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The Best Headphones Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Best Headphones of 2022

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The Best Headphones Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

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Editor's Choice Product image of Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony’s noise-canceling headphones are comfy, lightweight, and offer amazing sound. They also offer a handful of really useful features. Read More

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Top-notch noise cancelling
  • All day comfort

Cons

  • Effective operation has a learning curve
Editor's Choice Product image of Jabra Elite 4 Active

Jabra Elite 4 Active

Jabra’s Elite 4 Active offer excellent features, good battery life, active noise canceling, and a surprisingly rugged design at a killer price point. Read More

Pros

  • Snug, weatherproof design
  • Active noise canceling
  • Great features and battery

Cons

  • No auto-pause
  • Sluggish app connection
Editor's Choice Product image of Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones offer significant upgrades over the WH-1000XM4, with a higher price to match. Are these the best wireless headphones? Read More

Pros

  • Lush, powerful sound
  • Top-notch comfort and features
  • Incredible noise canceling

Cons

  • Same battery as XM4
  • Less portable than rivals
Editor's Choice Product image of Audeze Penrose X

Audeze Penrose X

Audeze’s Penrose headsets deliver outstanding audio and handy features like a detachable microphone. We only wish the battery lasted a little longer. Read More

Pros

  • Excellent sound
  • Durable materials
  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Short battery life
Editor's Choice Product image of Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones

Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones

In our lab tests, the PuroQuiets were some of the best noise-canceling headphones for kids we've tested, cutting down a significant amount of ambient noise with no major technical issues. Read More

Pros

  • Cuts ambient noise with no technical issues
  • Safe for up to 8 hours
  • Tangle-free

Cons

  • Very expensive

Choosing the right headphones can be a difficult task. While shopping for a deal is always savvy, in our opinion it's better to invest a little money (and time) so you end up with headphones that feel great to wear, sound even better, and will last for years. Our team has tested hundreds of pairs of headphones, and our favorite pair remain the Sony WH-1000XM4 (available at Amazon for $348.00). They're extremely comfortable and offer amazing sound, incredible noise cancellation, and a barrel full of modern features without an audiophile price tag.

If those don't fit your needs, however, we've got many other great options at multiple price points. This is our master list of headphone picks, curated with a smatter of our top picks from guides like our best wireless earbuds, the best noise-canceling headphones and the best gaming headsets for a rich assortment of favorites. Whether you need nimble wireless workout buds, travel/work cans for the long haul, or something in between, you'll find the best of the best here.

These are the best headphones we've tested:

  • Sony WH-1000XM4
  • Jabra Elite 4 Active
  • Sony WH-1000XM5
  • Audeze Penrose/Penrose X
  • Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones
  • Jabra Elite Active 85t
  • Sony WF-1000XM4
  • JBL Tour One
  • Beats Fit Pro
  • Apple AirPods Pro
  • Jabra Elite 7 Active
  • Bose QC45
Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

Sony's new WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones need to be heard to be believed.

Best Overall
Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony's WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling over-ear headphones don't reinvent the wheel compared to our previous top pick, the WH-1000XM3, but they do make a suite of welcome improvements within an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.

The XM4 checks off all the right boxes where essentials are concerned: they're exceedingly comfortable, incredibly lightweight, they offer amazing sound, and offer noise canceling that's among the best available. They provide a wide array of useful features and functions like Quick Attention, to pause music and illuminate your environment instantly when you put your hand over the right cup, and multipoint pairing to connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, perfect for flipping between devices for all those Zoom calls.

Using Sony's highly tooled Headphones Connect app, you can adjust their EQ on the fly, tailor the transparency mode, and multiple other settings. But even if you don't take a deep dive into the massive array of customization features at your disposal, you'll have no complaints about how brilliantly these comfy headphones operate in all areas. They even include noise-canceling optimization for everything from your glasses to your current barometric pressure.

They also offer simple and intuitive touch controls (alongside some physical keys), up to 30 hours of battery life, and plenty of other features to explore. If you can't spend up for the XM4, you can get a taste of their best features in the much cheaper Sony's WH-CH710N. And of course, there are reams of cheaper cans out there, with varying amounts of quality and value that try and compete with the high bar the XM4 have set.

