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The best headphones for you not only sound great but also do everything else you need, whether they fit in your pocket, block out noise on your subway commute, or stay secure during your workouts. We think the Sony H.ear On WH-H900N does most things well, but that pair isn’t for workouts and can be a bit large. We also have other headphone picks for every need and budget.
Best wireless headphones
Who this is for: This set is great for anyone who needs noise-cancelling headphones and wants the convenience of wireless without giving up anything in terms of sound quality.
Why we like it: Offering good sound, wireless or wired operation, and active noise cancellation, the Sony H.ear On WH-H900N is a great all-around pair of headphones. A battery life of 28-plus hours, a comfortable fit, higher-grade active noise cancelling, and clear phone calls make these headphones suitable for use in the office as well as at home. Although the noise cancellation isn’t the absolute best available, it’s still well above average.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Turning on the ANC, or active noise cancellation, feature can initially cause a bit of “ear suck”, or the feeling that your ears need to pop due to a change of pressure. The touch controls can take a little practice to use, too. The WH-H900N’s included cord lacks a remote and mic, and this model doesn’t work while charging, so you’ll need to make sure it has enough power before placing a call. In our tests, the sound quality when this pair was corded wasn’t our favorite, producing a bit too much bass that could blur into male vocals.
Battery life: 28 hours
Warranty: One year
Inputs: Micro-USB, stereo mini jack
Best wireless earbuds
Who this is for: These true wireless earbuds have zero wires to get in your way, so they’re right for you if you demand maximum portability without any sacrifices in sound or call quality.
Why we like it: The Jabra Elite 65t true wireless earbuds sound great, fit comfortably, and give you all the experience you might expect from standard Bluetooth earbuds, with the bonus of no wires. Unlike many other true wireless earbuds, this pair has both volume and track controls as well as the ability to trigger Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa from your phone. The four-microphone array works well to keep your voice sounding crystal clear over phone calls. Although the Elite 65t earbuds block out most outside noise, they also have a transparency mode so you can choose to hear your surroundings. If you want to read our thoughts on other true wireless earbuds, check out our best true wireless headphones guide, which includes our review of the Apple AirPods. Or if the standard Bluetooth earbud style is more your speed, you can read more about those models in our best Bluetooth earbuds guide.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: When you push the earbud buttons that control the track and volume, you can end up smooshing the earbud into your ear. The effect isn’t uncomfortable, but it is a bit annoying. The five-hour battery life per charge is at the higher end of listening time between charges for true wireless earbuds – but still far shorter than the life of standard Bluetooth earbuds. And in our tests, these headphones did produce a very slight delay when we were watching video, most notably in the YouTube app.
Battery life: Up to five hours, two additional full charges with charging case (15 total)
Warranty: Two years
IP Rating: IP55 (water and dust)
Best noise-cancelling headphones
Who this is for: This Bose set is the best option currently available if you need great active noise cancellation for travel or the office. It sounds good, as well.
Why we like it: If finding the best active noise cancellation is your top priority, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is our pick for the best pair of wireless ANC headphones. These headphones are comfortable and light, they have great battery life, they sound pretty good – and they offer the best active noise cancellation. Additionally, they have a button that lets you access Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, enabling you to ask questions or send and listen to messages without touching your phone.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although the noise cancelling on this pair is fantastic, the sound quality is good but not amazing. Also, activating the ANC may cause an “ear suck” feeling, as though you need to yawn to adjust the air pressure in your ears, but can’t. Many people become accustomed to this sensation, but others may find it slightly uncomfortable over a long period.
Battery life: Up to 20 hours (Bluetooth); up to 40 hours (wired)
Best noise-cancelling earbuds
Who this is for: These noise-cancelling earbuds make travel and commutes a lot more peaceful, and they’re small enough and lightweight enough to pack in any bag. While no headphones we’ve tested are great for sleeping in, these are better than most.
Why we like it: The Bose QuietComfort 20 provides, by far, better active noise cancelling than any other model we’ve tested. In our tests, we also measured the battery life at over 17 hours, which is long enough for this pair to outlast almost any flight between recharges. And because of its flattish design, the QC20 is the most comfortable headphone for sleeping in that we’ve tested.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The sound on the QC20 was merely average in our tests. It didn’t sound bad, just light on the bass and lacking the clarity we’d like to hear at this price. Also, the battery/electronics pack can be a little obtrusive if you’re accustomed to the minimal design of most earbuds.
