Tue. Mar 5th, 2024


Everyone loves headphones for listening to music, movies, and phone calls. But with hundreds of options on the market, which one do you pick? Whether you need active noise cancellation (ANC), a wireless pair, or are just on a budget, we have the headphones for you.


UPDATE: 11/25/2023

We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best headphones you can buy.

What to Look For With Headphones in 2023

Choosing the right headphones for yourself can be nerve-wracking. Everyone appreciates a good quality sound and comfortable fit, but that’s not always easy to find with the sheer number of headphones out there.

To start, you’ll need to pick a form factor of headphones: Do you want a wired or wireless pair? You can find a good pair of wired ones in every price range and expect great sound quality overall.

Wireless headphones offer you freedom from wires and the ability to use them seamlessly with different gadgets. Many of them now offer faster charging and also work over a wired connection. It really just depends on your preference and the devices you use at this point!

An excellent pair of headphones will have a sturdy build and a premium look and feel. The cushions for the earcups should provide enough comfort and isolation that you can use the headphones for hours. In general, they should fit just right and shouldn’t be too tight, or else they’d end up hurting your ears.

The best headphones have an open-back design to allow air to pass through from the back of the ear cups, preventing low-frequency build-ups and offering a more natural soundscape. The only downside is sound leakage, which means people next to you can hear the song you’re listening to easily at moderate volumes. If you’re using public transport, open-backs may not be the best option.

We’ve divided our picks for the best headphones by their features along with the promise of the best possible sound quality.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

19

37

34

How-To Geek’s product recommendations come from the same team of experts that have helped people fix their gadgets over one billion times. We only recommend the best products based on our research and expertise. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product. Read More »

Sony WH-1000XM5 headphone handing in a tree
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Pros

Cons

✓ Even better Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

✗ No IP rating

✓ Improved battery life

✗ More expensive than the previous model

✓ Gesture controls are as handy as ever

✓ Bluetooth Multipoint lets you connect to multiple devices

For years, Sony has been the brand to beat when it comes to wireless noise-canceling headphones. With the Sony WH-1000XM5, the brand’s beloved over-ear wireless headphones have gotten even better.

What keeps people coming back to this series is the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and this feature has been improved in the latest model, as you can see in our Sony WH-1000XM5 review:

Sony chose a great way to describe its design in calling it “noiseless,” as I was shocked at how well the XM5s handled wind noise outside on a particularly windy day. Even as I ducked and kept my head down to avoid the buffeting wind, the headphones made it sound as if I were standing outside on a perfectly calm day.

While previous models blocked lower frequencies well, sounds with higher frequencies, like babies crying, could still make their way through. The WH-1000XM5 will block these out better, and you can fine-tune the ANC with Sony’s Headphones Connect app.

The gesture-based controls owners loved in past models have returned in the WH1-000XM5. For example, cupping your palm over the right ear cup temporarily allows ambient noise to pass through, making it easy to hear if someone starts talking to you.

Bluetooth has been updated to version 5.2 in these headphones, which doesn’t add much yet but could via later firmware updates. That said, the Bluetooth Multipoint technology is still here, which lets you pair the WH-1000XM5 with multiple devices.

Battery life is also improved in the newer model. While the previous generation topped out at around 20 hours of playback time, the newer models deliver the 30-hour battery life promised on the back of the box.

You don’t get a ton of color options as you might with other headphones, and many people will likely opt for the standard black finish. If you prefer something a little brighter, the XM5s are also available in white.

There is one downside to these when compared to the previous model—the price. Sony raised the price by $50 with the WH-1000XM5. If you would rather not spend the extra money and aren’t bothered by less battery life and slightly less effective ANC, the Sony WH-1000XM4 remains a great set of headphones. They’re both less expensive and regularly go on sale.

sony xm5

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones Overall

$328 $400 Save $72

With the WH-1000XM5, Sony has shown once again why it is the current king of noise-canceling wireless headphones. These headphones are better than ever with gestures, improved noise cancellation, and better battery life.

Perons using Philips SHP9600 in living are
Philips

Pros

Cons

✓ Good sound output for the price

✗ Open-back design causes sound leakage

✓ Premium-like build quality

✗ No cable with in-line microphone bundled

✓ Swappable cable

You don’t have to settle for subpar and creaky budget headphones anymore. There are plenty of quality options out now under $100. However, the ones we recommend are the Philips SHP9600.

Music will sound delightful on the SHP9600s with an extended bass response with an extra punch. It can produce a good and balanced soundscape comparable to the pricier and premium open-back headphones.

The earcups padding is a little soft, but the headband comes well-padded for the best comfort. Also, the build quality makes it look more premium than the price implies. They fit comfortably and aren’t too tight, though the 50mm neodymium audio drivers make it bulky.

These headphones will also serve well during some grueling gaming sessions since the audio reproduction favors mid-range the most. However, the open-back design means others can hear the sound as well.

