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Best Headphones 2017: 16 great headphones for any budget

Andrew Williams

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BestHeadphones

Our guide to all the best headphones you can buy right now.

It’s tempting to jump straight in and start looking at some of the most tech-packed pairs on the planet. But remember: these features don’t come for free. If you’re on a tight budget you’ll get better sound from a basic cabled pair.

We review headphones every week, so if you have come to the right place for up-to-date buying advice on everything from £30 in-ear headphones to replace those that came with your phone to £300 ones you don’t even have to plug in.

While this round-up covers headphones broadly, be sure to check out our best headphones for running round-up if you're looking for a pair specifically for exercising. These will not only survive sweat and moisture, but will also be far more secure so you're not constantly dealing with earbuds falling out or headphones dropping off your head. We've also got a list of the best wireless headphones – perfect for the Apple iPhone 7. If you're a frequent traveller, you might be interested in our best noise-cancelling headphones list.

Video: Trusted Explains – What type of headphones should you buy?

The round-up is arranged roughly in price order, but the curious among our readers may want to read through the entire list to see just what's available out there.

This Week's Best Headphone Deals

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £269.99 | Now £199

AKG N60 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £229.99 | Now £149

Sony MDR-HW700 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £450 | Now £375

AKG Y50 at Amazon.com | Was $129 | Now $79

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x at Amazon.com | Was $169 | Now $149

Sony MDR-HW700 at Amazon.com | Was $350 | Now $232

Whether you like in-ear or over-ear, you're sure to find something that matches your needs on our list. So read on for our definitive guide to the best headphones available right now.

Best Headphones – Buying Advice and Jargon Buster

In-ear Headphones

If you want the most discreet headphone around, look for an in-ear set. These are most like the ones bundles with mobile devices, and use a little rubber tip to create a seal in your ear to block out noise.

It’s this part that also stops them from leaking sound like Apple’s EarPods, which can annoy everyone around you if you like your music loud. Earphones are also a great choice if you don’t have much to spend, with great pairs starting at around £30. You may also see this kind of headphones called an IEM, which stands for inner-ear monitor.

The only real downsides to in-ear headphones are that some people don’t like the feel of the tips in their ear canals, and that most don’t sound quite as large as a full-size pair.

On-ear Headphones

One big step up the size chart sit on-ear headphones. These are perhaps the most popular kind of portable pair at the moment. They don’t dig into your ears and can make much more of a style statement than in-ears, but are at much less risk of making you look silly than a full-size set.

Out of all the kinds of headphone, this is the one we’d recommend trying in person if you can. Because their pads sit on your ears rather than around them, they can feel uncomfortable if they have a tighter fit. Glasses-wearers are at most risk of this, as firmer on-ear pairs will push your ears back onto the glasses’ stems.

This caveat aside, they’re great all-rounder portable headphones, particularly for a work commute or the gym.

sennheiser momentum

Over-ear headphones

Over-ear headphones are often very large, and therefore are a bit conspicuous. They tend to side-step most of the comfort issues of the on-ear kind as the padding rests on the less-sensitive area around your ears rather than directly on them. They usually offer decent noise isolation too.

They can often function as a great at-home pair and an on-the-go set. However, this is only true of closed-back headphones. There are also open and semi-open pairs that don’t put a solid ‘wall’ between the drivers and the outside world.

These can sound great, and are the best type if you want home cinema or home studio set, but they’re not much good outdoors as they leak sound and won’t block out noise.

Related: Best turntables

Other types of headphones

Those are the basic types of headphones, but there are a few variations that are worth knowing about, too. Here's a quick overview.

Lightning cable headphones

The latest iPhones do not have a headphone jack, so they can only use a normal cabled pair with an adapter that plugs into the Lightning charge port. There are two other solutions: wireless headphones and Lightning pairs.

Lightning headphones have a cable that ends in a lightning connector rather than a normal 3.5mm jack. This makes them ‘digital’ headphones, but means they can’t be used with other devices. Even MacBooks.

Related: Best Lightning headphones

Lightning headphones do bring along with them some useful features, however. By using a digital connection, functionality can be more easily added to headphones, such as an external DAC or noise cancelling headphones that don't require a separate battery. There's also the potential for Lightning headphones to sound better than their analogue counterparts, too.

Earbud earphones

Before rubber-tipped IEMs became the standard type of earphone, phones and MP3 players used to come with earbuds. This is what Apple EarPods are, really: earphones with a hard plastic shell that sits in your ear canal but doesn’t make a firm seal.

Few headphone companies focus on earbuds these days but they are worth considering if you want in-ears but don’t like the invasive feel of a rubber-tipped earphone. Their main issue is that earbuds leak sound at higher volume. If you’ve ever been annoyed by the tinny whine of someone’s music on the bus or train, they probably used a pair of these.

Noise-cancelling headphones

The other feature worth thinking about is noise-cancellation. This is clever tech that actively gets rid of noise, rather than passively blocking it like a simple closed-back headphone. It does this with the help of at least one microphone. The mic is used to monitor ambient noise, an inverse wave of which is then piped-out by the headphone, negating the din.

Active noise-cancelling works best on low- and mid-frequency noise, such as engines, air conditioners and other such drones. It's generally less effective at reducing high-frequency noise than simpler isolation. Noise-cancelling headphones are perfect partners for long haul flights as they block engine noise brilliantly.

