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The Best Headphones

Last updated on March 15, 2019

We looked at the top 14 and dug through the reviews from 92 of the most popular review sites including New York Times Wirecutter, Wired, CNET, Android Police, Soundguys, Tech Radar and more. The result is a ranking of the best .

Best Headphones

Why Trust The DWYM Score?

DWYM is your trusted product review source. Along with our in-house experts, our team analyzes thousands of product reviews from the most trusted websites. We then create one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in a category.

Our experts reviewed the top 14 and also dug through the reviews from 92 of the most popular review sites including New York Times Wirecutter, Wired, CNET, Android Police, Soundguys, Tech Radar and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best .

Our Picks For The Top

Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall

Bose

QuietComfort 35 headphones

Overall Take

These over-ear headphones by Bose boast first-rate noise cancellation and excellent sound quality in a lightweight, comfortable design. Built-in compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant and a skip-free Bluetooth connection make this pair well worth the money. Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus New York Times Wirecutter, Top Ten Reviews, BestReviews, Tech Gear Lab, Consumer Reports, CNET and 7 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Target.
Pros
" If noise cancelling is what matters most to you, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is the wireless headphone pair to get—its noise cancelling ranks among the best available. On top of that, it sounds good, it’s exceptionally comfortable, and..."
Cons
"Audio quality isn't the best. Style leaves something to be desired. Audio leakage due to loose fit on some."

Sony

H900N Headphones

Overall Take

Sony’s well-rounded headphones sound great whether you’re using their noise cancellation feature or taking advantage of their unique ambient sound mode. These headphones also have an impressive 28 hours of battery life and come in three sharp color options. Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus New York Times Wirecutter, RTINGS.com, Best Reviews Guide. Along with user reviews from Best Buy and Amazon.
Pros
" The most well-rounded headphone pair we tested, the WH-H900N sounds great, comfortably cancels noise, and has the best battery life."
Cons
"Mediocre-at-best noise canceling. Very long charge time."

Plantronics

BackBeat Fit 2100

Overall Take

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus New York Times Wirecutter, Wired, CNET, Android Police. Along with user reviews from Target, Amazon and Best Buy.
Pros
" They’re comfortable and easy to use while you’re moving, and they’re resistant to sweat, rain, and dust."
Cons
"Part of this is attributable to the fact that the BackBeat Fit 2100s don’t have any noise-canceling properties."
  The Best Value

Bose

QuietComfort 20

Overall Take

The lone pair of wired, earbud-style headphones in our top four makes a powerful case for itself with surprisingly effective noise cancellation, secure silicone tips and a portable earbud design. Android fans might be turned off by the Apple-centric compatibility, but the crisp sound across all genres make... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus New York Times Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, CNET, Tech Radar, Tom’s Guide, PC Magazine and 4 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Target.
Pros
" The Bose QC20 came out on top because it provided better active noise cancelling than any other model we tested by far. In this regard it even bested the larger QuietComfort 35 Series II, our pick for the best over-ear..."
Cons
"Expensive; they don't sound as good as many competing in-ear headphones in this price range; rechargeable battery isn't replaceable."
Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, DWYM analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.
21

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the available to purchase.
14

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products to review and score.

View All Product Rankings

92

Expert Reviews Included

Reviews from our DWYM category experts and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: New York Times Wirecutter, Wired, CNET, Android Police, Soundguys.

99,888

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones

Expert Summarized Score
9.1
13 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.0
8,178 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

These over-ear headphones by Bose boast first-rate noise cancellation and excellent sound quality in a lightweight, comfortable design. Built-in compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant and a skip-free Bluetooth connection make this pair well worth the money.

