by Adam MolinaNovember 17, 2016

Whether you’ve always been into audio or you’re just coming around to what the best headphones are, 2016 was a big year for audio. Advances in Bluetooth technology have made wireless headphones a viable option for plenty of people, and the loss of a standard has made them a necessity for others. We did a mid-year update of this list, but there have since been a few products that are too good to leave off of this list. Some of these picks are the same, but some have changed. Still, whether you’re looking for wired, wireless, noise cancelling, or bang for your buck, this list should have you covered. What are the best headphones of 2016?

Best All-Around

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2.0

Let’s start off with the reason you’re here. What are the best headphones? The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2.0. There’s a reason these are making this list for the second year in a row: they’re still that good. Sure there are audiophile headphones that sound better, or Bluetooth headphones with a better range, or less expensive headphones with better active noise cancelling, but if you want a pair of headphones that are top contenders in every one of these categories these are the way to go. They have active noise cancelling, great sound, are comfortable, and they’re wireless. They have a solid 22 hour battery life and that’s with ANC and Bluetooth turned on. They fold at the hinges for easy traveling and you can also make crystal clear calls.
Pros
Good soundGood ANCBattery Life
Cons
Price1st model had connection issues

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

We said this pick wasn’t going to change anytime soon, and it hasn’t. The best bang for your buck headphones are still the ATH-M50x. Say what you want about the low end or the build quality, but the ATH-M50x are a solid entry-level pair of headphones to those who are just starting to really care about how their music sounds. They have a mostly balanced sound and don’t require a ton of power to get them going. That means you can use them easily with the average smart phone or iPod. Whether you’re looking for a good pair of headphones for the studio or just want a pair of over-ears for your commutes, these are a great choice. The ear cups can swivel up to 90 degrees, so you can rest them comfortably around your neck when you’re not using them. Inside are 45 mm drivers that push a good amount of sound perfect for the budding audiophile. If you’re looking to make your first investment into a good pair of headphones but don’t want to break the bank give these a try.
Pros
Sound qualityBuild quality
Cons
Soundstage
Best Wired

V-Moda Crossfade M-100

Normally if you can buy fashion accessories for your headphones, you might not consider them to be high quality. That isn’t the case with the V-Moda Crossfade M-100. Sure, you can swap the ear plates for ones made of 14k gold or raw brass, but surprisingly that doesn’t take away from the great sound these produce. Inside the ear cups you’ll find 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers. These have physical rings inside of them that prevent the low end from bleeding into the mids and making your music sound murky. These also come with V-Moda’s unique Cliqfold hinge design, which is a fancy way of saying you can fold these down for travel. Toss them in the included hardshell carrying case and you’re good to go. The ear pads are made of memory foam and are also replaceable, so if you’re looking for a pair of headphones that will be comfortable for long uses this is a good way to go. Then of course, there’s the custom shield plates we mentioned earlier. You can swap them out for custom 3D printed ones if you want. Besides being able to change the material and color of the shield, you can also engrave your logo into them if you want. Overall, these headphones were built to last. If the durable build or custom shield plates didn’t do it for you, maybe the sound will. Definitely give these a listen. There’s a reason these have a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Weight
2.5 lbs
Size
7.04 x 4.5 x 9.5 in
Pros
Build qualitySoundCustomizable
Cons
Fairly bass-heavy

Samson Z25

Another good pair of headphones that won’t break your bank are the Samson Z25s. These are the entry level version of the Z55 we reviewed earlier this year and share a fairly similar design for a third of the price. Of course, that means that sound quality will also take a hit too, but not as much as you would expect. If anything the one thing that does take a drastic hit is soundstage but hey, beggars can’t be choosers right? The Z25 ditch the premium lambskin leather for synthetic leather, but the plush padding is still there. These have a closed-back design so you can use them while on-the-go and can fold down to a compact travel size if you ever need to throw them in your bag. Design-wise they’re not the flashiest but if you enjoy the design of something like the ATH-M40 headphones by Audio-Technica, you might like these are they’re not too far off. The cable ends in a 3.5mm jack but they also come with a quarter inch adapter if you ever need to plug into something a little more professional. Of course, true studio headphones are way better for monitoring than these will be, but if you’re not looking to make that kind of investment just yet or just want something to work with while you’re on-the-go the Z25s are a great choice for their price. That mgiht be why they have a 4.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Microphone
No
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Weight
1.5 pounds
Size
10 x 6 x 9 inches
Pros
Decent soundPrice
Cons
Soundstage
Best Wireless

