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.    

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.

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.

About the author

Written by
Portrait studio shot Lee Dunkley
Written by
Lee Dunkley

Hi, I'm Lee and I cover all things audio for Tom's Guide, including maintaining our buying guides on the best headphones, best wireless earbuds, best audiophile headphones, and best noise-canceling headphones. One of my earliest Hi-Fi memories was listening to a pair of headphones, and I loved the personal sound experience it introduced me to. That was more than 30 years ago now, and today most of us listen to music this way. I spend several hours a day listening on headphones, and regularly carry a pair of over-ear headphones and several wireless earbuds in my work and travel bags so that I've always got great sound wherever I go. I am passionate about sound quality, and have spent hundred of hours listening to the best headphones in the world to help you find the best-sounding models whatever your style or budget.

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).

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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.

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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★★★★☆

The best ANC headphones overall

The best active noise-canceling headphones, period

Specifications

Weight: 8.96 ounces
Battery life (rated): 24 hours (18 hours with Immersive Audio)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Modernized design
+
Effective Immersive Audio experience
+
Intuitive controls
+
Best-ever ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
High cost compared to most rivals
-
Middling battery life for a flagship design
Buy them if

✅ You want the very best noise canceling: The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones have unrivaled ANC performance with adjustable ANC that work equally well to neutralize noise across different frequencies.

✅ You want to experience 3D audio: Bose's Immersive Audio gives a universal spatialized audio experience whatever music source or streaming platform you use. While not always entirely natural, it mostly sounds spectacular as your favorite music wraps around your head.

✅ You want a practical design for travel: The collapsible earcups allows the earcups to fold in towards the headband for practical stowage. They come with a rigid carry case, too.   

Don't buy them if

❌ You want top-end call quality: Unfortunately, call quality didn't live up to the standards set by the Bose 700 predecessor. While they eliminated background noise on video and voice calls, some high-frequency sounds and wind did enter conversations.

❌ You need better than 24-hours battery life: At just 24-hours of battery life, and an estimated 18 hours with Immersive Audio, the Bose QC Ultra Headphones are lagging behind the latest generations of ANC models like the Sony WH-1000XM5s.

❌ You listen for longer periods: During our testing, the earpads had a tendency to get a bit hot sticky when placed on the head for longer periods. You may wish to consider a design that uses a breathable material on the earpads.

The bottom line

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are the noise canceling champion. Sound quality is strong and Bose's Immersive Audio brings a 3D experience to most music. While audio features and functionality have been improved over their predecessor, this all-new model costs significantly more than many ANC rivals out there.

What you need to know
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are the best noise-canceling headphones on ANC performance. They introduce a new design over the Bose 700 predecessor, but look a lot closer to the QC45 and new QuietComfort Headphones. They have a nicely balanced sound with Immersive Audio for a 3D-like experience with all kinds of media, and 24 hours of battery life.

Design: The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are a collapsible design available in black, smoke or sandstone. Sturdy aluminum makes up most of the headphones’ composition and premium leather wraps around the headband and earcups. Weight is evenly distributed and results in a very comfortable fit. 

Performance: As Bose's best-ever noise canceling headphone sound quality hasn't been overlooked. The QC Ultra have CustomTune technology to fine-tune audio based on the unique properties of your ear. On top of that, they support aptX Adaptive for Bluetooth playback. Bose's signature sound balance has a richness and warmth to it that's very pleasant, and there are plenty of adjustable sound options to tune them to personal tastes.

Battery life: Playback runs to 24 hours with ANC, which isn't as great as the latest models but should be enough for a week or so of playback between top-ups. Immersive Audio sees battery life drop to an estimated 18 hours. Charging is via USB-C and delivers an estimated 3.5 hours of charge in 15 minutes.  

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Ratings scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
PriceWorthwhile for the best noise cancelling★★★★★
DesignNeat styling and controls★★★★☆
PerformanceMost flexible ANC out there★★★★★
Battery lifeLags behind latest rivals★★★★☆

The best luxury headphones

A great balance of luxury design and high-end sound

Specifications

Weight: 11.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 30 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated build and styling
+
Next-level sound quality
+
aptX Adaptive codec support

Reasons to avoid

-
High price limits appeal
-
No aptX Lossless audio 
-
No touch-controls 
Buy them if

✅ You want specialist know-how: The Px8 are Bowers & Wilkins' most advanced noise-canceling headphones to date, and are a confident addition to the luxury headphone market and use high quality material for the best sound.

✅ You want versatile connectivity: Wireless audio is via Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive codec support when connected to compatible playback devices, and cables are supplied for wired headphone jack connections too.

✅ You enjoy hi-fi sound: A new driver material means bass is fast and agile, but it's the mid frequencies where these flagship headphones excel, delivering an abundance of natural detail and midrange clarity to make every voice syllable sound convincingly realistic.

Don't buy them if

❌ You want adjustable ANC: Noise-canceling runs to 'on'/'off'/'pass through' modes, but that's as far as it goes.

❌ You want touch controls on the earcups: The Px8 use a selection of physical control buttons to navigate playback and pairing instead of touch controls.

❌ You want EQ customization: There's no multi-band EQ adjustment for personal customization, but there are bass and treble controls available.

The bottom line

The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones balance design with audiophile credentials to impressive effect. ANC performance is satisfactory although not the market leader, but in terms of sound quality these are some of the most agile and engaging wireless headphones we’ve heard. 

What you need to know
With bespoke 40mm Carbon Cone drive units for an even more detailed sound across all parts of the frequency range, and sumptuous materials to further aid comfort, the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 flagship go up against the top noise-canceling headphones from the likes of Sennheiser and Sony.

Design: The frame looks similar to the company's Px7 S2 headphones, but earcups, memory-foam cushions and headband are all trimmed in Nappa leather to assert the Px8 as a premium product. The overall weight of the Px8 is a few ounces more than the Px7 S2, but it's evenly distributed and lighter than some wireless rivals. 

Performance: Bass sounds natural and rich without feeling overly emphasized. They have an agile performance and it's easy to follow individual elements within the music and pick out different strands of the mix with ease. Mid frequencies deliver an abundance of natural detail and midrange clarity to make every syllable sound convincingly realistic.

Battery life: The Px8 runs to 30 hours of battery life and matches the Px7 S2, as well as its closest rival the Sony WH-1000XM5, but has some way to go to beat the 60-hour playback with ANC capabilities of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless. A 15-minute quick recharge is sufficient for up to 7 hours listening time.

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Ratings scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
PriceExpensive compared to rivals★★★★☆
DesignLuxury build and finish★★★★★
PerformanceAgile and insightful sound★★★★★
Battery lifeGood but not the best★★★★☆