Welcome to our guide to all the best headphones you can buy right now. Our top list includes the best of 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.
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 $218
Sennheiser HD 201
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Over-ear and closed-back for less than £20
- Closed-back design
- 21 – 18,000Hz frequency response
- 3m 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.
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In-ear headphones for less than £200
- 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.