Though most look the same, headphones have actually come a long way in the last few years. The best headphones today can receive voice commands, connect wirelessly, cancel noise, and even be used while you’re working out.
So, if you’re in the market for a pair of cans, how do you choose the best one? We decided to do that job for you. In this article, we list out the best headphones in the market today. If you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find out that there are thousands of headphones produced by hundreds of companies.
You can buy headphones for less than $10 and there are some that literally cost $5,000. 🎧 💰
So, what does it take for a product to get on our list? Simply put, we look for audio quality, price, build quality, and features. A good headphone has to offer all of these to make it to our list.
However, just so that we’re very clear, this isn’t an academic list. It’s a practical one. No matter how good the 5,000 headphone is, most of us can’t afford it and neither do we need it, which is why we have chosen products that make sense in the real world.
With all this out of the way, here are the best headphones of 2020.
Best Choice: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Pros & Cons
- Balanced sound output
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Voice commands
- Rather plain looking
- Design → Closed
- Connection → Wireless
- Weight → 0.52 lb
- Battery Life → Around 20 hours
- Shipped with a wire
- Alexa and Google Assistant enabled
- Full recharge in 2.5 hours
- Impedance of 188 Ohms
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review
In the world of noise cancellation, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is about as good as it gets. Yes, the Sony headphones that we looked at earlier are getting better, but the QuietComfort is still a force to be reckoned with.
The QuietComfort 35 was released a few years back and now, there’s a successor. The QuietComfort 35 II. So, what has changed? Not a lot, really. The only notable change is the addition of Google Assistant.
There are quite a few things you can do by voice commands. You can ask the headphone to read your smartphone notifications, for example. You can, obviously, ask it to play songs as well.
The only problem is that the Assistant is a physical button which replaces the instant mute button that we loved in the original QuietComfort. Apart from that, the design is still very Bose.
There are two rather plain colors on offer - black and silver. It’s more or less made of plastic (to save weight) which feels cheap, but the tradeoff is that it’s very strong. You are also given a hard case, which we think is a must-have for any headphone.
This is where all the bad stuff ends, because when it comes to performance, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is hard to beat. It is, at its heart, a noise cancellation headphone and it does that job brilliantly.
The 35 II just nullifies any sound that passes through it. Trains, airplanes, street noise, voices - everything.
Then there’s the audio quality. It’s not as great as its Sony counterpart but the margin of difference is very small. The balance is great, apart from the fact that bass is emphasized. The audio is also quite soft, which means that the presentation isn’t always top notch.
If you consider the 35 II in isolation, the audio quality is actually very good. It’s only in comparison to the Sony WH -1000 XM3 that you notice a few small problems.
On the practicality front, the battery backup is a solid 20 hours and there’s also the wired mode. The only problem with the wired mode is that the audio jack is 2.5mm and not 3.5mm. So, you have to be conscious of that when you’re traveling. Most importantly, it’s very comfortable to wear on long journeys.
So, in conclusion, if noise cancellation is your primary concern, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II delivers the best results. If you want to learn more about the phenomenon, check out the detailed explanation on how do noise-canceling headphones work.
Premium Pick: Bowers and Wilkins P9 Signature
Pros & Cons
- The best B&W headphone
- Comes with three detachable cables
- High notes aren’t great
- Design → Closed
- Weight → 413 g
- Connection → Wired
- Charge Via USB → No
- 2 40mm drivers
- Frequency range of 2Hz to 30 KHz
- Comes with the B&W app
- Impedance → 22 Ohms
Bowers and Wilkins P9 Signature Review
If money is of no concern to you and you’re after the absolute best there is, it’s hard to look past the Bowers and Wilkins P9 Signature. The P9 signature is by far, the best headphone B&W has ever produced and that is a wonderful starting point.
B&W has 50+ years of experience and the P9 Signature is their version of what the best headphone should look, feel, and sound like. As a result, everything is premium. Everything is high quality and therefore, everything is quite expensive.
Let’s begin with the design and there’s no other word for it. The P9 is stunning. You may not like the brown leather, but everything about the design is spot on. The Sony we looked at earlier is what most modern headphones look like. The P9 is what they should look like.
The thickly cut metal and the Italian Saffiano leather contrast each other beautifully. However, as amazing as the design is, the sound quality is what matters.
The P9 Signature isn’t a wireless headphone. There are three wires and all are 3.5mm. The end that plugs into the ear cup. B&W have been working on improving their drivers forever. They were never bad, but B&W just kept improving them.
