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Best headphones

Here are the best headphones for every need and budget.
By

Published onJune 4, 2024

The Best
Sony WH-1000XM5
MSRP: $399.00
8.6
Check price
Positives
ANC performance
Outstanding microphone
App features, including custom EQ
Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, LDAC, and wired connectivity options
Bluetooth multipoint
Find My Device enabled
Negatives
Price
No IP rating
Best for iPhone
Apple AirPods Max
MSRP: $424.99
8
Check price
Positives
Nice design and solid build quality
Amazing active noise canceling and transparency mode
Comfortable ear pads and fabric headband
Decent battery life
Button and digital crown are great to use
Good sound quality with no distortion
Great connection strength with Bluetooth 5.0
Negatives
No 3.5mm headphone jack becomes a pain
Uses a Lightning connector instead of USB-C
Proximity sensors and voice assistant activation do not work on Android or Windows
No aptX or LDAC high quality codec support
The smart case is absolutely terrible and provides no protection
Microphone quality is just okay
Best active noise cancelling
Bose QuietComfort Ultra
MSRP: $429.00
8.5
Check price
Positives
Great ANC
Good passthrough mode
Snapdragon Sound
aptX Lossless
Negatives
Price
No IP rating
Immersive audio
Some channel matching issues
Best value
Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless
MSRP: $179.95
8.3
Check price
Positives
Price
Weight
Comfort
aptX, aptX HD support
USB-C audio
Negatives
Will not get LE Audio
No TRS jack
Bang for your buck
JLab JBuds Lux ANC
MSRP: $79.99
8.2
Check price
Positives
USB-C audio
Sound quality
Comfort
Value
App
Negatives
Limited options
No IP rating

If you’re looking for the best headphones on the market, it’s tough to get a straight answer. What works for some people doesn’t work for others, and few product categories are as diverse as headphones. In-ears, on-ears, over-ears — there’s just so much to choose from, and it’s hard to tell what’s right for you. Because the needs of every person out there vary so wildly, we’re going to run down the best options for most people based on a healthy balance of objective performance.

Editor’s note: This list was updated on June 4, 2024, to add a section on the Sonos Ace.

Looking for something else?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are the best headphones for most people

Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones laying flat on wooden table.
You won’t be disappointed with the WH-1000XM5 headphones.

Now that Sony has released the Sony WH-1000XM5, it takes the crown as the best active noise canceling (ANC) headphones. This new model outperforms its closest competitors in noise attenuation and microphone quality. The default frequency response is a bit bassier than what we typically recommend. Still, you can easily equalize this from the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS/Android) or your preferred third-party equalizer.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 have some of the best noise canceling on the market.

The WH-1000XM5 offers top-of-the-line specs and features, including a custom equalizer, Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, and auto-pause/play sensors. The Sony WH-1000MX5 includes speak-to-chat, which pauses your media when speaking to someone and resumes playback 30 seconds later so you don’t miss the person’s response. You also have Bluetooth multipoint, which is a great productivity feature for those who like to keep an ear on their phone while connected to their laptop.

If the price tag of the Sony WH-1000XM5 is just a bit too high, you also can’t go wrong with the older Sony WH-1000XM4 ($348 at Sony) which was previously our pick for best noise canceling headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance • Outstanding microphone • Useful app features
MSRP: $399.00
The king of the ANC pack extends its reign

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We’re used to seeing this by now, but compared to more “high-end” headphones, you’ll notice the very strong bass emphasis right away. The comparatively subdued midrange (from 300Hz to around 1050Hz) might sound a bit off as it gets drowned out by the much louder highs and lows.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Sony WH-1000XM5 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Sony WH-1000XM5 in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.3, The Distortion score is 3.6, the Immersiveness score is 4.1, and the Overall Score is 4.2.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 rates pretty well in terms of audio quality, with good results across the board.
Side-on view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Sony WH-1000XM4 hanging over a white horizontal pipe
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) looks a bit cleaner than the WH-1000XM4 (right).

When comparing the Sony WH-1000XM5 to the WH-1000XM4, it’s clear that these headphones are closely related. Even though the XM5 model has better ANC and sound quality to boot, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is still worth getting if you don’t want to spend as much money. The fourth-generation headphones share many of the premium features found on the WH-1000XM5, and you can expect the older model to go on sale.

If you want a budget alternative, the Sony WH-CH720N ($799 at Amazon) is a good in-between option with decent noise cancelation. These headphones balance app support, good battery life, and solid functionality.