That said, we've never met anyone who felt buyer's remorse once they slip these cushy cans over their ears and take a trip to music town. They're a premium experience across the board, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a pair that can beat them at their price point.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality

  • Top-notch noise cancelling

  • All day comfort

Cons

  • Effective operation has a learning curve

A navy earbud sits in the ear of a man with brown and grey hair with trees and grass in the background.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Elite 4 Active offer mid-tier noise canceling and adjustable transparency mode to go with a balanced sound signature.

Best Value
Jabra Elite 4 Active

Much like their pricier siblings, Jabra’s Elite 4 Active offer a package that includes nearly everything you could want in a pair of true wireless earbuds at a great price. That's why they're an easy choice for the best value on our list.

The stacked feature set offers something for everyone. Whether you need a snug pair of earbuds with transparency mode for walking and running, a water-resistant pair you can rinse off in the sink (or dunk for short periods), or just decent noise canceling pair to keep out distractions while working from home, they're a loaded package.

You’ll get plenty of functionality in Jabra’s Sound+ app, like a 5-band EQ and an earbuds finder. The buds themselves include comprehensive onboard controls (including volume control), battery playback of 6-7 hours per charge (and plenty more in the case), and the ability to use either bud on its own.

As the price suggests, they don’t have it all. You obviously won’t get the seamless connection to Apple’s ecosystem found in iOS favorites like the AirPods or Beats Fit Pro, and you’ll have to forgo the multipoint pairing of Jabra’s top earbuds like the Elite 85t and Elite 7.

You’ll also have to give up a few convenience features, like auto-pause when you pull an earbud out, or a wireless charging case. But Jabra attempts to make up for those omissions for Android users with extras like Google Fast Pair and one-tap access to Spotify.

When it comes to performance, the Elite 4 Active offer clear, accessible sound and noise canceling that meets or beats most similarly priced rivals. They can’t match top picks in these categories, but again, you won’t be paying the sticker-shocking prices of the top performers.

Frankly, you’ll have a hard time beating these buds for the money in the vast majority of categories. Whatever you’re into, Jabra’s versatile Elite 4 Active bring you a huge slice of the best features at a nice price.

Pros

  • Snug, weatherproof design

  • Active noise canceling

  • Great features and battery

Cons

  • No auto-pause

  • Sluggish app connection

Sony WH-1000XM5 white and black models sit on a black desktop.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The new pads are lined with ultra-smooth synthetic leather.

Best Noise Canceling
Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony’s WH-1000XM5, the XM4's well-to-do cousin, come with a royal pedigree. And a more kingly pair of active noise-canceling headphones you’ll be hard-pressed to find. Offering marked upgrades on Sony’s proven formula, the XM5 serve as a pricey addition to the family, but one that’s well worth the premium for those who demand the ultimate in ANC performance.

After years of iterative tweaks to Sony’s 1000X lineup, the 1000XM5’s design is a full reboot of the 1000XM4. The headphones (which will live alongside the XM4) offer more oval-shaped ear cups reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods Max. Plush padding on the cups and headband is covered in ultra-smooth synthetic leather, resulting in even more luxurious comfort and longer wearability.

There are other improvements to note, but the XM5’s incredible noise canceling is the standout. With dual ANC chipsets and eight dedicated microphones, the adaptive ANC reacts to your environment to squash droning sounds like fans and engines, and even higher frequency chatter with impressive authority. The cans outpace the XM4 and virtually every other pair of travel cans we’ve tried, with Bose’s QC45 as the only exception.

The QC45 can’t stand with the XM5 when it comes to sound quality, though, which again improves on the XM4—especially when it comes to dynamics and definition. The soundstage is simply immaculate, offering brilliant detail for any and every genre, especially once you’ve tweaked a few EQ settings to your preference in the Sony Headphones app.

Speaking of the app, there you’ll find easy navigation for the same barrage of features that have helped keep Sony’s WH-1000XM4 atop our list so long. From the EQ and adjustable transparency mode to engaging multipoint pairing or Quick Attention, it’s easy to tailor these cans to your liking. The convenient touch controls and battery life are the same as the XM4, but alongside 30 hours of playback you’ll also get a bit faster rapid charging—three hours of playback on three minutes charge.

There are only a couple of downsides here. The longer ear cups don’t fold inward, which makes the case longer and the headphones tougher to take along. The other handicap is price, which is significantly higher than the XM4 at launch. That makes these a deeper investment, and most people (especially heavy travelers) will likely find the XM4 the better buy. But if you’re looking for the ultimate noise-canceling headphones, your search has ended.

