Have you been looking for the best headphones? It’ll be music to your ears to know that you’ve come to the right place. Collectively, we’ve worn hundreds of pairs of cans over the years and have put together a definitive list of the best headphones you can buy – well, at least the best ones you can buy without spending a fortune on audio equipment.
Here’s the thing: Yes, every phone under the sun these days comes bundled with a pair of cheap in-ear headphones, but if you really want to enjoy your music then you’ll probably want to think about upgrading them at some point.
A better pair of headphones will bring a new dimension to your music, whether it’s more detail, additional functionality or just more bass.
And while you could spend hundreds or thousands to get audiophile-grade gear, we’re the kind of people that like stellar performance for a good price.
The headphones you’ll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music however you like to listen to it. These features range from wireless connectivity to noise-cancellation, and come in the three major form-factors: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones.
It sounds like a lot. But that’s where our guide to the best headphones steps in.
We’ve selected the best headphones for each form-factor, and we’ve even picked out a budget option for each so that you should be able to find an excellent pair, no matter what your budget.
Here’s a quick look at the best headphones this year:
Don’t forget we’ve also got our form-factor specific guides to the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones and the best over-ear headphones in addition to our guides to the best noise-cancelling headphones and the best wireless headphones if you can’t find what you’re looking for on this list.
What headphones does TechRadar recommend?
We think the two most important things to consider when buying a pair of headphones are form-factor and price, and so that’s exactly how we’ve organised our guide.
Below you’ll find our top picks for the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones, the best over-ear headphones, the best noise-cancelling headphones and finally the best wireless headphones.
As well as a top pick for each form-factor we’ve also included a budget pick which manages to offer great sound at a much more competitive price point.
Best in-ear headphones: RHA T10i
Premium earphones for any taste
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .09 pounds | Cable length: 4.4 feet | Frequency response: 16-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Leading off our list is the RHA T10i. It’s here for one simple reason: the sound quality is incredible, thanks to the snug seal created when the headphones are stuck in your ear. OK, plus the bass is also robust for such small earphones.
The RHA T10i look slick with a metal finish around the drivers and around the cable as well. They also come with several replacement tips if the defaults don’t fit your ear canal. They’re more expensive than other buds on the list, but there’s good reason they’re in our top spot.
Read the full review: RHA T10i
Best budget in-ear headphones: Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear
Fully-featured and powerful in-ear headphones
Acoustic design: N/A | Weight: .3 pounds | Cable length: 4.2 feet | Frequency response: 15-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 18 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
With the appealing candy apple detailing, Sennheiser gets you in the door. But once you’re in, you’ll stay for the killer sound quality that comes from the Momentum In-Ear earphones.
These are the among the best deals in the headphones market as it stands today. The company has a version available for each flavor of mobile OS, so everyone can get in on the goodness.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear
Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e
Truly excellent sound performance for a stellar price
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99db | Impedance: 32 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
For your money, you can’t do any better than Grado’s SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company’s Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you’re looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. Its open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. In a few words, it’s our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance.)
Read the full review: Grado SR60e
Best over-ear headphones: Oppo PM-3
Closed back planar magnetic headphones from the gods
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.71 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 10-50,000Hz | Drivers: 55mm | Driver type: Planar Magnetic | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 26 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
The Oppo PM-3’s are a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we’ve reviewed a lot of headphones in the last 10 years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.
They’re equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of a big city, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can’t recommend them highly enough, they’re just amazing.
Read the full review: Oppo PM-3
Best budget over-ear headphones: AKG K92
Budget over-ears that make no compromises on sound quality
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.44 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 ft | Frequency response: 16-20,000Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 113dB | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
AKG has the right idea when it comes to budget headphones. Instead of spending lots of money on an expensive, heavy construction, the company has instead clearly spend the bulk of its money on the K92’s drivers, which sound appropriately excellent.
So yes, the K92’s might feel a little plastic-y, but they have a good amount of power where it matters the most.
Read the full review: AKG K92
Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35
Bose has cut the wires off its flagship noise-cancellers with great success
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes
Bose has finally brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones and it’s done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones. They sound great, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.
At $349.95 (£289.95 / AU pricing tbc) the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now then you can’t get any better.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35
Best budget noise-canceling headphones: Philips Fidelio NC1
An all-around headset offering quality sound and noise cancellation
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 7-25,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.5″ Neodymium drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 107 dB | Impedance: 16 ohm | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Philips presents an elegant noise-cancelling solution with its NC1. These on-ear headphones aren’t wireless, but that’s hardly a reason to knock them. Coming in at $129, the NC1 are a more compact set that’s high on comfort and battery life.
In the box come headphones, a hard case for storage and the headphones rock a rechargeable battery that provides noise cancellation for close to 30 hours. But best of all, the sound performance is extremely well balanced and warm.
Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1
Best wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
Incredible audio fidelity backed by a serious price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 4.6 feet | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 28 ohms | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes
These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but for many, they’re almost prohibitively expensive. However, if you’re an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
Best budget wireless headphones: Optoma NuForce BE6i
Sporty wireless headphones that are great for casual listeners too
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 18 grams | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 10mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 95dB +/-3dB | Impedance: 20 Ohms | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 98 feet | NFC: No
Continuing the trend that the original NuForce BE6 started, the Optoma Nuforce BE6i are a minor update to an already great pair of earbuds and remain one of our favorite in-ear wireless headphones for the price.Offering good sound, build quality and battery life in its segment if you’re looking for a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that can survive a strenuous work out, the these should be on the top of your list of headphones to try.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE6i
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.