Headphones Buying Guide: What Are The Best Headphones For You?

Nik Turner By Nik Turner - updated January 19th, 2024
Share This Article

When it comes to finding the best headphones, it can be hard to find the perfect pair for your style and needs - especially when there are so many models to choose from! We've seen a lot of amazing releases in the past year and to help make things easy for you as you shop for your next pair, we tried the best of them and chose our favourites for each category. 

We have sorted our top picks for the best headphones into ten categories each with a runner-up: best noise-cancelling headphones, best true wireless earphones, best sports & fitness earphones, best home & office headphones, best bass headphones, best wired headphones, and more. This guide also takes into consideration price as well as performance so you can get the best value out of your next purchase. 

Jump to:

How to Choose Your Headphones

Before diving in, let's go over a few things to consider when choosing your next pair of headphones. With these factors in mind, you'll be able to find your way around this guide much quicker and find the best recommendation for your needs!

What style do you prefer?

Do you want them to be over-ear, on-ear or in-ear, wireless or wired? Armed with the images below, and your previous experience with the shape of your head, I'm confident you've already got a good idea about with type will best suit your needs. If you're browsing the Headphones category, you'll be able to use filters on the left to choose all sorts of specifications and features - colour, impedance levels, water resistance, noise cancelling and more.

 

What will you be listening to?

Will the headphones be used for listening to music, audiobooks, watching movies or gaming? Each presents a slightly different set of wants and needs frequency wise, and thinking about this will help you to choose a perfect set of headphones or earphones.

Frequency response is the range of sounds from the low (that fat bass) through to the treble (high pitched) that the headphones can play without distorting. The human ear is commonly reported to have a range of 20-20,000. Frequency is found listed in the specs for headphones and this is the most common range you'll see. Anything inside this range, like 30Hz - 15,000Hz, is pointing to a headset that's not really geared towards music, movies or gaming, but is likely still just fine for audiobooks and podcasts.

Some state rather incredible ranges too, like 16Hz -22,000Hz - going below 20 in the bass range is often described as having bass you can feel, but cannot hear, while going above 20,000 is great for those with exceptional ears. Certainly not a bad thing but I myself can hear sounds up to around the 17,000Hz mark. You can test your range with a great set of videos on YouTube that go through the ranges.

Where will you be using them? 

Will you be listening to music while going for a run, watching movies at home from the couch, listening to audiobooks while on the bus to work, or maybe a sneaky bit of mobile gaming while on a break in a busy foodcourt? Knowing this will help you to narrow down some special features to look out for.

Running headphones should be water resistant, or in the case of over-ear or on-ear headphones, have removable, washable ear cups. If you're listening in a busy environment you'll generally want some sort of noise cancelling features. For those looking for a set to use around the house or while moving around, you may want to go wireless - fewer cords to trip over.

How will you connect them?

What will you plug them into? Will you plug them in at all or will it have Bluetooth?! Connecting a set of headphones to your TV might require a different socket than your phone does, likewise if you want to use them with a computer. Having a quick double check of your devices first can prevent disappointment later, and this also brings us to an important little bit about a term called impedance.

Impedance is a complicated subject but it can be simplified into an indication of the power used by the headphones. This is measured in OHM's (apparently coming from the name of a German physicist, Georg Simon Ohm). Most headphones with 25 or less OHM require little power to deliver high audio levels, making them perfect for everything from mobile phones to gaming consoles. It's when the number creeps higher that you should really pay attention here, so if you're wanting a set to connect to an amplifier or mixer be sure to check the output of that device too!

Need more? Check out our Ultimate Audio Buying Guide! When you're ready, let's jump into our top recommendations!

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony WH-1000MX5 (Winner)

Sony's latest flagship, the WH-1000MX5, takes the crown as the best noise-cancelling headphones. Sony managed to improve on the last generation WH-1000XM4, which was already a fan favourite.

The WH-1000XM4’s already featured industry-leading noise cancellation, yet Sony went ahead and improved on the best. The WH-1000XM5 feature an Auto NC Optimizer that automatically will optimise the headphone's noise-cancelling based on your environment and the wearing conditions. This option from Sony also boasts two processors that control 8 microphones and a specially designed driver unit.

Sony WF-1000XM5 (Runner Up)

If you’re after more portability, but still want killer noise-cancellation and premium sound, Sony has got you covered. When we say Sony has industry-leading noise cancellation, we mean it. That’s why we had to put the WF-1000XM5 into our runner-up spot. These in-ear headphones combine the best of true wireless technology with ultra-effective noise cancelling. In fact, with the Sony WF-1000XM5, you can pretty much block out the entire outside world when they’re securely fitted in your ear. These headphones from Sony are made to fit every ear, they offer you a personalised experience that adjusts to every situation. Being True Wireless, you’re also getting all of the advantages such as wirelessly charging, and touch controls.

