Headphones — the original wearable tech — have grown up. They've also become specialized; there's a pair for every use, from sweat-resistant fitness headphones to commuter-friendly active noise-cancelling cans. And each of those types comes with different fit options: on-ear, over-ear or in-ear. With so many options, which is right for you?

Tom's Guide experts have tested a multitude of models in various categories to arrive at this list of the best headphones and earbuds on the market.

How We Tested

To help you separate the wheat from the chaff when shopping for headphones, Tom's Guide evaluates the following criteria: design, comfort, features, performance and value. We employ a rigorous review process, comparing products with similar fit, features and pricing.

Each pair is worn over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. During this testing period, the staff is evaluating comfort, ease of use and, of course, audio quality. We listen to several predetermined sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, and we evaluate the volume, clarity and fullness.

In terms of features, we test the effectiveness of active noise cancelling, Bluetooth range and battery life. For the fitness-focused models, we test to see how they stand up to vigorous workouts, evaluating both how securely they fit while we exercise and how well they handle ambient noise from things like falling weights and gym machines.

Once we complete our testing, we rate headphones based on our five-star system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product is truly exemplary, it's awarded an Editors' Choice.

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  • hey, the picture used for id America New Metropolitan is one of sennheiser CX serie

  • @brisssou well spotted
  • Wow, what a vacuous list that does not include good sounding headphones!Where is Grado? Where is B&W? Where is NuForce?This is like list of best beers that are limited Budweiser, Miler, and coors. Jeezzz.....
  • Gosh a pair of se535 are pretty good yet much more affordable. Westones are also excellent (I own them personally) and they're made in the US.
  • What about Creative aureal Live! and Grado ??Tom doesn't seem to know how real hi fi is supposed to sound like. Please go to head-fi.org if you want serious info about headphones...
  • How can we trust an article about headphones which puts Bose headphones right at the top and doesn't mention a single option from Etymotic Research!

    The awesome ER-4 series may be 20 years old, but they are still are amongst the most transparent reference-quality earphones you can buy at any price. Meanwhile the amazing hf2's bring close to the same reference-quality transparency to your smartphone headset! When passive noise isolation is as good as it is with the Ety's you rarely need active noise cancellation.

    Even if their neutral, transparent sound is not to your liking, they should at least be mentioned as an option.
  • I'm both old and old-fashioned. I've been using the Sony MDR- V6 and 7506 headphones since they came on the market and my originals are still in daily use after a few ear pad foam replacements. I've listened to several consumer and professional headphone offerings over the years and none of them have been compelling enough to switch from my Sony's. I was talking with a friend the other day who was the head audio engineer for Miramax before he retired about our old professional gear compared to what's on the market today. We both own small recording studios and have a collection of vintage pro equipment. We agreed that not only is 99% of what's marketed today sold on hype not actual performance none of it is going to last 30+ years or longer like our personal favorite equipment that we still have in use has. Add to that the highly compressed audio and formats such as mp3 that only give a fraction of the original audio signal and the end result is few people today really have experienced true high-end audio sound reproduction. As a radio station broadcast engineer and recording engineer I do have a bit of experience in this field.
  • why only over ear bt and not a on ear bt?
    This way you cut out the Fidelio M2BT which are as good if not better than the Plantronics (I have tested both and kept the Fidelio for having more punch and more warmth even if less soundstage).
  • Got the Parrot Ziks for much cheaper than $400 on Amazon using Amon Deal Finder (just google it). They have a gold widget on the homepage that will spit out the top discounts for any item that can be found on Amazon. I never shop on Amazon without using this tool. They always have discounts on any item that I look for.
  • I'm very excited to see the sennheisers as best DJ headphones. That happens to be my main occupation and the first headphones I used for DJing. I eventually bought the Amperiors (Which at times can be cheaper [$] then the HD25s which are a model below), which have a flatter response. A great go to for referencing a production within any DAW.

    At any rate keep the 25's for djing as they are a bit lighter than the Amperiors.

    Thank you for the information!
  • If you want headphones for running, the ACTIVE X headphones by REVERB are by far the best I have ever used. Well worth the money, I bought them at a marathon expo and threw away the 10 other pairs I bought before them. 1) they will NOT fall out, I am a gymnastics teacher and I can do anything in these headphones. Give me a plane I will jump out, but my headphones will stay on :) Super comfortable, and LOUD. Small company, super cool guys that own it, ones a country artist in nashville and the others a song writer. rockreverb.com
  • Yet another person who has no clue about what is good in audio and is able to write a article and post it to the world. I guess it's nothing new. People this is bad information on headphones, consult The Absolute Sound or Stereophile for good headphone recommendations.
  • As a member of the community known for their slogan " the authority on tech" this couldn't be farther from it honestly. Sites like head-fi, headphonia,inner fidelity,what hifi, etc. provide quality reviews compared to the headphone buying guides we see on Tom's Guide. The products mentioned from this guide are for the most part subpar compared to offerings by REAL audio companies like Audio Technica, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, Denon, Audeze, Fostex, Hifiman, Grado, Shure, so on so forth rather than companies who use their marketing tactics to sell overpriced products to the average consumer that doesn't know any better. When decent headphones like the Sennheiser HD 25 and Shure SE 846 are mentioned they are given a brief one paragraph summary which doesn't give much information at all. Words can't express my disappointment in these guides.
  • You can make the wired headphones wireless with the BTunes.
  • Just curious, what got updated on this article for the July 23rd release? Maybe an update blurb or something can be added like the best CPU and best GPU articles are on tomshardware.

    Also, is it possible to give an entire list of headphones that was tested since it appears to have tons of glaring omissions based on comments made. I am especially curious about your "best for the money" list as I know there are quite a few great sounding cans out there that are less than the $180 V-Moda's.
  • marrytran93 said:
    Just try to use Best studio wireless headphones. It is the best wireless noise cancelling headphones on the market right now. I think so, because it have a nice design, balance sound profile, low price so it suits with everyone. Hope you have a good choice. See link: http://www.thebestearbuds.com/best-wireless-noise-cancelling-headphones/

    You can't be serious that you suggested Beats. I listened to a pair of those at Best Buy. They're fine if all you want is bass since the mids are completely drowned out. They aren't balanced; you're better off with the Bose they suggested which are less expensive as well.

    If you want to hear a decent set of headphones at the ~$400 price mark (Beats retail), listen to a pair of Sennheiser, Audio Technica, V-Moda, Grado, or Shure. There is absolutely no comparison at that point for sound quality.
  • @Vlad Rose: All headphones tests can be found there: http://www.tomsguide.com/articles/?tag=headphones&articleType=review
  • So much fail in this "comparison".