Finding the best headphones for you depends on several factors. These parameters include (but are by no means limited to) your budget, the features you prioritize and the preferences you may have about how they look and fit. Do you want over-ear cans with a headband between them or would you prefer true wireless earbuds that cut the cord entirely? The choice is yours!
If you're not sure where to begin, don't worry. This guide will help you find the top headphones for your needs, whatever your budget.
Our pick of the best headphones you can find today includes true wireless earbuds with no cables at all, over-ear headphones for comfort, as well as highly immersive, noise-cancelling headphones that can block out nearly all ambient sounds so you can focus on your work, music, or podcasts and nothing else. We've reviewed hundreds of different earbuds and headphones, so we know what we are listening for.
A great pair of headphones is essential for anyone who loves their music, whether you're listening on your smartphone, your laptop, or one of the best MP3 players. Headphones are also essential if you travel a lot or like listening to music when you work or when you work out.
Many of the best headphones might look different, but all of the excellent options in this list have key things in common. These include comfortable designs, class-leading audio performance and a range of great extra features including built-in voice assistants and wireless connectivity. 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. Many of these choices are ideal for running headphones too.
Our pick of the best headphones you can buy
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, 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 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.
UPDATE: The Sony WH-1000XM4 have been our pick for the best headphones you can buy for two years running. Sony has now launched a new version, the Sony WH-1000XM5. which you'll find in third place – for now.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones review
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.
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 more: Sony WH-1000XM5 review
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 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 review: SoundMagic E11BT 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 Sony, 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 stylish design, we found the PX7s a delight to test and think they could give any of the headphones on this list a run for their money.
They're also 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.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones review
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 the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review
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 the full review: 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 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 the full review: Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review
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 the full review: NuraLoop headphones review
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 the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
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 the full review: 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.
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 the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
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 the full review: Jabra Elite 45h review
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 the full review: Sony WH-CH510 review
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 the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review
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 the full review: JBL Tune 750BTNC review
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 the full review: Focal Stellia headphones review
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 more: 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.
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.
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 the best 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.