Choosing the right headphones can be a tricky business. While bargain shopping is great, it's better to invest a little time and money 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, and our favorite pair right now are the Sony WH-1000XM4(available at Amazon for $348.00). As the natural successor to our previous favorite headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3, they're comfortable, sound amazing, offer incredible noise cancellation, and boast enticing new features.
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 from our top collections, such as the best wireless earbuds, the best noise-canceling headphones and the best gaming headsets for a well-versed assortment of favorites. Whether you need nimble wireless earbuds for your workout, travel/work cans for the long haul, or something in between, you'll find the best of the best here.
Below are the best headphones we tested, ranked in order:
SteelSeries Arctis Pro
Jabra Elite Active 85t
Apple AirPods Pro
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Jabra Elite Active 75t
Samsung Galaxy Buds+
Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones
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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 check off all the right boxes where essentials are concerned: they're exceedingly comfortable, incredibly lightweight, they offer amazing sound, and absolutely destroy ambient noise. They provide a wide array of useful features and functions, including a new "Speak-to-Chat" feature that automatically pauses the headphones when you begin speaking, as well as the ability to connect to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, perfect for flipping between devices for all those Zoom calls whether you're working from home or the office.
Using Sony's highly tooled Headphones Connect app, you can adjust their EQ on the fly and customize what various capacitive touch buttons on the ear cups do. 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.
The only drawback is the price—quality like this doesn't come cheap. If you want a similarly efficacious product at a somewhat friendlier price, check out the previous model, the WH-1000XM3, which can often be found at a notable discount while they're still around. In addition, Sony's WH-CH710N (also on this list) offer a nice helping of the XM4's features and comfort at a much more approachable price.
That said, we don't think anyone will feel buyer's remorse once they slip these cushy cans over their ears and take a trip to music town.
The winning follow-up to Samsung's original Galaxy Buds, the 2020 Samsung Galaxy Buds+ offer everything you need in an affordable pair of wireless earbuds. From their light and comfy design to impressively long playback time, they provide fantastic usability for the money—which is really what true wireless earbuds are all about.
The Galaxy Buds+ aren't audiophile earbuds, but they still sound plenty good and their price has dropped significantly from their original MSRP, making them among the most enticing earbuds on our list.
Key Galaxy Buds+ features include transparency mode (which Samsung calls Ambient Sound) to hear the world around you while you jam out, basic water resistance, Qi wireless charging for the case, a well-appointed app, onboard volume controls, and a whopping 11 hours of max playback per charge (and up to 22 hours total with the case). That's four more hours than the max playback time than pricier rivals like Jabra's Elite 85t, and more than double Apple's AirPods Pro, though you'll have to give up any form of noise cancellation.
We also really enjoy the Galaxy Buds+'s simple and comfortable form factor, which adds rubberized grips alongside three sizes of ear tips for a secure fit. The buds and compact charging case are also available in multiple colors to suit all sorts of styles. While they're only IPX2 rated for water resistance, it's enough to use them for modest workouts and in drizzling rain.
While not as well known, these will be a better choice for most folks than Apples standard AirPods, especially if you use them alongside the minimalist and intuitive Samsung Wearables app. The only major drawback is that they don't work with older phones, so check those requirements before you pull the trigger. If you don't need noise canceling, but just want a pair of earbuds that are affordable and versatile, the Galaxy Buds+ are a great choice.
If you’re going to pay through the nose for anything—let alone a gaming headset—it needs to be downright impressive. Thankfully for SteelSeries, the Arctis Pro most definitely is. One of the more comfortable gaming headsets on the market, the Arctis Pro uses a flexible suspension band to customize the size, with super soft ear cups that stay comfortable for hours—even while wearing glasses.
Sure, comfort alone isn't enough reason to buy such an expensive headset, but the Arctis Pro doesn’t stop there.
Both music and games sound fantastic using the Arctis Pro. From a quiet indie game like Atma to booming matches of Overwatch to virtually anything else you can throw at them, the Arctis Pro delivers the goods. The headset balances quiet soundtracks with in-game sound effects like the crunching of grass beneath the character's feet with aplomb.