OS options: Apple or Android/Google-specific remotes
Battery life: 17 hours (per our testing)
Best gaming headset
Who this is for: If you’re a PC-gaming enthusiast, you need headphones that sound good, fit comfortably for long game sessions, and have a clear microphone for chatting with teammates or opponents.
Why we like it: The HyperX Cloud offers the best mix of audio performance and comfort for the money. It’s beautifully built and impressively comfortable – you can wear it for hours on end without cranial distress – and in sound quality it holds up against some of the best dedicated headphones in its price range. Plus, the aluminum chassis makes the HyperX Cloud durable despite its light weight. Features such as a removable boom microphone, interchangeable leatherette and velour earpads, and in-line volume and microphone mute controls add to the value.
Compatibility: PC, Xbox One (adapter, sold separately, required for Xbox One controllers with no 3.5 mm port), Xbox One S, PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro, Mac, mobile (compatible with devices with CTIA standard connectors), and VR (compatible with virtual reality systems with a 3.5 mm port)
Microphone style: Detachable boom
Accessories included: Airplane adapter, leather and velour ear cushions, travel bag
Best workout headphones
Who this is for: If you use your headphones regularly at the gym, you need workout headphones specifically designed to stay in place through a variety of high-impact moves.
Why we like it: The Jabra Elite Active 65t true-wireless earbuds have onboard volume, track, and digital-assistant controls, so you won’t need to fuss with your device mid-workout. The adjustable situational-awareness mode allows you to have a conversation or keep an ear on traffic without removing your earbuds. Five hours of battery life per charge is more than enough for most gym sessions; plus, the charging case can store up to 10 more hours of juice (and the rapid-charge function gives you 1½ hours of use from just 15 minutes in the charging case).
And though we love this pair for most gym workouts, we also have other options for swimming, weightlifting, and other specific activities in our best wireless workout headphones guide, as well as some good options for people who prefer wired workout headphones.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although we adore the Elite Active 65t, we do have a few small quibbles. The first is that when you push the buttons that control tracks and volume, you may also push the earbud farther into your ear. The sensation isn’t uncomfortable but it is mildly annoying – we found that holding the tiny arm that contains the mics with two fingers to stabilise the earbud while pressing the buttons alleviates the problem. Second, even though the embedded accelerometer on the earbuds is a neat idea, at the moment it tracks only steps. It does so fairly accurately, but if you are a fitness enthusiast, you likely already have a fitness tracker that does this and more. Last, the Elite Active 65t is plagued by the same limitations as many true wireless earbuds: battery life and latency. However, the five-hour battery life on this pair ranks among the longest we’ve seen for this style of earbud, and the slight audio lag is generally minimal enough to avoid being distracting – especially if most of your time watching is also spent in motion.
Battery life: Approximately five hours
Warranty: Two years
Protected against: Sweat and water damage
Best running headphones
Who this is for: If you run outside frequently (as opposed to on a treadmill), you need headphones that not only stay in place comfortably, are sweat resistant, and are easy to use, but also allow you to hear the world around you.
Why we like it: The Plantronics BackBeat Fit has been our favorite set of running headphones for two years now. They’re comfortable and easy to use while you’re moving, and they’re resistant to sweat, rain and dust. The sound quality is better than that of just about any other unsealed headphones we’ve ever tested. The rubberised coating grips your ears without chafing, and the cable between the two earbuds is long enough to accommodate any size head and yet is short enough that the slack won’t snag or bounce noisily when you’re jogging. In addition, the eight-plus-hour battery life will last for a week of training runs before you need to charge.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: If you run with a scarf in the cold or have a high collar on your jacket, the rubberised cable may brush against it occasionally. Although the BackBeat Fit does offer more low frequencies than most other earbuds that allow outside noises, you’re likely to notice less bass than on headphones that completely close off the ear canal. Lastly, the hook that arches over the ear to hold each earbud in place is mildly flexible but could pose a fit problem for people with very large outer ears.
