Whether you’re ordering online or walking into a store, Target has a healthy selection of headphones you can choose from. They don’t have some of the more obscure, higher-end brands that audiophiles love to argue about, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take notice of what’s going on in the industry. Obviously, they need to sell things in order to make money. Which means that some of the best headphones at Target also end up being the more popular ones. Even though there’s only an aisle or two of audio products at your local store, there’s still plenty to choose from and it can be hard to know which one is for you. So what are the best headphones at Target? We got you covered. Now you have another reason to go to Target for milk and leave with a shopping cart of stuff.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 1, 2021, to update what is currently available on the market.
Obviously, we need to talk about the Sony WH-1000XM4
If you want the best headphones at Target, and also some of the best headphones in the market at large, you have to go with the Sony WH-1000XM4. This over-ear headset will do what most people want, and then some. You’ll get one of best pairs of active noise cancelling headphones on the market, and the available colors are subtle and won’t look out of place at the office or on the commute to it. With ANC on, it lasts about 20 hours on a single charge, and it also has a quick charge feature if you find yourself running late but low on battery.
Sony WH-1000XM4Full Review
The sound quality on these cans is exceptionally good. You can listen with SBC, AAC, LDAC, or a 3.5mm cable, and you can adjust the equalizers in the Sony Headphones Connect app. In order to use Bluetooth multipoint with these headphones, you’ll need to have all the devices streaming over AAC, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using an iPhone and/or MacOS.
The ear pad is also touch-sensitive so all of the playback controls are just a tap or a swipe away. You can adjust volume, skip between songs, pause or play music, and even use the microphones built into the headphones to hear what’s going on around you if you hold your hand over the ear cup. Though these headphones aren’t cheap, they’re one of the best headphones you can get. Not just at Target, but anywhere.
For a pair of truly comfortable headphones, the Bose QC35 II is a classic
If you’ve been on an airplane recently, you’ve probably seen the Bose QC35 II. Not just because it’s one of the best active noise cancelling headphones out there, but also because it’s insanely comfortable and easy to stuff in a carry-on. Though it’s made of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap and is super flexible. But it’s the plush ear cups and padding that make it so comfortable to wear for long periods of flight.
Bose QC5 IIFull Review
The newer Series II option even comes with the Google Assistant baked in, so if you use the assistant a lot you can do so instantly just by clicking a dedicated button on the side. You’ll get around 20 hours of constant playback when playing wirelessly, but the headphones do have the option to hardwire in an audio cable if you want to save some juice.
Get the Apple lover in your life the Apple AirPods Max
The hottest headphones on the market right now are definitely the Apple AirPods Max. This pair of over-ear headphones has pretty much everything you could ask for, as long as you’re pairing it with an iPhone or other Apple device. It comes with an embedded H1 chip which makes pairing it to your iPhone super easy, and it affords you access to features like Spatial Audio, a surround-sound software. It’s almost pointless to use the headphones with a non-Apple device because you’ll be missing out on so many of its features.
Apple AirPods MaxFull Review
Though the AirPods Max is really expensive (half a grand, in fact), some may find it to be worth it. The AirPods Max has the best raw active noise cancelling performance we’ve ever tested, and its sound quality is pretty insane. Operating the headphones from its onboard controls is pretty smooth, and its also very comfortable to wear.
It would have been nice if Apple included a 3.5mm port with this headset, but all wired connection has to be made through the lightning USB port. The other downside of the headphones is its carrying case which does nothing to protect the headphones from damage. If your AirPods Max is not placed inside the case, there is no way to shut it off and it will drain battery until it eventually enters a sleep mode. If you’re willing to put up with the AirPods Max’s quirks, it’s an excellent pair of headphones.
Want something a little less expensive? Check out the JBL Club 950NC headphones
JBL is no stranger to making products that compete with the big dogs at a fraction of the cost, and the JBL Club 950NC headset is a perfect example of that. Although some users have reported that the Club 950NC is uncomfortable due to its metal build, it offers great sound quality for the price. The Club 950NC also has decent active noise cancelling, ambient aware more, and TalkThru mode which can be accessed via a button on the headphones.
JBL Club 950NC
Bluetooth multipoint isn’t the most common feature, but luckily this affordable headset offers it. You can connect the headphones to up to 2 devices at a time. The JBL Club 950NC supports both Alexa and Google Assistant access which is activated by tapping on the left ear cup. The headphones’ sound signature is pretty typical of consumer headphones—it has a strong bass response that can be amplified even more if you activate the Bass Boost function. If you download the JBL Headphones App, you can also customize the sound signature based on your gender, age, and preferences. For its affordable price, these headphones have a lot to offer
The Sony MDR-ZX110NC headphones are also worth checking out
If you don’t want to spend too much and still want good sound, then you’ll have to go with a wired pair of cans. At Target, that’s in the shape of the Sony MDR-ZX110NC headphones. These are on-ear headphones so the isolation won’t be great, but the MDR-ZX110NC does have ANC tech built-in to offset that slightly. Don’t expect to completely drown out the world in the way that you would with the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones we mentioned earlier, but it’s better than nothing.
The cable is roughly a meter long and the ear cups swivel so you can wear them comfortable around your neck when they’re not in use. You’ll need a single AAA battery to power it so as long as you keep a spare battery in your bag in case it dies, you could get some long listening sessions out of it.
What if you want earbuds?
Can’t forget about the Airpods
Of course, Target also sells the Airpods along with a number of other brands. So if over-ear headphones weren’t doing it for you then you might want to check out some of these smaller options that they also sell (most of which we have reviews for too).