Pros

  • Lush, powerful sound

  • Top-notch comfort and features

  • Incredible noise canceling

Cons

  • Same battery as XM4

  • Less portable than rivals

Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

Audeze's Penrose/Penrose X is our current favorite gaming headset

Best for Gaming
Audeze Penrose X

Audeze's Penrose and Penrose X gaming headsets have one major advantage: planar magnetic drivers. This type of speaker design utilizes a pair of magnets on either side of the audio driver in each cup, allowing them to move it with much more force and precision. You can research a lot more about how it works if you want to, but all you really need to know is that planar magnetic headphones tend to deliver clear, powerful, and pristine audio quality.

That's not the only thing we love about the PS5-compatible Penrose and Xbox-compatible Penrose X, however. These durable wireless headsets may feel a bit heavy at first, but their contoured ear cups are surprisingly plush, while the padded headband and firm clamping force help them stay locked onto your head through however many hours of gaming.

The hint of blue on the Penrose and hint of green on the Penrose X add a nice pop of color without resorting to garish propensities, and the included 3.5mm cable, USB A-to-C charger, and USB-C cables are plenty long and feel sturdy enough to last a while. An included 2.4Ghz dongle makes it very easy to pair the Penrose with your gaming platform of choice, and the Penrose's intuitive controls and dual volume/mic wheels make choosing an audio source or fine-tuning your audio experience pleasingly easy.

The detachable microphone is a gem, too. For those used to almost shouting into a headset to make sure your friends could hear you, the Penrose's microphone sensitivity is a breath of fresh air. The boom arm is highly adjustable, and the Penrose models sound so good it's easy to forget they're geared for gaming when you're using them sans microphone as Bluetooth headphones, listening to magnet-powered renditions of your favorite music. Not only is this a great gaming headset, it could even be a full on upgrade to your regular headphones.

A huge array of strengths—durable design, awesome sound quality for lots of different kinds of content, and intuitive controls—balance well against the Penrose's only real weakness: all that power drains battery life pretty quickly. These take a few hours to charge, and you only get about 15 hours of use for every full charge. However, if you can get in the habit of charging them nightly, they're one of the best-sounding gaming headsets around, and worth the high price tag for audiophile gamers.

Pros

  • Excellent sound

  • Durable materials

  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • A bit heavy

  • Short battery life

Credit: Reviewed

These headphones are the best choice for keeping your kids' hearing safe

Best for Kids
Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones

If you're looking for the best headphones for kids, the Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones are the best we've tested. Like other Puro headphones, the PuroQuiet offer noise limiting, meaning the volume won't go above the recommended volume level to keep your child's hearing safe.

The PuroQuiet are a bit pricier than our previous favorite—the Puro BT2200—but they offer a killer feature: noise cancellation. Though it may seem like a luxury feature for many children, it's an awesome addition for kids who have sensory issues.

For other children, the noise isolation helps reduce the urge to crank the volume to the absolute max, and gives adults a bit of a break as well. Though volume-limiting headphones are critical for protecting your child's hearing, the recommended max of 85dB(a) simply isn't very loud in noisy environments. These headphones help solve that by further cutting down ambient noise.

In our lab tests, the PuroQuiet's noise canceling performed quite well for their price point, cutting down a significant amount of ambient noise with no major technical issues. Though our tests showed they could get up to around 87dB(a), that's still near the recommended level experts deem safe for up to 8 hours of listening.

The main drawback here is the price, but Puro frequently discounts these. Headphones like these can be a gamble for younger kids who are likely to forget them somewhere (or simply break them), but for an older kid wanting nicer headphones, they're a great investment.

The wireless capability ensures that your kids can't easily circumvent the volume protections, and they will work with a wider range of modern devices including newer smartphones that don't have built-in headphone jacks. If the battery dies, you can also use the included cable, but the volume limiter on the cable only works when plugged in properly.

Pros

  • Cuts ambient noise with no technical issues

  • Safe for up to 8 hours

  • Tangle-free

Cons

  • Very expensive

Other Top Headphones We Tested

Product image of Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless
Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

Jabra’s Elite 85t really have it all: smooth and balanced sound, impressive noise cancellation, comprehensive controls, a compact form factor, solid battery life, and a barrel full of other top-flight features, adding up to the best wireless earbuds around—whether you pledge your allegiance to Android or iPhone.

