Your buying guide for the best headphones in 2018
The headphones supplied with most modern devices such as smartphones or tablets, if you even get any, tend to be pretty rubbish and probably won't last long. Upgrading is a must for most consumers and we have 10 of the best headphones to choose from here.
We've reviewed headphones of different shapes, sizes and prices to give you a broad range of options. We have in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones.
If you're a bit more strapped for cash try our round-up best budget headphones. You might also be interested in the best wireless headphones and best headphones for kids. We've also got the best headphones deals for up-to-date bargains.
You might be thinking "I have an iPhone 8 without a headphone jack, do I need something else?" but do not fear because the headphones below are still relevant. Apple supplies the phone with a Lightning to headphone jack adapter and you can also use wireless or Lightning-enabled headphones, of course.
Walk the streets of any town or city and you will see myriad people locked in to their own world, listening intently to headphones plugged in to smartphone, tablet or even - surely not - an MP3 player.
The digital audio revolution has happened, although vinyl is experiencing a surge, and we can't be the only ones who travel to work in a train carriage silent to the outside world as fellow travellers concentrate on music, podcasts, audiobooks and video to make the commute more fun (endurable).
Headphones are more than just a functional device. Like the display on your PC they are the crucial part in the link between you and your favourite portable device. As such it is worth investing in a good set of headphones.
Moreover not all headphones are made equal: you can spend a lot of money on something that looks - rather than sounds - good. And for some people that is the key thing.
Even within the realm of good audio fidelity there is choice. We may wrinkle our noses at the bassy stylings of Beats by Dre Studio headphones, but we know plenty of DJs who swear by them. And that's before you get into questions of on-ear, in-ear or over ear.
Which type of headphones you prefer will depend on your physical shape, your needs, your musical taste, and the size of your wallet.
The types of headphones on offer are fairly self-explanatory but in-ears are small earbuds which you put into your ear canal, on-ear headphones have a headband but the cup sits on your ear while over-ear have larger cups so encompass your ear.
Most headphones are wired but you can also get ones with Bluetooth to get a wire-free experience. Those who travel a lot will want to look out for pairs with noise-cancelling to shut out distractions.
Regardless, here are the pick of all the headphones we have reviewed that are on the market right now. We've got a wide range of headphones covering a broad set of prices so we hope you find something that fits your needs.
There are so many pairs of headphones on the market that we'd need to spend all our collective time, and then some, to review them all. So do bear in mind that these are the best of what we've had through the lab, not every pair ever made! We will be regularly updating this article as we review more headphones, so stay tuned.
Best headphones 2018
1. Bose QC35 II
- Reviewed on: 19 October 2017
The Bose QC35 II are the best all-round headphones you can get at the moment. Offering stylish design, sound quality, usability and features.
Although Google Assistant is the main new addition, there's many more reasons why they QC35 II are great. They're oh so comfortable and last a really long time which is a good start. Then there's the almost unrivalled noise cancelling combined with excellent sound quality.
What more could you want?
Read our Bose QC35 II review.
- Reviewed on: 27 October 2017
Bowers & Wilkins has done an amazing job at its first pair of noise cancelling headphones. The design and slightly more complicated user experience means that Bose's rival will be a better option for most people.
However, the PX are a top choice with better build quality and seriously good sound, incorporating some tech from the P9 Signature. Battery life is also good and we like the smart sensors, too.
As long as they're not too bulky for you, we doubt you'll be disappointed.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins PX review.
- Reviewed on: 21 March 2018
Sony has almost made the perfect pair of wireless earbuds with the WF-1000X. They're certainly the best ones we've tested so far.
These truly wireless earphones are comfortable because they're lightweight and small. Add in excellent sound quality and noise cancelling and we can hear you smashing that buy button.
Some drop outs and a slightly odd case design are small downsides and rivals like the Jabra Elite Sport are a better choice if you're looking for a pair specifically for workouts and fitness.
Read our Sony WF-1000X review.
- Reviewed on: 7 December 2016
Bowers & Wilkins has made an outstanding pair of headphones in the P9 Signature.
They're stunningly gorgeous and comfortable. Craftmanship is top-notch and the sound quality on offer is stunning - even running them from a smartphone.
The downside is the price and they're not exactly that portable. If you've got the cash and don't want to take them around much, then look no further.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature review.
- Reviewed on: 4 February 2016
Denon's AH-MM400 are a great pair of headphones with eye-catching walnut wooden design.
They're not as portable as some rivals, but do fold up neatly. Sound quality might not be as good as some Denon sets, of course, but it's still very good and most punters will enjoy the response.
They're also available at a much lower price than the RRP so they're a bit of a bargain.
Read our Denon AH-MM400 review.
- Reviewed on: 17 July 2018
Some of the claims made by Nura and its technology are a bit suspect (we've been left disappointed in the past by similar claims) but the Nuraphones offer astonishing personalised sound. You really need to hear it to believe it.
If you can get past the strange probe-like design, which a lot of people wont, then these headphone sound incredible. Partly due to the innovative dual-driver setup, which means unique sounding bass. Other benefits include aptX, good battery life and a number of options for connectivity.
The G2 software update now means they have noise cancelling and other improvements which makes them more attractive.
Read our Nuraphone review.
- Reviewed on: 31 December 2013
If you're looking for in-ear headphones with noise cancelling, then the Bose QC20 are still a great choice.
They're, beyond custom fit, the most comfortable in-ear headphones we've tested thanks to the excellent tips with fins. You can get better sound quality but the noise cancelling is excellent and includes a handy aware mode.
Read our Bose QuietComfort 20 review.
- Reviewed on: 3 February 2017
If you want affordable in-ear headphones with decent build and sound quality then the Rock Jaw Resonate will suit.
We like the design including detachable cables and the way you can customise the sound with modular filters. There's very little to dislike here.
Read our Rock Jaw Resonate IEM review.
9. KEF M500
- Reviewed on: 12 July 2013
The KEF M500 are excellent headphones with stylish and lightweight design that's super comfortable thanks to the plush cushions that feel like clouds.
They also sound very good with a punchy, clear and balanced profile that suits a range of music. There's little to dislike here.
Read our KEF M500 review.
- Reviewed on: 27 October 2016
Snugs is a great choice for anyone who doesn't typically get on with in-ear headphones. The company provides custom moulded tips via quick and easy scanning technology without breaking the bank.
Beyond comfort, the Snugs provide excellent noise isolation. The standard S10 drivers sound good but you might want to spend a small amount more to get the SoundMagic’s E10S.
You might also be able to get tips for your existing headphones.
Read our Snugs Original S10 review.