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 Sony WH-1000XM3 Over-Ear Headphones(available at Amazon for $278.00) because they're comfortable and they sound amazing.
Debuting in 2019, Sony's WH-1000XM3 isn't just our top-rated Noise-Canceling Headphone—it's our favorite headphone, period. Combining excellent sound quality, all-day comfort, efficacious noise-canceling, and stylish design details, the XM3 is an outright win.
If you want a ton of details on the WH-1000XM3, check out our full product review, but what you need to know about it is that it doesn't cut any corners—and that's reflected in the price. There's also a bit of a learning curve here, as Sony's headphone software is stuffed with impressive tech like the ability to detect barometric pressure or save custom EQ curves that are reflected in the way your music sounds.
Those additions are certainly welcome, but they're a sort of icing on the cake, too. At the end of the day, even if you don't dive into the deep level of customization these headphones deliver, you're getting Sony's best-in-class adaptive noise-canceling and stellar sound quality and frequency reproduction. It's all backed up by over-ear headphones that manage to be well-padded and comfortable while also surprisingly light in weight, so much so that you might forget they're even on your head.
Pound for pound, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are stellar over-ear headphones, and they're versatile enough to satisfy staunch audiophiles, commuters fed up with all the noise, or everyday listeners simply sick of dealing with wires.
An oldie but definitely a goldie, Sony's MDR-7506, has been the go-to choice for affordable high-quality for many years. There's no bells and whistles here: just a set of comfortable over-ears with a long, durable cable and a very agreeable price tag.
The only real drawback with the 7506s is that, having hit the market way back in 1991, they can be a bit hard to find sometimes. However, their continued longevity is a testament to their quality. These cans have been favored by studio engineers, recording artists, and media professionals for almost 30 years for a reason.
After such a long career on the market, you can usually find them for a very friendly price, making it easy to secure a no-nonsense set of high-quality headphones. For more details, check out our full review here.
If you're looking for the best volume-limited headphones for kids, the Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones are the best that we've tested. These 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-cancellation 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. These headphones help solve for that by further cutting down ambient noise.
In our lab tests, the PuroQuiets 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.
The main drawback here is the price, but Puro frequently discounts these. Headphones like these ones can be pricey for younger kids who are likely to forget them somewhere (or simply break them), but for an older kid wanting nicer headphones, they're worth the investment.
The wireless capability ensures that your kid 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. Just note that if the battery dies you can use the included cable, but the volume limiter on the cable only works when plugged in the right way.
If you’re going to pay out 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 even for hours—even while wearing glasses. Sure, comfort alone isn't enough of a 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. I played both a quiet indie game, Atma and loud, booming matches of Overwatch while using this headset and I was pleased with both. While playing Atma, the headset balanced the quiet soundtrack with in-game sound effects, like the crunching of grass beneath my character's feet. In Overwatch, I was able to clearly distinguish my allies' voices from in-game noise, which can sometimes be a struggle for me. That's largely thanks to the mixer that comes with the SteelSeries. For me, the mixer made 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. It's 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.
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, so getting in swaths of the priciest and most unique or beloved headphones to check out and recommend here is something I both enjoy and take seriously. I take them on flights, during commutes around the city, use them while I'm working, and try to generally wring every likely use case out of each headphone during evaluation. I often end up writing full, standalone reviews of the ones that stand out.
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 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.
Other Headphones We Tested
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.
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.
Apple's AirPods Pro take everything we love about the AirPods and ramp it up a notch. They sound great, they offer excellent noise cancellation, and they add proper water-resistance. Best of all, these are the first Apple 'buds to let you swap silicone tips, meaning they should actually fit your ears.
Battery life is excellent when you consider the compact charging case, which holds a spare 4-5 full charges and can give you an hour of listening time in just five minutes. In our lab tests, we found the noise cancellation was on par with pricier noise-cancelling headphones, with a minimal hit to battery life.
These are a bit on the pricier side for earbuds, but they offer enough of a meaningful difference that we think it's worth it—especially since they can be your go-to headphones for the gym, everyday use, and long trips by train or plane. If you're willing to live with less than perfect sound quality, these might just be the best wireless earbuds on the market.