The Apple AirPods Max is the best for iPhone owners

The AirPods Max next to the AirPods Pro 2 case.
The AirPods Max uses stainless steel and weighs quite a bit more than other headphones (385g).

When it comes to seamless integration with the iPhone, nothing outperforms the AirPods Max. These headphones take noise canceling to a new zenith. With the ANC feature enabled, everyday disruptions, whether it’s the rustling of papers or ambient conversations, are virtually eradicated. The caveat? Full control over ANC is available only if you’re part of the Apple ecosystem. So, for iPhone users, it’s an exclusive perk.

If you live in the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Max are the best over-ears for audio.

Transparency Mode is another feature that sets the AirPods Max apart, designed with the kind of intuitive thinking only Apple could offer. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill ambient mode that merely lowers your music volume; it uses external mics to amplify real-world sounds, harmonizing with whatever you’re listening to. It’s like having your cake and eating it, too—you enjoy your playlist while remaining acutely aware of your surroundings. Coupled with the iPhone, you get to enjoy customized controls that allow you to toggle between ANC and Transparency Mode effortlessly.

In terms of audio quality, the AirPods Max offers a stellar listening experience that complements a wide range of genres. From the deep sub-bass to the clear vocals, the sound profile is robust and versatile. While they may not replace studio headphones, they bring a richness that is optimized for the everyday listener. Yes, the $549 price tag is steep, but you’re investing in an experience that’s finessed to perfection for Apple loyalists.

Apple AirPods MaxApple AirPods Max
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Apple AirPods Max
One of the best ANC • 20-hour battery life • Well-built pads
MSRP: $424.99
A spectacular pair of headphones with best-in-class ANC
The AirPods Max wireless headphones offer best-in-class noise canceling with twenty hours of battery life. They provide excellent frequency response and great audio features.

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The frequency response follows our own headphone preference curve for the most part, with a notably reduced emphasis in the upper midrange and little extra kick in the very low-frequency sub-bass region.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Apple AirPods Max was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Apple Airpods Max in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.4, The Distortion score is 3.9, the Immersiveness score is 3.8, and the Overall Score is 4.5.
The AirPods Max scores fairly high for overall audio quality.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra is the best for Android owners

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones have soft padding that is very glasses-friendly.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones have soft padding that is very glasses-friendly.

If you’re looking for high-performing ANC headphones that will keep up with your current (and next) Android phones, seriously consider the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. They pack a cutting-edge chipset that grants support for the aptX Lossless codec. Currently, the only other audio product that offers this is the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. Bose is new to higher-bitrate Bluetooth codecs, but it’s good to see that these headphones are far more future-proof than some of their older options.

This is THE high-end headset with future-proof features for Android users.

As we expect from premium Bose cans, the noise canceling is great. They absolutely go toe-to-toe with other top picks on this list, namely the Apple AirPods Max and Sony WH-1000XM5, with both the noise attenuation and the audio passthrough modes. Simply put, these are easily some of the best noise canceling headphones around, reducing perceived loudness by about 87% — not too shabby.

Battery life nets around 27 and a half hours of playtime with ANC, which is enough for about a week’s worth of commutes — or three work days. As these headphones charge with USB-C, you should have no difficulty finding power for them around your house.

Bose QuietComfort UltraBose QuietComfort Ultra
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Bose QuietComfort Ultra
Great battery life • Advanced audio experience
MSRP: $429.00
Quality and comfort noise canceling headphones
Going ultra with their ANC headphone experience, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra noise cancelling headphones offer up to 24 hours of battery life, a comfortable fit, Spatial Audio support, and powerful ANC.

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Our headphone preference curve can be used to compare the response to what we think they should sound like, but remember that these headphones can adjust their sound to meet your biology with their CustomTune feature.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Bose Quietcomfort Ultra Headphones in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.8, The Distortion score is 3.2, the Immersiveness score is 4.2, and the Overall Score is 4.6.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones have excellent sound quality for most, as reflected by MDAQS.

The Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless is one of the best value buys

The Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless held above wood.
The Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless is one of the best values in the ANC headphone world.

When the price tag matters as much as performance, the Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless emerges as a strong contender. Known for sound quality that doesn’t compromise, these headphones offer a well-rounded auditory experience, all at a fraction of the cost of high-end competitors. They’re not the champs in noise canceling, falling short against industry leaders like Bose and Sony, but they can still reduce ambient noise by up to 75%.

The Accentum is an affordable set of ANC headphones with exceptional sound quality.

They’re light enough to wear all day, thanks to well-placed padding akin to the comfort features of Bose QuietComfort Headphones. They may lack a carrying case and weather resistance, but their build quality assures you can toss them into a bag without a second thought. Just don’t expect these to be your go-to for the gym or a rainy day.

