Headphones — the original wearable tech — have grown up. They've also become specialized; there's a pair for every use. 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, check out Apple's 2nd Gen AirPods or the Samsung Galaxy Buds, both of which offerwireless charging and near instantaneous pairing.
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 Enacfire E18 Wireless Earbuds. The following page lists our best picks and few helpful tips for choosing the best 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. 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.
News and Updates (April 2019)
- Apple just announced the Powerbeats Pro, the company's first truly wireless fitness buds. Slated to launch in May for $249.95, the sweat-resistant buds are slated to offer nine hours of battery life.
- Our review of Apple's AirPods 2 is live! See if the highly-anticipated buds live up to the hype.
- We just put Samsung's new Galaxy Buds up against our favorite truly wireless buds, the Jabra Elite Active 65t, find out which pair came out on top here.
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.
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