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Best headphones 2022: The best at any price

In need of a new set of headphones? There are sorts to choose from over-ear to on-ear, full-sized wireless headphones to true wireless. All these options can make it hard to know out which type suits your needs.

This is list of the very best headphones we’ve tested.. We’ve put these headphones through their paces with real world tests, listening to lots of music, testing the noise cancellation out in public where possible and comparing them to similarly priced efforts to gauge the value they offer.

We’ve made sure to reach as wide a range of headphones on this list, as well as hit different price points so there’s an option for anyone. From full-sized noise cancellers to true wireless and wired headphones, we’ve reviewed many different types and will be adding more headphones if they deserve to be on this list.

We also have several other best lists if you’re looking for something more specific. If you’re interested in true wireless earphones there’s our best wireless earbuds list. If you exercise a lot then our best running headphones page is where you need to head to. For wireless headphones and noise cancelling cans, check out best noise cancelling headphones and best wireless headphones.

Which are the best headphones?

How we test

Learn more about how we test headphones

Not just anybody can review a pair of headphones. You don’t need superhuman hearing to tell what’s good, but you do need to know what to listen out for.

Our headphone tests are done by some of the best and most prolific reviewers in the industry, with years of experience listening to everything from the plasticky freebie earbuds that come with your smartphone, to five-figure beasts of glass and marble. We love music and we want your tunes to sound good, too.

So we listen every pair of headphones we can get on or in our ears. We use a variety of sources, from basic MP3s playing on a laptop to high-quality tracks on dedicated hi-res audio players.

Our test tracks are wide-ranging to give headphones a thorough challenge. They’re also familiar, so we know every track backwards, and we know which bits might trouble the lesser performers.

We listen again and again, and we do that for weeks in case the sound changes – because it usually does. Then we’ll listen to similarly priced rivals and come up with a verdict that reflects the performance and features for the money.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best wireless headphones
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Pros

  • Excellent comfort
  • Musical, rich audio performance
  • Impressively clean and natural noise cancellation
  • Superb Ambient Mode
  • Great call quality

Cons

  • Non-foldable design
  • Connection gets choppy in busy areas

The design of the Sony WH-1000XM5 offers a more modern look than the WH-1000XM4 with redesigned earcups that don’t fold flat, following in the footsteps of Bose’s NC 700 HP and Apple’s AirPods Max. This change has been done in the name of better noise cancelling performance, and in testing we did find this design to reduce wind noise to offer a more satisfying ANC experience.

With this redesign in mind, we also found an improvement with the WH-1000XM5’s noise cancelling, tackling higher frequency sounds with more confidence than the XM4, although in our time with the headphones we felt that the XM4 model dealt with voices a tad better. It coped with other noises well, with everything from big crowds to commuting on transport reduced to a hush. With eight microphones to assist call quality and noise cancellation, we found the Ambient Mode offered a noticeable improvement over with a clearer, natural sound.

There have also been incremental improvements made to the already great audio performance. We found the mid-range to sound slightly richer and detailed than before, with better definition and clarity of instruments and voices. Music also takes place within a wide soundstage and bass has more texture to its performance than we heard on older models. Taken all together and it makes the WH-1000XM5 a great listen with any genre.

On the feature front, it’s much the same story as the XM4. Quick Attention (which filters through outside sound at a moment’s notice) and Speak To Chat (which pauses music when you’re speaking) are back, while battery life remains at at 30 hours of runtime. We managed to get around a week’s use from these headphones, but if you’re after more longevity then both the Technics EAH-A800 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless exceed the WH-1000XM5’s stamina.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

 Best ANC earbuds
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Pros

  • Class-leading noise cancellation for an earbud
  • Neutral sound quality
  • Comfortable fit
  • Excellent transparency mode

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • No higher quality Bluetooth codecs
  • Design affected by wing noise

If you prefer the convenience wireless in-earphones, we’d highly recommend the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, especially if you’re in need of supreme noise cancelling performance.