If you don’t want to disturb others with your music, getting the Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a good idea. They’re a bit more expensive than our main pick, but Audio Technica’s offering is still in the budget headphones range. The closed-back design helps to deliver good bass and excellent all-around performance.

philips shp9600

Philips SHP9600

Best Budget Headphones

$50 $130 Save $80

Philip’s headphones are the best bang for your buck promising pair that sounds great, looks impressive, and has a removable cable.

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4

Inside the ear cups on a pair of Midnight Blue Sony XM4 headphones
Elizabeth Henges / How-To GeekElizabeth Henges / Review GeekElizabeth Henges / LifeSavvy

Pros

Cons

✓ Class-leading Active Noise-Canceling

✗ Average microphone quality

✓ Specific EQ and Presets for music

✗ Only audio mode in wired mode

✓ Lightweight and comfortable

✗ Lacks aptX support

✓ Impressive battery life

Sony WH-1000XM4 is the wireless headphones that top any list of wireless headphones with Active Noise Cancellation. Apart from canceling most ambient noise, it provides enjoyable sound quality. Also, it lets you switch between music and calls effortlessly thanks to Bluetooth Multipoint support.

The pair is light and comfortable, so they’re easy to use on road trips or long flights. The XM4s aren’t really suitable for working out, though—you’ll need to look elsewhere for some workout headphones.

The companion app lets you customize the EQ settings for tuning music as per your preference. The microphone is good enough for calls, but it captures ambient sounds and noises easily. Thankfully, those are settings you can also tweak from the companion app.

Sony’s XM4s can last 38 hours on a single charge on continuous usage, and the quick charging works well. You can extend battery life by using the auto-off timer feature in the companion app or using it in a wired mode.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are a worthy runner-up for ANC headphones that are commuter-friendly, have a serviceable microphone, and feature a neutral signature.

sony xm4

Sony WH-1000XM4

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

$228 $278 Save $50

Sony has the best noise-canceling capabilities, while managing to sound great with stellar battery life.

person using Sennheiser Momentum 4
Sennheiser

Pros

Cons

✓ 60 hour battery life

✗ New look isn’t as eye-catching

✓ Excellent sound quality

✓ Decent noise cancellation with transparent mode

✓ aptX and aptX Adaptive support

The Sennheiser Momentum series has been a popular wireless pick for years, thanks in part to the unique look of the headphones. The company took the look in a different direction with the Sennheiser Momentum 4, but the upgrades and extra features here make them well worth the asking price.

These headphones use Bluetooth 5.2, the most recent version at the time of this writing. In addition to the standard SBC and AAC codecs, the Momentum 4 also feature aptX and aptX Adaptive, for higher-fidelity wireless audio.

One of the main strengths of the Momentum series over the years has been their comfort, and that remains the case here. The light weight combined with the soft, cushioned ear pads and the low-friction hinge make for a fit that’s not too loose but not too tight.

While the Sennheiser Momentum 3 were great in most aspects, the battery life was on the low side. That is far from a problem with the Momentum 4, which offer up to 60 hours of playback time. Not only do you get that much playback time, but that figure actually counts for having the noise cancellation engaged.

Speaking of noise cancellation, while the Momentum 4 may not have the same level of ANC as offerings from Sony and Bose, it’s still excellent. Like many headphones with noise cancelling, the Momentum 4 also feature a transparent mode to easily hear your surroundings.

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 are available in black and white color options.

sennheiser momentum 4

Sennheiser Momentum 4

Best Wireless Headphones

$256 $380 Save $124

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 bring some major upgrades to the line, including 60-hour battery life you can actually use and a charging case.

Sennheiser HD 650 on table
Sennheiser

Pros

Cons

✓ Fantastic clarity and sound reproduction

✗ Open-back design means those nearby will hear what you’re listening to

✓ Sturdy build quality

✓ Replaceable cable prevents damage from cable snags

Look for headphone advice on the internet, and you won’t read for long without seeing a mention of the Sennheiser HD 650, and for good reason. These provide a perfect balance between everyday headphones and the extremely high-end headphones audiophiles obsess over.

The HD 650 headphones are easy enough to drive that the power from your smartphone or laptop will be adequate to use them. That said, if you have a quality headphone amp, these headphones will take advantage of that extra power, offering up more low-end extension and midrange detail along with crisper highs. In addition, the HD 650s come with both a 3.5mm jack, and 1/4-inch adapter.

When it comes to comfort, the Sennheiser HD 650 headphones look after you in more ways than one. The headband is comfortable enough to wear for hours, practically without listening. The sound also plays a part here: even after hours of listening, these headphones won’t fatigue your ears like some headphones will.

Multiple replaceable parts also mean these headphones will keep up with you for years to come. The replaceable earpads let you opt for custom-designed pads or simply replace them after they wear out. Similarly, the removable cable is proprietary, but Sennheiser and other companies sell compatible replacement cables.

