Best headphones 2022: the very best headphones to buy right now

T3’s ultimate guide to the best headphones for all budgets

Sony WH-1000XM5 review
(Image credit: Sony)

This is it: T3's official best headphones list for 2022. With so many different designs and acronyms to choose from, shopping for the best headphones can be a stressful experience. So we've broken down the very best of the bunch. To be honest, you probably need some active noise-cancelling (ANC) to help you concentrate on the whole thing. 

Given that the best headphones for you entirely depends where and when you want to use them, we've got everything split into categories. Whether you're looking for the best running headphones that don't mind the sweat, or the very best true wireless earbuds, we've curated our favourites in the list below. If you're looking specifically for a set of headphones that won't break the bank but still deliver brilliant sound, check out our guide to the best cheap headphones.

Here's our pick of the top 3 best headphones picks, followed by the best of the rest.

The best headphones on the market today are the Sony WH-1000XM5. Sony's latest active noise-cancelling cans deliver a new standard of ANC along with brilliant audio and innovative controls. 

The best true wireless headphones are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. These earbuds sport incredible ANC as well as a strong sound and an ultra snug comfortable fit for making the world disappear.

The best budget true wireless headphones are the Sony WF-C500. Good audio doesn't have to cost the earth and these in-ear buds from Sony have dynamic punchy audio and bonus manual EQ control in the connected app. No ANC here, but that's part of the price appeal.   

The best headphones you can buy in 2022

Sony WH-1000XM5 black finishT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Sony)
The best headphones on the market. Period.

Specifications

Battery life: 30 hrs with ANC (40 hrs without)
Wired option: Yes
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Expansive audio
+
Sony’s best ANC
+
Great controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 

With every iteration of WH-1000XM ANC over-ear headphones, Sony has dramatically improved the listening experience. But with these latest cans everything’s been taken to a new aural level altogether. 

The WH-1000XM5s deliver an expansive soundstage and possibly the very best active noise cancelling that the company has ever produced. As we say in our review: “Sony has delivered a pair of headphones that can deal with virtually any external sound short of an HGV moving off from the lights.” 

There’s no weird cabin pressure feeling that so often comes with bad ANC and the tech even learns your locations and adapts accordingly. The new design is beautifully minimalist and, as ever, the touch controls on the right earcup are intuitive. 

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review to find out more about why we think these are the perfect headphones 

Bose QuietComfort EarbudsT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Bose)
The best true wireless headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 6hrs in buds + 12hrs in case
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible noise-cancelling
+
Snug and comfortable
+
Strong sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is just fine
-
Chunky 

They aren’t the most subtle earbuds on the market on account of their size, but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds more than make up for any aesthetic shortcomings with superior noise-cancelling and brilliant sound. 

This form-factor also allows for a seriously snug fit as each 'bud has a silicone eartip and a so-called ‘wing’ that nestles into your ear. There’s a range of silicone eartips included so you can find a perfect size for experiencing all that Bluetooth 5.1 audio wonderment. 

If you’ve got a Tidal subscription, you won’t want to miss this chance at ultra-detailed sound, but Spotify will be equally happy playing through these earbuds. Add in exceptional noise cancelling and you can drift away wherever you are. Make sure you check our Bose discount codes page to find the latest offers and ways to save at Bose. 

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review for our true wireless breakdown 

Sony WF-C500 true wireless earbuds Black Friday deal 2021T3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Sony)
The best budget true wireless headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 10hrs in buds + 10hrs in case
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great audio quality
+
Bang for your buck 
+
Manual EQ

Reasons to avoid

-
No ANC
-
Average battery life

Not only have we awarded the Sony WF-C500 five stars but they are also the deserving winner of the T3 Awards 2022 best value headphones category. With so many true wireless headphones on the market today requiring a thre- figure investment, the WF-C500s are a welcome combination of excellent sound quality and comfortable fit for a budget price. 

There’s no active noise-cancelling here, but the fit is snug enough for long hours of wear and the earbuds have an IPX4 water-resistant rating so you don’t need to worry about getting caught in the rain or being sweaty in the gym. 

The battery life is admirable, at 20 hours total, while the WF-C500 is even available in Coral Orange or Ice Green if you want to break away from the standard black or white offerings and look a little different.

