Buying guide: Which headphones are best for you?

Choosing a pair of headphones isn't as easy as it sounds. Just slow down, and stop fretting about brands and types - we're here (and hear) to help

Best over-ear headphones

Winter is coming (probably sooner than we think), so if you want great sound and warmer ears, you may want to check out these over-ear options. Although they’re not cheap, you’ll know where the extra cash went on these audiophile grade cans like the Grado PS1000, described in our round-up as the ‘best pair of headphones money can buy’ or the Audio Technica ATHW5000 with the gorgeous mahogany finish to match the punchy sound. For even more comfort, you may want to try the Ultrasone Edition 10, kitted out with Ethiopian sheepskin leather.

When it comes to over-ear headphones you generally have two options. If you want something to use at home, particularly for TV, movies and live music, open back headphones are the way to go. They have perforations in the ear-cup, which allows noise to transfer between the speakers and the ouside world. The result is a far more open sound, more like what you'd hear at a live performance, but you will also be able to hear noise around you. Closed back earphones have the speaker mounted inside a solid ear-cup, which isolates the sound and provides some passive noise cancellation. Generally your music and sound will be a bit punchier and a little bass-heavy, great for anytime you're out and about in noisy environments.

Read: Best over-ear headphones

Best in-ear headphones

Big sound doesn’t always require headgear large enough to negate the effects of a nuclear blast. In-ear buds, like the Sony XBA-4, renowned for their noise isolation tech, bring sonic satisfaction in a compact, pocket-sized package, often for a fraction of the price. Meanwhile, the £40 a-Jays One+ offer a tangle resistant flat cable along with an accompanying Android app for deeper sound customisation. The Atomic Floyd PowerJax offer a great sounding, yet durable solution to guard against wear and tear.

In-ear headphones are very much down to personal preference. Some people find that ear buds don't sit comfortably in their ears, or that a certain model feels far more comfortable. Generally speaking, rubber ear-buds that plug into your ear will always deliver punchy sound, perhaps at the expense of treble notes, whilst in-ear headphones that sit in front of your ear canal won't be quite so bassy, but sound a little more open. In truth, you're best off with what feels most comfortable.

Read: Best in-ear headphones

Best running headphones

Have you ever tried running with those EarPods (or 'damn EarPods' as we’ve come to call them?) Apple bundles with its iOS devices these days? If you plan on retaining your sanity, we wouldn't advise it. While out setting personal bests then you need something that’ll stay firmly in place, won’t irritate your skin as you sweat and will still sound great in the process. Look no further than this selection of sporty options. The Philips SHQ4200 Action Fit features a neckband design and are sweat resistant, while the Monster iSport Victory grips the top of your ears in order to stay in place. For a unique ‘lasso’ design, try the SBA-X65, which comes with four bud sizes to ensure a secure fit.

Like in-ear headphones, comfort is your primary concern here. The difference here is that obviously, the fit has to be rather more snug and secure than your average pair of in-ears. Aside from the fit, loose cabling can be a major annoyance, as the connection can come loose and rub against the fitting, which sounds harmless, except that you'll be able to hear it through your earpiece. Look for headphones that look well manufactured, fit snugly and are easily washed if they get really waxy/sweaty.

Read: Best running headphones

Best wireless headphones

We’re pretty sure when out of our sight, headphone cables conspire to knot themselves around our other belongings just to annoy us. The best way to clamp down on this is to go wireless. These options connect with your phone or media player via Bluetooth without the need to spend minutes untangling before accessing your tunes. The Bose AEW2 cans are the company’s first wireless offerings and allow you to connect to two devices at once, while the Creative WP450 feature on-ear buttons and fold into a neat, tiny package.

Generally speaking, streaming audio over Bluetooth will diminish the quality somewhat, in comparison to using a cable. But that said, the quality isn't noticeably bad and as long as the headphones themselves are of good quality, your music will still be eminently listenable. A few companies even make Bluetooth running headphones, which are ideal for those who hate being distracted by bouncing wires.

Read: Best wireless headphones

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