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Best headphones 2019: Your definitive guide to the latest and greatest audio

Best Headphones
Image credit: Sony

Looking for the best headphones you can buy in 2019? A good pair of headphones are an absolute essential for many of us – aside from breathing new life into our favorite songs, they keep us entertained with music, podcasts, and audio books when we're working out, commuting, or just trying to disconnect from the world around us.

We spend a lot of time with our headphones – and if you're looking for some new cans, you're going to want a pair of the best headphones you can find. 

It's our mission to hook you up with a pair of most feature-rich, best-sounding headphones money can buy, even when you're on a budget. 

We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar – however, if you're in a hurry and just want to find the best headphones your money can buy, you've come to the right place.

Our best headphone picks

sony wh-1000xm3

(Image credit: Sony )

Best headphones 2019: Sony WH-1000XM3

The headphones that can do everything

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 254g | Cable length: 3.94 ft | Frequency response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Neodymium | Sensitivity: 104.5 dB / mW (1 kHz) | Impedance: 47 ohm | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Outstanding noise cancellation
Fantastic sound quality
30-hour battery life
Mediocre call quality

The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones are the best headphones you can buy in 2019. 

They're pretty consistent with what Sony has released in the last two years in the form of the Sony WH-1000XM2 and Sony MDR-1000X, improving on some already fantastic models. 

A dominant noise-canceling pair of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 can beat anything Bose has with ease.

That’s because, while Bose has done a tremendous job working out its noise cancelation algorithm over the years, Sony has spent that time perfecting audio playback while simultaneously creating an adaptable algorithm that doesn’t just create a single sterile sound barrier, but multiple kinds that can tailor itself to whatever situation you’re in. 

Beyond being exceptional at keeping external noises at bay, these impressive Sony headphones are Hi-Res Audio-ready, sporting aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs, and offer the smarts of Google Assistant right on-board. If you need a pair of headphones that can live up to any challenge and excel in any environment, these are the pair for you.

Read more: Sony WH-1000XM3 review

1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone

(Image credit: 1More)

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, we were blown away by the great value for money they represent.

For $100 / £100 (about AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better-sounding and more well-built pair of earphones than the 1MORE Triple Drivers. (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. Sure, 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 earbud.

For the price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones. 

Read more: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review

rha s500u

(Image credit: RHA)

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 you still value sound quality, it’s hard to think of a better value pair of earbuds than the RHA S500u. 

These in-ear headphones have no business sounding so good for $40 / £30 / AU$52, sporting a balanced soundstage with a slight mid-bass bump to power you through your workouts and make your music sound great. 

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. In short, these are the best earphones you can buy if you're on a strict budget.  

Read more: RHA S500u review

grado sr60e

(Image credit: Grado)

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 are its best and most refined yet. 

The SR60e in particular are a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level pair of headphones that sound far more expensive than they really are.

Their open-backed earcup design makes them feel more breathable than most on-ear headphones, delivering a wide, natural soundstage. In a few words, they're 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 more: Grado SR60e review

Urbanears Plattan II

(Image credit: Urbanears)

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 more: Urbanears Plattan II review

best over ear headphones

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

Best over-ear headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Professional headphones that know how to have fun

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 370 g | Cable length: 9.8ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 5 – 40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 250 Ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Built like a tank
Excellent comfort
Breathtaking resolution
Slightly recessed mids

While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770DT880 and DT990 were renowned for their excellent build and sound quality. 

Above them all, however, stand the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, which won our Editor’s Choice for its 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 meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out, but the good news is that the open-back design gives the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing 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 used by some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are the best headphones for you.

Read more: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review

Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

Best budget over-ear headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT

These over-ear headphones bring both performance and value

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .64 pounds | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.7" drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB | Impedance: 35 ohm | Battery life: 40 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

Stellar battery life 
Balanced sound 
Wired mode sounds even better 
Highs can be too energetic

In the past, audiophiles typically shunned wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years, and there are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.

Enter the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT, which boast outstanding sound quality for a pair of headphones under $200 / £150 – wired or wireless. 

These over-ear headphones play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. Plus, they're extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built. 

Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a single charge, and while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelation and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.

Read more: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT review

Bose headphones

(Image credit: Bose)

Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Class-leading noise cancelation, but not the best battery life

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Outstanding noise cancelation
Fun, lively sound
Elegant design
Battery life could be better

If the Sony WH-1000XM3s are the true king of noise-canceling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are next in line for the throne – and for the sake of offering an alternative, we've included them in this list.

Traditionally, noise-canceling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight). 

This can be really effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you, whether you’re standing on a busy street or trying to speak on a rumbling train.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancelation to phone calls as well as music. The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.

If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. That being said, 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-cancelation is out of this world. 

Read more: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

JBL Live 650BTNC

(Image credit: JBL)

Best budget noise-canceling headphones: JBL Live 650BTNC

Great noise-canceling headphones for those on a budget

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 249g | Cable length: 3.93ft | Frequency response: 16Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dBSPL@1kHz/1mW | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: 20-30 hours | Wireless range: 30ft (10m) | NFC: No

Great sound
Compact design
On-ear form gets uncomfortable
Initially confusing controls

At $200 / £180 / AU$250, the  JBL Live 650BTNC punch above their weight in terms of sound quality, build, and features. 

