Your music, movies and games deserve better than those hard standard-issue plastic earbuds. Whether you’'re looking to cancel airplane noise, listen without wires, get your frag on or rock your workout, there’'s a wide variety of headphones to suit your needs from a host of brands. You’'ll also find plenty of wearing styles -- including in-ear, on-ear and over-the-ear -- at a range of prices. To help you get the most out of your entertainment, here are the best options available, from $30 earbuds to $1,000 audiophile-grade headphones.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones: Phiaton Chord MS530 ($349)
The excellent Phiaton Chord combines Bluetooth 4.0 wireless capability and active noise cancellation. It has a very modern yet comfortable design, and the beefy bass will keep you rocking for for up to 18 hours with the noise cancellation on. Between tracks you can gab on your smartphone using the dual-microphone setup, which helps to suppress background noise. You can also use these headphones in wired mode (with the included cable) when the power runs out.
Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20/20i ($299)
The noise cancellation provided by the QuietComfort 20s is the best around, period. The sound quality is very good, though audiophiles may want more "“accuracy”" than Bose’'s highly sculpted audio. The fit is non-intrusive but the buds stay in well, and the inline rechargeable battery lasts for up to 16 hours. They play music without power as well.
Best Over-Ear Bluetooth Headphones: Wireless Beats Studio ($379)
These are some impressive-sounding Bluetooth headphones, with more balanced bass and classier styling than past models. On-board controls handle playback, calls, and Siri, and an adaptive noise cancellation feature boosts the silence when music isn’'t playing. A good 12 hours of battery life should be solid enough for most users, and after that they can still play music via the included cable.
Best Bluetooth Earbuds: Jaybird BlueBuds X ($169.95)
The BlueBuds X offer best-in-class audio quality and a very stable fit, thanks to rubber fins that sit in the ridges of your ears. Designed to withstand sweaty workouts, these water-resistant earbuds have a battery life of roughlyabout 8 hours, and they charge via microUSB. You can also make calls on the BlueBuds via an inline mic/controller on the cord that connects the two earbuds.
Best Headphones for Running: Sennheiser CX 685 ($69.95)
Sennheiser’'s affordable wired workout headphones don’'t have a lot of bells and whistles like an inline controller, but their sound quality is far above the bargain price. The sweat-proof earbuds stay put via silicone eartips and fins, which are very comfortable, and the shock-absorbing materials on the earpieces are a nice touch.
Best DJ Headphones: Sennheiser HD25 Aluminum ($329.95)
The latest edition of Sennheiser’'s widely respected HD25 is crafted from aluminum for a more elegant look. The metal also warms up the already impressive sound, especially on the low end, so critical to a good DJ. The HD25s are very sturdy, and the dual-arm headband stays in place no matter how hard you’'re bouncing around.
Best Gaming Headset: Turtle Beach EarForce i60 ($399.95)
The i60’s have offers a huge feature set, including wireless audio, an iOS control app, a built-in mic, and excellent sound quality. The headphones connect to Macs or PCs via USB and the included base station. The latter transmits uncompressed 7.1-channel audio, or to tablets and phones via Bluetooth. The headphones are very comfortable and have a 10-hour battery life, though they also work as wired headphones.
Best Headphones Under $100: Griffin Woodtones Over-the-Ear ($99.99)
With its roomy rectangular earcups made from your choice of three different wood types and its luxuriously soft earpads, the Woodtones look like they might easily cost twice as much. The sound quality is also well above its price class. The inline mic/controller for iOS and self-adjusting headband are handy additions.
Best Earbuds Under $50: id America New Metropolitan ($29.95)
Given their sound quality and comfort at a sub-$30 price, we can’'t help but recommend these as the best of the cheap earbuds if you’'re looking to replace your device’'s stock earbuds. They have an inline one-button remote/mic and come with comfy memory foam eartips that block out sound well.
Best Over-Ear Headphones: Bowers & Wilkins P7 ($400)
B&W has put together an amazing set of cans outfitted in extremely soft leather and luxury styling. They sound as good as their price tag implies, and the level of comfort is stellar. An inline mic/controller for iOS devices and detachable cabling are welcome features, and the hinged earcups fold up easily into the ritzy-looking carrying case.
Best Splurge Headphones: Shure SE846 ($999)
Shure’'s new flagship in-ear headphones sound amazing with any type of music and edge out similarly priced competitors with detachable cables, excellent noise isolation, and solid construction. This is as good as it gets outside of custom-molded in-ear monitors.
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