Rumors of the Sony WH-1000XM4 – the successors to the best headphones we've ever tested – have been ramping up in recent months, coming to a head when a Walmart listing that appears to describe all the specs of the new headphones was leaked.
While the existence of the XM4s is yet to be confirmed by Sony, the Walmart listing revealed the kind of changes (or lack thereof) we can expect over the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Now, normally we would expect a brand to make some significant changes when bringing out a successor to its last pair of headphones. In this instance, however, we’re relieved that Sony hasn’t tinkered too much with its class-leading noise-cancelling headphones.
Instead, it looks like the company is making some very considered tweaks to the XM3, which could genuinely improve the user experience without detracting from a winning design. As they say, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
What’s new with the Sony WH-1000XM4?
According to the leaked listing, one of these tweaks is the ability to connect more than one audio source to the headphones at once; multipoint pairing is something users of the XM3s have been calling out for, and it will allow you to pair the WH-1000XM4s with your laptop and your smartphone at the same time.
There should also be a slight improvement to the sound quality. A feature known as “Edge-AI” can restore the detail lost in highly compressed audio files by upscaling them in real time, which Sony says delivers sound “as close as possible to that of a wired connection.”
Wireless headphones have long been considered inferior to their wired counterparts in terms of audio fidelity, so this tweak will likely appease audiophiles who haven’t yet committed to cutting the cord.
Connectivity in general should be improved too, as Sony makes the leap from Bluetooth 4.2 to Bluetooth 5, which brings faster pairing times, connectivity over longer distances, and stronger pairing in high traffic areas.
Anyone who has used the Sony WH-1000XM3s to make phone calls should notice an improvement in the sound quality as well, with a feature called Precise Voice Pickup that uses the headphones’ five microphones and advanced audio signal processing to make your voice sound clearer.
The noise cancellation that made the Sony WH-1000XM3s so popular is also due an upgrade. According to the leaked listing, a feature called Adaptive Sound Control will “learn to recognize locations you frequently visit, such as your workplace or your favorite cafe.”
“In addition it automatically detects what you’re up to – for example, walking, waiting, or traveling – and then adjusts ambient sound settings to best suit the situation,” says Sony. This is a feature that’s already been brought to the XM3s via a firmware update, so we've had a bit of a preview already.
These are all smart tweaks to already-great features. So what’s staying the same with the Sony WH-1000XM4?
What’s staying the same?
Aside from these little tweaks and upgrades, the new XM4s seem to be very similar to their predecessors.
It looks like there won’t be any material changes to the design of the Sony WH-1000XM4s, which we think is a great thing. We loved how comfortable the XM3s felt, with big padded earcups and a soft headband.
They also looked great, with a sleek, minimalist build that appeals to a wide range of people, and we liked the touchpad controls – another feature that will be making a return.
The sound quality shouldn’t change substantially either, aside from that AI upscaling feature that will help to curb the data loss from highly compressed files. Judging from the leaked listing, the XM4s will use the same 40mm drivers as their predecessors and support for Sony’s LDAC transmission technology – and as the XM3s are among the best-sounding headphones on the planet, we’re happy to see that the audio profile hasn’t been tweaked too much.
Some may be disappointed to find that there’s no improvement to battery life – but with 30 hours of juice, the Sony WH-1000XM3 weren’t exactly short-lived. Plus, with a return of USB-C fast charging, the XM4s shouldn’t take too long to top up.
A considered approach
Sony has a history of making careful tweaks to its products with each upgrade, and it’s something we’ve seen with the brand’s noise-cancelling 1000X range before.
It’s a great way of instilling a sense of trust in the products, and it makes us feel confident that each new upgrade will bring genuinely useful updates, rather than skin-deep design changes that don’t really improve the experience of using the headphones.
Sony wouldn’t be able to be subtle with its upgrades to the 1000X series if the original product wasn’t so good – and in a market where every company is trying to outdo one and other with headline-grabbing features like gesture controls and built-in AI (like the TicPods Pro 2), it’s a risky move to let the sound, feel, and look of the headphones speak for itself. That's especially true with the first-ever Apple over-ear headphones looking like they're going to launch in a matter of weeks and shake up the headphones market.
Trends (or gimmicks, if you prefer) like virtual 3D audio, bone conduction, and crazy form factors (see: the Bose Frames) may come and go – but we don’t think there will ever be a time when people won’t want a great-sounding pair of noise-cancelling headphones that do their job with minimal fuss.
