Best headphones 2021 from Sony, Bose and more

Best HEadphones
Finding the best headphones for you depends on a range of factors, including your preferences – like earbuds or over-ears? – your style and your budget. This guide will help you find the top headphones for you whether you’re looking for the best quality sound, the top affordable cans on the market or the most minimal earbuds.

We’ve selected the best headphones you can buy today, from true wireless earbuds that cut the cord completely, through to super immersive, noise-canceling headphones that can block out all ambient sounds, allowing you to focus on your work, music, or podcasts.

We believe a good pair of headphones is a must-have for anyone who loves their music – and that’s true whether you’re listening on your smartphone, your laptop, or one of the best MP3 players.

Although they might look different, the top-performing headphones in this list all have some key things in common: comfortable designs, class-leading audio performance, and a range of fantastic extra features, such as built-in voice assistants and wireless connectivity. So whether you’re looking for audiophile sound quality or budget-friendly earbuds that can handle a sweaty workout session, we’ve got you covered.

[Update: The Apple AirPods 3 are finally here, following years of speculation. The new AirPods come with Spatial Audio, a long battery life, and promise improved audio compared to their predecessors.]

Our best headphone picks

A pair of the sony wh-1000xm4 over-ear headphones in black

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

The best headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 253g | Frequency response: 4Hz to 40kHz | Drivers: 1.57-inch dome-type | Battery life: 30 hours

Improved noise-cancellation over previous model
DSEE Extreme audio upscaling
Allows for multipoint pairing
Not water-resistant

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones deliver excellent noise-cancellation and sound quality in a design that we found both comfortable and lightweight when we tested them.

They don’t look different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3, but new features, including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor, meaning they’re a significant upgrade.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones also support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, which enables spatial audio on stereo headphones plus the LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps. However, it no longer supports aptX or aptX HD, so your Hi-Res Audio support mileage may vary.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is a wonderful pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones. They deliver exactly what they promise and then some thanks to their exceptional noise cancellation and cutting-edge codec support.


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A pair of the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones in black and gold

2. 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone

The best in-ear headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 18g | Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz | Drivers: Dynamic | Battery life: N/A

Lush sound quality
Excellent build and design
Unmatched value 
Plastic remote feels cheap

After testing the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones for a few weeks, we were blown away by their fantastic value for money. That’s why we consider them to be the best headphones for those who like wired earbuds.

For $100 / £100 (about AU$168), it’s hard to find a better-sounding and more well-built pair of earphones than the 1MORE Triple Drivers. Although, if you do want a little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.

At this price with such excellent build and design, it’s hard to fault the Triple Drivers. Sure, the inbuilt remote feels a little cheap, but that’s more than made up for by the lush sound quality offered by these luxe-looking earbuds that are unmatched in value  and sound. For the price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE’s Triple Driver in-ear headphones.

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the soundmagic e11bt wireless in-ear headphones

3. SoundMAGIC E11BT

The best earbuds on a budget

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 24.7g | Frequency response: 20 – 20,000Hz | Drivers: 10mm dynamic neodymium | Battery life: 20 hours

Fantastic price
Elegant design
Comfortable with ergonomic tips
Treble tones can sound harsh

The SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them. The audio quality on offer here is fantastic and they look very elegant, too.

They’re comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically-designed ear tips and they’re attached to a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while running or working out. thanks to an IPX4 rating, they should withstand sweaty sessions, too, making them a solid option for an spare pair of workout buds.


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The px7 over-ear headphones from Bowers and Wilkins

4. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones

The best wireless headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 310g | Frequency response: 10 – 30,000 Hz | Drivers: 43.6mm full range | Battery life: 30 hours

Best-in-class sound quality
Competitive battery life
Robust Bluetooth connection
Earcups don’t collapse

If you’re looking for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation and you’re not put off by the $399 / £349 / AU$600 price tag, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones are well worth considering. The title of best wireless headphones still goes to the Sony WH-1000XM4 of course, but there’s not much in it between Sony’s cans and these from Bowers & Wilkins.

