The best headphones of 2020 are fantastic devices. All of the top headphones on this list combine incredible audio fidelity with stunning all-day-wear design. Most of them also boast lots of cool features, including noise cancelation, wireless connectivity and built-in AI assistants you can control with your voice.
A good pair of headphones is a necessity for many of us. Aside from breathing new life into our favourite music, they keep us entertained with music, podcasts, and audio books when we're commuting, running, at the gym or just trying to disconnect from the world around us.
Most of us spend a lot of time with our headphones – it's important we get our choice right. If you're looking for some new cans, you're going to want a pair of the best headphones you can find that your budget allows.
The problem? There's so much choice these days, and there could be even more on the way, with rumors of the first-ever Apple over-ear headphones and the AirPods Pro Lite circling. With all those options out there, making the right buying decision can be tricky – and it's our mission to hook you up with the perfect headphones for your needs (and your budget).
We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar – however, if you're in a hurry and just want to find the best headphones your money can buy, check out our top picks below.
Our best headphone picks
Overall winner: Sony WH-1000XM3
The headphones that can do everything
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 254g | Cable length: 3.94 ft | Frequency response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Neodymium | Sensitivity: 104.5 dB / mW (1 kHz) | Impedance: 47 ohm | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes
The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones are the best headphones you can buy in 2020 – for now, anyway.
A dominant noise-cancelling pair of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 can beat anything Bose has with ease.
That’s because, while Bose has done a tremendous job working out its noise cancellation algorithm over the years, Sony has spent that time perfecting audio playback while simultaneously creating an adaptable algorithm that doesn’t just create a single sterile sound barrier, but multiple kinds that can tailor itself to whatever situation you’re in.
Beyond being exceptional at keeping external noises at bay, these impressive Sony headphones are Hi-Res Audio-ready, sporting aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs, and offer the smarts of Google Assistant right on-board. If you need a pair of headphones that can live up to any challenge and excel in any environment, these are the pair for you.
We could soon see a new contender for the top spot though; rumors of an imminent Sony WH-1000XM4 release date have been circling since an FCC filing from Sony revealed the model number of what could be a brand new pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Read more: Sony WH-1000XM3 review
Best over-ear headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Professional headphones that know how to have fun
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 370 g | Cable length: 9.8ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 5 – 40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 250 Ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770, DT880 and DT990 were renowned for their excellent build and sound quality.
Above them all, however, stand the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same (R9800), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound.
As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out, but the good news is that the open-back design gives the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.
If you've been searching for a pair of high fidelity cans that are used by some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are the best headphones for you.
Read more: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review
Best budget over-ear headphones: JBL Tune 750BTNC
Quality noise-cancelling over-ears for a great price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 220g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 95dB | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: 15 - 22 hours | Wireless range: 30ft (10m) | NFC: No
JBL is a popular name in the world of headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price.
That's what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC's as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price (1999.95), it feels foolish to complain too readily.
Read more: JBL Tune 750BTNC review
Best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 85h
Giving Sony and Bose a run for their money
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 2960g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 10 - 20,000 Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 36 hours | Wireless range: 33ft | NFC: No
Again, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our true winners in this category, but if you want an alternative, the Jabra Elite 85h are a fantastic choice.
Offering class-leading battery life, stylish design, and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h are easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier headphones on the market at this price point. A pair of these beauties will set you back R5074.
When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.
Read more: Jabra Elite 85h review
Best budget wireless headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810
Solid, affordable, mid-range noise-cancelling headphones
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.64 lbs (289g) | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 24 hours | Wireless range: 100 meters (330 feet) | NFC: No
For a lot less (R2699), Plantronics now sells the brilliant BackBeat Go 810, which use less premium materials but sound nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor – and sport an equally chic design.
With that in mind, the BackBeat Go 810 are an affordable pair of ANC headphones that will please travelers and commuters who don’t want to spend too much money on headphones.
Read more: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review
Best in-ear headphones: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
Your search for great-sounding, good value headphones ends here
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones, we were blown away by the great value for money they represent.
For between R1499 and R1699, it’s hard to think of a better-sounding and more well-built pair of earphones than the 1MORE Triple Drivers. (That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.)
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Sure, the inbuilt remote feels a little cheap, but that's more than made up for by the lush sound quality offered by these luxe-looking earbud.
For the price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Best budget in-ear headphones: Skullcandy Ink’D+
Durable with decent sound at an unbeatable price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 23.5g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 93-101dB | Drivers: 10mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 16 Ohms | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 100 meters (330 feet) | NFC: No
Better known for their garish colour schemes and "street" pop music sensibilities SkullCandy have consistently raised their build quality over the years. While the Ink'd+ are by no means an audiophile-class experience, the sound is not as lightweight and unbalanced as their price might suggest.
The sturdy plastic collar allows you to roll them up into a jeans pocket without the delicacy required for more sensitive pairs, and large buttons make for ease of use while on the move. Get these if you're okay with pop music highs and lows and don't want to pamper your gear.
Best wireless earbuds: Bowers & Wilkins Pi3
Superb sound that's easy to wear
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 31g | Frequency response: 10Hz - 30kHz | Drivers: 9.2mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 96 dB | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | NFC: No
In a very competitive market segment the Bowers & Wilkins Pi3 edges some strong competitors by the sheer quality of its sound. That's down to the dual driver design, each with dedicated amplification, resulting in a perfectly balanced sound effortlessly maintained no matter what we threw at them.