If you’re looking for headphones for professional audio use, the Sennheiser HD 650 are a great choice. That said, if you’re looking to save a little money, the Sennheiser HD 600 are more affordable and some audio professionals prefer these to the more expensive alternative.

sennheiser HD 650

Sennheiser HD 650

Best Wired Headphones

$298 $500 Save $202

The Sennheiser HD 650s provide much of the sound quality and comfort of their more expensive siblings at a more affordable price.

person wearing Adidas RPT-01 headphones
Adidas

Pros

Cons

✓ Comfortable fit while working out

✗ No built-in microphone for calls

✓ Washable earcup covers

✗ Lacks Active-Noise Cancellation

✓ Sweatproof

✓ Decent sound quality

After sorting out your sports shoes and clothing for workouts, the next challenge is grabbing a good pair of headphones. You shouldn’t use your regular wireless headphones for exercises, especially if they aren’t waterproof or sweatproof and can slip off your head mid-workout. You’ll want something that works a bit better, instead.

Adidas delivers a surprising package with their RPT-01 headphones. With an IPX4 rating, these headphones are sweatproof and water-resistant, making them perfect for a workout. Besides that, you can remove the cushion covers and wash them. The fabric design makes them breathable compared to the leather or faux-leather finish on many headphones as well.

With a comfortable fit, you can carry on a variety of workouts like lifting weights or running. The action button on the earcup also lets you change the EQ settings between different types of music. You’ll need to use the Adidas Headphones app on iPhone and Android to configure it, but it’ll be worth it when you’ve tweaked the settings.

The TREBLAB Z2 is a worthy alternative if you want better sound quality and want to take calls. The Z2 is waterproof with an IPX4 rating, has a built-in microphone for voice calls, and comes with a micro USB port for charging. It offers Active Noise Canceling to mask external sounds, but that is average at best, and the material isn’t as workout-friendly as the Adidas headphones, though.

adidas rpt-01

Adidas RPT-01

Best Workout Headphones

$150 $170 Save $20

With washable cushions and an IPX4 rating, you can focus on your workout while listening to a decent sound quality without worrying about sweat.

Person editing music using the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
Jason Montoya / How-To GeekJason Montoya / Review GeekJason Montoya / LifeSavvy

Pros

Cons

✓ Closed-back construction prevents audio leaks

✗ Non-removable cable

✓ Sounds dynamic, open, and neutral

✗ Too bulky to carry around

✓ Very comfortable and stable fit

✓ Durable build

We like the Beyerdynamics DT 770 Pro headphones for studio production and sound mixing for their neutral sound profile. It is also quite popular among musicians, sound engineers, and track-mixing enthusiasts.

Its neutral sound profile and well-balanced audio production make it excellent for studio monitoring and production. They help you identify audio niggles while mixing tracks or editing podcasts.

The DT 770 Pros deliver a solid feel and are lightweight. You can carry them along and work from anywhere while its closed-back design stops sound from escaping and velvet-covered cushions for an even better feel.

The 80 Ohms headphones can work with iPads for home audio production and it costs $160. The 250 Ohms version, which costs the same, requires additional power to eke its full potential and works best with professional audio interfaces and sound mixing gear, so we recommend the 80 Ohms model for its versatility.

The DT 770 Pros received an almost perfect rating in our review:

If you’re interested in listening to music as it’s mostly intended to sound, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO deliver a much more accurate sonic picture than most other headphones in this price range. Whether you’re a musician or you simply love music, there’s a lot to like about how these headphones sound, and that’s before you factor in the price.

For an alternative, there is the Sony MDR 7506, which is relatively affordable at $100. The large ear cups are comfortable, but the build quality isn’t robust. That said, you can rely on it for punch bass response and better vocals, but they don’t isolate ambient noises well.

beyerdynamic dt 770 pro

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Headphones

Best Studio Headphones

$139 $149 Save $10

This affordable pair of studio headphones promises a neutral sound to pick up any odd glitches in the audio while mixing tracks and studio monitoring.

FAQ

How do I pair my headphones to my phone?

For many headphones, holding the power button after they turn on will automatically put them in pairing mode. Otherwise, you’ll usually find a Bluetooth button or slider on the headphones. Check your manual for full pairing details.

How do I make my headphones louder?

If you’re looking to make your Bluetooth headphones louder, ensure the volume on your phone, tablet, or computer is turned up. For wired headphones, certain headphones require more power than others, so you may need a headphone amp.

Is it illegal to drive with headphones on?

Mostly, yes, it’s illegal to drive with headphones on. Hands-free headsets specifically meant for calls may be allowed, but this can vary from state to state.

How do I clean my headphones?

For over-ear headphones, cleaning them with rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth is enough for most cleaning jobs. Just be careful around the ear pads and other areas that may be more susceptible to damage.

Are Bluetooth headphones safe?

While Bluetooth headphones do emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR), it’s not of the sort that is typically dangerous to humans. Beyond this, Bluetooth has specific absorption rate (SAR) levels well within the FCC and European Union requirements.

What are ANC headphones?

For headphones, ANC stands for active noise cancellation. This combines built-in microphones and digital signal processing to cancel out any sound around you.



Source link

By John P.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *