The 15 Best Headphones for Music Lovers to Buy in 2018

Shop for the best headphones (noise-canceling, Wi-Fi, sound quality and more)

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)

4.9

When you combine best-in-class active-noise canceling and an extremely comfortable, fold-up headphone design, the result is the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II). While the latest over-the-ear headphone in the QuietComfort line offers plenty to rave about, perhaps the most notable is that it’s the first in the series to be wireless. Weighing 8.32 ounces, the QuietComfort 35 (Series II) looks much like the QuietComfort 25. However, the QC35 does offer an additional piece of technology to the overall appearance with the Bluetooth toggle on the power switch. The headband offers 12 separate steps to provide maximum comfort, as well as allowing the earcups to rotate up to 90 degrees one way and five degrees in the other.

The oval-shaped design of the earcups attempt to fit over the whole ear to provide a heightened level of comfort over fully round earcups. Beyond the design, the Bluetooth wireless capability allows the QC35 to add multipoint pairing or connecting to two devices simultaneously via NFC. An LED battery indicator lets you know how much juice you have left (its said to last up to 20 hours on a single charge). If the battery runs out, the headphones work just fine when wired with the included cable.

Check out our other reviews of the best Bose headphones available on the market today.

Best Bluetooth for iPhone: B&O PLAY Beoplay H4

4.6

When it comes down to it, music lovers’ main concern is really sound quality and these Bang & Olufsen headphones don’t disappoint. They house 40mm electro-dynamic drivers that produce a deeply rich and balanced sound with high clarity and crisp mids, and we’re happy to report that the sound quality holds up even when used wirelessly over Bluetooth. The battery life impresses too, promising an impressive 19 hours of playtime per charge.

Aside from sound quality, anyone who knows Bang & Olufsen knows the company is renowned for its design details. Sleek yet sturdy, the Beoplay H4 is made of metal with lambskin leather on the headband and features memory foam earpads that one Amazon reviewer says “feel like clouds.” While they don’t have active noise cancellation, you’ll find the design minimizes sound rather well regardless.

Take a peek at some of the other best Bang & Olufsen headphones you can buy.

Best Budget Wired: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Professional Monitor Headphones

4.4

For a reasonable price, this pair of Audio-Technica wired headphones deliver terrific sound with booming bass and excellent midranges, thanks to 40mm drivers. Its advanced build quality has an understated design but prioritizes comfort with cushioned ear cups, which as a result has attracted a loyal fanbase of listeners. Reviewers lament that they don’t offer a noise cancellation feature – and given their low price point it’d be a shocker if they did – but the fit is so snug that they block out surrounding sounds well enough. Another thing to note is that this pair has a straight cable, whereas the previous model (ATH-M20) has a coiled cable.

See more reviews of our favorite Audio Technica headphones available for purchase.

Best Budget Wireless: Skullcandy Uproar Wireless

Skullcandy Uproar Wireless
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.7

Stylish wireless Bluetooth headphones for less than $40? Yes, please! Skullcandy Uproar Wireless headphones are skillfully crafted to be light and offer up to 10 hours of continuous usage without a charge. The audio controls are thoughtfully put together, and they have a built-in microphone, built-in Bluetooth, synthetic leather, a year’s warranty and a carrying case. Sound quality is much better than you’d expect considering the price point; Uproars use neodymium magnets to offer unparalleled sound for the money.

On the downside, Uproar headphones are Bluetooth only so there’s no aux cable input support, and the build quality is relatively cheap. However, if you’re looking for low cost wireless headphones to keep your kids plugged in on a long car journey, you can’t do better than Skullcandy Uproar Wireless.

Take a peek at some of the other best Skullcandy headphones you can buy.

Best for Fitness: Jaybird X3 Sport Bluetooth Headset

Jaybird X3 Sport Bluetooth Headset
Courtesy of Amazon.com
3.4

There’s no denying the benefits of breaking a sweat to music: Studies show that listening to music while you work out increases your endurance by up to 15 percent. But no matter if you run to Rage Against the Machine or lift to Ludacris, you’ll want a pair that fit comfortably, can withstand sweat and hold a charge – not to mention, sound good. The Jaybird X3s deliver on all fronts. They ship with three different size eartips, in both silicone and Comply foam, that have a hydrophobic nano-coating to resist moisture, whether it’s from sweat or rain. The neckband-style earphones also include optional ear fins that sit securely on your ear, even under a helmet.

But comfortable earphones do you little good if the sound quality slacks. The X3’s 6mm driver yields a balanced bass and well-defined highs that can also be adjusted using the MySound app. Those settings will even follow you when you connect to other devices. Though they are small, they pack up to eight hours of playtime (though that’ll depend on your volume levels) and charge an hour’s worth of power in just 15 minutes.

Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best fitness headphones available online. 

Runner-Up, Best for Fitness: Bose SoundSport Free Wireless Headphones

Bose® SoundSport® Free wireless headphones
Courtesy of Target.com

“Wireless” headphones have been around for a while now, but finally, we are starting to see pairs emerge that live up to their name in being truly wireless. The Bose SoundSport Free wireless headphones are Bose’s first crack at a totally cord-free pair, and needless to say, we are impressed.

Perhaps most importantly, they have an exceptional Bluetooth connection that rarely drops, offering depth and clarity that’s rare to find in a wireless set. On the downside, the noise-cancelation is lacking due to the fact that they don’t create a seal in your ear canal to block out surrounding sounds, though that can be a good thing in situations when you need to be more aware, like while running outside. Instead, the SoundSport Free comfortably rest on the outer part of your ear canal (just like Apple’s AirPods).

Bose claims about five hours of play time on a single charge, which should be plenty to power you through a workout, and its carrying case provides two additional charges. They’re pricey, even when compared to AirPods, but if it’s freedom, flexibility and subtly you crave, the Bose SoundSport Free won’t disappoint.

Check out our guide to the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today. 

Best Bluetooth: Sony WH1000XM3

If you want the convenience of a wireless connection but still want to make sure you’re still getting the best music experience possible, then it’s important to pay attention to Bluetooth codecs. For great sound, you should make sure your music files are in a high-quality format, and that both your headphones and playback device support the AptX HD or LDAC Bluetooth codecs.

This is where the Sony WH1000XM3 headphones come in. The industry-leading headphones support a wide range of Bluetooth Codecs, including both AptX HD and LDAC for supreme sound quality — and that’s just the beginning of what makes these a dazzling pair of wireless headphones.

The Sony WH1000XM3's also feature best-in-class active noise canceling with a dedicated processor to go on top of the snug fit, which helps keep out noise. You also get the option of a wired connection which expands the frequency response range (4Hz-40kHz wired vs. 20Hz-40kHz LDAC wireless). The WH1000XM3 headphones also have a number of quality-of-life features, like a quick-charging battery (10 minutes gets you five hours of playtime, while a full charge gets you 30), touch sensor controls, and a built-in mic for use with voice assistants and hands-free calling.

Best Wired: Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm Studio Headphone

If you’re looking for a simple pair of headphones that are focused on delivering a rich audio experience for all your listening, then Beyerdynamic’s DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm headphones are a good pick. The German-made model has a simple, closed-back, circumaural (over-ear) design, and can plug into 3.5mm or ¼-inch jacks with an included adapter.

The DT 770 Pro Ohm headphones come in a few different versions with resistances of 32-, 80-, and 250 Ohms. For use on the go and with mobile phones, you’ll likely want the 32- or 80 Ohm version. For recording or high-end listening with an amp, one of the higher-impedance models may be better.

All of the models have a wide frequency response range from 5Hz up to 35kHz, and you’ll get clear audio along that range without too much bass or overly bitey treble. While you relish the sound of your music, you’ll also be able to enjoy the comfort of these headphones as they’re light and come standard with soft velour ear pads; plus, they’re durable as they're fashioned with a strong steel headband.

Best for High-End Sound Quality: Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature

Bowers & Wilkins has been making premium audio products for decades, and the B&W P9 Signature headphones are the company’s latest and greatest wired headset. These certainly aren't the most wallet-friendly headphones out there, but the highest quality audio doesn’t come cheap. And still, for a serious audiophile, the P9 Signature headphones don’t hit an astronomical price.

The P9 Signature headphones are designed to look and sound luxurious. They have a wide frequency response range from just 2Hz up to 30kHz and have an impedance of 22 Ohms, so you can use them with your phones and other mobile devices. The design's combination of durable yet light aluminum, memory foam ear cushions, and gorgeous Italian Saffiano leather doesn’t hurt their appeal either.

These over-ear headphones can have their earpads swapped out, and also allow interchangeable cables. With the ear pads removed, you’ll also see the 40mm angled drivers behind the high-end audio experience. Bowers & Wilkins also throws in an Alcantara carrying case to go with the P9 Signature headphones, since they’re foldable and can go where you go.

Runner-Up, Best for High-End Sound Quality: Sennheiser HD 650

Sennheiser offers a more affordable high-end audio option with their HD 650 headphones. Just bear in mind that these have an impedance of 300 Ohms, so you won’t be using them with any old smartphone or laptop headphone jack. You’ll need an amp to get much sound out of these, but once you're hooked up, you’ll get incredible audio.

The Sennheiser HD 650 headphones have an over-ear, open-back design. You’ll feel immersed in your music, and all of it will come through crisp thanks to a 10Hz-39,500Hz frequency response range and reference-class design. You’ll want to make sure you have a quiet listening area though, as the open-back will let external noise in and let your audio out.