Hopefully, that’s exactly what the Sony WH-1000XM4 will do when they’re finally released – and with this recent leak, it’s only a matter of time before we can get our hands on them and find out for ourselves.
Can't wait until then? Check out the best Sony WH-1000XM3 deals we've found today:
Headphones have flooded the market, and it’s difficult to know which ones to pick – especially if you’re a first time buyer. Here, we’ll help you weigh up whether you should buy top-of-the-line, or if a cheaper set will suffice.
While it’s tempting to buy a set of super cheap headphones, it’s worth remembering that they are inexpensive for a reason. But as you’ll see below, getting your hands on a decent pair of headphones doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Especially when you have us to do the digging for you.
To save you the time and effort, we’ve put together this dedicated guide to the best bargains on great-sounding headphones. We constantly monitor major Aussie retailers and go searching to bring you the most worthwhile deals on a variety of sets – from in-ear buds to noise-cancelling cans from the most popular brands – so check out our continually updated list below to discover the best current headphones deals in Australia.
Find great bargains and compare Australian prices on the latest tech at Getprice.
The best deals on our favourite headphones
To help you decide which headphones work best for you, we've decided to put together a little buying guide with a list of our favourite recommendations.
The headphones you'll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music, or any other form of audio-visual entertainment you prefer, however you like to listen to it.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless headphones are the best you can buy in 2020 – for now, anyway.
They’re very much in line with what we’ve seen from Sony in the past two years, and with this model they’ve managed to improve on some already fantastic sets. The noise cancellation can beat anything Bose has to offer with ease. That’s because Sony has dedicated time to perfecting audio playback and its noise-cancelling technology.
However, their crown could soon be handed over, as rumours of a Sony WH-1000XM4 release date have been circling. We’ll see what 2020 brings.
The very popular and excellent Bose QC35s underwent an upgrade and now come with Google Assistant at your beck and call. For a premium price, not only do you get Bose's world class noise cancellation and good sound quality, you also get a personal butler and an incredibly comfortable set of cans. And with up to 40 hours of battery life, you'll get through any long-haul flight.
For a little over $ 100, it's hard to recommend a better sounding pair of 'buds than the 1More Triple Driver in-ears. It's hard to fault the headphones, if you can put up with the rubber cable and the plastic remote. Even that is just us nitpicking. For the price, it's our top recommendation of in-ear headphones if your phone still has a headphone jack or you don't mind using an adaptor.
Retailing for around AU$ 250, the JBL Live 650BTNC punches above its weight in terms of sound quality, build and features.
If you’re listening wirelessly, 20 hours of battery life is promised, while wired listening will get you upwards of 30 hours from a single charge. So if you don’t want to splash on the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the JBL Live 650BTNC will deliver similar performance for half the price.
With headphone jacks fast disappearing from flagship handsets, wireless headphones is the way to go. But not everyone likes the feel of a set of cans on their head and cables, no matter how small, can get annoying. If that's describing you, then true wireless 'buds are the answer to your prayers. While most of them compromise on sound quality, the Jabra Elite 65t not only sound good but offer ambient noise isolation as well. They're an excellent substitute if you aren't too keen on the other-worldly look of Apple's AirPods.
It's hard to find the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 wireless 'buds, but if you're after a set of no-frills headphones that don't compromise on sound quality, you'll want to look for these. They do an excellent job of isolating sound when in a noisy environment and boast up to 10 hours of battery. And with a 15-minute quick charge, you'll get an additional two hours of playback out of them.
Looking for cheap headphones, but don't want to skimp on sound quality, comfort, and modern conveniences like noise cancelation and Bluetooth? You've come to the right place.
Headphones are like pieces of art: while the real connoisseurs can spend a fortune on them, for most folks, budget models work just as well. Just like art, there's a big difference between finger painting and Picasso – with a happy medium somewhere in between – and the same is true for headphones.
Here at TechRadar, we’ve sort of built a reputation for covering all of the latest, greatest and priciest technology in the world. However, even in the face of all of that high-end equipment, we still have a passion for finding great tech items that anyone can afford, and the best cheap headphones are a great place to start.
It’s this passion for affordability that inspired us to create this list of the best cheap headphones on the market in 2020 – we’ve put our bargain-hunting prowess to great use and found a great deal of cheap headphones that you can buy without thinking twice about it.
Best cheap headphones at a glance
Cheap earphones: RHA MA390 Cheap wireless earphones: OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 Cheap true wireless earbuds: JLab Go Air True Wireless Earbuds Cheap on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e Cheap on-ear wireless headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT Cheap over-ear headphones: Monoprice 8323 Hi-FI DJ Style Headphones Cheap noise-canceling headphones: Taotronics TT-BH040 Cheap studio monitor headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
What are the best cheap headphones?