Perhaps more than any single feature, it’s the Elite 85t's open-style design that make them our favorite true wireless earbuds on the market. While a more bulbous design means fit isn’t quite as secure as their Elite 75t predecessors, the Elite 85t's oval ear tips provide a proper seal without plugging up your ears. The innovative design means you won’t hear yourself chewing, walking, jogging, etc. in the same way as most earbuds, and yet music and noise canceling are intimate and effective respectively.

This makes the Elite 85t direct competitors to Apple’s open-style AirPods Pro, but with more features for either Android or iPhone, and a more active-ready design too. Since they’re device agnostic, you can choose any of the major voice assistants (or none), and they offer all the controls you need (including volume control by default).

Speaking of controls, they’re customizable through Jabra’s stalwart Sound+ app, allowing you to configure the dual onboard buttons how you see fit. Also customizable is noise cancelation and transparency mode, the latter of which is among the most natural-sounding you’ll hear on the market to keep you aware of your environment in style—again, a direct shot across the AirPods Pro bow.

The word "natural" keeps coming up when using the Elite 85t, and it's a big key to their success. You can wear them for hours, even when you’re not listening to audio, and never miss a beat thanks to how seamlessly they transition between noise canceling and transparency mode; a few taps of the keys (even while wearing gloves) lets you slide between jamming out in solitude and striking up a conversation. Multipoint connection also makes it easy to switch between fun and work modes.

As for downsides, the Elite 85t’s looser fit is comfy, but they’re not as sport-ready as offerings like Jabra's Elite 7 earbuds or the Beats Fit Pro. Battery life is about middle-pack at 5.5 hours per charge with ANC (7 hours without), and you can also only use the right bud on its own (the left only works in stereo).

Those are relatively minor complaints though, as the Elite 85t offer a very complete package. If you decide to spring for them, you’ll be rewarded with good sound, great features, and usability that's among the best on the market.

Pros

  • Outstanding features and design

  • Rich, balanced sound

  • Impressive noise canceling

Cons

  • Not as sport-friendly as other Jabra buds

Product image of Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony WF-1000XM4

While Sony's WF-1000XM3 are still a solid pair of earbuds for the money, the WF-1000XM4 (not to be confused with the WH-1000XM4 over-ears) take things to a whole new level. With a brilliant mix of incredible sound quality, innovative design, IPX4 waterproofing (finally), and noise canceling that puts them at the very top of the marketplace, these are an expensive, but excellent choice.

There’s only one pair of earbuds you’ll find that compares to the XM4's ANC at time of publication: Bose’s well-regarded Quietcomfort Buds. Both pairs have their pros and cons, but the XM4 make for a more natural inclusion in most collections thanks to their smaller profile, next-gen battery life of up to 8 hours with active noise canceling (ANC) and a whopping 12 hours without it, and of course, their lovely, luscious sound.

It’s worth saying a bit more about that sound, as it’s among the best you’ll find in the genre. It’s sweet, smooth, accessible, and yet riddled with detail. And thanks to the stark canvas provided by the powerful noise canceling, it’s all the more easy to enjoy. You’ll find tranquility with these earbuds on a level that’s hard to find with most headphones, let alone tiny earbuds.

The headphones also have plenty of features, thanks in no small part to Sony’s Headphones Connect app, which lets you tweak the EQ to your heart’s content (from ramping up the bass to cycling through a dozen presets), and you can even set the earbuds to rotate between noise canceling and ambient audio based on your routines and locations.

Their design includes comfy foam tips for a stable seal alongside intuitive touch controls, though it’s there we’ll raise our primary complaint: the XM4 don’t allow you to use volume controls without giving up other integral functionality. In addition, they miss a few extras like Find My Earbuds and multipoint pairing, both features we’d like to see in this price range.

While they're anything but cheap, if you’re looking for the best all-around noise canceling earbuds, look no further. Sony’s WF-1000XM4 set a new bar. If you’re after a more affordable pair of Sony noise cancelers (and you don’t need water resistance), Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are still a great buy as well.

Pros

  • Fantastic noise canceling

  • Superb sound

  • Next-gen battery life

Cons

  • No good solution for volume control

  • Missing some features

Product image of JBL Tour One
JBL Tour One

JBL’s Tour One wireless over-ear headphones aim for the moon—and certainly land among the stars. The Tour One are rather similar to their top competition, the beloved Sony WH-1000XM4. Like our favorite headphones, these JBL cans deliver a light and comfortable design, effective noise canceling, a massive range of features, and great sound.