As a result, the audio quality is amazing. The unnecessary ‘boom’ of the lows are minimized, which in turn means that accuracy is excellent. Bass, unfortunately, is emphasized again as it is the case with most commercial headphones.
The mids are accurate and crystal clear. Vocals are emphasized here which means audiophiles will again not like it a lot. However, for most casual users, this is an advantage. On most headphones, the highs are too loud. Thankfully, the P9 Signature doesn’t make that mistake.
While that review might sound fairly critical of the P9’s audio quality, the fact is that it is excellent for casual users. In essence, B&W have sort of done the job for you. Wherever you ‘feel’ that the music should be louder, it will be louder.
Listing out the negatives isn’t a long process here. Price is the obvious one. The B&W P9 Signature costs around $900. That is serious money for a pair of cans. Also, the P9 is rather heavy, meaning that long music sessions will be a bit of a problem.
So, is it for you? For most people, no. However, if budget isn’t really a concern for you, or if you want the very best that mainstream headphones have to offer, the B&W P9 Signature will not disappoint you.
Best Value: Urbanears Plattan II
Pros & Cons
- Great sound quality for the price
- Bass isn’t great
- No volume controls
- Design → Closed
- Weight → 130 g
- Connection → 3.5 mm plug
- Zoundplug enabled
- 40mm handmade driver
- Impedance of 34 Ohms
- Frequency Response between 20 Hz and 20 KHz
- 3D hinge for flexibility
Urbanears Plattan II Review
If you want a simple, no-fuss headphone, the Urbanears Plattan II is a wonderful choice. It’s designed to look simple, yet classy.
One of the advantages of buying the Plattan II is that it’s designed almost by the customers. When the Plattan was launched, people loved it because of the audio quality for the price. But there were a few problems as well. Urbanears took feedback from the customers and now, the Plattan II addresses those problems.
As a result of this, sound isolation and comfort have increased a lot. The ear pads are now thicker and more comfortable. You don’t feel like you’re being squeezed when you wear it and finally, it looks slightly more sophisticated.
Then there’s the rather cool sharing feature. So, each ear cup houses a 3.5mm jack and if you want to share this music, just plug your friend’s headphone to the other 3.5mm jack, and voila! It’s done.
If music accuracy is what you’re after, the Plattan 2 Is not probably what you want. The audio is bass heavy and also quite warm when it comes to lows. However, given that these are for casual listeners and not for music enthusiasts, we don't see any problem with it.
The highs are surprisingly clear and accurate. Also, there are quite a few practical advantages with these cans. They fold down into a small package very easily meaning that you can carry them pretty much everywhere.
Finally, there’s the price. The Plattan II is priced around the $50 mark, and there are very few headphones that offer better sound quality and design for the price.
Of course, everything isn’t perfect. Sound accuracy is sacrificed in pursuit of bass and the soundstage width is quite mediocre. And finally, it definitely isn’t a gaming headphone. If you’re looking for the best budget gaming headset, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
But, for the price, the Urbanears Plattan II is amazing, and if you’re looking for a headphone for around $50, there’s nothing better than this on the market currently.
Best Earbuds: Jabra Elite Active 65t
Pros & Cons
- Comfortable enough to wear to the gym
- App offers a wide range of audio customizations
- Accelerometer works brilliantly
- Good battery life
- The charging case isn’t designed properly.
- Only 3 tip sizes offered
- Design → Earphone
- Connection → True Wireless
- Battery Life → 5 hrs
- IP56 dust and sweat protection
- Voice command for Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant
- Impedance of 16 Ohms
- Frequency range between 100 Hz to 10 KHz
Jabra Elite Active 65t Review
This is where earphones are headed, apparently. Two different, physically un-connected earpieces that sync audio. I’ve personally lost the left earpiece of one earphone set and the right ear piece of another.
But, thanks to the Apple Airpods and a whole host of new truly wireless earphones, I guess that’s the road we’re supposed to walk.
But, if you are looking for a truly wireless headphone or earphone and definitely want one, it doesn’t really get any better than the Jabra Elite Active 65T. The ‘active’ in the name immediately gives away the fact that these are earphones for the gym.
They are light, small, and have long battery life. There’s also an in-built accelerometer that can be used to track your runs and what not. Finally, just to make it abundantly clear, the Active is also sweat resistant.
We actually like the way the Active sits in the ear. Unlike the long, white stems of Airpods, these fit snugly in the ear. This is rather an important point given that you will be using these while you’re working out. Also, this is just about the most comfortable true wireless headphone that we’ve tested.
The only complaint that we have with the design aspect is with the charging case that holds the Active. It’s inexplicably difficult to open it.
