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Best Headphones 2017: 16 great headphones for any budget

Andrew Williams


Welcome to our guide to all the best headphones you can buy right now. Our top list includes the best from all the different kinds of headphones from the hundreds we've reviewed.

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.

What type of headphones should you buy?

In-ear Headphones: Good if you want the most discreet headphones possible. Sometimes called IEM, which stands for inner-ear monitor. The only real downsides to in-ear headphones are some people don’t like the feel of the tips in their ear canals, and that most don’t sound quite as good as a full-size pair.

On-Ear Headphones: 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. Tighter fitting sets can be uncomfortable, though, especially for glasses-wearers. This caveat aside, they’re great all-round portable headphones, particularly for a work commute or the gym.

Over-Ear Headphones: Often very large, and therefore a bit conspicuous, but generally more comfortable than on-ear headphones. They usually offer decent noise isolation and sound quality on good ones is a step above. Avoid open-back versions, which have perforated ear cups, if you want to use them outside the home.

Noise Cancelling Headphones: This clever tech 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. Noise-cancelling headphones are perfect partners for long haul flights as they block engine noise brilliantly.

This Week's Best Headphone Deals

Sony MDR-HW700 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £450 | Now £349

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

Sony MDR-HW700 at Amazon.com | Was $350 | Now $231


1 / 16

Our Score:


Sennheiser HD 201

Over-ear and closed-back for less than £20

Key features:
  • Closed-back design
  • 21 - 18,000Hz frequency response
  • 3-metre cable
  • Review Price: £16.99
On a really tight budget? A while back we looked at a whole bunch of sub-£20 headphones, and the Sennheiser HD 201 came out comfortably on top in terms of sound quality.

These are full-size headphones, and have a nicely-balanced, detailed sound that a lot of more expensive pairs fail to match. It’s clear Sennheiser got a lot right with these ultra-long-standing headphones. Of course, being a very cheap pair they don’t feel anywhere near as ‘fancy’ as more expensive pairs, including Sennheiser’s own sets.

The frame is pretty light and a tiny bit creaky, and the pads’ fake leather is very basic stuff. Still, if money’s too tight to mention they’re a great pick.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £16.99 | Amazon.com from $16

2 / 16

Our Score:



Read full AKG Y50 review

On-ear headphones for less than £50

Key features:
  • Multiple colour options
  • On-ear design
  • In-line remote
  • Review Price: £49.99
You don’t need to spent Beats money to get a good pair of headphones. The AKG Y50 are some of our favourite budget pairs of the last few years.

They have style, decent build quality and good sound. You can also get them in all sorts of colours, if you’re tired of boring old black headphones.

Their sound style isn’t a million miles away from that of the £150-plus Beats Solo 2. You get an extra injection of bass for a fun sound, plus it’s otherwise detailed, smooth and very easy on the ear. And easy one to recommend.

SoundMagic E50

In-ear headphones for less than £50

Key Features:
  • Aluminium earpieces
  • Carry case
  • 6x pairs of tips
  • Review Price: £49.99
SoundMagic is a Chinese company well on its way to becoming a household name in the west, simply because of the quality of its headphones. We’ve heard dozens of positive reports from readers about SoundMagic sound quality.

The SoundMagic E50 are a great affordable upgrade, and offer a fantastic sound that gets you a higher-end vibe than most other pairs at the price. You may have heard of the SoundMagic E10, one of the most popular pairs of the past five years, but these are altogether more serious. A bit more accurate.

Less common for SoundMagic headphones, they look pretty good, too.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Good value over-ear headphones

Key features:
  • Removable cable
  • Folding cups
  • Full-size closed design
  • Review Price: £139
Best under- £139 headphones

Now available for a shade under £120 online, the Audio Technica ATH-M50X offer some of the best sound you can get at the price. They get you sparky treble and a bit of extra bass, resulting in an all-round energetic and fun sound without the bassy bloat feel you get with some lively, affordable headphones.

They’re essentially ‘style’ headphones, without the style headphone price. Not all of you may love the design, though.

These are DJ headphones at heart, with a tough, bulky frame that values physical flexibility over being small and sophisticated-looking.

Sennheiser CX 5.00 15
In-ear headphones for less than £100

Key features:

  • 3-button remote
  • Metal aperture
  • iOS and Android versions
  • Review Price: £69.99
An easy earphone to recommend for just about everyone is the Sennheiser CX 5.00. These are very rich-sounding, accessible earphones that just sound huge compared with some at the same price.

