The 9 Best Headphones of 2022

High-quality cans to get your groove on

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The best headphones need to have two things going for them. They need to sound great, and they need to be comfortable for those long listening sessions. Headphones can be a way to escape the world for a while and dive into a world of music or podcasts, or they can be a way for you to enjoy your media without intruding on others around you. Sometimes, they're both. Regardless, headphones are one of the most personal pieces of tech you can buy.

Even sound quality is a subjective term. Often what you like to listen to will help determine what kind of sound profile works best for you. If you're into podcasts, audiobooks, and the spoken word, deep bass response won't be important to you (and actually too much bass can be a hindrance). If you like music that thumps on the other hand, then you'll be all about that bass. Someone who is into classic music might like a more balanced approach. But you'll also want to look for some other things.

If you plan to work out, headphones that breathe will be important as well as sweat or water resistance. If you plan to use them in noisy environments, such as an office, and especially if you plan to travel a lot, active noise cancellation (ANC) will be important. Regardless of your preference, our experts have found a set of cans for you.  Read on for our picks.

Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

4.7
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review

Lifewire / Jordan Provost

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Sound Quality
    5/5
  • Battery Life
    3/5
  • Range
    4/5
What We Like
  • Comfortable

  • Excellent Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

  • Supports your phone's voice assistant

  • Excellent battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • App is not the greatest

If you've had anything more than a passing interest in headphones, you have heard of Bose who has long been known for its noise-cancellation technology. Our reviewer, Don, tested a set of headphones for weeks and found that "Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II headphones are jam-packed with technology that’s designed to block out ambient noise and offer the best audio quality possible. We think they definitely delivered on both."

Not only are these headphones comfortable for long listening sessions, but they sound great too. You may or may not see this as a bonus, but these headphones have physical button controls, which some prefer over a touch surface. Don particularly enjoyed the battery life, writing, "Bose promises 20 hours of battery life in the QuietComfort 35 II headphones, which we found to be spot on. The headphones lasted through an entire workday with no problem and had enough charge to keep going into the evening. Better yet, these headphones have a fast-charging feature that can add another 2.5 

The accompanying app is a little tricky to work with, but the headphones support Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri, depending on what you're pairing with. Plus these cans come with some of the best noise-canceling technology you'll find, so if you're a traveler or you work in a noisy office, these will suit you well.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

"A well-designed pair of noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones with excellent audio quality, a useful app, and the ability to interact with voice assistants. In addition to the extremely responsive digital assistant, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s best features are the impeccable sound quality and market-leading noise canceling technology." — Don Reisinger, Product Tester

Best Wireless: Sony WH1000XM3 Wireless Headphones

4.7
Sony WH1000XM3 Wireless Headphones

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Excellent sound

  • Great ANC

  • Comfortable

What We Don't Like
  • Clunky controls

  • Not water/sweat resistant

When it comes to these headphones, our reviewer Jason says it best. "The Sony WH-1000XM3 are quite possibly the perfect pair of Bluetooth headphones you can buy on the market right now." As it happens, we agree. It's difficult to think of a better set of wireless headphones on the market right now. Few headphones can combine great sound, excellent noise cancellation, and comfort. 

These are not Sony's latest headphones in this line. We reviewed the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, but we're not sold on Sony's proprietary tech. Sony went with its own compression technology in the XM4s rather than the aptX technology from Qualcomm. It's not a huge deal, but aptX is tried and true.

By moving down one generation of headphones, you're saving some money, and you're getting aptX compression. Both of those make this a better value than the Sony WH-1000XM4. If you want the latest and greatest headphones, you can check out our review above. For our money, we'll save a little.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

"Sony’s WH1000XM3 headphones have the best sound quality, excellent noise cancellation, and super-comfortable construction. Plus, the battery life allows for all day wear." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Noise Cancelling: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

5
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Functionality
    5/5
  • Sound Quality
    5/5
  • Noise Cancelation
    5/5
  • Comfort
    5/5
What We Like
  • Great sound quality

  • Very comfortable

  • ANC impresses

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Tricky controls

  • Battery life isn't great

We mentioned before how Bose is famous for its noise-cancelling technology, so the fact that Bose put "noise-cancelling" into the name of this product caught our attention. When our reviewer, Andy, put that to the test, sure enough, it checked out. Not only do they have amazing noise cancelling, but they avoid the pressure issue that ANC can cause. Andy, our reviewer writes, "Of note is how we didn’t experience as much of an illusion of pressure on our ears as we have with other noise-cancelling headphones. This is a potential side effect of ANC due to the way it actively cancels exterior noise, but in this case, it was markedly improved over other ANC headphones."

