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 Sennheiser Momentum with the gorgeous metal band finish to match the punchy sound.
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.
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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 Atomic Floyd Super Darts, renowned for their noise isolation tech, bring sonic satisfaction in a compact, pocket-sized package, though they are pricey. Meanwhile, the £40 a-Jays One+ offer a tangle resistant flat cable along with an accompanying Android app for deeper sound customisation.
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.
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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 Strive grips the top of your ears in order to stay in place. You could plump for the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless and track your heart rate at the same time.
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.
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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.
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.
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Best Active Noise Cancelling headphones
Sometimes, we all just need a bit of peace. A time to relax and listen to some tunes without overhearing the row between the couple on the opposite seat or the constant crying of the toothing baby. For times like these, you need some Active Noise Cancelling cans. Now, active cancellation is different to passive because active uses a power source and emits audio to counter the background noise, whereby passive simply using matrials that are known to better isolate sound. If you want the real deal, get an active pair. Many of these 'phones also are equipped with microphones, so it pipes in certain noises it thinks you should hear, so you're not completely in the world of your own.
If you're a lover of all things Bose, the Quiet Comfort 25 is the pair to pick. They're sleek, premium feeling and sound awesome. If you want something smaller the Sennheiser PXC-250 II is another choice, while Samsung's feature packed Level Over pair are wireless and boast some nifty touch controls. The choice is yours.