The headphones themselves offer a straightforward user experience. For those who love tinkering, the Sennheiser Smart Control app provides granular control over settings and a 5-band equalizer. Battery life lasts an impressive 47 hours on a full charge. For those who prioritize sound quality and affordability, the Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless checks almost all the boxes.

Sennheiser ACCENTUM WirelessSennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless
SG recommended
Sennheiser ACCENTUM Wireless
Comfortable • Impressive battery life • Effective ANC
MSRP: $179.95
An affordable set of ANC headphones with excellent sound quality.
The Sennheiser Accentum Wireless headphones are a great choice for immersive, comfortable, and extended listening experiences. With up to 50 hours of battery life, they offer high-definition sound and effective ANC. These headphones deliver comfort and audio quality, making them a fantastic choice for both at-home enjoyment and on-the-go use.

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The sub-bass is relatively intense, and there’s a narrow under-emphasis where our ears naturally boost. It doesn’t make music unlistenable, but it’s still worth noting that there’s no EQ preset or adjustment in the app that will alleviate it.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Sennheiser Accentum Wireless was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Sennheiser Accentum Wireless USB in USB mode. The Timbre score is 4, The Distortion score is 3, the Immersiveness score is 3.9, and the Overall Score is 3.6).
The ACCENTUM Wireless score high in Timbre and Immersiveness.

The JLab JBuds Lux ANC are the best bang for your buck

The JLab JBuds Lux ANC sitting atop a wooden desk.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The JLab JBuds Lux ANC is a compelling buy under $80.

For one of the best value in headphones, the JLab JBuds Lux ANC are an unbeatable bang for your buck at just $79.99. These over-ear headphones deliver premium features and performance that vastly outstrip their price tag.
The JBuds Lux ANC provides effective active noise cancelation to hush ambient noise during commutes and travel. While not quite on par with $200+ models, the ANC mutes up to 75% of low frequencies, and the sealed over-ear design physically blocks higher-pitched sounds. The transparency mode is also handy for allowing some ambient noise in when desired.

As far as inexpensive ANC headphones go, the JLab JBuds Lux ANC are one of the best of 2024.

Despite their low cost, the headphones don’t skimp on sound quality. They offer engaging bass-boosted audio tuning with crisp highs. A companion app provides an equalizer for customizing the sound signature to your preferences.
The build quality is sturdy and thick; spacious earpads and a breathable headband provide a comfortable fit over long listening sessions. The headphones can also fold up into a compact, portable shape. The USB-C rechargeable battery provides outstanding battery life, with over 44 hours on a charge.

For under $80, the JLab JBuds Lux ANC pack in noise cancelation, customizable audio, all-day battery life, and a premium comfortable build that make them an unrivaled bargain in the headphone world.

JLab JBuds Lux ANCJLab JBuds Lux ANC
SG recommended
JLab JBuds Lux ANC
USB-C audio • Sound quality • Comfort
MSRP: $79.99
For under $100, these are crazy good value.
As far as inexpensive ANC headphones go, the JLab JBuds Lux ANC are one of the best of 2024. They focus on the fundamentals, and not fighting the spec wars.

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Here, we can see that the JLab JBuds Lux ANC have some bass emphasis — about 2-5dB over what we like to see — from 300Hz down to 20Hz. There’s a little dip in the mids and then a large bump at 5-10kHz. This can help with spatial cues and sounds that typically get lost in mixes.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Jlab JBudsLux in SBC Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.8, The Distortion score is 3.4, the Immersiveness score is 4.4, and the Overall Score is 4.5).
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
An overall mean option score of 4.5 points to a consumer-friendly sound with little in the way of unpleasant surprises.

The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless sounds great in any environment

The Sennheiser momentum 4 wireless sits on a headphone stand
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is very comfortable for hours on end.

If you’re looking for a slightly more affordable set of ANC headphones than the Bose or Sony offerings, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is not a bad choice. While its ANC is technically behind the other top-tier headphones, its sound quality and battery life still more than hold up.

With support for a variety of high-quality codecs like AAC, aptX, aptX, and aptX Adaptive, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C listening, you’ll hardly ever get caught without a connection. You even get Bluetooth multipoint. And a stellar 56 hours and 21 minutes of battery life (with ANC on) outperforms most headphones.

Commuters will love the MOMENTUM 4, as they sound great in many different listening environments.

