Best noise canceling headphones. Mono bluetooth headset Sony

Best noise canceling headphones

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

While the Apple AirPod Max headphones are a great pair of headphones with best in class active noise canceling and a good sound, they also have a few annoying quirks that make them very obviously an Apple product.Read full review.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Bluetooth 5 and multipoint

If you’re on a budget, the Monoprice BT-600ANC punches well above its weight class with very good ANC and decent enough sound that will make you forget they’re only 100.Read full review.

Sometimes listening to the sounds of nature or the sounds of the people around you can be an enlightening experience, but sometimes you just need a vacation from the world. As people who ride subways every day, we know how necessary it is to block out the world sometimes just to keep your sanity—and hearing—intact. Whether you’re always in crowded areas, working at your desk, or a frequent commuter: noise canceling can be a much-needed feature. Everyone can benefit from any of the best noise canceling headphones.

Besides sound quality, a good pair of noise canceling headphones does two things: provide a comfortable fit for extended use and also accurately cancel out unwanted outside noise. Without getting too technical, Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) is achieved by using built-in microphones that pick up what is going on around you. The headphones then produce their own out-of-phase sound waves that destroy outside noise. With so many options out there (and a lot of them quite expensive), we decided to make a list of the best noise canceling headphones you can get.

Editor’s note: this list of the best noise canceling headphones was updated on May 2, 2023 to add the Focal Bathys to notable mentions, and ensure timeliness of recommendations.

For our top five picks, you can find the frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts.

Why is the Sony WH-1000XM5 the best set of active noise canceling headphones?

Sony has finally released the update to its flagship noise canceling headphones: the Sony WH-1000XM5. This new model features a redesign from its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4, and an improvement to the already best-in-class active noise canceling.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Most listeners will enjoy a consumer-friendly sound, but for those who want a little less bass: use the Sony Headphones Connect app to boost mids and drop highs a bit. While it’s a little annoying to need to equalize headphones instead of having them sound perfect out of the box, at least it’s easy enough to navigate.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

The Sony WH-1000XM5 does a great job isolating you from your surroundings, even before you flip the ANC unit on.

Sony has been regarded for having the best active noise canceling headphones on the market, and that legacy continues with the WH-1000XM5. The newer headset attenuates noise even better than its predecessor, canceling out sounds such as the hum of an air conditioner or the rumble of a jet engine—perfect for travelers and commuters. Passive isolation is also better, so it blocks out more high-pitched noises than the Sony WH-1000XM4 as well.

Additional features that make the Sony WH-1000XM5 our top pick include Bluetooth multipoint connectivity, automatic ear detection, support for multiple audio codecs (SBC, AAC, and Sony’s LDAC), fantastic microphone quality that makes it our favorite ANC work headset, intuitive touch controls, Sony 360 Reality Audio, and great in-app control. If you’re looking to go all-in for a pair of active noise canceling headphones, and are willing to pay a pretty penny for the best experience, look no further than the Sony WH-1000XM5.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has a highly advanced noise canceling microphone system that effectively blocks out background noise.

How does the microphone sound to you?

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is still a great headset and compares well against the WH-1000XM5. If you don’t want to spend 400 USD on the latest model, you will still enjoy very good ANC from the XM4 headset. Sound quality isn’t nearly as good out of the box on the fourth-generation model compared to the newest one, but you can equalize some of the XM4’s heavy treble away.

Neither pair of headphones is water-resistant but you should still be able to skate by with some sweat so long as you clean them regularly. As far as software features go, you still get 360 Reality Audio and ANC optimization with the WH-1000XM4 along with the option to prioritize connection stability or sound quality. Unless you absolutely need the best ANC around, you’ll still be happy with the WH-1000XM4 and the extra cash in your wallet.

Although its predecessor set the high water mark for excellent performance, the Sony WH-1000XM5 pushes it ever higher. Now featuring new drivers, it’s an intriguing set of headphones among the flagship active noise-cancelling (ANC) devices on the market. Not only is it full of useful features, but it also excels in travel or at the office, in particular.

The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has great sound quality

Sennheiser flagship, the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, continues the lineage of the MOMENTUM series through line of excellent sound quality, closely reflecting our ideal frequency response. What’s more it uses SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, or aptX Adaptive codecs, or optional 3.5mm headphone jack to check off all your boxes.

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

In addition to the premium build of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, it also has one of the longest battery lives we’ve tested with an impressive, 56 hours and 21 minutes (with ANC activated). A long battery life tends to mean the headphones will last longer too by necessitating fewer recharges.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless is able to block about 75-93% of outside noise above 1kHz, while canceling out about 75% of the intensity of noise lower in frequency.

While the ANC performance of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless does not quite beat out the Sony WH-1000XM5 for example, it gets close. For the better codec selection and slightly better frequency response of the Sennheiser cans, it may be the preferred choice for some. The free Sennheiser app also has a nice user interface, and overall supports the elevated feeling experience of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless.

The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is one of the better examples out there of headphone with mics, providing a reasonably representative sound of your voice. It struggles a little with complete noise rejection, but it prioritizes your voice, as demonstrated in the example below with street noise.

How does the microphone sound to you?

If you need total immersion in your music, you need some ANC over-ears. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 FOCUS on style and comfort while delivering the core features high-end shoppers need with their headphones.

The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is an attractive alternative

Bose has made a name for itself in the consumer space by making more premium headsets for frequent flyers and those with deeper s. The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is the flagship product for the Massachusetts-based company, and it has a lot of really good features along with a premium build. It also boasts integrated voice assistant support, including Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s Siri.

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

As far as sound quality goes, these aren’t going to satisfy bass heads. However, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 aligns with our targets really well, and should sound good to most people right out of the box. Sometimes the best things in life are the boring things that work without much fuss, and that’s very true here.

Some people have reported that updating the firmware on their Bose products led to poor ANC performance, but that hasn’t been our experience. If this happens to you, be sure that your updates install successfully, as that’s a common culprit of poorer performance.

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The active noise canceling is very good here but can’t keep up with Sony’s XM5 flagship headphones. Still, the NCH 700 will render low frequencies anywhere from one-half to one-sixth as loud as they’d sound without the headset on at all. Aside from very good ANC, the NCH 700 provides stellar touch controls with a seemingly perfect amount of sensitivity. Whether you’re rocking an Android or iOS device, the playback controls should function exactly the same when you’re connected via Bluetooth.

Battery life is somewhat disappointing as far as ANC headphones go—but that’s still miles ahead of true wireless earphones. A single charge will last you about 21 hours, 25 minutes of battery life with ANC and Bluetooth turned on. At most, you’ll only be plugging them in to charge maybe twice a week. you shouldn’t have to worry much about battery longevity with the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, as they sport much larger cells than true wireless earphones do.

Bose’s microphone sounds quite good in ideal conditions but it won’t block out as much background noise as the WH-1000XM5 or Airpods Max.

The Apple Airpods Max offers the best noise canceling for iPhone owners

There’s no getting around it, Apple’s first set of headphones is the best pure noise cancellers you can buy with only the Sony WH-1000XM5 really giving the Airpods Max a run for its money. However, the Airpods Max may not be the right thing to buy owing to their high cost and relatively poor flexibility. Unless you own an iPhone and have a large budget, there are too many competing models out there that offer a similar level of ANC performance and better sound quality.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

As with other top-tier noise canceling headsets, the Airpods Max uses hybrid active noise canceling for optimal noise cancellation. As we’ve seen from the Apple Airpods Pro (1st generation), the Airpods Max supports Adaptive EQ, which adjusts the frequency response in real-time, according to your environment and how the headset fits. Apple’s taking a big gamble with this headset, and it’s bound to pay off as loyal Apple fans, and those beholden to the brand will appreciate the convenience and Smart features.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Audio performance is right where you’d expect it to be for an Apple product, with much better performance than some of the cheaper options on this list. However, the headphones use only SBC and AAC—meaning no high-bitrate codecs like LDAC. You can, however, enjoy digital wired audio via Lightning-to-USB-C cable but this will cost extra.

No. Only iPhone users will truly enjoy all the benefits the Airpods Max has to offer. As an Android user, you’ll miss out on call quality, firmware updates, Spatial Audio, and more. Hence, if you’re choosing between the Apple Airpods Max and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 or the Sony WH-1000XM5, pick one of the latter two or get an iPhone.

The microphone performance is very good but you’ll notice better performance when you pair the headphones to an Apple device.

How does the mic sound to you?

The Airpods Max wireless headphones offer best-in-class noise canceling with twenty hours of battery life. They provide excellent frequency response and great audio features.

The best pair of cheap noise canceling headphones is the Monoprice BT-600ANC

While it’s not really a household name, Monoprice makes a decent set of low-cost ANC headphones. The Monoprice BT-600ANC comes in at 99 USD, while also providing a fairly respectable noise canceling performance for the money. Typically this is a category that requires a minimum of 200 to get ANC headphones worth their salt, but this is a very extreme outlier.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Sure, they don’t sound the greatest (consider a third party EQ app), and you could probably get better headphones for 100—but you can’t get better ANC headphones for that price. With the feature enabled, you can reliably see a reduction between 20-30dB of droning outside noise, even in the range where most music sounds live. That’s pretty good, considering that most cheap ANC headphones struggle here. It’s just gravy that these headphones also isolate noise well, meaning they physically block sound from reaching your ear a little better than most headphones do.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Going toe-to-toe with the bigger, badder options out there, the BT-600ANC offers really good ANC performance.

We will point out, however, that there is no companion app, and these headphones are very Spartan by their nature. Monoprice as a company often goes the barebones route, and for those looking for a simple headset that’s great. However, if you really want things like equalization and voice assistant support: you’ll have to figure something else out.

How does the microphone sound to you?

If you are on a budget, the Monoprice BT-600ANC punches well above its weight class with very good ANC and decent enough sound that will make you forget they are only 100.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 has great noise canceling but an odd frequency response

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Bose’s QC 45 headset looks very similar to the Bose QC 35 II and has the best ANC of any Bose headphones to date. Although the Bose QuietComfort 45 is an excellent set of headphones, the inability to fully disable ANC and use the headset as a normal pair of wireless headphones is a thorn in our side. It’s also a big reason we recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Airpods Max over the QC 45. The Bose QC 45 also didn’t make the cut as a top five pick for its boosted treble response, which can be unpleasant for listeners who like early aughts punk tracks and the like. Bose retroactively added a custom EQ to the QC 45, though so you can try your hand at equalizing the treble down.

Even with these gripes, the Bose QC 45 is one of the most comfortable headphones around and features very good button controls. Some of our staff actually prefer buttons over touch controls because they’re easier to operate when wearing gloves. The microphone is also quite good here, though not on par with the WH-1000XM5.

The microphone does a very good job blocking out fairly predictable sounds like wind. When working from an office, sounds like ringing phones and clacking keyboards will come through though.

How does the sample sound to you?

The Bose QuietComfort 45 does an excellent job cancelling outside noise, and it sounds great for podcast listening. It has a decent battery life, and the fast-charging USB-C adds another 180 minutes with only a 15-minute charge.

The Sony WH-XB910N is of the best sets of noise canceling headphones for bass

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Bass heads, look no further than the Sony WH-XB910N. The “XB” moniker stands for “extra bass” and Sony delivers: the sub-bass is about 25dB louder than mids. You can decrease the bass response via the Sony Headphones Connect app, and you’ll want to do this if you listen to non-bass heavy music, or enjoy a podcast every now and then. You get other features here like ANC performance that’s similar to the famed WH-1000XM3 headphones and a comfortable fit. It doesn’t take down the Sony WH-1000XM5, but it also costs much less money than the latest Sony flagship.