Controlling the Tour One with their mix of on-set buttons and a single-use tap control is plenty intuitive, and we were especially impressed with their subtle but impactful soundstage. Best of all, it was easy to wear them for hours without complaints, thanks to their relatively light 268-gram weight.

While a few finicky software functions, such as settings going back to default, leaves a less-than perfect app presentation, the issues were minimal and can likely be fixed with a firmware update. You’re also getting a great set of accessories, including a zip-up carrying case, USB-C and 3.5mm cables, and an airplane adapter. Battery life of up to 50 hours per charge doesn't hurt either.

The Tour One don’t surpass the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the pricier WH-1000XM5—which rule the roost together. But it’s a close comparison, often at a lower price. If you're looking for a little something different in the travel headphones game, JBL's Tour One offer a plush experience in a stylish package that's well worth consideration.

Pros

  • Great sound

  • Solid noise cancelling

  • Huge battery life

Cons

  • Software is occasionally finicky

Product image of Beats Fit Pro
Beats Fit Pro

It’s been a long time since Apple AirPods Pro hit the scene, but they’ve long maintained their status as the most popular true wireless earbuds for pairing with iPhones. But for savvy buyers, the Beats Fit Pro have finally usurped them as the best choice for most iOS users.

For about the same price as the AirPods Pro on sale, the Fit Pro offer some clear advantages. They provide longer battery life (6 hours with noise canceling, 7 without), a more secure fit thanks to their rubbery fins, and comparable if not better sound quality. They’re neck and neck for noise canceling, and they're a much better choice for Android users, too, thanks to the dedicated Beats app.

The Fit Pro also do everything the AirPods Pro do in terms of iOS features. There’s iCloud/Music Sharing, Hands-Free Siri, Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking, and Find My tracking so you won’t lose them. Right down to Apple’s H1 chip, the Fit Pro are essentially the AirPods Pro in a better-fitting, more colorful, and longer-lasting package.

That’s not to say the Fit Pro are perfect. During testing, they weren’t quite as clear as the AirPods Pro when it came to voice calling in a windy environment. You also can’t wirelessly charge their case, and they can occasionally be finicky on Android phones.

But that's mostly nitpicking. While the AirPods Pro are still a great choice, the Beats Fit Pro are currently the top wireless earbuds for iPhone. Even if you’re missing out on those iconic white stems, you’re making the smarter purchase at the end of the day.

Pros

  • Clear, balanced sound

  • Good noise canceling

  • Ample feature set

Cons

  • Can be finicky on Android

  • No EQ modes

  • Case lacks wireless charging

Product image of Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple's AirPods Pro take everything we love about the traditional AirPods and ramp things up a notch (or three). They sound better than all Apple earbuds before them, deliver excellent noise reduction, and add proper water-resistance (finally). These are the first Apple earbuds with swappable silicone ear tips, which are magnetically connected for easy removal and a much more custom fit.

While battery life is middling at 4.5 to 5 hours (Jabra's Elite 85t offer up to 7 hours without noise canceling), the pocket-friendly charging case holds multiple recharges for 24 hours total listening time. That comes in just under Jabra's top buds with noise-canceling engaged. In addition, Apple's quick charging provides an hour of listening in just five minutes, so you'll rarely need to worry about dead earbuds.

In our lab tests, the AirPods Pro’s noise cancellation proved to be on par with pricier noise-canceling headphones, with a minimal hit to battery life. Their Transparency Mode is also among the most effective and natural-sounding we’ve experienced, allowing you to pipe in the outside world for those times you want to be aware of your surroundings. The call quality, which uses dual microphones plus digital distortion reduction, is also excellent. The design also makes them incredibly easy to pair, control, and wear—especially for iPhoners.

The AirPods Pro are pricey, but they offer enough of a meaningful upgrade that we think they’re worth it—especially for those heavily steeped in the Apple ecosystem—since they can be your go-to headphones for everyday use, long trips by train or plane, and even light workouts. It's for all these reasons the AirPods Pro are some of the most popular earbuds on the planet.

