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The best headphones you can buy right now

In search of the best headphones? ZDNET's top picks include noise-cancelation, wireless Bluetooth, and long battery life for over-the-ear listening.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Emery Wright

There are many options for listening to your music or podcasts, gaming, or taking video calls for work: Earbuds, bone conduction, wireless and wired, and, of course, the classic over-the-ear headphones. Over-the-ear headphones have gotten an upgrade in recent years -- now they feature Bluetooth connectivity and active noise cancellation technology.

Sure, you can snag a pair of earbuds, but headphones are better for your hearing in the long term, especially if you want to block out the noise around you.

That's why we've rounded up the best headphones -- from high-tech headsets to budget-friendly options -- so you can choose the best product for your listening preferences.


Pros & Cons
  • Improved ANC is some of the best on the market
  • Better voice chat sound quality makes them great for video conferencing
  • Quick-charge options mean they'll never be down for more than 3 minutes
  • Divisive aesthetics
  • Don't fold into a smaller package as previous generations did
  • Expensive
More Details

Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear, closed-back | Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 | Battery life: 30 hours (3 hours on a 3-minute charge) | Frequency response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz

Sony's WH-1000XM headphones have been the go-to active noise cancelation (ANC) headphones since the technology was first popular in the 1980s. Over different models, Sony has continued to improve its sound quality, ANC functionality, and battery life. And the WH-1000XM5 headphones offer the best ANC technology yet, with some of the best overall sound-blocking technology currently available on the market.

These upgrades don't come cheaply, but they still offer an excellent value in a long-wearing, comfortable pair of headphones that block out most exterior noise through a combination of passive sound isolation and advanced ANC technology. Couple that with 30 hours of battery life in one single charge, and these headphones are worth their price tag.

Pros & Cons
  • Lightweight-Excellent battery life
  • Impressive bass sound
  • Headband can get uncomfortable after long periods of wear
  • Relatively snug fit
  • Does not support the My JBL Headphone app
More Details

Tech Specs: Form factor: On-ear | Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 | Battery life: 40 hours (2 hours on a 5-minute charge) | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz

Looking to spend less on quality headphones? These headphones from JBL provide great sound at about half the cost of the other headphones on this list. JBL is known for its deep bass sound, and these budget-friendly headphones have JBL's built-in Pure Bass sound, which sounds great at both low and high volumes. While the headphones have a built-in microphone, they work best for hands-free calls from your smartphone rather than making Zoom calls.

Buttons on the headphone's ear cups let you control the volume, pair to a device via Bluetooth, as well as activate voice assistants (Siri and Google Assistant) by pressing the multi-function button. The headphones' foldable design also comes in four color options: black, blue, white, and rose.

Pros & Cons
  • Spatial audio sound
  • Made from comfortable memory foam
  • Outstanding battery life
  • No Bluetooth connectivity option
  • Can't use with mobile devices or Nintendo Switch
More Details

Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear | Connectivity: USB adapter | Battery life: 300 hours | Frequency response: 15 Hz – 21 kHz

If you didn't think 300 hours of battery life was possible, these headphones from HyperX Cloud prove you wrong. Their impressive battery life allows you to game and stream for eight hours a day for over a month before they need to be charged. And all this is even with their DTS Headphone: X audio drivers enabled. In addition, the microphone is detachable, so you can remove it depending on the type of gaming you are doing; it's also adjustable, so you don't peak your audio or sound muffled while talking to other gamers.

This headset has an excellent audio quality that provides a rich, clean sound even at low volumes. A Ngenuity desktop app enables or disables the spatial audio and DTS Headphone: X settings to monitor the battery, adjust volume, and create custom equalizer settings so no matter what you're playing will sound its absolute best.

