Best headphones for 2020


#1 Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony’s technologically advanced WH-1000XM3 are the third generation of Sony’s flagship wireless headphones (following the excellent WH-1000XM2 and MDR-1000X models) that offer top-tier noise canceling, excellent quality wireless audio, and plush comfort. This enticing combination earned the model a rare five-star rating in our initial review, and — thanks to a few notable improvements — makes the latest version the best headphones you can buy.

At the heart of the WH-1000xM3 is outstanding wireless sound. Sony’s LDAC technology delivers a wireless signal at what the company claims is three times the quality of standard Bluetooth streaming, and the headphones also support the latest aptX HD codec (with supported devices). The 1000XM3 can even “upscale” wireless music from high-resolution audio devices using a special chip, helping to make music sound dynamic and beautiful, with authoritative bass and clear treble response held together by a well-rounded midrange.

The WH-1000XM3’s excellent noise-canceling technology ranks second only to the Bose Noise Cancelling 700, from the brand that has long dominated the market in terms of sheer noise-blocking abilities. That said, we think the Sony cans sound better than the latest Bose model, and offer numerous features that help to create a much better overall experience.

The WH-1000XM3’s advanced control systems allow you to let in various levels of ambient sound, with advanced features like voice-only mode, which helps filter through vocal frequencies so you can hear your music and the voices around you while blocking out other sounds. Responsive touch controls let you navigate volume, make calls, and play and pause music with ease, all while helping to maintain a clean aesthetic. Best of all, the WH-1000xM3 offer a staggering 30 hours of battery life, providing even heavy users with days of use from a single charge, and have a quick charge feature that allows you to enjoy five hours of listening after just 15 minutes of charging.

#2 Bose QuietComfort 35 II

You’re looking at our most popular wireless headphones across the board – by far. The QC35IIs represent Bose’s flagship product, and the company’s attempt to perfect the active noise-canceling technology they alone invented in the first place. Meaning: If your #1 goal is shutting off the outside world, stop reading, put a pair in your cart, and call it a day. The QC35IIs are wireless and extremely comfortable. And, like most wireless headphones, they do still come with a wire so you can continue listening even after the battery has been depleted, albeit sans noise-cancelling.

Are they the absolute best-sounding headphones on the planet? No. But then again, true audiophile-level headphones cost 4 – 5Xs as much.

What else?

  • The QC35IIs come with Google Assistant built-in, easily accessible with a dedicated button. Battery life is excellent at up to 20 hours.
  • Bose doesn’t include any way to quickly mute volume (the way others do), so keep your eyes open when they call your number at the deli counter

#3 Sennheiser HD650

Audiophiles generally agree that if you’re passionate about music, and you have a listening space that is relatively free of outside sounds, nothing beats a really good set of open-back headphones. As far as we’re concerned, you won’t find a set of open-back headphones that manage to combine superb sound quality and a reasonable price than the Sennheiser HD6XX/HD650. To be clear, these are not exactly the same models. The HD6XX is a run of the HD650 with a lower price from Massdrop, and a few physical changes, but when it comes to their audio chops, they’re identical.

Those who buy either of these headphones are in for a treat. Our reviewer didn’t hold back in their assessment of these cans’ ability to fully realize every detail of a recording, noting their “warm and rigid bass, a midrange that dips close to the ruddy colors of analog tape saturation (without sacrificing an ounce of detail), and a laser tight response up top that helps illuminate vivid clarity and granular instrumental texture across the board.”

If that sounds like the kind of performance you want in a set of headphones, we think you need look no further than the Sennheiser HD6XX/HD650. You can certainly spend more to get this level of quality, but you don’t have to.

#4 Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

The M30x model sits in the middle of the M series and we think it is a mid-range representation of the bar setting abilities the series is blessed with having.

They feature a single-sided straight wire and a strong collapsible design, with mounted swivel ear-cups, they can only move 15 degrees which gives them more stability than some folding designs.

Their foldable nature lends them better portability which is important for storage and transit. They are cushioned with high-grade padding and are beautifully engineered and exceptionally well-made.

They are equipped with very capable 40mm diaphragms which are driven by neodymium and have great output. They deliver full-range audio with epic dynamics and ideal for tracking and mixing. They also harbor the company’s proprietary CC voice coils.

Pros:
+ Expert engineering.
+ Quality components.
+ Folding design.
+ Great audio.
+ Attainable price region.

Why We Liked It – They are very durably made, the driver performance is impressive and the audio has epic dynamics. They are a realistically attainable model from a critically acclaimed series, the high-end of which is simply outstanding.

#5 Best Low Budget: Edifier H840

The Edifier H840 have a strong design concept and are well-constructed. They are another closed back option with suitable cushioned cups and an ergonomic headband that feature comfortable headrests which help to alleviate cranial pressure.

The headband has a strong but collapsible steel framework which reduces their size considerably for storage and travel and they come with a case to keep them in.

They are equipped with 40mm drivers which respond according to parameters set by expert engineer Phil Jones. The exclusively developed wave-guide algorithm commands the internal components, optimizes their performance.

The audio produced has rich dynamics and a proportional blend, the bass is impressive and the highs are crisp. The stereo sound is mixed without bias or overshadowing thanks to an advanced crossover.

Pros:
+ Strong collapsible design concept.
+ Audiophile quality sound.
+ Ergonomic fit.
+ Expert engineering.

Why We Liked It – They present quality audio in a package that is far more appealing to the average shopper.

#6 Sennheiser HD280PRO

The Sennheiser HD280PRO have a rugged design which provides both comfort and functionality. The headband is cushioned with a double-humped pillow which like the Bose set reduces cranial pressure, making them comfier to wear for longer periods.

They feature closed-back cushioned ear-cups which can pivot freely allowing for natural adjustment and they completely collapse for storage.

They are well-manufactured and the components are of high quality. They have been professionally engineered by one of the most reputable companies in the entire industry.

They have large-aperture dynamic drivers which serve-up accurate linear sound, which gives a broader ranged overview ideal for monitoring.

They are low latency, and isolate aggressively, attenuating over background noise as you listen, for an exemplary listening experience.

The audio is broad-range, equalized but rich with textured dynamics.

Pros:
+ Durable design.
+ Expert engineering.
+ Double-hump cushioning.
+ Low latency.
+ Noise isolation.

Why We Liked It – They have a heavy-duty build, the collapsible design is durable, they are well-engineered and the subtleties really shine through in the audio.

#7 Sony MDR7506 

That’s not because these are super bassy, or that they’re flashy—if anything they’re the opposite of both. These headphones have stuck around so long because aspiring musicians, TV crews, and students all have been using it as a dependable studio monitor. It has a flat frequency response, which may not sound the best to some, but it’s much clearer and far easier to tweak to your liking.

Sure, these are a set of wired cans with a rather cumbersome cable. But if you’re listening at home or working at the coffee shop: these are the headphones you want.