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The best audiophile headphones in 2022

best audiophile headphones: Sony WH-1000XM5 worn by young man in a waiting lounge
(Image credit: Sony WH-1000XM5)

The best audiophile headphones deliver top-tier sound quality and get you closer to your favorite artists no matter what your music tastes. 

You may think that the best-sounding headphones would cost a fortune, but choose wisely and that needn't be the case. While the highest of high-end headphones justify their price tags though carefully honed luxury finishes, mid-market models such as the ones in this list often benefit greatly from the flagship model's developments. 

All the models here major on the best sound quality we've heard. Some let the music shine and are pretty low on extra features, others have a strong feature sets and also include desirable tech such as active noise cancellation (ANC) and fast charging. 

So read on for the best audiophile headphones available today. And if you're looking for a specific headphone style, then check out our best over-ear headphones or best wireless earbuds buying guides. And don't forget our best cheap earbuds buying guide, too. We've also got a guide to getting the best sound out of your headphones once you've made your choice.

The best audiophile headphones you can buy right now (updated May 13)

Over-ears

The top spot in our best audiophile headphones list goes to Sony’s WH-1000XM5 for their exceptional sound quality, elite active noise cancellation, and high levels of comfort. They build on their similarly excellent predecessor the XM4 and offer LDAC support for high-resolution Bluetooth streaming, delivering superior sound quality for your hi-res music library. The new design may be a little bland compared to its predecessor, but we applaud the headphones' eco credentials.

In second place, Bowers & Wilkins’ PX7 over-ear headphones aren’t quite as well equipped in terms of special features, but deliver attention-grabbing levels of bass energy and expression in the way they go about playing music, making them a highly recommended purchase.

In-ears

The Grado GT220 earbuds hit the top spot in this category for the sheer joy they bring to listening to music. These buds deliver bass that’s terrifically engaging yet manage to avoid pulling the listener’s attention away from other elements further up the frequency range. Every nuance of a recording is effortlessly conveyed, making these among the best earbuds we’ve ever heard. 

The Sony WF-1000XM4 take second place here. Much like the Grados, they bring an immersive quality to recordings and bass is more subtle than is usual for the brand. Throw in ANC, impressive battery life and a stack of special features, and you have a remarkable earbud package with audiophile credentials.

Best audiophile headphones: Over-ear headphones

Black and ecru (off-white) color versions against a office windowEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Best sound quality from a noise canceler

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed-back, wireless/wired over-ear
Size and weight: Not specified; 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 43 feet
ANC: Yes
Codec support: SBC, AAC, LDAC
Wired cable supplied: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Articulate and engaging sound
+
Great control options
+
Impressive noise-cancelation

Reasons to avoid

-
Redesign and eco credentials ups the price
-
Gets hot around the ears during longer listening

Sony’s newest flagship over-ear headphones outperform every competitor for their exceptional sound delivery, active noise cancellation performance and special features. The dynamic soundstage just gets better with each update and delivers plenty of energy and detail to give songs a full-bodied presence without sounding unbalanced right from the off — although listeners can also use the Sony Headphones Connect app to personalize audio with several well-engineered presets or by manually adjusting the EQ to their liking.

The Sonys deliver everything you could want from an audiophile on-ear headphone. Support for LDAC ensures the XM5s deliver the best performance over Bluetooth and they can also be hard-wired for the very best sound quality with hi-res material. The new design tends towards the bland, but the fact that both the headphones and packaging are made almost entirely from recycled materials is a further mark in its favor. Lastly, their long battery life and comfortable design mean these are one pair of headphones you won’t want to take off. 

