Best Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar’s round-up of the best headphones you can buy on any budget in 2018.
We’ve all bought headphones that were just OK. Headphones that we could wear for a few weeks, maybe, and then just toss them out if we didn’t like them. They were from discount bins or check-out lines and they served a very specific need.
I’m not here to tell you not to buy those kinds of headphones anymore. What I will tell you, though, is that headphones like those disposable ones aren’t good. Not only are these headphones built to fall apart, but they’re not physically not capable of delivering the audio experience artists and directors set out to achieve in your favorite movies, albums and TV shows.
They’re cheap, yeah, but they’re not good.
It’s our mission to hook you up with a pair of great-sounding headphones. The best headphones money can buy – even when you’re on a budget.
To that end, we’ve listened to hundreds of headphones over the years of every make, model and variety to create list-after-list of the best noise-cancelling headphones, the best wireless headphones, the best earbuds, etc…
We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar – but, if you’re in a hurry and just want to see the best headphones, period, this is the article for you. What you’ll find below is our selection of the best headphones for each form-factor, and we’ve even picked out a less-costly option for each so that a lack of finances won’t stop you from finding a pair of headphones you’ll truly love.
What are the best headphones to buy right now?
Here’s a quick look at the best headphones this year:
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 budget on-ear headphones: Urbanears Plattan II
A perfect value buy if you want headphones that are cheap and comfortable
Acoustic design: Closed | 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
No volume controls
While the original Plattan headphones were just fine for a pair of on-ear headphones, Urbanears wasn’t satisfied with being mediocre. The company took customer feedback to heart and addressed many complaints about comfort, sound quality and isolation. For the most part, Urbanears succeeded, making the Plattan II a worthy sequel to the company’s most popular headphone.
In short, these are basic headphones without a ton of features. But, because they’re feature-light, you get a good-sounding pair of wired headphones for significantly less than you would otherwise.
Read the full review: Urbanears Plattan II
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: Sony WH-1000XM2
Crystal clear-sounding noise-cancelling headphones
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 23g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes
Hinges on arms are fragile
When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you’re often trading sound quality for the ability to block out outside noise. It’s a trade that we’ve been willing to make for years because, honestly, we just hadn’t been able to find a headphone that could do both noise-cancellation and Hi-Res audio.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the follow-up to the surprisingly great MDR-1000X. They might have a slightly shorter battery life than Bose’s flagship over-ear headphones, the QuietComfort 35, but Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outclass the QC35 in terms of both performance for the price and overall feature-set.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2
Best budget noise-canceling headphones: TaoTronics TT-BH22
Insanely cheap noise-cancelling headphones
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
Exciting sound signature
Good battery life
Sounds bad with ANC off
Unrefined build and features
We make it a habit to not look up pricing of a product before reviewing and if we had to guess the price of the Taotronics TT-BH22, we would have guessed it cost $150. We were shocked to find out that the MSRP for the TT-BH22 is $70 (£60, about AU$86), and can regularly be found for even less online.
The TT-BH22 feature active noise cancellation (ANC), which is unheard of in this price range, and on top of that, you get a rated 25 hours of battery life. They’re not perfect, but if you need noise-cancellation and you don’t want to drop your next two paychecks on headphones, they’re worth checking out.
Read the full review: TaoTronics TT-BH22
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 65t
One of the best true wireless earbuds you can buy
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
Mature, understated design
Pleasure to use
Balanced sound quality
Limited eartip selection
All things considered, the Jabra Elite 65t are one of the best truly wireless headphones you can buy today. They cost slightly more than the Apple AirPods but they also offer better sound quality, noise isolation and adjustable ambient noise when you want it. And if you don’t like the design of the odd, alien-looking AirPods, the mature, understated look of the 65t may be to your liking.
While the Jabra Elite 65t are easily one of the highest scoring true wireless headphones we’ve reviewed, there are a few others on the market worth considering: If you want a pair of exercise earbuds, there’s the Jabra Elite Sportwhich has a higher water resistance and handy sports-oriented features. For audiophiles who don’t mind stretching the budget, the active noise cancelling Sony WF-1000X are an excellent choice. Bassheads will want to try the SOL Republic Amps Air.
If you only have the budget for one of these, though, go for the Elite 65t.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.