As is the trend with most new headphones, you get an app with the Active as well. But, thankfully, this one’s actually useful. Given that there’s an accelerometer, you can record your miles. All in all, we’re happy that the app isn’t a gimmick. There are a few really useful functions. ‘
We now come to the very best aspect of the Active - audio quality. Yes, at around $200, the Active isn’t cheap, but the audio quality is truly amazing. Obviously, there’s a lot of emphasis on the bass in the lows.
The highs and mids are very accurate and the audio rendition is super-clear. Vocals are given a bit of preference in the highs, that’s more a positive than a negative. Also, what we loved was the fact that the naturality of the sound.
Put on some music and you immediately know that the Active isn’t trying to ‘enhance’ the audio. It’s just true rendition, apart from the bass in the lows. Even the bass isn’t really a problem because you can use the app to drag it right down.
Problems? You could begin with the price. These aren’t cheap by any means. The recharging case is too difficult to open, and the control buttons on the earpieces aren’t great in terms of quality.
However, considering the price, sound quality, and the fact that it’s truly gym-ready, these are forgivable mistakes. All in all, we love the Jabra Elite Active 65t and if you’re looking for a pair of earphones for the gym, you won’t go wrong with these.
Best for Audiophiles: Sennheiser HD 800 S
Pros & Cons
- Audio reproduction is excellent
- Comfortable to wear
- Balanced presentation
- Design → Open
- Connection → Wired
- Cable Length → 3m
- Weight → 330 grams
- Impedance of 300 Ohm
- Frequency Response between 4Hz and 51,000 Hz
- Dynamic transducer
- Not designed for casual use
Sennheiser HD 800 S Review
Now, before we get into any details at all, there’s something you should know about the Sennheiser HD 800S. You most probably don’t need it. Chances are, you don’t have any use for it. The only reason it’s on this list is that it’s too good a headphone to not be mentioned.
Unlike most headphones on this list, the 800 S is a pair of outstanding open-back headphones. This means that the audio from the headphone can spill outside and outside noise can also make its way in. So, why use open-back headphones? Because they’re incredibly comfortable and allow the ears to breathe.
The HD800 S is the successor of the Sennheiser HD800, which was an amazing headphone, to begin with. The main change or improvement that the HD800 S brings is the wider frequency response. It’s now between 4Hz and 51 kHz as opposed to the HD800’s 6Hz to 51KHz.
If you think that the difference isn’t all that great, try it once. The improvement in quality is easily noticeable. The audio has so much texture, nuance, and solidity. One thing that the 800 S does very well is balancing vocals and backdrops.
Vocals are given a slight preference so that you don’t miss them. Every instrument in the backdrop is rendered just distinctly enough. Don’t think that all this audio clarity has ruined the bass in the lows. Nope. It’s just as good at pumping out raw bass too.
Now, you might think that these are expensive. You’d be right. They cost around $1700, and yes, that’s a lot of money for a headphone, which is why we mentioned that this isn’t for most people.
However, in this price bracket, there isn’t a single headphone that even comes close to the Sennheiser HD 800 S. It won’t come to you as a surprise that these are used by many professionals and audiophiles. If you are one, you should get one.
But more importantly, even if you aren’t an audiophile, you should definitely at least try it once. The 800 S is almost perfect and for that reason, it makes it to our list.
1MORE Triple Driver
Pros & Cons
- Value for money
- Excellent audio quality
- Cheap plastic remote
- The highs are harsh at times
- Design → Closed
- Weight → 0.71 ounces
- Connection → Wired
- THX certified
- Frequency Response of 20 Hz to 40,000 Hz
- Dynamic Driver
- Impedance of 32 Ohms
- Sensitivity of 99 dB at 1KHz
1MORE Triple Driver Review
From the $1000 Sennheiser, we make our way down to reality with the $100 1MORE Triple Driver. While wireless earphones are the way forward, sometimes, you just need a simple earphone for your work commute. Plug and play, quite literally.
If a simple earphone is what you’re looking for, the 1MORE Triple Driver pretty much does it all. It’s designed well, the price is reasonable, and the sound quality is excellent.
Most earphones that are priced at the $100 mark usually have a major problem. It could be design, quality of materials used, or even the sound quality. However, the Triple driver manages to be reasonably good at all and excellent when it comes to sound quality.
1MORE has been clever with the materials that they’ve chosen to use. From the Y-cable to the jack, the wires are sheathed in braided fabric. This makes it more durable. From the Y-Cable to the earbuds, the wires are rubber. This means that they will snag on each other from time to time.