What other experts liked
If noise cancelling is what matters most to you, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is the wireless headphone pair to get—its noise cancelling ranks among the best available. On top of that, it sounds good, it’s exceptionally comfortable, and...
- New York Times Wirecutter
December 10, 2018 | Full review
Comfortable cups. Lightweight. Long battery life. Excellent noise-cancelling technology.
- Top Ten Reviews
Wireless headphones. You can adjust the level of noise cancellation. Up to 20 hours of wireless play time. Connect to Amazon Alexa. Comfortable to wear. Excellent sound quality. Control on the headphones and in...
- BestReviews
December 1, 2018 | Full review
Great sound quality, good noise cancellation, comfortable, built-in Google Assistant
- Tech Gear Lab
Here's the thing: Yes, the QuietComfort 35s are an expensive set of headphones. But it's hard enough to find wireless headphones that either sound good or perform well, and most only manage to do one of these things well. The...
- Reviewed
July 18, 2017 | Full review
This wireless Bluetooth model from Bose delivers excellent active noise reduction and excellent sound quality; they are a decent choice for the listener who will not be satisfied with anything less than top notch music and movie soundtrack playback. These...
- Consumer Reports
The Bose QuietComfort 35 combines top-of-the-line active-noise canceling with wireless Bluetooth operation in an extra-comfortable, fold-up design. The sound is excellent for Bluetooth, and it doubles as a great headset for phone calls. Works in wired mode with included cord...
- CNET
June 19, 2016 | Full review
The QuietComfort 35s are exactly what Bose promised they’d be. They’re the best noise-canceling headphones around, and the best-sounding headphones that the company has produced yet. Now you’ve got the added convenience of them being wireless — just in time...
- The Verge
June 22, 2016 | Full review
Broad and clear soundstage. Amazing noise cancellation. Long battery life. Quick and hassle-free pairing.
- Tech Radar
Superior noise cancellation. Light and very comfortable wireless design. Intuitive controls. Excellent audio quality. Long battery life.
- Tom's Guide
June 20, 2016 | Full review
Best noise cancellation on the market. Balanced and powerful audio. Can function wired or wireless.
- PC Magazine
June 8, 2016 | Full review
My new favorite travel headphone. Battery life exceeds the quoted 20 hours. Comfortable and unobtrusive over-ear fit. Noise-canceling tech is the best in the biz. Premium construction: anodized aluminum covers and synthetic protein leather cushions on the ear cups, stainless...
- Wired
January 14, 2019 | Full review
Outstanding noise isolation. Wireless and comfortable design. Good sound quality.
- RTINGS.com
February 27, 2018 | Full review
What other experts didn't like
The downside is that the aggressive noise cancelling produces pressure on the eardrums that some people (including most of our testers) find uncomfortable.
- New York Times Wirecutter
December 10, 2018 | Full review
Audio quality isn't the best. Style leaves something to be desired. Audio leakage due to loose fit on some.
- Top Ten Reviews
Headphones pick up external noise during phone calls, which may be distracting for the person you're talking to.
- BestReviews
December 1, 2018 | Full review
Expensive.
- Tech Gear Lab
The QC35s are absolutely worthy of consideration, but only if you don't mind your credit card taking a pretty hefty hit; they're the real deal, but at $350, they're not for everyone.
- Reviewed
July 18, 2017 | Full review
Battery isn't user-replaceable, and the headphone is heavier than the QuietComfort 25.
- CNET
June 19, 2016 | Full review
$350 isn’t cheap
- The Verge
June 22, 2016 | Full review
Active EQ an acquired taste. Boring looks.
- Tech Radar
App doesn't do much. Bass could be beefier.
- Tom's Guide
June 20, 2016 | Full review
Cable has no inline remote control. DSP has a major impact on the sound signature in terms of EQ sculpting and dynamics.
- PC Magazine
June 8, 2016 | Full review
They sound terrible in passive mode, just use them wirelessly. They fold down pretty small, but they still take up too much room in the carry-on.
- Wired
January 14, 2019 | Full review
Moderate sound leakage.
- RTINGS.com
February 27, 2018 | Full review

The Best Bang For Your Buck

Bose QuietComfort 20

Expert Summarized Score
8.4
10 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.7
2,948 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

The lone pair of wired, earbud-style headphones in our top four makes a powerful case for itself with surprisingly effective noise cancellation, secure silicone tips and a portable earbud design. Android fans might be turned off by the Apple-centric compatibility, but the crisp sound across all genres make these buds worth it.

