10 Recommended Headphones Your Ears Will Love

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There is no accessory more fundamental than a good pair of headphones. They link our ears, privately, to music, media, and entertainment. These days, there is so much content to enjoy that the number of options can be overwhelming. The same is true with the sheer number of headphones on the market. There are so many different kinds available, you might want some help sorting through the possibilities.

In this article, we’ll look at several different kinds of headphones that suit the needs of different kinds of people. Some will be eye-catching; others will be more low profile. One thing they all have in common is great sound quality. Choose any of the headphones on this list and your ears will be happy.

1. For a HI-FI In-Ear Headphone Experience

Planar Magnetic headphones in an in-ear form factor? At first, we couldn’t believe it, either. However, when a coworker brought a pair of Audeze iSINE 10 In-Ear Headphones around the office to test, many of us were impressed with the results. Auditioning the earbuds with a Beatles’ record, I found their sound far more accurate than other many other earbuds, with none of the hallmarks of conventional earbuds. No boomy low end here, no audible distortion, and no muffled highs. Plus, they look like TIE Fighters—on your ears!

Audeze iSINE 10 In-Ear Headphones

2. For Your Inner DJ

One of our number specifically sought the V-MODA Crossfade M-100s for the purpose of DJ’ing, but remarked that they’re a solid choice for casual listening purposes, too. With the V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Headphones, V-MODA’s popular series now includes Bluetooth Wireless streaming. Of course, you still can listen the old-fashioned way, with a 3.5mm cable and a 1/4" adapter for home receivers.

V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Headphones

3. For Active Noise Cancellation in an Over-Ear Form Factor

The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones have some built-in features that separate them from others in a similar noise-reduction category. For instance, their algorithms take the size of your head into account, as well as whether you wear glasses. Measuring these sorts of physical attributes, they individually tailor their noise-reduction parameters to your individual noggin. Also, if you’re walking the city streets, the headphones can automatically adjust how much ambient noise to let back into your listening experience, so you can better hear any cars that may or may not run you over. But how’s the sound? With proprietary Sony tricks up their sleeve, like DSEE HX (which up-scales lossy files to something approaching the quality of larger files) and LDAC over Bluetooth, you won’t be disappointed.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones

4. For Gym Rats

You’re probably primed to think of Bose as the pair to beat in the noise-cancellation department. But this year, we’re showcasing their sportier side, with the Bose® SoundSport™ Wireless In-Ear Headphones. Boasting Bluetooth via NFC technology, pairing them is easy, and of course, Bose has provided sonic goodies such as volume-optimized EQ to keep sound balanced at all levels. What’s worth noting here is the proprietary StayHear+® eartip design, which ensures that the buds remain comfortably sturdy even during the sturdiest of exercise routines—or so I’ve been told (I don’t exercise, ever).

Bose® SoundSport™ Wireless In-Ear Headphones

5. For comfortable, wireless, and budget-friendly on-ear headphones

It’s tough to find a pair of on-ear Bluetooth headphones at a budget price. And when you do, not all the options are up to snuff. We’d like to recommend the MEE Audio Air-Fi Runaway AF32. These headphones may not be the bassiest headphones in the category, but they have a relatively balanced response that others lack. They’re super easy to pair with your devices, they hardly ever drop out in crowded places, and they boast a reasonable playback time. People tend to hear you when you use them to make phone calls, and they are comfortable enough to wear while sleeping—which the writer of this entry does on a regular basis.

MEE audio Air-Fi Runaway AF32 Stereo Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Hidden Microphone

6. For an Old Classic

Yes, these are bulky. Yes, they can sound bright. Yes, their cable is longer than you’d want in a walking headphone. But these headphones are also a staple of home recording. Plus, last year they were clamored for by commenters left and right. So, we put them on the list. It’s no wonder they deserve a spot: the Sony MDR-7506 Headphones are closed-back headphones designed to reveal the detail of your audio in full force. If you want a (sometimes painfully) accurate sonic experience, this is a great bet for a comparatively low price.

Sony MDR-7506 Headphones

7. For Lower-Priced, High-Quality Open-Backs

Brooklyn-based Grado has a reputation in hi-fi circles for delivering a solid sonic experience. The company is also known for its ability to shrink your bank account instantly upon purchase. Not so with the Grado Prestige Series SR80e Headphones, which provide an open sound commensurate with their open-backed construction. These are excellent headphones for casual home listening, especially if your home is a college dormitory.

Grado Prestige Series SR80e Headphones

8. For a Bluetooth Update on a Wired Classic

Audio Technica finally issues a wireless version of its classic headphones used by engineers and casual fans alike—the ATH-M50x. The Bluetooth version, boasting the snappy name of ATH-M50xBT—is sonically the same as the wired version. 45mm large-aperture drivers are employed, with the same swiveling earcups and foldable design. In fact, if you use the included wires, they function just like the original. The Bluetooth functionality is streamlined—no gestural controls or active noise cancellation. But you do get play/pause, forward, and back controls, as well as way to wake up your digital assistant and an inline mic for phone calls. Oh, and the great, studio-quality sound. You get that, too. You can easily track a record with these headphones, unplug them from the studio’s headphone amplifier, and pair them with your phone for the ride home.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Wireless Over-Ear Headphones

9. For In-Ear Noise-Cancellation—and a heck of a lot more!

For straight noise-canceling headphones in an in-ear form factor, scroll to the next pick. But if you want all that and a heck of a lot more—for instance, the ability to record binaural recordings with wearable tech—try out the Sennheiser AMBEO SMART HEADSET. Priced reasonably, these headphones offer 3D sound recording with immersive playback. They sport omnidirectional microphones in the earpieces themselves that let you capture audio as you walk about a locale. The digital conversion is handled by Apogee, a name seriously respected in the audio industry.

