Music is incredibly personal, and everyone has a different preferred genre.
But when it comes to headphones there almost as many preferences to choose from. Some people like the convenience of wireless, others the reliability and audio quality of wired. Some want the portability of in-ear headphones, and others the comfort of over-ears.
Upgrading your headphones is a personal choice, but it’s an essential step if you want to step away from the cheap earbuds that probably came bundled with.
A better pair of headphones will bring a new dimension to your music, whether it’s more detail, additional functionality or just more bass.
And while you could spend hundreds or thousands to get audiophile-grade gear, we’re the kind of people that like stellar performance for a good price.
The headphones you’ll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music however you like to listen to it. These features range from wireless connectivity to noise-cancellation, and come in the three major form-factors: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones.
It sounds like a lot. But that’s where our guide to the best headphones steps in.
We’ve selected the best headphones for each form-factor, and we’ve even picked out a budget option for each so that you should be able to find an excellent pair, no matter what your budget.
Here’s a quick look at the best headphones this year:
Best in-ear headphones:1More Triple Driver In-Ear HeadphoneBest budget in-ear headphones: Sennheiser CX213Best on-ear headphones: Grado SR60eBest over-ear headphones:Oppo PM-3Best budget over-ear headphones:AKG K92Best noise-cancelling headphones:Sony WH-1000XM2Best budget noise-cancelling headphones: Philips Fidelio NC1Best wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum WirelessBest wireless earbuds:Optoma NuForce BE6iBest true wireless earbuds:Jabra Elite Sport
Don’t forget we’ve also got our specific guide to the best in-ear headphones.
What headphones does TechRadar recommend?
We think the two most important things to consider when buying a pair of headphones are form-factor and price, and so that’s exactly how we’ve organised our guide.
Below you’ll find our top picks for the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones, the best over-ear headphones, the best noise-cancelling headphones and finally the best wireless headphones.
As well as a top pick for each form-factor we’ve also included a budget pick which manages to offer great sound at a much more competitive price point.
After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value they give in this price ranges.
For Rs 8,999 it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver.
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for like its rubber cable being an unnecessary pain and the remote control which feels cheap but that will be nitpicking. Instead what we will tell you is that the 1More Triple Driver sounds great and when you take into consideration the price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE’s Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Read the full review:1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone
The Sennheiser CX 213 builds upon the legendary budget in-ears, the CX 180 which have been around quite some time. Although there’s minimal upgrade when it comes to the CX 213, the sound quality is balanced with a slight mid-bass bump. Bass is slightly emphasized but not by much and features good impact while maintaining good control. It also brings better noise cancellation to the table over the CX180.
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 is its best and most refined yet. The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you’re looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. Its open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. In a few words, it’s our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
Read the full review:Grado SR60e
The Oppo PM-3 are truly deserve to be called as the best over-ear headphones. They offer great quality of audio with mimimum isolation and are equally comfortable inside and outside the home. In other words, Oppo PM-3 never fails to provide crisp sound quality to the users.
Read the full review:Oppo PM-3
Want more options? Check out our guide to the best over-ear headphones.
Even though they have a plastic body, but AKG K92 stands as a very good competitor when it comes to audio quality. They deliver extremely good sound quality and comfort to the users. Being lightweight, they are easily portable.
The headphones are priced at Rs 5,950 on Amazon India.
Read the full review: AKG K92
When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you’re often trading sound quality for the ability to block out outside noise. It’s a trade that we’ve been willing to make for years because, honestly, we just hadn’t been able to find a headphone that could do both noise-cancellation and Hi-Res audio.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the follow-up to the surprisingly great MDR-1000X. They might have a slightly shorter battery life than Bose’s flagship over-ear headphones, the QuietComfort 35, but Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outclass the QC35 in terms of both performance for the price and overall feature-set.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2
The Philips Fidelio NC1 replaces the Sony WH-H900N in our list. They comes with two 1.5″ Neodymium drivers and has a 3.9 ft cable. This may disappoint the users who are looking for wireless headphones. The headphones offer quality audio to the users with a promising 30 hours of battery life. Moreover, they have foldable ear cups which add to the portability of the headphones.