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 heaphones on a light blue background

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)
Premium sound in a great-looking package

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed-back, wireless/wired over-ear
Size and weight: 3.1 x 6.9 x 8.7 inches; 10.9 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 33 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 37 feet
ANC: Yes
Codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive
Wired cable supplied: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Dynamic, balanced and engrossing sound
+
Effective noise-cancellation
+
Tactile and covetable design

Reasons to avoid

-
Low feature count
-
Can sound a touch spiky with high-compression files

If it’s the fundamentals of sound quality that appeal to you most of all, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are a compulsory audition. With a 1.7-inch full-range dynamic driver in each earcup serving up sound, the most immediately striking aspect of the PX7 sound is its energy and animation. No matter if you’re listening to a poverty-spec stream from Spotify’s free tier or a full-on, full-fat MQA-powered Tidal Masters file, the overall impression is of exuberance and enthusiasm.

Bass sounds have weight and momentum, while the midrange itself is chock-full of detail and delivers bags of character and expression where vocalists of all kinds are concerned. The soundstage is big, well-organised and easy to follow, and rhythms are expressed in a naturalistic and persuasive manner. At $400, the PX7s have plenty of competition, but they deliver enjoyably explicit sound quality that deserve your full attention.

Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review

Lifestyle shot of Technics EAH-A800 on worktop with a coffee pot and cup out of focus in the background

(Image credit: Panasonic)
Audiophile sound with ANC from hi-fi heritage cans

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed-back, wireless/wired over-ear
Size and weight: 7-11/16 x 6-11/16 x 3-3/8 inches; 10.5 ounces
Battery life (rated): 50 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet
ANC: Yes
Codec support: SBC, AAC, LDAC
Wired cable supplied: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Lively, balanced and entirely believable sound
+
Impressive battery life
+
Great build quality and high-level finish
+
Good comfort level

Reasons to avoid

-
Noise cancelling not quite up to the best
-
Plenty of price rivals

The Technics EAH-A800 follow the classic on-ear headphone design built for comfort and performance. Listening to these headphones we reckon you’ll be hard-pushed to find an equivalent pair that’s more expressive on the finest details in your favorite recordings. From the bottom of the frequency range to the top, the EAH-A800 are beautifully judged so no matter what kind of music you're listening to, the Technics seem to understand its requirements down to a microscopic level. The LDAC codec is supported for getting the best quality over Bluetooth connectivity, and a cable for hard-wired connections to a headphone jack is also supplied. 

Things are less cut-and-dried where active noise-cancellation is concerned and they don’t deal with as much external sound as the best of their rivals do. Bottom-end battery life is 30 hours (when listening to the hi-res LDAC codec with noise-cancelling switched on) and a best-case of 60 hours (listening via AAC with noise-cancelling switched off).

Read our full Technics EAH-A800 review.  

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones on a rock

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)
Traditional looks with great sound and comfort

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed-back, wireless/wired over-ear
Size and weight: 7.8 x 6.7 x 1.78 inches; 10.6 ounces
Battery life (rated): 17 hours
Bluetooth range: up to 500 feet
ANC: Yes
Codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Low-Latency
Wired cable supplied: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Superior sound quality
+
Reliable active noise cancellation
+
App-based controls
+
Tile and NFC integration

Reasons to avoid

-
Controls and mobile app are buggy
-
Battery life is shorter than the rivals

The Momentum 3 is the perfect example of Sennheiser's commitment to hi-fi sound quality. This classic design combines great sound quality and active noise cancellation in a handsome headphone that delivers music with finesse. The strong and infectious bass blends well with mids and highs in the frequency range and does a superb job of delivering driving rhythms that's thoroughly engaging and addictive.

The Sennheiser's advanced ANC modes have a tendency to alter the sonic signature of the Momentum's output, but switch these off and you're rewarded with indulgent hi-fi-quality audio that allows listeners to catch the slightest nuances in recordings. Battery life may not be one of the longest we've seen, but if you can ignore the Momentum's shortcomings you'll be rewarded with amazing sound in a beautifully crafted headphone design.

Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless review.