Even more than the ANC, these headphones bring great sound and comfort over the long haul. On the flip side, they're also quite expensive. Also, while Bose may be a leader in noise-cancelling technology, they're lagging behind in the app development department. Indeed, we noted the app as a weakness in both Bose entries on this list. Andy elaborates, "Our issue occurred because we connected the headphones via Bluetooth before we used the app, and the app refused to acknowledge the already paired headphones. We had to unpair the headphones, restart the app, and pair through the app in order for the app to recognize the headphones. Once we did this the rest of the process went smoothly." 

So if you're looking for a complete experience, you might want to try a different set of headphones. But if your primary concern is noise-cancelling, these are your first and best pick.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

"Very nearly the perfect wireless headphones from the look to the sound. Bose designed the 700s with the intent to create an unmatched listening experience."Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best for Phone Calls: Jabra Elite 85h Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones

4.6
Jabra Elite 85h Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Functionality
    5/5
  • Sound Quality
    4/5
  • Noise Cancelation
    4.5/5
  • Comfort
    5/5
What We Like
  • Great battery life

  • Awesome ANC

What We Don't Like
  • Tight on larger heads

  • Cleaning is hard

Jabra originally made phone headsets, and later transitioned into consumer audio. But it still retains those roots and brings that expertise to its consumer headphones. Jabra has also developed its own excellent 3D audio tech. Andy, our reviewer writes, "The 85H has a truly impressive soundstage and produces a remarkably 3D stereo effect."

The headband isn't terribly flexible on this set of headphones, so larger heads might find the fit a little tight. Speaking of the headband, the outside of the headband has a fabric covering that looks sharp, but it is also very hard to keep clean.

You get really solid battery life at 36 hours on a single charge, which is consistent with our testing. After testing the headphones for a week, Andy only needed to charge them once. Plus, when charging, you'll go from empty to full in 150 minutes, so they charge fast and discharge slowly. Overall, if your primary use case is phone calls, but you also want to listen to some tunes, these are a great pick.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Wireless, Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

"Great sound, effective noise cancelling, and attractive modern design. Furthermore, the Elite 85h are durable, so the headphones will last you for a while." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Bass: Sony WH-XB900N

4.3
Sony WH-XB900N

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Comfort
    4/5
  • Sound Quality
    4/5
  • Battery Life
    5/5
  • Range
    5/5
What We Like
  • High quality audio

  • Nice companion app

What We Don't Like
  • Build quality

  • ANC is not awesome

If you're one of the many music fans out there who love music with all that bass, Sony's got a great offering for you. The WH-XB900N continues both of Sony's long traditions of excellent sound and alphabet soup names. These headphones in particular emphasize that deep bass which can be good or not so good depending on your music tastes. Our reviewer Andy explains, "The problem with the overly potent bass was apparent in Bear Ghost’s “Necromancin’ Dancin’” where the vocals and brighter instrumentals got pushed into the background. In Slade’s “Run Runaway,” the extra bass pumped up the beat and made the song feel all the more impactful, and this tune really demonstrated the capabilities of these headphones when paired with the right song."

It's fair to say that the build quality is not amazing. They're made from cheap-feeling plastic, though that doesn't seem to detract from the sound. Long-term comfort is not a concern though the noise cancellation is not the best. It can filter out background noise in an office, and it allows you to lower the volume of what you're listening to which is great for hearing preservation. That, plus the low price point makes this a great buy if you like a bassy sound profile.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

"For a low price point without excessively compromising in terms of sound quality and feature set, the WH-XB900N is a real bargain." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Wired: Sennheiser HD 599 Headphones

Sennheiser HD 599 Headphones

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Great design

  • Impressive sound

  • 3.5 and 6.3mm jacks

  • Comfortable

What We Don't Like
  • Missing Bluetooth

Despite recent advances in Bluetooth codecs, if you want the best sound you can get, you need to go through a wire. The Sennheiser HD 599 headphones are a great set of headphones with the kind of awesome sound that only a wired connection can give you. The whole focus on these headphones is great sound. Sennheiser left out features like noise cancellation and isolation because those features can alter the sound. These are open-back headphones that allow in outside sound, but also give you the purest sound preferred by audiophiles.