The touch controls are intuitive, and little luxuries like on-ear detection contribute to the overall flagship-worthy experience of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless. The fact that you get a carry case and an airplane adapter means you don’t have to shell out for accessories, either. Plus, the Sennheiser cans undercut the price of most premium headphones without significant compromises.

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 WirelessSennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless
App for EQ changes • Simple, elegant design • USB-C charging
MSRP: $350.00
High-end ANC over-ear headphones focus on style and comfort
If you need total immersion in your music, you need some ANC over-ears. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 focus on style and comfort while delivering the core features high-end shoppers need with their headphones.
See price at Amazon
Save $60.72
Sennheiser Momentum 4
See price at Best Buy
Save $49.99
Sennheiser Momentum 4

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The sound gets very close to our preference curve with just a bit more bass. However, if that sound is not your preference, you can utilize the Smart Control app to adjust EQ. In addition, you can create automatic listening settings for different locations and adjust ANC.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Sennheiser Momentum 4 in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.8, The Distortion score is 3.5, the Immersiveness score is 4.1, and the Overall Score is 4.6).
These have the same overall score as the Bose QC Ultra but have less distortion as indicated by a higher score.

The Sonos Ace has the best features

A photo of the Sonos Ace headphones placed against its carrying case conncted to an Android smartphone using a USB-C cable
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Sonos app lets you enable Bluetooth multipoint and head tracking.

The Sonos Ace offers several compelling features that make it stand out from other premium wireless headphones. Its most noteworthy capability is support for Dolby Atmos spatial audio, providing an immersive home theater-like experience with head tracking for enhanced realism. The headphones integrate seamlessly with Sonos soundbars through the TV Audio Swap feature, allowing you to easily transfer audio to the headphones from your home theater setup.

Sonos equipped the Ace with custom-tuned 40mm drivers that prioritize bass response to recreate the feeling of bass you’d experience in a movie theater. The headphones also support high-quality wireless audio codecs like aptX Lossless via Snapdragon Sound technology. Sonos includes a well-designed control scheme with tactile buttons and sliders on the earcups for adjusting volume, playback, and noise cancelation modes.

While expensive at $449, the Sonos Ace presents an enticing option for audiophiles who want a premium headphone experience with impressive surround sound capabilities. The combination of Dolby Atmos support, home theater integration, and high-fidelity wireless audio make the Ace particularly appealing for home theater enthusiasts seeking an immersive personal listening experience.

The chart below outlines the frequency response of the Sonos Ace to our headphone preference curve, which is a measurement of what we think will sound good to most people.

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The Sonos Ace has a significant bass and sub-bass overemphasis between 20-175Hz, recreating the deep bass felt in theaters – ideal for momentary impactful sounds but potentially fatiguing for extended bass-heavy listening. There’s an underemphasized 1,250-2,000Hz range that can reduce clarity of higher-pitched vocals, keys, synths and strings. The 5,000-8,000Hz overemphasis accentuates reverb for an immersive feel but may cause cymbal crashes and metallic sounds to seem overly shrill.

Sonos AceSonos Ace
Sonos Ace
Great build quality • Dolby Atmos support • Integration with Sonos soundbars
MSRP: $449.00
Premium noise canceling headphones designed for mobile cinephiles
The Sonos Ace are a pair of headphones designed to bring the home theater experience everywhere you go. These premium headphones offer an elegant design, good ANC, Lossless audio, Dolby Atmos support, and up to 30 hours of battery life.

The Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) can connect to anything

The Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) is for anyone looking to up their noise canceling headphone game but is unsatisfied with the Sony, Bose, and Apple options. Shure offers a competing form factor and a comprehensive app that could meet your needs if you’re looking for headphones with maximum device compatibility.

Shure offers a competing form factor and a comprehensive app if you’re looking for headphones with maximum device compatibility.

These headphones can use 3.5mm, USB-C, and a deep bench of Bluetooth codecs, including aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX Voice, SBC, AAC, and LDAC. Essentially, it’s the all-in-one solution for any device. For example, you can use the headphone cable when you use the headphones with older equipment, swap to Bluetooth when you’re out of the house, or use the USB-C cable at the computer to enjoy lossless audio.

Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen)Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen)
SG recommended
Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen)
Battery life • Excellent App • Price
MSRP: $349.00
The Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) can connect to anything are decent do-anything headphones. The sound needs a little tweaking, but since the app allows you to add parametric EQ filters, it's a gem.

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There’s a dip in the mids that affects vocals, guitars, and most instruments responsible for melody. Consequently, the Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) doesn’t match up as well to our headphone preference curve. The sound needs a little tweaking, but if you’re okay tinkering with the app it allows you to use a host of parametric EQ filters to fit your sound profile.

