What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 serves up 12 headphones winners as Sony thrives and Bose re-enters

Beyerdynamic Amiron
(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

The What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners have been announced, and the headphones category has no fewer than 12 winning pairs deemed worthy of Best Buy gongs. They’re spread across both wired and wireless styles, in-ear and over-ear designs.

We’ve got a lot of familiar faces in the wired headphones sub-category, including repeat winners from Austrian Audio, Beyerdynamic, Grado and Shure, but there are a couple of significant new entries in wireless headphones. We’ve got a new entry from Sony at the budget end as well as a brand-new premium proposition – also from Sony! – at the top end too.

Here are all our winners…

Austrian Audio Hi-X15

Austrian Audio Hi-X15 bags the 'Best wired on-ear headphones under £100' Award (Image credit: Austrian Audio)

There are six winners in the wired headphones category, with each pair picking up a Best Buy award last year. First up it’s the hugely talented and very affordable Austrian Audio Hi-X15 wired over-ears. They wowed us in 2021 and our opinion hasn’t changed. Rivals around this level can’t compete with their attractive combination of excellent build quality, great portability and wonderfully clear and detailed sound. A deserved winner of the ‘Best wired on-ear headphones under £100' Award.

Grado has become part of the furniture at Awards time over the years, and 2022 is no exception with two models returning to pick up Best Buys. The SR80x are winners in the price category above the Austrian Audios. They’re insightful, dynamic performers and work great in the home, though prospective buyers should note that their open-back design does leak a bit of audio.

Grado SR325x

It's a repeat win for the Grado SR325x, the 'Best wired on-ear headphones £200-£400' (Image credit: Grado)

Step up a level and you get to their siblings, the Grado SR325x. They boast a similar look and feel to the SR80x but take sound quality up a level in all departments, justifying their position as the ‘Best wired on-ear headphones £200-£400’.

If you’re looking to spend big on your next wired headphones and are using a suitable DAC (if not, check out our list of the DAC Award winners), it’s hard not to look past the brilliant Beyerdynamic Amiron. Not only does the level of comfort on offer encourage you to listen for longer, so too does their ability to extract every last ounce of emotion from a track. A much-deserved winner.

Shure Aonic 3

The Shure Aonic 3 keep the title as the 'Best wired in-ear headphones over £100' (Image credit: Shure)

Switching to headphones of the wired and in-ear variety, the ‘Best wired in-ear headphones under £100’ are the SoundMagic E11C, four-time repeat winners and an absolute no-brainer for anyone looking for a headphones bargain. We also have a step-up offering courtesy of the Shure Aonic 3, which pick up a gong for the third year in a row. Two impressive pairs, we think you’ll agree.

Now we shift our attention to the ever-popular category of wireless headphones. Here, our winners offer a perfect blend of convenience and quality and unbelievable performance per pound. This year’s list of wireless winners is dominated by Sony, with no fewer than three pairs all picking up Best Buy awards.

True wireless earbuds: Sony WF-C500

Sony's WF-C500 take the 'Best wireless earbuds under £100' gong (Image credit: Sony)

We start with wireless earbuds and our first new winner takes the form of the diminutive Sony WF-C500. Those looking for a compact, comfortable and musical pair of Bluetooth in-ears on a tight budget need to look no further than these Sonys.

Next up, we’re sticking with Sony and the WF-1000XM4 in-ears which are now two-time Best Buy winners. The jump in price from the C500 brings with it a jump in features (which includes active noise-cancelling) and a huge jump in performance, which you’ve every right to expect at this level. And the Sony’s don’t disappoint thanks to their confident, musical delivery.

We’ve even got room for one more pair above the Sonys. Such was the impression the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II made in such a short space of time (they’ve only been on sale a matter of weeks) that we couldn’t ignore them. Yes, they’re a very premium pair, but they justify every penny in our eyes, not least because of their arguably best-in-class noise-cancelling but also their beautifully balanced, detailed and engaging sound. They’re sensational and the 'Best wireless earbuds over £200'.

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are the 'Best wireless headphones over £300' (Image credit: Sony)

As for wireless headphones of the over-ear variety, we have three Best Buy winners in 2022. First up are the very cheap and cheerful Sennheiser HD 250BT. They’re durable, sound great and won’t break the bank, making them a great choice for anyone in the market for a budget pair.

Completing the category are two pairs of Sonys: our 2021 Product of the Year, the WH-1000XM4, and their successors, the Sony WH-1000XM5. One year on and the XM4 are now operating at a cheaper price point with their brilliant all-round abilities.

This leaves the XM5 as the 'Best wireless headphones over £300'. They’ve set the bar for premium wireless headphones even higher with breathtaking sound quality and brilliant noise-cancelling. Rivals from Sennheiser and Bose have come close, but not close enough. Deserved winners.


Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.