At just over half a pound, the HD 650 headphones are light on the head and have a soft headband and cushy, breathable ear pads. Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for the headphones. However, because of their dependence on a quality amp for audio playback, your experience will depend on what you pair these with.

Best Design: Microsoft Surface Headphones

Microsoft's Surface line has always been geared towards designers. And the sleek, gray look of the new Surface headphones is about as modern and minimal as you can get. These are noise-canceling headphones, made from soft-touch lightweight plastic and a memory-foam-style pad. They weigh in at just over half a pound so they're suitable for long listening sessions.

Microsoft has also including some unique design features here. You may remember the Surface Dial from 2016, a puck-shaped accessory that operated as an unconventional rotating tool beside the Surface Studio. This unique accessory seems to have informed the design of the headphones — you can actually turn the outer part of the ear cup like a dial to adjust the level of noise canceling. This feature is probably the most unique part of the Surface headphones and makes them especially versatile. If you're working in a noisy office, you can block out surrounding conversations and just listen to your music. If you're walking down the street and need a little more situational awareness, let in some ambient sound. The 40mm Free Edge driver puts out decent sound quality (though most reviews point to it being "passable" rather than exceptional), delivering sound pressure levels up to 115 dB and covering a frequency spectrum of 20–20,000 Hz. They might not impress hardcore audiophiles, but they're perfectly suitable as a pair of stylish everyday headphones for more casual listening.

The Microsoft Surface headphones connect via Bluetooth or aux cable. They come with a sturdy carrying case and work seamlessly with Siri, Google Assistant, and of course Microsoft’s Cortana. 

Best Budget Open-Back: Samson SR850

If you're in the market for a pair of headphones that offer quality sound, design, and a wallet-friendly price tag, look to the Samson SR850s. The studio reference-style headphones feature an open-back design, which means you’ll be getting a clean audio experience without too much bass, mid, or treble overwhelming the other frequencies.

The open-back design isn’t going to be for everyone, as it will let some ambient sound into the headphones as it lets some of the audio you’re listening to leak out. If you like listening while you commute or in public spaces, you may want a backup pair of headphones. But, the benefit of an open design is an expanded soundstage which can greatly enhance your experience when listening to music.

What’s extra impressive about the Samson SR850 headphones is their incredible bargain price. Coming in well below $50, the headphones still manage to offer a wide frequency response, low impedance, a detachable ¼-inch adapter, and simple but comfortable design. And, with overwhelmingly positive user reviews on Amazon, they’ve gotten a solid thumbs up from budget-minded audiophiles.

Best Studio Monitor Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

With thousands of users singing the praises of Audio-Technica's ATH-M50x Pro headphones, it's really hard to mount an argument against them. While there are definitely more sonically impressive headphones out there, these hit a sweet spot — one where incredible studio monitor sound collides with a price tag that comes in way, way below the brand's competitors'.

The ATH-M50x headset’s design is simple, with wide ear cups for an over-ear fit, and faux leather on the headband and ear pads. The cable is interchangeable, with three different cables included in the package and a simple twist lock to hold them in place. The headphones are also foldable, making them easy to pack up for on-the-go use.

The ATH-M50x headphones have a low impedance at 38 Ohms, so you can use them with mobile devices. As far as specs go, they also have a frequency response range from 15Hz to 28kHz, which means their 45mm drivers deliver rich. Reviews for the ATH-M50x headset are so overwhelmingly positive, they can't be ignored as an excellent blend of budget and quality. Pick up a pair in black, blue, red, white, or gunmetal.

Runner-Up, Best Studio Monitor Headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro

Beyerdynamic has an affordable option for music-lovers who want a lightweight, portable pair of headphones that offer incredibly clean sound. The DT 240 Pro headphones cost less than $100 but have a design more metal-heavy than plastic — a surprising feature given the low price. The DT 240 Pros also successfully offer studio-quality audio.

If you're looking for a clean listening experience, these headphones will offer just that. But if you're trying to rock out, they can feel a little dry. If you’re recording music, rather, you’ll get unflavored audio that can help you know how your tunes truly sound, and you won’t have to worry about overly muddy bass or biting treble. The headphones also provide high-level isolation and little-to-no sound leakage.

The Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro headphones come with a coiled three-meter cable ending in a 3.5mm jack, and they also come with a ¼-inch adapter. One quality-of-life feature is the ability to plug the cable into whichever side of the headphones you want, so you don’t need to have the cable crossing over your torso, no matter which pocket you keep your phone in.