The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X are great for the studio

Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X laying on table
We have to really nitpick to find flaws in the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X.

The Beyerdynamic PRO X series caters to the modern creator with a low 48Ω impedance and comfortable build. The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X has an open-back design, and all of the parts are easy to replace without the need for tools. This is a great pick for engineers who want to focus on production and can’t afford to get bogged down with difficult repairs.

The perfect headphones for bedroom producers and creative professionals.

If you’ve used a set of over-ear Beyerdynamic headphones before, you’ll feel right at home with the DT 900 PRO X and its plush ear pads. A mini-XLR input sits on the left ear cup, and the included cable locks into place.

Since this is an open-back headset, its utility is a bit limited. You’ll hear everything gone around you should you choose to take it on a stroll. But hey, that’s unlikely anyway since this is built for studio use. When you do get the headset into a quiet environment, you’ll enjoy excellent audio reproduction with consistent volume output from the bass and mids. There’s a 5dB boost relative to our house curve, from 4-7kHz, but that can make it easier to hear string attacks during a particularly busy part of a song. This isn’t always ideal when mixing audio, so you can always EQ it down via a desktop application.

Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO XBeyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
Sound quality • Plush fit • Replaceable parts
MSRP: $299.00
Open-back wired-only headphones for creative professionals
Content creators, music professionals, and audio enthusiasts can all get something out of the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X. These open-back wired-only headphones are great for mixing, mastering, or just critically listening to your favorite songs.

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The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X does an excellent job at reproducing sound sub-bass, bass, and midrange frequencies. High frequencies have an extreme emphasis centered on 8-9kHz, bringing upper harmonics to the forefront.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are great for audio professionals and bedroom music producers alike

A man wearing the Sennheiser HD490 PRO headphones.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
These headphones are an excellent option for audio professionals.

The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are excellent open-back headphones tailored for music production and mixing. Priced at $399.99, they offer exceptional value with their neutral sound, versatility, and durability. A standout feature is the inclusion of both velour and fabric ear pads, allowing users to switch between a more consumer-friendly sound with boosted bass or a flatter, reference-like response ideal for mixing. The lightweight and comfortable design, coupled with the swappable and machine-washable ear pads, ensures long-lasting use.

Additionally, the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO comes bundled with the dearVR MIX-SE plugin, a $125 value, which simulates various studio environments to help ensure consistent translation of mixes. The open-back design provides a natural, spacious soundstage, but it does sacrifice noise isolation, making them unsuitable for noisy environments. Overall, with their impressive sound quality, customizable tuning, and robust build, the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are an excellent choice for audio professionals, bedroom producers, and audiophiles seeking versatile, high-performance open-back headphones.

Sennheiser HD 490 PROSennheiser HD 490 PRO
Sennheiser HD 490 PRO
Open back • Two washable ear pads • Includes Dear Reality dearVR MIX-SE plugin
MSRP: $399.99
Built for comfort, clarity, and versatility.
The Sennheiser HD 490 Pro are professional open-back headphones tuned for professional use. Swappable ear pads and reference sound make this an ideal headphone for music producers.

The best headphones: Notable mentions

A photo of the Sennheiser HD 660S2 sitting atop a slab of wood, with cable bundled up.
The Sennheiser HD 660S2 is one of the best if you’ve got the funds.

We can’t highlight every headset the way we’d like, so instead, we’ve put together a bulleted list of alternative standouts that didn’t quite make the best headphones cut.