Battery life: Eight hours
IP rating: IP57 (water, sweat, dust)
Warranty: One year
Best kids headphones
Who this is for: Yes, kids headphones are sized for smaller heads, but they also include a volume-limiting feature made for the hearing safety of kiddos who listen via headphones frequently.
Why we like it: The Puro BT2200 headphones remain within safe listening levels when used properly, but in our tests they were also the favourite of all our kid panelists, which means your little ones will be more likely to use them. The size and weight fit kids from 2½ to 11 years comfortably, so you can buy these headphones once and they’ll grow with your child; they’re also sturdy enough that they should last a long time, too. While a lot of other kids headphones are made of breakable cheap plastic, the BT2200 has a well-constructed aluminum frame.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: When a child is using these headphones wired, the supplied cord must be plugged in the correct direction, or else the volume reduction will not work. That cable design is the biggest concern for us, and we recommend keeping an eye on your child when the cable is in use. That said, with this set’s battery life of 18-plus hours, the cable should be needed only as a backup option. The only other flaw we saw with the Puro BT2200 was the inability to change tracks using the headphones themselves.
Battery life: 18 hours
Warranty: One year with a 30-day money-back guarantee
Connections: Bluetooth and 3.5 mm cord
Best wired headphones under Rs 20,000
Who this is for: Budding audio fans, musicians who need headphones for recording, and podcasters alike will find these headphones, and their price, the most attractive. They’re affordable and dependable, and they sound great.
Why we like it: The Sony MDR-7506 has been a studio and live-audio staple since its release in 1991. Not only does it provide accurate-sounding bass, mids, and treble, but it also gives you a better sense of the depth and dynamics of your music than many models twice the price. Besides, it is durable, comfortable and reliable.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although the long, coiled cable is practical, being able to swap it out for a shorter cord with a remote and a mic for mobile-device usage or to replace a damaged cord would be nice. Also, the looks are professional but in no way stylish.
Driver: 40 mm dynamic neodymium
Frequency response (claimed): 10-20,000 Hz
Cable style: 9.8 feet coiled with 3.5 mm and removable ¼-inch adapter
Best wired earbuds under Rs 20,000
Who this is for: Wired earbuds are for anyone who values sound quality over wireless capability or noise cancelling but wants something they can easily pack in a pocket or small bag.
Why we like it: The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H3 sounded fantastic in our tests, with clear, non-piercing highs and smooth, mildly forward lows. The earbuds are beautifully designed, solidly built, and comfortable, too.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: In our tests, the H3’s high frequencies were less forward in the mix, and the bass was a little less defined than we’d prefer in an ideally balanced earbud. As a result, thumping bass lines could sound more “wuh-wuh” than “buh-buh”. If you’re listening to classical and jazz, this lighter hand on the treble and lows won’t be noticeable; it’s more on rock, hip-hop, and pop, where you might expect that extra punch on the top and bottom notes, that you’ll probably notice the ever-so-slight coloration. Also, the three-button remote will work on iOS, but only the center play/pause control will work on other systems.
Warranty: Two years
Remote OS: Three-button Apple or Android
Frequency response (claimed): 20-16000 Hz
Best headphones under Rs 10,000
Who these are for: People who are looking for traditional over-the-head wireless Bluetooth headphones and want good sound for the least amount of money.
Why we like it: The Jabra Move Wireless headphones perform well at all the basic functions you need, for a reasonable price. They sound about 75% as good as Bluetooth headphones that cost four times as much, and the mic is clear for when you make phone calls, too. The controls are easily accessible and understandable, and the earpads, padded headband, and pivoting earcups make the fit comfortable for most people. Plus, the battery’s eight-plus hours of talk/listen time (we measured 15 hours) and 12 days of standby time mean you’ll get a full day’s listening before needing to charge.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The cable included with the Move lacks a remote and microphone, so you won’t be able to make calls when the battery dies. Additionally, the sound via the cable is a little brighter than via Bluetooth. We’d prefer that the Move fold for storage and have replaceable earpads, too.
Battery life: Eight hours (claimed, though we got 15 in our testing)
Warranty: One year
Best earbuds under Rs 10,000
Who this is for: These more affordable earbuds are great for everyday use and not so expensive that you’d be afraid to use them or travel with them.