With sophisticated noise cancellation, much-improved sound quality, and a honed aesthetic, we found the PX7 a delight to test and think they could give any of the headphones on this list a run for their money.

Plus, they’re packing aptX Adaptive for improved stability and latency between the headphones and your device, as well as high-quality (24-bit) streaming aptX HD brought to the table. That’s why they’re the best headphones if you’re looking for a strong pair of all-rounders.


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A pair of the BackBeat Go 810 over-ear headphones from Plantronics

5. Plantronics BackBeat Go 810

The best budget wireless headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 289g | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: 40mm dynamic | Battery life: 24 hours

Excellent build quality
Warm, balanced sound
Reliable wireless connection
Hiss when music isn’t playing

For years, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 were among our favorite wireless headphones because of their excellent sound, build quality and features. Unfortunately, they were also kind of expensive.

Now, for a lot less ($150 / £140 / AU$240), Plantronics offers the brilliant Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. These over-ear headphones are useless premium materials but during our testing, we found the sound nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor – and these headphones sport an equally chic design.

With that in mind, the BackBeat Go 810 is the best headphones for those that want wireless connectivity without the high price tag.


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A pair of the sony wf-1000xm4 true wireless earbuds in black

6. Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds

The best true wireless earbuds

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 7.3g | Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz | Drivers: 6mm | Battery life : 8 hours (earbuds) 16 hours (charging case)

Rapid, full-bodied and eloquent sound
Truly useful features
Impressive call quality
Unremarkable battery life
No aptX support

Sony is a big name in audio tech and with the Sony WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before in a noise-canceling true wireless package.

During our testing, we found that compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.

While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – in terms of noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.


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The Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds and charging case

7. Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0

The best budget true wireless earbuds

Acoustic design: : Closed | Frequency response: : 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers:: Graphene, 6mm dynamic | Battery life: : 10 hours (earbuds) 70 hours (charging case)

Excellent sound
Great price
Top-notch battery life
Ambient mode is poor

When we first reviewed the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 true wireless earbuds (then known as the Lypertek Tevi), we were blown away. The Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds are their successors. They’re very similar to the originals, with a few key improvements, and yet still come in at the same affordable price point of $99 / £99.

This gets you everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3, including detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons. But on top, the Z3 2.0 earbuds add wireless charging, a powerful new LDX mode, improved app functionality and a hear through ambient mode.

Our own issue is that app connectivity is patchy at best, and the ambient hear through mode is pretty much useless in comparison to the competition from the likes of Sony’s noise cancelling WF-1000XM4.

Yet, with the price still so low, and nothing to detract from the quality standard the originals set out, with a few notable improvements, they remain must-have earbuds, more than a match for headphones two or three times the price.

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The Nuraloop wireless headphones in black

8. NuraLoop headphones

The best Bluetooth earbuds

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20 kHz | Drivers: 8.6mm dynamic | Battery life: 16 hours

Rich, adaptive audio
ANC and social mode
Rugged, sweatproof desig
Stiff neckband can get in the way

NuraLoop has boiled down the essence of the company’s first product, the Nuraphone, into a much more compact, rugged, and affordable package, and doesn’t lose much in the process with the NuraLoop headphones.

When we reviewed these headphones, we found the star of the show to be the adaptive audio technology, which automatically determines a customized listening profile and feeds you well-balanced, lush sound tailored to you as a result.

Although that’s the USP of these earbuds, there are plenty of other features that make the NuraLoop headphones stand out, including active noise-canceling, social mode, an IPX3 rating, Immersion mode, a great battery life, and the ability to attach an analog cable for 3.5mm headphone jacks.


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A pair of the over-ear Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in grey

9. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

The best noise-cancelling headphones:

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours

Outstanding noise cancelation
Fun, lively sound
Elegant design
Only 20 hours of battery life

If the Sony WH-1000XM4s are the true king of noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are next in line for the throne – and for the sake of offering a few alternatives, we’ve included them in this list.

