Product Use case Rating
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Best Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones 9
HC-RET InEar Earbuds Best Earbuds Under $20 9
Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones Best Headphones Under $30 8
Jabra Move Wireless Best Headphones Under $100 7
Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Best Wireless Headphones 8
Sennheiser CX 686G Sports Best Running Earbuds 8
Bose QuietComfort 20i Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds 8
SoundPeats Q16 True Wireless Earbuds Best Truly Wireless Earphones Under $60 8
Onexelot Icarus Best Truly Wireless Earphones Under $60 9

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 has ushered in a new era of headphone jack-less smartphones thanks to its latest smartphones that are causing wireless and Lightning-based headphones — including the company's own AirPods —  to thrive.

And while some headphones might be on the pricier end of the spectrum like our top-rated Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs, you can find get surprisingly good audio out of a pair of earbuds that cost less than $20 as we discovered with our top value pick, the HC-RET InEar Earbuds. So, with so many options, which is right for you? The following page lists our best picks and few helpful tips for choosing the right headphones/earbuds for you.

What Headphones Cost

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-$250 while high-end models can cost upwards of $1,000.

What to Look For

  • When it comes to headphones, you have several different types of fit including on-ear, over-ear, 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. 
  • 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.

News and Updates (December 2017)

  • We've reviewed the Pixel Buds, which feature near-instantaneous pairing with a Pixel phone and instant access to Google Assistant. The Pixel Buds can also do real-time translations in up to 40 languages. However, the sound quality isn't great, and the design and charging case are both awkward.
  • Bragi is the latest headphone maker to jump on the A.I. bandwagon. The company claims the its new Dash Pro earphones can translate over 40 languages in real time. The buds will also track your heart rate and steps, store up 1,000 songs and last five hours of battery life.
  • We're currently reviewing the Bowers & Wilkens PX headphones, which offer stylish good looks and active noise cancelling technology to rival Bose.

How We Test Headphones

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?
  • 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.
  • LizzyHarris
    Great, thanks! :)
  • 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 I know music is subjective but the equipment listed here is mostly crap.
  • neuronet
    Eric I agree this seems to have none of the usual standards they would use to evaluate, say, a motherboard.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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!
  • hydrangea
    The Sentey earbuds are no longer available. Do you have a new suggestion?
  • 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.
  • SkyBill40
    Given your relatively sample size and the exclusion of brands seen as audiophile grade or higher than average, I find difficulty in accepting the results here. That's not to say that what is shown here are poor choices or anything, but the testing could have and should have been a lot more robust given the"best" tag thrown into it.
  • coolmantinator
    I have used the earphones for around 6 months now. Boult Audio Curve is an amazing choice to be considered if you are planning to buy wireless earphones. With A great battery life as well. Good for calling purposes too...