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The best headphones 2022: tops cans from Sony, Bose and more

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
best headphones: the sony wh-1000xm4, the cambridge audio melomania 1 plus, and the bose headphones 700
(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best headphones are essential for anyone who loves their music, podcasts, and movies. Headphones are also essential if you travel a lot, have a lot of video calls at work, or if you need music when you work out. 

Despite the many options and so many different types out there, finding the ideal headphones or earbuds for you is easy, even if you're not familiar with brands and features. We've tested hundreds of different earbuds and headphones, including the most of the top and most popular models on the market, so we know what we are listening for. 

Choosing the best headphones for you depends on several factors – your budget, the features you prioritize, and the preferences you may have about how they look and fit. And, our guide below will help you make sense of it all – as well as help you find the top headphones for your needs, whatever your budget. We've got you covered, whether you're looking for the best sound quality, the best wireless headphones or budget-friendly earbuds for your daily cycle in to work. We also have great running headphones on the list.

Looking for a specific type or form factor? We have options whether you want true wireless earbuds with no cables at all, over-ear headphones for comfort, or a pair of highly immersive noise-cancelling headphones.

Many of the headphones and earphones on this list might look different, but they all have key things in common: a comfortable design, class-leading audio performance, and a range of great extra features including built-in voice assistants and wireless connectivity. Whether you're listening on your smartphone, your laptop, or one of the best MP3 players, you won't be disappointed with one of these picks.

The best headphones 2022

best headphones sony wh-1000xm4 in black against a white background against a white background

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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Improved noise-cancellation over previous model
+
DSEE Extreme audio upscaling
+
Allows for multipoint pairing

Reasons to avoid

-
Not water-resistant

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones deliver excellent noise-cancellation and sound quality in a design that we found comfortable and lightweight throughout our testing. They don’t look different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3. However, 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 delivers 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 are 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 the full Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones review

best headphones cambridge audio melomania 1 plus against a white background

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
The best budget headphones overall

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 4.6g each
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
Drivers: 5.8mm Dynamic with Graphene-enhanced Diaphragm
Battery life: Up to 50 Hours

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning audio performance
+
Great app
+
Easy controls

Reasons to avoid

-
No ANC

Now that they've received a permanent price cut, dragging that tag down to more than half its original price, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a much more appealing option than ever. Not that they weren't already at their original cost, receiving the coveted five-star rating in our review.

A clear upgrade from its predecessors, these offering excellent audio performance, a helpful app, and easy-to-use controls. In terms of audio quality, we found during testing that they offer tons of dynamism and character, with a lively presentation, high accuracy, and a lot of detail. 

And, while there's no noise cancellation on offer, the sound isolation is very good. Finally, if you're ok with using them in low power mode, you should get up to nine hours of battery life per earbuds charge (up to 45 hours with the case).

Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

(Image credit: Sennheiser)
The best headphones for sheer options and sound quality

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 293g
Frequency response: 6Hz-22,000Hz
Drivers: 42mm dynamic
Battery life: 60 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Neutral, crisp, detailed sound
+
Excellent ANC and transparency
+
Incredible battery life even with ANC deployed

Reasons to avoid

-
A little plain aesthetically
-
Design doesn't fold up into the headband

We said under intense review that Sennheiser's welcome update to its 2019 Sennheiser Momentum third-generation Wireless headphones would soon be sitting pretty within this buying guide, and here they are. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are the newest August 2022-issue wireless over-ear headphones from Sennheiser and if Sony (listed above and below) isn't worried, it should be. 

These cans boast an incredible 60-hour battery life, a likeable app, an extensive feature set, easy on-ear controls, talented adaptive noise cancellation and a zealous sound that'll have you nodding your head happily wherever you go. Yes, they're a tad plain aesthetically, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and these headphones sound outrageously good for the level. 

Sennheiser has packed everything and the kitchen sink into the Momentum 4 Wireless’s spec sheet, including Sidetone to better hear your voice during calls and  'Sound Zones', EQ and ANC presets which can be set to magically kick in when you're, well, in the zone. Make no mistake though, the headline-grabber is still the sound. And what a sound it is! Think open, detailed, expansive, neutral and crisp. Never is it overly warm; never is it congested or muddied through the bass.