Read the review: HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless review: Solid, no-nonsense audio for gaming, music, and more

Pros & Cons
  • Solid but lightweight construction
  • Exceptional instrument separation for analytical listening
  • Well above average gaming performance
  • Two included cable lengths
  • Very tight, overly intimate soundstage
  • Headband has some comfort issues
  • Mini-XLR connector can annoy your shoulder
More Details

Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear, open-backed | Connectivity: Wired | Battery life: N/A | Frequency response: 5-40,000 Hz and nominal impedance of 48 ohms

Wireless headphones have become the most popular model type in recent years thanks to advances in Bluetooth. However, wired headphones still exist and are still worth it, as is evident with the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X. This model is a mid-range headphone option for mixing and streaming or for anyone who wants to hear every detailed sound in their music. The detachable mini-XLR cable can be changed at will or exchanged with other connection options.

These headphones are open-backed, allowing air and sound to transmit freely through the earcups' grills, resulting in a more natural, speaker-like sound; you can definitely hear this difference in their natural frequency response and reliable sound. Plus, their included memory foam provides an ergonomic and comfortable fit.

Read the review: Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X headphones review: Brutally honest sound for under $300

Pros & Cons
  • All of the benefits of the AirPod line for Apple device owners
  • Different color options with a sturdy design
  • Almost universally-praised sound quality
  • Proprietary lightning cable charging
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Most expensive option on this list
More Details

Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear, closed-back | Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0 | Battery life: 20 hours (1.5 hours on a 5-minute charge) | Frequency response: 10 Hz-20,000 Hz (estimated)

While a newer player in the headphone sector compared to other brands, Apple's AirPods Max has found a niche fanbase in that it's the only device that combines exceptional sound with all of the same benefits Apple device owners have enjoyed for years with the smaller AirPods earbuds. These features include instant connectivity, multi-device switching, and the ability to tweak settings and see charge levels on any Apple device.

The sound quality is by far the best of any Apple headphones today, especially with their ANC technology that meets or exceeds what competitors like Sony and Bose currently offer. So if you're an avid Apple user and don't mind spending a little more, the Apple AirPods Max are excellent headphones. 

Read the reviewAirPods Max review: Stunning sound and performance mean I'm keeping the $550 headphones

What are the best headphones?

It depends on what you're looking for. We broke down different product categories so that whether you're looking for ANC, wired, or Apple-friendly headphones, there is a top option for you. 

Best headphones


Battery life

Frequency range

Sony WH-1000XM


30 hours

4 Hz-40,000 Hz    

JBL Tune 510BT 


40 hours


HyperX Cloud Alpha


300 hours

15 Hz – 21 kHz    

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X     



5-40,000 HZ     

Apple AirPods Max


20 hours

10 Hz-20,000 Hz     

Which headphones are right for you?

While all of these headphones are excellent picks, it ultimately depends on what type of connectivity you prefer, if noise cancellation is important to you, what kind of battery life they have, and how much you're willing to spend on a pair.

Choose these headphones...

If you want...

Sony WH-1000XM

Exceptional noise-canceling headphones.

JBL Tune 510BT 

Budget-friendly headphones with a deep bass sound.

HyperX Cloud Alpha     

Headphones perfect for gaming. 

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X     

Wired headphones for analytic listening. 

Apple AirPods Max

Over-the-ear headphones for Apple users.

How did we choose these headphones?

We chose these headphones by conducting extensive research as well as our own experiences using these devices ourselves to listen to music and podcasts. We compared ratings and reviews from customers (both good and bad), standout features, brands, and different price points to help you find the best headphones for your budget and needs. 

What is the best headphone brand?

You'll find brands like Sony, Bose, JBL, and Sennheiser make quality headphones that last. 

Are headphones healthier than earbuds?

Over-the-ear and on-ear headphones are considered a better option than earbuds for your health since you're not physically sticking anything in your ear. However, regular headphones can still cause hearing issues if you turn up the volume too loud or wear them for more than an hour at a time.

If you're looking for tips for preventing hearing loss caused by headphones, there are some things you can do. Try to keep the volume lower (and opt for ANC headphones to cancel out exterior noise rather than turning up the volume even more), use higher-quality headphones, and take frequent breaks while working with headphones on so you can give your eardrums a breather. 

Do headphones get worse over time?

On average, a pair of headphones will last about two to three years before the components start to wear down or malfunction. However, a good quality pair of headphones that are more expensive should last you longer (about four to five years). 

Are there alternative headphones worth considering?

Here are a few other options to look into:

Editorial standards


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