling headphones, with 15 hours of playback over Bluetooth. If you just want full noise cancellation, you’re good for a whopping 30 hours of peace and relative quiet before you need to find a charger.
- Read more: AKG N60NC review
This is Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free.
Not only is the design of these earbuds much improved, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. There are ten levels of ANC on offer here. At maximum, you’re practically cut off from the rest of the world, encased in a cocoon of sound that’s made entirely up of your favourite tunes. You’ll only be able to hear some high frequency sounds like sirens (and even they’re muted to a large degree).
We also enjoyed the high sound quality – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity.
During our testing, we found these noise-cancelling earbuds incredibly comfortable and well balanced, too, despite their bulky form factor.
- Read more: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
For just $79 / £69/ AU$99, Jabra has wrapped Bluetooth 5 connectivity, 40mm full-range dynamic drivers and a smattering of physical push-button controls in a wireless on-ear frame with the Jabra Elite 45h.
Faux leather and memory foam, combined with winningly un-creaky plastic, make for a fit we found extremely comfortable (even if the earpads themselves absorb ear-heat quite quickly and then give it straight back).
There’s voice control available from Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Jabra’s Sound+ control app even walks you through a brief hearing test to establish exactly how the EQs should be set to best suit your ears. By the standards of overtly affordable headphones, the Elite 45h are feature-packed.
- Read more: Jabra Elite 45h review
Looking at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s mind-blowing that wireless on-ear headphones could cost this little, not to mention a pair that has decent sound, a USB-C port, and 35 hours of battery life.
If you’re looking for headphones at this price point, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 haven’t been too crucial – the lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on most modern smartphones while the lightweight, plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.
While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM4 siblings boast, the sound these on-ear headphones produce definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble might get uncomfortably exaggerated.
- Read more: Sony WH-CH510 review
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.
Enter the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, which won our Editor’s Choice for their 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 the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The 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 high fidelity cans that are used by some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are the best headphones for you.
- Read more: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review
JBL is a popular name in the world of headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price.
That's what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC's as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.
- Read more: JBL Tune 750BTNC review
If you ignore the price, the Focal Stellia headphones are perhaps the best headphones on the planet. 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 / £2,799 (about AU$4,200). Ouch.
- Read more: Focal Stellia headphones review
How to choose the right headphones for you
There's a lot to consider when you're buying a new pair of headphones. But the most important is the design. Because it doesn't just dictate how they look, but the features on offer, how they feel and how you'll use them day-to-day.
In-ear headphones, also called earbuds or earphones, are usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. They rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. These are the most discreet designs you'll find, making them excellent for portability and the prime choice for athletes.
Over-ear headphones generally provide fantastic richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. Additionally, over-ear, or circumaural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.
Instead of enveloping your ears, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable seal around your ear. The noise isolation is less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. But they're usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, appeal to travellers and make good fitness headphones.
Wireless headphones fit into three different categories.
Wireless in-ear earphones connected via a neckband are ideal for runners who want the freedom of a wireless connection with the security of a wire keeping their earbuds firmly around their neck.
With wireless on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones, you simply lose the wire connecting them to your device – otherwise, they look pretty much the same as your regular pair of wired cans, and give you the noise-isolating prowess of over-ears without the need for cumbersome wires to connect to your device.
True wireless earbuds have no cord whatsoever. For some, this means true freedom; for others, untethered true wireless means constant danger of losing their expensive audio kit down the drain – or terrible connections. The latter, at least, has changed now – thanks to advances in Bluetooth technology like aptX HD, the best true wireless earbuds have never sounded better.
Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.