You can plug the headphones in using a 3.5mm headphone jack or with a 6.3mm (¾ inch jack). That means they can be plugged into anything from an mp3 player to an amplifier. The lack of Bluetooth means you won't be able to connect to most modern flagship smartphones. Considering most music listening comes from smartphones these days, that's an important point.

But we really love the satin finish of the ear cups. These are frankly a delight to wear for a long time. Just remember that these are not "general use" headphones, and they require the right equipment to use properly. But if that works for you, you'lll get some of the best sounding cans in the business.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Wired 6.3mm/3.5mm | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

Best for editing: Audio-Technica Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

4
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Comfort
    4/5
  • Sound Quality
    4/5
  • Battery Life
    1/5
  • Range
    1/5
What We Like
  • Very flat, very balanced sound

  • Great build

What We Don't Like
  • Ear cups can get backwards

For those of you who need as flat a sound as possible, such as sound editors, mixers, or designers, the Audio Technica M50x headphones are an awesome choice. The headphones don't overemphasize any aspect of sound and they come at an affordable price. That makes them popular among the home studio crowd. You can hear everything the way the artist intended it, which is valuable when seeking accurate sound. They have a nice solid build that will stand up to most punishment a set of headphones might see in a studio environment.

The earcups are modular which makes them easy to repair, but the way they mount to the headband makes them susceptible to end up backward when you put the headphone on. The cable that plugs into the headphones is a twist lock, meaning it won't get pulled out accidentally. The foam on the ear cups is soft and breathable, so long editing sessions won't cause you to sweat unnecessarily. 

Bottom line, if you need a nice flat balanced sound, especially for editing music or podcasts, these are some of the best you can buy.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

“The ATH-M50x are industry-favorite studio headphones that work well for music producers, but also double as solid consumer, audiophile options. In addition to the audio quality, the headphones are extremely comfortable.” Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Budget: Anker Soundcore Life Q30

4
Anker Soundcore Life Q30

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Comfort
    4/5
  • Sound Quality
    3/5
  • Battery Life
    5/5
  • Range
    4/5
What We Like
  • EQ options

  • Excellent battery life

  • Inexpensive

  • Active noise cancellation

What We Don't Like
  • Bassy

  • Not a lot of extras

Just because you're a music lover doesn't mean you're not on a budget. The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 headphones bring good sound, excellent EQ options, and active noise cancellation at a good price. They have 40mm dynamic drivers that produce a bright, though bass-heavy sound experience. The accompanying app lets you adjust the equalizer, but on the first power-up, you're going to get some bass. All that comes in at less than $100.

The standout feature here has to be the battery life though. Jason tested these cans for us and he got over 40 hours on a single charge with ANC set to high. Anker promises almost 60 hours with no ANC. Plus with just a five-minute charge, you'll get an additional four hours of listening. Put simply, that's nuts. When you factor in the price point, these headphones stand up and demand to be recognized. The bottom line is, these are solid headphones at a great price that are impossible to ignore.

Anker Soundcore Life Q30

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

"The Life Q30s offer a whopping 40 hours of listening time on a single charge, and that’s even inclusive of using active noise cancellation. If you leave ANC off, Anker Soundcore promises you’ll get closer to 60 hours of listening. While you’re listening, you’ll enjoy the cancellation technologies’ ability to filter out almost anything"Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Design: Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless

Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless

Amazon

What We Like
  • Premium build materials

  • Wired or wireless

What We Don't Like
  • Very heavy

Design is often overlooked when it comes to headphones. Fortunately, Master and Dynamic didn't overlook it. The MH 40 headphones are one of our favorites when it comes to design. They come in a number of styles and colors, but our favorite has to be gunmetal with black leather. It's very slick looking. Inside you have 45mm Neodymium drivers that project high-quality sound at most frequencies.  They get a little muddy in the midrange, but highs and lows are perfect. 

The headphone cable comes with a 3.5mm and 6.3mm jack so it can connect to most sound systems. Plus the headphones have no plastic anywhere in the build which makes them stylish, but also heavy, especially when listening for a long time.  They weigh in at 12.7 ounces which is very high for the industry. As long as you're not settling in for a long session you should be fine, and you'll love the build.