The WF-1000XM3 are the true wireless version of our top-rated WH-1000XM3 headphones, and they deliver a similar amount of Are these for everyone? Probably not. They're pricy, fancy, sometimes finicky, and won't work at the gym. These aren't workhorse headphones by any means, and they're too expensive for anyone who isn't sure they definitely want good sound to complement the convenience of true wireless.
However, these are a whole-sale improvement upon the first generation model and are an excellent product overall. If you've been hankering for Sony's excellent sound quality and design, but were wary of the first model's poor battery life and connectivity issues, look no further. The WF-1000XM3 are a triumph for Sony in regards to fixing those issues, and they sound marvelous.
The Monoprice Monolith M1060 headphones are a set of planar magnetic headphones, meaning they operate a bit differently than most headphones and feature tech that's both more complicated and more expensive.
However, as planar magnetic headphones go, Monoprice's M1060s steal the show for offering awesome sound at a price that's very competitive when compared to the planar magnetic market as a whole. With many planar magnetic headphones costing close to a grand (or more), Monoprice's M1060 may very well be some of the most affordable of this type of headphone on the market.
Price aside, however, they still sound excellent, producing the richer and more detail-heavy soundscape we've come to expect from planar-style cans. The product itself is relatively barebones in terms of features and accessories compared to many headphones in this price range—you're really just getting the massive (but comfortable) headphones, a huge zip-up storage case, and the M1060's Y-split cable.
However, as simple as this presentation is, getting quality planar magnetic headphones in this price range is still a boon for audiophiles. or for anyone interested in the superior audio made possible by headphones of this type. Just note that most users will also need a DAC (digital audio converter) and AMP combination to properly "power" the M1060s, which does bring their expected price tag up a bit.
If you've been interested in diving into this somewhat newer technology but didn't want to shell out massive amounts of money to try it, the Monoprice Monolith M1060 headphones should be on your radar.
Shure's SE535 earbuds are probably some of the priciest in-ear style headphones on the market, but—right in line with Shure's positive reputation as makers of high-quality microphones—they're also some of the best.
While you're paying a lot, you're also getting what feels like two products in one with this purchase. In the box, not only are you getting a huge array of ear tips (small, medium, large, triple-flanged, and variations within), you're also getting a Bluetooth cable, allowing you to detach the standard 3.5mm cable and replace it with one that allows for wireless (though not "true" wireless) functionality. And the accessorizing doesn't stop there: Shure includes a Bluetooth adapter, quarter-inch adapter, shirt clip, a cleaning tool, a "volume wheel" attachment, and a compact carrying case.
As it stands, the company gives you essentially everything you need to have a multi-function product that is as usable for going on a run as it is commuting or spending time in the office. Really, they've included everything you could possibly need to customize and utilize this product to its fullest. However, this makes it essentially important that the SE535s sound good—and fortunately, they very much do. While in-ear style headphones, by nature of design, are forced to use smaller drivers and audio modules than their on-ear and over-ear counterparts, the Shure SE535s sound as good (or better) than a huge array of plush over-ear headphones. In fact, they're some of the best-sounding in-ear headphones we've ever sampled.
If you want to make an investment in a set of in-ear headphones that can fulfill multiple roles in your daily personal audio routine—and fulfill each one with marvelous sound quality—you should look into the SE535s.
If you're buying wireless headphones, you're likely doing it for the convenience more than anything. Apple's AirPods excel at that, with the best connection quality of any headphones we've tested. They have awesome range, a small but powerful charging case, and they are incredibly easy to pair—particularly with Apple devices, though they work great with Android and Windows PCs, too.
Sound quality is merely so-so and they don't offer water resistance, but they're also cheaper than many competitors. The only other drawback is that they are still designed like the solid plastic earbuds Apple has included with its products for years.