We’ve seen them online for as little as £49.99, but they’re worth their £69.99 asking price too.

The look is quite a bit different from the showier Sennheiser Momentum In-ear, but it’s actually these we’d tend to recommend instead. They tone down the bass a little, giving a slightly more natural sound. Still, if you want big bass too be sure to consider the similarly-priced Momentum In-ear.

SR80e 3

On-ear headphones under £100

Key Features
  • Retro design
  • Open-back (so no good for portable use)
  • Superb sound for the price
  • Review Price: £90
Grado isn't just another headphone company. Pairs like the Grado SR80e are truly unusual, because while they have portable dimensions, their open-back style values sound quality over everything else.

They leak music to the outside world and block out minimal noise. We still love them, though. Their sound is hard to beat at the price.

Dynamic, fast and exciting, they get you a taste of hifi without a scary price or draining all the fun out of music in favour of pure accuracy. The SR80e are not the most soft, relaxing listen out there, but if you really want to engage with your music they're worth checking out.


7 / 16

Our Score:


Shure SE425

In-ear headphones for less than £200

Key features:
  • Removable cable
  • Dual driver
  • Silicone and foam tips
  • Review Price: £299
They have now been around for years, but the Shure SE425 are as worth auditioning as ever. These are dual-driver earphones that offer stunning mid-range detail.

They also used to cost significantly more a few years ago, making them a better buy than ever. It’s not as if earphones really age, do they?  Well, not until the cables start fraying anyway.

These are actually an update to a similar earphone that’s even older. But this newer version has a tougher cable, which is removable.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £220 | Amazon.com from $270
Sennheiser Momentum 9

Stylish headphones for around £200

Key features:
  • Comfortable and attractive
  • Dynamic driver
  • Removable cable
  • Review Price: £269.99
Surely one of the most popular sets of headphones around, we couldn’t go without giving the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 a nod. They have a sound that balances portable use with high-end audio style.

You get refinement, a bit of extra bass kick, and an easy-going but detailed treble. They’re also very comfortable. We often wear this pair for hours at a time.

The Momentums are also great-looking headphones. In this second generation, Sennheiser enlarged the ear cups after criticisms that they were just that bit too small for a lot of people.

AKG N60 27

9 / 16

Our Score:



Read full AKG N60 review

Our favourite noise cancelling headphones

Key features:
  • Active noise cancellation
  • Detachable cable with universal remote
  • Bundled flight adapter
  • Passive listening mode
  • Review Price: £229.99
For years, Bose has easily won our pick for the best noise cancelling headphones. However, right now it has serious competition from the AKG N60.

They offer more refinement than the Bose QuietComfort 25 and, for once, isolation that can stand up to the Bose standard. The N60 are very portable too. These are on-ear headphones, giving you great portability. If you want a full-size pair, though, you should definitely have a look at the Bose QC25.

Sony MDR-1000X
Key features:
  • Very effective noise cancellation
  • Great Bluetooth wireless performance
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Review Price: £329
A lot of people will tell you to buy Bose if you want a noise-cancelling headphone. We would have too, until the Sony MDR-1000X came along.

These wireless active noise cancellation headphones can zap noise just as well as the Bose QuietComfort 35, but have a more dynamic sound, and extra features too. These include NFC, gestures that let you control your music with a flick on one of the earcups and a quick monitoring mode that lets you hear what's going on around you.

They don't blip and splutter like some cheaper wireless headphones and the battery lasts for up to 20 hours. You may think ANC headphones like the Sony MDR-1000X are just for frequent flyers, but we found they make our journey to work much more bearable too. They're not cheap, but are worth every penny.

Oppo PM-3 17

11 / 16

Our Score:


Oppo PM-3

Read full Oppo PM-3 review

Luxury over-ear headphones for commuters

Key features:
  • Removable cable (four included)
  • Planar magnetic driver
  • Closed-back, over-ear headphones
  • Review Price: £350
Oppo is a relatively new name in headphones. It has been making high-end Blu-ray players for years, but it really blew us away with the Oppo PM-3. These are planar magnetic headphones, getting you amazingly low-distortion, high-accuracy sound in a package that is also dead convenient.

Planar magnetic headphones are generally big and heavy. Not here. These are no less convenient than the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0. What they offer over that pair is a slightly more ‘audiophile’ signature, with higher-quality mid-range texture.

The treble isn’t concentrated menthol-potent, but the sound quality in general is simply outstanding.