Best audiophile headphones: Wireless earbuds

Grado GT220 with charging case on stone slabTop Pick

(Image credit: Future)
Highly authentic sound but low on features

Specifications

Headphone type: In-ear wireless
Size and weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud); 1.5 ounces (charging case)
Battery life (rated): 6 hours, 36 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: Not specified
ANC: No
Codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX
Water resistant: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced and authentic sound 
+
High comfort levels
+
Good battery life
+
Useful touch-controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly when changing ear tips
-
No active noise-cancelling

Grado’s GT220 true wireless earbuds are not overburdened by features such as ANC or a control app to tinker with the sound output. Compared to rivals listed here, these are a very straightforward design indeed that simply goes about the business of connecting you to your favorite music and as such, are one of the best-sounding earbud designs we’ve heard. 

Offering decent battery life and recharge time, they're perfectly pitched for music listening on the move and the sound quality delivery will also appeal to those who want to enjoy more serious listening at home from a compact earbud. Aimed at audiophiles looking to hear Grado’s signature sound in a true wireless product with top audio quality as a priority over everything else, the lack of extra facilities really shouldn’t be seen as a deal breaker at the price.

Read our full Grado GT220 review.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 displayed over a tropical backdrop

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Best all-round wireless earbuds for sound and features

Specifications

Headphone type: In-ear wireless
Size and weight: 1 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches (per bud), 2.4 x 1.5 x 1.1 inches (charging case); 0.2 ounces (per bud), 2 ounces (charging case)
Battery life (rated): 8 hours (ANC on), 12 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case), 35 hours (with charging case and ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet
ANC: Yes
Codec support: SBC, AAC, LDAC
Water resistant: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional, full-bodied sound
+
Gorgeous redesign
+
Strong noise cancellation
+
Great battery life
+
Endless number of personalized features
+
Responsive smart controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Call quality still under performs
-
Unstable fit
-
No multipoint technology or NFC

The Sony WF-1000XM4 packages elite sound, noise cancellation, and awesome features. Pricing might be a deterrent, but the fact that this set of buds offers great functionality makes it well worth the splurge. Add in longer battery life and great sound quality across the board and you can see why it’s a top contender in these rankings.

The stereo imaging on these buds is phenomenal, with instruments accurately placed and localized on tracks. It brings an immersive quality to recordings and makes you believe musicians are actually playing right in front of you. Vocal detail is so clear on recordings, you can almost feel the passion and emotion in the artist voice. The low end is engineered with balance in mind, which translates to a pleasant blend of lows, mids, and highs that enables listeners to pick up on sonic characteristics that would go unnoticed on other wireless earbuds and makes them an excellent audiophile choice.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XMF review.

The Shure Aonic Free wireless earbuds sitting in the charging case

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Audiophile sound with passive noise reduction

Specifications

Headphone type: In-ear wireless
Size and weight: 0.5 x 0.4 x 0.39 inches (per bud); 3.5 x 2 x 1 inches (charging case); 0.5 ounces (charging case)
Battery life (rated): 7 hours; 21 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
ANC: No
Codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX
Water resistant: Not specified

Reasons to buy

+
Audiophile sound
+
Trusty fit via Comply Foam tips
+
Effective noise isolation
+
Useful ambient-listening mode
+
Extensive Bluetooth range

Reasons to avoid

-
Large charging case has mediocre battery top-up capacity
-
Buggy companion app
-
No wireless charging or multipoint technology

If sound quality is your main concern and you have no need for ANC, Shure's Aonic Free earbuds are a gloriously capable pair of earbuds. These wireless earbuds sound fantastic and deliver on their promise to decrease ambient noise to a satisfying level without the need for ANC. 

Shure has a strong audio history and the earbuds sound accurate and detailed, letting listeners hear subtle nuances, along with a fine mix of lows, mids, and highs. The Free's full-range dynamic driver reproduces the deeply textured instruments and multi-layered vocals superbly. Infectious bass riffs stimulate head nods, and even small characteristics sound prominent and captivating.  

Read our full Shure Aonic Free review.

