Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II keeps the excellent active noise-cancelling technology and crystal-clear audio quality and adds a dedicated Google Assistant button.
Jabra Elite Active 65T
Jabra's sweat-resistant Elite Active 65t is a practically perfect, completely cord-free headset.
One of the best gets better, as the Sony WH-1000XM3 packs killer sound and noise cancellation into a slender design.
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?
Editor's Note: (Updated 7/15/19 @ 7:22pm ET): Prime Day is here and the deals are on! Now's your chance to pick up a pair of Microsoft's Surface Headphones for only $189. You can also pick up a pair of the latest Apple AirPods complete with charging case for $179.99, a $20 discount. The top-rated Jabra Elite Active 65t truly wireless buds are also on sale for $169.93, down from $189.99. Looking for more anything other headphones, stay tuned to our Amazon Prime Day deals page.
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 QuietComfort 35 IIs. 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 fitness, wireless 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. Stay tuned for our upcoming review of the new Bose Headphones 700 and the UA True Wireless Flash Project Rock Edition, the new wireless buds from Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Under Armour. We're also excited about Sony's new XB900Ns Extra Bass Noise Cancelling headphones which offer a powerful low-end coupled with Sony excellent ANC technology.
Best active noise-cancelling headphones
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'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.
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
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.
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
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
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 noise cancelling earbuds
Blocking out the noise of the world has never been easier than with the Bose QuietComfort 20i. These buds have extreme noise-cancelling powers, locking in your sound and keeping out disruptions. Just in case you need to let something in, the inline remote will let you control how much ambient sound you can hear. As the name suggests, these buds are comfortable to wear during a long flight and even while sleeping, and you'll get up to 16 hours of noise-cancelling goodness out of them. At $249, the Bose QuietComfort 20i are worth every penny for those who need a pair of in-ears to zone out with.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 20I review.
Best wireless headphones under $100
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
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