Best True Wireless Earphones

Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro (Winner)

Taking up our top position for the best true wireless earphones are the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro. This wasn’t a big surprise to us here at PB Tech considering one of its earliest predecessors - the Samsung Galaxy Buds - came out on top in our True Wireless Showdown video.

The new Galaxy Buds2 Pro offer the most immersive audio experience so far within the Galaxy Buds portfolio. The Buds2 Pro provide the perfect way to experience your favourite music, with their high-dynamic range and crystal-clear sound resolution now in wireless Hi-Fi 24bit Audio, allowing you to hear even the quietest melodies or the most nuanced harmonies. They also have enhanced Active Nosie Cancellation (ANC) which is 40% better than the predecessor!

All-in-all, the Galaxy Buds2 Pro had to take out our top spot because of their all-around performance in comfort, design, and premium sound specially tuned by AKG! You also get wireless charging and some fun colours to choose from.

Apple Airpods Pro (2nd Generation) (Runner Up)

The AirPods Pro have managed to hold their runner-up spot from our previous writeup! They are straight up the best choice for Apple users too, thanks to Apple’s ecosystem. Since we last mentioned the AirPods Pro, software updates have added a slew of new features, and in late 2021, a new version was released that allowed for Apple MagSafe compatibility!

These have great sound thanks to Adaptive EQ, and a remarkably efficient high-dynamic-range amplifier that produces pure, incredibly clear sound while also extending battery life. They also have awesome squeeze controls, good active noise cancellation, and even come with a special new audio feature which provides an immersive directional surround-sound-like experience.

Best Sports & Fitness Earphones

Shokz OpenRun Pro (Winner)

Music is so important for getting you in the zone, so of course, finding a good pair of sports & fitness earphones is just as important! The Shokz OpenRun Pro takes out our top spot for this category. The OpenRun Pros utilise a pretty exciting way to deliver your audio, bone conduction.

These headphones are open-ear, allowing you to keep safe and aware of your environment while you exercise. The OpenRun Pros are super lightweight and very comfortable, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them! Some lightweight headphones have trouble staying on your head or feel flimsy to the touch, we can confidently assure you these are durable and we’d be shocked if you managed to shake them off.

They have an IP55 rating, meaning they’re capable of withstanding rainy runs, sweaty rides, or any other gritty conditions you might face. Learn more about these headphones and their bone conduction technology here >

Sennheiser SPORT TWS (Runner Up)

We’ve given the runner-up spot on this list to Sennheiser, with their SPORT True Wireless in-ear headphones. If you need some thumping bass to get you fired up for your workouts, these might be the better option for you! The SPORT True Wireless bring that premium Sennheiser sound on the go in a comfortable, durable, and stylish package. The beauty of these headphones is that you can really tailor your experience to your liking. They have special EQ modes that you can choose from, and an adapter to switch between open-ear and close-ear listening.

They'll stay nice and snug in your ear for your entire workout too. With a choice of ear adapters in three sizes and four different ear funs, you can customise the ergonomic fit of the earbuds so they can stay comfortable in place during any workout. An IP54 rating means they're dust, sweat and splash resistant and easily capable of handling sweat, rain or workouts on the beach.  

Best Wireless Headphones for Music Lovers

Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 In-Ear Headphones

If you consider yourself to be somewhat of an audiophile, finding a pair of headphones that gives you the music as the artist intended can be quite the challenge. We're confident that Sennheiser's MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 will give you that experience you crave in a small form-factor .

These are an amazing option for the music lover on the go as they offer an effortless high-end audio experience. These headphones also feature aptX Adaptive audio technology, this gives you dynamic low latency mode, adaptive bit rate, and HD quality audio.

Your audio will also withstand unpleasant background noises, as the MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 boasts Adaptive Noise Cancellation, that will automatically adjust to changes in the noise level of your environment. Exceptional battery life and Qi Wireless Charging round out a very premium product. Once you get a hold of these in-ear headphones, you'll understand why they took the top spot. You can't go wrong with Sennheiser's signature sound, and the MOMENTUM's TrueResponse technology makes these headphones sing!

Technics A800 Over-Ear Headphones

The A800 Over-Ear Headphones from Technics take out our runner-up spot. It offers excellent high-resolution wireless audio in a larger form factor than our winner. The sound the A800 creates is beautiful, the time and effort Technics spent engineering the cups paid off.

The A800s have LDAC support, so you know it means business when it comes to creating a musical symphony for the ears. And even better, it has support for LDAC and Multipoint, so you can listen to your music at the highest quality possible, and then switch to a Teams meeting on your laptop just by accepting a call!