  • 1MORE SonoFlow ($99.99 at Amazon): The 1MORE SonoFlow are good-sounding, feature-rich headphones that won’t break the bank. Commuters and travelers will enjoy the ANC, long battery life, and plush ear pads. Experienced listeners will enjoy decent sound and EQ options.
  • AKG K371 ($176 at Amazon): These headphones sound excellent and provide a really good double-life as dependable studio monitors. Sure, these are wired cans with a rather cumbersome cable. But if you’re listening at home, mixing a track, or working at the coffee shop, these are the headphones you want.
  • Anker Soundcore Space One ($99.99 at Amazon): These headphones bring most of the same features of flagship competitors for a fraction of the price.
  • Anker Soundcore Life Q30 ($79.99 at Amazon): With good sound, active noise canceling, and battery life, these are some of the best-value headphones on the market. If you have a budget of $100, don’t hesitate to buy the Anker Soundcore Life Q30.
  • Anker Soundcore Space Q45 ($149 at Amazon): These headphones tick most boxes for the price. The Bluetooth or wired-equipped over-ear headphones supply good codecs, AAC, and LDAC and sound pretty good. You also get decent noise canceling as well.
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2($198 at Amazon): Enthusiasts sing the praises of the original ATH-50x for its rugged build and reliable performance. The second-generation Bluetooth version carries over everything we love about the tried-and-true wired model with LDAC support and excellent battery life. At under $200, this is a solid headset.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X ($269 at Amazon): If wired is your sole interest with a studio-style frequency response, this is a great pick. The open-back design wears comfortably, and it gets very close to our ideal sound without reaching astronomical pricing. Its closed-back companion, the DT 700 PRO X, has less treble on tap and is another great choice.
  • Bose QuietComfort 45 ($279 at Amazon): As an incremental update over the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, it’s not exciting, but the QC 45 offers improved ANC that’s up there with the best. At release, it was too trebly, but you can easily use the Bose Music app EQ to fix that. It’s still one of the most comfortable headphones.
  • Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 ($379 at Amazon): These are an older yet decent can of Bose headphones that are still supported by Bose, and will save you quite a bit of money if you’re okay without all the extra bells and whistles.
  • Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX ($199 at Manufacturer site): If you’re looking for the absolute best way to spend money on headphones for the computer, Drop’s partnership with Sennheiser brings these legendary audiophile headphones down to roughly half the original asking price. Budget-conscious audiophiles would be doing themselves a disservice by not giving these a spin.
  • EarFun Wave Pro ($79.99 at Amazon): If you have a limited budget, the EarFun Wave Pro are a great option. With exceptional battery life, decent ANC, and advanced connectivity, these headphones are ideal travel or commuting headphones.
  • Focal Bathys ($699 at Amazon): The Focal Bathys are one of the best sets of headphones out there, but they’re not without their foibles — and at a pretty steep price for most consumers. If you have cash to burn you’ll love them, but there are less expensive alternatives out there that are also good.
  • Grado SR80x(for $125 at Amazon): If you can’t shell out for top of the line open back headphones, these unique Brooklyn built on-ear headphones are comfortable with repairable parts and a more trebly frequency response.
  • HiFiMan Sundara ($299 at Amazon): This is the set of headphones to get if you want high-end audio but don’t want to shell out a king’s ransom for it. These planar magnetic headphones are comfortable, straightforward, and excellent performers.
  • JBL Tune 660NC ($79 at Amazon): Simply put, this is the best value you can get from a set of on-ear headphones.
  • Sennheiser ACCENTUM Plus ($217.95 at Amazon): These are great for anyone looking for a middle-ground ANC headphones perfect for commuting.
  • Sennheiser HD 600 ($399.95 at Sennheiser): Long considered one of the best headphones on the market, not much has changed in the last thirty years for the HD 600. It missed our top picks due to cost, that’s it — though you can sometimes get lucky.
  • Sennheiser HD 660S2 ($499 at Amazon): Certainly not the cheapest of the wired open-back headphones on our list, this set offers a very pleasant and analytical frequency response. Like most open-back designs, it’s not for bass heads. If you find its predecessor, the HD 660S, for less cash, it is also worth consideration. The Sennheiser HD 600 is also a tried and true choice in the same style with replaceable parts.
  • Sony WH-CH520 ($38 at Amazon): The Sony WH-CH520 are competent entry-level pair of wireless headphones. They sound decent for the price and have an incredible battery life. With features like Multipoint and Fast Pair, they are also reasonably future-proof.
  • Sony WH-1000XM4 ($348 at Sony): Sure, it’s not the newest set of Bluetooth headphones on the block, and the WH-1000XM5 outpaces it by basically every measurement. However, the WH-1000XM4 costs less money and gets you most of the way there.
  • Sony ULT Wear ($199.99 at Amazon): These are best suited for commuters who want good ANC but aren’t willing to shell out for the highest-end options. They have a heavy bass emphasis and larger ear pads which should do well for those with slightly larger heads.

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What you should know about the best headphones

The Philips Fidelio X2 open-back headphones lean against the Shure AONIC 50 Bluetooth headphones with noise canceling.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Open-back headphones are really only for at-home use, limiting their functionality compared to closed-back ones.

Calling something “the best” at anything is controversial, so we create our best lists with the caveat that your experiences may vary from our own. Sometimes, people have a unique set of needs that can’t be satisfied by going to a list of “best headphones” because the article doesn’t address what the best headphones out there are… for you. Consequently, we encourage all of our readers to consider all the things they want out of their headphones first before rolling the dice on a pick. Our list has a lot of all-time greats, but if you need something a little bit more tailored to your needs, keep reading our other lists and features to arm yourself with the knowledge to make the right purchase.

