Ditch the Bundled Earbuds
The truth is, the earbuds that come with iPhones and many new Android phones sound a lot better than they used to. Still, if you’re serious about your music, those plastic pods can only take you so far. The single best accessory upgrade you can buy for a new media player, smartphone, or tablet is a solid pair of headphones. With so many choices, ranging from inexpensive cans you can pick up at the local Best Buy, to budget-busting, finely tuned masterpieces, finding the right pair of headphones can be tough. But if you spend the time to pick the right pair, and you take good care of them, your headphones can easily outlive the device that’s delivering your music.
The Headphone Advantage
There’s an endless selection when it comes to headphone design, but you’re basically choosing between padded over-the-ear headphones or snug in-canal earphones. Both have their merits, but for this
Generally, headphones are able to reproduce richer low-end, since they have larger drivers than earphones and they don’t rely on an in-ear seal to deliver sound. Some listeners also find headphones more comfortable to wear, and easier to put on and take off, than they do earphones. This naturally means that headphones are
You might try to dismiss the din of the outside world by cranking up the volume, but the best solution for saving your sanity—and your ears—is to invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, so you can enjoy your audio at much lower volumes.
Active noise-canceling headphones use microphones on the earcups to measure outside noise and adjust the signal to cancel it out. It’s an effective technology, but it depends on power for the noise-canceling circuitry to work. For more, have a look at our picks for The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones.
If you just want to block out sound without noise-canceling circuitry, good over-ear headphones will naturally do that to some extent. This is called noise isolation, and it simply works from the earcups forming a good seal over your ears to prevent outside noise from getting in. It’s not as effective, but it’s less expensive than active noise
Wireless headphones can be convenient in any situation where you don’t want to deal with dangling cables—like the gym, for example. And now that many phone manufacturers are no longer including 3.5mm audio jacks, wireless headphones are also a good way to ensure you’ll be able to connect with all the latest devices.
After years of poor-to-mediocre sound, Bluetooth wireless stereo audio has made great strides in sound quality. While the data signal containing Bluetooth audio is compressed, headphone and earphone manufacturers have found ways to enhance the signal to compensate for its deficiencies in a way that makes them less audible than before. We’ve included some wireless options here, but if you’re really keen on cutting the cord, check out The Best Wireless Headphones. And if you want to go completely wireless (with no cord at all connecting the two earpieces), check out The Best True Wireless Headphones.
No matter what type of headphones you want, you can’t go wrong with any of the options here. That said, you don’t need to spend top dollar for a quality pair of cans. If you’re shopping on a budget, take a look at our picks for The Best Headphones Under $50. Once you’ve found the right pair, check out our 5 Easy Tips to Extend the Life of Your Headphones.
Pros: Excellent audio performance with bright, detailed highs and deep, rich bass. Exceptionally comfortable over-ear fit. Handsome design with luxurious materials.
Cons: Light on accessories.
Bottom Line: The B&O Beoplay H4 headphones deliver a wonderful Bluetooth audio experience and look particularly good doing it.
Pros: Fantastic sound with excellent range, balance, and stereo separation. Solid design with comfortable fit. Two cables, both with inline remotes.
Bottom Line: Excellently designed, the Beyerdynamic MMX 300 is the best-sounding wired gaming headset we’ve ever tested.
Pros: Powerful audio performance with deep bass response and sculpted highs. Best-in-class noise cancellation, with new on-ear controls to adjust settings. On-ear access to Google Assistant. Can be used in passive mode.
Cons: Cable has no inline remote. Highly sculpted sound signature not for purists. DSP has major impact on audio at top volumes.
Bottom Line: Now with Google Assistant, Bose’s latest pair of QuietComfort headphones, the QC35 II, is the best pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones you can buy.
Pros: Bass-boosted, crisp audio. Solid noise cancellation. Marshall amp-inspired design is thoughtfully executed with attention to detail. Comfortable fit. Solid array of accessories. Excellent on-ear controls.
Cons: Marshall amp look isn’t for everyone. Audio is very sculpted and not for purists.
Bottom Line: You won’t find better noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones under $300 than the Marshall Mid ANC.
Pros: Exceptional audio performance with rich, accurate lows, and detailed, clear highs. Exceedingly comfortable over long listening sessions.
Cons: No extra cable with inline remote control. No carrying case or pouch.
Bottom Line: The Sony MDR-Z7 headphones deliver gorgeous, detailed audio, with lifelike bass depth and crystal-clear highs.
Pros: Affordable. Detailed audio performance with clear highs and solid bass depth. Comfortable over-ear design. Detachable cable.
Cons: Cable lacks inline remote. Not for those seeking heavily boosted bass response.
Bottom Line: The studio-friendly Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro headphones deliver accurate, crisp audio for a refreshingly affordable price.
Pros: Strong audio performance with excellent bass depth and solid high frequency clarity. Nicely designed and easy to operate. Solid value for the price.
Cons: Sculpted sound signature not for purists. Included cable lacks inline remote.
Bottom Line: The Sennheiser HD 4.40 BT are reasonably priced, well-designed Bluetooth headphones that bass lovers are sure to enjoy.
Pros: Strong audio performance with deep bass response and crisp, bright highs. Good noise cancellation. Transparency mode lets you hear your surroundings. Free app has adjustable EQ.
Cons: Expensive. Auto-pause/play function gets old quick.
Bottom Line: The on-ear B&O Play Beoplay H8i headphones deliver strong, balanced Bluetooth audio and solid noise cancellation for a high price.
Pros: Inexpensive. Solid bass depth and overall audio performance. Throwback design looks like old Walkman headphones.
Cons: No onboard volume controls. Sound leakage might annoy people around you.
Bottom Line: The JLab Retro Wireless headphones are a Bluetooth take on the iconic ’80s Walkman staple, with big bass and a low price.
Pros: Powerful audio performance with crisp highs. Comfortable, secure fit. Easy-to-operate on-ear controls. Long battery life. Includes cable for passive listening.
Cons: Cable lacks inline remote or mic. Bass Boost mode employs DSP that impacts entire sound signature.
Bottom Line: The Plantronics BackBeat Go 600 headphones deliver strong wireless audio in a comfortable, easy-to-use design.