Everyone's talking about true wireless, but there are still plenty of reasons to go wired. Two of the biggest reasons is sound quality and price. While there are cheap wireless headphones out there, they usually sound much worse than wired headphones for the same price.
In the budget in-ear headphone category, you usually sacrifice sound and build quality for price. However, there are rare gems that are affordable, sound great, and are built well. The RHA MA390 is one of those headphones.
While the RHA MA390 is the cheapest headphone the company makes, it doesn’t sacrifice on build quality, design, or sound: These headphones are beautifully crafted out of aluminum, feature a braided cable, and a universal remote that works with Android and iOS. While not perfect, the RHA M390 are an excellent value in the budget in-ear category.
If these don't take you fancy, check out our roundup of the best earbuds for every budget.
OnePlus is most known for its “flagship killer” phones like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro,, but the company also makes headphones – the best example of which are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless 2, which offer an incredible value in the neck-bud headphone category.
In terms of audio quality, they boast a lively sonic presentation and an accurate-feeling soundstage, although bass-heads may want to look elsewhere for headphones that pack a bassier punch.
They may be $ 30 more expensive than their predecessors, but the improved battery life and sound quality makes up for that; it also makes it worth upgrading if you have the originals and are due a new pair of wireless earbuds.
The JLab Go Air True Wireless Earbuds will cost just $ 29 / £29 when they’re released in March, and while we’re still waiting for official confirmation of pricing outside the US and UK, that works out at around AU$ 40. In other words, they're unbelievably cheap compared to the rest of the true wireless market.
The JLab Go Airs herald a new age of truly affordable true wireless earbuds – but you get what you pay for with these super-cheap buds. The sound quality is too poor for us to wholeheartedly recommend them, but the Go Airs are so cheap that they could make a good pair of ‘backup’ buds to stow in your bag and forget about until you forget your main pair or they run out of battery.
If you really can’t abide the poor sound quality on offer here (and it is poor, make no mistake), but you like the sound of JLab’s low prices, you could check out the JBuds Air Executive – at $ 69 (about £55 / AU$ 100) they’re a bit pricier, but they offer better sound and better battery life.
Better yet, the Lypertek Tevi true wireless buds cost £99 (about $ 130 / AU$ 140), and are nearly faultless for the price.
For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet.
The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does.
Their open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver, although this does mean that they're not ideal for use in loud environments where sound can 'leak' in and disrupt your listening.
That said, in terms of pure sound quality, they're our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
Read the full review:Grado SR60i review (our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance).
You, like everyone else, probably wants a set of headphones that nails the tricky blend of design, useful features and incredible sound. You might think that you need to flush your savings to enjoy such a pair of cans. Protip: you don't.
The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT are a well-built, great-sounding, long-lasting pair of headphones. Their features constantly outweigh their modest price and we can’t get enough of that 40-hour battery life. While technological advancements usually mean a premium price, that's just not the case with the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT.
It’s easy to spend an arm and a leg on good over-ear headphones. Barring the exception of noise-cancelling and planar magnetic cans, they are the top dogs of the audio world. Really good over-ears should be the most comfortable, most versatile headphones in your audio arsenal. They should be just as adept with Hi-Def audio sources of 16-bit/44.1KHz as they are streaming from Spotify, and they should do so without sacrificing either end of the audio spectrum.
In our testing we found a half-dozen that can do the job (the Status Audio CB-1 come to mind, as do the Sennheiser HD201 and Audio-Technica ATH-M20X) but, of them all, the Monoprice 8323 Hi-FI DJ Style Headphones are the cream of the crop. They’re a bit cheaper constructed than the others, but for their price they sound outrageously clear. Balanced and powerful, the Monoprice 8323 is the epitome of what the best cheap headphones should be.
If you’re not wedded to the idea of owning full-size headphones, there’s quite a lot of competition worth considering around this price. However, you can’t argue with the Taotronics TT-BH040s' value: while not packed with character, they carry themselves with a premium look above the affordable price tag, with aluminum touches and a generally pleasant design.
From a distance, and even close up, few would guess they are so affordable … just don’t buy them expecting the same performance as the most desirable pairs from Beats, Sennheiser or Bose.
Beyerdynamic makes loads of equipment for both audiophiles and audio professionals, and some of it comes at a high price. But, the Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro headphones find a sweet spot offering professional audio and a high standard in design for a lower price point.
