Best wired headphones 2022: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s buyer's guide to the best wired headphones you can buy.
Given everyone’s apparent obsession with wireless headphones, you’d be forgiven for thinking the days of wired headphones were numbered. Not so. The best wired headphones forgo Bluetooth and focus on providing the ultimate sonic experience. And since they don't need charging, they're all the more convenient.
Below you'll find our definitive list of the very best wired headphones you can buy, including in-ear buds, plush over-ears and compact on-ears. Which type should you invest in? Here's a few handy pointers...
How to choose the best wired headphones
Closed-back or open back? If sound leakage isn’t an issue, picking on-ears or over-ears with open backs could deliver a more expansive, natural sound. Closed-back headphones seal the sound in, so they're ideal for the train or bus.
Comfort should be high on your list, too. In-ear headphones are great on the go and many come with a choice of ear tips, but you might find that a pair of well-padded over-ears is better suited to all-day home listening.
Noise-cancelling wired headphones used to be common, but they're becoming a rare breed. This is purely down to the fact that wireless noise-cancelling headphones are now ubiquitous.
Many wired headphones come with their own case to protect them, plus a cable. Wired headphones usually connect to devices via an 'aux in' or 3.5mm headphone socket. Some wired headphones come with a larger, 6.35mm adapter which allows them to be plugged into the relevant input on hi-fi separates.
Right, let's get started! Here are the best-sounding, best-value wired headphones available now...
Grado's Prestige range has produced some of the New York company's finest headphones over the past 30 years. The series has evolved over time, but the latest ‘x’ generation models offer the same balance of quality and value.
The range-topping SR325x headphones look much like their predecessors, the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning SR325e, albeit with flatter foam earpads, an updated cable and lighter coloured stitching on the firmly padded headband.
The difference is in the listening: the SR325x sound notably cleaner and clearer than their predecessor, offering a superbly detailed and articulate performance that sounds more precise and insightful than ever.
If you're looking for the best wired headphones, and don't mind a pair with an open-backed design that leaks sound, the SR325x should be top of your list. And at this money, they're unbeatable.
Read the full Grado SR325x review
The SoundMagic E11C wired earbuds are the successors to the five-star E10. We're happy to the report that the new kids on the block are still pretty magic thanks to an improved driver and a silver-plated copper cable.
The better driver brings improved sound, but it still remains recognisably SoundMagic. Bass is ample, with plenty of warmth and depth to keep you enveloped, while the top-end isn't compromised. The midrange has decent clarity, displaying great energy and control.
When you considering the affordable price, these wired buds are nothing short of a miracle. If you're on a budget, we have no hesitation in recommending them. A solid buy.
Read the full SoundMagic E11C review
Austrian Audio is a Vienna-based company born out of ex-AKG employees. Its first-ever range of wired headphones, Hi-X, offers plenty of decent options but we'd consider the Hi-X15 first.
They're affordable but don't feel cheap. The design, with proper metal hinges and soft ‘slow retention’ memory foam earpads, would put a lot of plasticky competitors to shame.
More importantly, sound quality is exceptionally good for the money. The Hi-X15 deliver consistently high detail levels yet keep the soul of a song intact. No easy feat at this end of the market.
We wouldn't insist on you partnering them with a suitable DAC/headphone amplifier, but do so and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best-sounding wired headphones for the money. A true bargain.
Read the full Austrian Audio Hi-X15 review
- Want to go wire-free? Here are the best wireless headphones
Beyerdynamic refers to the DT 900 Pro X as premium studio headphones. That had us scratching our collective heads. After spending some considerable time with them we still can’t figure out what makes these over-ear headphones less suitable for home use. They’re well made, comfortable and sound great, so whether they are intended for the studio or not, we really like them.
Ultimately, these Beyerdynamics fulfill their 'studio' brief by delivering all the resolution, stability and control required to dissect a recording, but at the same time manage to convey the emotional impact of the music as well as anything we’ve heard at this level. If you’re looking for a quality pair of wired headphones at this price, put these at the top of your shopping list. Once you have a listen you’ll be glad you did.