What other experts liked
The Bose QC20 came out on top because it provided better active noise cancelling than any other model we tested by far. In this regard it even bested the larger QuietComfort 35 Series II, our pick for the best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones (though the QC35 has additional passive isolation that...
- New York Times Wirecutter
November 20, 2018 | Full review
This iPod/iPad/cellphone-centric model from Bose combines elements of in-ear and earbud earphones. Though the QC20i earphones are pricey, they deliver very good sound quality and excellent active noise reduction, the best of the in-ear models we've tested.
- Consumer Reports
The Bose QuietComfort 20 and 20i are compact in-ear headphones that sound good, are very comfortable to wear, and offer surprisingly impressive noise cancellation. The noise cancellation is powered by an integrated rechargeable lithium battery that delivers up to 16 hours of battery life.
- CNET
October 31, 2013 | Full review
Extremely comfortable. Amazing sound quality. Aware mode will keep you alive
- Tech Radar
Superb noise cancellation. Extremely comfortable and stable fit. Slim battery pack. Audio plays without power
- Tom's Guide
February 12, 2014 | Full review
The best noise cancellation circuitry on the market. Rich bass response and crisp highs. Comfortable, secure fit. Works in passive mode.
- PC Magazine
August 7, 2013 | Full review
First class noise cancellation. Clear sound across all genres. Comfortable, easy to insert earbuds. Good feature set
- Digital Trends
An all-around great product that's among the best in its category. You'll almost certainly be happy.
- Engadget
Excellent noise isolation. Simple, durable design. Comfortable stable fit from the StayHear+ tips.
- RTINGS.com
What other experts didn't like
Expensive; they don't sound as good as many competing in-ear headphones in this price range; rechargeable battery isn't replaceable.
- CNET
October 31, 2013 | Full review
Battery module is huge
- Tech Radar
Expensive. Bulky inline mic/controller. Battery life could be better
- Tom's Guide
February 12, 2014 | Full review
Sound signature is very sculpted, and not for purists. Light on accessories like extra eartips.
- PC Magazine
August 7, 2013 | Full review
DSP creates a synthetic quality to the music. Battery/electronics bar is awkward. Expensive
- Digital Trends
Slightly bass-heavy audio reproduction.
- RTINGS.com

Overall Product Rankings

1. Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones
Overall Score: 9.4
Reviews Included: 17

2. Sony H900N Headphones
Overall Score: 8.7
Reviews Included: 5

3. Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100
Overall Score: 8.6
Reviews Included: 7

4. Bose QuietComfort 20
Overall Score: 8.5
Reviews Included: 14

5. Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones
Overall Score: 8.4
Reviews Included: 16

6. Sennheiser RS 165 RF Wireless Headphone
Overall Score: 8.4
Reviews Included: 6

7. HyperX Cloud
Overall Score: 8.3
Reviews Included: 11

8. Jabra Elite 65t
Overall Score: 8.2
Reviews Included: 14

10. Beats Studio 3
Overall Score: 7.7
Reviews Included: 15

12. Plantronics BackBeat GO 410 Wireless Headphones
Overall Score: 7.4
Reviews Included: 5

13. MEE audio Headphones
Overall Score: 6.6
Reviews Included: 7

An Overview On

Headphones are huge right now. Music fans, gaming buffs and podcast aficionados spent more than $9.5 billion dollars on them in 2016, and that number is projected to balloon to $13.8 billion in the next seven years.

There are multiple styles of headphones. Earbuds, on-ear and over-ear headphones are the three most popular types, and they’re all available in wired and wireless versions. If you’re intimidated by the number of options you’re seeing online or in the electronics aisle, there are a number of ways to narrow down the choices and find the best headphones for your needs.

Earbuds, or in-ear headphones, sit just inside your ear canal. Soft silicone tips fit snugly inside your ears, and some models come with different sizes for a customized fit. Other models, like the Bose QuietComfort 20, have plastic wings that create a stronger seal in your ear canal for a more secure fit.

Earbuds are available in standard wired versions, wireless versions (which connect around the back of your neck with a small wire but do not need to connect to your device with a wire), and true wireless versions (where both earbuds operate independently with no wires at all).