The DT 240 Pro headphones cost $ 99 (£89, AU$ 139), making them more affordable than heaps of other studio monitor headphones. This price puts them in close competition with some of Audio-Technica’s cans, like the widely praised ATH-M40X or the wireless ATH-SR5BT, which can be found on sale in the same ballpark as the DT 240 Pro.
Beyerdynamic shines in performance with the DT 240 Pro. As studio monitor headphones, the sound produced is not very colorful, but that’s exactly as it should be. All the sound comes through clean and incredibly well balanced.
The bass is easy to pick up on without being thumpy, though with a subtle punch at higher volumes. From the bass on up to the high end, all the sounds mesh clearly, with the DT 240 Pros not boosting one register over the other.
They're neutral, perfect for recording and best of all, cheap.
In order to create this guide, we’ve tested, listened to and compared over 25 headphones in every category, shape and size. When we found a great pair, we then put it against the rest back-to-back-to-back to make sure they still really deserved the title of ‘best cheap headphones’.
You might be wondering what we were looking for through all this expansive testing? Sound fidelity was clearly the most essential detail – but we also made sure to consider comfort, design and other features also.
Like most people, we prefer our music detail-rich and well-balanced. We can live with our music sounding a bit warm with an emphasis on the mids and highs, but we still like to be able to feel the bass. Also, it’s important to look for headphones with reasonable battery life if they’re wireless, a robust, durable build that will stand up to the trials of everyday commute and comfortable padding to help make longer listening sittings nice and comfortable.
Keep in mind though, that testing headphones will be, at least on some level, subjective, and our taste in tonal balance might not match yours (neither will the size of our head or the shape of our ears). Still, we’ve done our best to take subjectivity out of the equation and can present, through our expertise, the best cheap headphones that won’t hurt your wallet.
By their very nature, the headphones you prefer will ultimately boil down to your own personal taste. However, seeing as the headphone market is extremely saturated, it is genuinely hard to figure out what the best headphones for your tastes actually are. That’s where we come in.
Now, bear with us – it’s impossible to get our hands on every affordable pair of headphones, but we won’t recommend anything we haven’t used ourselves. So if we missed your favorite pair of Beats headphones, it wasn’t on purpose, we assure you.
With this guide, we went through a process – exhaustively testing a huge amount of cheap headphones from all over the internet in every style under the sun. In-ear, over-ear, wireless – everything you can think of.
We then took the results of all of this exhaustive testing, and measured each headphone against each other until we could confidently pick a few to proudly wear the ‘best cheap headphones’ badge. So rest assured, even if we didn’t pick your favorite headphone, there isn’t a single pair in this list that will disappoint.
If you're looking for the best headphones to buy in 2020 you've come to the right place.
A good pair of headphones are a necessity for many of us – aside from breathing new life into our favorite songs, they keep us entertained with music, podcasts, and audio books when we're working out, commuting, or just trying to disconnect from the world around us.
We spend a lot of time with our headphones – and if you're looking for some new cans, you're going to want a pair of the best headphones you can find that your budget allows.
It's our mission to hook you up with the perfect headphones for your needs – and your budget.
We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar – however, if you're in a hurry and just want to find the best headphones your money can buy, check out our top picks below.
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The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones are the best headphones you can buy in 2020 – for now, anyway.
They're pretty consistent with what Sony has released in the last two years in the form of the Sony WH-1000XM2 and Sony MDR-1000X, improving on some already fantastic models.
A dominant noise-cancelling pair of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 can beat anything Bose has with ease.
That’s because, while Bose has done a tremendous job working out its noise cancellation algorithm over the years, Sony has spent that time perfecting audio playback while simultaneously creating an adaptable algorithm that doesn’t just create a single sterile sound barrier, but multiple kinds that can tailor itself to whatever situation you’re in.
Beyond being exceptional at keeping external noises at bay, these impressive Sony headphones are Hi-Res Audio-ready, sporting aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs, and offer the smarts of Google Assistant right on-board. If you need a pair of headphones that can live up to any challenge and excel in any environment, these are the pair for you.
After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones, we were blown away by the great value for money they represent.
For $ 100 / £100 (about AU$ 168), it’s hard to think of a better-sounding and more well-built pair of earphones than the 1MORE Triple Drivers. (That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.)
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Sure, the inbuilt remote feels a little cheap, but that's more than made up for by the lush sound quality offered by these luxe-looking earbud.