In first-person shooters, you can clearly distinguish allies' voices from in-game noise, which can sometimes be a struggle. That's largely thanks to the mixer that comes with the SteelSeries, allowing for a perfectly customizable balance between game and chat.
From there, customization extends into the equalizer which lets you change frequencies without any extra software to create clear, powerful, and invigorating sound. This is a pricey headset, but where that money is going is clear. Better still, you can find the Arctis Pro for a lot less money online these days, making it an easy choice for serious gamers.
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 new 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. 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 were some of the best noise-canceling headphones we've tested, 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.
Howdy, I'm Lee Neikirk, Home Theater Editor for Reviewed and casual video/audiophile. I've been elbows-deep in professional reviews of video and audio products for the last 7 years, but before that, I was earning a degree in music performance, so it's safe to say that audio quality and presentation are passions of mine.
I personally own more headphones than I can generally find time to use, and 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 Managing Editor of Electronics (and former audio engineer) Ryan Waniata, and Reviewed's Executive Editor of Core Content and tech expert TJ Donegan.
Headphone manufacturers are typically aiming for either a flat or a curved sound profile. A curved profile is most common, and can be used to try 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. Other headphones boost frequencies at different levels to create a distinctive sound signature, such as bass-forward headphones.
A flat profile is usually found in "studio" headphones; the treble, midrange, and bass tones are presented at similar volume levels. Studio headphones are designed to reproduce music exactly as it was recorded and, as the name implies, they're most commonly used in studio control rooms to help mixers figure out which frequencies they should boost or reduce.
In addition to the more scientific lab testing, we also wear each pair of headphones around town to get a sense of their features (like noise cancellation and transparency mode), sound quality, as well as short-and long-term comfort.
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.
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. For example, Sony's super-popular WH-1000XM3 headphones are Bluetooth (wireless) over-ears with Adaptive Noise Canceling. If you're not sure what all that means, read on to see which pair is right for you.
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. Check out our guide to the pros and cons of each form factor.
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.
Noise-canceling: Noise-canceling headphones, originally designed for pilots, aren't just for frequent flyers anymore. These headphones reduce the volume of ambient noise around you, and over the last several years they've become a mainstay for travelers, public transit commuters, gym-goers, and even people in extra-chatty offices. 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.
Other Top Headphones We Tested
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. Multi-point connection also makes it easy to switch between fun and work modes.
As for downsides, the Elite 85t’s IPX4 water resistance rating means you can splash them but they’re not as weather-ready as their cousins, the Elite and Elite Active 75t earbuds (though they meet or beat almost all other similarly equipped competitors). As referenced above, the fit is also less stable than what you’ll get in purpose-built workout buds.
There’s not much else to count against them, though, as these buds are about as well-rounded and versatile as they come. If you can afford their not-insignificant cost, you’ll be rewarded with good sound, great features, and the best usability on the market.
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.
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, though it's becoming common for newer headphones to offer 30 hours or more. We also 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 also coming down, making these a great choice, especially if the newer Bose 700 are too rich for your blood.
The Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great set of 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 and their hearty, IP57-rated water and dust resistance, allowing you to safely rinse them off after a workout.
The Elite Active 75t offer nearly every bell and whistle you might be hoping for. You'll get everything from a finder function to transparency mode, which allows you to stay aware in nearly any situation. Jabra even released a firmware update that adds digital active noise cancellation to the impressive passive noise isolation, which helps make these already versatile buds all the more valuable.
The Elite Active 75t sound good, though their heavy, bass-forward sound signature won't be for everyone, and it might take some tinkering in the accompanying app to find an equalization setting that fits your playlist. Still, their sound performance will satisfy most casual listeners and power users alike, and it's bolstered by around 7 hours of battery life per charge (or around 5.5 hours with ANC).
We also love the Elite Active 75t’s playback controls; their buttons are easy enough to press without needing much force, yet firm enough that they rarely get pressed accidentally. As we noted with the Elite 85t, Jabra’s intuitive controls and customization (thanks to the loaded Jabra Sound+ app) make for one of the best user experiences in the true wireless game.
