Best headphones of 2024: Top picks tested by experts

If you're looking to find the best headphones (or earbuds), then you've come to the right place. All of the models listed here offer outstanding performance and features, along with effective and flexible active noise cancelation, as well as great styling and high levels of comfort.    

As Tom's Guide's audio editor with more than 30 years experience, I've auditioned hundreds of headphones and buds so I know which models offer the best sound balance for every budget and all kinds of listeners. Whether you're looking for the best headphones overall, audiophile sound for home listening, world-class noise canceling, or neatest pair of wireless earbuds that fit in a pocket but still deliver high-end sound, I've got you covered. 

Keep scrolling to discover my pick of the top over-ear wireless headphones and earbuds for your needs and pocket.

Written by
Portrait studio shot Lee Dunkley
Written by
Lee Dunkley

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. 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. 

The quick list

Already know what type of headphone you’re looking for? Here’s a quick list of our over-ear and in-ear winners, so you can save time and jump right into the reviews. Still not sure? Just scroll on to see all our full recommendations.

The best headphones you can buy right now

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Best headphones overall

Stellar performance in a sleek but premium-priced design

Specifications

Weight: 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC, LDAC
ANC: 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
Buy them if

✅ You want the best sound: Balanced and smooth sound from the bottom of the frequency range to the very top, with good rhythmic expression to liberate the music.

✅ You want effective ANC: There's no trace of the ANC circuitry working away and banishes pretty much all external sound to allow your music to do its thing.

✅ You want good battery life: They're good for 30 hours between charges with ANC switched on, and that will rise to as much as 40 hours if you turn it off. Recharges take around 3.5 hours via the USB-C input on the right earcup. 

Don't buy them if

❌ You want foldability: The revamped styling has done away with the popular foldable design of it's predecessor, and is slightly less practical as a result.

❌ You like big and bold styling: Branding is understated on the XM5 with just a little ‘Sony’ logo on each hinge, and the earcups and headband are virtually featureless and entirely anonymous.

You don't like the price increase: Sony has added $50 to the price of its latest XM series headphones. This seems steep given that Sony's exceedingly capable WH-1000XM4 predecessor is readily available, and can even be found discounted for considerably less.

The bottom line

The Sony WH-1000XM5 noise-canceling headphones demonstrate across-the-board expertise with great-sound, exceptional ANC performance and eco credentials.

What you need to know
The Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless active noise-canceling, over-ear headphones pick up where the popular Sony WH-1000XM4 left off. You get excellent sound quality in every respect, improved noise-cancellation and a very credible eco proposition that means they can be recycled at the end of their life. These cans are just as compelling as the model they replace.

Design: Sony has had a bit of a re-think where the XM5 design is concerned. They're a more streamlined shape than their predecessor, with an aero dynamic design that improves the flow of air across the headphone frame to reduce wind noise. Branding is minimal, and are available in black or ecru (for which read ‘uninspiring beige’). The XM5 are a touch lighter than the model they replace, and are supplied with a usefully compact and collapsible carry-case.

Performance: In every respect, the XM5s are a confident, convincing and enjoyable listen. Throughout our review, tonality was neutral and natural, with only the slightest suggestion of the highs being rolled off. Low frequencies were muscular but agile, loaded with detail and texture, and delivered an ordered foundation without over shadowing the presentation further up the frequency range. And when it comes to ANC, the XM5 banish pretty much all external sound and deliver exceptional call quality, too.  

Battery life: You'll get 30 hours between charges if you keep active noise-cancelation switched on, and that will rise to as much as 40 hours if you turn it off. It takes a leisurely 3.5 hours to go from ‘flat’ to full when charging via the USB-C input on the right earcup, but can retain an hour’s-worth of power after 10 minutes or so, or you can get three hours of power after just three minutes via USB-PD (Power Delivery).

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM5

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Ratings scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
Price$50 more than WH-1000XM4★★★★☆
DesignAnonymous aesthetic but impressive eco credentials★★★★★
PerformanceArticulate and engaging sound★★★★★
Battery lifeLong battery life but not the market leader★★★★☆

The best headphones for sound

Premium over-ear headphones with great sound

Specifications

Weight: 10.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound
+
Low-profile design with smart styling
+
Effective noise canceling

Reasons to avoid

-
No touch controls
-
Noise canceling isn't as good as its rivals 
Buy them if

✅ You want the very best wireless sound quality: The Px7 S2e headphones are designed to deliver the best wireless sound this sort of money can buy, and they do.

✅ You're looking for understated styling: They feel good, are beautifully constructed and make price rivals look bland by comparison.

✅ You like luxury sensibilities: Impeccably put together from a combination of textured fabric, memory-foam filled leather, the Px7 S2e are sophisticated headphones that exude a feeling of luxury.

Don't buy them if

❌ You want the very best ANC: The active noise-cancelation proves ‘good’ rather than 'great’ — that’s to say, it will be perfectly acceptable to anyone who doesn’t insist on absolute silence.

❌ You like stacks of features: The Bowers & Wilkins Music control app may feel underpowered compared to some. It’s pretty useful as far as it goes, but just doesn’t go as far as some tour de force control apps.

❌ You want touch controls: No tapping an earcup to pause your music here. Instead, there's a selection of physical ‘push/push’ control buttons.

The bottom line

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are designed to deliver the best wireless sound money can buy, and they do. The entire frequency range hangs together well, with nothing overstated and nothing struggling for representation. Just don't expect tons of features. 

What you need to know
The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e over-ear headphones are priced the same as the Sony WH-1000XM5. They feel good, are beautifully constructed and have active noise-cancelation and a control app — but ‘extended functionality’ is not their thing. 

Design: Impeccably put together from a combination of textured fabric, memory-foam filled leather, flex-free plastic, with a discreetly logo-d section on the earcups, the Px7 S2e are understated and sophisticated lookers. 

Performance: This 'evolved' version improves bass energy with detail levels that are sky-high, while treble sounds are bright but not coarse. In our review, vocals had complete expression, are thoroughly engrossing and easy to understand. The soundstage the Bowers & Wilkins generate is sizable, and superbly defined. ANC deals with external sounds effectively but it's not the pool of silence some models manage to achieve. There's never any suggestion of the ANC at work though, and it doesn’t alter the sonic characteristics of the headphones either. 

Battery life: Best-case battery life runs to 30 hours — which is about average these days. Charging time runs from ‘flat’ to full’ in just 2 hours, which is better than the 3 hours the old model needed. A 15-minute charge is good for 7 hours of playback. Charging is via the USB port on the right earcup.

Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e

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Ratings scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
PriceWorthwhile price for out-and-out sound quality★★★★☆
DesignUnderstated and sophisticated★★★★★
PerformanceTop-notch wireless audio★★★★★
Battery lifeGood but not the best★★★★☆