Move over Sony XM5, there's a new set of cans in town and honestly, they're just that little bit better across the board. Oh, also, they're a little cheaper than the XM5… 

Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless 

best headphones Sony WH-1000XM5 on a plain white background.

(Image credit: Sony)
The best Sony headphones if you don't mind paying the price

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 250g
Frequency response: 4Hz to 40kHz
Drivers: 1.18-inch dome-type
Battery life: 40 hours / 30 with ANC on

Reasons to buy

+
Superb noise cancelling
+
Excellent audio performance
+
Useful ambient features

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive
-
Not a huge upgrade over the XM4s

These new Sonys would be at the top of our table if it weren't for the fact that right now the outgoing model, the WH-1000XM4, is substantially cheaper and does almost everything the newer Sonys do. These are better headphones, but at the moment the XM4s are the better buy.

In our Sony WH-1000XM5 review we said that the XM5s are "the best headphones in the world thanks to their class-leading noise-cancelling features and well-balanced audio". However, "a steeper price point and similar functionality to earlier models make the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones an ever-so-slightly tougher sell than before."

The new design is more elegant and contains slightly smaller drivers than before, and while there's less wind distortion the trade-off is that they don't fold neatly like the previous model did. The noise cancelling is best-in-class, doing an excellent job of muting the higher pitched sounds that ANC headphones tend to find challenging, and sound quality is exemplary. Your co-workers or fellow commuters won't take a dislike to you either: these headphones don't leak as badly as some over-ears do.

The other headline feature here is battery life, which is now 10 hours longer: expect up to 40 hours with the ANC off and 30 with it on. 

If you don't already have noise cancelling headphones, these are as good as it currently gets – but the older, cheaper model is almost as good and better value as a result.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review

best headphones sony wf-1000xm4 true wireless earbuds in black against a white background

(Image credit: Sony)
The best true wireless earbuds

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Rapid, full-bodied and eloquent sound
+
Truly useful features
+
Impressive call quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Unremarkable battery life
-
No aptX support

With the Sony WF-1000XM4s, Sony 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 newer wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are a little more expensive. Features like auto-pause and being able to tune the buds to the shape of your ears are truly useful. 

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 our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

AirPods Pro 2 on white background

(Image credit: Apple)

6. Apple AirPods Pro 2

The best noise-cancelling earbuds for Apple fans

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.3g each
Frequency response: Not listed
Drivers: Custom Apple design
Battery life : 6 hours (earbuds) 30 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Elite active noise cancellation
+
Great audio quality
+
Lots of smart features for iPhone users

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life for buds
-
No aptX or LDAC support

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 offer improved audio performance over the original AirPods Pro and fantastic ANC in a comfortable, true wireless form factor. 

The Pro 2 buds are a step up from the original AirPods Pro. Design changes might be subtle, but audio performance is upgraded with new drivers and amplifiers. During our testing, we rated the sound from the Pro 2 as brilliant—there’s rich audio across genres and a wide and expansive soundstage.

ANC is also greatly improved and performs exceptionally well, we found it blocked out most external noises. Transparency mode is more useful too. It's adaptive, allowing you to have natural conversations when you don’t want to take them out.

Battery life has been boosted to 6 hours from the buds with ANC on, and 30 hours from the charging case, which is now IPX4 water resistant—withstanding light showers and sweating—and has a speaker, handy if you lose them as you can activate a 'Find My' request.

We still rate the original AirPods Pro, but the Pro 2 are one of our favorite options if you're looking for a pair of the best headphones in a true wireless design. If you want the comfort of over-ear headphones, there are better headphones on this list, like the Sony WH-1000XM4s at the top. But the AirPods Pro 2 prove you don't necessarily need an over-ear design anymore for truly immersive sound and excellent ANC from your headphones.

Read our full review: Apple AirPods Pro 2

best headphones 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones in black and gold against a white background

(Image credit: 1More)
The best wired in-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 18g
Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz
Drivers: Dynamic
Battery life: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Lush sound quality
+
Excellent build and design
+
Unmatched value 

Reasons to avoid

-
Plastic remote feels cheap

After testing the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones for a few weeks, we're certain that they deliver fantastic sound and equally fantastic value for money. That's why we consider them to be the best headphones for those who prefer 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 want a little extra refinement and more luxurious materials, the same firm's 1MORE Quad Drivers are even more impressive, albeit at twice the price.