If other Apple earbuds don't fit your ears, these probably won't either. But of all the true wireless earbuds we've tested, these are the simplest to use and offer the best combination of price, battery life, connectivity, and convenience. If you need something more, then we suggest stepping up to the pricier Apple AirPods Pro.
A staunch competitor to Apple's AirPods, the Powerbeats Pro are a solid pair of "true wireless" earbuds that check off a lot of the right boxes where this headphone type is concerned. They're pretty stylish (as you might expect from Beats), available in ivory, black, navy, or moss colors, featuring adjustable ear hooks to help keep them in your ears during a workout.
And while the Powerbeats Pro are indeed workout-ready, they also sound good enough for general use. Like most true wireless earphones, they come with a compact and easily pocketable charging case, and like most Beats headphones, their sound profile is fairly bass-forward—but not overmuch. Thankfully for fitness enthusiasts, the Powerbeats Pro are sweat- and water-resistant to the necessary measures, and offer plenty of battery life via the included charging case.
While they're less minimalist than Apple's AirPod options, and may not offer the full range of advantages that the Apple AirPod Pros do, these Beats are a great choice if you're looking for a more stylish or secure-feeling alternative.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 are a very solid set of over-ears, simply put. The wireless version gives you Bluetooth functionality and active noise-canceling in a lightweight and very comfortable package, and as you might expect from a pair of Sennheiser headphones, they sound excellent.
During my time with the PXC 550s, I was very impressed with how they managed to pack such robust and bass-forward sound into headphones that also deliver a snug, lightweight fit and plushy materials. While they're not cheap, I was surprised to find out how relatively affordable they were compared to some of their direct competitors.
However, getting to that point took some doing. These are some of the only headphones where we've had to investigate an online manual in order to get them into pairing mode, for example. Likewise, the on-set controls (which live on the lower portion of the right ear cup) through me off a bit, as they're usually on the left cup for Bluetooth over-ear headphones. But it's easy enough to play/pause, skip tracks, and access phone functions once you get the hang of it.
The major takeaway, though, is that the PXC 550 Wireless headphones give you great sound, plenty of comfort, a minimalist form factor, and good-enough noise-canceling for basic purposes. At their price, they're a bundle of positive traits, and you should check them out if you're looking for a more affordable take on wireless ANC over-ears.
Headphone fans and audiophiles are probably familiar with Sennheiser's HD 650 headphones, a lauded pair of open-backed over-ear cans on par in industry recognition with the Sony MDR-7506s. Famously excellent and famously expensive, they've lived in the upper echelon of open-backed cans for some time, but not everyone has half-a-grand to spend on headphones.
That's where the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX come in. These headphones live somewhere between an outright homage and a "cheaper" version: they are much more affordable, but nevertheless seek to capture the efficacy of the original HD 650s. While it's dubious that the HD 6XX would perform to quite the same level as the HD 650s, they do sound very good—about on part with Audio-Technica's ATH-AD700X open-backed model.
Overall, the sound quality is very robust, and captures the airy, open feeling of room sound that open-backed headphones strive for. Our only complaint is that initially, they do clamp quite tightly on an average-sized head, though the ear cups and band are also well-padded. The tighter clamp is a boon for preserving lower-frequency sounds, however, and as most headphone bands weaken over time, it's likely an intentional design detail. I imagine after a few weeks, the HD 6XX are nothing but comfortable.
For what you're paying, these are a very solid way to dip a toe into the world of open-backed headphones, especially if you've always dreamed of owning Sennheiser's beloved HD 650s but didn't have the scratch.
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.
Sony's got plenty of experience making high-quality headphones: the company's WH-1000XM3 and MDR-7506 have both won awards from us for their general excellence. The 1AM2 model is the latest "MDR-1" version, and you might be tempted to assume they're a safe buy from name alone (if this is your price range, anyway). You wouldn't be altogether wrong, but there are some caveats here that prospective buyers should know about.
For one, a big aim of the 1AM2 over-ears was to be lightweight. As it stands, they weigh only 187 grams, which is pretty crazy for high-quality over-ears. They're also blissfully simple in their design, featuring an extended 3.5mm housing that seems specifically engineered to allow the user to easily swap between or replace the included 3.5mm cable. The cabling all feels sturdy, but the lightweight nature of the ear cups and band may not proffer as much durability as similarly priced headphones.
