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Best headphones: Our top picks for personal listening

Headphones are the ultimate tool for intimate listening experiences. Whether you’re listening on your phone, a digital audio player, a disc player, or even a PC or gaming console, when you’re ready to shut out the world and be one with your music, there is nothing better than a great set of cans. 

And you probably have multiples of them, since most every smart device and digital audio player comes with a pair; but it’s a safe bet that you’re really not satisfied with any of them. Comfortable high-quality headphones can transform your audio experiences ranging from listening to music and podcasts to watching TV shows and movies, .

Whether you prefer the isolation of in-ear headphones, the comfort of an over-the-ear model, the convenience of wireless, or you’re not sure which type is best for you, we’ll help you find the right ones at the right budget. We’ve listed our top picks up front. If you need more information to make a choice, we’ll provide that—and links to a bunch of our reviews—below.

Updated January 3, 2019 to add our review of the Shure SE535 in-ear headphones. Available with or without an inline Bluetooth module, all versions can be upgraded to Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the aptX and aptX HD codecs. They are our new runner-up pick in the in-ear headphone category.

Best over-the-ear headphones

These headphones are unapologetically old school, and we love them for it. You won’t find any noise-cancelling electronics on the Beyerdynamics Amiron home. There’s no USB ports or an onboard amplifier, either; heck, they don’t even support Bluetooth.

But if don’t mind being tethered to your source, these headphones will deliver delightful performances for one at a price that won’t bust a generous budget. They’re highly recommended.


If you can afford them, Focal’s Elegia closed-back headphones are a sonic wonder that sound as beautiful as they look. Focal might be better known for its high-end loudspeakers than headphones, but discriminating buyers shouldn’t overlook this brand.

Best on-ear headphones

If you find over-the-ear headphones too unwieldy, but don’t like sticking things inside your ear, we heartily recommend giving AKG’s N60NC noise-cancelling on-ear headphones an audition.

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