Not everyone is an audiophile. Folks who are, like to endlessly ponder the merits (and lack thereof) of their headphones and other equipment, but most of us just want a good pair of headphones in the right style that fit our budget.
We've harnessed the power of a couple of self-admitted audiophiles-in-training and bring you our headphone gift guide. We'd love to own (or already do!) any of these products and think you'll feel the same way if you want the most from your phone when it comes to music or video.
Most people use earbuds to listen to music on phones because they're portable and, in many cases, inexpensive. And there is a huge selection to choose from when buying. That means there are plenty of good ones, but also plenty of bad, too. Here are our picks for the best earbuds.
Best overall: Bose QuietComfort 20
Everyone knows about Bose on-ear headphones, but did you know the same active noise canceling system comes in earbud form, too? The QuietComfort 20 earbuds offer the same acoustic cancellation as the bigger model but will fit in your pocket. Complete with in-line audio controls (be sure to choose the right model — Android or iOS) and a wide selection of tips, the QuietComfort 20s from Bose are the best earbuds money can buy. They'll also set you back about $250.
Best sounding: 1MORE Triple Driver
While they don't offer noise cancellation or fit as well as the Bose buds in our top pick, these earbuds from 1MORE win when it comes down to the sound. Grammy award-winning sound engineer Luca Bignardi is responsible for this as his input helped this UK company tune the drivers for the best audio response possible from a small speaker that sits inside your ears. And it worked! The 1MORE Triple Drivers are about $90 and worth every penny if you want the best sound.
Best value: Panasonic ErgoFit
You can get awesome earbuds for just $8! The Panasonic ErgoFits might not sound as good or offer as many features as others on this list, but they are hands-down one of the best deals around when it comes to earbuds. They come in eight different colors and have a decent inline mic for taking calls or talking to your phone's assistant, and are one of the best ways to spend $8 we can think of.
Best Wireless headphones
Headphone jacks on smartphones are going to soon become a thing of the past. Or at the very least become that thing you find on specialty phones like the LG V series. That means wireless headphones that look great, sound great and fit great are something you'll soon be looking for if you're not already. Here are our top picks for sound without wires.
Best overall: Bowers & Wilkins PX
At $399 they're not cheap, but if you're looking for wireless headphones that sound amazing and have decent noise cancellation, the Bowers & Wilkins PX is your best bet. They have removable magnetic earcups for easy cleaning, 20+ hours of battery life, and gesture support that stops the music automatically when you remove them from your head. Magic!
Best noise cancellation: Bose QC35 II
Bose has a reputation for decent sound quality and even better noise isolation, and the $349 QC35 IIs are the company's best yet. Like the wired QC20s, these use algorithms to intelligently block outside noise from disrupting your flight, commute or coffee shop excursion. Best of all, they're super lightweight and have Google Assistant built right in!
Best value: Jabra Move
If you're after sheer value for money, you can't do better than the Jabra Move wireless headphones. For just over $50, they sound great, are incredibly comfortable, and have over eight hours of battery life. They're also very sturdy, made from lightweight aluminum.
Best Wired Over-Ear or On-Ear headphones
If you're a person who doesn't like earbuds, you probably appreciate a good set of on-ear or over-ear headphones when it comes to listening to music or video. While not as easy to carry around, bigger headphones mean bigger sound and there are great options to choose from at almost every company that makes audio equipment represented. Here are our top picks.
Best overall: OPPO PM-3
Offering great sound, great comfort, and a great look, the OPPO PM-3 planar closed-back headphones are our pick for the best overall on-ear or over-ear headphones. Companies like Bowers & Wilkins or Bang & Olufsen make great headphones that are comfortable to wear, but the OPPO's are just as comfortable and sound even better when driven from your average (read: not with a high-end DAC and amp) smartphone or media player. They're incredibly light so you'll forget you're wearing them, except for the wonderful sound that comes from the speakers. The OPPO PM-3s cost about $400 but are a joy to use.
Best sounding: Sony MDR7506
Unless you have a phone with a high gain amplifier, the Sony MDR7506 over-ear headphones offer the best sound possible from your average equipment. They're a little bulky and have a cumbersome coiled cord, but they are tuned for a flat response and used in studios every day because they offer a true representation of the audio. And with a 63 Ohm impedance, they're a perfect match for most phones or portable media players. The MDR7506 headphones cost about $80 but sound better with most phones than models costing hundreds more.
Best value: Samson SR850
These semi-open-back headphones bring real studio-reference audio to the table for about $30. They offer a 10Hz-30kHz frequency response and have a 32 Ohm impedance so any phone or media player can properly drive them, and the semi-open-back design helps fight "ear-fatigue" as well as lets you hear things like car horns when you're walking, which can be pretty important. They're not built quite as well as our other picks and the open-back design means they will leak a bit of noise, but they are a great buy at $30 and we recommend them to anyone looking for that great budget-friendly pick.
If you have a phone like the LG V30 with a high-end DAC and amplifier, you might want a pair of high-end headphones to go with it! When it comes to listening to music, there is nothing quite like driving a pair of large transducer headphones and losing yourself in the sound, and to get there you need the right equipment. Here are our top picks for your audiophile smartphone.
Best overall: Sennheiser HD 800
A huge 56-millimeter driver and unique (patented, even!) transducer design make the Sennheiser HD 800's sound great, and the excellent craftsmanship and materials used make them the best overall headphones when you're looking in the high-end. They're 300 Ohm so you'll definitely need the right phone or media player to use them, but the big soundstage and comfortable fit make the Senn HD 800s a great set of headphones and our top pick when it comes to the category. You'll be spending about $1,160 here, but that's not a lot of money when it comes to audiophile equipment.
These come with a 6.3mm XLR audio interface, so be sure to buy the adapter to use them with your phone!
Best sounding: Grado PS1000e
If you value the very best sound above all else, the Grado PS1000e model is for you. At only 32 Ohm they're an odd choice for this category but paired with a high-power amp these tonal wood (mahogany in this case) and steel over-ear headphones bring a sound you simply won't believe directly to your ears at moderate volume levels. While the Sennheisers may be more comfortable while bringing excellent audio quality (and thus our top pick) these offer greater detail and a huge soundstage that will make you feel like you're there in person rather than listening through a cable. Simply put, we haven't found anything that sounds as good as the Grados, but they're not as comfortable as the also-excellent Sennheiser HD 800s.
The Grado PS1000e headphones use a 6.3-millimeter XLR audio interface, so be sure to order an adapter to use them with your phone!
Best value: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro (250 Ohm)
If you have the power to drive them from your phone, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros is the 250 Ohm configuration are hands-down the best value in high-end headphones. At $170, they're hundreds less than other brands but offer excellent sound quality and are extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods. They will also get as loud and nasty/awesome as you want! They aren't built as well as others on this list, and the open-back design means others get to hear along with you at high volume, but this is the best way to spend $170 if you have the phone to drive them.
Don't get the 600 Ohm model if your primary use is with a phone or portable player, but for home use on the right equipment, they are awesome, too!
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