The noise cancellation is one of the best we’ve tested in a pair of earbuds, with the QC Earbuds blocking out noise from traffic to large gatherings. This help to protect hearing as there’s less of a need to raise the volume to higher levels to hear music.

While the QuietComfort Earbuds are big in size, they’re comfortable to wear due to their StayHear Max ear-tips that keep the earphones locked in. Along with their IPX4 resistance that protects them against water and sweat, they make a good option for exercise use, although we found during runs that the design amplified wind noise, something Bose’s Sport Earbuds didn’t produce.

The audio carries a neutral and detailed sound, with the top end of the frequency sharp and bright, the midrange spacious and detailed and bass lent decent weight and power. Since the QuietComfort Earbuds launched, Bose has added EQ options for treble and bass to the app so listeners can customise to their tastes. These earphones aren’t as musical-sounding as the Sony WF-1000XM4, nor quite as rich as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, but are well suited to those who prefer an uncoloured sound.

Compared to other premium earbuds, the Bose have a low battery life. The QuietComfort Earbuds only have 18 hours in total, 6 hours less than the WF-1000XM4 and ten hours fewer than Sennheiser. They could survive regularly use across a day, but will need charging fairly often as a result. They’ve been replaced by the QuietComfort Earbuds II, which reportedly have an even better noise cancelling performance, but the original model is still available for purchase for £100 less in some stores online.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Røde NTH-100

Best wired headphones for professional use
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Pros

  • Articulate, convincing sound in all scenarios
  • Built to last
  • Good-looking (in a purposeful sort of way)

Cons

  • Sonic even-handedness won’t suit everybody
  • Hard-wired configuration won’t be for all
  • Earpads heat up over time

The Røde NTH-100 are a fantastic choice if you’re in need of a pair of headphones for professional use. This is reflected in their detailed and balanced audio that makes them ideal as a pair of reference headphones for mixing, especially when dealing with lossless audio.

Our reviewed found the bass carried plenty of depth without the typical superficial excitement present with cheaper headphones. The mid-range unpacks every last detail of a track, alongside a smooth top-end that makes listening to these headphones a pleasure.

The NTH-100 lack the features of wireless headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds on this list. What you do get is a very long 2.4m cable (an optional 1.2m is available for extra cost) and a clever fitting system known as FitLock that allows you to lock in the headband position of the NTH-100 so it remains in the correct position for your head at all times.

In terms of their design, the NTH-100 adhere totally to the expectation of what over ear headphones look like in general. They build quality is very fine, the all-black finish and Alcantara-covered memory foam for earpads contact helps them to be especially comfortable. If performance-per-pound is what you’re in the market for, then the Røde are great whether it’s for casual or critical listening.

Reviewer: Simon Lucas
Full Review: Røde NTH-100

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus

Best affordable true wireless
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Pros

  • Impressive sound for the money
  • Long battery life
  • Good call quality
  • App support
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Some won’t like the ‘plugged in’ feeling
  • Connection can get spotty in busy areas

The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ first launched in 2021 at £119.95, but have since then dropped in price to £49.95 to mark them out as a terrific budget buy for a pair of true wireless.

Award-winner for best affordable true wireless, the Melomania 1+ don’t feature any noise cancellation to block sounds out, relying on the passive noise isolating qualities of the design to reduce any distractions in a solid manner. They’re shaped like a bullet, which is unique in the world of true wireless earphones, but they proved cozy to wear and by using physical push buttons the controls are more reliable to use than touch controls. Some, however, won’t like the plugged in feeling of the buds in which case a design like the OneSonic BXS-HD1 might be more of interest.

Like we mentioned above, the Cambridge doesn’t have noise cancellation or a transparency mode. But they’re not a basic offering, the Melomania app comes bundled with a few features such as customisation of audio equaliser and the touch controls, plus the ability to switch between audio modes for better quality sound as seen on the Melomania Touch.