But at this price, and with such excellent build and design, it’s hard to fault the Triple Drivers. 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. For the price, you can't do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones. 

Read our full 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review

best headphones soundmagic e11bt wireless in-ear headphones against a white background

(Image credit: SoundMagic)
The best wired earbuds on a budget

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 24.7g
Frequency response: 20 - 20,000Hz
Drivers: 10mm dynamic neodymium
Battery life: 20 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic price
+
Elegant design
+
Comfortable with ergonomic tips

Reasons to avoid

-
Treble tones can sound harsh

The SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them. The audio quality on offer here is fantastic with vocals sounding clear and smooth, while a hefty amount of bass helps elsewhere. 

Treble frequencies are sharp and crystal-clear too with a good level of attack. Although we also found that they might be a little harsh for anyone who wants to have a very warm soundstage. 

We found these headphones comfortable to wear thanks to their ergonomically designed eartips, and we thought they looked elegant too. They're  attached to a flat neckband that didn't irritate our skin while running or working out. They have an IPX4 rating, which means they should withstand sweaty sessions, so they're a solid option as a spare pair of workout earbuds.

Read the full SoundMagic E11BT review

best headphones BackBeat Go 810 from Plantronics against a white background

(Image credit: Plantronics)
The best budget wireless headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 289g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: 40mm dynamic
Battery life: 24 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Warm, balanced sound
+
Reliable wireless connection

Reasons to avoid

-
Hiss when music isn't playing

For years, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 were among our favorite wireless headphones because of their excellent sound, build quality and features. Unfortunately, they were also kind of expensive. But their successor is a whole lot more affordable.

For $150 / £140 / AU$240, Plantronics now offers the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. These over-ear headphones use less premium materials but during our testing we found the sound quality was nearly identical to their more expensive predecessor – and these headphones sport an equally chic design. 

While the active noise cancellation might be a little on the average side, the headphones offer up mostly warm and balanced sound that's impressive for headphones in this price range. Battery life is about 20 hours with ANC on or up to 28 hours with it switched off.

We think the BackBeat Go 810 are the best headphones for those that want wireless connectivity but without the high price tag.

Read our full Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review

best headphones Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds and charging case against a white background

(Image credit: Lypertek)
The best budget true wireless earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic design: : Closed
Frequency response: : 20Hz - 20kHz
Drivers:: Graphene, 6mm dynamic
Battery life: : 10 hours (earbuds) 70 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound
+
Great price
+
Top-notch battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Ambient mode is poor

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 similar to the originals, include a few key improvements, and are available at the same affordable price point of $99 / £99.

That price 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 the Z3 2.0 earbuds also add wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality and a hear-through ambient mode.

The bad news is that we found the app connectivity to be patchy, and the ambient hear through mode isn't a patch on what you get from the likes of Sony’s noise cancelling WF-1000XM4. The hear-through mode is a shame, then, but these remain very impressive earbuds in terms of sound quality, stamina and affordability. They're more than a match for headphones two or three times the price. 

Read our full Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review

best headphones Nuraloop in black against a white background

(Image credit: NuraLoop)
The best Bluetooth earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 25g
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20 kHz
Drivers: 8.6mm dynamic
Battery life: 16 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Rich, adaptive audio
+
ANC and social mode
+
Rugged, sweatproof desig

Reasons to avoid

-
Stiff neckband can get in the way

NuraLoop has boiled down everything good about the company's first product, the Nuraphone, into a much more compact, rugged, and affordable package, and doesn't lose much in the process. When we reviewed these headphones, we found the star of the show was the adaptive audio technology, which automatically creates a customized listening profile and feeds you well-balanced, lush sound tailored to your ears. It's very impressive and immersive.

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.

The only real downside we encountered during our tests is that its stiff neckband can get in the way at times. But that's a really minor complaint.