That's the great thing about the A800s, it's built for serious music lovers, but that doesn't make them inconvenient. You get amazing audio, alongside superior call quality, fantastic noise cancelling, exceptional over-the-ear comfort, and a plethora of options that make them easy to use!

Best Wired Headphones for Music Lovers

Sennheiser HD 800 S (Winner)

If you’re after a wired set of headphones that offer incredible sound and detail, we recommend Sennheiser’s HD 800 S! These are the open-backed audiophile headphones all others are measured against. They feature a 56mm dynamic transducer - the largest ever used in dynamic headphones - that help to retrieve the most critical details from every corner of your music collection. This, along with several other key features, have been precisely implemented to create a mesmerising soundstage that will seemingly transport you into the recording environment. The HD 800 S will offer you a personal concert hall on-demand, without waking the neighbours. The headphones come with a versatile set of essential cables, including a 6.3mm stereo connector and a  4.4mm connector.

Sennheiser HD 660S2 (Runner Up)

Our runner up is Sennheiser’s HD 660S2 - another fantastic pair of open-backed headphones from Sennheiser's audiophile range. The latest addition to the 600 series, the HD 660S2 implements feedback from the hi-fi community to put forth an experience that is smoother and warmer than ever before. These headphones have an intimate, relaxed sound signature: think warm bass characteristics paired perfectly with silky-smooth treble performance and trademark vocal presence, allowing the timbre and uniqueness of any instrument part to stand out.

Thanks to improved transducer airflow and a refined voice coil, the HD 660S2 delivers a refined listening experience where even the most discerning audiophiles will notice the depth and nuance of low-frequency passages. Ultimately, you'll be treated to deeper, clearer bass without sacrificing the expansive detail the 600 series is known for; as well as hyper-realistic textures that you might not have noticed before. 

For more options fit for an audiophile, check out our full range here.

Best Wired In-Ear Monitors

Sennheiser IE 900 In-Ear Monitors (Winner)

If you prefer in-ears, this next option might be the one for you. If you can’t tell already, Sennheiser has a knack for creating products that produce incredible audio and the Sennheiser IE 900 In-Ear Monitors are no different! The IE 900 is designed to reveal the true potential of any recording, really giving musical masterpieces the attention they deserve. Featuring high-quality German-engineered TrueResponse drivers, it captures the finest nuances in music and if your playback equipment allows, textures and layers you didn’t know existed. Beyond the tonality of each instrument and the skills of the musicians, you might even notice the acoustic properties of the room, diving deep into complex passages - all while immersed in a breathtaking sound stage.

The IE 900 also has a comfortable and precise fit to ensure you enjoy the most of its audio experience. It comes with silicone ear adapters and three elastic foam ear adapter sets in different sizes. They adapt to the natural shape of your ear for a tailored fit. Each pair of IE 900s also includes symmetrical 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm cables for plugging directly into hi-fi components with balanced outputs.

Sennheiser IE 600 In-Ear Monitors (Runner Up)

Our runner up is Sennheiser’s IE 600 In-Ear Monitors - another pair you can count on to deliver beautiful sound and exceptional detail. Like all premium Sennheiser headphones, everything about these were manufactured to the strictest tolerances, from the hand-finished housing to the high-end audio components. Thanks to a TrueResponse 7mm transducer, the IE 600 achieves exceptional, virtually distortion-free reproduction of music. Additionally, precise tuning and dual two chamber absorbers (D2CA) within the IE 600 reveals new accents, details and textures of your music, taking your listening experience to a new level.

The IE 600 manages to pack big sound into a small, economic package. It comes with 3.5mm and 4.4mm cables, along with two different styles of earbud tips - silicone and memory foam - in three sizes so you can get a comfortable seal. It also has flexible, adjustable ear hooks to further enhance your comfort.

Best Home & Office Headphones

Bose QC45 Headphones (Winner)

The Bose QC45 Headphones are our winner for the home and office! They have a super slick design, premium noise-cancelling, and amazing sound; but what makes them our top pick for the home and office is the killer microphone array.

The QC45’s reliable sound and exceptional all-day comfort make them a hard package to pass up for office jockeys and business travellers alike. Bose also has added an additional fourth external microphone, which gives the QC45’s improved and unrivalled voice pickup.

The QC45s also have multi-point Bluetooth connectivity so you can connect with more than one device at once. This means you can quickly go from listening to a playlist on your phone to taking a conference call on your laptop.

Shokz OpenComm (Runner Up)

The runner-up for the home and office is Shokz’s OpenComm. Another addition from Shokz on our list, this time with a slightly different focus. Surprisingly, what makes for great sports headphones has some overlap with what you’d want in-home/office headphones.