Switching modes has an effect on battery with the Low Power mode set at 9 hours and 41 in the small charging case or in High Performance mode it is 7 hours and 35 more in the case. Both figures we find to be very respectable for a true wireless.

And the sound is a step up in our minds from the original Melomania. The bass response is improved with more weight and punch that makes the Melomania 1 sound feeble in comparison. Vocals are much smoother in tone and sound bigger where they came across as small before, and while the original is crisper and sharper with high frequencies, we found the Melomania 1+ overall struck a better balance across the frequency range. At this price we’d rate at as a bargain not to be missed out on.

Grado SR325x

Best wired on-ears
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Pros

  • Insightful, detailed and spacious presentation
  • Striking design
  • Low impedance drivers

Cons

  • Comfort may be an issue for some
  • Design isn’t especially portable

Anyone familiar with the Grado brand will be able to identify the SR325x as one of theirs in a heartbeat, A pair of on-ear headphones with an open-backed design, it’s an approach that’s been at the heart of Grado’s offering for decades, the open-backed design grants these on-ears a bigger, more spacious soundstage to delve into.

It does of course make them a leaky-sounding pair of headphones, so if you’re using this pair on public transport, then be prepared to to face people looking at you as they hear your favourite tunes. The Grado SR325x offer terrific consistency in their balanced approach to music, emphasising a natural tone and fantastic clarity with instruments and vocals. We found the stereo image to be full of depth, the sharpness and definition of these headphones gives music a great sense of fidelity.

You will need high quality files to get the best from them but with their 38 ohm impedance, you’ll be able to connect these wired headphones to a range of devices without the need for further amplification to drive them.

We found the design to be of premium quality, the metal housing for each earcup offers a durable finish, and the brand’s ‘F’ type earcups are ones we felt were especially comfortable during use. As seems to be the case with on-ears, you may experience a degree of pinching depending on the size of your ear, in which case an over-ear such as the Monolith M1070 may be preferable. Nevertheless, these are an insightful, precise and detailed pair of on-ear headphones, an audiophile pair of cans without the price tag to go with it.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Grado SR325x

Final UX3000

Best affordable noise cancelling headphones
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Pros

  • Good comfort
  • Effective ANC
  • Rich, warm sound
  • Solid battery life
  • Simple operation

Cons

  • Stripped-down feature set
  • Minimalist looks may be interpreted as bland

If the likes of award-winning Sony WH-1000XM5 is too far out of your budget, then another award-winner in the Final UX3000 demonstrate that you don’t need to spend a fortune for good noise cancelling headphones.

The UX3000 are not heavy on the features with a simple on-off button for the active noise cancellation but they deal with persistent noises, busy road junctions and crowds of people well. The noise cancellation can be switched on without having to power the headphones too. Similar to the Ausounds AU-XT ANC, we’d recommend turning the ANC on if you’re listening to music they sounds better with it on.

The audio here is some of the best we’ve heard under £150, eliciting a confident, musical performance from the tracks we played, with bass weighty in feel and the mid-range rich in tone. The warmth of their presentation means they’re quite as detailed or incisive as either the Austrian Audio Hi-X25BT or the Cleer Enduro ANC model, but overall we found the UX3000 has a better handle over music those two rivals, with solid dynamics and decently wide soundstage.

We found 25-hour battery life good enough to last a week with general use and with ANC off it can reach up to 35 hours. The design is minimalistic in appearance, the finish is referred to as ‘Shibo’, an old terms that refers to wrinkled paper of leather. On these headphones the Shibo texture can repel dust or dirt. Operation is via physical buttons that cover volume, ANC and playback making the UX3000 an easy pair of headphones to use. We also found they were comfortable over extended periods, which we found made them a good partner for commutes into work.

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FAQs

What are the best Bluetooth headphones?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 would get vote for the best overall headphones. The feature set is comprehensive, the wireless connection reliable, and of course, they sound excellent for the money, too.

Comparison specs

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