This is where the Triple Driver stands apart from the crowd - audio quality. The name might have given this away, but the Triple Driver has three drivers in each bud. Most have one. The advantage of having these extra drivers is that there’s much more control when handling different sounds.
The lows are, per usual, tuned towards bass and it’s quite apparent in the Triple Driver. However, it’s not too bad and the mids are brilliant. Vocals are slightly emphasized and the audio is surprisingly accurate. The clarity is great too.
The only problem with the audio quality is the highs when the volume is turned up to the max. The audio becomes a bit harsh, but apart from that, there’s really nothing wrong with the audio quality at all.
Yes, you’re not getting the sort of quality that you’d get from the Sennheiser that we saw earlier, but for the price, there are very few ear buds that can actually compete with the 1MORE Triple Driver.
Sony WH - 1000XM3
Pros & Cons
- Battery life
- Comfortable for long durations
- Quick Attention tech is amazing
- Great audio quality
- Seems fragile
- Design → Closed
- Weight → 275 grams
- Battery Life → 20 hours
- Range → 30 ft
- 40mm drivers
- 46 Ohms impedance
- Frequency between 4 Hz and 40000 Hz
- Uses the LDAC tech
Sony WH - 1000XM3 Review
Let’s face it. It’s only a few years before all smartphones ditch the 3.5mm port. Wireless headphones are the way forward and in the last couple of years, Sony has upped its game big time with the 1000x series.
The story hasn’t changed, for this, the latest Sony wireless offering - the WH 1000 XM3. The XM3 is pretty much the best headphone that you can buy today.
Sony have continued with their simplistic design language. Nothing big, brash, or eye-catching. In fact, you could even say that it looks a bit boring. But, design and aesthetics are subjective and we actually like the simplistic look.
What we like more is the fact that the XM3 is 22 grams lighter than its predecessor. This makes it better for long usages. The padding is all new and has better cushion. On the technical design front, Micro USB has been ditched for the faster Type - C port.
But what you should really be buying the XM3 is for its excellent sound quality. Not much has changed on this front when compared to its predecessor and that’s a good thing. To this day, most wireless headphones don’t sound as great as wired ones, but the XM3 is an exception.
Given that this is a headphone for casual use and not for professionals, bass is emphasized a bit. Thankfully, you can change that using Sony’s headphone app. The mids and highs are great too, and again, in the default mode, mids make way for bass.
Most headphones are appalling when it comes to call quality. The XM3 is an exception here too. You shouldn’t have any problems with the microphone or call quality at all.
Noise cancellation is another area where the XM3 stands out. Bose and Sony have a fundamentally different way of achieving noise cancellation, and with every new iteration, it seems that Sony is getting better and better. To top it all off, the XM3 offers a battery life of around 30 hours.
So, are there downsides? Well, there are a couple of small problems. To begin with, sturdy isn’t a word you can use to describe the XM3. So, if you aren’t careful enough, there’s a real chance that you might break it.
Finally, there’s the price. The Sone WH 1000 XM3 costs around $350, which means you need a really good reason to buy it. However, we think that the price is justified. If you’re careful with it, these cans can last for years. What’s more, they now support voice commands too. So, say hello to Google Assistant.
HyperX Cloud Revolver S
Pros & Cons
- Great sound quality
- Build quality is excellent
- Works across platforms
- The surround sound is quite average
- Placement of the mic is a bit awkward
- Design → Closed
- Connection → Wired
- Weight → 2.43 pounds
- Compatibility → PC, Xbox, PS4, PS4 Pro
- 7.1 surround sound
- 50 mm directional drivers
- Clippable audio control box
- Removable mic
HyperX Cloud Revolver S Review
When all’s said and done, we are a gaming website and there’s no way we were going to get through this list without talking about the best gaming headsets and headphones.
When it comes to gaming headphones, the needs are different. You want the sound to be loud, the design to be bold, and the mic to be super-clear. And that’s exactly what the HyperX Cloud Revolver S offers.
The predecessor to the Revolver S was the Cloud Revolver, which were great headphones, to begin with. With the Revolver S, HyperX has added a number of audio presets and plug-and-play virtual surround sound.
The design hasn’t changed either. It’s still that aggressive-looking, steel framed headphone. The only difference is that you get white highlights instead of red. Gaming also requires comfortable headphones for those long sessions, and the Revolver R is amazing at that.
It weighs only about 2.5 pounds and at most times, you can’t even tell that you’re wearing one. This is thanks to the improved headband and the large ear cups that house the ears perfectly.
But, obviously, the thing that we were looking forward to the most was the surround sound system. At the press of a button, the entire sound output changes and it actually works. However, it’s not that great. In fact, the quality of the surround sound output is just about average.
