With an almost endless amount of headphones to choose from in all shapes and sizes, with different features it can be very hard to find the right pair. We've reviewed and ranked a wide range of options to bring you the best headphones you can buy.

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 Rockjaw 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 headphones 2021

Promotion
Bose QuietComfort® 45 headphones

The original noise cancelling headphones are back, with better quiet (plus the new Aware Mode), shockingly light materials for premium  comfort and proprietary acoustic technology for deep, clear sound. It’s an icon reborn. Bose QuietComfort® 45 headphones. The perfect balance of quiet, comfort and sound.

Visit Currys

1

Sony WH-1000XM4 - Best Overall

Sony WH-1000XM4
  • Pros
    • Class leading ANC
    • Light and comfortable
    • Smart features
  • Cons
    • Sonically same as XM3
    • No Bluetooth aptX

They might look nearly identical to the previous version, and have the same sound quality too, but Sony has still taken its flagship headphones to a new level.

Somehow, the already class-leading noise cancelling is even better and the firm has added a range of unique AI smart technology that will come in very useful. This includes Adaptive Sound Control, DSEE Extreme and the slightly odd Speak to Chat.

There's almost nothing to dislike here so these are the headphones to beat in 2021.

A spanner in the works, though, is that if these upgrades don't tickle your fancy then you'll be satisfied with the WH-1000XM3, which are now available for a much more affordable price.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

2

Sony WF-1000XM4 - Best Wireless Earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM4
  • Pros
    • Class leading ANC
    • Incredible sound
    • Smart features
  • Cons
    • More expensive than some
    • Bulky for small ears

Sony has done it again with its latest pair of flagship earbuds with an unmatched combination of sound quality, top-notch noise cancelling and high-end smart features borrowed from the WH model.

They also have strong battery life so they are the best package on the market if you can afford them. 

There's very little to be disappointed with here, perhaps only that the earbuds themselves are still bigger than some rivals so aren't well-suited to smaller ears.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

3

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch - Best Battery Life

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch
  • Pros
    • Epic battery life
    • Great sound
    • Useful app
    • Comfortable
  • Cons
    • No ANC
    • Slow to switch modes
    • Slightly awkward case

They don't have noise cancelling, but the Melomania Touch are still a great pair of wireless earbuds.

As long as ANC isn't a must-have feature, they offer excellent sound quality and a comfortable design with changeable fins.

The standout here is unrivalled battery life with the ability to go for a whopping total of 50 hours if you use them in low power mode. They can still last an awesome 44 hours in high performance mode.

Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch review

4

NuraLoop - Best Custom Sound

NuraLoop
  • Pros
    • Superb personalised sound
    • Excellent ANC
    • Good value
  • Cons
    • Proprietary eartips and adapter
    • No digital assistant support
    • Bulky case

NuraLoop manages to condense the audio wizardry found in the company's first product and deliver an in-ear alternative that's hard to beat in terms of comfort, quality sound, top-notch noise cancellation and battery longevity.

Better yet, at this price, they undercut Apple's AirPods Pro while delivering a better audio experience overall. Just be aware that they lack virtual assistant support and relies on some proprietary components that might cost a little extra to replace.

They are now cheaper due to the introduction of the NuraTrue earbuds.

Read our full NuraLoop review

5

Bose QuietComfort 45 - Best Comfort

Bose QC45
  • Pros
    • Light and comfortable
    • Effective noise cancelling
    • Solid battery life
  • Cons
    • No ANC adjustment
    • Lacking smart features
    • Plasticky build

It was a long wait for Bose to update the QC35 II and five years later the QuietComfort 45 still live up to the name.

With cloud-like cushions and a lightweight design, they are the best choice for long listening sessions - whether you're simply at your desk or on a long haul flight. 

Noise cancelling performance is top-notch as you'd expect from Bose and battery life is solid - with wired mode still an option.

Things are surprisingly simple though with just two ANC modes - Quiet and Aware - missing the 11 levels of adjustment found on the QC Earbuds. They also lack smart features such as ear detection.

Read our full Bose QC45 review

6

Enacfire A9 - Best Budget Wireless Earbuds

Enacfire A9 Wireless Earbuds
  • Pros
    • Great sound
    • Cheap
    • Include ANC
  • Cons
    • Average Ambient mode
    • Only black

For those that don't have hundreds to spend but still want wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling should opt for the Enacfire A9.

They have decent enough noise cancelling along with better sound quality than you might expect at this price. A comfortable fit, decent battery life, simple controls make them easy to recommend.

It's a shame that they only come in one colour and the ambient mode is nothing to write home about.

Read our full Enacfire A9 Wireless Earbuds review

7

Adidas RPD-01 - Best for Running

Adidas RPD-01
  • Pros
    • Impressive fit
    • Great audio quality
    • Budget friendly
  • Cons
    • Slow charging
    • Middling battery life
    • Awkward media controls

If you need headphones for running or other forms of exercise then this pair from Adidas is a steal.

They don't charge very fast and the controls are tricky to master but they get a lot of more important stuff starting with a range of tips and wings to ensure a secure fit.

They are also lightweight and have an IPX4 splash resistant. Sound quality is great, particularly the bass, and the price is rather agreeable. If you need longer battery life look to the more premium Adidas FWD-01.

Read our full Adidas RPD-01 review

8

Marshall Monitor II ANC - Best Style

Marshall Monitor II ANC
  • Pros
    • Build quality
    • Comfortable & compact
    • Good battery life
  • Cons
    • Middling ANC
    • Joystick control won't suit everyone

If noise cancelling is your top priority then Marshall is a little behind rivals in this area, but the Monitor II ANC headphones have a lot to offer.

For starters, they have a more affordable price (RRP) and offer one of the most compact and comfortable designs for a pair of over-ear headphones. They also sound very good, too.

We also like the useful buttons, long battery life and the way the app allows you to customise various elements.

Read our full Marshall Monitor II ANC review

9

Rockjaw Alfa Genus V2 - Best Under £50

Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2
  • Pros
    • Cheap
    • Great sound
    • Interchangeable filters
  • Cons
    • No mic as standard

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 this price 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

10

Apple AirPods Max - Best Luxury Listening

Apple AirPods Max
  • Pros
    • Incredible sound quality
    • Premium build
    • Great ANC
    • Impressive smarts
  • Cons
    • Limited Android support
    • No power button
    • Silly Smart Case
    • No Lossless support

They got off to a rocky start but after some firmware updates, the AirPods Max are an excellent choice for Apple users who can afford them.

The design and build are among the most luxurious we've ever seen (ignoring the ridiculous Smart Case) and they sound great too, even without Lossless playback support.

You also get active noise cancelling with an excellent transparency mode along with smart features like Hey Siri and Spatial Audio with head-tracking for a more immersive listening experience, whether that's music or movies.

Read our full Apple AirPods Max review

Your buying guide to the best headphones

If your bank balance allows it, you could spend 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 £50/US$50 or over £500/US$500 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.

Best headphones 2016

Headphone types

One of the main things you need to do, apart from deciding 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
  • Neckbuds – Wireless headphones connected together with a section designed to sit around the neck
  • True wireless earbuds – Earbuds that are not connected to each other with a wire

Find out how we test audio.

Bowers and Wilkins PX

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.