Check out our full Sony WF-C500 review to find out more about what makes these the best budget headphones  

Powerbeats ProT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Beats by Dre)
The best fitness headphones for working out

Specifications

Battery life: 9hrs in buds + 15hrs in case
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Snug fit
+
Brilliant sound
+
Excellent connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Might be bassy for some 

If you’re looking for the best true wireless earbuds for the gym and don’t mind the expense, you’ve just found your essential workout kit. Whether you’re spinning, crunching, or boxing, the over-ear loop on the Powerbeats Pro means this excellent audio isn’t going anywhere. 

This does in turn mean that the case will take up more space in your pocket but at least there’s plenty of battery life inside with a total of 24 hrs between charges. And, the benefits of Beats means that even if you’ve forgotten to charge them pre-gym, 15 minutes of charge will deliver hours of playback. 

With powerful audio for those workout anthems and great passive noise-cancelling due to the snug fit, these gym buds are unrivalled in our opinion. 

Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review for more on your new best friends to take to the gym (who won’t criticise your squat technique)

Bose NC 700 deal Black Friday at AmazonT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Bose)
Among the best noise-cancelling headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 20hrs with ANC
Wired option: Yes
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-balanced audio
+
Excellent soundstage
+
Good ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is just fine
-
Expensive 

Once upon a time, Bose was the inaudible scream of the crop when it came to active noise-cancelling headphones. Then plucky upstart Sony came along and ruined the party with its 1000XM series.

With the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, though, the company is well and truly back in the silent game with an attractively sleek look and mighty impressive audio.

As we said in our review: “the result is an impressively neutral and well-balanced sound. Bose does a great job with the mid-range frequency here. It’s not too emphasised to sound muddy yet not too quiet to sound hollow and cheap.” 

Add in exceptional touch controls and brilliant mic functionality for taking calls on the go and Bose is well and truly in the game. No wonder you didn’t hear it coming… 

Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review  to find out more about these premium headphones 

Bose QuietComfort 45T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Bose)
The best travel headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 24 hrs with ANC
Wired option: Yes
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive noise-cancelling
+
Light and comfortable
+
Manual EQ settings 

Reasons to avoid

-
Can’t fully turn off ANC

Been on a flight recently? You’ve probably already seen at least one pair of Bose QC45s wandering around on someone's head. Despite Sony’s grasp on the ANC market, these Bose folding cans still have some of the very best noise cancelling available and are exceptionally comfortable for long-haul travel. 

The Aware Mode on the QC45s is especially useful if you don’t want to block out the entire world and let in a bit of outside noise. The QC45s do a great job of balancing it all out too. 

Add in ultra reliable physical controls, great sound, a handy app for tweaking EQ, and an array of mics for excellent call quality and the QC45s are still a rock solid wireless ANC headphone choice.   

Read our Bose QuietComfort 45 review for our full thoughts on Bose’s headset  

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay PortalT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)
The best gaming headphones

Specifications

Battery life (Xbox model): 12hrs wireless gaming ANC/ 24hrs Bluetooth ANC
Battery life (PlayStation/PC model): (PlayStation/PC model): 19hrs wireless gaming ANC/ 42hrs Bluetooth ANC
Compatibility: Xbox model & PlayStation/PC model
Connectivity: Bluetooth & wired

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional audio quality
+
Luxurious build
+
Can be worn everywhere 

Reasons to avoid

-
Cost more than an Xbox Series X 

Think of a pair of gaming headphones and you’ll immediately conjure up images of plasticky headsets potentially covered in neon lights. While the industry has gradually tried to move away from this garish stereotype, Bang & Olufsen has turned the idea of a gaming headset entirely upside down with the luxurious Beoplay Portal. 

Ultra comfortable, not to mention decadent, lambs leather earcups are on hand for pain-free hours of play, while an exceptional audio and ANC combo creates an entirely different league of gaming headset. 

And there’s no giant mic arm here. B&O’s beamforming mic works beautifully and invisibly, meaning that you can happily leave your console behind and wear these wherever you want. The only downside is that they’re more expensive than the new-gen consoles themselves.      