That being said, what’s definitely amazing is the audio presets. The bass-boost mode, especially, will not fail to impress you. Those rifle shots just got a lot more louder!
On the practicality front, the fact that the Revolver S is compatible across consoles is an advantage. We like the build quality. It’s sturdy and bendable enough. The mic is really good.
Most headphone microphones have a simple problem. They allow a lot of noise along with your voice. Not with the Revolver S. It manages to capture your voice exclusively and crisply. The only complaint we have with the microphone is its position. It’s a bit awkward. At most times, it feels as if you have to reach for it.
Best Gaming Headphones: Buying Guide
Before going out and just grabbing the costliest headphone that you can afford, there are things that you need to know. Irrespective of what your budget or need is, chances are that you’ll find the perfect headphone for you on this list.
However, if you’re still not sure of which one suits your needs the most, or if you want to know how exactly to pick a good pair of cans, this guide is for you. Here, we outline the most important aspects of buying a headphone, so that the next time you’re out to buy, you know exactly what to look for.
Wired or Wireless
This is perhaps the first decision that you have to make and it all depends on your needs. If noise cancellation is what you’re after, you don’t have a choice. Wireless headphones are the way to go.
Or if you go to a gym and you tangling headphone wires are a problem, true wireless earphones may be best. Or, if you simply have a phone that doesn’t have an audio jack, wireless headphones make sense.
Apart from these situations, wireless headphones don’t really offer much elsewhere. Wired headphones are simpler and when compared price to price, offer better quality too.
Closed-Back vs. Open-Back Headphones
Open-back headphones are designed in a way that allows the air to circulate through the earcups. As you might've assumed, closed-back headphones do the complete opposite.
Even though the design differences are fairly simple to explain, they carry two main consequences which heavily distinguish the two types of headphones:
- Using open-back headphones you will be able to hear external noises
- Using closed-back headphones your ears might get extremely sweaty and uncomfortable
In the end, it comes to your personal preference. Are you more comfortable hearing background noise while gaming or having your ears heat up like an oven?
If you're planning to travel or go around town with your new pair of headphones, then yes, portability is quite important. The rule of thumb here is to avoid models that are clunky, heavy, oversized and have tons of wires attached to them.
Also, some headphones come with a case for carrying them around. Having a protective body for just about any piece of hardware is a big bonus as we tend to break our tech even when we're trying to be careful. If the model you've fallen in love with doesn't ship a case with it, you can order one online or get it at a local retail store.
Finally, if portability is that big of a concern, always go for headphones that are foldable.
Very rarely, headphones come with a mobile application to enhance your user experience. You will encounter these more often with premium models and manufacturers, such as Beyerdynamic. Still, unless you're an extreme audiophile or a DJ, these won't make much of a difference.
FAQ: Best Headphones
Does the weight of the headphone matter?
Yes, very much. Comfort and weight are extremely important when it comes to headphones. If you’re going to use them for a long duration, they have to be light and comfortable.
Professional headphones like the Sennheiser that we looked at earlier will always be a tad heavy. So, what’s the ideal weight?
It depends, really. There are headphones that weigh under 100 grams and some that weigh more than 400. So, it’s really a matter of preference. Just make sure that you get the most comfortable headset for gaming if you're in for long sessions.
Should I buy a new headphone if I lose the ear tips?
This is by far, the most popular question about earphones and we feel you. The answer is no. You don’t have to buy new earphones. Eartips are available online from most manufacturers. In case the manufacturer doesn’t sell one, private sellers do.
What is the difference between in-ear and on-ear headphones?
In-ear headphones are popularly called earbuds. The buds sit inside your ear. Hence, in-ear. They are lightweight, usually have a mic, and also have a remote. On the other hand, most in-ear headphones aren’t really great.
Now, there are exceptions and there are some earbuds that will put headphones to shame. However, most are built for a budget and the sound quality isn’t as good as headphones.
On-ear headphones are… headphones. There are two ear cups that rest on your ears and they are connected by a headband. These, in general, offer better audio quality than earphones.
As a result, most high-end audio rendering devices are on-ear headphones. On the downside, on-ear headphones are almost always costlier than in-ear headphones.
So, that pretty much wraps it all up. We’ve gone through the best headphones in the market and explained why we think they’re great. The Buying Guide and the FAQ are to help you zero in on the perfect headphones.
Just make sure that the headphone is designed with your needs in mind and that it’s reasonably priced. Go ahead and tell us which one you chose! Also, you might not need a new pair after all; if you forget to clean your headphones regularly, the sound quality goes down.