Think hard about what types of headphones you like (in ears? over ears? on ears?), and also try to figure out what features you need. Maybe you need to go to the store to see how they fit on your head. Do you wear glasses or have ear piercings? Maybe you should look into getting velour pads instead of leather! It’s possible you just want the best-sounding headphones at the expense of all other factors. These are all things covered in our reviews and other best lists.

Are wired headphones better than Bluetooth headphones?

The Drop+Ether CX closed-back headphones with a focus on their 4 pin XLR for differential drive.
The Drop+Ether CX closed-back headphones come wired with a 4 pin XLR for differential drive.

This list has a few wired options if you want great sound, but we also have a few wireless options if you prefer convenience. If you opt for a Bluetooth pair, there are a few things you should know. First and foremost, the rumors you’ve heard are true. Bluetooth just can’t party with wired headphones, at least as it pertains to sound quality. Even some of the best codecs available aren’t as great as they seem at first glance. AAC basically only plays its best if you’re on an iOS device, which means Android users should probably stick to aptX, and LDAC isn’t truly Hi-Res. The good news is that you most likely can’t hear any of the details in the data that are being dropped, but it’s still not a great selling point. Of course, if you do think that you have superhuman hearing feel free to test yourself with our simple hearing test.

There is hope, though: Bluetooth SIG announced LE Audio and the LC3 codec, an efficient alternative to SBC. We’re excited to see the benefits to the hard-of-hearing community play out in the real world and know that LC3 will provide a 50% increase in audio quality relative to SBC. What’s more, headphone stutters will be lessened as packet loss management is improved, so instead of hearing annoying, intermittent drops, the dropout process will be much smoother. Even the best headphones will benefit from the new codec.

We mentioned codecs in the last section, but what exactly is a Bluetooth codec? If Bluetooth is the technology that enables two devices to communicate with each other, then codecs can be thought of as the language that they speak.

When two devices speak the same language, they can communicate faster and send more data to each other, which results in better sound quality. Some of the best codecs have high transfer rates if both devices are compatible, and if they aren’t, then everything just reverts down to the basic codec called SBC.

Unfortunately, codecs can be a bit finicky and, as we mentioned before, don’t always work the way they’re intended to, which is why wired headphones usually sound better. Though it is worth mentioning that Qualcomm’s aptX adaptive seems promising, we’ll have to wait to test it ourselves before we get our hopes up.

How does active noise canceling work?

If you were wondering how active noise cancelation works, don’t worry; you’re not alone. There’s a lot that goes into it, and some companies like Bose and Sony have their own ways of achieving it technologically, but it all comes down to basic physics. Active noise canceling is actually something called destructive interference. If you take one wave with an amplitude of +1 and combine it with another wave that has an amplitude of -1, you’re left with zero.

How active noise canceling actually works
Constructive and Destructive Interference Sound waves of equal amplitude, offset at 1/2 wavelengths, result in compression waves with an amplitude of 0—canceling out the sound.

Active noise canceling headphones take advantage of this by using tiny microphones to hear what sounds are around you and then creating an opposite sound wave to cancel that before it reaches your ears. Of course, this isn’t perfect and works better for long, droning sounds than sudden, screeching ones. So don’t expect ANC headphones to block out that crying baby on your next flight. But when you combine noise canceling technology with good isolation, you can get pretty close to completely blocking the outside world.

This is harder to achieve with earbuds, as they don’t completely cover your ear. So, instead, a solid pair of memory foam ear tips might be worth looking into, as they do a better job of isolating sound than the silicone ones that come with most buds.

How we choose the best headphones

We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab with state-of-the-art equipment.
We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab with state-of-the-art equipment like the B&K 5128.

Just like power tools and kitchen utensils, headphones are built for different purposes. Using the right tool for the job is important and ensures that you get the best experience possible. You wouldn’t use a chainsaw to cut butter any more than you’d use a set of AKG K7XX on an airplane.

In that light, we took extra time to take into account how most people actually use headphones. What makes a good pair of gym earbuds? What makes a good pair of wireless earbuds? What’s the good in having a best headphones list that doesn’t help most people buy headphones they like?

While we took the time to highlight some Bluetooth headphones, active noise cancelers, and open-backed cans — be sure to read the descriptions to see if they’re right for you. Many people want a set of headphones that will do everything, but those models are few and far between. It’s more about what people actually want.

While many might be upset that we chose more consumer-geared models than the stunning halo products of audiophile lore, it’s important to us that our readers aren’t dissatisfied with their headphones. To that end, we find that ultra-expensive headphones are generally a poor fit for most, often leaving your average consumer frustrated and feeling like they wasted a lot of money. This is due in part to the law of diminishing returns because some cheap headphones are already pretty darn good; it can be a hard to really bitter pill to swallow if you don’t hear hundreds of dollars difference. Those with a more developed idea of what kind of headphones they want should also check out our other best lists. Not every best headphone model listed here will meet all of your needs.

With that being said, all of our picks were used by at least one team member, and all of these picks sound fantastic. Because our business model relies on you enjoying your headphones without returning them, this list represents what we earnestly feel is the most deserving of your money. We knew that we wanted to create a list of financially attainable headphones that meet realistic use cases rather than a drool-inducing, unrealistic list for your average consumer.

Why should you trust SoundGuys?

The Monoprice Dual Driver Bluetooth Headphones worn by bearded individual
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
Cap

You should trust us because we show our work, strive to provide unimpeachable information, and base our revenue model on the happiness of our readers with our recommendations. If you return a product we recommend, we don’t see a dime.

When it comes to audio, the SoundGuys team has years of experience reviewing products between them (and even more listening to them). So, if a product makes the best headphones list, it’s because we were genuinely impressed by our hands-on experience with them.

Frequently asked questions about the best headphones

In 2024, the best headphones for most people are the Sony WH-1000XM5, offering exceptional active noise canceling (ANC), sound quality, and features.

While “best” is subjective, brands like Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser consistently rank highly for their quality, innovation, and range of options catering to various needs and preferences.

Bose headphones are priced higher due to their cutting-edge noise cancelation technology, premium materials, and brand reputation for audio products. But thankfully, you can often find their products on sale. Check out our deals hub if you’re looking for a bargain.

For those prioritizing ANC, comfort, and bass, Bose headphones, like the QuietComfort Ultra, offer advanced audio experiences, making them a worthwhile investment for their target audience. However, the standard QuietComfort headphones aren’t worth the price for the features in our estimation.

If you value the nuances in sound quality, advanced features, and build quality, high-end headphones from brands like Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser offer superior audio experience. Still, if all you need is something simple to block out noise while you listen to music on your commute, there are plenty of cheaper options that are perfectly capable. It all depends on your needs an preferences.

Headphones can get pretty expensive. For instance, the Audeze LCD-5 we reviewed cost a whopping $4,500. But that’s not even the most expensive. Currently, the Focal Utopia by Tournaire is the world’s most expensive headphone, listed at a price of $120,000.

Yes, expensive headphones generally offer features like ANC, better comfort, and build quality. The difference is especially noticeable in noise cancelation capabilities and user experience features.

Good quality headsets can vary in price. For example, high-end models like the Sony WH-1000XM5 are around $399, but there are excellent quality options at lower price points, such as the 1MORE SonoFlow under $100.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the best overall choice for listening to music due to its superior noise canceling, excellent sound quality, and advanced features like custom equalizer and 360 Reality Audio. If budget is a concern, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 offers a good balance of price and performance with decent noise canceling and sound quality.

Assuming by “realistic” you mean something akin to a studio-style frequency response and aiming to get an accurate representation of what you’re listening to with noise cancelation, you might’ve noticed that a lot of headphones with ANC don’t have that. Most ANC headphones have consumer-oriented tunings.

Depending on your device, you could get a pretty accurate frequency response with lots of noise cancelation if you simply turned down the bass in the equalizer on the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or even Apple AirPods Max. Both headphones have great ANC, with the AirPods Max having more ANC but fewer options in terms of connectivity, such as the AAC codec and SBC codecs only, rather than aptX on the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, for instance.

All of our best headphone picks have good sound quality, but “good sound” can vary from person to person, even if the fundamentals are well agreed upon. If we were picking one that balances price, connectivity, and frequency response, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless headphones stand out for excellent sound quality, combining a close-to-ideal frequency response with customizable EQ settings for a premium listening experience.

If you’re a basshead, look no further than the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Also, you should poke around our picks for best bassy headphones for more options.

If you’re looking for Beats headphones and nothing else, you can check out our picks.

I wish I could give you a definitive answer to one perfect pair of wireless headphones. Still, truthfully, the answer to this question depends on your personal preferences.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are a top choice. They offer exceptional noise cancelation, sound quality, convenience features like Bluetooth multipoint, and a suite of smart controls, making them highly versatile for various needs.

There are a lot of good headphones out there, and we do our best to outline all the objective facts and describe our subjective experiences with each product so you can make an informed decision based on your personal priorities.

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