Best Headphones of 2019

By Michael Desjardin, Julia MacDougall, Brendan Nystedt, and Chris Thomas, December 14, 2018, Updated January 02, 2019

Choosing the right headphones can be a tricky business. Most people simply head to the store and pick up the first pair they find that are cheap and look like they sound halfway decent. Ideally, though, it's better to invest a little more and walk away with a pair that'll look good, sound even better, and last for the long haul.

We've tested hundreds of headphones here at Reviewed, and seen our fair share of good, better, and best. The models below are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, all the wheat without any of the chaff, and we'd be happy to tell you why. For instance, our favorite pair of headphones right now is the Audio-Technica MSR7 over-ear headphones (available at Amazon) because they're comfortable and they sound amazing.

This is our master list of headphone picks, so if you have a stronger preference one way or the other, head on over to our articles on the best truly wireless headphones, the best over- and on-ear wireless headphones, the best gaming headphones, and the best earbuds.

If you want to find out more about a particular model, click through to read our full review.

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated January 02, 2019

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audiotechnica_msr7_hero Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed.com / Nick Schmiedicker

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7

Product Image - Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
  • Best of Year 2017

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7

Best Overall

When headphones are able to balance form and function, we stand up and take notice. Audio-Technica’s ATH-MSR7 do just that by combining thick memory foam padding, an aluminum/magnesium housing, and rich, consumer-friendly sound to create a fantastic overall value. They’re cans that'll please audiophiles and average consumers alike—so long as they don’t mind spending a little to get that high quality.

At this price point, consumers expect to be wowed by the headphones' comfort, sound, and features; the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 headphones check all of the right boxes. Read the full review.

bose_qc35_wireless Best Noise Cancellation
Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Product Image - Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Best Noise Cancellation

Bose has a devoted following, and with a pair of headphones like the QuietComfort 35 Series II, that's not surprising. The active noise cancellation (ANC), for which Bose is well-renowned, cuts out a wide range of noises from deep train rumbling to higher-pitched A/C humming. The headphones are light and comfortable enough that they can be worn for hours at a time, although you may notice some heat or sweat build up from where the cushy leather pads meet the sides of your head. The 20-hour battery life is also a huge selling point. We tested the Bose QC35 Series I; really the only difference between the series I and series II is that with the series II, you can also activate and command the Google Assistant.

One tricky point is that, should you decide you don't want to use the ANC (for safety reasons or otherwise), you'll have to plug in and use them as wired headphones, since the Bluetooth switch doubles as the ANC on/off switch. The price is steep; if you have a little bit more disposable income and want an outstanding pair of headphones, this is the pair for you. Read the full review of the QC35 Series I.

How We Test

head_and_torso_simulator
Credit: Reviewed.com / Julia MacDougall

We test all of our headphones on a head and torso simulator (HATS), a model of a human being from the waist upwards that reproduces how we experience music when we listen to headphones.

On our head and torso simulator (HATS), we put these headphones through our usual battery of headphone tests: frequency response, distortion, tracking, leakage, and isolation.

Headphone manufacturers are typically aiming for either a flat or a curved sound profile. A curved profile is most common, and most curved profiles are trying to replicate the Equal Loudness Curve (ELC). The human ear hears higher tones more easily than it hears the bass tones, so for a human to perceive highs and lows at a similar volume, the headphones boost the volume of the lows, and moderate the volume of the highs.

A flat profile is usually found in "studio" headphones; the highs, mids, and bass tones have the same volume. However, as I just mentioned, we don't hear all tones at the same volume, so the bass notes sound softer, and the highs sound louder. Some people prefer studio headphones because of their audio fidelity—they are hearing the music exactly as the producers intended them to hear it. Also, as implied by the name, studio headphones are used in studio recordings to help mixers figure out what, if any frequencies, they should boost or reduce.

In addition to the more scientific testing, we also wear each pair of headphones around town to get a sense for their features (like extra amps or noise cancellation) and short- and long-term comfort.

In-ear vs. On-ear vs. Over-ear

You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your every day 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.

different_headphone_types
Credit: Reviewed

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


Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Product Image - Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
  • Best of Year 2016

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica's reputation for building comfortable, high-fidelity headphones is well-deserved. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X are high-grade studio headphones that allow you to hear your music exactly as it was intended to be heard, with little to no alteration to your sound. If you're transitioning from regular consumer headphones to studio headphones, you might find that the bass notes sound a little quieter than you're expecting, but that's a feature rather than a bug.

With multiple removable cable options and swiveling earcups, these headphones are both surprisingly durable and portable. While we experienced some heat/sweat build-up, that's pretty typical for larger over-ear headphones. If you're looking for studio-quality sound on a budget, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X are the cans for you. Read the full review.