Headphone types explained

Over-ear (circumaural) headphones

The largest headphone type, over-ear headphones surround or cup your ears. A classic, old-school style, over-ear headphones come in either a closed-back or open-back design. Closed-back headphones contain playback sounds within the earcup enclosure and are better at passively isolating wearers from external ambient noise. The effect of listening to music on closed-back models is often less expansive, and the stereo soundstage can feel contained within the head, but does prevent sound from leaking out and irritating anyone nearby. 

Open-back headphones often have a more natural and spacious sound thanks to their vented design that allows the back of the earcups to be open to the outside world. This design does mean that there's less passive isolation from external noise and more sound is able to leak out. 

On-ear (supra-aural) headphones

On-ear headphones are generally smaller and lighter than over-ear headphones. Sometimes called 'earpad' or 'earmuff' headphones, these lighter and more flexible designs also come in open and closed variations, but as a rule, on-ear will let in more ambient noise and have greater sound leakage than over-ear headphones.

In-ear headphones

Often called earbuds or even earphones, these tiny headphones fit into the ear canal. The majority of models today are wireless and despite their tiny size, often come loaded with features and tech. Earbuds are the largest growing area of the headphone sector, with just about every headphone maker recognizing the love music fans have for these compact, hands-free designs and introducing increasingly more competitive models to their ranges. 

Why wireless?

Wireless technology has revolutionized the headphone market in recent years, breaking listeners free from being tangled with wires that's physically tethered to a playback device. 

Bluetooth wireless technology has made this freedom possible, while aptX codecs have improved audio signal handling for better sound quality with each new iteration of the wireless short range tech. And there's the promise of a further sound quality boost to come via Snapdragon Sound-compatible devices to deliver true CD-quality (16-bit/44.1kHz) lossless audio over the latest Bluetooth wireless connectivity.

How to choose the best audiophile headphones

When shopping for audiophile headphones, you’ll want to decide on whether you go for either a on-ear or over-ear headphone style, or earbuds. 

Each of our over-ear picks have the best sound quality with wireless and support aptX or LDAC codecs to offer the best signal handling of music files over Bluetooth. These models also come supplied with cables for hard-wired connections and true audiophile listening capabilities via a dedicated headphone amp.

Unlike over-ear headphone designs, the earbuds we've picked cannot be hard wired. Nevertheless, each have the best sound we've heard over Bluetooth and demonstrate the least compromises of any wireless models we've heard to approach audiophile sound quality.

It's difficult to try out headphones before you buy, so make sure you read our full reviews and look out for areas where the reviewer mentions factors like the headband shape and any spring tension it places on your head or ears, or the amount of earcup padding for long-term comfort. Don’t be afraid to pass on headphones you don’t like the aesthetics of, too.

With earbuds, many of the over-ear factors mentioned above should also be considered. Additionally, check reviews for mentions of different sized ear tips so you can adjust them to fit your ear canal size. Water and sweat-resistance is another factor for consideration.

Sound quality is clearly important and all these models provide a balanced sound from the outset. That said, several models have mobile apps that let you tweak the EQ to your liking.

Think about battery life too so that you don't need to recharge too often. And keep in mind that ANC will reduce battery life.

How we test the best audiophile headphones

We thoroughly test every pair of headphones based on a variety of factors, and employ a consistent testing approach so any comparisons with other pairs are trustworthy and fair.

In this case, every pair of audiophile headphones and earbuds have been used over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. This allows the tester to both gauge the sound quality across a mix of genres and volumes, and to see how comfortable the headphones are when worn for extended periods. We’ll listen to hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, pop and more to see how each pair performs, and will do the same with movies, podcasts and games, where applicable.

Find out what we listen for during our testing process and how to get the best headphone sound for you.

We also test the effectiveness of features like noise-cancelling in real-life situations, and will make sure manufacturer claims about battery life and Bluetooth range are accurate. Build quality, the ease of setup and any control schemes — including those involving an app — will also be judged.

We rate all our headphones and earbuds on a 5-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that excel in one or more particular fields and that's rated 4 stars or above may also receive an Editor’s Choice award.