For the price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
If you have a tendency to lose or break headphones, but you still value sound quality, it’s hard to think of a better value pair of earbuds than the RHA S500u.
These in-ear headphones have no business sounding so good for $ 40 / £30 / AU$ 52, sporting a balanced soundstage with a slight mid-bass bump to power you through your workouts and make your music sound great.
Bass is slightly emphasized but not egregiously and features good impact while maintaining good control – and highs, while sibilant at times, makes music sound more exciting. In short, these are the best earphones you can buy if you're on a strict budget.
While the original Plattan headphones were just fine for a pair of on-ear headphones, Urbanears wasn’t satisfied with being mediocre. The company took customer feedback to heart and addressed many complaints about comfort, sound quality and isolation.
For the most part, Urbanears succeeded, making the Plattan II a worthy sequel to the company’s most popular headphone.
In short, these are basic headphones without a ton of features. But, because they're feature-light, you get a good-sounding pair of wired headphones for significantly less than you would otherwise.
While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770, DT880 and DT990 were renowned for their excellent build and sound quality.
Above them all, however, stand the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($ 599 / £589 / AU$ 1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound.
As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out, but the good news is that the open-back design gives the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.
If you've been searching for a pair of high fidelity cans that are used by some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are the best headphones for you.
In the past, audiophiles typically shunned wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years, and there are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.
Enter the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT, which boast outstanding sound quality for a pair of headphones under $ 200 / £150 – wired or wireless.
These over-ear headphones play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. Plus, they're extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built.
Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a single charge, and while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelation and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.
If the Sony WH-1000XM3s are the true king of noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are next in line for the throne – and for the sake of offering an alternative, we've included them in this list.
Traditionally, noise-cancelling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight).
This can be really effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you, whether you’re standing on a busy street or trying to speak on a rumbling train.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancelation to phone calls as well as music. The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.
If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise cancellation is out of this world.
At $ 200 / £180 / AU$ 250, the JBL Live 650BTNC punch above their weight in terms of sound quality, build, and features.
They offer a choice of either Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, and sport an adjustable EQ thanks to the JBL Headphones app. Battery life is rated at 20 hours with ANC and wireless enabled, while wired listening will get you upwards of 30 hours from a single charge.
If you don’t want to splurge on the Bose QC35 II or Sony WH-1000XM3, you’ll be satisfied with the JBL Live 650BTNC knowing that you’re getting 80% of the performance at 50% of the price tag.
Again, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our true winners in this category, but if you want an alternative, the Jabra Elite 85h are a fantastic choice.
Offering class-leading battery life, stylish design, and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h are easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier headphones on the market at this price point.
When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.
For a lot less ($ 150 / £140 / AU$ 240), Plantronics now sells the brilliant BackBeat Go 810, which use less premium materials but sound nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor – and sport an equally chic design.
With that in mind, the BackBeat Go 810 are an affordable pair of ANC headphones that will please travelers and commuters who don’t want to spend too much money on headphones.
The Focal Stellias are perhaps the best-sounding headphones on the planet. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.
If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias' precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.
If you like to keep things minimal in the headphones department, you probably won’t like the showy, opulent design of the Focal Stellias, and they can feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work.
But if luxury is your thing, the full-grain leather cups, woven cables, brushed copper accents, and matching carrying case are likely to appeal.
That luxury feel is translated right down to the presentation of the user manuals in a neat little leather-style wallet – and you may well expect to find this level of detail in exchange for parting with $ 3,000. Ouch.
The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are a rare find: earbuds that are grear for basically all situations, whether you're looking to take them out on a run or just wear them around town.
They're ideal for exercise, although any urbanite will also find their lightweight functionality and impressive sound isolation highly appealing when traveling on crowded trains or navigating busy streets.
If you want proof that wireless earphones can now compete with the best wired earphones, look no further.
Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancelation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancelation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it.
That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: not only are these hands-down the best-looking true wireless earbuds out there, but they also combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality.
If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive and smart alternative.
Choosing the right headphones for you can be an agonizing decision – but it doesn't have to be if you look for a few key features.
Above all, sound quality is the most important thing to look for. That doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive audiophile headphones on the market; it just means that you should have an idea of what kind of sound you like.
How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?
If you're all about that bass, you'll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows.
It's also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you're in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.
You also need to consider the design of your new headphones. Do you want the freedom of true wireless earbuds or the security of a pair of sturdy over-ear headphones?