X is for extra, B is for bass. These noise-canceling Sony headphones are tailored to deliver at low frequencies while shutting out the world around you with dual mics on each side.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

All listed in USD unless otherwise specified. may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

The best noise canceling headphones: Notable mentions

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

  • Anker Soundcore Space Q45: Although it falls short in terms of sound quality, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 delivers solid active noise canceling for a fairly cheap price (149.99 at Amazon). It’s a decent option for anyone looking for an inexpensive headset that still handles loud environments with a deft touch.
  • Bowers Wilkins PX7: While this set of headphones is very clearly geared to compete with the high-end cans listed here, it’s too pricy (279 at Amazon) for the sound you get out of it. If you’re willing to put up with some discomfort, you’ll enjoy the ANC though.
  • Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Though it’s outperformed by the headphones on this list, the Bose QC 35 II is still a great pair of noise canceling cans even with the latest Bose QuietComfort 45 surpassing it, the QC 35 II price is nicer at 329.64 at Amazon. And, if you want to use them to game, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset offers everything the regular QC 35 II has plus a detachable boom microphone for 329 at Amazon.
  • Focal Bathys: We have these tested, and they’re great—but they’re also 800 and cancel noise as well as the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, so they’re a tough sell to a general crowd. For an audiophile, however, they’re definitely worth a look.
  • Jabra Elite 85h: These headphones sell for 190.99 at Best Buy with very good noise canceling. The headphones also have automatic ear detection and water resistance amongst other more unusual features.
  • Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet: This is an affordable and sleek pair of active noise canceling headphones for children. The design fits smaller heads and limits the maximum volume to help protect your kiddo’s hearing. It sells for 129 at Amazon.
  • Sennheiser HD 450BT: This is a great choice because of its sound quality. However, if you have anything larger than tiny ears, the ear cups probably fit more like on-ear headphones than over-ears. This is a bit more affordable (at 91 at Amazon) than the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, but the active noise canceling isn’t quite as good.
  • Sennheiser PXC 550-II: This lightweight headset is technically discontinued, but you can still find it for 299.99 at Walmart. Despite the older tech onboard like microUSB, it uses SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency for giving you plenty of options for your audio, as well as doing a decent job canceling low frequency noises.
  • Shure AONIC 50: This is an excellent headset for listeners who want as many options to connect as possible. You get SBC, AAC, aptX HD, and LDAC support along with a standard wired connection and support for USB-C passthrough audio. We also love this headset for its premium build, extremely comfortable design, and excellent sound quality. Get it at 249 at Amazon. If you want something a bit lighter and more affordable from Shure, check out the AONIC 40.
  • Sony WH-CH710N: This headset boosts bass a bit more than we recommend, but this can still be pleasant to most peoples’ ears. For 149.99 at Amazon, you get great noise canceling performance and a nice, compact build.
  • Under Armour Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones by JBL: If you’re looking for a set of ANC capable workout headphones here’s the best choice. The aesthetic and default sound might turn some off, but bull horns aside, the app offers good EQ, and the IPX4 rating means it’s sweatproof to boot. Find it for 275 at Amazon.

Hold up! Something’s different:

Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

What you should know about the best noise canceling headphones

How do noise canceling headphones work?

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Wikipedia If your music’s notes are quieter than the masking threshold of outside noise, they’ll be near-inaudible.

Active noise cancelers attempt to increase the quality of your music by using destructive interference to prevent auditory masking. In simpler terms, outside noise (a “masker”) can drown out notes that are similar in frequency, making them completely inaudible. By using active noise cancellation tech (ANC), you can simultaneously make your music sound better in noisy environments, but you can also reduce how much pressure your inner ear is subjected to, staving off hearing loss.

You should also know that noise canceling tech doesn’t mean the noise goes away, or that it can’t reach your ear. Even if you use noise canceling headphones, you’re still at risk for noise-induced hearing loss because it doesn’t block out all noise. Be sure to limit your exposure to junk sound above 85dB if at all possible. That may be an impossible task on trans- or intercontinental flights, but the best way to listen to music is in a quiet environment—ANC should be the last resort.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Constructive and Destructive Interference Sound waves of equal amplitude, offset at 1/2 wavelengths result in compression waves with an amplitude of 0—canceling out the sound.

If you’re still set on ANC headphones, there’s nothing wrong with that! But it’s always good to explore your options. Other considerations you should keep in mind are that Bluetooth is messy and your audio quality will almost always sound better with wired headphones.

Can a firmware update make the noise canceling worse on your headphones?

There have been many accounts of ANC performance declining after an update; we’ve seen this with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and others. This typically happens because the installation process gets interrupted. When you experience worse noise canceling after an update, try to factory reset the headset. After resetting the headset, try to install the latest firmware again but only after your source device and headset are fully charged.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Yes, noise canceling can get better after an update and we’ve seen this with multiple headsets, most notably the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 and Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Let’s look at the Bose NCH 700. Above, you can see the NCH 700 noise canceling improved after Bose released firmware 1.8.2. Bose takes its headphone updates seriously, and the fact that you get improved performance throughout a headset’s lifespan increases the product’s value.

What should you get if you don’t want noise canceling headphones?

Active noise cancellation requires the use of batteries, and that’s a pain for many people. There’s really no way around it unless you ditch the active noise cancellation and go for passive isolators. Really, the best way to do that is to get some in-ears. You may find them uncomfortable, but we’ve had good luck with Comply memory foam tips. They conform perfectly to your ear canal every time, which not only means super-good isolation with whatever earbuds you want but also they’re as comfortable as it gets with that type of audio device.

Do Bluetooth codecs matter for noise canceling headphones?

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Represented is the max transfer rate (kbps) of each respective Bluetooth codec (greater is better). Each waveform depicts a transfer rate of 100 kbps.

Additionally, you may find that you may need to upgrade your phone if you haven’t in the last few years to get the most out of your audio. Remember how I just said Bluetooth is messy? Well, that’s because its great irony is that despite its namesake, it’s a fractious and varied set of standards that don’t play well together. Unless you have a flagship phone like an iPhone, Galaxy, or V20, chances are good that you’ll be stuck on an older, crappier codec. When studying spec sheets, you’re going to want to make sure that both the headphones and the phones support either AAC, aptX, or LDAC. However, Android phones with Android 8.0 or higher will have these standards by default.

What about ANC headphones in the office?

The truth of the matter is that what makes a set of ANC headphones good in general will make them good for the office. We cover this topic in another article, but it shouldn’t surprise you that our picks for that category look suspiciously similar to the ones listed here.

In general, the level of ANC isn’t as important to an office setting as it is commuting, so don’t get too hung up on the headphones with the most attenuated sound. Instead, you want a good balance of battery performance, sound quality, and microphone performance. It’s probably no surprise then that the Sony WH-1000XM5 with its impressive mic array does so well in this setting. You can compare how well each headset does in reviews by playing the appropriate office simulation, like so:

How to Connect Any Bluetooth Headphones to Xbox One

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

Tired of wires? Here are the best ways to connect your Bluetooth headphones to Xbox One.

The Xbox One remains one of the most popular gaming consoles today, with over 50 million units sold globally in the first half of 2022 alone.

Sadly, it still doesn’t have built-in support for the world’s most widely-used wireless technology—Bluetooth. This means that not all Bluetooth headphones can connect seamlessly on Xbox One, an unresolved issue that has frustrated users for years.

Don’t worry—you can still use your favorite headphones with your Xbox One via a Bluetooth transmitter, a PC connection, a Smart TV, or the Xbox mobile app. So, read on while we show you exactly how!

How to Connect Compatible Xbox One Wireless Headsets

While Xbox doesn’t natively support Bluetooth Audio, they have created and partnered with different manufacturers to create Xbox-compatible wireless headsets.

These headsets use the Xbox Wireless protocol, which is a less familiar technology than Bluetooth. That’s why first-time users may have trouble utilizing it.

To help with this, we’ve laid out the steps for properly connecting compatible wireless headphones to Xbox One.

We used the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 gaming headset for this tutorial as an example. But the same steps also apply to other Xbox-friendly wireless headsets.

The steps for this depend on the headphone model, but it usually involves holding the power button down until the LED light turns on.

best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
  • Turn on your console by pressing the console’s Power Button.
    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
  • Locate the Pairing Button on your console.
  • This is found on the console’s left side, near the disk drive, for older Xbox models that came before Xbox One S and X.

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
  • Enable pairing by pressing the Pairing Button on your console until its LED light blinks. This indicates readiness.
    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
  • Go back to your wireless headset and search for the Connect Button. Press and hold this button and wait for the LED to start flashing rapidly. It means the device is ready to pair.
    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
  • Other headphone models may require different ways of doing this. It’s best to consult your headphones’ user manual to be sure.

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

  • Allow a few seconds for the LED lights on both devices to steady. The console will then flash a “Headset Assigned” note and the headset will emit a tone. You will then start hearing the game audio if the devices are paired successfully.
  • Connecting compatible headphones is an easy task. But for non-compatible headphones, establishing a wireless connection via Bluetooth is a different process altogether. The subsequent sections will guide you through the steps necessary to work around this.

    How to Connect Non-Compatible Bluetooth Headphones to Xbox One

    It may initially be disappointing to learn that Xbox doesn’t support Bluetooth headphones. But as mentioned earlier, connecting these devices is possible with a few tools and some ingenuity.

    Read on to find out the different methods for connecting non-compatible headphones to Xbox One.

    Use Bluetooth transmitters

    Bluetooth transmitters are one way of beating Xbox One’s Bluetooth restriction. This device allows you to use your Bluetooth headphones on the console.

    However, be aware that Bluetooth transmitters only transmit audio. Hence, you won’t be able to use your headphones’ microphone.

    Here’s how to connect a wireless headset to Xbox One with a USB Bluetooth transmitter:

      Switch the Bluetooth transmitter on by pressing the Power Button for about 3 seconds. You could also wait until flashing Blue or Red LEDs appear. This will depend on the transmitter you use, so make sure to consult the product manual for guidance.

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

  • For a faster connection, bring your headphones close to the transmitter. Wait until you see a steady blue light on the dongle.
  • Once a connection is established, you can listen through as you play.
  • In case you’re wondering, we used the Uberwith Bluetooth transmitter for this tutorial. This transmitter also works when connecting your Bluetooth headphones to Nintendo Switch and follows the same pairing steps as other transmitters.

    Frustrated with your headset mic not working on PC, Xbox, Mac, or PlayStation 4? Here’s a detailed guide on how to fix this issue.

    Utilize a PC connection

    If you’re not keen on spending extra dollars on an adapter, the following sections will explain how to connect your headset to your Xbox One via a Windows PC or Mac. However, you’ll have to follow different steps depending on your device:

    For Windows PC

    There are three conditions to keep in mind when connecting your Xbox One to a Windows PC:

    • Both devices need to be on the same network (preferably an ethernet connection for streaming).
    • You must use the Xbox Console Companion app.
    • Your PC needs to have Bluetooth support.

    Remember that this method comes with its own limitations, such as audio lags. To counter this issue, Microsoft recommends updating your PC and performing a clean boot. But prior to this, ensure you have at least a Windows 10 OS version on your PC.