12 / 16

Our Score:


AKG Q701

Read full AKG Q701 review

Open-back headphones for awesome home audio

Key features:
  • Semi-open design
  • Removable cable
  • Green/white/black finish
  • Review Price: £265
Pretty much all the headphones we’ve talked about so far are suitable for portable use. Meant for it, in fact. However, the best sound comes from open-back headphones.

These put open air between the driver and the outside world. Funnily enough, it gives headphones a much more ‘airy’ and open sound. It means they’re rubbish for noisy environments, though.

Our pick of this sort is the AKG Q701, partly because their price has halved since launch. At £249, their sound quality flattens any style headphone at the price, and virtually any closed-back pair too. Useless for the commute, but fantastic for movies and music at home.

Sony MDR-HW700

Surround sound headphones for movie lovers

Key features:
  • '9.1' surround sound
  • HDMI breakout box
  • Wireless
  • Review Price: £450
Think surround sound is the preserve of rubbish-sounding gaming headsets? Think again. Sony has come up with a great set of wireless headphones that can handle 9.1 surround audio.

To be clear, they don’t do this by packing a million drivers into the admittedly-large earcups. Instead, they have a dedicated breakout box that plugs into your console, AV receiver and TV and does the necessary processing.

There’s a lot of tech wizardry involved, then. However, it does work pretty well. The Sony MDR-HW700DS have a gigantic soundstage that successfully places elements of the sound all around you, rather than just in the usual stereo field. Just bear in mind that they’re no use for portable use. At all.

Sennheiser HD 800

The money is no object headphones of choice

Key features:
  • Open design
  • Removable cable
  • 56mm driver
  • Review Price: $1,599
Want to spend megabucks on your headphones? There are lots of good options. And at this level it’s about what sort of sound you’ll appreciate most rather than necessarily ‘which is better’.

At the top of the must-audition list, though, are the classic Sennheiser HD 800. These are massive-sounding headphones, with the most intense micro-detail rendition you’ll hear in just about any headphone, anywhere.

They are pretty bright, though, so not for those who like a nice relaxed treble. Out for this kind of headphone? Be sure to consider the new Sennheiser HD800S (review coming soon hopefully), Oppo PM-1, Grado PS1000 and AKG N90Q.

Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature
Key Features
  • Classy, premium design
  • Plenty of cable options (with free Lightning cable available soon)
  • Superb sound quality
  • Review Price: £700
The Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature were released to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary – and what a way to usher in a half-century they are. These are Bowers & Wilkins' flagship over-ear headphones and they sound marvellous. The transducers are angled so they follow the shape of your ears so that the sound more closely resembles that of loudspeakers. The P9 Signature have a frequency response of 2Hz to 30kHz, so plenty of low-end presence, but the mids and trebles are positively delightful, too.

There are plenty of luscious, premium materials and the design oozes class and sophistication. These are the first pair of headphones Bowers & Wilkins have released that don't come in brown, too, so you feel rather exclusive. While the headphones are wired, you get plenty of cables included. Future models will include a Lightning cable in the box, making iPhone 7 users very happy. If you buy a pair today, you can send off for a free Lightning cable.

These headphones aren't cheap, but they're worth it.

Noble Audio Katana 3
Key Features
  • Amazing airy sound
  • Nine drivers per earpiece
  • Custom earpiece artwork
If you think £300 triple-driver earphones are crazy, prepare to have your mind blown. The Noble Audio Katana have nine drivers per earpiece and cost £1699/$1850.

This puts them well out of the reach of most people. But that's why they're at the end of this buyer's guide, not the beginning. The Noble Audio Katana are the only earphones we've reviewed that get you the amazing airy sound of a high-end full-size open headphone in an in-ear form. The sheer engineering needed to get nine drivers to work together to do this is astounding.

You can also get them custom-fitted in all kinds of colours and finishes, as well as having custom artwork or inlays on the earpieces. Check out the full review to see the genuine watch cogs in our review pair.

At time of review the Noble Audio Katana were available for £1699/$1850


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 :)


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.


January 3, 2013, 10:28 am


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.


March 10, 2013, 3:25 pm

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


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?).


August 27, 2013, 2:10 pm

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


September 1, 2013, 1:22 am

Use Ajax PLEASE!


September 19, 2013, 2:53 pm

It is Ajax


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 :)


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.


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.co... I mostly use them in a crowded office. Can't wait to travel now (nah, that's a joke)


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.


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


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.


May 24, 2014, 12:57 pm

nad viso hp50's ????


June 1, 2014, 3:36 pm

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


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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