Read our full NuraLoop headphones review

best headphones Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in grey against a white background

(Image credit: Bose)
The best noise-cancelling headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 25g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: N/A
Battery life: 20 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding noise cancelation
+
Fun, lively sound
+
Elegant design

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 20 hours of battery life

If the Sony WH-1000XM4s are the current king of noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are next in line for the throne. We think the Sonys sound slightly better, but the Bose noise cancelling is superior – so if you're a frequent flyer these may well be the better option for you.

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 these Bose headphones, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life – they're our number one pick for those reasons. But 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 our full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

best headphones AKG N60NC over-ear headphones in black against a white background

The best budget noise-cancelling headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 198g
Frequency response: 10 - 20,000 Hz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 15 hours

Reasons to buy

+
15-30 hours' battery life
+
Lossless audio support
+
Superb sound

Reasons to avoid

-
On-ear form can be uncomfortable

The AKG N60NC headphones are award-winners: we gave them our coveted 5-star rating. And now their price has plummeted, they're an even better buy.  

We found their noise cancelling to be very good at blocking out engine sounds and similar on flights, and like other AKG headphones there’s solid bass without the low end overpowering the midrange and treble. Music sounds crisp and distinctive every time. If you're used to on-ear rather than over-ear, they’re mostly comfortable, too, which is an important consideration if you’re using them on your travels.

The battery is decent for cheap noise-cancelling 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 so these are a great option for long-haul travel.

Read our full AKG N60NC review

best headphones Bose QuietComfort true wireless earbuds in white against a white background

(Image credit: Bose)
The best noise-cancelling earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic Design: Closed
Weight: 8.5g
Frequency Response: N/A
Drivers: N/A
Battery on-board: 6 hours (earbuds) 12 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class ANC
+
Rich, clear sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack on-board volume control
-
Bulky charging case

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. The design of these earbuds much improved and 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 of your favourite tunes. You’ll only be able to hear some of the highest frequency sounds such as sirens, and even they’re muted to a large degree. 

The Bose headphones aren't quite as bassy as Sony's rivals, but we enjoyed their superb clarity and consistently impressive sound quality. During our testing, we found these noise-cancelling earbuds incredibly comfortable and well balanced, too, and while we expected their bulky form factor to be an issue they're much more comfortable than they look.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review

best headphones Jabra Elite 45h on-ear headphones in sand against a white background

(Image credit: Jabra)
The best on-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 160g
Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 50 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced sound
+
Impressive battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Leaky sound
-
Iffy call quality

For just $79 / £69/ AU$99, the Jabra Elite 45h gives you Bluetooth 5 connectivity, 40mm full-range dynamic drivers and a smattering of physical push-button controls in a wireless on-ear frame. We like how the faux leather, memory foam and happily un-creaky plastic combined to deliver a fit we found extremely comfortable, although we weren't so keen on the way in which the ear pads reflect body heat right back: these phones get rather warm when you've been wearing them for a while. 

Tech-wise, they hit all the key features. 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, giving you a surprisingly personal experience compared to others in this price range. By the standards of overtly affordable headphones, the Elite 45h are feature-packed.

Read our full Jabra Elite 45h review

best headphones sony wh-ch510 on-ear headphones in black against a white background

(Image credit: Sony)
The best budget on-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 132g
Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
Drivers: 30mm dynamic
Battery life: 35 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly affordable
+
Solid audio and battery life
+
Lightweight and compact

Reasons to avoid

-
No 3.5mm jack or USB audio

Testing the Sony WH-CH510, we were amazed that wireless on-ear headphones could cost this little while delivering really 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 – and while the construction is a little plasticky they're lightweight, portable and comfortable. 

While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM4 siblings deliver, the sound these on-ear headphones produce is much better than you'd expect from 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 our full Sony WH-CH510 review

best headphones Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro in black against a white background

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)
The best over-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Open
Weight: 370 g
Frequency response: 5 – 40,000Hz
Drivers: 45mm dynamic Tesla neodymium
Battery life: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Built like a tank
+
Excellent comfort
+
Breathtaking resolution

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly recessed mids

While Beyerdynamic may not be as well-known as its German sibling, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best-sounding audio gear on the market. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, which won our Editor’s Choice award 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 intended to be used at home, or in the studio, for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out, of course, but the open-back design gives the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The soundstage is quite wide, too, enabling 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 good enough for some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are the best headphones for you.

Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review

best headphones JBL tune 750btnc over-ear headphones in black against a white background

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best budget over-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 220g
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 22 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Good sound quality
+
Strong active noise cancelation

Reasons to avoid

-
No waterproofing
-
Average battery life

Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the JBL brand: decent sound quality for a decent price. That's what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC when we reviewed them – and their successors are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, which are both high-spec and well priced.

The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and we found they fitted very well. They also offer decent ANC for anyone looking to block out sounds. They're reliable and easy to use, and while you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features, at this price it feels foolish to complain too readily.

Read our full JBL Tune 750BTNC review

best headphones focal stellia over-ear headphones in bronze against a white background

(Image credit: Focal)
The best luxury headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 435g
Frequency response: 5Hz - 40kHz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning, precise sound
+
Open soundstage
+
Opulent design

Reasons to avoid

-
Extremely expensive

If money's no object, 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 precise separation of the frequencies here 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 definitely do feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work. But if you like a bit of luxury, 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. But then you'd expect to find this level of detail when you're parting with $3,000 / £2,799 (about AU$4,200). Ouch. 

Read our full Focal Stellia headphones review

best headphones final audio ux3000 over-ear headphones in black against a white background

(Image credit: final audio)
A great pair of affordable over-ears with excellent specs

Specifications

Weight: 260g
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
Drivers: Dynamic
Battery life: 35 hours (ANC off), 25 hours (ANC on)

Reasons to buy

+
Confident, articulate sound
+
Good specifications for the price
+
Manageable weight and dimensions

Reasons to avoid

-
Bland looks if you don't like minimalism
-
ANC is good but not great

Final Audio's wireless, noise-cancelling, over-ear headphones may not look or feel particularly special. But their specification, which includes aptX Low Latency Bluetooth, long battery life, and active noise cancellation, go a long way towards making up for it. Their relatively modest size and weight makes them a realistic proposition for anyone who wants to listen in comfort for long periods.

Sound-wise, their dynamism, detail retrieval and musicality make the UX3000 an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable listen. The active noise cancellation is effective enough at dealing with the majority of external distractions; you're not getting Bose-type levels of noise negation, but then you're not spending Bose-type money either.

Battery life here is excellent; the UX3000 should last for 35 hours from a single charge if ANC is switched off, and 25 hours or so if it’s switched on. During our testing we found that, from flat, they can be fully charged in around two-and-a-half hours.

There’s no accompanying app or touch controls here, making them a fairly minimal pair of over-ears, but specs-wise they’ve got everything you could want and more at a very decent price compared to many eye-wateringly expensive rivals.

Read our full Final Audio UX3000 review

How to choose the best 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 when you wear them and, therefore, 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.

The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones in black and silver

The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

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

Some headphones don't go anywhere near your ears at all. Bone-conducting headphones send vibrations through your cheekbones and jaw up towards your inner ear, leaving your ears free. These headphones make great running headphones and swimming headphones.

The Focal Stellia over-ear headphones in bronze

The Focal Stellia over-ear headphones. (Image credit: Focal)

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. 

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.

What is the number 1 headphone brand?

There's no one perfect headphone brand out there. It all depends on your budget, audio needs, the features you want, and even the comfort or design involved with the headphones. 

That's why we've included numerous headphones covering different price ranges and feature sets. While major brands like Sony and Bose may stand out most, that doesn't mean you shouldn't rule out the others, with something for everyone out there.

How we test headphones

When it comes to the best headphones, we focus on sound quality above everything else. We look at both wired and wireless cans and earbuds that would appeal to audiophiles, as well as those working in professional roles.

However, we also appreciate that budget is important too, so we compare like for like, picking out budget headphones that perform admirably for the price.

We also look at other features such as ANC, battery life, fit, and of course the usability and extra perks offered by any companion apps. Of course, design and whether they look (and feel) good all adds to the model's desirability – and this is noted as we listen to music across a wide range of genres over several days. 

We have tested all of the headphones in this guide extensively, spending plenty of time analyzing the sound, fit, design, specs, and value for money so that you will be able to choose a product you'll be over the moon with. 

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