Pros

  • Active noise cancellation

  • Silicon tips ensure a more comfortable fit

  • Easy setup and syncing

Cons

  • Sub-par audio quality for the price

  • No onboard volume controls

Product image of Jabra Elite 7 Active
Jabra Elite 7 Active

The Jabra Elite 7 Active, which step in to replace the Elite Active 75t, are great wireless earphones for just about anyone. But they're particularly suitable for folks who spend a lot of time running or working out, thanks to their nimble design. Their hearty, IP57-rated dust and water resistance lets you safely rinse them off after a workout.

(Tip: If you're looking for more like these, we have plenty to recommend in our Best Workout Headphones guide.)

The Elite 7 Active will net you nearly every bell and whistle you might need. A finder function makes sure you won't lose track of them. Transparency mode lets you hear the world around you, so you can stay aware in nearly any situation. They provide mid-tier noise canceling, and Jabra even released a firmware update that adds multipoint pairing, which helps make these buds even more versatile.

The Elite 7 Active offer mid-tier audio performance, though their brighter sound signature may need some EQ to smooth things out. Still, their sound performance will satisfy most casual listeners and power users alike, especially once you take Jabra's sound test. It's bolstered by around 7-8 hours of battery life per charge with ANC, which is a solid step up from their predecessors.

The Elite 7 Active's signature Jabra playback controls are intuitive and customizable (thanks to the loaded Jabra Sound+ app) to make for one of the best user experiences in the true wireless game. The updated design, while more intrusive, is also more stable and comfortable (for our ears) than the 75t over time, which makes them even better for working out.

The Jabra Elite 7 Active are a great pick, offering superb performance, durability, and a well-rounded experience. In addition, if you need improved calling the Elite 7 Pro are nearly identical to their cousins, but trade additional calling software for a less grippy exterior.

Either way, you'll be getting a great pair of durable earbuds, armed for virtually any scenario you can throw at them.

Pros

  • Snug and stable fit

  • Great battery and waterproofing

  • Loaded with features

Cons

  • So-so default sound

  • Some mild performance quirks

Product image of Bose QuietComfort 45
Bose QuietComfort 45

Bose's QuietComfort 45 are part of their own royal lineage, following up the adored Bose QC35 II as the successor to some of the best, most powerful noise canceling cans in the business. While they’re not perfect, the QC45 are another fantastic option, offering a comfy design, an impressively travel-ready package, and noise canceling that rivals the very best in the business.

During testing, the QC45 smashed through our usual noise canceling tests, besting our previous favorite noise cancelers and standing tall with our new top pick, the Sony WH-1000XM5. It was so close we essentially called it a draw between the two pairs.

Noise canceling is not the only feather in the QC45’s cap, of course. They’re also quite stylish, maintaining faithful design parity to the lauded QC35, and provide an intuitive, set-it-and-forget-it user experience. With only two sound modes—”Quiet” for noise canceling and “Aware” for ambient awareness—and extremely simple software via the Bose Music app, the QC45 aims to provide a seamless user experience a la Apple AirPods, but for Apple and Android users alike.

Not everyone is going to love such a tightly controlled experience, especially at this price. Compared to the Sony WH-1000XM4, WH-1000XM5, and other rivals, the QC45 have extremely limited software. And with no adjustable EQ presets available, you’d better hope you like the occasionally sharp treble of the QC45’s sound signature.

The Sony XM5 offer better overall sound, and we’re big fans of the ability to adjust EQ or transparency mode, along with their massive suite of other features. In fact, you'll find plenty of headphones that offer more features than Bose's latest. If control over how your headphones sound is a deal-breaker for you, you might want to consider one of our other top picks.

One point in the QC45's favor is their ability to pack tightly, which is the biggest drawback of the XM5 (along with the price). If you just want top-tier noise canceling in a simple and travel-friendly design, Bose’s QC45 are hard to beat.

Pros

  • World-beating noise canceling

  • Detailed sound

  • Ample battery life

Cons

  • Limited features

  • No adjustable EQ

How We Tested Headphones

The Testers

Hi, I'm Ryan Waniata, Managing Editor for Reviewed's Electronics section and audio obsessor. I've been reviewing electronics, including audio devices of all kinds, for over a decade. I'm a recovering audio engineer, having worked in Nashville in both studios and live sound venues for multiple years, and I'm also a musician who regularly records and edits audio in my home studio.

Our entire home theater team takes testing and evaluating headphones quite seriously. We take them on flights, during commutes around the city, use them while working, and try to generally wring every likely use case out of each headphone during evaluation.