    That said, here’s how to connect your headset to your Xbox One via a Windows PC without using an adapter:

    • Access the Xbox Console Companion app by creating a new Microsoft account or signing into an existing one.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Enable the Xbox One app on your PC by clicking the Connection icon located near the bottom of the Xbox app’s sidebar menu.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • In the Connect to your Xbox One window, click on the Add a device icon in the top-right.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Windows will automatically search for your Xbox One console. Once the console is detected, click the Connect button.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • If it’s taking a long time to search, do it manually by typing your Xbox’s IP address in the box and then press Connect.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • If you’re having a hard time connecting, simply go to your Xbox settings, choose Devices Streaming, then go to Device connections. From there, enable Allow Play To streaming,Allow game streaming to other devices, and Only from profiles signed in on this Xbox. Then check if your Xbox is listed in the Connections tab.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Once it is connected, you can then start controlling the Xbox functions via your PC.

    With a computer as the end-user device, you should be able to enjoy all Bluetooth audio functions, including in-game audio and party chat. You can check out our complete guide on how to connect Bluetooth headphones to PC to learn more about this method.

    For Mac

    If you’re a Mac user, you can use OneCast to connect your Bluetooth headset to Xbox One via Mac. This app allows you to stream Xbox One games on your device. It also lets you listen to in-game audio through your Bluetooth headphones while they’re connected to your Mac.

    Unfortunately, one drawback to this method is that Microsoft doesn’t officially support OneCast. As such, it doesn’t support headset mic audio, so you won’t be able to chat while gaming.

    You can download OneCast for a two-week free trial. After 14 days, you’ll need to pay 9.99 to continue using the full version.

    Here’s how to connect your Bluetooth headphones to the Xbox One via your Mac:

    • After downloading OneCast, click on the DMG folder to fully install it.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Drag the OneCast app to your Applications folder.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • With your Xbox turned on, click on the OneCast icon to launch the app. It should automatically detect your Xbox and prompt you to log into the console with your Microsoft username and password.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Once OneCast is connected to your Xbox, connect your headphones to your Mac.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    Connect via TV

    You can bridge the gap between your Bluetooth headphones and Xbox One with a TV. To do this, we’ll follow the same steps as the Xbox-PC hack. This means first connecting the Xbox to the TV, then connecting the Bluetooth headphones to the TV.

    Keep in mind that you won’t be able to use the headset mic when using your Bluetooth headphones with Xbox via your TV.

    Here’s how to connect your Xbox to your TV:

    • Plug your Xbox One’s included HDMI cord into the port at the back of your console.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Locate the HDMI port at the back of your TV and plug in the other end of the cord.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Using your remote, set the TV’s Input Source to the HDMI port you’ve plugged in.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    Then, proceed with connecting your Bluetooth headphones to your TV. If you’re not sure how, feel free to check out our guide on how to connect wireless headphones to TV. over, if your TV doesn’t naturally support Bluetooth, you may also use Bluetooth audio transmitters for TV.

    Use the Xbox Mobile App

    If you don’t find any of the above hacks convenient for you, you can use the Xbox One mobile app to connect your Bluetooth headset.

    This option is only ideal for those who only use their headset for party chat, as it doesn’t let you hear the in-game audio while gaming.

    Here’s how to connect your Bluetooth headphones to Xbox One via the Xbox One mobile app:

    • Connect your Bluetooth headset to your mobile phone.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Go to the Xbox One app and click on the social icon – the icon with two people.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Click on the headset icon to start a party.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • Accept the permissions.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth
    • This will open the party chat screen where you can start inviting your teammates.
      best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    Recommended Adapters for Wireless Headphones in Xbox One

    If your device lacks the utilities to establish a flawless connection between Bluetooth headphones and Xbox One, then you might need the help of Bluetooth-enabling accessories.

    Below are some highly-recommended third-party accessories to connect Bluetooth headphones to Xbox.

    Skull Co. AudioBox

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    The Skull Co. AudioBox adapter is an excellent Bluetooth transmitter for Xbox that works with all Bluetooth headsets. And it even lets you listen to your gaming audio with your Airpods.

    This transmitter uses Bluetooth 5.0 and supports high fidelity, low latency codecs like aptX-LL and LDAC. This means you can enjoy your games without worrying about your audio going out of sync.

    Furthermore, the Skull Co. Bluetooth transmitter has built-in mic support that allows you to chat with your team without having to connect headphones with a mic.

    It’s also powered directly through your controller and consumes less than 1W of battery power. So, there’s no need to worry about interrupted gaming sessions due to recharging or fast-draining batteries.

    Friencity Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter Receiver

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    The Friencity Bluetooth Transmitter not only connects your Bluetooth headphones to your Xbox, but also acts as a receiver. This two-way functionality means it can receive audio from your TV, tablet, smartphone, and laptop from other devices, not just your Xbox.

    You also get the benefit of dual streaming with this transmitter. It can pair two sets of headphones, so you and a friend can listen to the same audio while gaming.

    Additionally, it has an “always-on” feature that lets you use it while it’s charging, so you never have to worry about your in-game audio being interrupted. And even when you turn it off, it auto-reconnects to the last paired device, allowing you to quickly resume where you left off.


    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    The SCOSCHE BTT-SP FlyTunes is a universal Bluetooth transmitter that you can use the same way as the Uberwith Bluetooth transmitter featured in the previous section.

    It uses Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and boasts 180 hours of standby time. This transmitter also features bendable 3.5mm prongs that you fold away for better storage. This also makes it compatible not only for Xbox but other devices as well, regardless of whether they have one or two AUX ports.

    FAQs for Connecting Bluetooth Headphones to Xbox One

    Why doesn’t the Xbox One support Bluetooth Audio?

    The lack of built-in support isn’t due to device inferiority. Rather, it’s because Microsoft – the company behind Xbox – decided to go down a different route with wireless connectivity.

    Instead of Bluetooth, all Xbox consoles use a unique in-house wireless protocol called Xbox Wireless.

    This particular technology connects headphones to Xbox One without pesky cables. But, unlike Bluetooth, Xbox Wireless uses a higher wireless frequency to connect. This unique proprietary wireless frequency results in lower latency and better sound quality.

    To compare, Bluetooth technology is standardized to use a 2.4GHz frequency. On the other hand, Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless uses a higher 5GHz frequency, making it incompatible with Bluetooth.

    So, to use your Bluetooth headphones on Xbox One, you’ll have to use a third-party device, like a PC, Smart TV, mobile phone, or Bluetooth transmitter.

    Using wired headphones? You’re in luck! These don’t rely on Bluetooth, so you can plug them into your controller via the 3.5 mm jack without additional steps.

    Which headphones use Xbox Wireless?

    To make connecting to Xbox consoles easier, Microsoft launched Xbox Wireless-compatible peripherals. These include two different types of headsets:

    • The first uses a wireless dongle, which users insert into one of the Xbox controller’s USB ports to connect the headphones.
    • The other connects directly to the console instead of going through the controller, eliminating the need for dongles. These wireless headphones are a bit more expensive but highly efficient on their own.

    Because of its proprietary wireless technology, most Xbox headsets may not work on other gaming consoles like the PS5.

    Here’s a list of Xbox-compatible headphones you can choose from:

    • Xbox One Chat Headset
    • Xbox One Stereo Headset
    • Xbox Series X Headset
    • Corsair HS75 XB Wireless Gaming Headset
    • LVL40 Wired Gaming Headset
    • LucidSound LS50X
    • HyperX CloudX Flight Wireless Gaming Headset
    • Audeze Penrose X
    • Astro A40 TR Headset MixAmp M80
    • Lucid Sound LS35X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset
    • Victrix Pro AF Wired Gaming Headset
    • Turtle Beach Elite Pro 2 Headset SuperAmp
    • Astro A50 Wireless Headset Base Station
    • Kingston HyperX Cloud II Headset
    • Razer Thresher Ultimate
    • Razer Thresher
    • Razer Kaira Pro
    • Razer Nari Ultimate
    • SteelSeries Arctis 9X Gaming Headset
    • Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 Wireless Gaming Headset
    • Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Wireless Gaming Headset

    Using Xbox X or S instead? If you are having issues connecting your headphones, check out our guide on common Xbox X headset issues and how to quickly fix them.


    As you now know, you can definitely enjoy gaming on Xbox One even without Microsoft’s wireless headsets. With these methods, you should be able to use your existing Bluetooth headphones with your Xbox console, while eliminating the hassle of buying a new device. Not to mention that it helps you save a few bucks, too.

    Should you encounter any connection issues, resetting your Bluetooth headphones will usually fix the problem. If not, you can check out our other guides on fixing Bluetooth audio problems like audio stutters, sound delays, or zero sound.

    How did you find our recommendations? Do you know of other tips or fixes that we haven’t covered here? Let us know in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев, we’d love to hear them!

    Sony Bluetooth headset MBH22 Mono, black

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    Sony MBH22 Mono Bluetooth HeadsetCrystal clear voice quality, wireless hands-free systemThe small in-ear Bluetooth headset is characterised by its unobtrusive, high-quality design. Outstanding voice quality and connectivity make it your ultimate trav

    Sony MBH22 Mono Bluetooth Headset

    Crystal clear voice quality, wireless hands-free systemThe small in-ear Bluetooth headset is characterised by its unobtrusive, high-quality design. Outstanding voice quality and connectivity make it your ultimate travel companion.

    A device that meets your needs. stay in touchWith the long-lasting battery, which allows up to 6 hours of talk time, you can talk wirelessly at any time. no matter what the day has to offer.

    Simple and user-friendlyEasily manage your music and calls with the multi-function buttons. You can also connect to two smartphones at the same time thanks to Multi-Point and Multi-Pair. Simply connect and get started.

    Just say it. activate the language assistantOnce you’ve activated voice control with a single keystroke, you can take advantage of the Google or Siri wizard and even control your music.

    Small but fineThe MBH22 Mono Bluetooth headset is so small and lightweight that you won’t even notice it when you’re wearing it. Choose between the black and white versions, both of which perfectly complement the spherical design of the headset.

    • Long lasting battery for up to 6 hours talk time; 200 hours standby time
    • premium design
    • multifunction button
    • Voice control for Google Assistant and Siri
    • USB Type-C cable included


    Product codes

    Photopoint offers free shipping for orders over 69 € delivered to Estonia. Take a look in the tab “Delivery” for a more precise delivery estimate.

    For this product you can select the desired delivery method at the shopping cart:

    Photopoint store Pick-up

    Place your order from Photopoint web store and pick your goods up from one of Photopoint`s brick and mortar stores. The delivery to Photopoint store is free even for orders less than 69 €. You will be noticed by e-mail when your order is ready for pick-up.

    The Photopoint stores are located in Tallinn and Tartu. See the exact locations from here.

    Omniva parcel terminal

    You can order the goods to one of the Omniva Parcel terminals. Choose the desired terminal at the shopping cart. As the shipment arrives to the selected terminal, you will be sent an SMS-notification with an unique code. Go to the terminal within a week, enter the code and take your package. It is as simple as that.

    See Omniva Parcel terminal locations here.

    SmartPOST parcel terminal

    Did not find an Omniva terminal at suitable location? Try SmartPost. Choose the desired terminal at the shopping cart. As the shipment arrives to the selected terminal, you will be sent an SMS-notification with an unique code. Go to the terminal within a week, enter the code and take your package. This method actually works for all parcel terminals.