Read the full Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X review
The Grado SR80 are the company's longest-running model, which tells you something about how good these wired headphones are. The latest iteration – the SR80x – succeeds the 2014-released, multi-What Hi-Fi? Award-winning SR80e.
The SR80x have everything we like about their their predecessors – expressive, rolling dynamics and superb insight – as well as plenty of punch and panache. They're born entertainers with a refined, clinically clean sound.
Build quality is solid, as you would expect from a company with such a fine pedigree. The 1.8m cable is rugged, the pleather headband is nicely cushioned and the circular foam earpads should physically cover most ears. The open-backed design means they leak sound, so are probably best for home use.
The Grado SR80x may not be revolutionary, but they don't need to be. At this money, they remain one of the best wired headphones on the market.
Read the full Grado SR80x review
When it comes to Beyerdynamic’s Amiron headphones, one word springs to mind: comfort. The earcups and headband are made of alcantara microfibres (which have a texture similar to suede) and microvelour, which is as luxurious as it sounds. The result is a pair of headphones you can wear for hours on end.
They're not just comfortable – they sound fabulous too. We particularly like the Amiron's clear midrange vocals, tight timing, and the way that they handle challengingly rhythms without breaking a sweat.
Like the Grado headphones above, they're open-backed and leak sound like a sieve, so the usual disclaimer about not listening on public transport applies. Still, if you have a healthy budget and want a stunning pair of headphones, the Amirons will keep you happy no matter what the genre.
Prefer the wireless version? Check out the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless.
Read the full Beyerdynamic Amiron review
If you’re still using the in-ear headphones that came bundled with your smartphone, then you’re missing out. The Klipsch T5M Wired in-ears are up there with the very wired headphones at this kind of money, and will make a big difference.
Each bud houses a 5mm dynamic driver and features a 5.6mm nozzle, on to which you can pop Klipsch’s patented oval earbuds. We find the supplied tips to be among the most comfortable on the market.
Sound-wise, the T5M deliver precise, sharply defined notes thanks to a fine sense of agility. Bass is powerful and punchy, while vocals have a good sense of space. Overall, the Klipschs’ natural tone and delivery deliver a real sense of emotion.
Anyone looking to upgrade their in-ear headphones should consider the Klipsch T5M Wired – they’re seriously musical performers.
Read the full Klipsch T5M Wired review
Shure makes some of the best wired headphones, something that becomes apparent the moment you pick up the Aonic 3. They're beautifully designed, comfy and surprisingly lightweight. The headphone cable hooks over the top of your ears and keeps them secure at all times - there is a slight knack to getting the swivelling buds in place, though.
Nine different eartip choices allow for excellent isolation, while an in-line remote and mic can control your tunes and answer calls.
When it comes to sound quality, the Shures absolutely nail it. They're dynamic, detailed and their toe-tapping sense of rhythm and timing needs to be heard. We can't think of any pair of in-ear wired headphones at this price that comes close.
Read the full Shure Aonic 3 review
The Austrian Audio Hi-X55 are impressive. They're beautifully made, and relay a track faithfully. They don't feel heavy (despite their metal construction) and the ear cups fold inwards for travel purposes. They come supplied with a 3m cable, which great for use at home – but not on the go. A shorter 1.2m cable is available for a small fee.
They aren’t as easy a listen as some rivals, and will certainly be unforgiving with some recordings. Where other headphones provide warm, comfortable listens, the Austrian Audios are far more analytical and more ‘professional’ in their presentation. The tight snappy bass is particularly satisfying.
If you want to hear what is truly in a track or recording, you won’t find better analysts at this price. Definitely worth an audition.
Prefer an on-ear fit? The Austrian Audio Hi-X50 are just as impressive.
Read the full Austrian Audio Hi-X55 review
The original T1 open-back headphones – now over a decade old – are something of a touchstone for us as far as premium headphones go. The main change between this third-generation model and its predecessor is that the new pair is easier to drive for laptops and mobile devices.
