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Best headphones at Target
Whether you’re ordering online or walking into a store, Target has a healthy selection of headphones you can choose from. It doesn’t have some of the more obscure, higher-end brands that audiophiles love to argue about, but Target does take notice of what’s going on in the industry. 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 pair of headphones is for you. We’re here to point out the store’s best options, giving you another reason to go to Target for milk and leave with a shopping cart of stuff.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on July 12, 2022, to update the Top Picks, include frequency response charts, fix broken product links, update formatting, add a contents menu. We also revamped the Alternatives section with what’s new on the market.
Why is the Sony WH-1000XM5 the best headphones you can get at Target?
If you want the best headphones at Target and some of the best ones on the market, you have to go with the Sony WH-1000XM5. This pair of over-ear, active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones exceeds our expectations. The available colors (black or white) are subtle and won’t look out of place at the office or commute. With ANC on, the battery lasts almost 32 hours, and it also has a quick charge feature.
The sound quality on these cans is exceptionally good, so long as you enjoy a healthy dose of bass. The Sony Headphones Connect companion app (iOS/Android) has an equalizer that saves your settings right to the headphones. The app offers more than just EQ. You can access features like ANC optimization, 360 Reality Audio, firmware updates, and Google Fast Pair. The Sony WH-1000XM5 noise cancellation is also outstanding and outperforms other popular headsets like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and even the Bose QC 45 in some areas. You can listen with SBC, AAC, LDAC, with a 3.5mm cable for lossless playback.
The ear cup is touch-sensitive, so all 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 this pair of headphones isn’t cheap, it’s one of the best pairs you can get. Not just at Target, but anywhere.
If you’re looking to save a couple bucks, it may be worth checking out the older Sony WH-1000XM4. This pair of cans is still fantastic at noise cancellation, though the newer model is the better out of the two.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 also has an improved microphone. Where the XM4 sports a 5 microphone array, the XM5 has an 8 microphone array as well as an AI noise rejection algorithm that keeps your calls crystal clear.
Sony WH-1000XM4 microphone demo:
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo:
Beyond these technical improvements, there aren’t too many huge differences between the two iterations. The newer XM5 has a different design than the XM4, with a sliding headband adjuster rather than one with notches. The newer headset has slightly larger ear pads fit to accommodate anyone with bigger ears.
You can read all about how they compare in our Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Sony WH-1000XM4 article.
For a pair of truly comfortable headphones, get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II
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. The plush ear cups and padding make it so comfortable to wear on long flights.
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.
We’re awarding the Bose QuietComfort 35 II a top spot on this list because, unlike the Bose QC 45, you can actually turn ANC off. You can’t do this on the QuietComfort 45, unless you’re prepared to enable transparency mode. Read all about how they compare in our Bose QC 45 vs QC 35 II article.
Get the Apple AirPods Max for the Apple fan in your
The hottest pair of headphones on the market right now is 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. When you use the AirPods Max with an iPhone, you get access to features like Spatial Audio. Using the headphones with a non-Apple device is almost pointless because you’ll miss out on so many of its features.
Though the AirPods Max is expensive (half a grand, in fact), some may find it worth it. The AirPods Max has the best raw active noise cancelling performance we’ve tested, and its sound quality is top notch. Operating the AirPods Max from its onboard controls is pretty smooth, and it’s 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. (Many people just buy a separate hardshell case.) If your AirPods Max is not placed inside the case, there is no way to shut it off and it will drain the 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.
Get great design, sound, and features from the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Bose is no stranger to making great products. Yes, that’s right, Bose earns another spot on this list of the best Target headphones with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. This sleek pair of cans has 11 active noise cancelling settings that you can toggle between in the Bose Music app. This headset is a bit older than some of our other picks, but this is what makes it easier to afford.
We greatly appreciate Bose’s perfect degree of sensitivity on the touch controls. When controlling media or phone calls, we don’t experience misfires or unregistered gestures.
The headphones’ sound signature is quite good as it has a slight bass boost typical of consumer headphones but is not too overpowering the way some consumer cans are. The Bose Music app features a rudimentary equalizer that you can use to boost the frequency ranges that you prefer. More likely, you’ll want to decrease the treble response a bit. Sopmething to note when you invest in Bose headphones, you’re guaranteed to get useful firmware updates along a product’s life. Upon its release, there was no way to EQ the Bose NCH 700 from the Music app.
The headphones house a decent microphone for making phone calls, though anyone with a particularly deep voice may come through a little muffled.
Save money with the JBL Tune 510BT on-ear headphones
If you don’t want to spend too much and still want good sound, then you’ll want to check out a pair of JBL headphones. The JBL Tune 510BT is a bassy bang-for-your-buck pair of Bluetooth headphones that operate over SBC and AAC. This is a pair of on-ear headphones, and its isolation is accordingly not great, but the perk of on-ear cans is that they’re easier to take on the go. It’s also foldable so you can easily throw it in your backpack before getting on the bus.