    See SmartPOST parcel terminal locations here.

    Make sure you check out also the locations of DPD parcel lockers. These are located all over Estonia. The delivery is the same. As the shipment arrives to the selected locker, you will be sent an SMS with a unique code. Go to the locker, enter the code and take your package.

    See DPD parcel locker locations here.

    Smartpost Finland parcel terminal

    SmartPOST Finland is the best way to order goods to Finland. These terminals work the same way as in Estonia. As the shipment arrives to the selected terminal in Finland, you will be sent an SMS-notification with an unique code. Go to the terminal, enter the code and take your package.

    See SmartPOST Finland parcel terminal locations here.

    Matkahuolto parcel service

    Matkahuolto is easy way to order goods to Finland. These are located also in smaller Finnish towns. As the shipment arrives to the selected Matkahuolto outlet, you will be sent an SMS-notification or an e-mail. Go to the outlet, show your ID and take your package.

    See Matkahuolto outlet locations here.

    Omniva courier delivery

    The courier will transport your goods from Photopoint straight to the provided address. The delivery will take place at workdays from 08:00 to 17:00. Hold your phone near you as the courier will call you prior to its arrival. Please make sure there is someone at the destination, eligible to receive the shipment.

    The product is out of stock. For additional availability and preorder information please contact us here.

    Sony MBH20 Bluetooth Headset (Mono) Review

    We have been comparing and reviewing quite a lot of wireless Bluetooth based earphones and headphones lately, all stereo music listening type. But one of our reader asked to suggest a good Mono Bluetooth headset which does its job of calling and conferencing perfectly with a good battery backup. I came across Sony MBH20 and here’s the review. I know this is pretty old product but considering its quality and popularity, this could be your best bet.

    Here’s the specifications and features offered by Sony MBH20

    • Ear clip design
    • 7 hours of talk time (200 hours standby time)
    • Light weight
    • Can be paired with any Bluetooth smartphone or tablet
    • Hands free calling and music playback
    • Bluetooth v3.0

    Sony MBH20 Bluetooth Headset Review

    As you have seen from the specifications it just do exactly what is said. It has an ear clip design which helps it from falling down from your ears even if you are walking, jogging or doing exercise. You can even use to get navigation instructions from your Maps application while driving a car or motorcycle.

    It is made of fiber material and follows a simplistic design format. Sony MBH20 doesn’t have any metal parts anywhere which results in a lightweight product. It is easily portable and can carry easily in your

    There’s a micro USB port on the top which allows you to charge the device, and a button on the sides to turn the device on/off. The headset comes in two colors – black and white. I like the black version personally.

    Comfort in wearing

    When it comes to fitting comfortably in the ears, people have different opinions on this product. As you might have seen from the images given, it doesn’t have a ear plug which actually enters into the ear canal, but an bigger sized bud which covers your entire ear canal. The clip provides certain grip and level of confidence to you while wearing it. For most people there shouldn’t be any problem using this.

    Paring: This is the easiest part. Just tap on the power button and turn on the Bluetooth on the smartphone. If the green light blinks on the device means it is ready for pairing.

    Music quality

    If you want to hear songs all the time – go for a stereo wireless earphones like Chevron Wireless. It is just okay for music listening as you dont get any stereo effect or complete isolation from outside noise as it is a mono headset.

    Call Quality

    But Sony MBH20 is really a beast when it comes to call quality. Every word is crisp and clear if your network doesn’t have any issues.I tested it with Jio 4G VoLTE in India and it is super clear for voice calls. Also, you can simultaneously connect two smartphones to do conference calls.

    The Best Audiophile Headphones for Everyday Use

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    We tested seven new headphone pairs—including models by Grado, HiFiMan, Mackie, and Meze—and added them to the Competition section. We also added long-term test notes for some of our picks.

    If what you seek in a pair of headphones is the best sound possible for serious listening sessions, but you don’t want to drop thousands of dollars, this is the guide for you. We’ve tested hundreds of audiophile headphones and picked our favorites for specific uses. Most of these over-ear headphones forgo features such as Bluetooth and active noise cancellation, and just FOCUS on delivering a great sonic experience.

    How we picked and tested

    Audiophile headphones are designed for the audio fan who values sound quality above features like Bluetooth and noise cancelling.

    We define “everyday” audiophile headphones as pairs that sound great but are priced under 1,000 and do not need a headphone amp.

    We combined subjective listening tests (with multiple panelists) and objective measurements to assess performance.

    These headphones should be built to last for years and be comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.

    For your first audio upgrade

    These comfortable, exciting-sounding headphones are difficult to beat, especially at this price.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 185.

    The Monolith by Monoprice M565C headphones are perfect for the music connoisseur who wants better performance than standard cans offer but not something so expensive or delicate that you might be afraid to take them with you to work or school. These headphones have an exciting, detailed sound, beating out pairs that cost hundreds more. Suitable for any genre of music, the planar-magnetic drivers are housed in isolating closed-back earcups that let you block out distractions and FOCUS on enjoying your playlist. These headphones have a sturdy, comfortable build, but because of their bulk they aren’t the most portable or subtle-looking. The cable lacks a remote and microphone (so you won’t be able to make phone calls), but it is replaceable, and Monoprice’s five-year warranty is about the longest for any headphones we’ve seen.

    For recording sessions and music students

    The Sony MDR-7506, a longtime favorite of audio professionals, offers more reliability, more comfort, and better sound than many headphones twice its price.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 90.

    The Sony MDR-7506 has been a studio staple since its introduction in 1991, and for good reason: Not only does this pair of headphones provide accurate-sounding bass, mids, and treble, but it also gives you a better sense of the depth and dynamics of your music than many headphones twice its price. Plus, this set is durable, comfortable, and reliable—our pair is eight-plus years old, and all we’ve had to replace is the earpads. If you’re looking for something to monitor your Band while you’re recording and editing your project, the MDR-7506 is a fantastic and affordable choice.

    For a serious step up in sound quality

    If you want the absolute best-sounding sealed over-ear headphones under 2,000, get this pair.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 899.

    If price isn’t as much of a factor in your decision, the best closed-back (or sealed) headphones we’ve heard that don’t cost a few thousand dollars are the Aeon Flow 2 Closed headphones from Dan Clark Audio (formerly MrSpeakers). Expertly tuned, the Aeon Flow 2 pair offers a fantastic sense of space and detail. Even if you were to spend several thousand dollars more, you’d get very little extra for your money. Not only do these headphones sound great, but they are also comfortable and remarkably lightweight for full-size planar-magnetic headphones. You don’t get a remote or mic, just wonderful sound quality covered by a two-year warranty.

    If you prefer open-back headphones

    Offering perhaps the most spacious and detailed music reproduction you can get for less than 500, the HE400i represents an affordable way to get true audiophile-grade sound.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 204.

    For a serious music lover who wants great sound for home listening and wants to spend less than 500, we recommend the HiFiMan HE400i. The earcups are open-backed, meaning they’re vented and don’t seal in (or seal out) soundwaves—and you don’t have to be an audiophile to hear the difference in sound quality that this design produces. The HE400i’s sound is far more detailed than that of conventional, sealed headphones; you’re likely to notice subtleties such as a flautist’s breaths, the dash of a drummer’s brush against a cymbal, and an acoustic guitarist’s fingers sliding along the fingerboard. You’ll hear none of the pumped-up bass many headphones produce, either. The only downsides are that the HE400i won’t play super loud when connected to most Android phones (although we think it’s loud enough), and because of the open-back design, sound leaks both in and out of these headphones—so you’ll be bothered by noise around you, and you’ll bother the person sitting next to you.

    For your first audio upgrade

    These comfortable, exciting-sounding headphones are difficult to beat, especially at this price.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 185.

    For recording sessions and music students

    The Sony MDR-7506, a longtime favorite of audio professionals, offers more reliability, more comfort, and better sound than many headphones twice its price.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 90.

    For a serious step up in sound quality

    If you want the absolute best-sounding sealed over-ear headphones under 2,000, get this pair.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 899.

    If you prefer open-back headphones

    Offering perhaps the most spacious and detailed music reproduction you can get for less than 500, the HE400i represents an affordable way to get true audiophile-grade sound.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 204.

    Why you should trust us

    Senior staff writer and headphone editor Lauren Dragan holds a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, and has tested more than 1,000 pairs of headphones while working for Wirecutter. In addition to reviewing gear for AV magazines, she has been in and out of top recording studios for over a decade, first as a radio producer/on-air talent and then as a professional voice actor. Her articles have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and Time, as well as on Good Morning America, the BBC World Service, and NBC Nightly News.

    Senior staff writer Brent Butterworth has been reviewing audio gear professionally since 1990. He previously worked as an editor or writer for Sound Vision,, Home Theater Magazine, and numerous other publications. Brent is one of the extremely small number of audio journalists (maybe two or three total) who own laboratory-grade headphone test equipment, which he used for part of our testing here.

    Whenever possible, we also engage the ears of experts—including audio reviewers, musicians, and composers—to participate in our listening tests. During our most recent round of tests, we brought some of our top picks into the Wirecutter office to get feedback from our staff.

    What are audiophile headphones

    Audiophile headphones are designed for the audio fan who values sound quality above all else. Maybe you’re a budding musician looking to monitor tracks in a session, or a lifelong music connoisseur who longs to get the most out of an audio collection. In this case, you want the purchase price of your headphones to go toward the audio and build quality, not features like Bluetooth, active noise cancellation, or water/sweat resistance.

    But even among audiophiles, one size does not fit all. Different listening activities require different headphone attributes. The first choice you’ll need to make is between open-back and closed-back designs. The difference between open-back and closed-back headphones is all in the earcups. Open-back headphones have mesh or vented ear cups that allow air and sound to pass in (and out) of the headphones. Closed-back headphones have the traditional solid-walled ear cups that most people are familiar with—they block out external sound and prevent what you’re listening to from leaking out. Someone looking to enjoy their vinyl collection at home may appreciate a larger headphone set with an open-back design, while a commuter may prefer a more portable, sound-isolating, closed-back pair.

    One sound profile doesn’t fit all, either. Musicians are likely to prefer a more neutral-sounding profile for monitoring, whereas someone looking to kick back between meetings at work with some hip-hop might appreciate a little more oomph in the low end. Although you can find a lot of great headphones out there, we endeavored to select, out of the hundreds of cans we’ve tested, options that best fit specific uses.

    This guide primarily focuses on wired, over-ear headphones, but we will consider a pair of Bluetooth headphones that distinguishes itself from the pack with exceptional sound quality. There was a time when you couldn’t get decent sound from wireless headphones, but that’s not the case anymore. Wireless audiophile headphones do exist; however, you’ll usually pay more to obtain the same sound quality you can get from a great pair of wired headphones. In addition to being more cost effective, wired headphones generally last longer than wireless pairs since you don’t have to be concerned about batteries dying over time. If you’re only interested in wireless headphones, we’ve got a different guide for that.

    The Best Bluetooth Wireless Headphones

    The Jabra Elite 85h Bluetooth headphones sound great, and they’re a pleasure to wear and use, which is why they are our top pick.

    You can add wireless capability to a favorite pair of wired headphones using a basic Bluetooth headphone adapter. Perhaps an even better choice for the audiophile is the also-great pick in our best portable headphone amp with DAC, which has Bluetooth to stream various high-resolution audio codecs as well as effectively power tougher-to-drive audiophile headphones.