By applying noise cancellation to phone calls as well as music, Bose has made great strides in the field of noise-canceling Audio. We found the sound quality to be undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.

If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM4s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life – they’re the best headphones for a reason. That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise cancellation is out of this world.


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A pair of the AKG N60NC over-ear headphones in black

10. AKG N60NC

The best budget noise-cancelling headphones:

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 198g | Frequency response: 10 – 20,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Battery life: 15 hours

15-30 hours’ battery life
Lossless audio support
Superb sound
On-ear form can be uncomfortable

The AKG N60NC headphones are award-winners, with a coveted 5-star rating from TechRadar. Now the price of these headphones has fallen considerably, they’re an even better buy.

The noise cancellation is very good, and like other AKG headphones, there’s good, solid bass without overpowering the midrange and treble. They’re comfortable, too, which is an important consideration if you’re using them on your travels.

The battery is decent for cheap noise-canceling headphones, with 15 hours of playback over Bluetooth. If you just want full noise cancellation, you’re good for a whopping 30 hours of peace and relative quiet before you need to find a charger.


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A pair of the Bose QuietComfort true wireless earbuds in white

11. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The best noise-cancelling earbuds:

Acoustic Design: Closed | Weight: 8.5g | Frequency Response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Battery on-board: 6 hours (earbuds) 12 hours (charging case)

Best-in-class ANC
Rich, clear sound
Lack of on-board volume control
Bulky charging case

This is Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free.

Not only is the design of these earbuds much improved, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. There are ten levels of ANC on offer here. At maximum, you’re practically cut off from the rest of the world, Audio in a cocoon of sound that’s made entirely up of your favorite tunes. You’ll only be able to hear some high-frequency sounds like sirens (and even they’re mated to a large degree).

We also enjoyed the high sound quality – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity.

During our testing, we found these noisecanceling earbuds incredibly comfortable and well balanced, too, despite their bulky form factor.

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The Jabra Elite 45h on-ear headphones in sand

12. Jabra Elite 45h

The best on-ear headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 160g | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Battery life: 50 hours

Balanced sound
Impressive battery life
Leaky sound
Iffy call quality

For just $79 / £69/ AU$99, Jabra has wrapped Bluetooth 5 connectivity, 40mm full-range dynamic drivers and a smattering of physical push-button controls in a wireless on-ear frame with the Jabra Elite 45h.

Faux leather and memory foam, combined with winningly un-creaky plastic, make for a fit we found extremely comfortable (even if the earpads themselves absorb ear-heat quite quickly and then give it straight back).

There’s voice control available from Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Jabra’s Sound+ control app even walks you through a brief hearing test to establish exactly how the EQs should be set to best suit your ears. By the standards of overtly affordable headphones, the Elite 45h are feature-packed.


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The sony wh-ch510 on-ear headphones in black

13. Sony WH-CH510

The best budget on-ear headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 132g | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: 30mm dynamic | Battery life: 35 hours

Incredibly affordable
Solid audio and battery life
Lightweight and compact
No 3.5mm jack or USB audio

Looking at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s mind-blowing that wireless on-ear headphones could cost this little, not to mention a pair that has decent sound, a USB-C port, and 35 hours of battery life.

If you’re looking for headphones at this price point, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 haven’t been too crucial – the lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on most modern smartphones while the lightweight, plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.

While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM4 siblings boast, the sound these on-ear headphones produce definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble might get uncomfortably exaggerated.


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The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro over-ear headphones in black

14. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

The best over-ear headphones

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 370 g | Frequency response: 5 – 40,000Hz | Drivers: 45mm dynamic Tesla neodymium | Battery life: N/A

Built like a tank
Excellent comfort
Breathtaking resolution
Slightly recessed mids

While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best-sounding audio gear on the market.

