Whether you prefer them over-the-ear, in-ear, wireless or not, here are the best headphones and earbuds available right now.
If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet, you’ll probably have access to pretty much all your music, as well as a wealth of audiobooks, podcasts and video – and if you’re really into music, those files could even be high-quality MP3 or WAV files. If you really want to get the most out of your mobile content – and any content for that matter, it’s really worth investing in a pair of decent headphones.
If you’re clutching the earbuds you got with your smartphone right now, don’t worry, because we’ve put together a list of the best gear for listening to music, audiobooks and anything else with sound.
Note that while the better known brands are widely available in popular chain stores, you'll have to shop online for some of the more esoteric brands.
1. Bose QuietComfort 35
It took a while for Bose to finally bite the bullet and combine wireless with noise cancelling, but the result was well worth the wait. The QuietComfort 35 are, and will remain for some time I suspect, now the ultimate headphones for frequent travellers.
They're ultra comfortable, cut out ambient noise like no other headphones on the market right now and, impressively, they also sound wonderful. And although the sound signature won't please audiophiles, who seek a flat signal response no matter what, they're definitely fun to listen to. Plus, with NFC for quick pairing, volume dependent automatic EQ, and more-than-decent battery life of 20 hours with Bluetooth and noise cancelling active, it's hard to find fault.
If you have the money to spend, do yourself a favour and go and try out a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 35. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
2. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless
They're not noise-cancelling, but the B&W P7 – the firm's top line wireless headphones – are among the best wireless headphones we've ever listened to. Plus, they're super comfy, the squared-off earcups and slender chromed steel arms and leather padded headband look wonderfully boutique.
If you're an audiophile and just can't bring yourself to splash out on the Bose QC35, these are equally good – for very different reasons.
3. Philips SHB9850NC
If you’re after a pair of wireless bluetooth headphones that won’t cost you the earth, you could do worse than the Philips SHB9850NCs. They’re stuffed with features, they’re very comfortable, and they fold up nice and small. And although their sound quality isn’t as good as a solid wired pair of headphones, they perform well with most music – but are particularly heavy-handed on the bass and mid-range.
Although their noise cancelling isn't quite up to the standards of some others, it’s a bonus to have that sort to feature on a pair of cans at this price – so we’re willing to let them off.
If you’re after a pair of wireless cans that give great performance for the money, then the Philips SHB9850NCs should be at the top of your list.
4. Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II
With Bose, you know what you're getting and that's no different with its SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II.
Sound quality is great, the headphones are well-built and incredibly comfortable to wear, they feature hands-free calling (with a noise-cancelling microphone for clarity) and it comes with a handy carry case too. While battery life is rather excellent, if you do find yourself without any charge, Bose has included a 3.5mm aux cable so you can keep listening.
5. Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless is a serious pair of headphones, both from the perspective of price and performance. They're an over-the-ear design, super comfortable, fold up nice and compact, and have both aptX Bluetooth for high-quality wireless connectivity and active noise-cancellation.
One annoying feature is that you can't disable the noise cancellation, but with 22-hour claimed battery life and the ability to plug the headphones in with a 3.5mm cable, this shouldn't prove too much of a problem. They're pricey, but brilliant.
6. Onkyo H500BT
Price: from $269
Onkyo isn't the first name that springs to mind when you think of big headphone manufacturers, but its Hi-Res audio-ready H500BT is a great pair to listen to.
They're Bluetooth headphones with support for aptX, AAC and SBC codecs, super comfortable and have built-in microphones so you can respond to phone calls without taking them off. The only big thing they're missing is noise cancellation, but you can't have everything for under $300 - and they sound absolutely brilliant.
7. Plantronics BackBeat Sense
For their low price point, Plantronics' BackBeat Sense is a tempting overall package.
Not only is audio quality among the best at this price range, but they're also solidly constructed and clever as well – they'll pause your music automatically when you take them off your ears.
8. Denon AH-GC20 Globe Cruiser
Denon is a well-known name in hi-fi circles, but these noise-cancelling, Bluetooth headphones are just as good when you’re on the move.
They’re stylish in an understated way, but what we like best about them is the comfort. Simply put, the Denon’s around ear design means they’re comfortable for long periods of listening - so they're perfect for long flights or commutes. And the sound is good too: Clear and punchy when they need to be, the Globe Cruisers bring your music to life – but do a good job of keeping out the stuff you don’t want to hear.
Next: Best in-ear headphones