Best Gaming Headset: HyperX Cloud Revolver S

The HyperX Cloud Revolver S are gaming headphones, first and foremost, but looking past their primary function, they also offer highly versatile performance that can satisfy just about anyone. Central in that experience are the quality 50mm directional drivers in each headphone, and the in-line Dolby digital signal processor for 7.1-channel surround sound.

While it might not present audio as the musicians intended, the Dolby surround sound can create an immersive experience that feels like the music is all around you. And, for movies and video games, the sound is just fantastic. A detachable mic and the option to connect the headset via USB or 3.5mm jacks makes the HyperX Cloud Revolver S an extra versatile headset.

Then there’s the build quality. The memory foam used in the ear pads is incredibly soft, and the wide over-ear opening can fit even large ears comfortably. The headband automatically adjusts, and spreads the weight across your head for hours of comfort. Plus, the steel construction inspires confidence without introducing too much weight or clamping force. 

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 196 hours testing five of the most popular pairs of headphones on the market. To really get the full picture, they wore them in all sorts of scenarios, from commuting to relaxing at home or hitting the gym. We asked them to consider the most important features when using these headphones and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Pair of Headphones

Sound quality - As a music lover, sound quality is likely the most important feature of your headphones. However, it’s also fairly subjective; Some prefer a bass-heavy sound with a strong emphasis on the lower range, while others prefer a more flat and balanced sound. Certain headphones have an accompanying app that allows you to adjust the sound profile, so look for that if you’re picky.

Design - The best sound is usually delivered by a pair of over-ear headphones that cancel out background noise by creating a seal over your ears. If you want a sleeker set, though, there are plenty of in-ear options perfect for fitness and travel.

Comfort - When you’re listening to an album all the way through, comfort becomes key. Most over-ear headphones have cushioned ear pads, while earbuds come with several sizes of ear tips and wings to ensure you find the perfect fit.

Test Results: Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) (Best Overall)

4.9

What We Like

  • Adjustable noise canceling

  • Impressive sound quality

  • Great battery life

What We Don’t Like

  • Bulky

  • No microphone

The sound quality of these headphones is stellar, according to one of our testers: “It measures up to studio-quality headphones I have that are similarly priced,” he reported. Another plus? The level of noise-canceling can be adjusted, which one of our reviewers said is “great if you're not looking to drown out the world.”

Test Results: Jaybird X3 Sport Bluetooth Headset (Best for Fitness)

3.4

What We Like

  • Short charge time

  • App allows you to adjust bass, treble, etc.

  • Long battery life

  • Audible cues for power on/off and low battery

What We Don’t Like

  • Clunky charger

  • Fit varies from person to person

Our reviewers would “definitely” recommend these headphones for their solid sound, great Bluetooth connection, and long battery life. In fact, one of our testers — who had never used wireless headphones before and was nervous about battery life — was pleasantly surprised: “The charge lasted all day as I commuted, ran errands, and then hit the gym,” she said. Another of our reviewers cautioned she had trouble with the headphones falling out of her ear, but multiple tips and wings are included to ensure you find the right fit.

Test Results: B&O PLAY Beoplay H4 (Best Bluetooth for iPhone)

4.6

What We Like

  • Stylish, comfortable design

  • Connect with Bluetooth or a wire

  • Great noise-canceling ability

What We Don’t Like

  • No case

  • Sound lacks depth

We’re happy to report that the sound quality of these headphones holds up — even when used wirelessly over Bluetooth. Another big draw was comfort: “These are easily the most comfortable headphones I've ever owned,” one of our testers said, “and I wear them for long periods of time every day.” One of our reviewers raved about the battery, using it daily for over a week without needing a charge, but had trouble finding an indicator for battery life.

Test Results: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Professional Monitor Headphones (Best Budget Wired)

4.4

What We Like

  • Comfortably cups ears

  • Long cord

  • Loud sound

What We Don’t Like

  • Lacks great low-end sound

  • Limited features

Our testers liked that these headphones were comfortable — the headband is soft and they were fairly adjustable — as well as lightweight. And, though they don’t have a noise-cancelation feature, one of our reviewers said that the design of the earcups still blocks out plenty of noise.

Test Results: Skullcandy Uproar Wireless (Best Budget Wireless)

4.7

What We Like

  • Easy to connect

  • Comfortable on-ear style

  • Great bass

What We Don’t Like

  • Lack elite sound quality for audiophiles

  • Doesn’t keep outside sound out

Connecting to these headphones was quick and easy for our testers. “I had no issue connecting these headphones to my phone via Bluetooth,” wrote one of our reviewers, “and despite working in a major city, I also had no issue maintaining that connection — which is an issue I've had with more expensive models.” One of our testers found that the headphones provided more bass than expected, and also enjoyed the little design touches: “I really like the fact that the buttons for increasing/skipping and decreasing/going back are shaped like a '+' and a '-' respectively,” he said.