    If you prefer in-ear headphones, we have a guide to earbuds too, but due to their smaller drivers, they struggle to produce the same sense of space that over-ear headphones offer, and you often pay more to achieve similar levels of detail.

    The Best Wired Earbuds

    The FiiO FD3 Pro is our favorite pair of wired earbuds under 200 because it offers excellent sound and build quality, plus a ton of helpful accessories.

    With audiophile headphones, once you get into the higher price ranges (above 300), the difference in sound is typically a matter of preference, not quality. How much do you want to spend? Although there is a distinct jump in sound quality between our budget studio pick and our upgrade audiophile pick, spending more may not be practical. If your headphones are at risk of a guitarist spilling beer on them, for instance, you probably don’t want to spend more than 100. And if you know you won’t go into public wearing large headphones, yet you spend most of your time listening to music on the train, it’s silly to waste money on headphones you’ll almost never use. So think about your lifestyle before getting seduced by the price tag: Why splurge on a 30 truffle-laden potato mousse when you’re totally happy with 3 french fries?

    How we picked and tested

    For this guide, we focused on models we thought of as “everyday” audiophile headphones: sets that were great sounding but still fairly affordable (under 1,000) and suitable for listening at home or at work while plugged into your smartphone, tablet, computer, or sound system. That meant the headphones had to sound good when powered by a mobile device alone, whereas many higher-end audiophile headphones require a separate headphone amplifier. We still tested the contenders with headphone amps because if you’re spending this kind of money on headphones, you’d probably like to know how they’ll sound if you do decide to get an amp. In most cases, the tested headphones sounded only slightly better and louder with an amp—the exception being our step-up pick, the Aeon Flow 2, which sounded great without an amp but even better with the help of one.

    First we narrowed down our selections by researching. professional reviews, and audiophile fan communities, as well as looking through reader suggestions. From there, we thought about what aspects of headphones would be most beneficial across the board, regardless of use. With all our picks, we looked for the following:

    • Detailed, clear, perceptually accurate sound: No frequency range (highs, mids, lows) overpowers another, instruments sound like they do in real life, and there is a sense of instrument placement in a three-dimensional space, rather than a flat wall of sound.
    • Comfortable fit: The headphones are adjustable to fit a wide range of head and ear types. In addition, they are not massively large, heavy, or fatiguing, and they don’t have too much clamping force squeezing your head.
    • Sturdy build quality: Are the headphones built to last over several years of reasonably careful use without falling apart or failing? Replaceable parts (such as cables and earpads) are important factors to consider here.
    • Responsive customer support and warranty: In case anything goes wrong, you want someone who will answer the call and resolve your problem quickly.
    • Value for the price: If any given headphone model costs significantly more, we look for that price to be justified with a substantial increase in overall quality.

    Since these headphones are primarily designed for sitting and actively listening, we did not make portability a top priority. The ability to fold up the headphones and the inclusion of a remote and microphone on the cable were not mandatory features. Although we appreciated compact, well-made carrying cases, we also allowed for larger cases within reason. As long as we could still fit the case in a backpack, we kept the headphones in the running. And since ¼-inch headphone adapters (which are often necessary for use with a receiver’s headphone jack) are relatively affordable, we didn’t dock points if a company didn’t include one, though we did consider the presence of an adapter to be a plus.

    We tested using an iPhone, an Android phone, a Denon receiver, and a MacBook Pro, in addition to an Oppo HA-2 headphone amp, to see if sound-quality results varied.

    For our listening tests, participants usually selected their own music, with which they were intimately familiar and therefore could help them better judge what each pair of headphones brought to the table. Each panelist listened to all of the headphones back-to-back to get a sense of their sound, build quality, comfort, and features as compared with each other. We find that back-to-back listening of multiple headphones by multiple people provides the most effective comparisons. You can read more about our audio testing process in this story.

    At the end of our tests, Brent measured each pick, which allowed us to see how the headphones’ measured performance compared with our real-world impressions (see the Measurements section for results).

    For your first audio upgrade: Monolith by Monoprice M565C

    For your first audio upgrade

    These comfortable, exciting-sounding headphones are difficult to beat, especially at this price.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 185.

    Who it’s for: These headphones are for the person who is ready to upgrade to their first pair of audiophile headphones but not ready to break the bank. Such a person has owned less-expensive, average-sounding headphones, and they’re sick of spending money on feature-rich, overpriced tech that makes their favorite songs sound lackluster. They want to sit back and enjoy their music, undisturbed by their surroundings.

    Why it’s great: The Monolith by Monoprice M565C headphones are a joy to listen to. All of our panelists agreed that this set sounded as good as (or better than) pairs costing twice the price. In our tests, the sound was boosted in both the high and low frequencies more than is technically considered neutral, but the effect resulted in clear highs supported by a foundation of deep, rich lows. A lot of similarly tuned headphones muddy the lows or make highs so jagged as to become painful. But the M565C avoided piercing, sizzling, or blurred sound. This tuning also lends itself to a larger sonic depth of field than you might expect at this price, a result that we found especially noticeable in concert-performed classical music and other live-recorded music.

    The M565C features planar-magnetic drivers, which use a thin sheet of plastic film embedded with wire in place of the dynamic drivers in most headphones. Because planar-magnetic drivers reproduce sound using an extremely thin sheet of film rather than the thicker plastic diaphragms of conventional headphone drivers, they tend to do a better job of reproducing the little details that often go missing with conventional headphones but are readily apparent in live performances. Planar-magnetic drivers respond to notes quickly and don’t resonate too long, so midrange instruments such as bass guitar or the lower end of the piano keyboard don’t muddy together even when playing a Rapid succession of notes. That said, in our tests the middle range was a little lower in the mix through the M565C than through headphones that were tuned to be flatter in their frequency response. The French horn in Holst’s “Venus,” for example, could sound a bit more subdued.

    These headphones are very comfortable to wear, even for long listening sessions. Despite this pair’s somewhat heavy 13.7-ounce build, the metal frame and floating headband keep the weight well distributed. The padding on the leatherette headband and earpads is remarkably soft. The earpads’ foam conforms easily to any face shape, which (in addition to being extra comfy) helps this closed-back pair better isolate your ears from external noises. Glasses wearers will find these pads to be more amenable to smushing over frame arms than those of most other over-ear headphones.

    Though Monoprice recommends 1 watt of power to drive the M565C headphones, their low 20 ohms of impedance means you can reasonably drive them with a laptop or mobile device. If you have an older phone or prefer to use a portable DAC/amp, we have a guide to assist you. That said, you don’t absolutely need special equipment to enjoy listening to these headphones. The fabric-wrapped replaceable cable has a ⅛-inch (3.5 mm) jack, and a ¼-inch adapter is included.

    In addition to feeling substantial, the Monolith M565C headphones come with a five-year warranty. Five years is the longest warranty we are aware of for headphones, with most companies offering only a year or two. You can feel secure in knowing that if something goes wrong your gear will be guaranteed for years to come.

    Flaws but not dealbreakers: For people who prefer to keep a lower profile when listening, these headphones may not be ideal. Their look clearly says “not now, I’m busy.” That said, audiophile headphones are designed for sitting and actively listening, and we think the person who’s looking for this headphone type will happily make concessions for size.

    The M565C headphones are far from being easily portable. They don’t fold up like some other headphones we tested, and their protective hard-sided storage case is the largest in the group—but at least it has a handle and does a great job of protecting your cans from dust, drops, and impacts. Think of it this way: If earbuds are your carry-on item, these headphones are a steamer trunk. Yes, you could lug that case with you on the go, but are you sure you want to?

    As for the sound, in our tests the M565C didn’t deliver quite as much presence in the mids as we’d like from the ideal headphones, and some of our panelists would have preferred a little extra sparkle on the highs. But to get that level of sound, we would have had to pick headphones that were far more expensive, and the performance difference was slight enough that we were willing to give the M565C a pass in this regard.

    Lastly, the cable transfers some noise into the headphones if you move around a lot or wear a scratchy sweater. And unlike some other headphones in this category, the M565C set doesn’t come with a cable that has a remote and mic option for mobile use.

    How the M565C has held up: As with all over-ear headphones, the earpads on the M565C have degraded over time. They’re replaceable, but Monoprice has stopped selling the original pads. Fortunately, we were able to find a suitable alternative: This Brainwavz set works great, but the earpad is designed to slip over the earcup like a fitted sheet to stay in place. Monoprice uses Velcro to attach its earpads, so we had to do a bit of modification. We purchased thin, flexible, self-adhesive fabric Velcro, cut the strip into little squares, affixed the squares to the replacement cups, and voila—good as new. Just be sure to use enough Velcro squares to ensure a uniform seal around the earcup.

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    As with all over-ear headphones, the M565C’s earpads will degrade over time, and will need to be replaced. Here, Wirecutter staff writer Ellen Airhart documents how her pair’s earpads started to fall apart. Photo: Ellen Airhart

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    Monoprice no longer sells replacement versions of its earpads (right), but we picked up a matching set from Brainwavz (left) and added our own Velcro. Photo: Ellen Airhart

    best, noise, canceling, headphones, mono, bluetooth

    As with all over-ear headphones, the M565C’s earpads will degrade over time, and will need to be replaced. Here, Wirecutter staff writer Ellen Airhart documents how her pair’s earpads started to fall apart. Photo: Ellen Airhart

    For recording sessions and music students: Sony MDR-7506

    For recording sessions and music students

    The Sony MDR-7506, a longtime favorite of audio professionals, offers more reliability, more comfort, and better sound than many headphones twice its price.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 90.

    Who it’s for: This inexpensive yet highly neutral pair of headphones is perfect for music/recording/film students, performers doing session work, podcasters, videographers who need to monitor sound, and folks building up their sound booth—or, really, anyone who wants great-sounding headphones for less than 100.

    Why it’s great: We’ve been recommending the Sony MDR-7506 for over six years. Every audio professional we’ve interviewed speaks highly of these headphones. Nearly every recording studio and radio station has a pair attached to the mixing board or sitting in the recording booth. Start paying attention to live film crews working on news programs or reality shows, and you’ll see the MDR-7506 a lot. (Or maybe you shouldn’t. You might pick up the weird headphone-spotting habit that drives Lauren’s friends crazy.)

    Why the love? Because the MDR-7506 headphones sound fantastic, especially when you factor in the price. In our tests, they offered great tonal balance—with accurate-sounding, evenly balanced bass, mids, and treble—and reproduced nuances in music in a manner unmatched by other headphones in their price range. As one panelist put it, they’re “just great reference headphones” that handle dialogue, music, and sound effects equally well.

    The MDR-7506 model has been around forever, and these headphones might last forever. Seriously. They have great build quality, replaceable earcups (eventually the vinyl on the pads can deteriorate; this started to happen on our pair after five years, but a new set of compatible pads is a fraction of the cost of a new pair of headphones), and a one-year warranty on parts. Some reviewers on Head-Fi and Amazon mention having pairs over 10 years old that are still going strong. The long, coiled cord has some give, should you walk a little too far away from your device, and it’s tough, too—we’ve seen DJs roll over the cord with desk chairs and people drop the headphones on the floor with no ill effects.

