Best Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best headphones you can buy on any budget in 2018.
Everyone is unique, which is why everyone has their own, personal taste in music making it all the more important to be quipped with the perfect pair of headphones.
Upgrading your headphones is a personal choice, but it's an essential step if you want to move away from the cheap earbuds that your phone probably came bundled with.
But, since there are so many categories of music, there are just as many options when it comes to headphones. Some people like the convenience of a wireless set while others prefer the reliability and audio quality of wired headphones.
Then there are those who want in-ear headphones, while the rest prefer over-ears.
A better pair of headphones will add a new dimension to your music, whether it's more detail, added functionality or just more bass.
It sounds like a lot. But that's why we have a guide for the best ones.
The headphones that you'll find here have tons of features to help you get the most out of your music. These features range from wireless connectivity to noise-cancellation and come in the three major form-factors: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones.
We've selected the best headphones for each form-factor, and we've even picked out a budget option for each so that you should be able to find an excellent pair, no matter where your price point lies.
Here's a quick look at the best headphones this year:
- Best in-ear headphones: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
- Best budget in-ear headphones: Sennheiser CX213
- Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e
- Best budget on-ear headphones: Urbanears Plattan II
- Best over-ear headphones: Oppo PM-3
- Best budget over-ear headphones: AKG K92
- Best noise-cancelling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM2
- Best budget noise-cancelling headphones: Philips Fidelio NC1
- Best wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
- Best wireless earbuds: Optoma NuForce BE6i
- Best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 65t
If you already know which kind of headphones you're looking for, then you can browse through our other, more specific, recommendations:
What headphones does TechRadar recommend?
We think the two most important things to consider when buying a pair of headphones are form-factor and price, and that's exactly how we've organised our guide.
Below you'll find our top picks for the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones, the best over-ear headphones, the best noise-cancelling headphones and finally the best wireless headphones.
As well as a top pick for each form-factor we've also included a budget pick which manages to offer great sound at a much more competitive price point.
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
After spending a few weeks with the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value they give in this price range.
It’s hard to think of a better sounding pair of headphones that are as durable. There’s very little with which we can find fault with but it's worth mentioning that the rubber cable is an unnecessary struggle and the remote control feels cheap because it's made of plastic without a metallic finish. But this is honestly just nitpicking.
Instead, it's better to highlight the 1More Triple Driver's warm tonal balance. Even the bass sounds good with extension and impact. It gives you the right amount of boost without completely taking over.
Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
Best budget in-ear headphones: Sennheiser CX 213
Great-sounding, incredibly cheap in-ear headphones
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 45 grams | Cable length: 1.2m | Frequency response: 25-20,000Hz | Drivers: Micro Dynamic | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
The Sennheiser CX 213's build upon the legendary budget in-ears, the CX 180, which have been around quite some time.
Although it's a minimal upgrade when it comes to the CX 213's, the sound quality is balanced with a slight bass bump. Bass is slightly emphasized and features good impact while maintaining good control. It also has better passive noise cancellation to the table over the CX180.
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
For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet.
The SR60e is a particularly smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sound like they should cost you way more than they do. Its open-back ear cup design gives you a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver.
In our candid opinion, it's the gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
Best over-ear headphones: Oppo PM-3
Closed back planar magnetic headphones from the gods
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 322 grams | 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
The Oppo PM-3 truly deserve to be called the best over-ear headphones.
The build of these headphones is comparable to other big brand names like Sony and Philips, who are experts at putting together their own contraptions.
The synthetic ear pads may be a little off putting to a few users but fear not, they're soft, comfortable and don't overheat your ears.
Their compact design makes them easy to travel with and hold their own against heavy wear and tear.
They deliver incredible sound across the entire soundscape with clear and natural highs paired with balanced bass. The Oppo PM-3 never fails to provide crisp sound quality to the users.
Read the full review: Oppo PM-3
- Want more options? Check out our guide to the best over-ear headphones.
Best budget over-ear headphones: AKG K92
Budget over-ears that make no compromises on sound quality
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 199 grams | 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
Even though they have a plastic body, the AKG K92 stands as a very good competitor when it comes to audio quality. In most cases, you get what you pay for but these headphones push above and beyond their price range.
They're dynamic, expressive and let you clearly listen to individual instruments without being reduced to a mess of sound.
Most users prefer them for in-house use due to their size but being lightweight, portability is feasible. Their size is an asset rather than a drawback because their fit wouldn't be comfortable otherwise.
All in all, their performance is amazing and they definitely give other brands a run for their money.
Read the full review: AKG K92
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
When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you're often trading sound quality for the ability to block 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 pair of headphones that could do both noise-cancellation and Hi-Res audio.
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: Philips Fidelio NC1
An all-around headset offering quality sound and noise cancellation
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
The Philips Fidelio NC1 replaces the Sony WH-H900N in our list. They come with two 1.5" Neodymium drivers and have a 3.9 ft cable.
If you're looking for good travel headphones, they fit the bill with a hard case while folding in comfortably keeping them from being ruined when you throw them into your bag.
The aluminium finishing gives them a premium look and subtle design, despite 'High Definition Audio Philips NC1' etchings on both sides.
The headphones offer quality audio to the users while delivering 30 hours of battery life. Even if you choose not to use noise cancelling, the audio quality is amazing providing a balanced sound without forcibly favoring the bass.
If you're on-the-go and don't want want to lug around massive headphones, this is the choice for you.
Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1
Best wireless headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
Best for travel junkies
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.64 lbs (289g) | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 24 hours | Wireless range: 100 meters (330 feet) | NFC: No
If you're a frequent traveler you're probably all too familiar with headphones that can't hold a charge and can't block out sound, let alone sound very good. Let us introduce you to the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, one of the few headphones on the market that can do all of the above and cost less than half as much as one of the bigger names like Beats, Bose and Sony.
They also include a neat little feature that allows them to automatically turn off when you're not wearing them, meaning you're able to easily maximise their battery life without much effort.
If we had to boil it down to its core, the BackBeat Pro 2 offers an excellent travel headphone with incredible battery life, supreme comfort, the ability to pair two device as once and, most importantly, good sound quality for the cost.
Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
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
Optoma NuForce BE6i are an updated version of the original NuForce BE6. However, the changes are minimal in the new pair of headphones.
They come with 10mm dynamic drivers and eight hours of battery life, which is a bump up from the 6 hours that their predecessor offered. They have an aluminium enclosure for the drivers but it's paired with a sub-par plastic remote on their tangle resistant flat wire.
They deliver good quality sound with controlled bass and decent clarity up top.
The Optoma NuForce NE6i are a pair of no-huss, no-fuss headphones that can survive heavy use.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE6i
Best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 65t
The unmatched quaity true wireless earbuds
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
All things considered, the Jabra Elite 65t are one of the best truly wireless headphones you can buy today. They cost slightly more than the Apple AirPods but they also offer better sound quality, noise isolation and adjustable ambient noise when you want it. And if you don’t like the design of the odd, alien-looking AirPods, the mature, understated look of the 65t may be to your liking.
While the Jabra Elite 65t are easily one of the highest scoring true wireless headphones we've reviewed, there are a few others on the market worth considering: If you want a pair of exercise earbuds, there’s the Jabra Elite Sport which has a higher water resistance and handy sports-oriented features. For audiophiles who don’t mind stretching the budget, the active noise cancelling Sony WF-1000X are an excellent choice. Bassheads will want to try the SOL Republic Amps Air.
If you only have the budget for one of these, though, go for the Elite 65t.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t
- Want more options? Check out our guide to the best wireless headphones.
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.