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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
Best Overall

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
2
Editor's Choice Product image of Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
Best Overall Earbuds

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

Apple’s updated AirPods Pro may look the same but features like Adaptive Transparency and next-gen noise canceling make them the best buds around. Read More

Pros

  • Next-gen noise canceling
  • Adaptive Transparency
  • Sound and battery boost

Cons

  • No EQ or ANC adjustment
  • No separate app for Android
3
Editor's Choice Product image of Sony WH-1000XM5
Best Noise Canceling

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
4
Editor's Choice Product image of Anker Soundcore Space A40
Best Value

Anker Soundcore Space A40

The Soundcore Space A40 set a new mark for earbuds under $100 thanks to their excellent ANC that's better than more expensive earbuds and great sound. Read More

Pros

  • Amazing ANC for the price
  • Customizable sound profiles
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Little sizzly out of the box
  • Lows can cover vocals
5
Editor's Choice Product image of Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones
Best for Kids

Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones

The PuroQuiets were some of the best noise-canceling headphones for kids we've lab tested, while also keeping their hearing safe in style. Read More

Pros

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

Cons

  • Expensive for kids headphones

Choosing the right headphones can be a difficult task. While shopping for a deal is always smart, investing some time and money can ensure you end up with headphones that feel great, sound great, and last for years. Our team has tested hundreds of pairs of headphones, and our favorite of the bunch are 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, including wireless earbuds, in a variety of styles and price points. This is our master list, curated with a smatter of our top picks from guides like our best wireless earbuds, best noise-canceling earbuds, and the best noise-canceling headphones. 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.

Editor’s note: Take a look at our Best Gaming Headsets and Best Workout Headphones for more options.

These are the best headphones we've tested:

  • Sony WH-1000XM4
  • Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
  • Sony WH-1000XM5
  • Anker Soundcore Space A40
  • Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
  • Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
  • Sony WF-1000XM4
  • Jabra Elite Active 85t
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
  • JBL Tour One
  • Jabra Elite 4 Active
Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

The Sony WH-1000XM4 combine excellent sound, a comfortable fit, and great noise-canceling performance in an attractive, foldable package.

Best Overall
Sony WH-1000XM4
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Weight: 254 grams
  • Battery life: 30 hours per charge

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. 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

An image of the Apple AirPods Pro in a case on grass.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) deliver significant upgrades to noise canceling, transparency mode, and sound.

Best Overall Earbuds
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, Adaptive Transparency mode
  • Dust and water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 6 hours with ANC (up to 7 without), up to 31 hours with the case

Not every sequel’s a winner, even in the constantly evolving world of true wireless earbuds. But the AirPods Pro (2nd generation)—Apple’s refresh of its shockingly popular AirPods Pro—knock it out of the park. While the exterior remains mostly the same, the updated AirPods Pro offer significant upgrades to noise canceling, sound, and battery life inside their familiar, comfy housings.

The noise canceling isn’t just better, either. In our testing, there’s only one pair on the market that beats the new AirPods Pro at time of publication, Bose’s own upgraded QuietComfort Earbuds II. That puts those two pairs atop a very stalwart crowd, standing tall even against over-ear options like Sony’s WH-1000XM5.

Just as impressive is Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode, which is not only clearer and more natural sounding than before, but can also help block out unwanted environmental blasts by limiting incoming sounds to 85dB in real time. Add that to the better bass response, clearer and more fine-tuned sound, fantastic call quality, and the same, barely their 5.4-gram weight, and it’s a recipe for the best buds around.

While the earbud design is mostly the same, the new case does add a speaker system so you can find it in your house, including precision tracking in the Find My app. There's also a handy new volume control feature. Frankly, it’s hard to find a significant flaw, but there are some things on the wish list. The battery life could be better, and we also wish there was more control over audio such as an EQ and ANC control. There’s also no separate app or settings menu for Android users.

Otherwise, Apple’s updated AirPods Pro have once again made an easy argument as the best earbuds you can buy. If you own an iPhone, and you can invest the money, it’s upgrade time.

Pros

  • Next-gen noise canceling

  • Adaptive Transparency

  • Sound and battery boost

Cons

  • No EQ or ANC adjustment

  • No separate app for Android

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

The WH-1000XM5 offer some of the best noise-canceling with top-notch sound and comfort.