Enter the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, which won our Editor’s Choice for their imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($599 / £589 / AU$1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound.

As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out, but the good news is that the open-back design gives the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.

If you’ve been searching for a pair of high fidelity cans that are used by some of the world’s leading audio engineers, these are the best headphones for you.


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The JBL tune 750btnc over-ear headphones in black

15. JBL Tune 750BTNC

The best budget over-ear headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 220g | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Battery life: 22 hours

Good sound quality
Strong active noise cancelation
No waterproofing
Average battery life

JBL is a popular name in the world of headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price.

That’s what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC’s as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.

The JBL Tune 750BTNC sounds great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.


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The focal stellia over-ear headphones in bronze

16. Focal Stellia

The best luxury headphones

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 435g | Frequency response: 5Hz – 40kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Battery life: N/A

Stunning, precise sound
Open soundstage
Opulent design
Extremely expensive

If you ignore the price, the Focal Stellia headphones are perhaps the best headphones on the planet. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.

If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias’ precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.

If you like to keep things minimal in the headphones department, you probably won’t like the showy, opulent design of the Focal Stellias, and they can feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work.

But if luxury is your thing, the full-grain leather cups, woven cables, brushed copper accents, and matching carrying case are likely to appeal.

That luxury feel is translated right down to the presentation of the user manuals in a neat little leather-style wallet – and you may well expect to find this level of detail in exchange for parting with $3,000 / £2,799 (about AU$4,200). Ouch.


How to choose the right headphones for you

There’s a lot to consider when you’re buying a new pair of headphones. But the most important is the design. Because it doesn’t just dictate how they look, but the features on offer, how they feel and how you’ll use them day-to-day.

In-ear headphones, also called earbuds or earphones, are usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. They rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. These are the most discreet designs you’ll find, making them excellent for portability and the prime choice for athletes.

The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones in black and silver


Over-ear headphones generally provide fantastic richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. Additionally, over-ear, or circumaural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.

Instead of enveloping your ears, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable seal around your ear. The noise isolation is less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. But they’re usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, appeal to travellers and make good fitness headphones.

The Focal Stellia over-ear headphones in bronze

Wireless headphones fit into three different categories.

Wireless in-ear earphones connected via a neckband are ideal for runners who want the freedom of a wireless connection with the security of a wire keeping their earbuds firmly around their neck.

With wireless on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones, you simply lose the wire connecting them to your device – otherwise, they look pretty much the same as your regular pair of wired cans, and give you the noise-isolating prowess of over-ears without the need for cumbersome wires to connect to your device.

True wireless earbuds have no cord whatsoever. For some, this means true freedom; for others, untethered true wireless means the constant danger of losing their expensive audio kit down the drain – or terrible connections. The latter, at least, has changed now – thanks to advances in Bluetooth technology like aptX HD, the best true wireless earbuds have never sounded better.

Are wired headphones better than wireless?

Generally speaking, wired headphones do deliver better sound quality than wireless headphones. But there have been so many advances in audio tech in recent years, that with many of the best wireless headphones you’re unlikely to notice a difference.

That’s why we often recommend audiophiles continue to opt for wired headphones. But for everyone else, it’s mostly down to personal preference. If wireless headphones suit you and are more convenient, they’re a better choice for you. Get a good quality pair and you won’t be missing out when it comes to sound quality.

What are the best headphones I can buy right now?

That depends on your preferences, style and budget.

One of the most important considerations is design. Do you want a pair of in-ear headphones for running that are discrete and will stay snug all-day? Do you want a pair of true wireless headphones to give you ultimate flexibility? Or how about a big pair of over-ear headphones, the ultimate in noise cancellation and comfort?

We’ve included a number of different headphone types below, like in-ear, on-ear, over-ear, wireless and true wireless.

However, our top pick has to be the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones. They’re fantastic all-rounders, offering a long battery life, noise cancellation, and excellent audio quality for the price.