Best headphones 2018: in-ear, on-ear, Bluetooth, noise-cancelling

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.

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In-ear

Best headphones 2018

Beyerdynamic Byron

Brilliant budget in-ears.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: In-ear | Connector: 3.5mm | In-line remote and mic: Yes | OS support: Android/iOS

Reasons to Buy
Excellent detail and precision
Evenly balanced
Comfortable, sturdy build
Reasons to Avoid
Could sound more upbeat

You don't have to spend hundreds of pounds to better those freebie headphones that come with your smartphone. Take the Beyerdynamic Byrons. The black-and-metal look gives them a sleek, modern appearance. The earbuds are petite and you'll barely feel them in your ears. And, for the money, the amount of authority, rhythmic precision and subtlety they deliver is superb. Add a three-button remote and mic, and Android/Apple compatibility into the mix and you've got a serious bargain.

MORE: Best in-ear headphones

On-ear

Best headphones 2018

AKG Y50

Excelling in sound and style, the Y50s are superb portable headphones.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: On-ear | Driver: 50mm | Finishes: Black, Red, Teal, Yellow

Reasons to Buy
Rhythmic, clear and detailed
Time well
Dynamic and punchy
Reasons to Avoid
Ears get warm after a while

Today's best AKG Y50 deals

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£48.22
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£49.95
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£89.95
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Winners of multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards, the AKG Y50s hardly put a foot wrong with their impressive sound. They're balanced and insightful, uncover loads of detail and convey dynamics effortlessly. A neat design mechanism allows allows them to collapse and fold flat for easy storage. The leather earpads sit firmly on the ears and do a good job of blocking our external noise. If you want a pair of on-ear headphones that are portable, stylish and affordable, then look no further than these AKGs.

MORE: Best on-ear headphones

Over-ear

Best headphones 2018

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-ear

A stylish and sonically gifted pair of over-ear headphones.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Over-ear | Connector: 3.5mm | In-line remote and mic: Yes | OS support: Android/iOS

Reasons to Buy
Gorgeous design
Comfy fit
Beautifully detailed sound
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Another What Hi-Fi? Award winner, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 over-ears are portable, desirable and blessed with brilliant sound. They're dynamic, entertaining performers that get the balance between attack and finesse just right. Build quality is excellent too - the earpads are seriously comfy and isolate noise better than many rivals at the money. The 2.0s also come in two flavours, the AEi for iPhone users and the AEG for the rest, so you don't need to worry about compatibility.

MORE: Best over-ear headphones

Noise-cancelling

Best headphones 2018

Sony WH-1000XM3

These wireless and noise-cancelling Sonys set a new standard at the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Over-ear | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 30hr | Connector: USB-C | Finishes: Black, Silver

Reasons to Buy
Natural, all-round sound quality
The best noise-cancelling out there
Supremely comfortable
Reasons to Avoid
Touch controls feel fiddly at first

The Sony WH-1000XM3s have cemented the brand's position as king of noise-cancelling headphones, beating rivals like the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs and Bowers & Wilkins PXs to top spot. For starters, they're a snug and comfortable fit and packed with useful features including an Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser, which maximises  noise-cancelling performance at high altitude. But it's the sound quality that really stands out. The Sony's use analogue amplification to great effect with an immense sense of spaciousness, loads of detail and enhanced dynamics.

MORE: Best noise-cancelling headphones

Wireless

Best headphones 2018

Beyerdynamic Byron BT

Solid wireless sound, now at a bargain price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: In-ear | Battery life: 7.5hr | Connector: Micro USB | Finishes: Black

Reasons to Buy
Great definition
Well-controlled bass
Bargain price
Reasons to Avoid
Treble tone isn't perfect

The Beyerdynamic Byron BTs have dropped in price over the past 12 months from £90 to £60, making them a bit of a steal. The earpieces are aluminium and feel like they could take some rough treatment. There are also magnets on the back of each, making them stick together around your neck when not in use. Bass is tightly controlled, while upper mids and highs sound defined and really make their presence felt. For the money, it's difficult to fault them.

MORE: Best wireless headphones

Sports

Best headphones 2018

Bose SoundSport Wireless

A great pair of in-ears for those leading an active lifestyle.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: In-ear | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 6hr | Connector: Micro USB | Finishes: Black, Aqua Blue, Citron Yellow, Red

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

Today's best Bose SoundSport Wireless deals

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£114
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£114
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£129.99
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£153.95
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The Bose SoundSport Wirelesses are more traditional wireless in-ear headphones, with a neckband cable incorporating a remote housing part-way down.  The soft silicone rubber hooks trace the basic lines of the ear, making the fit secure and comfortable enough for running or the gym. They're also sweat resistant and IPX4 rated. The sound quality is perfect for this kind of earphone too – plenty of detail, smooth highs and powerful, punchy bass that might get you running that bit faster.

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Budget

Best headphones 2018

Koss Porta Pro

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

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: On-ear | Style: Open-backed | Finishes: Black, Silver

Reasons to Buy
Time brilliantly with decent punch
Decent detail
Extremely lightweight and portable
Reasons to Avoid
No real complaints

Today's best Koss Porta Pro deals

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£34.88
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£36.92
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£49
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£89.99

The Koss Porta Pros are a cheap pair of headphones and a lot of fun, and at £25 they're tough to beat. Given the design first appeared in 1984, the Pros have an obvious retro look but the design also keeps them lightweight. You can toggle between a light or firm fit. The only downside is they're pretty much open-backed and quite leaky when you're out in public. If you can live with that, you'll be impressed by their upbeat, rhythmic sound.

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iPhone

Best headphones 2018

Klipsch R6i II

One of the best in-ear upgrades you'll ever make

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: 3.5mm | In-line remote and mic: Yes | OS support: Android/iOS

Reasons to Buy
Tight timing
Dynamic and enthusiastic
Snug fit
Reasons to Avoid
Presentation lacks space

These Award-winning in-ears look and feel as if they should be more expensive. They're also a snug fit and extremely comfortable. And then there's the sound quality. Timing and organisation are excellent great sense of refinement. Lows are accurate and balanced, while highs sound sharp and precise. Put simply, these amazing in-ears deliver on all fronts. If you want to spend a bit less or fancy flashing the cash, there'a always our list of the best in-ear headphones.

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Money-no-object

Best headphones 2018

Sony MDR-Z1R

With the right source, these are the best closed-back headphones we’ve heard.

SPECIFICATIONS

Drivers: 70mm | Sensitivity: 100dB/mW | Cable length: 3m | Weight: 385g | Connectors: 3.5mm, 6.3mm, 4.4mm

Reasons to Buy
Excellent scale and detail
Even tonal balance
Superb build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Demand quality electronics

Today's best Sony MDR-Z1R deals

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£1650
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£1650

These £1700 Sony's might look understated, but there's obsessive attention to detail. From the use of high-grade materials to the impressively engineered grilles and driver enclosures, every element of the Z1Rs has been painstakingly designed. This means you'll need to partner them with a suitable high-end electronics to really make them sing, but you'll be left amazed by their sense of composure and their ability to extract detail and subtlety from a track. At the money, we don't think we've tested a better alternative.

MORE: Awards 2018: On-ear headphones