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. Heck, there are even bone-conduction headphones, that sit behind your ear instead of over or in them.

Just to shake things up even further, Apple's iPhone 7 has ushered 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?

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.

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.

Related Buying Guides:
Best Cheap Headphones
Best Cheap Earbuds
Best Lightning Headphones
Best Gaming Headsets


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  • Sammy_2
    What about Jaybird X2?
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  • Eric_31
    So essentially this article can be summed up with "all the headphones listed have great noise cancelling and great sound." I would have appreciated at least a bit of effort in comparison. The only point of comparison is the price and the seemingly arbitrary and unexplained rating. This article was absolutely no help at all.
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  • LizzyHarris
    Great, thanks! :)
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  • Peter_133
    How bout Audio Technical MTH 50X or Sennheiser 598SE or Jaybird X1 or X2 or Grado SR 60E and maybe NoiseHush nx80 for $12.00 on Amazon.com. I know music is subjective but the equipment listed here is mostly crap.
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  • neuronet
    Eric I agree this seems to have none of the usual standards they would use to evaluate, say, a motherboard.
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  • neuronet
    Peter also great points they mostly included mainstream brands that the audiophiles would agree are not very high quality. For instance, Sennheiser is sort of a "go to" brand for people that really want great sound. They really need to do a much more thorough product test. This is sort of like doing an evaluation of laptops and only including Dell and Lenovo.
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  • Royharper
    Great article, I'm surprised to not see the JBL Everest Elite 700 on here. I saw a review on Audio46 where they compared it to The QC 35 and said the Everest was better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn18BkBnZ5U When I a&b tested the two I felt the same way that they did, and was actually underwhelmed by the sound quality on the QC35. While it has great noise cancelling It didn't sound as good as I would expect.
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  • Geoff_11
    looks to me like maybe this review was done on paper without actually testing all the products? Otherwise, you'd know that that the SMS biosport is no longer supported by any apps (i.e. the HR monitor is useless because you can't get anything to read it). This has been the case for about 6 months!
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  • hydrangea
    The Sentey earbuds are no longer available. Do you have a new suggestion?
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  • jumavictor49
    great article, but terming this list as the 'best headphones' I would disagree. Can you please update the list and also feature planar magnetic headphones, they are one of the best technology headphones in the market.
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  • dipankar.kuet13
    All these earbuds look cool, but I prefer my Bit Charge Stereo from Rowkin. Super small and portable..
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