This is a totally different form factor from what you’re used to, it leaves your ears completely open. This makes the OpenComm a great option, they’re perfect if you’re on the road and need to keep all your senses, or if you’re ears and head get fatigued from other headphones in all-day meetings.

Best Bass Headphones

Skullcandy Crusher Evo (Winner)

If you’re all about the bass, check out the Skullcandy Crusher Evo - our skull-thumping winner for our bass category. The earcups on these actually vibrate on your head in sync with the bass of your music. You can control your immersive sensory bass experience with a slider that ranges from Bone Rattling bass to Mellow. Plus, the audio quality improvements over the original Crushers let you experience an even broader range of deeper, richer, bass.

You can also use the personalised sound feature in the Skullcandy app to adjust the audio levels for your specific hearing. They’re also rugged, durable, and have up to 40 hours of battery life to keep up with you wherever you go.

Panasonic M700 (Runner Up)

The runner up in our bass category is the Panasonic M700 Deep Bass Headphones. These combine Panasonic’s XBS Deep and Bass Reactor technologies to deliver a thumping bass that you’ll also feel vibrating through the earcups. The Deep Bass sound profile is delivered via a huge 400mm Free Edge Driver which generates a serious bass response with maximum precision, and minimal distortion. They are less tunable than the Skullcandy crushers though which is what leaves them behind in second place. In addition to deep bass, they also feature Active Noise Cancelling which eliminates surrounding noise to keep you immersed in the music.

Best Headphones for Kids

Belkin SoundForm Mini Wireless (Winner)

If you’re shopping for a little one, Belkin’s SoundForm Mini wireless headphones are a fantastic choice! With a pair of these, you can keep your kids’ ears comfortable and protected with premium wireless on-ear headphones that were designed just for them. Whether they’re doing schoolwork online or watching videos in the back seat, easy pairing and intuitive controls are perfect (even for young kids), while a volume cap of 85dB keeps their ears safe. 

What makes the SoundForm Minis an even sweeter deal is the long battery life of up to 30 hours. This means you can enjoy some peace and quiet for that little bit longer while the kids spend more uninterrupted time with their favourite sounds. Additionally, the headphones are made with spill and accident-proof materials for durability of up to 2 years.

Belkin SoundForm Mini Wired (Runner Up)

Our runner up for kids is the Belkin SoundForm Mini Wired version. Just like our first place option, these are kid friendly in every way, from their volume cap of 85dB, to their easy-to-use controls and durable design. The difference is that these aren’t wireless and instead, connect using a standard 3.5mm audio connector.

Best Headphones for TV

Sennheiser RS 195 (Winner)

Whether you have difficulty hearing the TV or whether you’re an entertainment junkie who wants full immersion, Sennheiser’s RS 195 Premium RF Headphones may be just what you’re after! With the wireless RS 195, you won’t miss a detail. The exceptional sound can be fully personalised to your hearing: simply choose the most adapted setting from the 7 profiles available to optimise your sound experience; and use the left/right balance control to adjust the volume in each ear. The RS 195 also gives you a choice of listening modes. The "Speech Mode" reduces background noise and enhances speech intelligibility, while the "Music Mode" reproduces music with an increased dynamic range to perfectly preserve the sound image. 

The RS 195 delivers a clear signal within a range of up to 100m leaving you free to wander from room to room as you enjoy your favourite music or shows. Additionally, the transmitter supports analog and digital audio inputs with the option of toggling. The headphones' also have an ergonomic design is ideal for enjoying hours of comfortable listening.

Sennnheiser RS 120-W (Runner Up)

Our runner up for best TV headphones is Sennheiser’s RS 120-W. While the RS 195 will provide that extra bit of detail, the RS 120-W still provides high-fidelity sound and outstanding clarity for your favourite TV shows, movies, and music. It gives you a choice of three different listening modes: Speech, Music or Neutral. It has a supremely comfortable fit and long battery life so you can listen for extended sessions without interference. 

The RS 120-W delivers a clear signal within a range of up to 60m so you can get up, move around, or sit on your patio or balcony while the brilliant sound follows you around. You can also can broadcast from a single transmitter to dozens of headphones simultaneously for watching or listening together.

There you have it! Those are our top headphone picks. If you’ve tried any of these, let us know what you think about them. If you're feeling inspired to check out what else is on offer, you can get all of your headphone needs sorted here!


Written By

Nik Turner

Share This Article

Write a Comment

Log In to post a comment

2 comments

Darthfishpaste

The shokz OpenRun Pro are great. I think you really want to go into a store and try them first as they are a bit of an odd experience. Strangest thing is with some bits of music i find it tickles the inside of my ear with the vibrations.

Read more
1 year ago Reply Report

SkyN

I wish I found this article before purchasing my headphone. The Sony WH-1000MX5 is great overall IMO. Great article!!

Read more
1 year ago Reply Report