Unfortunately, the JBL Tune 510BT doesn’t provide the option to listen with a wire but it has useful controls on its ear cups. It lasts about 40 hours on a single charge and supports quick charging. The build quality of this headset isn’t show-stopping and people who wear glasses or have ear piercings may find it uncomfortable, but for only $50 USD it’s worth consideration.
If you want earbuds, get the Apple AirPods Pro
The Apple AirPods Pro is the most popular pair of wireless earbuds out there, and Target has it. This headset has great active noise cancelling and comes with all the special features an Apple user could ever want, such as customizable touch controls, an ear tip fit test, Find My AirPods, and Spatial Audio. This pair of earbuds is essentially the handheld, more affordable version of the AirPods Max.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) is a good alternative for anyone who doesn’t like the clogged-ear feeling that silicone ear tips create. The AirPods (3rd gen) also lacks the active noise cancelling that the AirPods Pro sports. When listening in a quiet environment, the earbuds sound close enough to one another, but the unsealed AirPods (3rd generation) has virtually no sub-bass. Treble notes are about 5dB louder through the unsealed earbuds compared to the Pro version. When you take the AirPods (3rd generation) out into the real world, the sound gets perceptibly worse because external noise masks the earbuds’ audio output.
Both pairs of earbuds have similar features like Spatial Audio and touch controls, but only the AirPods Pro has a pressure-sensitive stem. The AirPods (3rd gen) is about $70 USD cheaper than the AirPods Pro.
Read all about how they compare in our AirPods Pro vs AirPods (3rd generation) article.
The best headphones from Target: Notable mentions
- Beats Solo3 Wireless: This is a pair of cans that will easily pair with your iPhone or Mac computer. Though it is a bit outdated and a bit pricey for its age, this on-ear headset is nice and portable and provides that strong bass response Beats fans look for.
- Bose QuietComfort 45: This Bose headset is comfortable for long working hours and has a decent 25-hour battery life. The main downfall of this pair of headphones is that you can’t turn off ANC without automatically enabling transparency audio.
- Sony WH-XB910N: If you’re hunting for a more affordable pair of Sony headphones, check out the Sony WH-XB910N. This headset is sure to provide a strong, perhaps too strong, bass response. It also has active noise cancelling and an in-app equalizer for optimizing the sound signature.
Check out some of our favorite earbuds from Target, too
- Beats Powerbeats Pro: Gym rats will adore these truly wireless earbuds with ear hooks. Like any Beats product, this headset pairs seamlessly with your iPhone and Mac computer. Its sound isolation isn’t great, but that could be considered a safety feature if you are getting it specifically for workouts.
- Beats Studio Buds: The first pair of Apple-owned Beats earbuds to quick-pair with Android devices comes at a more affordable price than many other Apple products. Though the Studio Buds’ noise cancelling isn’t great, it’s better than nothing.
- JLab GO Air POP: For a really affordable pair of true wireless earbuds, check these out. Though this headset is very cheap, its sound quality is pretty good, and it comes in several fun colors.
- Sony LinkBuds: Good for people who want to hear everything but don’t want bone conduction headphones or AirPods.
- Sony LinkBuds S: This follow-up to the Sony LinkBuds takes on a more conventional design and offers pretty decent noise cancelling and sound quality.
- Sony WF-C500: This is an affordable pair of earbuds with an IPX4 rating and pretty good sound quality for its price.
What you should know about buying headphones from Target
Does Target price match?
Target will price match select competitors within 14 days of purchase. If you see a product sold elsewhere for cheaper just make sure to cross check it with Target’s 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, the price matching excludes a few obvious things like clearance items and anything from third-party marketplace sellers. It also excludes less 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 should you 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 recommend purchasing the website. Anyone who lives closer to a Best Buy than Target can 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 Best Buy also price matches. Keep in mind is that the product usually has to be in stock at your local Target in order for Best Buy to price match it. So if your local Target is sold out of the product, Best Buy probably won’t price match it.
What’s Target’s return policy?
The obvious benefit of buying something from Target rather than an online retailer 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. Target’s return policy states that with a receipt they’ll accept any unopened electronic product for up to 30 days.
That return 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.
You should prioritize good noise isolation
When it comes to how your music sounds, isolation is one of the most important things to consider, whether you’re buying headphones from Target or any other retailer. We have an entire explainer piece detailing everything about why isolation is 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.
You can block out noise by using a pair of over-ear headphones that completely cover your ears or with a pair of active noise cancelling headphones. Active noise cancelling headphones use tiny microphones to pick up what’s going on around you and then actively remove 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 can be found at Target.
Look out for Bluetooth codecs
You may have noticed that most of the headphones on this list are wireless. We’d like for you to be at least somewhat familiar with how wireless headphones work, what offers the best quality, and which Bluetooth 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.
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 at preserving sound quality? Well, 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 you may have better luck with Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
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Frequently asked questions about headphones from Target
There are no glaring reasons why you should shop at Target instead of another retailer. It’s one of a few stores that price match, though, so if you have a Target in your neighborhood it may be more convenient than going to a different store that has the same products for the same price.