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The Best Headphones 2020

The headphone market is vast in price, style and quality. Here we round-up the best brands and options for wireless, in-ear, noise cancelling and more

What Are The Best Headphones You Can Buy?
There's an overwhelming amount of headphones on the market to choose from, with more styles and types than ever before. You're probably wondering what 'neckbuds' even are.

Here we explain all your options for a new set of cans and present an eclectic range of options for all budgets. 

We've included a number of well-known best brands such as Sony and Bose, as well as a few you might not have heard of before like Rock Jaw and Nuraphone. There really is something for everyone and although this chart is ranked, the right pair for you will depend on your personal needs.

Best Headphones 2020

1. Sony WH-1000XM3
  • $349.99

Aside from slightly fiddly touch controls, there’s really very little to complain about from Sony's WH-1000XM3 - except maybe the awkward name. The noise cancellation is still absolutely unmatched, and it’s backed up by audio that’s almost as good.

Sony has merely tinkered with the rest of the design, rather than transforming it, keeping the understated aesthetic that’s served it so well so far, and despite the tighter fit than previous models these are still plenty comfortable for long-term listening.

Throw in reliable Bluetooth connections, 30-hour battery life, and (joy of joys) USB-C charging, and these are basically the best wireless headphones around right now.

2. Bose QC35 II
  • $329
The Bose QC35 II are still among the best all-round headphones you can get at the moment, even now that Bose has followed up with the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Offering stylish design, sound quality, usability and features.

Although Google Assistant is the main new addition, there's many more reasons why they QC35 II are great. They're oh so comfortable and last a really long time which is a good start. Then there's the almost unrivalled noise cancelling combined with excellent sound quality.

What more could you want?

3. RHA TrueConnect
  • $169.95
Simply put, the RHA TrueConnect are one of the best pairs of wireless earbuds we've tested.

Although they don't have active noise cancelling like the Sony WF-1000X, the comfortable and efficient seal provides excellent noise isolation instead. This means they're cheaper and don't suffer from dropouts either.

Add in a whopping 25 hours battery life via the charging case, IPX5 splash resistance and top-notch audio quality and this is the pair to beat.

4. Bowers & Wilkins PX
  • $399
Bowers & Wilkins has done an amazing job at its first pair of noise cancelling headphones. The design and slightly more complicated user experience means that Bose's rival will be a better option for most people.

However, the PX are a top choice with better build quality and seriously good sound, incorporating some tech from the P9 Signature. Battery life is also good and we like the smart sensors, too.

As long as they're not too bulky for you, we doubt you'll be disappointed.

5. Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2
  • £43.90
If you want great-quality sound at an affordable price, the Alfa Genus V2 should be on your shortlist.

They're excellent in-ear headphones for under £50 providing good build quality but more importantly, great sound quality. This is largely due to the interchangeable filters.

It might sound like a gimmick but they mean you can change the audio profile depending on your personal taste and/or what you're using them for at any given moment.

6. OnePlus Bullets V2

  • $19.95
Often you have to shell out a good few notes in order to get decent sounding headphones. However, OnePlus has proved that cheap headphones can sound great, look good and include extra features. If you're budget for in-ear headphones is £20 then look no further than the OnePlus Bullets V2.

7. Sony WF-1000X
  • $199
Sony has almost made the perfect pair of wireless earbuds with the WF-1000X.

These truly wireless earphones are comfortable because they're lightweight and small. Add in excellent sound quality and noise cancelling and we can hear you reaching for that buy button.

Some drop outs and a slightly odd case design are small downsides and rivals like the Jabra Elite Sport are a better choice if you're looking for a pair specifically for workouts and fitness.

8. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
  • $399.95
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are almost perfect - but the few irritations that are there, combined with a price jump relative to the competition - stop them from being a clear-cut winner in the noise-cancelling arms race.

The noise cancellation and audio quality is essentially on a par with Sony’s best, while improved design and noise cancellation on your own microphone audio are little touches that improve the experience.

Unfortunately, an unreliable app, glitchy Bluetooth, and fiddly touch controls detract from the experience. When you can leave the headphones be and just listen, they’re mostly phenomenal, but every time you have to step in to interact with them the little irritations creep in.

At the same price as the Sony rivals these would probably still be the more compelling offering, but it’s harder to justify £350/$400 unless you’re a particular fan of the aesthetics.

9. Nuraphone
  • $399
Some of the claims made by Nura and its technology are a bit suspect (we've been left disappointed in the past by similar claims) but the Nuraphones offer astonishing personalised sound. You really need to hear it to believe it.

If you can get past the strange probe-like design, which a lot of people wont, then these headphone sound incredible. Partly due to the innovative dual-driver setup, which means unique sounding bass. Other benefits include aptX, good battery life and a number of options for connectivity.

The G2 software update now means they have noise cancelling and other improvements which makes them more attractive. 

Read our Nuraphone review.

10. Denon AH-MM400
  • £349
Denon's AH-MM400 are a great pair of headphones with eye-catching walnut wooden design.

They're not as portable as some rivals, but do fold up neatly. Sound quality might not be as good as some Denon sets, of course, but it's still very good and most punters will enjoy the response.

They're also available at a much lower price than the RRP so they're a bit of a bargain.

Your Buying Guide For The Best Headphones
If your bank balance allows it, you could spends thousands on a single pair of headphones. We know that the average consumer doesn't have anything like so we're looking at more affordable sets here.

We've got a wide range of prices here so you could spend under £20/$20 or over £300/$300 depending on what you're looking for. You might want a pair for commuting every day so it could be worth investing more, or you might just want a cheap pair for occasional use.

Bear in mind that in general, spending more on audio really does mean getting better quality as well as features. If you really are on a limited budget then we have a dedicated budget headphones chart.
Headphone Types
Once of the main things you need to do, apart from decide how much to spend, is choose the type of headphones right for you.

In the grand scheme there are three types but there are also sub-categories within those, often with a bit of crossover. Here's what you need to know:
  • In-ear – Small, lightweight and generally inexpensive
  • Over-ear – Comfortable and space to house larger drivers
  • On-ear – A good balance of the above
Now take a look at the below options for more types:
  • Earbuds – Another way of saying in-ear headphones
  • Wireless earbuds – In-ear headphones that have Bluetooth
  • True wireless earbuds – The above but are not connected to each other with a wire
  • Neckbuds – Wireless headphones connected together with a section designed to sit around the neck

Features To Look Out For
A lot of people buying headphones will want them to be wireless. It's not just more convenient but many smartphones don't come with a physical headphone jack so plug a cable in anymore.

For many, wireless will never reach the quality of a trusty wire, although some pairs may offer both options. Read our reviews to see how good they sound over the air and look out for the latest versions of Bluetooth as well as codecs like aptX for better audio.

We have a chart just for the best wireless earbuds.

The other modern feature to look out for is noise cancelling. Beware that many sets will try to promote this despite it being 'passive', which simply means the headphones are physically blocking sound like earplugs.

What you really want is 'active noise cancelling' (ANC) which means the headphones are listening to the outside world with microphones, then getting rid of that sound. This is done by cleverly playing you an inverted version of the signal.

Not all noise cancelling is equal though, so read our reviews to see how good it is. Some also have various levels of the feature as well as additional modes that let some outside sound in to keep you safe or so you hear important announcements. They go by various names like 'aware' or 'social'. 

We have a dedicated round-up for the best noise cancelling headphones.

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