From high-end studio cans to affordable earbuds, these are the best headphones of the year.
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Headphones are very personal products. Whether you're looking for in-ears that you'll take with you everywhere, or over-ears that'll shut out the world while you buckle down on some work, a great pair of headphones can change the way you experience music. We put countless headphones to the test in our labs to try and get at a simple question: which one is the best?
For us, that means finding headphones that produce a balanced sound profile that doesn't get too carried away with shrill highs or chest-rattling bass. We also prize headphones that you can comfortably listen to for hours, whether you're taking a cross-country flight or knocking out that final term paper.
If you're a music lover with eclectic taste and a love of fine design, the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7s should be at the top of your list. These over-ears look great, feel better, and provide a soundscape that's balanced, crisp, and free of distortion. Read our review.
Runner-Up: Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus — Replacing one of our favorite products in recent memory, this model tacks customizable faceplates and inline controls onto already legendary performance.
Not everyone can afford $200+ for a pair of headphones. If you're looking for a set that don't sacrifice performance in the name of lower cost, the sub-$100 JLab Omni Wireless are a great place to start. In addition to excellent sound, they offer a comfortable design and optional wireless capability. Read our review.
Runner-Up: Sony MDR-7506 — You'd be hard-pressed to find any radio station in the world that doesn't have these 'phones laying around. Over the years, the MDR-7506 and near-identical MDR-V6 have become an institution in the studio world, and for good reason.
If you don't want in-ears but don't want to step up to over-ears, the Beats Solo2 are a solid pick. They combine the looks that people expect from a Beats product with sound quality that soared above our expectations. They're a little tight, and made mostly of plastic, but are worth the money if the fit is right. Read our review.
Runner-Up: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 — If you don't like the flashy style and iffy build of the Beats Solo2, we recommend the P5 Series 2. These comfortable, stylish, high-performing cans are pricey, but it's money well-spent.
For years, truly dedicated audiophiles have been ordering custom in-ear headphones—a process that's both expensive and painful. The Decibullz Contours take the same concept and make it both affordable and painless. The result? Some of the best in-ear 'phones you'll ever use, with a perfectly tailored fit. Read our review.
Runner-Up: Beyerdynamic AK T8iE — On the opposite end of the price spectrum, these Beyerdynamics cost upwards of $1,000. A collaboration between Beyerdynamic and Astel & Kern, they use cutting-edge driver tech that sounds absolutely incredible.
Sometimes you just want a decent pair of cheap headphones to get you through the day. We highly recommend the MEElectronics M9P (2nd Gen) in-ears. These 'buds are comfortable, durable, and produce a sound profile that's on par with models that cost several times as much. Read our review.
Runner-Up: The House of Marley Smile Jamaica — We weren't expecting a lot out of these in-ears. They've got a silly name and a low price tag, but they're surprisingly well-designed and produce a crisp sound profile.
Bose QuietComfort headphones have been a staple in airport lounges for years. That's because the venerable QC series has earned a reputation for portability, comfort, and excellent sound quality. There are better headphones, but the combination of active noise cancelation and portability makes for an excellent travel companion that can help you shut out the world. Read our review.