Read our full Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal review to dive deeper into these premium gaming headphones 

Apple AirPods ProT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Apple)
The best headphones for Apple devices

Specifications

Battery life: 4.5hrs in buds + 20 hrs in case
aptX: No
AAC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great ANC
+
Automatic pairing with Apple devices
+
Extra silicone earbuds

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is fine

They’ve been out a few years now but Apple’s noise-cancelling earbuds are still some of the best headphones for fruit-based devices. Not only do they have handy automatic pairing and switching ideal for those embedded in the Apple ecosystem, but they’ve also got wireless charging functionality, as well as handy IPX4 water resistance so you can head to the gym and not have to worry. 

The audio still impresses and a choice of silicone earbuds means you’ll get the kind of snug fit that AirPods have never previously offered with their one-size-fits-all approach. Solid noise-cancelling is an essential addition and while the battery life in each earbud might seem a little short compared to the competition, the form-factor is particularly sleek and light to make up for it.

Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review for an in-depth breakdown of Apple’s ANC buds  

BeyerDynamic DT 900 Pro XT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: BeyerDynamic)
The best wired headphones for home listening

Specifications

Connectivity: 3.5mm & 1/4 inch adaptor
Design: Open backed

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional sound quality
+
Premium build

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited on features 
-
Home use only

At T3, we usually concentrate on the headphones that let you take your audio anywhere – but sometimes it’s important to just stop and take some time to listen at home. Especially if you’re using the DT900 Pro X. 

Audio wise, these open backed headphones have a warm sound with a rich mid-range. As we said in our review, “while you’re not getting any special surround sound or widening features here – the DT900 Pro X are completely analog after all – the soundstage is wide enough to easily get lost in the music.” 

These cans aren’t dripping in fancy acronyms – there’s no ANC here – but if you’re looking for solid build quality and great sound, the DT900 Pro X more than delivers the goods. To T3 Awards 2022 winning levels, no less.

Read our Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X review to get wired into the details on these home headphones  

Sennheiser IE600T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Sennheiser)
The best audiophile in-ear headphones

Specifications

Connectivity: Wired

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliantly articulate sound
+
Incredible build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 

If you’re an audio connoisseur, we don’t need to sell you on the unrivalled benefits of wired sound. The Sennheiser IE600s add a fresh twist of ingenuity with this unique 3D-printed in-ear design. The earbuds are printed using ZR01 amorphous zirconium for ultra durability that’s three times more resistant to bending than regular steel. That definitely means you’re OK taking these on your morning commute. 

The single driver arrangement is pure joy for your ears, too, delivering ultra-detailed audio across a large soundstage. With a choice of three eartips for maximum comfort, if you’re an audiophile then you don’t miss your music through these. 

Read our full Sennheiser IE600 review for a detailed breakdown of these audiophile in-ears 

How we test headphones 

At T3 how we test our headphones is beautifully simple. We listen to them. A lot. And not just sitting in the office or in a quiet room. Out in the street. On public transport. On planes. Out shopping. The only way to test active noise cancelling is to find as many things to cancel as possible to make sure we can still hear the Encanto soundtrack. 

And speaking of soundtracks, we hit every genre of music to make sure we can hear the full breadth of what each pair of headphones can offer. Treble, bass, mid tones and EQ all come under an aural microscope to make sure we get the most accurate impression. This also helpfully means we can get through plenty of battery to test manufacturer promises when it comes to how much juice is lurking in carry cases. And we’ll always check fast charging too. 

Finally we also understand that our busy lives mean music is only half of what we expect from our headphones. We spend plenty of time testing call quality, not just in terms of speaker clarity but also making sure that those on the other end can actually hear what we have to say. We test in both calm and windier conditions to make sure that mic quality will always stand up to everyday life. 

Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro

(Image credit: Beats)

How to pick the best headphones for you

When it comes to picking the best headphones for you, the good news is that you don’t automatically always have to go for the most expensive option. First of all, it’s important to think about where you want to use your headphones. Are they for exercise? Wearing in the office? Or maybe to put the mute into your morning commute? Dreadful puns aside, if you do want the rest of the world to disappear, you definitely want to invest the extra in a pair of active noise-cancelling headphones, and if you’re a gym bunny you’ll really want something sweat proof. 

Once you’ve worked out what you need, your next choice is what style of headphone you want. And truthfully it’s all about comfort and subjectivity. Maybe you want the subtlety of a pair of true wireless in ear buds or maybe you want the world to know you are actively listening to music. We’ve given you the best headphone for all budgets, all you need to do is choose what’s right for you. 

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.