The neck band is especially comfortable but still sturdy enough to withstand a little rough treatment. They're also extremely light making them ideal for all-day use. The companion app means you can easly update their software and also keep tabs on battery levels. We're a little disappointed that they don't have a proper IP-based splashproof rating, making one reluctant to use them at gym or in a rainstorm, but the overall music quality is so good you can easily overlook this tiny limitation.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Wireless Headphones review
Best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3
Noise cancelation without the wires
Weight: 70g | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dome Type | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life (charging case): 18 hours | Wireless range: 30ft | NFC: Yes
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancelation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it.
That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: not only are these hands-down the best-looking true wireless earbuds out there, but they also combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality.
If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive and smart alternative.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds review
Best noise-cancelling headphones: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Class-leading noise cancellation, but not the best battery life
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancellation to phone calls as well as music. The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.t.
Traditionally, noise-cancelling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight).
This can be really effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you, whether you’re standing on a busy street or trying to speak on a rumbling train.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancelation to phone calls as well as music. The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.
If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise cancellation is out of this world.
Read more: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
Best budget noise-cancelling headphones: Sennheiser HD 450BT
Great noise-cancelling headphones for those on a budget
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 238g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 18Hz - 22kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dBSPL@1kHz/1mW | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: 30ft (10m) | NFC: No
Sennheiser is well-known for its great-sounding noise-cancelling headphones, and its latest, the R2199 Sennheiser HD 450BT, offer a cheaper alternative to previous models like the Momentum 3 Wireless and class-leaders like the Sony WH-1000XM3.
With a minimal design and built-in noise cancellation, these fully-foldable wireless headphones are aimed squarely at the commuting crowd. Their well-balanced profile should appeal audiophiles and bass-hunters alike.
Battery life and connectivity are both very good, and the noise-cancelling works well enough, although you might find that these headphones don’t quite block out all external noise.
Read more: Sennheiser HD 450BT review
Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e
Truly excellent sound performance for a stellar price
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 99db | Impedance: 32 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series are its best and most refined yet.
The SR60e in particular are a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level pair of headphones that sound far more expensive than they really are. Sporting a pair of these will cost you R1700.
Their open-backed earcup design makes them feel more breathable than most on-ear headphones, delivering a wide, natural soundstage. In a few words, they're our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance.)
Read more: Grado SR60e review
Best budget on-ear headphones: Sony WH-CH510
Amazing battery life
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 132g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20,000Hz | Drivers: 30mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 35 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No
Its almost ironic how Sony has come in from a year or two in the tech wilderness to dominate the headphone business. The legendary WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling over-ears remain in our top spot overall and the WF-1000XM3 true wireless buds also tops its class. And now these low-priced Sony cans have turned in a winning audio performance too.
You don't expect top notch sound from on-ears, but these do exceptionally well nevertheless, especially considering the price. We especially like the USB-C charging and the extraordinary 35 hours of battery life (there's no cabled option as a fallback plan, though). The biggest drawback is a slightly lightweight all-plastic construction, but the padding on the cups is decent, and they're otherwise small and light, so well-suited to the mobile lifestyle.
Read more: Sony WH-CH510
Best luxury headphones: Focal Stellia
Luxury cans with a luxury price tag to match
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.96 lbs (435g) | Cable length: 1 x 4ft OFC 24 AWG cable, 1 x 10ft OFC 24 AWG cable | Frequency response: 5Hz - 40kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz | Impedance: 35Ohms | Battery life: NA | Wireless range: NA | NFC: No
The Focal Stellias are perhaps the best-sounding headphones on the planet. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.
If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias' precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.
If you like to keep things minimal in the headphones department, you probably won’t like the showy, opulent design of the Focal Stellias, and they can feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work.
But if luxury is your thing, the full-grain leather cups, woven cables, brushed copper accents, and matching carrying case are likely to appeal.
That luxury feel is translated right down to the presentation of the user manuals in a neat little leather-style wallet – and you may well expect to find this level of detail in exchange for parting with R115 485. Ouch.
Read more: Focal Stellia headphones review
Best headphones of 2020, at a glance
- Best headphones 2020: Sony WH-1000XM3
- Best in-ear headphones: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
- Best budget in-ear headphones: RHA S500u
- Best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 85H
- Best budget wireless headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810
- Best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds
- Best Bluetooth earbuds: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
- Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
- Best budget noise-canceling headphones: Sennheiser HD 450BT
- Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e
- Best budget on-ear headphones: Urbanears Plattan II
- Best over-ear headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
- Best budget over-ear headphones: JBL Tune 750BTNC
- Best luxury headphones: Focal Stellia
What to look for
Choosing the right headphones for you can be an agonizing decision – but it doesn't have to be if you look for a few key features.
Above all, sound quality is the most important thing to look for. That doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive audiophile headphones on the market; it just means that you should have an idea of what kind of sound you like.
How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?
If you're all about that bass, you'll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows.
It's also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you're in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.
You also need to consider the design of your new headphones. Do you want the freedom of true wireless earbuds or the security of a pair of sturdy over-ear headphones?
Wireless or wired is also an important consideration. A few short years ago, we may have tried to dissuade you from buying a pair of wireless headphones (the technology had issues with wireless connectivity over Bluetooth and sound quality took a dive as a result).
Nowadays however, advances in Bluetooth technology means that wireless headphones can sound fantastic and rarely experience annoying dropouts. If you're going for wireless headphones, make sure the battery life is decent, too.
You should also think about what you'll be using your new headphones for; if you need to soundtrack your workout, you'll want to look at headphones specifically designed for running or swimming.
Lastly, you need to consider price. You don't have to break the bank when your buying a pair of headphones, as evidenced by our guide to the best cheap headphones of 2020.
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.
Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.