Runadumb

May 24, 2012, 2:05 am

Just ordered the SoundMagic E10. My usual CX500's just aren't lasting the pace these days. I am very hard on them though as I use them during training so I never want to spend that much on something that I'm lucky to get 6 months out of. I've gone through 3 CX500's in a year so time for a change.

While I basically abandoned this site after the redesign (it still sucks by the way) its good to see you are still the goto source for things like this :)

Runadumb

July 5, 2012, 1:59 am

Well thats the end of them, the left earbud just died. Shocking.

I was very impressed with the sound quality, especially for what is still low end. Much better than the CX500's. Such a shame then I only got about 6 weeks out of them. I shall try for a replacement pair and see how that goes.

DB

January 3, 2013, 10:28 am

ATH M50

Simon Hodson

January 4, 2013, 4:46 pm

I will prefer a pair of over ear headphone, which harms your Auditory system the least, and better it is a wireless one so that i can enjoy my music wherever i want freely. like the iT7x.

Jay

March 10, 2013, 3:25 pm

What about AKG TIESTO?!?! They won the Red Dot Award for Product Design 2013..

Crankcase08

June 27, 2013, 8:37 pm

Curry's? Don't make me laugh. They don't sell quality audio products, just bass-heavy junk for the ignorant, spotty yoof market (know wot I mean?).

hehehe

August 27, 2013, 2:10 pm

doesn't matter... i saw momentum on top, and i'm happy!!!

NateAGeek

September 1, 2013, 1:22 am

Use Ajax PLEASE!

Evan

September 19, 2013, 2:53 pm

It is Ajax

Wiseman

September 30, 2013, 3:58 pm

Hey what abut b&o headsets?they have some of the best headsets I ever used!

Bernie S. Abel

October 16, 2013, 12:49 pm

obviously, Bang & Olufsen is unknown to the person who did that review... well.. he can keep his bose and the rest.. i keep my B&O headphones..

Bernie S. Abel

October 16, 2013, 12:50 pm

so true.. they are fantastics... i 100% agree with you my friend

János Márk Fodor

October 16, 2013, 8:58 pm

what do you think about the noontec products? they worth for the value i think :)

Ryan

October 17, 2013, 6:43 pm

The 'Ignorant, spotty yoof' shop via ebay and amazon. Curry's lmao.

RJ Jacobs

November 19, 2013, 2:51 pm

That doesn't mean they sound good. One could say the Mio Liquid bottle was well designed, but that doesn't make it a good pair of headphones.

RJ Jacobs

November 19, 2013, 2:56 pm

I agree. Out of the headphones I've tried, and I've tried quite a few, these are some of the best. Plus good on a budget. $150 at Amazon. AT makes some excellent products, especially, when price is a factor.

Halph-Price

December 2, 2013, 12:08 am

Sony MDR-7506 will always reign supreme in my world.

Joris Van Schuerbeeck

December 20, 2013, 1:06 pm

Got the Bose Quietcomfort 20 and they are awesome. Put a quick review together too about them : http://www.routerjanitor.com/2... I mostly use them in a crowded office. Can't wait to travel now (nah, that's a joke)

anon

January 20, 2014, 7:41 am

Can anybody tell me why the hell isn't B&W's P5 in this list? With all due respect to Sennheiser, I listened to both P5 and Momentum On-ear (which is quite overpriced for what they offer, but somehow made it into this list), there's absolutely no comparison.

Raymond Fry

January 22, 2014, 4:21 pm

The best guys to review headphones are music producers that have the ears that hear frequencies and nuances that most people are unaware of. Much of the reviews from the public are quite useless and to make things more difficult it depends on the music genre they listen to. My preference is the Sennheiser HD 800 reference headphones because they give as near to a true performance as is possible.

Bruce

February 17, 2014, 4:50 am

Trying once again...Bernie...You seem to know your stuff....Any recommendations for a good set for listening to on the computer while I play cards on line..???
Don't want to spend over $100...maybe a little more...HELP

makemyday

March 13, 2014, 4:09 am

At first I thought Sennheisers are just overpriced and overrated just like Dr.dre Beats. I've tried quite a few headphones already; ranging from shure, akg, ath and sennheisers camp. I've tried at least 8 pairs all up and I've found that most of them are either bass heavy or treble heavy. Sennheiser hd 25 (Amperior) has the right tonal balance and the best soundstage compared to the others. I'm sorry that I've cannot remembered every model I've tried on that day. But I've shortlisted 2 headphones, namely shure SRH440 and HD 25. These are just as good as the other but Hd 25 has a slightly (very slightly) better sound control at higher volume and soundstage than Shure. Plus Hd 25 had a 33% discount on that day, so I bought that instead. I've tried the Momentum on a different day and I've found that HD 25 matches it. Luckily for me, I got the HD 25 for $100 cheaper as they are retailed at $299 in the DJ store.

beep

May 24, 2014, 12:57 pm

nad viso hp50's ????

jc147

June 1, 2014, 3:36 pm

Anyone looking for some quality earphones <£30 have a look at the Acorn Audio E1s

Sahana

June 6, 2014, 2:09 pm

My friend is visually impaired and uses screen reading software for work and study. She works using a headphone for upto 8 hours a day. I want to buy good quality headphones that will not damage hearing and also is comfortable to use. Please suggest some brands. I can spend upto £100.

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