Type: Over-ear | Connection Type: Wired 3.5mm | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

Final Verdict

Overall, we give our top pick to the Bose Quietcomfort 35 headphones. Their mix of sound quality and noise cancellation is hard to beat.  They have a nice clean design, they're comfortable, and they last a long time. If you want to up the sound quality a bit and downgrade the ANC a bit, Sony swings the other way. The Sony WH1000XM3 headphones are a generation old, but they come with reliable sound quality, ANC, and Qualcomm's AptX codec for low latency video streaming. If you don't plan to use these for watching videos, and latency doesn't matter to you that much, then Sony's current generation WH1000XM4 headphones might be a good alternate pick for you.

How We Tested

Our expert testers and reviewers evaluate over-ear headphones the same way we evaluate most headphones, with a large focus on sound quality and comfort. We start by looking at the build material, fit, and comfort of the headphones, and try to judge their durability, waterproofing, and if they'd be comfortable to wear for hours at a time. In the case of Bluetooth headphones we also consider ease of pairing, range, and battery life as important factors.

The most important element we consider is sound quality. We look at frequency response, bass, and the overall audio profile by playing audiobooks, music, streaming shows, and playing games. If they support noise cancellation, we enable the feature and see how much noise they block out in loud environments. Finally, we compare each headphone and its price to a similar competitor to help make a final judgement. All of the over-ear headphones we review are purchased by Lifewire; none are provided by the manufacturer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Nicky LaMarco has been writing and editing for more than 15 years for consumer, trade, and technology publications about many topics including: antivirus, web hosting, backup software, and other technologies. 

Don Reisinger is a tech journalist who's been covering the industry for top publications for more than 12 years. He specializes in consumer technology, including headphones and other wearables.

Jason Schneider has been covering tech and media for almost ten years, and is an expert in audio equipment and headphones. He's also written marketing copy for a number of industries, including e-commerce and consumer electronics.

Andy Zahn is a writer specializing in tech. He's reviewed cameras, weather stations, noise-cancelling headphones, and more for Lifewire.

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

What to Look for in Over-Ear Headphones

Wireless or wired

Deciding between wireless and wired headphones will largely depending on your equipment. If you're buying headphones for your computer or stereo system, wired is probably ok. If you're buying headphones for your phone to be on the go, then Bluetooth is usually going to be a better choice (since most phones don't have headphone jacks anymore anyway). There are a few things to keep in mind though. Wired headphones tend to have less interference and don't need to be charged. Wireless headphones give you the freedom of not worrying about wires.

Noise-cancelling

Noise cancelling is the ability of headphones to drown out, or "cancel" droning noises around you like traffic, fans, or office environments. They allow you to ignore the noise around you and focus on your tasks. You will want to know the type of technology used, whether feedforward, feedback, or hybrid because that will give you an idea as to what kinds of noises can be filtered.

Materials

The quality of the materials used to make your headphones will not only affect their long-term durability but also their sound. Typically plastic headphones are cheaper and won't last as long. Also, the plastic can cause a hollow sound to the audio itself. Premium materials like metal and wood have less reverberation and sound more accurate to what's actually coming out of the drive.

FAQ
  • How long should headphones last?

    When properly cared for, a pair of headphones can last anywhere from three years to ten or more. If the manufacturer offers a longer warranty on their product, this is a good sign that they’ve built the model to last. The most vulnerable part of a set of headphones is the battery. This isn't a consideration for wired headphones, but for cans that are Bluetooth only, battery cycles will start to matter. Wired headphones can last for years and years. Wireless headphones will not last as long without compromises.

  • What is a soundstage?

    Soundstage is how you describe the sound coming from headphones. Specifically, it relates to spatial audio. Headphones will typically give you left and right sound, but when a set of headphones give you a premium soundstage, you'll get noise from all around you - left, right, front, behind, and more. Spatial audio and soundstage are particularly important to gamers, who not only need to hear that someone is creeping up but creeping up from behind on their left.

  • I'm a podcaster. What headphones should I use?

    When you're using headphones for production, your needs will be different than for consumption. Typically for production, you will want as flat a sound as possible. That means you have a set of headphones that doesn't emphasize any particular part of the spectrum. You want to know just how bassy your music or voice is. Let your listeners or viewers decide how bassy they like their audio. You just provide the purest sound you can.

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