Audio is such an important part of life, whether you're listening to your favourite tunes on the best headphones when out and about, jamming in the kitchen whilst listening to a wireless speaker at home, or pumping out the tunes using your best soundbar option via the TV, sound and music is a key pillar of T3's coverage.
That's why the T3 Awards 2023 in association with ROG Ally – this year's celebration of the best-of-best products across the site's core pillars of Tech, Active, and Home – has such a focus on the best headphones across a wide range of specialisms, plus top-notch portable and wireless speakers.
So, without further ado, here are the best headphones and audio products of the year, as selected by the T3 Awards 2023 judging panel. Well done to all the deserving award-winners, there are some champion products to buy here that, no doubt, will make people's lives that bit better each and every day.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
The clue's in the name on this one: despite there being absolutely stacks of exceptional active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones across over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear varieties, nothing has impressed the T3 team more than Bose's second-gen QC Earbuds.
Not that it was an easy decision: you only need look at the shortlist of stalwarts below to know just how strong the competition was for Bose. But, really, if you want ANC that'll make you feel as if everyone and everything around you has all but vanished then the QuietComfort Earbuds II are truly unbeatable. A fine winner!
Highly Commended: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones shortlist:
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, Focal Bathys, Shure Aonic 50, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), Nothing Ear (2)
Best True Wireless Headphones: Nothing Ear (2)
In our busiest headphones category out of the lot – and no surprise, given how super-popular TWS earbuds have become – there frankly could have been half a dozen winners here. But not everyone can get the accolade, right? There has to be one winner.
As one of the most striking brands of the moment, it's Nothing's Ear (2) that takes the crown, beating pricier options from all manner of competitors. The T3 judging panel thought that what Nothing has delivered is a true advancement over the original product, in a great design that (after a software update) delivers truly great sound. The Ear (2) more than earned its 5-star review.
So, sure, while the Bose might deliver noise-cancelling that's a notch more advanced, the UE Fits might be better-matched for sport, and Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay EX add an air of luxury finish, as an all-round winner that balances everything out just perfectly, it's Nothing that gains the most kudos and the T3 Awards 2023 winners' badge.
Highly Commended: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
Best True Wireless Headphones shortlist:
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2, Nothing Ear (2), Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2, Ultimate Ears UE Fits, Sony WF-C700N, Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
Best Wired Headphones: Grado GS3000x Statement
When it comes to the best wired headphones there are plenty of options – and while many can be affordable, we've seen lots of pricier and more luxury options launch in the previous year or so that'll really give hard-wired audiophiles that hard-wired audio fix they crave.
Of the superb selection on the shortlist it's the Grado GS3000x Statement that edges it for us. As the name more than gives away they're a statement piece – undeniably, given their wood finish – and with an open-back design they're definitely not going to block out sound to those around you (indeed, these could be the 'leakiest' headphones we've ever tried).
But the Gradio GS3000x is all about the wearer: these headphones "don't feel their 515g weight thanks to a properly considered hanger arrangement ... [while] the foam ‘G-cushion’ earpads stay cool and comfortable even during long listening sessions," reads our review. Add "exquisitely detailed, naturalistic sound quality" that "will make the best of any source of music," and you can see why these wired cans are our 2023 award-winning pick.
Highly Commended: Sennheiser HD 660S2
Best Wired Headphones shortlist:
Sennheiser HD 660S2, Grado GS3000x Statement, Audeze Euclid, Audio-Technica ATH-WP900, Austrian Audio Hi-X15
Best Headphones: Bowers & Wilkins PX8
The T3 Awards 2023 has a variety of headphones awards because there are so many buckets of specialisms to reward. So when it comes to the overall Best Headphones gong it's a difficult decision given the quality of all the options – both in this category and all the other headphone awards this year.
But the one that really stands apart is the Bowers & Wilkins PX8. Where the British brand really wins out is in balancing everything so superbly: there's ultra-comfort, there's subtle noise-cancelling (rather than the "am-I-still-on-the-planet?" kind), and there's superb sound quality.
Indeed, T3's review cited the PX8 as offering "a sufficient sonic upgrade to make the price difference between it and the PX7 S2 (itself an extremely capable product, let’s not forget) seem entirely reasonable." So if you’re prepared to spend big on a new pair of headphones, but want to hear as well as see and feel where all that money has gone, Bowers & Wilkins' PX8 is an obvious winner.
Highly Commended: Focal Bathys
Best Headphones shortlist:
Grado GW100x, Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, Bowers & Wilkins PX8, Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2, Focal Bathys, Shure Aonic 50, Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H95
Best gaming headset: Turtle Beach Stealth Pro
If you're after great sound, but some specific features geared for gaming, then you'll want the best gaming headset. There are loads on the market, but if you go to the latest and greatest premium options then it's Turtle Beach's 2023 flagship that rules the roost.
This headset features a replaceable battery (and includes a spare, which charges in its Bluetooth transmitter plugged in separately) so you'll never run out of juice. The comfort is high, the sound quality is impressive, and the built-in microphone works an absolute treat too. It's an ideal balance for gamers looking for a great headset, whether for PC or console.
Highly Commended: Razer Barracuda Pro
Best Gaming Headset shortlist:
Sony 3D Pulse Wireless Headset, Turtle Beach Stealth Pro, Skullcandy PLYR, Asus ROG Delta S Wireless, Razer Barracuda Pro, SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
Best Wireless Speaker: Sonos Era 300
In a year that's delivered some truly exceptional smart speakers (and less smart but still great ones), there's one option that's stood head and shoulders above its competition: the Sonos Era 300. That's not to discount its competition, just that Sonos has really nailed this one.
Marking, er, a new era for Sonos, the all-new speaker isn't a direct replacement for the company's earlier Five product, but it doesn't half sound even better. It's a serious sonic triumph that offers "seriously impressive immersive sound" and making it the "best speaker for the money right now".
Highly Commended: Bluesound Pulse M
Best Wireless Speaker shortlist:
Sonos Era 300, Bluesound Pulse M, Apple HomePod (second gen), Sonos Era 100, Marshall Acton III, KEF LSX II
Best Portable Speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
In a category where you could buy a speaker for a few quid versus a few hundred quid, it's the category's title that really helped dictate this year's winner: the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 is the Best Portable Speaker winner in 2023 because, well, it's just so super-portable that you can take it anywhere.
Now that we can have picnics in parks and a glass or two in the garden, having the ability to grab a portable speaker with one hand – or two, as you can stereo-pair the Wonderboom 3 to even greater effect – and get great-sounding music without the weight or hassle is what makes Ultimate Ears' small speaker so universally appealing.
Highly Commended: Devialet Mania
Best Portable Speaker shortlist:
Edifier MP230, Devialet Mania, Audio Pro A15, Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
Best DAC: iFi xDSD Gryphon
When it comes to the best digital-to-analogue converters there are plenty of options, from smaller laptop-dongle boosters, to dedicated boxes to upgrade your audio signal and amplification control.
Of the variety to pass through the T3 testing labs in 2023, however, it's the iFi xDSD Gryphon that's been the stand-out product. Previous winners of this category have included the Chord Mojo 2, so it joins the established and long-standing quality ranks.
"As a combination of functionality and performance, it’s hard to lay a glove on the iFi xDSD Gryphon," reads T3's review. "When the biggest gripe about a product concerns the nature of the little tell-tale LEDs that indicate what’s going on inside, you know you’re on to a winner."
Highly Commended: Astell & Kern AK HC3
Best DAC shortlist:
Astell & Kern AK HC3, iFi xDSD Gryphon, FiiO K7, Periodic Audio Rhodium, iFi Go Bar