The best headphones 2018: Our pick of the best of the best

best headphones

Best Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best headphones you can buy on any budget in 2018. 

The benefits of a decent pair of headphones are obvious as soon as you start playing your favorite song: Clearer sounds, tighter, more focussed bass, and more detail in your music are just a few of the benefits of spending a little more.

Dig a little deeper and you can also get your hands on advanced functionality like noise-cancellation and wireless operation, and you can do so without emptying your bank account. It's a whole new world of audio out there. 

To help you navigate it, we've selected the best headphones for each form-factor, and we've even picked out a less-costly option for each so that you should be able to find an excellent pair of headphones, no matter your budget.

What are the best headphones to buy right now?

Here's a quick look at the best headphones this year:

Don't forget we've also got our form-factor specific guides to the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones and the best over-ear headphones in addition to our guides to the best noise-cancelling headphones and the best wireless headphones if you can't find what you're looking for on this list.

Optoma NuForce HEM6

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

Sennheiser Momentum In Ear

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: Sound quality is balanced 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

Bang and Olufsen H2

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

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

Best Headphones 2016

Best over-ear headphones: Oppo PM-3

Closed back planar magnetic headphones from the gods

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.71 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 10-50,000Hz | Drivers: 55mm | Driver type: Planar Magnetic | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 26 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Stunning sound quality
Great isolation
Faux leather earpads
Less precision than open-back cans

The Oppo PM-3's are a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we've reviewed a lot of headphones in the last 10 years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.

They're equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of a big city, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can't recommend them highly enough, they're just amazing.

Read the full review: Oppo PM-3

AKG K92

Best budget over-ear headphones: AKG K92

Budget over-ears that make no compromises on sound quality

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.44 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 ft | Frequency response: 16-20,000Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 113dB | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Comfortable to wear
Great sounding
Budget plastic construction
No detachable cable

AKG has the right idea when it comes to budget headphones. Instead of spending lots of money on an expensive, heavy construction, the company has instead clearly spend the bulk of its money on the K92's drivers, which sound appropriately excellent.

So yes, the K92's might feel a little plastic-y, but they have a good amount of power where it matters the most.

Read the full review: AKG K92

Bose QuietComfort 35

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM2

Crystal clear-sounding noise-cancelling headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 23g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Superb noise-cancellation
Great-sounding audio
Touch controls
Hinges on arms are fragile

When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you're often trading sound quality for the ability to block out outside noise. It's a trade that we've been willing to make for years because, honestly, we just hadn't been able to find a headphone that could do both noise-cancellation and Hi-Res audio.

Until now. 

The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the follow-up to the surprisingly great MDR-1000X.  They might have a slightly shorter battery life than Bose’s flagship over-ear headphones, the QuietComfort 35, but Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outclass the QC35 in terms of both performance for the price and overall feature-set.   

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2

Best budget noise-canceling headphones: TaoTronics TT-BH22

Insanely cheap noise-cancelling headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 7-25,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.5" Neodymium drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 107 dB | Impedance: 16 ohm | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

Exciting sound signature
Good battery life
Sounds bad with ANC off
Unrefined build and features

We make it a habit to not look up pricing of a product before reviewing and if we had to guess the price of the Taotronics TT-BH22, we would have guessed it cost $150. We were shocked to find out that the MSRP for the TT-BH22 is $70 (£60, about AU$86), and can regularly be found for even less online. 

The TT-BH22 feature active noise cancellation (ANC), which is unheard of in this price range, and on top of that, you get a rated 25 hours of battery life. They're not perfect, but if you need noise-cancellation and you don't want to drop your next two paychecks on headphones, they're worth checking out.

Read the full review: TaoTronics TT-BH22

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

Best wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

Incredible audio fidelity backed by a serious price

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 4.6 feet | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 28 ohms | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes

Comfy, rugged build
Best-in-class sound
Everlasting battery life
Terribly pricey

These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but for many, they're almost prohibitively expensive. However, if you're an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.

Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

Sony MDR ZX770BT

Best wireless earphones: Optoma NuForce BE6i

Sporty wireless earphones that are great for casual listeners too

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 18 grams | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 10mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 95dB +/-3dB | Impedance: 20 Ohms | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 98 feet | NFC: No

Comfortable fit
Amazing value
Cheap remote
Light on features

Continuing the trend that the original NuForce BE6 started, the Optoma Nuforce BE6i are a minor update to an already great pair of earbuds and remain one of our favorite in-ear wireless headphones for the price.Offering good sound, build quality and battery life in its segment if you're looking for a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that can survive a strenuous work out, the these should be on the top of your list of headphones to try.

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE6i

Best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite Sport

Great sound with fitness tracking to mach

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 4.5 hours (13.5 hours in charging case) | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

Great sport features
Excellent isolation
Very good sound quality
Expensive
Heart rate data not perfect

Since the release of the AirPods the popularity of 'true wireless' earbuds, which remove the cable between the two earbuds, have exploded. 

The Jabra Elite Sport are the best of the bunch at the moment. They not only feature great sound quality, but they'll also track your heart rate during workouts. 

Because they need to fit their entire body into your ears the Jabra Elite Sport don't have as long a battery life as other wireless pairs, but if you want the freedom true wireless affords then there's little out there that can compete. 

Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport

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