Sony MDR-1000X

One company that always seems to outdo themselves is sony. They already had a really solid pair of headphones in the Sony H.ear On Wireless NCs, but then they released the MDR-1000X. Terrible name, great headphones. The MDR-1000x headphones have a simple design with not too many visible bells and whistles. At first glance they look almost modest, with a smooth plastic finish all around save for the ear cups which are covered in synthetic leather. These connect to your device via Bluetooth but also have NFC compatibility, Sony’s Hi-Res certification, and LDAC support. Of course, you’ll find a 3.5mm input on the bottom of the ear cup if the battery dies. That said, the battery is said to last about 20 hours so as long as you charge them up every once in a blue you shouldn’t have an issue. Sony also baked in more useful features into the ear cups themselves. These are active noise cancelling, but placing your hand over the ear cup will activate “Ambient Sound Mode”. As you might have guessed, this lowers the volume of the music so that you can hear what’s going on around you. The side of the ear cup is also touch sensitive, so you can control everything from volume to skipping tracks with a series of taps and swipes. The Sony H.ear On Wireless NCs are a great pair of headphones, but if you have the money spending the extra $50 on the MDR-1000x is worth it just for some of the extra features. Both are great options, but you can’t argue with a 4.4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
Yes
Noise Cancelling
Yes
Battery Life
20 hours
Weight
9.8 ounces
Size
6.3 x 4.5 x 9.5 inches
Pros
SoundActive Noise CancellingBuild Quality
Cons
PriceHit or miss playback controls

CB3 Hush

If you’re looking for something that doesn’t cost over $300, take a look at the Hush headphones from CB3 Audio. These also feature active noise cancelling and though you won’t get the same premium build quality (obviously), these are far from uncomfortable. The plush padding allows these to sit comfortably on your head for long periods of time. They don’t clamp down on your head so tight that they become uncomfortable, but they do a good enough job that they can also passively block outside noise. With Bluetooth and ANC turned on, these should get you a solid 15 hours of playback time which is enough for the average flight or commute. The two best features about these headphones are arguably the most important when it comes to a pair of wireless headphones: the ANC and the sound. A lot of times headphones with weak ANC just get a little louder to trick you into thinking that it’s actually doing a good job. That isn’t the case here. Voices and dog barks will still slice through, but the low hum of trains and the babble of large crowds fade away as soon as you put these on. There’s only about 10 reviews so far, but they have a solid 4.4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon. If you want a solid pair of wireless headphones without spending all of your cash, the Hush are a great option.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
Yes
Noise Cancelling
Yes
Battery Life
15 hours
Pros
Active noise cancellingPrice


Best Money Can Buy

Audeze El-8

Now we’re getting into audiophile territory. If you’ve been really researching some of the best headphones period, you’re likely to have come across these. The Audeze El-8s are one of the top pairs of headphones you can get. Not only are they great to listen to but they’re gorgeous as well. They were designed by a subsidiary of BMW called Designworks, so basically these the BMW of headphones. The El-8s are also open-back headphones and use planar magnetic technology to push sound. What pushes that sound? Audeze packed 100mm drivers into these. That’s more than double the size of the drivers you’ll find in most consumer headphones. If you want great sound, these are the way to go. They have a 2m audio cable and end in a 3.5mm adapter, but like any self-respecting pair of high-end cans they come with a 1/4” adapter. That said, they’re made to be used with mobile devices. So you’ll find that these only have a 30 ohm impedance. They also come with a cable that has an in-line mic and playback controls. Like the HD650s that we previously mentioned, these will work without any special equipment. But if you really want to see what they can do a decent headphone amp goes a long way.
Pros
Sound QualityBuild quality
Cons
Price