As it stands, while these also sound excellent, you're paying kind of a lot for a very simple feature set and a design with a sole focus on lightweight results. Since many people who wanted more lightweight headphones might just go with in-ears, these occupy an odd niche where they might best be suited to someone who wants very light, simple headphones but still wants the comfort and high-quality of midrange over-ears. However, if that's the niche you find yourself in, you should check these out.
These are Audio-Technica's latest take on fully featured Bluetooth over-ears. With every product being a bit of a balancing act, I can see plenty of reasons why people might go for the simpler and slightly more affordable ANC900BT's over something like Sony's WH-1000XM3's.
With less tech overall, the 900BT's battery lasts at least 10-12 hours longer than most of the competition on average, and some buyers may even prefer the marked lack of filigree here (there's no app to download, no EQ to mess around with, no AR features or anything like that). The 900BT's aren't the most premium choice out there, but they should be on your radar if you want frills-free ANC headphones.
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 silicone 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.
If you love the portability of in-ear headphones, but want 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.
The Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC headphones offer a smorgasbord of features, but they're a combination that some users may find extremely alluring. Billed as workout headphones, the Curve boast quicker-than-average charging (you get an hour of playback after 5 minutes of charging), very sturdy materials, and a unique vibrating neckband design that puts controls within easy reach, and removes the need for a shirt clip. While the design is unusual, it works.
During testing, we found that the BT 120 NC are pleasingly light, with ample ear-tips and wings to make sure they're secure within your ears. The controls rest against your collarbone, which definitely take some getting used to where adjustment is concerned but is still an improvement over the inherent fragility of many workout headphones' in-line controls, which can bounce upon the wire during runs or workouts. A big focus here is also freeing users from the perils of constant charging: Phiaton claims 290 hours of "standby" time (alongside the quick-charging feature), with the intent that the BT 120 NCs will be ready to work out whenever you are.
Last but definitely not least, these sound great, though during use I found they built up more heat within my ears than I was used to (oddly, it wasn't altogether unpleasant). Overall, these are solid workout headphones, delivering a unique design and ample tip/wing customization to allow about any user to get a snug, workout-appropriate fit.
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.
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 earmolds. 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.
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 gives you both wireless and wired functionality that makes them a real steal.
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 has 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.
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-canceling wireless headphones; at this price, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.
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.
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.
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.
Anker's SoundCore Spirit Pro stands out primarily because it's one of the most affordable "true wireless" style earbuds on the market. Anker is making a name as a manufacturer of value-facing high-quality headphones, and the Spirit Pro doesn't deviate from that standard.
While these aren't the best-sounding or most feature-heavy true wireless earbuds we've ever used, they do a lot for what you're paying. The Spirit Pro are workout-ready and yield about 10 hours of battery life between charges, but we weren't crazy about the overall sound—it was a bit tinny and flat sounding compared to the pricier headphones on the list.
Even still, for what you're paying, these are perfectly serviceable true wireless earbuds. They have plenty of ear tip and wing options, allowing most people to find a combination that will fit snugly in their ears throughout a workout. Just don't be fooled by the claim of "dual EQ." You can boost the sound with a button press—a method Anker claims will help boost you through the last difficult set of a workout—but compared to the flat, unboosted setting, it might make more sense to just leave the setting on all the time.
The Cowin E7s are more affordable than many wireless, ANC-equipped over-ear headphones. However, this has pros and cons.
Don't expect to be too impressed with the sound quality, though from a design perspective these are comfortable if a bit heavy. We noticed some perceptible distortion at higher volumes, but at more moderate settings these sound fine. Likewise, Bluetooth works as it should, and the ANC (noise-canceling) settings do a decent job suppressing ambient noise.
Overall, you're getting a lot of good features, but nothing that stands out as great in terms of sound quality, design, ANC effectiveness, or battery life.
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.