- Bose Soundsport Free: The Bose Soundsport Free true wireless earbuds are one of the competitors to the Airpods and for good reason. Though they’re not as sleek, they’re definitely worth checking out. Full review
- Beats by Dre PowerBeats3: If you’re looking for bass-driven ‘buds to destroy at the gym, the Powerbeats3 are an obvious choice. Full review
- BeatsX: As a pair of neckbuds, these earbuds are way more suited for daily commuters who want a sleek pair of ‘buds that they can wear comfortably. Full review
- JBL E45BT: If the JBL E55BT headphones are too big for you, you can always go with their smaller siblings which are a pair of on-ears.
What you should know about buying headphones from Target
What is their price matching situation?
Does Target price match? You betcha. They’ll price match select competitors within 14 days of purchase. So if you see something elsewhere that’s cheaper just make sure to cross check it with their list of competitors. If you see something for cheaper once you leave the store, you still have 14 days from the time of purchase to go back with your receipt and get an adjustment.
Of course, this excludes a few obvious things like clearance items and anything from third-party marketplace sellers, as well as a few not so obvious things like sales tax promotions or typographical errors in advertising. So make sure to keep that in mind so you don’t end up taking a trip back to Target for nothing.
What to do if the item is out of stock?
Unfortunately, great sales don’t last long. If an item is out of stock at your local Target we’d recommend trying to purchase it via their website. If you’re closer to a Best Buy than you are to a Target, you can also head over to the blue shirts and pick up the product for the same price. If you caught our best headphones to get at Best Buy list, you know that they also price match. The only thing to keep in mind is that the product usually has to be in stock at your local Target before you can price match at Best Buy. So if your local Target is sold out of the product, Best Buy probably won’t price match it.
What’s the return policy?
The obvious benefit of buying something from Target is how easy it is to return something that you don’t like. Instead of having to schedule a pick-up and print out return labels, you can just walk into your local store. So how’s the return policy at Target? Well with a receipt they’ll accept any unopened product for up to 90 days. But that window gets smaller when it comes to electronics, at only 30 days.
That window gets even smaller with all Apple products, which need to be returned within 15 days. Of course, you may have spotted a problem here. Because usually, you won’t know if you like a pair of headphones unless you open the box and try them. This depends on how used the headphones look, but usually, if a product is opened you can still return them with a receipt for store credit. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t the case with earbuds because of health reasons. They do go in your ear after all.
What else should I know about headphones from Target?
Isolation & Active noise cancelling
This is true about any headphones not just headphones from Target, but when it comes to how your music sounds isolation is one of the most important things you should know of. We have an entire explainer piece detailing everything about why it’s important, but if you’re in a hurry the main reason you should care about isolation is because of biology. Didn’t see that coming did you? Without getting too science-y (check out the explainer for that), the gist of it is that our brains don’t always pay attention to every little sound that reaches our ears. If there are two sounds that are similar in frequency, our brains just ignore whichever one is lower in volume.
This is called auditory masking, and if you’ve ever struggled to hear the bass in songs while riding a bus or an airplane you’ve experienced this yourself. The constant low hum from the world around us makes it hard to hear the lower notes in our favorite songs because they’re close to each other in frequency, which means that if you’re in a noisy area your brain is ignoring the lower notes of your music. So how do you solve this? By blocking out as much outside noise as possible.
Whether that’s by using a pair of over-ear headphone that completely cover your ears or by actively cancelling outside noise with active noise canceling. Active noise cancelling headphones use tiny microphones to pick up what’s going on around you and then actively removes many of those sounds via destructive interference. Again, we have an entire explainer on exactly how this works if you’re interested. Luckily, audio companies are getting better at doing this as technology gets better, and some of the best headphones available (the Sony WH-1000X M2 and the Bose QC35 II) are both available at Target.
You may have noticed that most of these headphones are wireless. That means that you should be at least somewhat familiar with how that works, what offers the best quality, and which formats you should worry about. Bluetooth devices send information to each other wirelessly, which means that the audio information from your source devices needs to be packaged, sent over the Bluetooth connection, and then unpackaged by your headphones so you can listen to it. This is a complicated process and, wouldn’t you know it, we go way more in-depth in this article. But the main thing you should know is that the packaging and unpacking part of this process is handled by something called a codec.
In order for your headphones to properly unpackage the information, they need to have the same codec. You can’t transfer something over LDAC and expect your headphones that only have AAC to unpackage it. That would be like two people speaking different languages. Luckily, Bluetooth headphones do have a common standard in which to communicate through called SBC, but you’ll be sacrificing some quality.
Transfer rates aside, how good is Bluetooth really? Well, it turns out, Bluetooth is just barely good enough. You won’t get the same kind of performance as a pair of wired headphones, but due to most people not being able to hear higher frequencies anyway it doesn’t’ really matter. At least, not to the companies making these products. You also have to worry about whether the codecs are performing as advertised. One of the better codecs currently available is Sony’s LDAC, which has some of the highest transfer rates possible. The problem is that it doesn’t always work perfectly across the board as we found when we put it through some testing. It’s still good, but we’re still keeping an eye out for Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec that’s coming out soon.
How we chose the best headphones from Target
When it comes to these best lists, we usually spend hours researching across the internet and comparing what we find to our own hands-on experience with many of these products until we can determine a list that is worth checking out. Luckily, we didn’t have to do that here since there’s already a relatively small amount of headphones available from Target, most of which we have full reviews on. Picking the best products out of a smaller sample size is always easier, and we already had plenty of information available on most of the products they sold.
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