2016 Best of Year Headphone Awards
Looking for some new headphones? These are the best of the best.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
The headphone game has changed dramatically in just the past few years. More people are investing in high-quality headphones to take music and podcasts on the go. Wireless headphones, in particular, are more popular than ever.
Best of all, you don't have to spend a bundle on headphones to get a great pair. We lab test everything from $8 earbuds to $1,800 over-ears. So whether you're a runner, on a budget, or an audiophile planning on making a long-term investment, we've got a great pick for you.
Best Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35
The wireless, noise-cancelling Bose QC35s are the most comfortable headphones of the year, which admittedly goes a long way in earning them top honors. But the QC35s are also some of the most user-friendly wireless headphones of the year, with the killer performance we expect from Bose.
The over-ear-style cups form a cushiony seal around your ears, and the noise cancellation software puts you in nearly total aural isolation. The sound profile is superb: There’s very little distortion and not too much of an emphasis on the low-end. And, if all that doesn’t have you convinced, how about over 20 hours of battery life on a single charge? Read our review.
Best Headphones for the Money: Audio-Technica M50x
It’s not every day that you find a pair of over-ear cans that appeal to both studio engineers and casual listeners alike, but the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones capture the best of both worlds. The A-T M50x are affordable enough to appeal to the masses but perform well enough to satisfy industry folks with keen ears.
You won’t get the over-emphasized bass of, say, a pair of Beats (and you certainly won’t be making a similar fashion statement), but you will get a classic, accurate sound profile and solid isolation. Buy them for the sake of your wallet or buy them for your favorite music geek—both will appreciate it. Read our review.
Best Headphones Under $100: Sony MDR-7506
Sometimes the old stuff is the best stuff, and that's certainly the case with the Sony MDR-7506. The venerable studio over-ears are not the plushest headphones and they don't feature newfangled features like wireless connectivity or noise cancellation. But look beyond that and you'll find an affordable pair of headphones that offers incredibly accurate sound reproduction.
This Sony pair has been around in one form or another for years, and you'll frequently find them around the necks of professional mixers, videographers, and film editors. They're some the most durable headphones money can buy, too, which isn't bad considering the sub-$100 price tag. Read our review.
Best Headphones Under $50: RHA S500i
There are so many cheap headphones out there, but finding a great pair under $50 is surprisingly difficult. We have enjoyed the RHA S500i in-ears for the last few years and stuck by them for their durable aluminum design, excellent sound reproduction, and surprisingly good noise isolation.
For a real treat, pick up these with a pair of Comply foam tips and enjoy even better sound isolation and some of the most comfortable tips money can buy. It's a killer combination that will easily outperform headphones that cost more than twice as much. Read our review.
Best Wireless Earbuds: Beats Powerbeats 3 Wireless
Our favorite wireless buds of 2016 are the Powerbeats 3 from Beats by Dre, which deliver some of the best test results we’ve ever seen from a pair of in-ear headphones. Their battery life is phenomenal, totaling twelve hours of continuous playback on a single charge, and the water-resistant build means they’ll hold up against heavy sweat and the elements.
Best of all? The built-in W1 wireless chip and Class 1 Bluetooth gave us a stunning 100 feet of wireless range, with no drop-off. There’s no way around their steep price $200 tag, but if you’re serious about investing in a top-notch wireless earbud experience, the Powerbeats 3 are your best bet right now. Read our review.
Best Wireless Headphones: V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The V-Moda Crossfade Wireless over-ear headphones aced our performance tests, producing an accurate soundscape with almost no distortion to speak of. A slight emphasis on the low-end is almost negligible, which will disappoint fans of heavy bass but thrill audiophiles.
There are more comfortable wireless cans on the market, but very few come close to delivering the studio-quality sound of the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless over-ears. Best of all, despite adding the convenience of wireless connectivity, these V-Modas seem just as durable as the brand's other efforts. It's a bit of an investment, but one that should last you a long time. Read our review.
Best Headphones for Travel: Bose QuietComfort 35
The wireless Bose QC35s are our best headphones for traveling for three reasons: comfort, noise cancellation, and battery life. There’s a reason you see frequent travelers wearing Bose over-ears whenever you get on a plane or a train: The noise-cancellation software hides everything from the hum of a Boeing 767’s twin engines to the murmurs of a crowded subway, and the cups are comfy enough to fall asleep with.
They’re perfect for podcasts and audiobooks, and the battery will hold out for over 20 hours. Are they a little pricey? Absolutely, but it’s a wise investment and the perfect gift for frequent fliers. Read our review.
Best for Working Out: Beats Powerbeats 3 Wireless
For fitness warriors, wireless earbuds need to fit snugly, stay in, and sweat the small stuff like… sweat. As of today, the Powerbeats 3 are the perfect pair of in-ears for your future workouts. You can toss ‘em in and forget ‘em; they’ll form a tight seal, they won’t fall out, and their water-resistant build protects against sweat and rain.
Should you forget to charge them before a run, fear not—five minutes of charging will yield about an hour of playback. Did we mention they sound terrific? If you need headphones for running or working out, the Powerbeats 3 are our favorites right now. Read our review.
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