Best Noise Canceling
Sony WH-1000XM5
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Weight: 250 grams
  • Battery life: 30 hours per charge

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 are a pricey addition to the family, but they're 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 pads on the cups and headband are 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 headphones we’ve tried, with Bose’s QC45, QuietComfort Earbuds II, and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) as the only exceptions.

Those can’t stand with the XM5 when it comes to sound quality, though, which again improves on the XM4 for 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 for 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, as is the 30-hour battery, now with faster charging.

There are only a couple of downsides. The ear cups don’t fold inward, which makes the case longer and tougher to pack. 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

A man wearing the Anker Soundcore Space A40 earbuds while standing outside in front of a tree.`
Credit: Reviewed / John Higgins

The Anker Soundcore Space A40 earbuds deliver the best ANC performance you can get for under $100.

Best Value
Anker Soundcore Space A40
  • Battery life: 10 hours, up to 50 with the case
  • Ambient sound modes: Adaptive ANC, Transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4 rating

Anker has been leading the charge with high-performing, inexpensive noise-canceling headphones for the past few years, and the Soundcore Space A40 is its best offering yet. The Space A40’s ANC is at least as good as earbuds above their price point, like the Jabra Elite 5.

The adaptive active noise canceling ably handles low drones, such as airplane cabin noise or HVAC units. It even takes the edge off of midrange conversation at the local coffee shop. It doesn’t completely remove it, but if you’re listening to music at a low level it’s enough to keep you focused in your own world. Within the Soundcore app you can choose between two Transparency modes, one full range and one that puts the focus on letting voices through if you need to have a quick conversation.

Out of the box, the A40 have a nice sound profile, although their treble can be a tad piercing (especially for cymbals) and the midrange is a little covered by the low end. Thankfully, the app includes an 8-band EQ to address these issues. There’s also HearID Sound, which profiles your hearing perception in each ear and creates an EQ curve customized to your ears. It works pretty well and delivers a nice improvement over the default profile. Hi-res audio and LDAC are both supported.

Touch controls—single tap, double tap, and hold for two seconds—can be turned on and off per control, and they’re also fully customizable, assignable to volume, track controls, and for the two-second hold the added options of Ambient Sound Mode select, Voice Assistant activation, and Game Mode toggle.

Throw wireless case charging on top of the features pile and the Anker Space A40 set a new standard for earbuds performance at their low price point.

Pros

  • Amazing ANC for the price

  • Customizable sound profiles

  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Little sizzly out of the box

  • Lows can cover vocals

Credit: Reviewed

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

Best for Kids
Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode, decibel reduction
  • Weight: 169 grams
  • Battery life: 22 hours per charge

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 that comes with the bonus of noise canceling. Though it may seem like a luxury feature for many children, it's not only great for when kids want to detach from the chatter at restaurants or get togethers, but it’s also an awesome addition for those who have sensory issues.

The noise canceling also 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 especially 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 the headphones 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

  • Expensive for kids headphones

Other Top Headphones We Tested

Product image of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, Adaptive Transparency mode
  • Dust and water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 6 hours with ANC, up to 24 hours with the case

Out of everything on the market, nothing beats the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II when it comes to pure ANC performance. These earbuds virtually eliminate any sort of low drones, such as airplane noise or HVAC, leaving barely a whisper of hiss. But the most impressive performance is with crowd chatter, where the troublesome midrange is targeted to allow ambient conversation to disappear behind the most modest level of music. The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) come close to the performance of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, but their overall noise floor isn’t quite as low.

Bose has improved the QuietComfort II’s sound performance as well by finally adding a 3-band EQ in the Bose Music app. It isn’t as detailed as what you get from Sony, but it allows you to tame some frequencies and take the edge off. The app allows customization of touch controls for track navigation, activation of your device voice assistant, ANC mode, and volume. All controls are usable in conjunction with one another, too.

These buds do have some flaws, though. Chief among them is their call quality, which suffers mightily outdoors. Traffic and wind—even a slight breeze—causes distracting whooshes for your call partner that can cover your voice. The app is also missing some customizability options that are found with competitors, and their active transparency mode doesn’t function as cleanly or sound as natural as the AirPods Pro 2.

Still, if you’re after the absolute best noise canceling you can find, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are at the very top of that list.