    They isolate noise rather well: We measured an average of 9 dB in reduction in the human-hearing range from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which means you’ll not only be able to shut out the outside world when you’re listening but also keep your monitor audio from bleeding into your recordings. These headphones fold over for easy travel and storage, too. And since they come with a ¼-inch adapter and a travel pouch, you can easily move them from your iPhone to your home theater setup to your gaming rig to a mixing board.

    Although the MDR-7506 pair is tough, it’s also notably comfortable. All our reviewers commented on the fit being good. Fit can make all the difference as to whether you actually use a pair of headphones regularly, so to have everyone be relatively happy with the comfort of a particular set is a big deal.

    The MDR-7506 typically sells on Amazon for about 80, yet this pair outperforms headphones that cost 50 to 75 more. It’s a fantastic buy that will leave you feeling confident about your purchase.

    Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although we love just about everything about the Sony MDR-7506, we would prefer that the cable be removable and replaceable. While the coiled cable is practical in an office or studio environment, being able to swap it out in the event of snags or for a shorter cord would be nice.

    The MDR-7506 won’t win any beauty contests. Available in the same color options as a Ford Model T (black and black), the MDR-7506 has a utilitarian look that, while perfectly practical for audio professionals, doesn’t incite design lust in the fashion-minded. That said, many headphones that look twice as fancy also cost twice as much—and sound half as good.

    How the MDR-7506 has held up: Lauren’s pair is well over a decade old, and it is still working well. She needed to replace the earpads two times over the years (your rate may vary depending on your climate, skin products, and how frequently you clean your headphones), but beyond that the headphones are still in great shape. Because we use these as reference headphones in many tests, we bought replacement earpads made by Sony, but you can also find replacement pads from companies like Wicked, Brainwavz, Dekoni, and Auray.

    For a serious step up in sound quality: Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow 2 Closed

    For a serious step up in sound quality

    If you want the absolute best-sounding sealed over-ear headphones under 2,000, get this pair.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 899.

    Who it’s for: If you consider yourself a dedicated audiophile in pursuit of the best sound possible, but you aren’t quite able to justify spending several thousand dollars on headphones, look no further than the Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow 2 Closed (the company also sells an open-back version for the same price).

    Why it’s great: The Aeon Flow 2 Closed headphones are hands-down the best-sounding closed-back headphones under 2,000. Spending over 2,000 might get you somewhat better detail or space, but dollar for dollar you’d receive diminishing returns. The Aeon Flow 2 is just that good.

    The Aeon Flow 2 is an updated version of our former pick, the original Aeon Flow Closed. These headphones are as even and natural-sounding as we’ve ever heard in a sealed-earcup design. In our tests, the highs were detailed and lively but not piercing, and we didn’t notice any sibilance. To our ears, there did seem to be a little dip and then spike around 3 kHz, and then another spike between 8 and 10 kHz, but it was mild.

    Dan Clark Audio includes several dampening pads that can adjust the sound profile somewhat, so you may want to experiment to find your favorite; with and without them, the Aeon Flow 2 sounded fabulous to our panelists. Generally, in our tests the syllables on soprano vocals popped slightly more than what is natural, but some people may perceive that as detail. Midrange frequencies were never hidden and never overwhelmed by the present but well-controlled low end. Kick drums didn’t woof, and even hip-hop bass lines didn’t blur everything else in the mix. You can listen at higher volumes without distortion, and every kind of music sounds great. In addition, you can swap out the included earpads with a perforated set that lets in more outside sound but also changes the audio profile.

    If you are looking to optimize your experience, this headphone pair will benefit from a decent headphone amp, becoming richer in dynamics with better control and balance in the lower frequencies. However, if you don’t have an amp handy, the Aeon Flow 2 doesn’t fall apart in use with only a laptop or phone, still sounding better than most anything else you could compare it with at this price.

    Not only do the Aeon Flow 2 Closed headphones sound amazing, but they are fairly lightweight, too. At around 11.5 ounces, they’re about 2 ounces lighter than the original Aeon Flow and the Monolith by Monoprice M565C. The Aeon Flow 2 headphones are comfortable, especially when compared with many higher-end planar-magnetic headphones. And they’re durable: The leatherette earpads and fabric-wrapped cable are replaceable, the headband is metal with a replaceable leather strap, and the earcups have actual carbon fiber.

    Despite being on the larger side when worn, the headphones fold up to be surprisingly compact. Dan Clark Audio includes a hard-sided case to protect the headphones from bumps during transport; the case is smaller than that of the M565C but larger than that of most Bluetooth headphones. If anything goes wrong, Dan Clark Audio covers the materials and workmanship on the Aeon Flow 2 for two years.

    Listening to the Aeon Flow 2 was an immersive experience for us. Even for our experts who test, on average, over 200 headphones a year, the Aeon Flow 2 was good enough to make us forget that we were supposed to be analyzing what we were hearing and just get lost in the music. And really, isn’t enjoyment what all this high-end audio fuss is supposed to be about?

    Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Aeon Flow 2 Closed headphones don’t sound as three-dimensional as open-back headphones of equivalent price. A sense of spatial depth is difficult to achieve in closed-back designs. Usually, to create the illusion of depth, headphones are tuned with a somewhat bloated bass and diminished mids, trading accuracy for a more three-dimensional feel. Really, the only way to get that “open” feeling is to, well, buy open-back headphones (see our pick below—and keep in mind that Dan Clark Audio also makes an open-back version of the Aeon Flow 2).

    The Aeon Flow 2 design isn’t subtle. Big and bright red, these headphones definitely are a presence on your noggin. But if amazing sound quality is your aim, you’ll likely find that you don’t care what they look like.

    How the Aeon Flow 2 Closed has held up: Our test pair is two years old and still in great shape. We haven’t needed to replace the earpads yet, but you can get a set directly from Dan Clark Audio or go with a third party, like these from Dekoni. The one thing that is degrading is the case. The rubberized coating on the outside has broken down over time, and it sheds a good deal. This hasn’t hurt the headphones in any way, but it can make a mess in your bag or briefcase. A new case is available on the Dan Clark Audio site for about the same price as earpads.

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    If you prefer open-back headphones: HiFiMan HE400i

    If you prefer open-back headphones

    Offering perhaps the most spacious and detailed music reproduction you can get for less than 500, the HE400i represents an affordable way to get true audiophile-grade sound.

    Buying Options

    At the time of publishing, the price was 204.

    Who it’s for: If you’re a serious music lover who likes to sit at home for hours listening to music—especially acoustic music such as classical, jazz, or folk—a set of open-back (unsealed) over-ear headphones is a great investment. Many headphones that are priced higher than 500, as well as almost all of the models that audiophiles praise highly, are open-back designs.

    However, open-back headphones probably shouldn’t be an average listener’s first choice, as the design isn’t practical for many situations. Because the earcups are unsealed, sounds can get in and out. Use open-back headphones on an airplane or subway, and you’ll get near-zero relief from the noise. Those around you can hear your audio, too, so you probably wouldn’t want to use these headphones in bed while your significant other is trying to sleep. And you definitely can’t use them when you’re recording in front of a mic, as you’ll be at risk of feedback or hearing the backing track in your recording. Open-back headphones almost always produce less bass than closed-back models, and almost none of them include a cable with an in-line microphone or remote.

    Why it’s great: For people who have never tried a good set of open-back headphones, hearing the HiFiMan HE400i may come as a shock. Its sound is far more detailed and spacious than that of a conventional, closed-back set of headphones, so the result sounds much more like you’re at a live performance. Even though our panelists’ tastes in sound vary, we all picked the HE400i as the best-sounding model among all the under-500 headphones we heard.

    Like most of HiFiMan’s over-ear models, the HE400i headphones use planar-magnetic drivers, which we obviously like—our pick for a first audiophile headphone, the Monolith by Monoprice M565C, and our higher-end pick, the Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow 2 Closed, also use planar drivers.

    Our panelists thought that the HE400i delivered the best overall performance and the most natural sound of all the open-back models we tested. The HE400i’s bass output, relative to the treble and midrange, was about on a par with that of most open-back headphones. Fans of jazz, classical, and light pop will probably like the tonal balance because it’s free of the annoying boominess that many closed-back headphones produce, but bass lovers will likely find these headphones to be lacking.

    The HE400i is comfortable to wear for hours. The earpads are moderately firm yet still comfortable because the parts that contact your skin are covered in soft velour, and the earpads are large enough to distribute the clamping force of the headband evenly around your ears. At 370 grams (about the weight of a can of La Croix sparkling water), this isn’t the lightest pair of audiophile headphones we’ve encountered, but it certainly doesn’t present the neck-straining weight of some high-end audiophile designs.

    Though the HE400i isn’t well suited for mobile applications, one nice feature is that its earpieces fold flat, making the headphones easy to slip into a suitcase between a couple of shirts. The original HE400i came with a detachable cable that used a fussy threaded connection to the earpieces, but later models use 2.5 mm stereo plugs that are much easier to connect.

    We tested the HE400i with HiFiMan’s stock earpads, which are covered in velour on the front and leather on the sides. The company also sells optional earpads covered entirely in leather or velour. Experiment with these if you like, but be aware that they will change the sound of the headphones. Our measurements show that the leather option will add peaks around 50 Hz and 1 kHz and a few little spikes in the 5 to 10 kHz range, and that the velour will roll off the low end a bit compared with the stock and leather sound profiles.

    Flaws but not dealbreakers: Open-back headphones aren’t as versatile as closed-back headphones. You can use them with a smartphone, but because they let outside sounds through to your ears, they’re basically useless on an airplane, bus, or subway. Other people can hear what you’re listening to fairly easily. These headphones are also much bulkier than most listeners probably prefer, either for traveling or just for basic comfort.

    The bass from the HE400i is understated compared with what you hear from almost any closed-back headphones. The HE400i also has a bit of treble emphasis, so cymbals might seem a little too loud, but this effect is typical of headphones voiced for audio enthusiasts. It’s a notably different sound from what you hear on most headphones; whether you like it is entirely up to you.

    The HE400i also has a lower sensitivity (the amount of power the headphones need to play at a certain volume), so it won’t play as loud from the same source device (such as a tablet, a smartphone, or a headphone amp) as most headphones will. This might be a plus, though. In our tests, even with a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone, which offers less maximum volume than the headphone dongle included with the Apple iPhone 8, the HE400i generally played at a satisfyingly loud volume yet didn’t play loud enough to hurt our ears. Although you may find that the HE400i benefits somewhat from the use of a dedicated headphone amp, using one isn’t necessary.

    The HE400i comes in a nice presentation case, but that’s not much help if you want to take this pair somewhere. Fortunately, third-party headphone cases are readily available on Amazon.


    Measurements aren’t the last word in what makes good-sounding headphones, but they are one piece of the puzzle, combined with expert panel-testing data that can give you a fuller picture of what headphones sound like. In an effort to visualize what we were hearing, Brent measured the frequency response of our picks. He used a GRAS Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator with a KB5000 simulated pinna, in conjunction with an Audiomatica Clio 10 FW audio analyzer and TrueRTA software, to obtain his analysis.

    Brent first level-matched each pair of headphones at 500 Hz and then used the Clio software to send tones through the headphones and the GRAS simulator to measure how evenly each pair of headphones reproduced each range of audio, from the lowest bass to the midrange to the highest treble. With speakers, frequency response should be essentially flat, with every frequency of sound reproduced at the same level. With headphones, it’s more complicated (and a bit controversial), but the so-called Harman curve (derived by researchers at audio company Harman International) comes the closest to an agreed-upon “correct” response for headphones—so we’ve made that our target response in the chart below.

