The best headphones 2024 for all budgets, tested by our experts

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

A set of the best headphones is indispensable to modern living, but with so many different designs, specifications and models to choose from, it's tough to know where to start. 

That's where we come in – we’ve tested all the best headphones and earbuds for over 15 years, and we know great sound quality, comfort and convenience when we hear it. Our recommendations also note extra features, such as battery life, noise cancellation and control apps for your potential purchases too. 

In this guide, we've covered both over-ear/on-ear headphones plus earbuds. Most of our picks rank among the best wireless headphones, which is by far the more popular option these days, but can also be used wired for when you need it (with the exception of the true wireless earbuds). You’ll also find our top immersive, bubble-of-silence picks from our best noise-cancelling headphones list, which are great for travelling or drowning out ambient noise in offices. 

Our best headphones buying guide includes recommendations for all budgets, but you can also check out our list of the best cheap headphones for even more affordable options.

The quick list

Get right to it with our easy-to-browse list of the best headphones for different needs. You can click to instantly jump to more full write-up of each model.

Written by
Becky Scarrott
Written by
Becky Scarrott

I've reviewed over 150 audio products since becoming a tech journalist, ranging from super-budget earbuds to high-end Hi-Res Audio music players. Before joining TechRadar, I spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing everything the world of audio had to offer; before that, I was a professional dancer. My love of music ties it all together.

Recent updates

April 5, 2024
Removed Sony WF-1000XM4 due to lack of stock available, and re-ordered our other choices as a result.

The best headphones of 2024

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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best headphones in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so these recommendations are based on real-world experience.

The best headphones for most people

The best headphones for most people

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Rich audio quality
+
Strong active noise cancellation
+
Tons of smart features

Reasons to avoid

-
Not water-resistant
-
Newer, more expensive headphones can beat them
-
Only LDAC for higher-res wireless
Buy them if:

✅ You want versatile headphones that sound good: The Sony WH-1000XM4s deliver high-quality sound in a lightweight folding design that's good for travel.

✅ You want strong noise cancellation: With the volume  up and the noise cancelling on, the WH-1000XM4 can block out a lot.

Don't buy them if:

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

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

Despite the fact that the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones have now been released, we still rate the WH-1000XM4 as the best pick for most people because they're now usually such good value. A combination of a permanent price drop plus regular heavy discounts during sales events means that they can be regularly found for a price lower than other premium headphones, while still delivering excellent all-round performance.

They sound is weighty by well-balanced, with a warm and inviting tone. They're generous with the bass, but not overly so. The active noise cancellation is very strong too, and though it's been bettered by the Sony XM5 and Bose's latest headphones, it's great for the price if you buy at a discount.

They're bursting with features too, including Sony's DSEE Extreme upscaling for lower-quality music from sources such as Spotify, multipoint pairing for easy switching between devices, auto play/pause when you take them off, Sony's 360 Reality Audio spatial audio, and LDAC wireless support for CD-quality wire-free sound from compatible phones. It's a shame there's no aptX, but it's not a deal-breaker.

They're very comfortable thanks to a lightweight design, and wearing them for long periods is no strain at all. A 3.5mm jack means you can connect them to a wired source easily, though there's no USB-C audio input (the USB-C port is for charging only).

The 30-hour battery life is pretty typical, though is smashed by the 60 hours of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, which also clearly beat these on sound quality when comparing the two, though as mentioned above, we still think the Sony are great value at their reduced price. That's the story for these headphones at this point: you can find something that does any individual thing better, but nothing that does so much so well as their lower price.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

The best budget headphones

The best cheap headphones

Specifications

Weight: 4.8 oz
Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
Drivers: 30mm dynamic
Battery life: 50 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly affordable
+
Impressive sound and battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No 3.5mm jack or USB audio
-
No active noise cancellation
Buy them if:

✅ You want well-balanced sound: Don't like how bass-heavy or shiny in the treble cheap headphones can be? No danger of that here – they're perfectly tuned.

✅ You love a long battery life: With 50 hours of battery, these will basically always have juice when you need them.

Don't buy them if:

You want active noise cancellation: There's no ANC here, and the passive noise isolation isn't really notable either. Consider the 1More Sonoflow if you need this for cheap.

❌ You're hoping for really audiophile sound: The balance and sound profile is great here, but a cheap pair of wired headphones will sound notably better.

With solid audio, great battery life and Bluetooth connectivity, the Sony WH-CH520 are excellent bang for your buck. If you’re looking for on-ear headphones at this price point, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, most of the compromises (such as no 3.5mm port option) Sony has made with the WH-CH520 haven’t been too crucial.

The lack of active noise cancellation might be more of a problem, but it certainly isn't unfair for the price. Where the WH-CH520 really shine is a very long battery life of 50 hours and premium features like a customizable control app with DSEE and multi-point audio pairing, which makes switching between devices a breeze.

They are made out of a textured plastic, which is sturdy but admittedly not that premium feeling. Although, again, this is a minor sacrifice for the audio smarts packed inside of them, plus the trade off with such a material is that they're lightweight. 

Released in February 2023, they deliver balanced sound that has plenty of detail, making them easy to listen to. Sony really has stripped back features to focus on sound with the WH-CH520, and it really shows with deeper bass and brighter highs.

For those chasing something that is substantially more sturdy or sporting a 3.5mm port, you’re unlikely to find an alternative at the same price point ($60 / £60 / AU$99) that’s also wireless, let alone boasts great battery life and sound. 

