If there’s one thing I can guarantee about Black Friday it's that there will be headphone deals. Lots of Black Friday headphone deals. In fact, going on previous personal experience, there are so many that it can send even seasoned Black Friday watchers (including myself) into a spin trying to work out a) where you should be focusing your attention and b) whether or not what is being touted as a good deal is, actually, a good deal.
Thankfully, besides reviewing and writing, hunting down good deals is also part of the What Hi-Fi? job description. Personally speaking, it’s always a satisfying feeling when I find a lot of cash slashed off the price of a five-star product – especially when it’s one that I have spent time a lot of time using and getting to know just how good it is.
Black Friday seems to have started early in 2023 and I've already seen multiple deals out there, many of which are from the usual suspects including big players like Bose, Sennheiser, Sony, JBL and more. I think a lot of the major price drops have already happened although I can't rule out a rollercoaster couple of days where retailers shave a few extra pennies or cents off here and there to tempt you.
On this page, I and a few of my esteemed colleagues have teamed up to bring you a quick rundown of 6 pairs of headphones we think are worthy purchases during the Black Friday sales. We have covered wired and wireless pairs and both in-ear and over-ear models so hopefully there will be something to at least audition on your shopping list.
If there’s one pair of headphones that you would assume will be getting a Black Friday discount, it’s the Sony WH-1000XM5. We tested them at £380 and found them to be worth every penny. And I have seen them as low as around £279 for Black Friday, which puts them pretty much back down to their lowest-ever price (the lowest I have seen is £275 back around Christmas 2022).
I have been using them on and off for a few months now and can vouch for their all-round brilliance. They are lightweight and comfortable. Okay, they aren't foldable, but that’s not the end of the world as the protective case isn’t too bulky. Battery life is excellent and I rarely have to reach for the USB-C charging cable.
"I’ve been using them on and off for a few months now and can vouch for their all-round brilliance..."
Their noise-cancelling is up there with the very best too. The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones might have the edge, but the advantage isn’t huge and the difference in price is a convincing argument to go for the Sonys. And, you can’t argue against the sheer musical brilliance of the Sonys. They are an enthusiastic, musical listen and I’m regularly blown away by just how fun they are to listen to.
I’ve also heard them against all the key revivals, including accomplished newcomers such as the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e and the aforementioned Bose. And, for the money, I find it really difficult to fault the Sonys, especially when you take into their heavily discounted Black Friday price. It really is no wonder they won yet another What Hi-Fi? Award in 2023.
And now for something different. Wired headphones may not be in vogue the way wireless models are, but there are plenty of us who still prefer a sturdy, reliable pair of wired cans that you can directly and physically plug into your laptop, DAC or hi-fi system with no fuss.
There's no Bluetooth pairing faff, you don't have to worry about the battery going flat, or about compatible codecs – they just work. Røde is more well-known for its work in the pro audio world, but its very first consumer-friendly wired headphones impressed us so much they ran away with the prestigious 2023 Product of the Year Award for the wired headphones category, no less! The five-star Røde NTH-100 are brilliant affordable cans that combine an analytical, revealing approach with a natural tone and balance, ample dynamics and an entertaining listen.
"They ran away with the prestigious 2023 Product of the Year Award for the wired headphones category..."
Launched at £149, the Rødes have hovered down to about £114 since (and gone back up again), but we have never seen the price plunge as low as £79-£85 – you can currently pick up a pair for just £85 at Amazon UK, which is an great saving, however, they were £75 a day or two ago.
This means they are now even cheaper than the Austrian Audio Hi-X15, which are our favourite budget, wired cans. While the Hi-X15 are a great pair with a more dynamic presentation, you might prefer the Røde's exceptionally detailed and insightful way with voices, especially at this price level. The earpads are roomier and more comfortable for longer listening sessions, and you get a lengthy 2.4m cable supplied, too. The Rødes were already great value at full price, but this new deal price for Black Friday is spectacular value. If you're after a great pair of wired cans (even just to have as a backup) this is the one worth exploring.
Yes, a decent Black Friday bargain should be about getting a product that truly thrills you; but it should also be about nabbing a piece of tech that provides the most amount of bang for the least amount of buck. In this sense, the Sony WF-C700N (our 2023 What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year in the Wireless Headphones category) are an absolutely stellar effort, and a pair of earbuds for which I, and many others, have a huge amount of admiration.
If your budget hovers around the £100 mark and you’re not too keen on straying into the more expensive realms of the Sony WF-1000XM4 or WF-1000XM5, your safest bet by far are the C700N which, have just started to enjoy some major discounts despite their relatively short lifespan, dropping from £100 to £75 on Amazon at the time of writing.
"Any deal, no matter how big or small, should be taken as an invitation to add them to your basket..."
Why, though, pick the C700N as the best pair of wireless earbuds as opposed to their more expensive counterparts? Well, just as we reasoned when making assessments for our Product of the Year, we simply couldn’t think of a pair of in-ears that provided such sterling performance, not to mention so many features, for their given asking price.