Other testers who contributed to this guide include Reviewed's former A/V Editor Lee Neikirk, Reviewed Contributor Nick Woodard, and Reviewed's Director of Content Production TJ Donegan.

The Tests

When testing headphones, we focus on several key pain points consumers typically run into including (but not limited to) battery life, ease of use, controls, wireless range, sound quality, sound isolation, and comfort.

For sound quality tests, we use a mix of real-world and lab testing, including data collection and A/B testing on factors like max volume, passive and active noise attenuation (including active noise cancellation). We use all the headphones extensively, playing a wide variety of test tracks ranging from classical to hip-hop, rock, jazz, and more.

Most features are tested in real-life situations, including sweat proofing, short- and long-term comfort, battery life, microphone quality, and connectivity over distances and through obstacles like doors and walls.

Perhaps the biggest missing link in all headphone reviews is durability. It's simply impossible for us to test a single pair and come to a meaningful conclusion about how well they'll hold up over time and with regular use (and abuse). To account for this, we note any major issues that popped up in user reviews (where available), though this doesn’t impact final scores.

We also use these headphones over a prolonged period and update their firmware when available to test out the latest features. We update relevant articles and reviews with our findings.

Durability is a major concern for us. Since some of these models are quite new, we reserve the right to revisit our conclusions as we become aware of any major issues or pain points as time goes on.

What You Should Know About Headphones

You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your everyday life, but what you may not realize is that headphones, while they have a number of different selling points, are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.

In-ear vs. on-ear vs. over-ear headphones.
Credit: Reviewed

Three popular types of headphones: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.

Knowing the basic terminology of modern headphones is the best way to estimate what you need (or want) in a pair of headphones, which will guide you towards deciding how much to spend. Usually, if you have an idea of what style you're looking for, what features you want or need, and how you'll be using your new headphones, you can start to estimate how much you want to spend. Read on to find out more about how to look for headphones that will suit your use cases.

  • Style: Deciding on one of the three common form factors—in-ear, on-ear, or over-ear—should be your first step. Generally, in-ear headphones are the most portable and convenient, over-ear headphones are the most comfortable, while on-ear headphones are somewhere in between.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Selecting a style of headphone comes down to many factors, including comfort, portability, and stylishness.

  • Bluetooth/wireless: Do you want wireless headphones? A pair of Bluetooth headphones will let you go completely without wires, while a set of "true wireless" earbuds are even more minimalist. If you're looking for an experience that won't tether you to your phone, tablet, or laptop, Bluetooth headphones are what you need—and fortunately, they're ubiquitous enough these days that you can find them in every style and price range.

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Originally designed for pilots, noise-canceling headphones, aren't just for frequent flyers anymore. These headphones reduce the volume of ambient noise around you using phase-canceling technology to "cancel" out unwanted sounds. They've become a mainstay for travelers, public transit commuters, gym-goers, and those working in distracting environments in the office or at home. If you already know you're looking for noise-canceling headphones, check out the best ones we've tested.

  • Open-backed: Last but not least, this niche kind of over-ear headphone is a style that's especially preferred by people mixing and mastering audio. Unlike traditional "closed-back" headphones, open-backed headphones have, literally, open backs, allowing some of the sound to escape into the room around you. While these headphones are primarily meant for audio professionals and audiophiles, it's worth knowing about them even if it's so you can decide if they're something you want or not.

More Headphones To Consider

  • The Bose QC35 II don't really offer much you can't get in the newer QC45, and their price is pretty sticky at MSRP. If you can find them on sale, though, they're still a world-class pair of travel cans. Get the Bose QC 35 II at Amazon

  • The Jabra Elite Active 75t were our favorite workout (and more) buds for years, especially once the price dropped to around $100 on sale. The price has now crept back to MSRP (or much higher), but if you can get them on sale, they're still a great little pair of earbuds. Get the Jabra Elite 75t at Amazon

  • The Sony WH-CH710N are solid performers, with a lot of the features we love about the 1000X series, and they're really great if you can get them on one of their regular sales for about half their MSRP. Get the Sony WH-CH710N at Amazon


Meet the testers

Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor, Home Theater

@Koanshark

Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
Ryan Waniata

Ryan Waniata

Managing Editor - Electronics

@ryanwaniata

Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2012. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.

See all of Ryan Waniata's reviews
Nick Woodard

Nick Woodard

Contributor

@@nwoodard25

Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.

See all of Nick Woodard's reviews

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