There's an overwhelming number of headphones on the market to choose from, with more styles and types than ever before. You're probably wondering what 'neckbuds' even are.
Here we explain all your options for a new set of cans and present an eclectic range of options for all budgets.
We've included a number of well-known best brands such as Sony and Bose, as well as a few you might not have heard of before like Rock Jaw and Nuraphone. There really is something for everyone and although this chart is ranked, the right pair for you will depend on your personal needs.
Read on below our chart for more in-depth buying advice.
Best headphone reviews
1. Sony WH-1000XM3
Aside from slightly fiddly touch controls, there’s really very little to complain about from Sony's WH-1000XM3 - except maybe the awkward name. The noise cancellation is still absolutely unmatched, and it’s backed up by audio that’s almost as good.
Sony has merely tinkered with the rest of the design, rather than transforming it, keeping the understated aesthetic that’s served it so well so far, and despite the tighter fit than previous models these are still plenty comfortable for long-term listening.
Throw in reliable Bluetooth connections, 30-hour battery life, and (joy of joys) USB-C charging, and these are basically the best wireless headphones around right now.
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM3 review
2. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
At their affordable price compared to the big name rivals out there, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 wireless earbuds should be lacking in a few areas but they're really not.
They might not have the most striking design but they're lightweight and comfortable. The buttons can handle a whole range of functions once you learn the system, too.
More importantly, there's excellent battery life on offer here combined with top sound quality so what more could you want? Perhaps noise cancelling but not at this price.
Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review
3. RHA TrueConnect
Simply put, the RHA TrueConnect are one of the best pairs of wireless earbuds we've tested.
Although they don't have active noise cancelling like the Sony WF-1000X, the comfortable and efficient seal provides excellent noise isolation instead. This means they're cheaper and don't suffer from dropouts either.
Add in a whopping 25 hours battery life via the charging case, IPX5 splash resistance and top-notch audio quality and this is the pair to beat.
Read our full RHA TrueConnect review
4. Bose QC35 II
The Bose QC35 II are still among the best all-round headphones you can get at the moment, even now that Bose has followed up with the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. 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 full Bose QC35 II review
5. Bowers & Wilkins PX
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 full Bowers & Wilkins PX review
6. Sony WF-1000XM3
Improving upon the original WF-1000X earbuds, the new model has been redesigned and improved. The charging case is a little bulky, but the total run-time of 24 hours is very impressive.
With great noise cancelling and the ability to tweak everything, including the touch key functions, in the companion app and use Siri or Google Assistant hands-free, they're a great buy.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review
7. Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2
If you want great-quality sound at an affordable price, the Alfa Genus V2 should be on your shortlist.
They're excellent in-ear headphones for under £50 providing good build quality but more importantly, great sound quality. This is largely due to the interchangeable filters.
It might sound like a gimmick but they mean you can change the audio profile depending on your personal taste and/or what you're using them for at any given moment.
Read our full Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 review
8. OnePlus Bullets V2
Read our full OnePlus Bullets V2 review
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 full Nuraphone review
10. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are almost perfect - but the few irritations that are there, combined with a price jump relative to the competition - stop them from being a clear-cut winner in the noise-cancelling arms race.
The noise cancellation and audio quality is essentially on a par with Sony’s best, while improved design and noise cancellation on your own microphone audio are little touches that improve the experience.
Unfortunately, an unreliable app, glitchy Bluetooth, and fiddly touch controls detract from the experience. When you can leave the headphones be and just listen, they’re mostly phenomenal, but every time you have to step in to interact with them the little irritations creep in.
Read our full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
Your buying guide to the best headphones
If your bank balance allows it, you could spends thousands on a single pair of headphones. We know that the average consumer doesn't have anything like so we're looking at more affordable sets here.
We've got a wide range of prices here so you could spend under £20/$20 or over £300/$300 depending on what you're looking for. You might want a pair for commuting every day so it could be worth investing more, or you might just want a cheap pair for occasional use.
Bear in mind that in general, spending more on audio really does mean getting better quality as well as features. If you really are on a limited budget then we have a dedicated budget headphones chart with more options.
Once of the main things you need to do, apart from decide how much to spend, is choose the type of headphones right for you.
In the grand scheme there are three types but there are also sub-categories within those, often with a bit of crossover. Here's what you need to know:
- In-ear – Small, lightweight and generally inexpensive
- Over-ear – Comfortable and space to house larger drivers
- On-ear – A good balance of the above
Now take a look at the below options for more types:
- Earbuds – Another way of saying in-ear headphones
- Wireless earbuds – In-ear headphones that have Bluetooth
- True wireless earbuds – The above but are not connected to each other with a wire
- Neckbuds – Wireless headphones connected together with a section designed to sit around the neck
Features to look out for
A lot of people buying headphones will want them to be wireless. It's not just more convenient but many smartphones don't come with a physical headphone jack so plug a cable in anymore.
For many, wireless will never reach the quality of a trusty wire, although some pairs may offer both options. Read our reviews to see how good they sound over the air and look out for the latest versions of Bluetooth as well as codecs like aptX for better audio.
We have a chart just for the best wireless earbuds.
The other modern feature to look out for is noise cancelling. Beware that many sets will try to promote this despite it being 'passive', which simply means the headphones are physically blocking sound like earplugs.
What you really want is 'active noise cancelling' (ANC) which means the headphones are listening to the outside world with microphones, then getting rid of that sound. This is done by cleverly playing you an inverted version of the signal.
Not all noise cancelling is equal though, so read our reviews to see how good it is. Some also have various levels of the feature as well as additional modes that let some outside sound in to keep you safe or so you hear important announcements. They go by various names like 'aware' or 'social'.
We have a dedicated round-up for the best noise cancelling headphones.