Pros

  • Incredible noise canceling

  • Clear sound

  • Secure and light fit

Cons

  • Lackluster call performance

  • Missing some standard features

Product image of Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
  • Ambient sound modes: Active noise canceling, Transparency mode
  • Weight: 293 grams
  • Battery life: Up to 60 hours with ANC

Sennheiser completely reinvented its latest Momentum headphones, the Momentum 4, including a new design, eons of battery life, and much improved noise canceling. But the biggest headline, as is often the case with Sennheiser, is the sound. The Momentum 4 are the best sounding wireless headphones we’ve heard in their class, and that includes some mighty titans from Sony and others.

Moving away from the retro-radio operator look, Sennheiser’s fourth-generation Momentum headphones now blend in with the crowd, looking notably similar to Sony’s WH-1000XM5, JBL’s Tour One, and many others. That’s not to say the new design looks bad, and a bit of braided grey on top of the headband still offers a bit of Sennheiser flair. The headphones are also pretty comfortable, though their 293-gram frame can weigh on your head over time.

The new noise canceling is leaps above the Momentum 3, doing a good job of cutting out a lot of drone sounds and even some upper register noise, though it doesn’t quite reach the likes of Sony’s XM4 or XM5 headphones, nor does it keep up with new earbuds options like Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds 2 and Apple’s latest AirPods Pro. It will get the job done, and with up to 60 hours per charge, the headphones can power you through virtually any journey.

We did run into a few issues in testing, including new touch controls that are a little unintuitive (the volume controls tend to make them too loud or too soft respectively). The headphones also failed to shut off for us when at rest, something that seems to be a not-uncommon flaw that will hopefully be addressed in a firmware update.

If you’re main goal is sound, however, you will definitely want to consider these headphones as your go-to travel pair. Offering brilliant detail, rich and lush instrumental timbers, and plenty of taut bass (enough that we had to tone it down with the EQ), they’re an absolute paradise to listen to. Add in a solid app and a good slate of features, and the Momentum 4 are a worthy pair of wireless cans that sound lovers and weary travelers alike will want to consider.

Pros

  • Class-leading sound

  • Excellent battery life

  • Good wind buffering

Cons

  • Some features need refinement

  • A bit heavy

  • Auto shutoff error

Product image of Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony WF-1000XM4
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 8 hours with ANC (12 without), up to 36 hours with the case

Sony’sWF-1000XM4 (not to be confused with the WH-1000XM4 over-ears) offer a brilliant mix of incredible sound quality, innovative design, and noise canceling that puts them at the very top of the marketplace.

While their noise-canceling prowess has since been surpassed by the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen), the XM4 make for a more natural inclusion in most collections thanks to their small 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—which is sweet, smooth, accessible, and yet riddled with detail.

The headphones also have plenty of features accessed in 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). You can even set the earbuds to rotate between noise canceling and ambient audio based on your routines and locations.

They’re a bit of an investment, and they aren’t perfect—the XM4 don’t allow you to use volume controls without giving up other integral functionality and are missing Find My Earbuds and multipoint pairing—but if you’re looking for excellent noise-canceling earbuds, look no further. If you’re after a more affordable pair of Sony noise cancelers, the Linkbuds S are a great buy as well, especially when they’re on sale.

Pros

  • Fantastic noise canceling

  • Superb sound

  • Next-gen battery life

Cons

  • No good solution for volume control

  • Missing some features

Product image of Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless
Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 5.5 hours with ANC (7 without), up to 25 hours with the case

Jabra’s Elite 85t offer a great blend of smooth and balanced sound, impressive noise cancellation, comprehensive controls, and a barrel full of other top-flight features.

While a more bulbous design means their fit isn’t quite as secure as sportier pairs, the oval ear tips provide a proper seal without plugging up your ears, keeping internal sounds like chewing or walking at by

It’s a similar fit to the AirPods, but since they’re device agnostic, you get the same features for Android or iOS, and you can choose any of the major voice assistants (or none). The comprehensive controls are fully customizable through Jabra’s stalwart Sound+ app, as is the noise cancelation and the natural-sounding transparency mode

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, 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 marked by good sound, great features, and usability that's among the best around.