On-ear headphones, which are sometimes called supra-aural headphones, are larger, with soft ear cups made from real or synthetic leather. They sit on top of your ears and allow more sound in while you’re listening, which makes them great for times when you want to listen to music without completely canceling out surrounding sounds. They’re also more lightweight and portable than heftier, full-coverage over-ear headphones.

Over-ear headphones enclose your entire ear in soft ear cups. They’re the largest headphone option, and they boast advanced features like noise cancellation and higher sound quality than other types of headphones. They’re great for wearing indoors while you’re focused on work, playing video games or enjoying high-definition sound on your smart TV. They tend to be a bit bulky to take with you when you’re commuting, but the total noise cancellation option makes them great for long flights.

Some over-ear headphone models, like the Sony H900N, have active noise cancellation as well as ambient sound modes for different listening scenarios. Other types of over-ear headphones, like the Sennheiser RS 165s, come with a transmitter that connects to your home audio or entertainment system for a more robust digital listening experience.

DWYM Fun Fact

You owe your favorite pair of headphones a salute. The first pair of modern audio headphones were picked up by the U.S. Navy in 1910 after being repeatedly rejected by private sector investors. Mormon inventor and engineer Nathaniel Baldwin invented them on his kitchen table; the Navy’s eventual investment made him a rich man. They ordered 100 pairs and sparked a headphone revolution. Unfortunately, Baldwin never patented them, so the German company Bayerdynamic made some serious cash when they created the first pair for home enjoyment in 1937. Baldwin also wound up bankrupt after using his payout from the Navy to make a less-than-sound investment in the Mormon polygamous movement. Whoops!

The Buying Guide

  • If you’re picking out new headphones, the first order of business is choosing between wired and wireless. Wired headphones are generally more reliable, since they don’t rely on a Bluetooth connection to connect you to your music, but wireless technology is quickly catching up. You can get more bang for your buck in terms of sound quality with wired headphones, too, and you’ll never have to worry about your wired headphones running out of battery. However, the freedom of wireless headphones outweighs their downsides for many people, and high-end styles like the Bose QuietComfort 35 have up to 20 hours of battery life per charge.
  • Next up: what activities will you be doing while you wear your headphones? Gym rats will benefit from earbud styles, like the Bose QuietComfort 20. Their cone-shaped silicone tips fit securely in your ears, staying in place during very active sweat sessions. Plus, the inline remote helps you answer calls or switch songs without fumbling with your phone. If you’re relying on headphones to help you focus while working from home or enjoying your favorite music, a pair of plush over-ear headphones like Sony’s H900N Headphones provide premium sound and comfort with active noise cancellation. You can use them wirelessly or plug them in for longer battery life. If your goal is to create a surround-sound home theater experience without disturbing roommates or family members, a pair like Sennheiser’s RS 165 headphones is ideal. They’re also full over-ear headphones with ergonomic ear cups, but their included transmitter creates a stronger connection to home speakers or smart TVs for immersive movie-watching or gaming.
  • How portable do you need your headphones to be? Earbuds are lightweight and fit into a purse, pocket or briefcase, but wireless and true wireless versions are easier to lose. If you’re not planning on taking your headphones far from home, on-ear or over-ear options make more sense; you can enjoy their superior sound quality without worrying about hefting them around.
  • If you’re going to drop your hard-earned cash on headphones, you’ll want to take steps to care for them to keep the music playing. Wired headphones need cable care; you’ll want to wind up the cable and secure it with a twist tie or velcro rope while not in use. Make sure you don’t leave your headphones in areas where it becomes extremely hot or cold (like inside your car during chilly winter days or hot summer nights). Those temperatures can damage the internal audio components.
  • Keeping your headphones clean also contributes to their life span. Earbud-style headphones need special attention since wax buildup can affect sound quality and hygiene. Removing the silicone ear tips, rinsing them with warm water, and drying them with a soft cloth should be part of their regular maintenance. All types of headphones should be wiped with a damp, clean cloth and dried if they’re exposed to excessive sweat or moisture. Make sure to keep your charging port clear of crumbs and debris for reliable charging, and store on-ear and over-ear headphones in a hard case when they’re not in use.