Wireless or wired is also an important consideration. A few short years ago, we may have tried to dissuade you from buying a pair of wireless headphones (the technology had issues with wireless connectivity over Bluetooth and sound quality took a dive as a result).
Nowadays however, advances in Bluetooth technology means that wireless headphones can sound fantastic and rarely experience annoying dropouts. If you're going for wireless headphones, make sure the battery life is decent, too.
You should also think about what you'll be using your new headphones for; if you need to soundtrack your workout, you'll want to look at headphones specifically designed for running or swimming.
Lastly, you need to consider price. You don't have to break the bank when your buying a pair of headphones, as evidenced by our guide to the best cheap headphones of 2020
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.
Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.
There's usually more to a set of headphone than meets the eye. As such, we've provided a breakdown of what you can expect to find in each kind of headphone.
Not only will learning more about headphones help you make a more informed purchase, but you'll know when you're really getting your money's worth.
What headphones should you buy? Check out our video below for everything you need to know.
This type of headphone, more commonly referred to as an earbud or earphone, is usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. If you've purchased an MP3 player, or more recently, the new iPod touch (7th generation), it's likely that a set was included with the purchase.
Earphones rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. Compared to other types of headphones, these are the most discreet ones you'll find. Their small form-factor also makes them the king/queen of portability and the prime choice for athletes.
You're not likely to find strong performers at the low-end of the price spectrum. Their sound delivery is generally muddled, lacking bass and overcompensating for that with harsh mids and highs. That said, it won't cost you much money at all to find a value-packed option complete with inline controls and a microphone.
While similar to over-ear headphones in appearance, they fit to your head a little differently. Instead of enveloping your ears with a soft cushion, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable seal around your ear. Thus, the noise isolation is much less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but there are big benefits to consider here.
On-ear headphones are usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, and as such they appeal to travellers and the fitness crowd. Taking a walk or a jog around town is also safer, as you can hear traffic go by and be aware of potential hazards.
This ear-muff style of headphone generally provides greater richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. Additionally, over-ear, or circum-aural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.
The price range for a set of on-ear headphones begins around $ 100 and from there, the sky's the limit. For example, the Oppo PM-1, while excellent, are priced exorbitantly at $ 1,099. It's definitely not necessary to spend that much. That said, you tend to get what you pay for.
If your headphone budget is in the $ 2-300, you'll start getting into options that have excellent build quality, premium materials and amazing sound and features like ANC (active noise cancellation.)
Wireless headphones can be split into three different categories: wireless earphones connected via a neckband, wireless on-ear headphones, and wireless over-ear headphones – all are battery-powered and use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, laptop, portable music player, or even your turntable.
For wireless over-ear and on-ear models, you simply lose the wire connecting them to your device – otherwise, they look pretty much the same as your regular pair of wired cans, and give you the noise-isolating prowess of over-ears without the need for cumbersome wires to connect to your device.
Wireless in-ear models, earphones, or earbuds (depending on your preferred vernacular), have a neckband connecting each earbud, making them ideal for runners who want the freedom of a wireless connection with the security of a wire keeping their earbuds firmly around their neck.
Opting to go wireless will cost you a premium of anywhere between $ 50-100 over the price of wired cans. Going futuristic isn't cheap. One important thing to consider is that your music player must support the Bluetooth wireless protocol, as it's required to use this type of headphone.
Speaking of Bluetooth, it has become exponentially more reliable over time, but it's always susceptible to disturbances in the force.
True wireless earbuds
True wireless earbuds on the other hand, have no cord whatsoever; no wires to get caught in your zipper, and nothing to keep each bud connected to each other. For some, this means true freedom; for others, untethered true wireless means constant danger of losing their expensive audio kit down the drain – or terrible connections.
The latter, at least, has changed now – thanks to advances in Bluetooth technology like aptX HD, the best wireless headphones have never sounded better.
This category, like wireless headphones, isn't limited to a form factor. You can find this clever mix of technologies integrated into the ear pieces of in-ear and over-ear headphones alike.
Many companies falsely claim to offer true noise cancelation with just the padding included around the ear cups. Don't believe it. This is PNC (passive noise cancelation), and it doesn't amount to much. You can even replicate this effect by cupping your hands around your ears, so why shell out the big bucks for it?
On the other hand, ANC (active noise cancelation) is the real deal. This technique employs a set of external microphones, which detect the decibel level outside. Once it has an idea of the incoming noise level, the headphone speakers inside transmit a noise generated to dampen the racket. The end result is an effect that hushes the outside noise, allowing you to focus.