So, these headphones aren’t just suited for listeners; they also work great for sound designers, recordists, and others. Just how good do they sound? You can hear some audio we recorded with them here. Fair warning: they’re iOS-based, you as of now, you’ll have to take a bite of the Apple if you want to make use of these phones.

Sennheiser AMBEO SMART HEADSET In-Ear Headphones with Three Dimensional Bi Aural Audio and Lightning Connector

10. For Foregoing the Neckband While Not Looking Like a Robot

Last year we included the Apple Airpods with the caveat that they will make you look “a bit like a robot with the pods sticking out of your ears.” This year we’re including a pair that eschew the robot look but provide true wireless operation nonetheless. The Sony WF-SP700N provide 6.1mm drivers that provide a wide frequency spectrum, a selectable bass boost function, Bluetooth 4.1 with NFC tech, an integrated mic, an IPX4 waterproof-rated housing, noise cancellation (with optional ambience control), and more. So, there you go—all of the fun of true wireless, none of the robotics.

Apple AirPods Wireless Bluetooth Earphones

BONUS: For Bluetooth’ing Your Wired Headphones

While not a headphone, the FiiO µBTR solves a problem for many people who still love their wired headphones: it beams your audio from wired headphones to any Bluetooth-enabled device. Simply plug your headphones into to its 3.5mm input, and let the µBTR do the rest. If that wasn’t enough, this device sports NFC one-touch pairing, multiple codecs, a built-in microphone, a headphone amplifier, and a run time of nine hours on a 1-hour charge. It’s wallet friendly to boot. The drawback? Try pronouncing it. Go ahead. Let’s just say, I’m glad this is a written recommendation list and not a video.

FiiO µBTR Portable Bluetooth Receiver

If you have any questions about these headphones, or if you want additional recommendations, you can speak to a B&H Sales Professional by visiting the SuperStore in New York City, calling 1-800-894-9703, starting a live chat, or sending an email.

15 Comments

what a funny list theres no beats audio studio 3 headphone , just unproffesonal

Solid list. I'll probably pick up the V-MODA Crossfade 2. Loved the first model for a couple years until the left channel started to fail in bluetooth mode. Still use them in wired mode. Great sound, cosmetics and build.

My ATH M50 headphones are SOOOO good. Price doesn't matter when you hear EVERY nuance of the music, from deepest bass to the highest pitches.....Unbelievably good. I think they are way better than the Sennheisers.

I love my ATH-M50x.

Great article, love it!

Headphones are the new and improved way to listen to music, video games, television, and to use while buyers are on the computer.

No list of great sounding headphones should exclude Grado.

Their low-end models are the best bang-for-the-buck, and their higher-end models sound like heaven!

I think the open-back construction of Grado headphones is what excludes them from this list aimed at the average consumer, for whom isolation tends to be important.

i can't believe the  list doesn't include Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones!  They're as good sounding as the Audio Techs and several others on the list, for about $50 less.  The fact that they're used by audio pros more than any other headphone for over 20 years demands inclusion on any list of quality cans!!! 

Definitely have to agree. I had a pair of the MDR-7506 headphones for at least 7 years. The quality of the audio was fantastic throughout their entire lifespan. I finally tossed them when the cord broke and the ear pads fell apart. I bought a pair of $99 Sennheisers as replacements just to try the brand out and haven't been disappointed yet. Can't remember the exact model. Only complaint with them so far is that the headband is held on by a cheap ziplock type fastener and it broke within 6 months of buying the headphones.

Anonymous wrote:

i can't believe the  list doesn't include Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones!  They're as good sounding as the Audio Techs and several others on the list, for about $50 less.  The fact that they're used by audio pros more than any other headphone for over 20 years demands inclusion on any list of quality cans!!!

+1. The 7506 is, at the price, the best over-the-ear phones you can buy IMO.

Hi! It's Sam. The author of this post. I am a long-time owner and fan of Sony MDR-7506 headphones. When I chose models to include in this article, I intentionally made the decision not to include them. My intention for this article was to choose an interesting range of different kinds of headphones that the average person could purchase, use, and be happy with. 7506's are great to use in video and audio production, but they're not the best choice for the average person who wants to listen to music and podcasts as they're walking down the street. Why? The cable is far too long. The lengthy coiled section easily gets tangled and bunched up. Plugging a pair of 7506's into a smartphone, then putting that phone in your pocket and walking is not the best experience. For this reason alone, I decided not to include them.

With that out of the way, I would like to say that your criticisms are welcome and encouraged! I like to learn about the models people feel compelled to passionately defend. :)

Thanks,
Sam

Just how long with / without tension stretching from male end of jack to on ones ' ears?

Hi Beth - 

The SONY MDR -7506 headphones include a coiled 10' (extended), single-sided (3 m) cable.   The cable is about 2.5' long when coiled.                                                                                                    

Ditto on the Sony MDR-7506 headphones.  When I did my research, that's when I learned they are the gold standard for videographers and recording studios, so I ordered a pair of those from B&H and am anxiously awaiting to get them and put them into use for my videography jobs.

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