Looking for the best headphones but not sure what to get? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve reviewed hundreds of different options and compiled a list of the finest you can buy right now.
This round-up covers all the different types of headphones on the market, but if you already have an idea of what you’re looking for, check out our more specific buying guides.
Are you a frequent traveller? Then you might want some silence with the help of the best noise-cancelling headphones. We also have a round-up of the best running headphones for you fitness fanatics. Just in time for Christmas and the subsequent New Year health kick.
What type of headphones should you buy?
There are countless headphones out there but most of them fit into a handful of categories. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each one does, so you know where to start looking.
In-ear Headphones: Also known as earphones, as well as IEM, which stands for in-ear monitor. This is the discreet option as in-ears don’t take up much space. They’re not for everyone, though – some don’t like the feel of the tips in their ear canals, and most don’t sound quite as good as a full-sized pair.
On-ear Headphones: These are the most popular kind of portable headphones at the moment, particularly for a workout or commute. They generally sound better than in-ears, and they can be more of a style statement. They don’t dig into your ears either, but the trade-off is that tighter fitting sets can get uncomfortable, especially for those who wear glasses.
Over-ear Headphones: The biggest and most conspicuous of the lot, but they are the most comfortable because they sit around your ear. That does They usually offer decent noise isolation, and better sound than on-ears. Open-back versions have perforated ear cups and sound more spacious, but you’ll want to avoid those for use outside the home.
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Noise-cancelling Headphones: Increasingly popular, especially among commuters and frequent travellers. These headphones actively scrub out noise, rather than passively blocking it out. Microphones are used to monitor ambient noise, an inverse wave of which is then piped-out by the headphone, negating the din. Great for blocking out plane engine sounds, or just the office air conditioning.
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.