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

With contributions from
  • Stxmahn
    No mention of Bluetooth specs. Makes me wonder. I have an aptx hd source. Obviously, aptx hd headphone will have the highest quality signal. It seems matching Bluetooth codecs is critical for audiophiles. Makes me wonder about the testing also - were the devices tested with compatible hd codecs? Ldac for example doesn't work with most non Sony devices so the signal will downgrade to the lowest common codec.
    Reply
  • Medit8
    There appears to be a serious need here to do solid research about headphones.
    Go to headphones.com and learn about the various parts and functions of, and what makes truly good audiophile headphones. If you just want headphones for background music you don't necessarily want to pay attention to, get Sony or Beats or any highly commercialized gear, but if you want music to surround you as in a concert hall, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH and buy really good headphones. You can't do it without knowing what's out there at the very high end. For example, Focal headphones made in France. Heard of em, Tom'Guide?
    Reply
  • TheSypher
    Article is kind of joke. Sony, Bose and even sennheiser as audiophile headphones is like Hyundai as a sportcar. Seriously they are not about sound quality, they are about marketing, it's a shame that they got you.
    AND audiophile headphones, and all of them are wireless? Kidding? Looks like you trying to choose something not very disgusting from the catalog of a small electronics store on your street lol.

    Fiio, Meze, Focal, Campfire Audio, iBasso, Audeze, Dunu, Hifiman, Audio Technica, Astell&Kern etc. That the list of brand you need to know, not poor things for background music listed in article.

    Head/earphones with ANC nearly always have not something like really good music quality. Make a true research.

    Peace
    Reply
  • Medit8
    TheSypher said:
    Article is kind of joke. Sony, Bose and even sennheiser as audiophile headphones is like Hyundai as a sportcar. Seriously they are not about sound quality, they are about marketing, it's a shame that they got you.
    AND audiophile headphones, and all of them are wireless? Kidding? Looks like you trying to choose something not very disgusting from the catalog of a small electronics store on your street lol.

    Fiio, Meze, Focal, Campfire Audio, iBasso, Audeze, Dunu, Hifiman, Audio Technica, Astell&Kern etc. That the list of brand you need to know, not poor things for background music listed in article.

    Head/earphones with ANC nearly always have not something like really good music quality. Make a true research.

    Peace
    I have Focal Clear, discovered on headphones.com. Well aware of the marketing going on here. But you'll never see Focal reviewed here which is sad.
    Reply
  • sonicmustard
    Tom's Guide reviewed the Focal Clear sometime ago.
    Reply
  • sonicmustard
    Medit8 said:
    There appears to be a serious need here to do solid research about headphones.
    Go to headphones.com and learn about the various parts and functions of, and what makes truly good audiophile headphones. If you just want headphones for background music you don't necessarily want to pay attention to, get Sony or Beats or any highly commercialized gear, but if you want music to surround you as in a concert hall, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH and buy really good headphones. You can't do it without knowing what's out there at the very high end. For example, Focal headphones made in France. Heard of em, Tom'Guide?

    We reviewed the Focal Clear headphones a while ago. We're in the process of updating our audio guides and looking to include a wider range of headphone models to include a broader range of brands and that fit with audiophile sensibilities, including wired models. Look out for our regular headphone updates in the coming weeks.
    Reply
  • sonicmustard
    Stxmahn said:
    No mention of Bluetooth specs. Makes me wonder. I have an aptx hd source. Obviously, aptx hd headphone will have the highest quality signal. It seems matching Bluetooth codecs is critical for audiophiles. Makes me wonder about the testing also - were the devices tested with compatible hd codecs? Ldac for example doesn't work with most non Sony devices so the signal will downgrade to the lowest common codec.

    We're looking to bring greater transparency to our guides to help buyers make informed buying choices. In the meantime, you should be able to find further information in the review itself by clicking on the model name link at the beginning of each or the 'full review' link at the end of each review.

    We test wireless headphones and earbuds using the highest bit rate and resolution streams available from services such as Apple Music and TIDAL as well as popular services such as Spotify.
    Reply