Best headphones

Best headphones 2018

A decent pair of headphones can revitalise the music stored on your smartphone or music player - and they can also team up with more traditional hi-fi system without any hassle.

Here's our round-up of the best headphones on the market right now. We've covered a range of styles and price points so you've got the best chance of finding the right pair for you.

MORE: Best headphone deals

In-ear

AKG N40

Impeccable build and comfort from AKG - pair the N40s with a worthy source and they're capable of stunning results.

SPECIFICATIONS

Swappable filters | Universal remote and mic | Flight adapter

Reasons to Buy
Excellent build
Comfortable as in-ears get
Capable of stunning sound
Reasons to Avoid
Need a serious source to get more than mediocrity from them
Swappable filters seem unnecessary

On-ear

AKG Y50

The Y50s have a bold, modern look that might be a little out of character for the company, but it’s a smart, sensible step that appeals to a younger market. Sound quality is superb for the money, too.

SPECIFICATIONS

On-ear design | 50mm driver | 4 finishes

Reasons to Buy
Rhythmic, clear and detailed
Time well
Dynamic and punchy
Well-built
Portable
Reasons to Avoid
Sources might need to be turned up
Ears get warm after a while

Over-ear

Philips Fidelio X2

More than worthy of a listen, these Philips cans are a smoothly neutral listen with oodles of detail and a real knack with rhythms. Punchy bass rounds off a nap hand.

Reasons to Buy
Smooth, neutral sound
Rhythmic
Taut, punchy bass
Good insight
Reasons to Avoid
Tough competition

Noise-cancelling

Bowers & Wilkins PX

Given this is B&W's first pair of noise-cancelling headphones, we can safely say the company has a 100% record of brilliant noise-cancelling headphones.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth/noise-cancelling | 22hr battery life | Proximity sensors built-in | USB-C connector

Reasons to Buy
Transparent, detailed sound
Excellent dynamics
Impeccable sense of timing
Clever, intuitive features
Impressive noise-cancelling
Good battery life
Fine build
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing significant

Wireless

AKG Y50BT

The Y50BTs mimic the styling of their wired siblings and they sound just as good as they look. Clarity and insight are particular strong points.

SPECIFICATIONS

Built-in battery | 20hr battery ife | Micro USB charging

Reasons to Buy
Impressive clarity, detail and dynamics
Easy to use
Comfortable
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this price

Sports

Bose SoundSport Wireless

Excellent in-ears in their own right, and with the fit and resilience to be the perfect work-out companions. 

SPECIFICATIONS

Rechargeable battery | 6 hour battery life | 2 hour charging time

Reasons to Buy
Comfortable
Fun sound
Strong wireless performance
Reasons to Avoid
Less-than-stellar battery life

Budget

Koss Porta Pro

Absolute proof that 'affordable' doesn't automatically exclude 'fun'.

SPECIFICATIONS

Foldable | On-ear design | Open-backed

Reasons to Buy
Time brilliantly with decent punch
Decent though not hi-fi standards of detail
Extremely lightweight and portable
Reasons to Avoid
Considering the price, no real complaints

iPhone

Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEi

To make the most of the iPhone's audio quality and hear your music at its best, we'd consider ditching Apple's EarPods in favour of the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ears.

SPECIFICATIONS

1.3m cable | 3.5mm jack | Inline controls

Reasons to Buy
Comfortable fit
Attractive design
Wonderfully clear and detailed sound
Tight, full-bodied bass
Expressive mids and highs
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Money-no-object

Sony MDR-Z1R

The finest closed-back headphones we've heard - fed by the right electronics they're an absolutely thrilling listen.