The result is a sound that's very similar to the originals but cleaner and clearer, slightly less bright and a little smoother when it comes to treble. There's that same delivery of music with a palpable sense of power and authority, and vocals come through with nuance and clarity, too.
The updated T1 are comfortable enough for long listening sessions thanks to a nicely shaped, partially Alcantara-covered headband and generous velour-trimmed earpads. These aren’t the kind of wired headphones that impress on a short listen but given a few days or even weeks, it’s hard not to fall under their spell.
Want closed-backs? Check out the brilliant Beyerdynamic T5 (3rd Gen).
Read the full Beyerdynamic T1 (3rd Generation) review
Shure boasts years of experience in the world of in-ear monitors, so it knows a thing or two about making a decent pair of premium wired headphones.
The Shure Aonic 5 draw on the company's rich history and, as a result, offer a sound that oozes class and quality. There’s enough bass to satisfy but the Aonic 5 also manage to deliver subtlety and detail in spades. Texture and tone are communicated effortlessly to the listener.
Shure provides a good selection of tips to help you try and get the perfect seal, plus nozzles that can alter the balance of the sound produced by the buds. You can even switch the traditional cable out in favour of Shure’s optional true wireless secure fit adapter (£175, $179, AU$309), which transforms the Aonic 5 into a pair of wireless earbuds.
If you want a pair of wired headphones that completely invest you in the music, you should consider investing in the Shure Aonic 5.
Read the full Shure Aonic 5 review
The Hi-X65 are a comfortable, well made and sonically capable pair of wired headphones.
The Hi-X65 have an open-back design, meaning they leak a certain amount of sound out as well as letting a fair amount of environmental noise in. They're not as leaky as the brilliant Grado SR325x (above), but they're best used at home.
Open-back designs tend to have sonic advantages over their closed-back cousins, though. All things being equal, they tend to sound more spacious and articulate with a notable extra dose of expressiveness when it comes to dynamics.
That's certainly the case here. The Hi-X65 are crisp, clean and precise sounding performers. There’s a pleasing degree of punch on offer alongside taut and articulate bass. They lack a little of the exuberance that makes the likes of Grado’s SR325x so great, but they're a very entertaining listen.
If you're after a classy pair of wired headphones for home use, Austrian Audio's Hi-X65 likely won't disappoint.
Read the full Austrian Audio Hi-X65 review
We originally reviewed the Shure SE425 back in 2013. Back then, Daft Punk's Get Lucky was riding high in the charts, while tech fans were marvelling at a cutting-edge device called the Apple iPhone 5S. But unlike the 5S, these Shures have stood the test of time.
Fun, absorbing, classy, polished and captivating are just a few ways to describe the sound of the SE425. The level of finesse and refinement available is astonishing even at this price.
Sure, their rather 'functional' looks might not appeal to all, and they can be a bit fiddly to get in place first time round due to their design. But any minor gripes are quickly wiped out by the amazing audio. If sound is your priority, the Shure SE425 remain some of the best in-ear wired headphones you can buy.
Read the full Shure SE425 review
Stax launched the world’s first electrostatic headphones in 1960, laying the foundation for a richly deserved reputation that continues to this day.
The company's SL-R700 Mk2 are large, comfortable and strictly for domestic use due to their open-backed design. Build quality is functional rather than luxurious.
Sound is truly staggering. We're treated to one of the most detailed headphones performances we’ve ever heard; every note sounds clean, precise and defined. There’s an impressive degree of agility, matched with clarity that’s utterly convincing.
It's important to note here that you can’t use a conventional headphone amplifier with electrostatic headphones, as the voltages required are far higher than usual. Instead you'll have to partner these cans with an energiser – we used the excellent Stax SRM-700T.
If your budget stretches and sound is your priority, these Stax wired headphones deliver a magical experience.
Read the full Stax SR-L700 Mk2 review
How we test headphones
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Of course, testing headphones don't always require advanced facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at its very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
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