HiFiMan HE-400i

The bang for your buck money is no object category is kind of an oxymoron, but if there were ever a pair of headphones that live up to the name it’d be the HiFiMan HE-400i. These aren’t cheap by any means, but pound for pound these have excellent build quality and sound amazing. HiFiMan is one of those companies (like Sennheiser) with plenty of people who swear by their headphones. These are also planar magnetic headphones meant for really sitting back and listening to your music. On top of that they’re also super lightweight, weighing in at only 0.8 pounds. Since the HE-400Is are open-back, you’ll be able to hear your surroundings (not to mention people around you can hear what you’re listening to). The drivers are protected by a thin grill, but still exposed to the world. On the bottom of both ear cups are the signature HiFiMan inputs which have their pros and cons. On one hand it’s pretty annoying to have to screw in the connectors, but on the other at least there is no chance of them getting pulled out. That cable is also nicely constructed and ends in a 90-degree 3.5mm jack. It also comes with a 1/4” adapter so if you’re looking to plug these into something a little more powerful than your phone you can. It has a sensitivity of 93dB and impedance of 35 oHms so it can draw enough power from the average smartphone to work. Though they work with smartphones, these aren’t exactly portable. The HE-400Is don’t fold at the hinges, but they do rotate to lie flat so you can let them hang around your neck while not in use. These have a 4.7 out of 5 star review on Amazon and you can usually find them for around $450.
Pros
Sound qualityBuild quality
Cons
PriceProprietary earcup connectors
Best Noise Cancelling

Bose QC35

This year Bose followed up the massively successful QC25 headphones with a wireless version: the QC35s. If you love that signature Bose ANC but just wished they were wireless, these are for you. When it comes to traveling, the QC35s are perfect. No wires means no tangles and compatibility with everything that has Bluetooth. Of course, if you’re going on a plane you can always hardwire in an audio cable so you can watch the on-flight movie. Besides that these are super comfortable, ridiculously light, and can easily fold down to about half of their original size. The Bose QC25s were known for their great ANC, and that’s still the case here. Besides the ANC these have all the basic playback controls you could want built into the ear cup. Control volume, change tracks, pause/play music, and access Siri or Google with a few buttons. The internal battery will last you about 20 hours with both Bluetooth and ANC turned on and even longer if you have an audio cable plugged in.
Pros
Great ANCComfortableEasily foldable
Cons
Price

Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2

Every few months Plantronics tries to come out with a pair of premium Backbeat Pro headphones. Though they’re always decent, they usually fall short best lists everywhere. That’s changed with the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 because, though they’re not cheap by any means, they’re substantially less expensive than many of their competitors. The Backbeat Pro 2 take everything that was good about the originals and the Backbeat Pro + models, and put them into a slimmer more refined pair of headphones. They’re completely wireless, have active noise cancelling, a 24 hour battery life, and a design that isn’t half bad once you get used to it. The ANC is still not up to par with something like the Bose QC35s, but it does enough to make the listening experience more enjoyable. On top of that it also now has a Class 1 Bluetooth chip inside which, unlike any of their competitors (save for the Beats Solo3 Wireless) gives it a range of about 100 feet. Then of course, there’s all the controls. If you don’t like reaching for your source device every time you want to adjust the volume, these have you covered. You can skip between tracks, answer phone calls, access virtual assistants like Siri or Google, and even hear what’s going on around you just like the Sony MDR-1000x. Here it’s called “Open Mic” mode but it works basically the same. Flick a switch and the built-in mics will pick up everything going on outside the headphones and let them pass through. Helpful if you want to hear important announcements on the train or plane. Though $199 isn’t exactly cheap, these can definitely considered bang for your buck unless you want to spend almost twice that on something like the Bose or Sony.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
Yes
Noise Cancelling
Yes
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
Good soundDecent ANCPlenty of playback controls
Cons
PriceConfusing controls

 

Related: Best Noise Cancelling headphones

 

If anything in this world is subjective, it’s sound. These are some of the best headphones we found, but we’re certain there are more. Drop a comment to let us know what headphones you think are the best.

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