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    Other good audiophile headphones

    If you’re looking for mixing headphones that are a step up from the Sony MDR-7506: The AKG K371 is worth considering. They’re pretty neutral and have a particularly clear midrange. We actually found this model’s overall sound quality to be more natural-sounding, with more spatial sense, than that of the MDR-7506. But typically it’s nearly twice the price of the Sony pair, and people with smaller heads may find that the elongated earcups sit below the jawline and let sound out. That said, if you are looking for a really neutral sound, the K371 is fantastic. Brent details his evaluation on SoundStage, if you’d like to read more.

    If you want open-back sound with more bass presence than the HiFi Man HE400i: The Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X is an excellent choice. Though this pair has greater emphasis in the mids than we’d want for mixing headphones—that is to say, brass sections and female vocals sound noticeably forward—for pure enjoyment the 900 Pro X is very appealing. In contrast to many open-back models, the bass response suits hip-hop and electronic music, providing low-end foundational oomph without muddying or smearing. The highs are equally as deft, with the sparkle and sense of space that open-back headphones are known for. In addition, the 900 Pro X has soft memory-foam earpads covered in plush fuzzy fabric that practically cuddles your face. The decision between this pair and the HE400i is ultimately a matter of preference.

    If you’re looking for excellent-sounding headphones that work both wired and wirelessly: The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 is one of the best-sounding pairs of headphones we’ve ever tested under 500. This pair is an Also Great pick for audio lovers in our guide to Bluetooth headphones, and although this guide focuses primarily on wired headphones, we liked the S3’s sound so much we thought it merited inclusion here. This portable pair uses planar-magnetic drivers that are capable of reproducing delicate detail in addition to powerful bass notes. The S3 sounds amazing both wirelessly and wired, largely due to the built-in amplifier that provides consistent driving power. The package includes two types of earpads (isolating pleather and cooling, breathable mesh) to ensure extended listening comfort, and the EQ presets in the Edifier app allow you to tune the sound to suit each type of earpad. Though this pair has to be powered on to work, the 80-hour battery life means you won’t need to charge frequently, and the quick-charge feature gets you 11 hours of playback after 10 minutes plugged in. The built-in microphones sound clear, even in a light breeze, and the dual-device connectivity works well for easy transition between phone and laptop use.

    If you prefer a studio set with a detachable cable: The Fostex T50RPmk3 and T20RPmk3 are based on a design that dates back to the late 1980s, and both are worthy of recommendation. The T50RPmk3 headphones have a semi-open-back design, yet they still offer that classic open-back sound, which is particularly spacious but lacking most of the bass. The T20RPmk3 cans have a more traditional open-back design but seem to sacrifice some of that spaciousness to produce more bass. Although Fostex promotes them as pro models, they work well for music listening at home. Both are sensitive enough to deliver plenty of volume from a smartphone, and both are extremely comfortable. The design of Fostex’s detachable cable sometimes requires a little wiggling for you to get a good connection on the headphone end, but otherwise we think these headphones represent one of the best ways to get audiophile-grade sound for a very low price.

    If you have a very limited budget: The Koss SportaPro on-ear headphones is light and cheap, and it sounds better than you might expect for the low, low price. Yes, these headphones have 1980s-style foam earpads. Yes, they have a plastic chassis and a thin metal headband that might catch on your hair. And no, they don’t come with an in-line remote or microphone. What they do have is a nice, natural-sounding midrange that sounds great with most music genres. And they come with a carrying pouch.

    If you need a pair with a remote and microphone: The Master Dynamic MH40 may be a good fit for you, since Master Dynamic sells optional cables with a remote and mic. The MH40 over-ear headphones have a fun sound that isn’t completely natural. In our tests, this pair had a slight bump in the very high highs that lent an icy, metallic tinge to the treble, plus a moderate bass boost that could sound heavy-handed on already bass-forward tracks. Consonants stood out a little more than we expected, and we noticed that kick drum and synth bassline were more forward in the mix. It was this mildly colored sound that caused the MH40 pair to just miss the top spots. Overall, these headphones are comfortable, they sound great, and they’re undeniably cool and beautiful.

    The competition

    We’ve tested over 200 headphones for this guide and considered well over a hundred more, so we can’t include everything here. If you have questions about a specific model, please reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to share our thoughts. There are a lot of good headphones in this category; several headphones listed here were edged out based on one of the criteria we listed in our How we picked and tested section.

    AKG K240 Studio: This is a professional model with a design that dates back to the 1970s. In our tests it had a strong lower-treble boost and not much bass, and it seemed to be voiced to highlight the flaws in a mix so they’re easier for engineers to hear. Although it’s nicely made for its under-100 price and has a cool retro vibe, it’s not much fun for casual music listening.

    Audeze LCD-1: This open-back model sounds lovely in the mids and highs, with acoustic guitar and strings being particularly well reproduced. However, the lows are lacking, even for open-back headphones, so upright and electric bass, electronic beats, and deeper brass instruments feel unsupported. Additionally, when we tried to adjust the volume using a DAC with a bass-boost option, some distortion crept in, so it’s clear this pair was intentionally tuned for those who like a rolled-off low end.

    Audeze LCD-2 Closed Back: Audeze tuned the closed-back LCD-2 to match the original open-back version. To our ears, Audeze added too great a high-frequency spike in this pair’s signature sound. Hi-hat, syllables, snare hits, and string noise were especially loud, which could be fatiguing to people sensitive to very high pitches. This is a matter of preference, though.

    Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X: This pair (this version and the previous, non-X version) has been a favorite of Brent’s for years due to its great comfort, spacious sound, and affordable price. Sadly, its treble-heavy, bass-light sound didn’t impress our other panelists as much, and Lauren thought the winged headband that’s supposed to keep the headphones from drooping didn’t do its job.

    Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: Thanks to its clear, crisp, and articulate high end, its rich bass, and its detachable, replaceable cable, the ATH-M40x earned strong praise from our panelists. However, for three out of four panelists, a few extra decibels in the high end (hi-hat, snare, and female vocals were too loud for our ears) kept the ATH-M40x from being our pick for studio use. But if you can’t get the Sony MDR-7506 or if you prefer extra intensity in the higher frequencies, you’ll be very happy with this Audio-Technica set.

    Audio-Technica ATH-M50x: Revamped to include a detachable cable, this cult favorite has ranked among the top reviewed headphones for a long time. However, when we compared it directly with our other picks, the ATH-M50x was relatively lacking in sound and build quality. We found the high end to be tizzy and buzzy, and strings and high notes sounded tinny. We also found the bass to be painfully woofy in comparison with the mids.

    Audio-Technica ATH-M70x: Our panel found that this model had less presence in the lower mids than we’d prefer, with a somewhat lispy quality to the high frequencies. As a result, the M70x headphones had an artificiality to their sound that caused them to lose out to other options.

    Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7: The MSR7 headphones have an extra boost in the higher-end frequencies that, though a bit too forward for our panel, is often perceived as extra detail. This pair also has an added bass boost in an effort to balance out that high end; with certain kinds of music (hip-hop, most notably) it can start to feel like the bassline is a little too intrusive.

    Austrian Audio Hi-X65: Austrian Audio markets the open-backed Hi-X65 as a mix-monitoring pair of headphones for professionals, but our panel thought the sound was brighter than we’d like for that application. We agreed that the Hi-X65 creates an excellent sense of space, but we heard an icy edge on strings and more emphasis on consonants, which could lead to a final mix that’s duller than intended. Though the Hi-X65 is acceptable for general track placement and emergency editing on the road, we’d say whenever possible to use actual monitor speakers for the final mix.

    Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro: While half of our panel liked the sound of this set, its lack of power when used with an iPhone put it out of recommendation range (this model is intended for home or studio use with an amplifier). For Lauren, the bass was painfully loud, and the earcups were so big on her small face that she found them uncomfortable to wear for any length of time.

    Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X: There is a lot to like about this closed-back pair. The earcups are plush, and the fit is comfortable, despite a snug headband. Designed for studio recording and monitoring, the 700 Pro X has 48 ohms of impedance, which means you don’t need to use a headphone amp for it to sound great but it wouldn’t hurt. Overall, our panelists really enjoyed listening to this pair. The bass frequencies are present but refined, and the highs crisp and clear. However, we noticed a slight push in the upper mids that overemphasizes female vocals and leaves male vocals sounding as though they lack some richness. It’s minor, but it also means the 700 Pro X can’t quite attain the airy delicacy of the open-back HE400i or the more pricey Mr Speakers Aeon Flow 2. Though the sound of the Pro X is somewhat more balanced than the Monoprice M565C, this pair also costs around 100 more. For studio work, we preferred both the balance and price of the AKG K371. The 700 Pro X is an excellent set of headphones, but at a mid-range price of 300, we’d want a more significant step up in sound to justify the cost.

    Beyerdynamic DT 990 (32-ohm): This set is widely regarded as one of the better options under 300, and we don’t disagree—we just don’t think it’s one of the best. For us, these headphones’ emphasis on the treble held them back, something that every one of our panelists commented on. We found the same to be true of the 250-ohm and 600-ohm versions, which in our opinion didn’t improve on the sound of the standard, 32-ohm version.

    Blue Lola: Great sound, weird fit. In our tests, the Lola headphones had a little less sense of space than the original Blue headphones, the Mo-Fi, but still sounded very balanced and clear. We love how they sound. Unfortunately, the weight of the earcups makes them gradually sink lower and lower on the ears, and they just aren’t comfortable for long listening sessions. If Blue were to scrap the design and keep the sound, it would possibly have a winner.

    Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT Closed: Though this 500 pair is an upgrade from the Monoprice M565C in terms of detail and sense of space, it didn’t make it into our top picks because our panel wasn’t quite as in love with them as we’d hoped to be. We felt that there was a bit of a sibilant push to the high frequencies that could be fatiguing, and a little too much emphasis in the lower mids. Even when we swapped out the included filter pads, we never quite found the sonic sweet spot we were looking for. To be clear, the Flow RT Closed is a great pair of headphones, but it doesn’t sound as balanced, nuanced, or spacious as the Flow 2. We all felt that, if we purchased the RT, we’d still be longing to upgrade to the Flow 2 one day—whereas we all agreed if we owned the Flow 2, we wouldn’t feel the need to upgrade any further.

    Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT Open: Dan Clark Audio really dominates in the closed-back headphones space, but there is a lot more competition in the open-back headphone arena. Though we’re splitting hairs, we felt that the RT Open didn’t have the airiness or openness that we’ve heard in other open-back headphones in this price range. It sounds like there’s a spike around 8 kHz that gives an iciness or metallic quality to the detail on strings and cymbals. Because the RT Open costs a lot more than the HiFiMan HE400i, this pair isn’t in the top picks, but they’re still solid headphones if you prefer the collapsible design.

    Grado RS2x: This pair needs more power to play at louder levels, so a portable headphone amp that comes in under 180 mW at 32 ohms may not be enough––you’ll need something like the iFi HipDac2. Even when it’s receiving enough juice to move the drivers, this pair is significantly lacking in bass response. To hear a bassline, you’ll need to crank the volume up to a level that makes the highs uncomfortably loud.