Pros

  • Outstanding features and design

  • Rich, balanced sound

  • Impressive noise canceling

Cons

  • Not as sport-friendly as other Jabra buds

Product image of Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
  • Ambient sound modes: Active noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Water resistance: IPX7
  • Battery life: up to 5 hours with ANC (8 without), up to 30 hours with the case

Samsung continues to improve on their earbuds with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, an excellent choice for Android device users. They’re 15% smaller than the now-retired Galaxy Buds Pro, come in a matte finish as opposed to the Samsung gloss of previous earbuds iterations, and still deliver sparkling audio and solid noise canceling performance.

There’s a boatload of features with the Buds 2 Pro that you’d expect from flagship earbuds, including a dunkable design, quick pairing, a wireless charging case, Voice Detect, Find My Earbuds, and 24-bit audio support. Many of these features, though—including the 24-bit audio support, Voice Detect, Bixby assistant, and quick pairing—are only available for Android users with the Samsung Wearables app. The app is not available for iPhone. They also don’t support Bluetooth multipoint pairing, instead allowing fast switching between only Samsung devices within the app.

But with an Android device, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro deliver. The sound profiles, particularly Normal, sound fabulous and instruments sit well within the sonic landscape with clarity and ample presence. While the highs can be a bit sizzly, the buds midrange frequencies down through the low end are robust and supportive. The ANC performs well, eliminating low drones and tamping down some midrange chatter.

They’re a bit pricey, but for Android users looking for an experience tailored to their device, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are the best earbuds you can find.

Pros

  • Small, lightweight, comfortable

  • Excellent audio performance

  • Solid ANC

Cons

  • No multipoint pairing

  • Samsung-only features

Product image of JBL Tour One
JBL Tour One
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Weight: 268 grams
  • Battery life: Up to 50 hours per charge

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 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 we noted a few finicky software functions in our review, such as settings going back to default, the issues were minimal. 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 Jabra Elite 4 Active
Jabra Elite 4 Active
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Water resistance: IP57
  • Battery life: 6-7 hours with ANC, 28 hours with the case

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. 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 to keep out distractions while working from home, it’s 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 offer 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. 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

How We Test Headphones

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 canceling), and EQ. 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 use the headphones over prolonged periods and, should durability or other issues arise, we reserve the right to update our conclusions and scoring accordingly.

What You Should Know About Headphones

Headphones primarily come in three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear. These days you’re most likely to be shopping for in-ear or over-ear options, as on-ear (headphones that don’t encompass the ear entirely) are increasingly rare. Audiophile headphones designed to be plugged in may also offer an open-back design, which lets sound pass through to create a wider soundstage, but these are generally rare as well.

Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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

Noise Cancellation and transparency mode

Active noise canceling headphones have become a mainstay for travelers, public transit commuters, gym-goers, and those working in distracting environments in the office or at home. Most of our favorite headphones include noise canceling especially those designed as travel headphones. You can also check out our guide of the best noise-canceling headphones we've tested.

Transparency mode could be just as important to some users, especially if you’re looking for workout headphones, as it’s designed to help keep you aware of your surroundings. It’s essentially the inverse of noise canceling, utilizing the same microphones used to block sound out to bring it in so you can stay aware in any setting.

Price

Budget is always of serious concern when shopping for headphones. Our roundup includes options from a variety of price points, but many of them run over $200. If you’re looking for a set of quality headphones on a budget, we recommend checking out our guide to the Best True Wireless Earbuds Under $100 or the Best Noise Canceling headphones under $100.

Dust and water resistance

While most over-ear and travel headphones are not certified for dust or water resistance, most earbuds we test are, indicated by an “IP” rating.

When it comes to water resistance, the highest number you'll likely see for most earbuds is "IPX7,” indicating that the product is certified to withstand being fully submerged in one meter of freshwater for 30 minutes. Anything from IPX4 (meaning the headphones can withstand splashes from any direction) and above should do the tric for most scenarios. The first “X” stands for dust/ingress protection. As with water resistance, the higher the number, the better the protection. Earbuds with an IP57 or IP67 rating are among the most robust you’ll find.


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
John Higgins

John Higgins

Editor, Electronics & Audio/Video

@johntmhiggins

John is the A/V Editor for Reviewed. He is an ISF Level III-certified calibrator with bylines at ProjectorCentral, Wirecutter, IGN, Home Theater Review, T3, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater Magazine. When away from the Reviewed office, he is a sound editor for film and musician, and loves to play games with his son.

See all of John Higgins'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.

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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

Checking our work.

Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.

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