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Best Headphones 2019

Headphones — the original wearable tech — have grown up. They've also become specialized; seriously, there's a pair for every use. From at-home listening to fitness, and noise neutralization to studio engineering, the market is flooded with options. But which ones are worth buying?

Depending on the features, fit and design, a solid pair of headphones can sell for as little as $5. Mid-tier cans can range between $150 to $250, while high-end models can cost upward of $1,000. 

Some of the most popular headphones tend to fall on the pricier end of the spectrum like our top-rated Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. However, you can get surprisingly good audio out of earbuds that cost less than $60, as we've discovered with our top value pick, the JLab JBuds Air Wireless Earphones.

The following page lists our top picks, as well as a few helpful tips for choosing the best headphones/earbuds for you.

For more feature-focused recommendations, check out our picks for best fitnesswireless and active noise-cancelling headphones and buds. And if you're looking for the best truly wireless earbuds, we suggest looking at Apple's AirPods 2 or the Samsung Galaxy Buds, both of which offer wireless charging and near-instantaneous pairing. And if you've got your heart set on either Bose or Sony, take a look at our Best Bose and Best Sony Headphones page. 

Best active noise-cancelling headphones

(Image credit: Future)

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Best active noise-cancelling headphones

Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Slick, attractive design
Excellent noise cancelling on calls and music
Precise, balanced audio
Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
Expensive

The new king of noise-cancelling headphones is here with a sexy new design and a host of useful features. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 offers adjustable ANC that works equally well whether you're listening to music or talking on the phone. The cans are digital-assistant friendly and delivers clean, balanced audio. They're perfect for commuters and music lovers alike. 

Read our full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.

Great noise cancelling and audio

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Great noise cancelling and audio

Size and Weight: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, 8.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on), 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Champion noise cancellation
Clean and crisp sound
Comfortable design
Use ANC mode with aux cable
Same design as the previous version
Google Assistant needs work

A good set of active noise-cancelling headphones is the difference between a peaceful commute or flight and a chaotic one. Enter the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones. These headphones keep the sleek design, best-in-class noise cancelling and crystal-clear audio quality while adding a dedicated button to activate Google Assistant. In short, some of the best headphones on the market just got a whole lot smarter.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.

Best truly wireless earbuds

Jabra Elite Active 65T

Best truly wireless earbuds

Size and Weight: 1.2. x 1.1 x 0.9 x inches, 0.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): (Rated) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Amazing call quality
Durable, comfy fit
Companion app with sound customization
Strong battery life
Charging case is a hassle to open
Controls aren't convenient

Jabra's packing a hell of a lot of value and functionality into the Elite Active 65t. For $169.99, you get a pair of wireless buds with a sleek, durable and comfortable design and up to 5 hours of battery life on a charge. Delivering consistently clean detail and warm, lively instrumentals and vocals, the Elite Active 65t might be one of the best-sounding truly wireless buds on the market, especially when you throw in the free companion app with its customizable equalizer. Jabra also launched a more toned-down version of our faves dubbed the Elite 65t, which offers the same sonic performance without the sporty features.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 65t review.

Best wireless

Sony WH-1000XM3

Best wireless

Size and Weight: 10.4 x 7.3 x 2.9 inches, 9 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours (NC on), 38 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Excellent sound
Versatile noise cancellation
Responsive touch controls
Companion app with sound customization options
Plastic design doesn't feel premium
Mediocre call quality

Powered by Sony's all-new HD Noise Cancelling Processor, the QN1, and offering an advanced soundstage, tons of sound-customization options and a thinner design, the feature-rich WH-1000XM3 headphones are engineered to compete with and, in certain categories, outperform the best. The improvements in audio fidelity alone place these headphones on a par with, if not above, the QC35 II. They deliver a powerful low-end punch suited for their target demographic of bass lovers, and grant listeners a suite of sound-optimizing options accessible through the Connect app.

Read our full Sony WH-1000xM3 review.

Best earbuds under $20

Credit: Panasonic

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HKE120-K

Best earbuds under $20

Size and Weight: 0.4 x 0.4 x 0.4 inches, 0.14 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): None | Bluetooth Range: None | Digital Assistant Support: No

Unbeatable price
Premium audio performance
Great noise isolation
Large color selection
Bass can come on strong
No volume controls

The Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 buds produce sound quality typically found in much more expensive earphones. The buds reproduced thunderous bass, tight midranges and natural highs that made us feel bad for people who paid way more for their high-end buds.


Best design

Credit: Microsoft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Headphones

Best design

Size and Weight: 8 x 7.7 x 1.9 inches, 10.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours (NC On) | Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10.6 meters) Digital Assistant Support

Adjustable ANC levels
Versatile sound
Smart controls
Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously
Short battery life
Cortana app needed for most features

Combining adaptive ergonomics with durable build quality and a sleek platinum finish, Microsoft's first foray into the audio space is an attractive pair of cans. The Surface Headphones' soft-touch exterior feels great, plus the metal-and- plastic casing gives a nice shine that plays into the headphones' premium appearance. But there's substance behind those stunning good looks, including intuitive touch and dial controls, integrated Cortana, adjustable active noise cancellation and good audio quality to boot.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones review.