Read the full review:Philips Fidelio NC1
Optoma NuForce BE6i are an updated version of the original NuForce BE6. However, the changes are minimal in the new pair of headphones. They comes with 10mm dynamic drivers and an eight hours of battery life. Coming to the audio quality, the headphone delivers extremely good sound.
Priced at Rs 10,901, the earbuds are worth buying.
Read the full review:Optoma NuForce BE6i
Following the footsteps of Apple, Jabra launched a pair of ‘true wireless’ earbuds in India recently. Apart from offering great sound quality, the earphone comes with advance fitness analysis technology. Through this, the earbuds can track your heart rate during workouts.
They also support all the major operating systems including Android and iOS and can be easily paired with any smartphone.
Read the full review:Jabra Elite Sport
Want more options? Check out our guide to the best wireless headphones.
Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.
There’s usually more to a set of headphone than meets the eye. As such, we’ve provided a breakdown of what you can expect to find in each kind of headphone.
Not only will learning more about headphones help you make a more informed purchase, but you’ll know when you’re really getting your money’s worth.
This type of headphone, more commonly referred to as an earbud or earphone, is usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. If you’ve purchased an MP3 player, or more recently, a smartphone, it’s likely that a set was included with the purchase.
Earphones rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. Compared to other types of headphones, these are the most discreet ones you’ll find. Their small form-factor also makes them the king/queen of portability and the prime choice for athletes.
You’re not likely to find strong performers at the low-end of the price spectrum. Their sound delivery is generally muddled, lacking bass and overcompensating for that with harsh mids and highs. That said, it won’t cost you much money at all to find a value-packed option complete with inline controls and a microphone.
Check out some of our other favorite models out hereOn-ear headphones
While similar to over-ear headphones in appearance, they fit to your head a little differently. Instead of enveloping your ears with a soft cushion, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable seal around your ear. Thus, the noise isolation is much less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but there are big benefits to consider here.
On-ear headphones are usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, and as such they appeal to travellers and the fitness crowd. Taking a walk or a jog around town is also safer, as you can hear traffic go by and be aware of potential hazards.
This ear-muff style of headphone generally provides greater richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. Additionally, over-ear, or circum-aural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.
The price range for a set of on-ear headphones begins around Rs. 5k and from there, the sky’s the limit. For example, the Oppo PM-1, while excellent, are priced exorbitantly at Rs. 56k. It’s definitely not necessary to spend that much. That said, you tend to get what you pay for.
If your headphone budget is in the Rs. 500-15,000, you’ll start getting into options that have excellent build quality, premium materials and amazing sound and features like ANC (active noise cancellation.)
Here are a few more of our top picksWireless headphones
This style of headphone doesn’t limit you to a specific form factor like the others. In fact, you can find in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphone styles sans wire.
Opting to go wireless will cost you a premium of anywhere between $50-100 over the price of wired cans. Going futuristic isn’t cheap. One important thing to consider is that your music player must support the Bluetooth wireless protocol, as it’s required to use this type of headphone.
Speaking of Bluetooth, it has become exponentially more reliable over time, but it’s always susceptible to disturbances in the force. In short, any little thing, from the understandable (conflicting Wi-Fi signals, microwaves, cordless telephones), to the absurd (sticking a hand in the space between the device and the headphones) can sometimes interrupt a wireless listening experience.
Looking for more wireless options?Noise-cancelling headphones
This category, like wireless headphones, isn’t limited to a form factor. You can find this clever mix of technologies integrated into the ear pieces of in-ear and over-ear headphones alike.
Many companies falsely claim to offer true noise cancellation with just the padding included around the ear cups. Don’t believe it. This is PNC (passive noise cancellation), and it doesn’t amount to much. You can even replicate this effect by cupping your hands around your ears, so why shell out the big bucks for it?
On the other hand, ANC (active noise cancellation) is the real deal. This technique employs a set of external microphones, which detect the decibel level outside. Once it has an idea of the incoming noise level, the headphone speakers inside transmit a noise generated to dampen the racket. The end result is an effect that hushes the outside noise, allowing you to focus.