Best Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar’s round-up of the best headphones you can buy on any budget in 2017.
Good headphones will get by with just playing your music, but the best headphones can do so much more.
Choose right and you can get a pair of headphones that looks great, sounds even better, and will even come with advanced features like wireless operation and noise-cancellation.
Thankfully, these days you don’t have to spend much money at all to get a seriously great pair of cans either.
But with so many options it can be tough to make a decision, and that’s where we come in.
We’ve selected the best headphones for each form-factor, and we’ve even picked out a less-costly option for each so that you should be able to find an excellent pair of headphones, no matter what your budget.
Here’s a quick look at the best headphones this year:
Don’t forget we’ve also got our form-factor specific guides to the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones and the best over-ear headphones in addition to our guides to the best noise-cancelling headphones and the best wireless headphones if you can’t find what you’re looking for on this list.
What headphones does TechRadar recommend?
The two most important things to consider when buying a pair of headphones are form-factor and price, so that’s exactly how we’ve organised our guide.
Below you’ll find our top picks for the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones, the best over-ear headphones, the best noise-cancelling headphones and finally the best wireless headphones.
As well as a top pick for each form-factor we’ve also included a budget pick which manages to offer great sound at a much more competitive price point.
Best in-ear headphones: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
Your search for great sounding, good value headphones ends here
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Lush sound quality
Excellent build and design
Plastic remote feels cheap
After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges.
For $100 (£100, about AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. (That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.)
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Its rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks. But, for its price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE’s Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
Best budget in-ear headphones: RHA S500u
Great-sounding, incredibly cheap in-ear headphones
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 14 grams | Cable length: 1.35m, dual material | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: Micro Dynamic | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100dB | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Excellent build quality
Balanced, rich audio
Sibilant at times
If you have a tendency to lose or break headphones but still value sound quality, it’s hard to think of a better value than the RHA S500u. These headphones have no business sounding so good for the price: Sound quality is balanced with a slight mid-bass bump. Bass is slightly emphasized but not egregiously and features good impact while maintaining good control. And highs, while sibilant at times, makes music sound more exciting.
Read the full review: RHA S500u
Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e
Truly excellent sound performance for a stellar price
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99db | Impedance: 32 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Impressive definition for the price
No in-line controls
For your money, you can’t do any better than Grado’s SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company’s Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you’re looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. Its open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. In a few words, it’s our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance.)
Read the full review: Grado SR60e
Best over-ear headphones: Oppo PM-3
Closed back planar magnetic headphones from the gods
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.71 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 10-50,000Hz | Drivers: 55mm | Driver type: Planar Magnetic | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 26 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Stunning sound quality
Faux leather earpads
Less precision than open-back cans
The Oppo PM-3’s are a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we’ve reviewed a lot of headphones in the last 10 years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.
They’re equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of a big city, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can’t recommend them highly enough, they’re just amazing.
Read the full review: Oppo PM-3
Best budget over-ear headphones: AKG K92
Budget over-ears that make no compromises on sound quality
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.44 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 ft | Frequency response: 16-20,000Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 113dB | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Comfortable to wear
Budget plastic construction
No detachable cable
AKG has the right idea when it comes to budget headphones. Instead of spending lots of money on an expensive, heavy construction, the company has instead clearly spend the bulk of its money on the K92’s drivers, which sound appropriately excellent.
So yes, the K92’s might feel a little plastic-y, but they have a good amount of power where it matters the most.
Read the full review: AKG K92
Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35
Bose has cut the wires off its flagship noise-cancellers with great success
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes
Broad and clear soundstage
Amazing noise cancellation
Active EQ an acquired taste
Bose has finally brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones and it’s done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones. They sound great, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.
At $349.95 (£289.95 / AU pricing tbc) the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now then you can’t get any better.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35
Best budget noise-canceling headphones: Philips Fidelio NC1
An all-around headset offering quality sound and noise cancellation
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 7-25,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.5″ Neodymium drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 107 dB | Impedance: 16 ohm | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Brilliantly balanced sound
Great build quality and battery life
Some sound leakage
Philips presents an elegant noise-cancelling solution with its NC1. These on-ear headphones aren’t wireless, but that’s hardly a reason to knock them. Coming in at $129, the NC1 are a more compact set that’s high on comfort and battery life.
In the box come headphones, a hard case for storage and the headphones rock a rechargeable battery that provides noise cancellation for close to 30 hours. But best of all, the sound performance is extremely well balanced and warm.
Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1
Best wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
Incredible audio fidelity backed by a serious price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 4.6 feet | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 28 ohms | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes
Comfy, rugged build
Everlasting battery life
These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but for many, they’re almost prohibitively expensive. However, if you’re an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
Best wireless earphones: Optoma NuForce BE6i
Sporty wireless earphones that are great for casual listeners too
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 18 grams | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 10mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 95dB +/-3dB | Impedance: 20 Ohms | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 98 feet | NFC: No
Light on features
Continuing the trend that the original NuForce BE6 started, the Optoma Nuforce BE6i are a minor update to an already great pair of earbuds and remain one of our favorite in-ear wireless headphones for the price.Offering good sound, build quality and battery life in its segment if you’re looking for a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that can survive a strenuous work out, the these should be on the top of your list of headphones to try.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE6i
Best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite Sport
Great sound with fitness tracking to mach
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 4.5 hours (13.5 hours in charging case) | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Great sport features
Very good sound quality
Heart rate data not perfect
Since the release of the AirPods the popularity of ‘true wireless’ earbuds, which remove the cable between the two earbuds, have exploded.
The Jabra Elite Sport are the best of the bunch at the moment. They not only feature great sound quality, but they’ll also track your heart rate during workouts.
Because they need to fit their entire body into your ears the Jabra Elite Sport don’t have as long a battery life as other wireless pairs, but if you want the freedom true wireless affords then there’s little out there that can compete.
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.