1More E1001 Triple Driver

Product Image - 1More E1001 Triple Driver
  • Best of Year 2017

1More E1001 Triple Driver

The 1More Triple Driver in-ears have the looks and sound of earbuds that cost twice as much. They really make a point to emphasize the bass notes, which really help bring your music to life, whether it's rap music or classical music. If you're worried about durability, the cord is reinforced with nylon and kevlar, so you're not going to find them jumbled up in a big knot at the bottom of your bag (the included case will also help with that).

The fit can really make or break a pair of earbuds, so we were especially pleased with the ear-tip options with these headphones: 6 sets of silicon ear-tips, and 3 sets of memory-foam ear-tips. If you want to be able to jam with your music on the go, and look cool doing it, the 1More Triple Driver in-ears are the earbuds for you. Read the full review.

Plantronics Backbeat Sense

Product Image - Plantronics Backbeat Sense
  • Editors' Choice

Plantronics Backbeat Sense

If you love the portability of in-ear headphones, but want the something a little heftier that can stand up to every-day use, the Plantronics Backbeat Sense Wireless on-ear headphones are a great way to dip your toe into the on- and over-ear headphone pool. These wireless headphones are lightweight, cushy on your ears, and come with a sound profile that nicely balances both the bass tones and the higher notes.

With a battery life of 15-20 hours, and a recharge time of only ~2 hours, these are perfect to take on a long train or bus ride; you can spend quality time relaxing and enjoying the trip, rather than hunting around for a wall outlet. While we had some trouble consistently operating the touch controls, the rest of the experience is good enough that we'd still recommend these headphones to friends and family. Read the full review.

V-Moda Crossfade M-100

Product Image - V-Moda Crossfade M-100
  • Editors' Choice

V-Moda Crossfade M-100

Meet the Crossfade M-100, one of V-Moda's top tier offerings. The M-100 look like they belong in a militaristic, dystopian sci-fi movie; the cord is reinforced with kevlar, the headphones' frame is steel, and metal plates (which can be customized to your preferences at V-Moda's website) protect the headphones' ear cups. Even with all of the effort put into its looks and durability, though, these headphones also have cushy, vegan leather cups that help the headphones to rest gently on your head without squeezing your head like a vice. You may experience heat build-up, though, in the ear cups, since, like all over-ear headphones, they fully cover your ears and do not allow for a lot of ventilation.

As for sound, the M-100 headphones have a full-bodied sound profile that helps you to ear bass notes where you couldn't before. If you're worried about portability, don't be; these full-sized over-ear headphones fold up into a small case that's easy to toss in a laptop bag. If you've got some extra cash to spend, the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 won't let you down, either in sound performance or durability. Read the full review.

Decibullz Contour

Product Image - Decibullz Contour
  • Best of Year 2015

Decibullz Contour

Isolation, or the ability of a pair of headphones to block out the outside world in favor of the music coming through the headphones, is usually a hit or miss prospect with earbuds. Either the ear-tips fit perfectly, and you don't hear anything but your music, or they don't fit right, and the earbuds fall out when you so much as twitch your nose. Up until recently, the only guaranteed way to solve the fit problem, if you couldn't find ear-tips that worked for your ears, would be to spend upwards of $1,000 for custom ear molds. Not anymore!

Newcomer Decibullz has a much more affordable option in its debut headphones, the Contours. Instead of a visit to a professional, all you need is hot water and 15 minutes of your time. The result? Brightly-colored, custom-molded ear-tips that stop unwanted interference in its tracks, and can be re-molded multiple times. In addition to potentially being the solution to your earbud fitting woes, the Decibullz Contours have a neat carrying case, and provide a lot of bass for such a small pair of earbuds. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Omni

Product Image - JLab Audio Omni
  • Best of Year 2015

JLab Audio Omni

JLab Audio has a history of bringing premium features down into a more affordable price range, and that's exactly what they've done with the Omni Bluetooth headphones. These over-ear headphones can be used both wired and wirelessly; for the latter case, they have a battery life of about ~15 hours, which is nothing to sneeze at. They sound like most consumer headphones do (rather than studio headphones); they emphasize the bass notes so that they're not totally overtaken by vocals or instrumentals with higher tones.

While the Omni do fold up, they're not especially portable. Whether they're in or out of the included travel case, they're pretty bulky. It's probably best that you leave these in one place, rather than dragging them all around town with you, as they'll take up valuable real estate in your suitcase or your laptop bag. For the price, though, the JLab Omni give you both wireless and wired functionality that makes them a real steal. Read the full review.