SPECIFICATIONS

70mm drive unit | Claimed frequency reach of 120kHz | Detachable balanced and single-ended leads

Reasons to Buy
Excellent detail resolution
Even tonal balance
Powerful bass
Plenty of scale
Superb build and finish
Comfortable
Reasons to Avoid
Demand quality electronics

Also consider

In-ear

Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEi

SPECIFICATIONS

1.3m cable | 3.5mm jack | Inline controls

Reasons to Buy
Comfortable fit
Attractive design
Wonderfully clear and detailed sound
Tight, full-bodied bass
Expressive mids and highs
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

On-ear

Grado SR80e

SPECIFICATIONS

Open-backed | 3.5mm - 6.3mm adapter

Reasons to Buy
Excellent treble and midrange detail
Lively sound
Tight bass
Reasons to Avoid
Not the most relaxed sound

Over-ear

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-ear

SPECIFICATIONS

Foldable design | In-line remote | Android and iOS versions

Reasons to Buy
Gorgeous design
Foldable
Comfy fit
Beautifully detailed, balanced and full-bodied sound
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Over-ear

AKG K72

SPECIFICATIONS

Closed-back | Self-adjusting headband | Lightweight construction

Reasons to Buy
Excellent value
Very comfortable
Reasons to Avoid
Coloured, boxy mids

Noise-cancelling

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

SPECIFICATIONS

Google Assistant | Noise-cancellation | Bluetooth

Reasons to Buy
Lashings of detail
Nice balance
Impressive noise-cancellation
Google Assistant integration
Build
Reasons to Avoid
Tough competition

Noise-cancelling

Sony WH-1000XM2

SPECIFICATIONS

Up to 38hr battery life | Bluetooth and noise-cancelling | Atmospheric pressure optimiser

Reasons to Buy
Excellent timing
Loads of detail
Refined, smooth highs
Punchy, confident lows
Impressive noise-cancelling
Reasons to Avoid
Touchpad controls take a little bit of getting used to

Wireless

Sony WF-1000X

SPECIFICATIONS

In-ear design | Bluetooth and noise-cancelling | Charging carry case

Reasons to Buy
Balanced, detailed sound
Good with timing and dynamics
Truly wireless
Decent noise-cancelling
Carry case doubles as a charger
Reasons to Avoid
Our sample had a slight connection issue with the right earpiece

Wireless

Urbanista Seattle Wireless

SPECIFICATIONS

Memory foam ear cushions | Bluetooth 4.1 | Android, iOS and Windows compatible

Reasons to Buy
Smooth, engaging sound
Solid wireless performance
Reasons to Avoid
Slightly monotonal bass
No aptX

Sports

Monster iSport Strive

SPECIFICATIONS

Various earbud size molds | In-line remote | Least noise-blocking

Reasons to Buy
Solid, up-for-it delivery
Balanced presentation
Stylish; safety-conscious
Reasons to Avoid
Fit and ‘open’ sound won’t be for everyone
Rivals have more clarity and expression

Sports

Soul Electronics Flex

SPECIFICATIONS

1.2m cable | 2 finishes | In-line remote

Reasons to Buy
Punchy, musical sound
Times well
Clear, direct midrange
Expressive vocals
Good bass
Appealing, sporty design
Comfy fit
Reasons to Avoid
Limited remote functionality with non-Apple products

Budget

AKG K92

SPECIFICATIONS

3m cable | 3.5mm plug | Leatherette padding

Reasons to Buy
Smooth, enjoyable sound
Plenty of detail, clarity and fluid dynamics
Great rhythmic ability
Good build
Comfortable
Excellent value
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this price

Budget

Beyerdynamic Byron

SPECIFICATIONS

1.2m cable | In-line remote and mic | Android/iOS

Reasons to Buy
Excellent detail, weight and precision
Authoritative and subtle
Evenly balanced midrange and treble
Comfortable, sturdy build
Reasons to Avoid
Some might prefer a more upbeat presentation

Budget

Sennheiser CX 5.00i

SPECIFICATIONS

3-button in-line remote | Tangle-free cable | Noise blocking

Reasons to Buy
Smart design
Wide, rich sound
Affordable
Reasons to Avoid
Cable could be tougher

iPhone

Philips Fidelio M2L

SPECIFICATIONS

On-ear controls | 40mm drivers | Apple Lightning connection

Reasons to Buy
Punchy, energetic sound
Deep, controlled bass
Clear, detailed midrange
Strong sense of timing
Impressive dynamics
Reasons to Avoid
Slightly tight grip
Cable lacks flexibility