Your buying guide for the best headphones in 2017
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 20 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.
You might be thinking "I have an iPhone 7 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, 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). Also read: How to stop earphone cables getting tangled or twisted.
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 2017 UK - best headphone reviews
- Reviewed on: 7 December 2016
- RRP: £699, US$899
If you can stomach the price, the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature are an outstanding pair of over-ear headphones. They look great, sounds incredible and are even fairly portable. They are a fitting 50th anniversary product but we wouldn't blame you if the P7 headphones are a more suitable and sensible purchase.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature review.
- Reviewed on: 23 June 2016
- RRP: £289, US$349
They’ve been a long time coming but Bose has finally made a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones and they were worth the wait. They’re only £30 more than the QC25 which makes them a no brainer even if you use them chorded a lot of the time. They’re comfortable, the noise-cancelling is outstanding and the sound quality is high-quality too. An all-round excellent pair of immersive headphones. We’d just like a better app and control over the noise-cancelling.
Read our Bose QuietComfort 35 review.
- Reviewed on: 11 July 2013
- RRP: £350, US$570
The AH-D600 headphones offer armchair comfort with analytical insight into the musical mix. These headphones possess comfort levels that rise above lighter street-friendly designs, but that will make them a little bulky and ostentatious for most people to use on the move. Nevertheless, if you want a great taste of high-end head sound the Denons will deliver with majestic and relaxed sound.
Read our Denon AH-D600 review.
- Reviewed on: 6 October 2016
- RRP: £249.99, US$249.99
The Sharkk Bravo hybrid electrostatic headphones are a leap forward in audio technology. The sound quality is impressive, but shouldn't be compared to the sound fidelity found in full-blown electrostatic headphones. Nevertheless, the Sharkk Bravo provide a full bodied sound, stylish design and durability.
- Reviewed on: 4 February 2016
- RRP: £349
We found the Denon to deliver a fantastic overall package as a portable headphone with the AH-MM400. However, we did not find it capable to dethrone or compete with the older Denon AH-D600, D7100, D2000, D5000 and D7000 headphones, which simply outclassed the MM400 in almost every single aspect but for portability. The Denon AH-MM400 therefore provide current Denon owners with a great way of having a similar sound signature headphone on-the-go. In comparison to its competition in the portable headphone market, we felt the Denon AH-MM400 was almost unrivaled by its overall sound quality and build quality, making the headphones an easy recommendation for portable listeners.
Read our Denon AH-MM400 review.
- Reviewed on: 31 December 2013
- RRP: £239
The Bose QC20 headphones make for an impressive set of in-ears which you're unlikely to regret if you travel a lot. Although sound performance isn't the best, the sensational noise cancelling, comfortable design and handy aware mode make these a great buy.
Read our Bose QuietComfort 20 review.
- Reviewed on: 3 February 2017
- RRP: £124.95
Overall, the RockJaw Resonate is an excellent IEM which serves up brilliant sound quality along with great build quality (including detachable cables) at an amazing price.
Read our Rock Jaw Resonate IEM review.
- Reviewed on: 16 September 2016
- RRP: £299, US$399
If you're looking for a set of headphones to use at home, the Final Audio Design Sonorous III provides fantastic sonic capabilities, while also incorporating good looking design. They are very heavy though and thin headband padding makes them uncomfortable for long sessions.
Read our Final Audio Design Sonorous III review.
- Reviewed on: 19 May 2015
- RRP: £199
While original P5 owners don't need to jump at this upgrade, the P5 Series 2 are one of the best pairs of on-ear headphones we've tested. The price tag might be a little high for some but Bowers & Wilkins has done a sterling job once again of combining design and build with decent comfort, noise isolation and excellent sound quality.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 review.
10. Kef M100
- Reviewed on: 17 September 2015
- RRP: £119
We were impressed by Kef's first headphones, the M500 on-ear cans, and the M100 in-ears are really no different. They offer excellent build quality, a lightweight comfortable design combined with nicely balanced and crisp sound performance. They're also not as pricey as we had expected making them a solid choice for a pair of in-ear headphones.
Read our Kef M100 review.
11. KEF M500
- Reviewed on: 12 July 2013
- RRP: £250
KEF has come up trumps with its first pair of headphones offering excellent build quality and a stylish comfortable design. After running in, the M500 headphones sound clear, punchy and balanced but won't blow you away quite as touted. They are also pricey for our liking and you can find similar or better sound quality for less.
Read our KEF M500 review.
- Reviewed on: 9 June 2016
- RRP: £220, US$349
Sony has done a great job of combining style, functionality and great sound quality into a pair of headphones which aren't too expensive for what you're getting. Most importantly, the wireless sound quality is excellent and we're impressed with the noise cancelling, too. Build quality is good for plastic and extra features such as NFC and easy to use controls add to the experience. These are a great choice for anyone looking for wireless over-ear headphones with noise cancelling and solid sound quality.
- Reviewed on: 27 October 2016
- RRP: £199
If you have trouble with in-ear headphones, or just want custom moulds without breaking the bank, Snugs are an excellent solution. The new scanning tech is quick and easy and you’ll find it hard to go back once you get used to the feel of a custom tip. As well as fit, the moulds benefit noise isolation and leakage. We like the sound of the new own-brand S10 drivers but you may as well spend the extra tenner on SoundMagic’s E10S. Bear in mind that the firm might be able to make tips for your current headphones.
Read our Snugs Original S10 review.
- Reviewed on: 6 July 2015
- RRP: £329.99
We said in our Series 2 review that some might find the £249 price a little hard to swallow, and it’s harder still to stump up £80 more for the removal of a cable. Yet, if you are specifically after wireless headphones, these are one of the best pairs we’ve tested.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless review.
- Reviewed on: 31 March 2016
- RRP: £143
They might not be the complete package, but Audio-Technica has created some seriously good sounding headphones here. The ATH-MSR7 offer good build and stylish design, although they aren't the most comfortable or portable around. What we're most taken by, though, is the sound quality you get at this price which makes them a good buy.
Read our Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 review.
16. B&W P7 Wireless
- Reviewed on: 10 November 2016
- RRP: £319.99
If you’re specifically after wireless headphones, the P7 Wireless are some of the best around. They’re not cheap, but they’re reliable, look great and – overall – sound great. They’ll suit those who like heavy bass, but don’t forget about the Bose QuietComfort 35, which may not sound quite as good, but has active noise cancelling and are £30 cheaper.
Read our B&W P7 Wireless review.
17. RHA T10i
- Reviewed on: 18 August 2015
- RRP: £149.95
So, taking into consideration all of the above, are they worth buying? We definitely feel the RHA T10i worth buying, even at their full price. For build quality alone in this price range they stand out. Features and audio quality are of a sufficiently good quality, and it helps that there is that three year guarantee. Not for the pure audiophile, but a great step up for the music lover who wants a better quality of headphones.
Read our RHA T10i review.
- Reviewed on: 29 August 2016
- RRP: £149
Audio-Technica has created a stylish and lightweight pair of on-ear headphones which won’t break the bank. Although we haven’t found them the most comfortable in the world, they have a lot to offer including NFC, good wireless performance and decent sound quality.
Read our Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT review.
- Reviewed on: 22 November 2016
- RRP: £109
These headphones are not for the more discerning listener but for a little over £100, they make a good choice for those looking for a combination of over-ear wireless headphones. The touch controls aren't great and the noise cancellation isn't overly impressive but sound quality is decent for the price.
Read our Philips SHB9850NC review.