Best running earbuds

PowerBeats Pro

Best running earbuds

Size and Weight: 4.7 x 1.6 x 5.5 inches, 0.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours | Bluetooth Range: 50 feet (15.2 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Adjustable ANC levels
Versatile sound
Smart controls
Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously
Bulky charging case

Apple's not making a fitness version of its popular AirPods –– yet. But the PowerBeats with its sweat-resistant, wireless buds more than make up for the oversight. Thanks to Apple's new H1 chip, the seamless integration with your iProducts is even faster. Apple's toned down the Beats' bass-heavy sound signature in favor of a more balanced presentation that you can enjoy over the estimated 15 hours of battery life.

Read our full PowerBeats Pro review.

Best headphones under $30

Credit: Behringer

(Image credit: Behringer)

Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones

Best headphones under $30

Size and Weight: 8.1 x 6.9 x 3.7 inches, 10.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): None | Bluetooth Range: None | Digital Assistant Support: No

Adjustable ANC levels
Versatile sound
Smart controls
Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously
Cumbersome design
Distortion at high volumes

The Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones deftly produce light, airy vocals with sparkling strings, crisp percussion and booming lows, depending on the song. Despite the bulky design, the headphones are surprisingly light and come with a 1/4-mm jack in case you want to plug them into a stereo system, mixing console or guitar amp.

Best active noise cancelling earbuds

Sony WF-1000xM3

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds

Best active noise cancelling earbuds

Size and Weight: 5.6 x 4.7 x 2.5 inches, 0.3 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours (NC on), 8 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Stellar audio performance
Great noise cancellation
Tons of personalization via companion app
Excellent battery life across the board
Luxe, sharp-looking design
Touch controls could use some work
Poor call quality
Loose-fitting tips

The Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds successfully combines stellar sonics with impressive noise cancellation. A plethora of features and solid battery life also elevate its status among the elite. Deep, rich bass and tonal balance give the buds an edge over the competition. Better yet, listeners have the option to play with the built-in EQ and create their own sound profile or choose from nine different presets as well as adjust the ambient sound levels. And with an estimated 6 hours of battery life (ANC on), you'll have a lot of time to enjoy your music, movies or podcasts.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds review.


Best wireless headphones under $100

Credit: Anker

(Image credit: Anker)

Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro Headphones

Best wireless headphones under $100

Size and Weight: 23.6 x 1.3 x 0.5 inches, 0.6 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 10 hours | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Extremely affordable
Comfortable fit
Durable design
Great audio quality
No companion app
Lacks Bluetooth 5.0

Occasionally, we'll stumble upon a pair of budget-friendly headphones that defy our expectations. The Anker Soundcore Spirit are those buds, offering solid sound, noise isolation, and an estimated 10 hours of battery life at a seriously affordable price. Thanks to its IP68 rating, the Spirit Pro are water- and dust-proof. And while you'll get solid sound performance from the buds, the lack of EQ options won't win over audiophiles. However, the Spirit Pro hits every other mark to achieve top-notch performance.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro Headphones review.

Best Truly Wireless Earphones Under $60

Credit: JLab

(Image credit: JLab)

JLab JBuds Air Wireless Earphones

Best Truly Wireless Earphones Under $60

Size and Weight: 1.8 x 3 x 1.6 inches, .13 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 4 hours, 14 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Powerful bass
Water-resistant protection
Preset EQs
Auto Connect feature
Bulky design, Subpar battery life

If the second-gen AirPods are out of your price range, look into something more affordable that is just as reliable regarding connectivity and sound. The JBuds Air have an Auto Connect feature that instantly re-pairs the buds to an audio source just as fast as Apple's buds do with iOS devices. While there are three different EQ settings engineered to elevate sonics – Balanced, Bass Boost and Signature – the default sound profile can pump out powerful lows just as well as any premium truly wireless earbuds.

How We Test Headphones

To help 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.

Regarding 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 five-star system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product is truly exemplary, it's awarded an Editors' Choice.

And now that more streaming music services are offering high-resolution resolution audio, be sure to read our audio codec FAQ for everything you need to know about FLAC files, MP3s and everything in between.

What to Look For

  • When it comes to headphones, you have several different types of fit, including on-ear, over-ear and in-ear. Make sure to choose something that you'll feel comfortable wearing for long periods of time.
  • Check the headphones features. If you're looking for sports headphones, make sure they're sweat-resistant. Or if you have a loud commute, try to get something with good active or passive noise-cancelling technology.
  • Shopping for Bluetooth headphones? Make sure you get something with at least 12 hours of battery life so you're not charging your cans every few days. If you're looking at truly wireless earbuds, 5 hours should be the minimum.
  • Expensive doesn't always mean good. There are plenty of inexpensive headphones and earbuds that can give you solid audio quality with a fair number of features.

Credit: Tom’s Guide