The C700N, complete with dynamic, invigorating sound, excellent ANC and a raft of high-performing features, are simply the best value wireless earbuds you can buy. Best of all, they fit superbly, perhaps even better than the more premium Sony WF-1000XM5, while the build quality and overall presentation of the buds far exceed what you would expect for around £100.
Any deal, no matter how big or small, should be taken as an invitation to add them to your basket, especially if you have been hunting for something at this price point. We haven’t seen the C700N drop lower than their current £75 price before, but if you’re feeling cautious or non-committal, keep your eyes peeled for further reductions in the coming hours and days.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Until the the recent arrival of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds the QuietComfort Earbuds II were my go-to pair of premium wireless earbuds. I’ll be the first to admit the new pair has the sonic edge (they sound a bit punchier and more lively) and they do offer spatial audio (although I find the feature to be quite hit-and-miss).
That apart, the designs are virtually identical, as are the comfort levels on offer. The active noise-cancelling is still excellent and despite call quality being a little better on the new model, I think there’s a lot to be said for the value you’re going to be getting from the cheaper pair, especially over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
"I don’t think they’ll be around forever so Black Friday might be one of the few chances to make a big saving..."
In the UK I have seen them as low as £210 in recent months – quite a big drop compared with the £280 we originally tested them at. Given the number of retailers vying for your business, I thought there was a really good chance we will see them drop to the same level and was already thinking that anything around the £200 mark represents a great saving.
And my suspicions have been answered. They can currently be yours for £174 at OnBuy.com. Although I’m also now torn because I’ve seen the Sony WF-100XM5 are also down to their lowest ever price of £219. For outright sound quality, you could argue the Sonys are the way to go, but I have spent some time with them and the Bose and I’m torn for a couple of different reasons.
Following the launch of the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds, I don’t think the Earbuds II will be around forever – so Black Friday might be one of the few chances to make a big saving before the year is out.
If the Sony XM5 over-ears above are still too pricey even with a decent Black Friday discount, your best bet is... the older versions. Yes, despite being more than three years old, Sony's former wireless ANC flagships, the WH-1000XM4, remain stellar options if your budget is closer to the £200 mark.
Indeed, these relative old-timers have, at the time of writing, recently dropped to £198 on Amazon, which is the lowest price we have seen them fall to over the years. Considering their successors launched 18 months ago and their final stock must be close to depletion, I wouldn't be surprised if the XM4 dropped a little lower over the next 24 hours.
"Despite being more than three years old, Sony's former wireless ANC flagships, the WH-1000XM4, remain stellar options..."
You can read our Sony XM5 vs XM4 comparison for all the ins and outs of what you would be missing out on by opting for the oldies over the latest and greatest pair; but in a nutshell, you still get a musical, if not as clear or open, performance, very decent active noise cancellation, much of Sony's app-enabled functionality and, of course around a £100 saving.
Mark my words: the XM4 remain strong performers at their discounted price point. If you were wondering, they are preferable to the similarly priced Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and Bose QuietComfort 45 (I'm yet to hear the seemingly better featured brand-new QuietComforts, however) and a decent step up from the next-tier-down pairs like your Sony WH-C720N.
All in all, a pair to snap up for £198 (or, fingers crossed, less) if they fit your needs and budget.
Our pick of the best Black Friday headphones deals
Bargains come in all shapes and sizes on Black Friday. Discounts on budget headphones can quickly make them a no-brainer but we don’t ignore discounts on more expensive headphones. A deal is a deal, after all. This is why I’m pointing you in the direction of the gorgeous Focal Bathys wireless over-ears.
Yes, they cost £699 when we first tested them, but they are now £599 thanks to the Black Friday sales, which represents a very healthy saving of around 15 per cent.
It’s a price we can’t imagine will drop lower any time soon and in my opinion, the Focal Bathys are worth every single penny of that now-discounted asking price, and anyone considering making a proper long-term headphones investment has to have them on their shortlist.
Why? Well, aside from their excellent noise cancelling, robust feature list (including the fact you can listen via Bluetooth or wired via USB-C) and strikingly bold design (they’re very attractive don’t you think?), the Bathys are pretty much peerless in terms of sound at this price.
"You might have been taken in by the allure of the AirPods Max, but for me, the Bathys just have that extra bit of pizazz and lustre..."
Not only are they open, spacious and delightfully crystal clear, but they're also meaty, full-bodied and deeply compelling to listen to, giving you a best-of-both-worlds presentation that lesser rivals can only dream of. Yes, you might have been taken in by the allure of the AirPods Max, but for me, the Bathys just have that extra bit of pizazz and lustre that elevates them to another level. Plus, the logos on the sides light up.
A deal of £100 off some of the finest headphones we’ve recently tested doesn’t come around that often, with the biggest discounts usually saved for the week, or even the day of, Black Friday. With that in mind, you’ll want to grab a pair of the Focals sometime this week before prices rise again. You won’t regret it.