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.
Just to shake things up even further, Apple's iPhone 7 is ushering in a new era of headphone jack-less smartphones that will allow wireless and Lightning-based headphones — including the company's own AirPods — to thrive. So, 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.
|Plantronics BackBeat Pro||$139.95||Headphones (Wireless)|
|Bose QuietComfort 35||$349.00||Headphones (Noise-Cancelling)|
|Sol Republic Shadow||$79.99||Earbuds (Wireless)|
|Bose QuietComfort 20i||$299.00||Earbuds (Noise-Cancelling)|
|Sennheiser CX 686G||$54.00||Earbuds (Sport)|
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 ten-point system (1 = worst, 10 = best). If a product is truly exemplary, it's awarded an Editors' Choice.
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