Read our full Sony WH-CH520 review

The best premium headphones

The best premium headphones

Specifications

Weight: 293g
Frequency response: 6Hz – 22kHz
Drivers: 42mm dynamic
Battery life: 60 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Neutral, crisp, detailed sound
+
Excellent ANC and transparency

Reasons to avoid

-
A little plain aesthetically
-
Design doesn't fold up into the headband
Buy them if:

✅ You don't want to think about battery life: 60 hours of longevity per charge – even with ANC on – is absolutely best-in-class. It's double what you get some Sony's cans.

✅ You'll make a lot of calls with them: The Sidetone feature makes your voice feel way more natural in calls, and is a really nice improvement.

Don't buy them if:

You want best-in-class noise cancellation: The ANC here is very good, but the Sony WH-1000XM5 and especially the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones do it better.
 
❌ You like super-cool design: These are very nicely made and look good, but they're not flashy, and they don't come in bold colors.

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are boast a phenomenal 60 hours of battery life, a likeable app, an extensive feature set, easy on-ear controls, talented adaptive noise cancellation and a beautiful, natural, engaging sound that's addictive and irresistible. 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 loaded the Momentum 4 Wireless’s spec sheet with as many features as it can possible squeeze in, including Sidetone so you can hear yourself more naturally during calls, and  'Sound Zones', EQ and ANC presets that can customize the sound for the different locations you use them automatically. So you could up the bass at the gym for more motivation, or tone down the ANC at the office so you can hear people calling to you – without any fiddling with modes.

Despite all this, the stand-out feature is still the audio quality. We said in our review that "whatever genre we throw at the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, we find ourselves remarking at the open, detailed, expansive, neutral and crisp performance. Never is it overly warm; never is it congested or muddied through the bass."

You'll find them more expensive than the Sony WH-1000XM4, especially during sales season, so we generally think more people will be happy with them. But these are worth the price upgrade and are slightly cheaper than the flagship Sony WH-1000XM5.

Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review 

The best earbuds overall

The best earbuds balancing premium features and price

Specifications

Weight: 7g
Frequency response: 20Hz – 40kHz
Drivers: 10mm
Battery life: (Up to) 7h (earbuds); (up to) 25h (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent, revealing sound quality
+
Triple-point connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Noise cancelling is only average
-
Sound would be perfect if it were more energetic
Buy them if:

✅ Comfort and fit are important to you: These come with loads of different fitting options in the box, so you'll definitely get a secure, comfortable fit.

You want all the features: Triple-point connectivity is a useful world-first, and there's LDAC, customizable ANC, wireless charging… basically everything.

Don't buy them if:

You need best-in-class noise cancellation: The ANC is perfectly average, but Bose's earbuds do a better job of cutting you off.

❌ You want something small and light: They fit well, but they're still heavier than options such as AirPods Pro 2, and they're not small. 

The Technics EAH-AZ80 are exactly the kind of package you want from a pair of premium earbuds. Not only do they sound fantastic, they come with some of the most advanced and future-proofed tech of any buds you can buy today, including debuting the first example of triple-device multipoint Bluetooth connectivity, meaning they can be connected to three devices at once and can move seamlessly between them – which worked great in our testing.

You've got Bluetooth 5.3 which can be compatible with next-gen LE Audio, you've got LDAC for CD-quality streaming from compatible devices, you've got highly tweakable noise cancellation and ambient sound modes, a great EQ, wireless charging… basically all the latest toys.

Even more importantly, we're huge fans of their sound quality. It's so poised and eloquent, with a rich dynamic range that feels like you're getting a full and accurate reproduction of the recording. In our review, we said "it's both swift and accurate, as well as balanced and detailed. It’s not quite as energetic as really high-end earbuds, but we can hardly blame it for that – the overall detail and accuracy is a cut above almost anything else."

Technics goes above and beyond to make sure that the earbuds fit all shapes and sizes of ears, providing seven silicone, drop-shaped eartips for their so-called 'concha-fit'.

The battery life and active noise cancellation are less exemplary – both are average, so not bad at all, but not exceptional – but they will be absolutely perfect for anyone looking for excellent musical fidelity and cutting-edge tech features from their earbuds.

Read our full Technics EAH-AZ80 review

The best mid-priced earbuds

The best mid-priced earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 4.6g per bud
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
Drivers: 5mm
Battery life: 7.5 hours (earbuds), 7.5 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic sound for the price
+
Very comfortable and secure

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a lot of battery from the case
-
Some small missing features
Buy them if:

✅ You love a small and light earbud: These are extremely secure even in smaller ears, and not all of today's large and feature-packed earbuds can say that.

You value sound quality: These are so impressive for the price, offering tons of fun, tons of detail, and tons of energy. 

Don't buy them if:

You like all the little conveniences: There's no on-ear volume control, and they don't auto-pause when you remove them from your ear.

❌ You don't want to think about charging: While 7.5 hours from the buds is better than average, 7.5 hours from the case is far below average.

If you want to spend under $150 / £100 / AU$200 on a pair of wireless earbuds, Sony's WF-C700N are the most comfortable, feature-rich headphones with immersive sound that you can buy right now. In fact, they're even more comfortable for all-day wearing than the Sony WF-1000XM5 they're lighter and smaller. 

Sony has included a lot of its high-end headphone features that are in its more premium models in the WF-C700N, including adaptive active noise cancellation, multipoint connectivity and even spatial audio through Sony's 360 Reality Audio technology, which sounds fantastic.

There are some sacrifices that you're making at this price point, including no auto-off, no LDAC support, and only one charge from the case. These are easy to overlook, though given the ANC profiles and DSEE upscaling engine… and the general sound quality. 

Obviously, Sony's more expensive buds offer even better sound and noise cancellation, but if you want the best features, design and sound quality at this affordable price level, the C700N cannot be beaten right now. 

Read our full Sony WF-C700N review

The best budget earbuds