If you’re looking for the best headphones, there’s never been a better time to buy. Noise canceling headphones do a great job of blocking out noise, while over-ear headphones deliver stunning bass. There are in-ears and wireless, custom buds and.. you get the idea. So what are the best headphones and best earphones wireless or otherwise, in 2015? Let’s listen.
Headphones mean different things to different people. We use ours for recording, so our priority is accurate sound and long-term comfort. For commuters and travelers, noise canceling is the killer feature.
For audio buffs, it might be hearing the musicians’ breath. Or maybe you just want so much bass your brain vibrates. Here are some candidates for your consideration.
Best noise canceling headphones 2015 (over the ear)
Bose makes the best noise canceling headphones around, and while its Quietcomfort 25 isn’t exactly cheap - the RRP is $299 - the already impressive noise canceling has been improved and the sound is better than ever. Bose is so confident that it offers a no-quibble return period of 30 days in the US and UK and 21 days elsewhere.
If you want to spend a little less, $249 gets you a set of Bose QuietComfort 20. They do everything the over-the-ear versions do, but they do it in a much smaller package and there’s an “aware mode” to prevent you from wandering under a bus or a tram.
It’s important to stress, though, that we’re prioritizing noise canceling here: if you don’t want or need noise canceling, there are better-sounding headphones out there.
Nobody tests headphones as well as The Wirecutter does, and when it set out to find the best over-ear headphones at any price it didn’t go for something with a really silly price tag: it plumped for the $134.95 Bose SoundTrues, with Samsung’s $179.99 Level On a close second. On a budget? Check out the Beyerdynamic DTX 350p, which sound a lot more expensive than their $69 price tag.
It’s possible to spend enormous sums on in-ear headphones, especially if you go for ones with custom molds, but at $148 Sony’s XBAH1 deliver astonishing sound - and with street prices even lower than that, they’re a banging bargain.
The music fans at What Hi-Fi really rate Sennheiser’s Momentum In-Ear headphones, also known as the M2 IEi. Make sure you order the right one, though, because as with most mic-based headphones there are different models for Apple devices and for Android. The MSRP is $99 but as ever, shopping around can save you a few bucks.
We aren’t excluding the world’s most recognisable headphone brand, Beats Audio, out of Android fanboy spite: yes, Beats is now owned by Apple, but no, we’re not that petty. And no, it’s not because we forgot about Dre either.
Beats is a fashion brand as much as it’s a headphone brand, and that means it’s charging premium prices for products that audio reviewers regularly say aren’t as good as rival headphones.
Beats’ noise canceling isn’t as good as Bose’s, its budget in-ears don’t sound as good as Sonys… you get the idea. We’re not saying you shouldn’t buy Beats, but we are saying that there’s usually a much better and more affordable alternative to every set of bins Beats makes.
Best headphones 2015: how to pick the pair that’s best for you
There’s no substitute for listening: while reviewers do their best to be objective, they don’t have your ears, your device and your taste in music - so the headphones that sound just great on their favorite tracks might sound absolutely rotten on yours.
Comfort is a factor too - some in-ears feel as if we’ve stuck carrots in our ears while some over-ears get so hot it’s like somebody’s set fire to our head - and of course style is a consideration as well.
Our advice? Find reviewers you can trust, do your homework and settle on a shortlist - and then put together a playlist of songs that cover the kind of things you’ll be listening to and head for the shops. Just make sure you’ve cleaned your ears first.
Do you have a favorite set of cans, awesome in-ears or Bluetooth bangers? Do you think we’re too down on Beats? Let us know in the comments!