Why we like it: The Marshall Mode earbuds have a balanced sound profile that can handle any style of music brilliantly. In our tests, the bass was slightly boosted but had no bloat or blurriness, even on already bass-forward songs. The highs were clear and didn’t have the piercing, harsh quality that too many other earbuds in this category did. All of our panellists were able to get a good seal and a comfortable fit, too. The single-button universal remote answers calls, handles music-playback functions, and activates voice commands. A bonus is the design of the microphone: separate from the remote, it sits up higher on the cable, closer to your mouth. If you’ve ever held the remote on your headphones up to your mouth to be heard on phone calls, you’ll find this to be a welcome feature.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Mode has only a single-button remote. Although it will handle play/pause, voice commands, and tracks on most devices, some Android-device owners may find that the track skipping doesn’t work as well. Unfortunately, because of the varying OS coding on Android phones, this is a common issue with universal remotes. And though the overall balance of the Mode is quite good, the highs can occasionally sound slightly coarse in comparison with those of headphones in the more expensive range.
Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
Remote: Single-button universal
Best wireless earbuds under Rs 3,000
Who this is for: Whether you are prone to losing your headphones or sticking to a budget, sometimes you just need a pair of inexpensive Bluetooth earbuds that get the job done.
Why we like it: The Skullcandy Ink’d Bluetooth pair has a lightweight, comfortable fit, as well as decent, bass-forward sound and easy-to-use controls. We also like that the necklace design is flexible enough for you to fold it up and put it in your pocket.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: If you have wide ear canals, you may not get a proper fit with the included tips. Bizarrely, Skullcandy includes only medium and small tips, and bigger tips add extra cost. In addition, the sound of the Ink’d Bluetooth is less balanced than we’d prefer: In our tests, the forward bass muddied the lower-mid guitar range, and the somewhat coarse-sounding high-frequency range gave strings a tinny feel. Finally, if you frequently make phone calls, you’ll need to pay attention to the location of the mic; your voice can sound a bit muffled if your shirt or jacket gets in the way.
Battery life: Eight hours
Warranty: Two years
Best wired earbuds under Rs 3,000
Who this is for: If you need a backup pair of headphones that cover the basics, or a set you won’t cry over if you lose it, budget wired earbuds get the job done for as little money as possible.
Why we like it: The AKG Y20U earbuds fit every one of our panellists and sounded great in our tests, and they cost only around Rs 1,800. In our tests, the Y20U had more depth to its sound than any of our other picks in this category, with pleasantly boosted bass that didn’t muddy the mids or overwhelm the highs. It didn’t lose detail in the vocals or guitars, but that’s because the highs were slightly elevated, too. However, the Y20U’s highs weren’t piercing, sizzling or sibilant. As for the fit, this pair is secure, low profile, and comfortable for a wide variety of ear shapes.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Y20U isn’t the most sensitive pair; if you have an older, lower-power output device or if you like listening to music extremely loudly, you may not get the volume level you desire. We’d also love a three-button remote, but we weren’t willing to sacrifice comfort or sound quality to get it.
Warranty: One year
Remote: Single-button universal
Sensitivity: 111 dB SPL/V
Best for everyday audiophiles
Who these are for: This type of headphone is for music connoisseurs who want better performance than standard cans.
Why we like it: The Monolith by Monoprice M565C headphones have an exciting, detailed sound, beating out pairs that cost hundreds of dollars more. Suitable for any genre of music, the planar-magnetic drivers are housed in isolating closed-back earcups, so that you can block out distractions and focus on enjoying your playlist. They have a sturdy, comfortable build and replaceable cable, and Monoprice’s five-year warranty is about the longest of any headphones we’ve seen.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: For people who prefer to keep a lower profile when listening, these headphones may not be ideal (their look clearly says “not now, I’m busy”). Because they don’t fold up, and their hard-sided storage case is one of the largest we tested, they are far from being easily portable. As for sound, the M565C model doesn’t deliver quite as much presence in the mids as we’d like in the ideal headphones, and some of our panellists would have preferred a little extra sparkle on the highs. Plus, the cable is a bit noisy if you move around a lot or wear a scratchy sweater. Lastly, unlike some other headphones in this category, the M565C set doesn’t come with a cable that has a remote and mic option for mobile use.
Weight: 13.7 ounces
Warranty: Five years