    HiFiMan DEVA: This massive pair of headphones comes with a detachable Bluetooth dongle to transform the DEVA into a pair of wireless open-back headphones. While we love the freedom of going without a cable, we wish the dongle had volume controls in addition to play and pause. Also, the DEVA’s sound profile has a peak in the high frequencies that is fatiguing, especially when listening at moderate volume.

    HiFiMan Edition XS: The XS in the name is a reference to the fact that this pair is a successor to the HiFiMan Edition X, not an indicator of the headphones’ size. The XS is, in fact, absolutely massive and not suitable to wear out and about. Additionally, these headphones require a higher-powered amp to drive them. Even then, they’re so top-heavy in their audio presentation that lower-frequency vocals are missing the proper resonance.

    HiFiMan HE400se: For 150, the HE400se is an admirable pair of open-back headphones. The highs are tuned in a more traditional “audiophile” style, with extra zip that some folks will love and others might wish could be adjusted down a few dB. However, unlike many open-back designs, this pair has enough bass response to balance out the sound very well. The HE400se can’t match the delicacy of the 400i (also by HiFiMan), but if your budget is lower, the 400se is worth your consideration.

    HiFiMan HE-R9: This massive pair of headphones has more bass representation than most HiFiMan headphones, but there’s a boxy quality to the sound that we weren’t partial to.

    HiFiMan Sundara: Though the highs sound lovely, there is very little bass to speak of in this pair of headphones. Fans of electronic music will especially notice the low-frequency dropoff. It leaves all music that relies on a bassline feeling unsupported.

    KEF M500: We love the sound, the comfortable and attractive design, and the collapsible nature of the M500 headphones. With their on-ear fit, they’re great for glasses wearers or folks who prefer not to have earcups that completely surround their ears. This set was our former pick for the best on-ear headphones, but it’s getting harder to find in stock. If you prefer on-ear headphones and can track this pair down, it’s excellent.

    Koss Pro4S: Comfortable on the head, the Pro4S feels lightweight but sturdy. Unfortunately, the sound failed to blow away our panelists. We thought the mids had a spiked, compressed sound, and we noted some intensity around the 10 kHz area that made snares and cymbals feel piercing.

    Mackie MC-450: This open-back pair is marketed for professional use. While we didn’t dislike the sound, we’d caution against using these as mixing headphones. The highs have a jagged response with a huge spike around 2,400 Hz––if you wear them while mixing, it could leave your project with rolled-off highs. If you’re listening to this pair for enjoyment, the boosts at 2,400 Hz, 5 kHz, and 8–10 kHz give vocals a breathy quality and tend to overemphasize room noise. Additionally, the clamping force is unevenly distributed in each earcup, so the top presses more than the bottom, which could get uncomfortable on larger heads after a long listening session.

    Meze 99 Neo: This pair has a remote and mic on the cable, which could come in handy for office use. We weren’t fans of the headband’s metal arch, which can transfer noise pretty easily if you bump it. That aside, this pair sounds decent but isn’t as balanced as the M565C. There is a boost in the bass that extends into the lower mids, as well as a strident quality to the highs that is likely caused by several peaks and valleys in the upper frequency response. So delicate details in strings and vocals sounded harsh, and resonant instruments like pianos and acoustic guitars had a hollow quality to them.

    Monolith by Monoprice M565: Our panelists thought that the sound of this relatively small planar-magnetic headphone set beat out that of the more expensive M1060, but everyone concluded that the sound of the M565C was clearer and more natural.

    Monolith by Monoprice M1060: This planar-magnetic model closely resembles HiFiMan’s midpriced headphones and has a similar sound, but our panelists thought the M1060’s treble was unnatural, as if it were coming from inside a can.

    Monolith by Monoprice M1060C: First of all—no exaggeration—the case for these things is the size of a bowling bag. It’s massive. These headphones are definitely not made for easy portability. They are also rather heavy and can slide down if you don’t sit absolutely straight. Although they sounded decent in our tests, with just a bit of a reverb quality to the low mids, they weren’t stellar enough to beat our picks.

    Monolith by Monoprice M1070: While we appreciate that the M1070 has more bass response than the average open-back headphones, unfortunately the mids are elevated on this pair, which makes guitars sound forward. This tuning also erodes the sense of space that one expects from open-back designs. For 400, we expect a great deal of delicacy, and we didn’t find that to be the case with the M1070. Worth mentioning is that this pair comes with two pairs of earpads: once pleather, one plush. Sadly, they’re a touch tricky to swap, so you’ll likely need to settle on one pair for long-term use, rather than swapping regularly.

    Philips Fidelio X3: Bass is lacking on this pair, so it feels like the foundation is missing in rock and hip-hop music. As a result, highs sound overhyped and sibilant, and cymbals sound tinny. Usually open-backed headphones sound more spacious, but the lack of low frequencies makes live music sound less open through these headphones.

    Philips SHP-9600: This pair doesn’t sound bad, especially for the price, but it isn’t a standout either. There is a touch of blurriness in the mids, and the build quality feels a bit cheap.

    Pioneer DJ HDJ-CX: The clamping force of this on-ear pair is uncomfortable even on very small heads. We wouldn’t want to DJ a long set while wearing these headphones. If you can endure the squeeze, the sound isn’t bad—but the highs have a slight harshness to them, and it sounds as though frequencies are overly boosted in the 8–10 kHz range.

    Rode NTH-100: We’re torn on whether “cooling earpads” like the ones used on this pair actually feel good or weird, so keep in mind that you may need to spring for a normal pair of earpads if the sensation isn’t for you. Just be sure that the replacements you buy use a quality foam material, as the NTH-100’s chassis is a little heavier and relies on the headband and earcups to distribute the weight comfortably. The sound on this pair is really quite good for the price, though it lacks some upper-bass/lower-midrange presence and sense of space when compared to the Monoprice M565C or AKG K371. The highs also have a touch of harshness and lack of clarity compared with more expensive models. But the NTH-100 is still really enjoyable to listen to.

    Sennheiser HD 560S: This pair has a lot of clamping force, so folks with larger noggins might find it less comfortable to wear than people with smaller heads. Though the mids and highs sound quite good and this pair reproduces acoustic guitar and female voice well, the lows are distinctly lacking, so kettledrums, upright bass, and electronic beats lack oomph and impact.

    Sennheiser HD 600: This is the less-expensive sibling of the HD 650, which became something of an industry standard when Sennheiser introduced it in 2003. We think the HD 600 model is even better, and as of this writing it costs less than the HD 650. The over-ear, open-back HD 600 headphones have a classic sound that fans of jazz and classical are likely to love; Brent often goes back to them for pure enjoyment. If you find that listening to headphones with a high-end emphasis sometimes gives you a headache, the rolled-off highs of this pair might be just the right prescription.

    Shure SRH1840: This pair probably would have emerged as one of our top picks but for one issue: The design doesn’t allow the earpieces to swivel on the vertical axis, so the headphones don’t adapt well to some head sizes and shapes, specifically larger ones. In our tests, the fronts of the earpads wouldn’t seal, which left some panelists with sound that offered very little bass and a too-bright treble. When those panelists pressed the earcups firmly enough against their head to create a seal, the SRH1840 sounded terrific, with an almost perfect balance of bass to midrange to treble and a wonderfully spacious and ambient sound. If you have a rather small head, this model is a real contender.

    Shure SRH440: These headphones had a bit of treble sizzle that our panel found off-putting; Brent pinned it as being around 2 kHz. The rest of the sonic profile seemed rather nice, but that darn sibilant push, although it started off feeling like clarity, ended up being fatiguing. If you need a little extra high end, we suggest going with the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x, which offers more features and a less harsh upper-frequency bump for the same price.

    Shure SRH840: Overall, these are nice studio headphones. In our tests, the balance was mostly flat, with a little extra peak in the trumpet/female-voice range. Unfortunately, that peak can be a bit too much for folks with sensitive ears; all of our panelists called the high end a bit harsh for everyday use. Although the price (usually under 200) is on the affordable side, we’d rather see your money invested in the superior sound or features of our picks.

    Shure SRH1540: Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity includes these 500 headphones on his Wall of Fame, but he adds that “they tend to fall apart a bit at higher volumes—bass can get bloated and loose; treble can become a little over-emphatic.” For 500, we want better than that, and we think our readers do, too.

    Sony MDR-V6: Readers requested that we investigate the MDR-V6, as this model seemed identical to the Sony MDR-7506. Turns out, it wasn’t. Yes, the two models share a chassis, and the MDR-V6 is difficult to distinguish visually from the MDR-7506 (the MDR-V6 has a red sticker rather than a blue one on the earcups, plus a silver-tone jack rather than a gold-plated one). However, all of our reviewers said that the MDR-V6 had far more bass and a notably peaked sonic response, and it also lacked the depth of sonic field that the MDR-7506 offers.

    Sony MDR-1AM2: The design is super lightweight and comfy; you could easily wear these headphones all day. Unfortunately, our panel discovered that the sound had way too much bass and a spike in the highs around 9 kHz that was piercing and off-putting, as it overemphasized any rattle or recording flaw.

    Sony MDR-7510: Wirecutter readers asked that we check out the MDR-7510, which had a lot of great Amazon reviews. We found that the MDR-7510 had an especially spiky, uneven high end. Our entire expert panel found the highs to be too much. “Sibilant, hissy, and sizzly” were descriptors that everyone used, and the uneven high end made everything from the mids up (guitar, strings, and horns) sound “tinny.” We also noted an intensely boosted, unrefined, and overbearing bass, which gave the MDR-7510’s sound a “boom and sizzle” quality. Interestingly, because of the oblong, oval shape of the earcups, they could sit higher or lower on your ears depending on the size of your head, which could alter the sound. But in our opinion, no amount of repositioning made this Sony model actually sound good.

    V-Moda Crossfade M-100: The durable design is so well built that you’re likely to have a tough time noticing anything else. But Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity writes, “I would have preferred the bass boost to happen about 100Hz lower” and notes that he found the midrange to be lacking.

    V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Master: Like all V-Moda headphones, the customizable and sturdy build is a big part of the appeal. The audio-splitter cable is a nice bonus, too. While the tuning on this pair is completely acceptable for casual listening, the somewhat recessed mids and jagged highs aren’t ideal for someone looking for a pair to monitor or mix recordings. The extra peak in the high-highs (to our ears, it was around 8 kHz and 11 kHz) adds a metallic sheen to breath sounds. Another bump somewhere in the area of 3 kHz can give vocals a mildly shouty quality and brass instruments a vague harshness. The fit is very comfortable for most folks due to the super soft memory-foam-like padding on the headband and earcups, but folks with larger ears or ears that stick out may find that the small, shallow earcups feel snug.

    V-Moda M200: Though we like the solid feel and look of these headphones, the shallow ear cups and tightly clamping headband won’t be comfortable for those who have ears that stick out, or folks who wear glasses. The boosted lower mids and somewhat coarse-sounding highs aren’t ideal, either.

    V-Moda XS: This pair is built like a tank—sturdy, well crafted, and customizable. But the sound had some colorations, with a boosted bass, some ups and downs in the mids, and a rolled-off treble; it wasn’t natural, but it wasn’t objectionable, either. On top of that, the clamping force can really cause your ears to ache when you’re listening over long periods, especially if you don’t have a small skull. If you like the sound of V-Moda headphones, you will like the XS’s sound; it’s the tight fit that bumped this pair off our list of top options.

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