The past year has been great for audio tech and headphones. Not only have we seen the arrival of the Sony WH-1000XM5, a fantastic pair of noise-cancelling headphones, but the wireless earbuds market continues to explode, giving us all sorts of options for every budget.
What’s more, home entertainment technologies improved, delivering new soundbars so that anyone can recreate the movie theater experience from the comfort of their living room. As you might’ve seen in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2022 for TVs and streaming, TVs are growing more impressive in terms of picture quality — it’s up to soundbars to deliver sound quality to match.
There’s never been a better time to have a home theater, or simply be a music fan thanks to the best headphones, earbuds and soundbars of this year. Be sure to check out all the winners of the Tom's Guide Awards 2022.
Best headphones overall: Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony’s new flagship headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 seriously impress. They pretty much do it all — superb noise-cancellation, exceptional sound performance, tons of comfort, intuitive controls and plenty of special features. We didn’t see much room for improvement compared to the previous-gen WH-1000XM4, yet Sony managed to up the ante. These cans offer a confident, convincing and enjoyable listen, plus touch controls and battery life (30 hours with ANC on, 40 with it off) are major highlights. These are the kind of headphones you can leave on all day without complaint, which is a rare compliment in this category. That’s why they’re the best headphones of the year.
Best noise-canceling headphones
Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 45
Once upon a time there wasn’t a plane you could board anywhere in this country without seeing a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. While these days you’re bound to see some Sony headphones mixed amongst the crowd, Bose still holds a spot in many folks’ hearts for its excellent noise cancellation technology — a foundational component of the Bose QuietComfort 45. The QuietComfort 45 stands out as one of the best noise-cancelling headphones, welcoming several improvements, including even better active noise cancellation, sound, and battery life. Bose’s ambient-listening mode (Aware) also does a fantastic job of piping in external sounds for increased awareness. If you need a pair of reasonably-priced cans to cancel sound, the QC 45 is our pick for you from this year’s new options.
Best wireless earbuds
Best wireless earbuds: Grado GT220
You might have expected to see a Sony, Apple or Samsung product here but, in our eyes, it’s the Grado GT220 that took home the prize for the best wireless earbuds of the last 12 months. We like the Grado because it doesn’t sacrifice sound quality to fit a smaller form factor — the GT220 sounds just as good as the company’s over-ear headphones and should please the ear of any audiophile. When it comes to providing a pure audio experience in a wireless earbuds form factor, it’s hard to ignore Grado’s latest in-ear model. These buds are brilliantly executed and deliver class-leading audio quality on the go, which is exactly what we look for.
Best value earbuds
Best value earbuds: 1More PistonBuds Pro
1More has consistently delivered phenomenal value earbuds, first with the 1More Triple Driver that took the audio world by storm a few years ago and now with the 1More PistonBuds Pro. At just $69, the PistonBuds Pro delivers active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth 5.2, customizable sound, and the most compact design we’ve seen in the category yet. At this price point they offer an exceptional value, making them the best cheap wireless earbuds we tested this year.
Best audiophile headphones
Bowers & Wilkins is playing to its strengths with the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2. As some of the best audiophile headphones, they're designed to deliver the best wireless sound this sort of money can buy, plus they feel good and are beautifully constructed. While Sony and Bose have the market cornered on top noise-cancellation performance, Bowers & Wilkins goes for optimal audio quality for around the same price. And it's pays off big time. No question about it, for audiophiles these are the top headphones of the year.
Best sports headphones
Best sports headphones: Beats Fit Pro
The Beats Fit Pro are Apple’s best sport headphones yet. Along with brand staples like a bold, stylish design and water-resistant protection, the Fit Pro also carries some of the AirPods Pro’s biggest features, including active noise cancellation and Spatial Audio. It also has enhanced sound for music and an updated design for a more secure fit. The Fit Pro comes loaded with mics, which work great for voice and video calls, as well as “Hey Siri” functionality. Not only are the buds composed of sturdy materials to withstand falls from high distances or contact with rough surfaces like concrete, but they come IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance, so they can definitely keep up with your activity.
Best soundbar: Devialet Dione
The last 12 months have seen some incredibly impressive soundbars, but one in particular blew us away. The Devialet Dione has some of the most expansive, informative and assertive full-range sound we’ve ever heard. This audiophile-friendly soundbar provides 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos sound from a stylish single unit that doesn’t require precise placement or calibration to sound great. With no fewer than 17 neodymium speaker drivers and 950 watts of power, this is the best soundbar fit for a proper home theater. While there might be cheaper options out there, the Dione is a powerhouse that can transform how you hear your favorite shows and movies.
Best value soundbar
Best value soundbar: Sonos Ray
Sonos and value might not be two words you’d expect to hear together in an award category, but the company did something unexpected this year. It released the Sonos Ray, its most affordable and apartment-friendly soundbar yet. The $279 Sonos Ray leaves a far larger impact than its compact size would suggest. It delivered plenty of punch in our living room, and could be placed on the same shelf as the TV without blocking the bottom of the screen. It’s also tuned to adapt to an in-cabinet placement, which is usually a no-no for soundbars, now even those tight on space can get excellent sound at a fair price.