They offer a choice of either Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, and sport an adjustable EQ thanks to the JBL Headphones app.  Battery life is rated at 20 hours with ANC and wireless enabled, while wired listening will get you upwards of 30 hours from a single charge.

If you don’t want to splurge on the Bose QC35 II or Sony WH-1000XM3, you’ll be satisfied with the JBL Live 650BTNC knowing that you’re getting 80% of the performance at 50% of the price tag.

Read more: JBL Live 650BTNC review

wireless headphones

(Image credit: Jabra)

Best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 85h

Giving Sony and Bose a run for their money

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 2960g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 10 - 20,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 36 hours | Wireless range: 33ft | NFC: No

Class-leading battery life
Excellent ANC performance
Stylish and comfortable
No support for high-end codecs

Again, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our true winners in this category, but if you want an alternative, the Jabra Elite 85h are a fantastic choice. 

Offering class-leading battery life, stylish design, and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h are easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier headphones on the market at this price point. 

When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.  

Read more: Jabra Elite 85h review

Plantronics BackBeat Go 810

(Image credit: Plantronics)

Best budget wireless headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810

Solid, affordable, mid-range noise-cancelling headphones

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

Excellent build quality
Warm, balanced sound
Reliable wireless connection
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. 

For a lot less ($150 / £140 / AU$240), Plantronics now sells the brilliant BackBeat Go 810, which use less premium materials but sound nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor – and sport an equally chic design. 

With that in mind, the BackBeat Go 810 are an affordable pair of ANC headphones that will please travelers and commuters who don’t want to spend too much money on headphones.   

Read more: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review

focal stellia

(Image credit: Focal)

Best luxury headphones: Focal Stellia

Luxury cans with a luxury price tag to match

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.96 lbs (435g) | Cable length: 1 x 4ft OFC 24 AWG cable, 1 x 10ft OFC 24 AWG cable | Frequency response: 5Hz - 40kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz | Impedance: 35Ohms | Battery life: NA | Wireless range: NA | NFC: No

Stunning, precise sound
Open soundstage
Opulent design
Extremely expensive

The Focal Stellias are perhaps the best-sounding 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 Stellias' precise separation of the frequencies 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 can feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work. 

But if luxury is your thing, 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 – and you may well expect to find this level of detail in exchange for parting with $3,000. Ouch. 

Read more: Focal Stellia headphones review

Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

(Image credit: Optoma)

Best Bluetooth earbuds: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

Practically flawless wireless earbuds

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 15 grams | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 92dB +/-3dB | Impedance: 32 Ohms | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 feet | NFC: No

Impressive audio
Customized eartips
Practical design
Not suited to one-ear listening

The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are a rare find: earbuds that are grear for basically all situations, whether you're looking to take them out on a run or just wear them around town. 

They're ideal for exercise, although any urbanite will also find their lightweight functionality and impressive sound isolation highly appealing when traveling on crowded trains or navigating busy streets. 

If you want proof that wireless earphones can now compete with the best wired earphones, look no further.

Read more: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 review

Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)

Best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3

Noise cancelation without the wires

Weight: 70g | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dome Type | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life (charging case): 18 hours | Wireless range: 30ft | NFC: Yes

Efficient noise cancelation
Inconspicuous looks
Great fun to listen to
Not suitable for sports

Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancelation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed. 

The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancelation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it. 

That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: not only are these hands-down the best-looking true wireless earbuds out there, but they also combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. 

If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive and smart alternative.

Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds review

The best headphones of 2019, at a glance

What to look for

Which headphones style is best for you?

Check out TechRadar's exhaustive guides to the best over-ear headphones, best on-ear headphones and the best in-ear headphones.

For some more specialist pairs, take a look at our guides to the best wireless headphones, best true wireless earbuds, best wireless earbuds, and the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Need a specific brand? We have guides to the best Sony headphones, the best Bose headphones, and the best Audio-Technica headphones.

Looking for some headphones you can work out with? Check out our guide to the best swimming headphones and the best running headphones

Choosing the right headphones for you can be an agonizing decision – but it doesn't have to be if you look for a few key features. 

Above all, sound quality is the most important thing to look for. That doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive audiophile headphones on the market; it just means that you should have an idea of what kind of sound you like. 

How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?

If you're all about that bass, you'll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows. 

It's also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you're in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.

You also need to consider the design of your new headphones. Do you want the freedom of true wireless earbuds or the security of a pair of sturdy over-ear headphones?

Wireless or wired is also an important consideration. A few short years ago, we may have tried to dissuade you from buying a pair of wireless headphones (the technology had issues with wireless connectivity over Bluetooth and sound quality took a dive as a result). 

Nowadays however, advances in Bluetooth technology means that wireless headphones can sound fantastic and rarely experience annoying dropouts. If you're going for wireless headphones, make sure the battery life is decent, too.

You should also think about what you'll be using your new headphones for; if you need to soundtrack your workout, you'll want to look at headphones specifically designed for running or swimming.

Lastly, you need to consider price. You don't have to break the bank when your buying a pair of headphones, as evidenced by our guide to the best cheap headphones of 2019.

So, with all that in mind, here are the best headphones we've tested and reviewed this year.

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

Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.

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