AKG K701

Product Image - AKG K701

AKG K701

The AKG K701s are professional-grade, open-backed headphones that see wide use in the DJ and mixer community. "Open-backed" means that, instead of sealing the speakers, in an attempt to block out ambient noise, the K701 headphones purposely let the sound in, so that you can hear how the music sounds against the backdrop of the outside world.

Of course, the down-side of these headphones is that by letting outside noise in, the reverse is true as well: your neighbors can hear everything on your headphones. If you've not going to use these in a DJ capacity, you might want to keep them at home so as to avoid annoying people on public transportation. While they're not especially portable, the K701 have a relatively flat sound profile that helps you to hear your music as the recording artists intended you to hear their songs. The K701 aren't for everyone, but if you like open-backed headphones, these are the most comfortable ones on the market. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Flex Bluetooth Active Noise Canceling

Product Image - JLab Audio Flex Bluetooth Active Noise Canceling
  • Editors' Choice

JLab Audio Flex Bluetooth Active Noise Canceling

JLab Audio is a relatively new player in the headphones game, but they really impressed us with the JLab Audio Flex ANC Wireless. The flat sound profile will please audiophiles who want true music fidelity. The active noise cancellation on these headphones is unreal. When turned on, it sounds like all of the noise has been sucked out of the room. Walking on a quiet street with the ANC on feels like floating in outer space, for the amount of ambient noise that reaches your ears. A 30-hour battery life is great for both long days of travel and shorter, more casual use throughout the week.

The headphones themselves are very comfortable, but are a bit heavier than the Bose QC35, and have an angled cushion at the top of the headband that tends to dig into the top of your skull after a few hours. Additionally, there have been reports of design flaws in the ear pads, which tear and break off easily. When they unfold, the cups snap out crisply, so be sure to watch your fingers so they don't get pinched. The Flex ANC Wireless are relatively inexpensive for a quality pair of noise-cancelling wireless headphones; at this price, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Product Image - Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless headphones are the wireless version of the much-loved Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2. They have the same magnetic ear cups and enviable audio performance that emphasizes the bass notes without overwhelming any higher notes, like vocals or strings. The battery life is a respectable 15-20 hours, and it has a sleek design that wouldn't look out of place on the streets of Silicon Valley.

The only downside? These on-ear headphones are not great at isolation. Because they sit gently on top of your ears without compressing them, it's easy for the outside world to intrude on your music. On the other hand, we didn't experience the sweat and heat build-up that often goes hand-in-hand with over- and on-ear headphones that press against your ears. If you prefer on-ear headphones with a loose fit and don't mind playing your music at loud volumes, the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless, while expensive, is a winning combination of portability, style, and performance. Read the full review.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Product Image - Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

We really liked the previous Plantronics Backbeat Pro, so it's probably not surprising that the next edition gets a big thumbs up as well. Like the QC35 and the Flex ANC, the Backbeat Pro 2 also has active noise cancellation (ANC), but it's less robust than the ANC on those headphones. It minimizes lower-pitched train rumbling, but other sounds are still audible. To some extent, this effect is intentional, since the Backbeat Pro 2 boasts an open-back setting that allows you to easily hear ambient noise, in addition to your tunes.

Another unusual feature is sensors that detect when the headphones are being worn, and when they've been taken off. In the latter case, the headphones "auto-pause", and turn back on once the headphones have been returned to your head. Some users were unlucky, however, and had defective units that would auto-pause when the headphones were still on their heads. The Backbeat Pro 2 are ridiculously comfortable; we had no issues with them after hours of use. If you like comfy headphones, a 24-hour battery life, tech-y features, and have some extra cash on hand, then these are the cans for you.

V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless

Product Image - V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless

V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless

Like the V-Moda Crossfade M-100, the Crossfade II Wireless have the same steel frame, metal ear plates, and kevlar-wrapped cord; these headphones can take a beating. With the Crossfade II Wireless, though, you have the option to ditch said kevlar-wrapped and use these wirelessly. The battery life is about 15-20 hours.

As for sound, the Crossfade II Wireless have a delicate touch, and only emphasize the bass just enough so that it doesn't get overwhelmed by the tinkling higher notes, which makes for a really big, present sound. These headphones also fold up into a relatively small, extremely durable case that makes these wireless headphones even more portable. It may take a while for you to get used to the hidden controls on the side of the ear cups, but these headphones are worth the investment. Read the full review.

Related articles

The Best Truly Wireless Earbuds

The Best On-Ear and Over-Ear Wireless Headphones

The Best Affordable In-Ear Headphones

The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

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