Whether you enjoy music at home or on the go, good headphones will enhance your experience – and maybe even your appearance. The big, over-the-ear listening devices have become so stylish that in addition to listening to music, they are often being used as fashion accessories. When shopping for headphones, features like active noise cancellation (ANC), hi-res compatibility, or sound quality offer plenty of great specs but also make it harder to decide what to look for and what’s worth your money. That’s why StudyFinds consulted the tech experts and created a list of the best headphones based off of reviews from the pros.
Listening to music is not the only use for headphones. They are also essential for podcasts, movies, and, of course, work calls. But out of those, listening to music is probably by far the most mood-boosting. In an Austrian study, listening to music lowered stress by an average of eight percent and boosted the listeners’ moods by an impressive 90 percent.
Don’t crank it up too much, though, when you listen to your favorite tunes. A new study warns that more than one billion young people are at risk of hearing loss partly due to the rise of headphone and earbud usage. While the “permissible level” for adults is 80 decibels – and only 75 decibels for children – people often crank up the volume on their phones, headphones, and earbuds to levels as high as 105 decibels – around the same level as entertainment venues, where music tends to play at between 104 and 112 decibels.
Do you need a new pair to boost your listening experience? StudyFinds has compiled a list of the best headphones. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
The List: Best Headphones, According to Experts
Topping the list are the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones. “If you’re looking for active noise canceling, Sony is the undisputed king. The WH-1000XM5 over-ears feature best in class ANC and improved battery life over the WH-1000XM4,” says SoundGuys.
“Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones keep the lineup’s streak of excellence alive,” notes PC Magazine. “They offer top-notch noise cancellation, a sophisticated look, a comfy fit, and among the best audio quality in the wireless realm. The capacitive touch panels on the outside of each ear cup work intuitively, as well.”
Digital Trends says the Sony WH-1000XM5 are the best headphones. “Sony’s technologically advanced WH-1000XM5 are the fifth generation of Sony’s flagship wireless headphones. Like Sony’s previous models, they 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 review and — thanks to a series of continued improvements — maintains the WH-1000 series’ status as the best headphones you can buy.”
Second on the list are the Anker Soundcore headphones. RTINGS.com says the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless are the best mid-range headphones. “From this price point onwards, Anker dominates the market. Their Q lineup covers a range of prices, and most options are pretty hard to ignore since they come well-equipped with features like ANC, multi-device pairing, and companion app support. Their top-of-the-line model is the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless, which are significantly cheaper than the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless.”
“We all work within budgets, so with that in mind, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 ticks most budgets for the price,” notes Sound Guys. “The Bluetooth or wired-equipped over-ear headphones supply good codecs: AAC and LDAC, and sound pretty good. You also get decent noise canceling as well. These don’t exactly boot any of our top picks, but they ought to satisfy a great many music fans. Plus, Anker has good customer support, which is always important.”
Another popular Anker Soundcore version is its Life Q20 headphones. Time Magazine recommends them because they’re the best value headphones. “‘Quality headphones’ and ‘affordable price’ aren’t phrases that often live in the same sentence, but we found the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 to be an excellent choice for listeners unwilling to splash out hundreds of dollars. Featuring basic but effective noise cancellation, they’re a great, no-frills option (don’t expect apps, smart touch controls or multipoint connection). Labeled buttons on the earpiece will get you where you need to go, including connecting to a single Bluetooth device.”
The third-most popular headphones recommended by experts are the Bose QuietComfort Ultra. “Successors to the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, the QC Ultra have an improved design that harks back to the much-loved double fold-up style that allows the headphones to lay flat in their zip-up case, but also fold again for further space savings to make more room for the USC-C and 2.5-to-3.5 mm headphone cables,” writes Digital Trends.
“The competition might be slowly catching up, but every new iteration in the Bose lineup, including the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, manages to leap ahead of the crowd,” says PC Magazine. “We’re big fans of this model’s crisp, bass-forward sound, highly comfortable design, and AptX Adaptive support.”
CNET notes, “Along with excellent sound and great noise canceling, the QC Ultra Headphones are also superb for making calls, with top-notch background noise reduction. All that adds up to the best new noise-canceling headphones of 2023 and a worthy adversary to Sony’s highly rated WH-1000XM5 and Apple’s AirPods Max.”
Fourth on the list is the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless headphones. “Sennheiser combines most of what you want in a great set of over-ear Bluetooth headphones in the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless,” says Sound Guys. “With support for a variety of high-quality codecs like AAC, aptX, aptX, and aptX Adaptive, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C listening, you’ll hardly ever get caught without a connection. You even get Bluetooth multipoint. More to the point, a stellar 56 hours and 21 minutes of battery life (with ANC on) outperforms most headphones.”
CNET calls them the best Sennheiser noise-canceling headphones. “Sennheiser’s previous-generation Momentum Wireless headphones have always had a pretty distinct look that was part retro, part modern, and stood out for the exposed metal on their headband. For better or worse, that’s all gone now, and the new Momentum 4 Wireless, Sennheiser’s flagship noise-canceling headphones, look a bit more subdued and also a bit more like some of their competitors.”
Digital Trends notes they’re best for audio purists. “Sennheiser has always been a reliable brand for a high-quality audio experience, but its outdone its past work with the Momentum 4, a pair of wireless headphones that don’t skimp an inch when it comes to incredible sound supported by the aptX Adaptive codec. Our review even found that the audio was preferable to our top Sony headphones pick, the XM5s, despite the price actually being around $50 lower.”
5. Focal Bathys
Rounding out the top five are the Focal Bathys headphones. “The Focal Bathys, with their bespoke French drivers and comfortable leather earpads, are the best premium wireless headphones I’ve heard yet,” recommends Wired. “They look fantastic, with light-up logos on the outside of each earcup, but they sound even better. DNA from its higher-end headphones trickles down heavily here. These noise-canceling headphones possess some of the clearest, most fun sound quality I’ve heard so far.”
“If you want the best sound experience over a Bluetooth connection, check out the Focal Bathys Wireless,” says RTINGS.com. “They’re much more pricy than the previous wireless picks, but these over-ears are equipped with handy features to improve your audio experience. They support aptX Adaptive codec, which allows you to stream high-quality audio over Bluetooth. They also last over 29 hours continuously and have a comfortable, plush fit, which is great for long listening sessions. Using them wired lets you take advantage of their USB-DAC mode, converting digital signals to analog in high resolution.”
CNET calls them the best-sounding wireless noise-canceling headphones. They “feature not only wireless connectivity but a built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter) for USB wired listening with any computer, smartphone or tablet with USB-C. They are easily one of the best-sounding wireless headphones.”
You might also be interested in:
- The New York Times
- PC Magazine
- Digital Trends
- Time Magazine
- What Hi-Fi?
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.