One small point of caution: Their small size and rigid plastic design isn't a perfect fit for everyone, and they also may wear on those with smaller ears after a few hours—though that's the case with the majority of true wireless earbuds to some degree.
All in all, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great pick for folks looking for superb performance, durability, and a well-rounded experience. In addition, if you don't see the need for your earbuds to be fully submerged in water—and you want to save a few bucks—the Elite 75t earbuds are nearly identical to their cousins, only with a less-rugged IP55 dust/water-resistance rating.
And if you really want to save some cash, the less reliable but still-impressive Jabra Elite Active 65t can now be had at impressive savings, making them a great budget pick while they last.
If you can pony up for either flavor of the 75t, though, you'll be getting a great pair of durable earbuds with noise canceling and much more, armed for virtually any scenario you can throw at them.
Our former pick for the Best Active Noise Canceling earbuds, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are still among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, full stop. Like their over-ear siblings the WH-1000XM3 and the newer WH-1000XM4, these fully wireless earbuds are loaded with tech, offer impressive sound, and have the ability to whisk away the outside world with some of the most powerful noise cancellation around.
Their lack of water resistance make them a tough sell for gym rats, and they aren't exactly the most micro of buds. But anyone who wants great sound and serious noise cancellation to complement the sheer convenience of fully wireless earbuds should consider these. Along with whisper-quiet noise canceling, the WH-1000XM3 offer solid battery life at 6 hours per charge with noise cancellation engaged, and 8 hours without it, with an extra three charges in the charging case for up to 24 hours total.
In addition, Sony's powerful Headphones Connect app lets you customize a carousel of settings to make things just right for your listening habits. Perhaps best of all, as they've hung around on the market, you can often find these earbuds on sale at a great price.
With their impressive collection of features and stellar performance, the WF-1000XM3 are a fantastic option, packed with value. If you’re looking for the same mix of gorgeous sound, great features, and class-leading active noise cancellation (ANC) offered by Sony's stellar over-ear models—but in a tiny, wireless form factor—these are the perfect pick.
The Sony WH-CH710N are positioned as a more affordable set of Sony's flagship WH-1000X series. They're considerably less expensive, but still deliver a lot of the same great features and punch impressively above their weight when it comes to performance.
With the WH-CH710N, you're still getting decent noise-canceling, clear and balanced sound, simple and reliable wireless connection, and a comfortable over-ear form factor. Whether you need to work from home or you're on the go (or plan to be as soon as possible) you won't have to worry about recharging much thanks to a whopping 35-hour battery life. That's 15 hours more than you'll get from Bose's top pairs, and even Apple's shockingly expensive (and shockingly heavy) AirPods Max.
These mid-tier cans certainly aren't as premium as the Max, nor can they go toe-to-toe with their pricier siblings, the WH-1000XM4. But for what you're paying, they deliver. They cancel enough noise to be reliable headphones for work and play, and offer a taste of luxury at a price that's much more manageable than flagship travel cans.
Audio-Technica's most premium wireless headphones at present, the ATH-ANC900BT do their best to deliver the same amazing suite of features as our top-rated Sony WH-1000XM4. And while they don't quite succeed, they too come pretty close, and are an awesome choice if you want great noise-canceling wireless over-ears for a little less money.
While the ATH-ANC900BT's deliver a reliable, flat audio response with decent bass preservation, their strongest foot forward might actually be their battery life. Compared to our top-rated WH-1000XM4, which gives you right around 30 hours on a single charge, the ANC900BT give you closer to 40. They're not as comfortable, and the bigger battery adds heft that you'll feel on your head and neck, but if you've been hunting for a set of wireless, noise-canceling cans that will last for an entire week's worth of commuting between charges, these are a solid choice.
Like many other Audio-Technica Bluetooth headphones, the drawback with these is that their connection can be a bit dodgy. Putting your phone into your pocket may result in more slight but noticeable audio skipping compared to other models in this price range. But if you can stand a less polished experience, the ATH-ANC900BT do a pretty great job of everything else. They can't touch the WH-1000XM4 in terms of noise canceling, but all in all, they've got no major flaws.
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.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.