Best headphones 2023on January 23, 2023 at 11:30 Tech Advisor

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If your bank balance allows it, you could spend thousands on just one pair of headphones. We know that the average consumer doesn’t have anything like that just lying around, so we’re looking at more affordable but premium sets here.

We’ve got a wide range of prices here so you could spend under $50/£50 or over $500/£500 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.

Best headphones 2023

1. Sony WH-1000XM5 – Best Overall

Pros

Phenomenal audio quality

Great noise cancellation

Serious smarts

Cons

No longer fold

Expensive

It seems Sony can do no wrong with its flagship XM headphones, well almost. They’re more expensive than their predecessors and the design no longer folds down which will irk some users.

However, the price can largely be put down to inflation and if the non-folding design doesn’t bother you then these headphones are essentially flawless starting with the kinds of high-end sound and noise cancelling you’d expect from Sony, despite smaller drivers.

Elsewhere, the improved headband allows smooth adjustment and there’s an unrivalled selection of smart features from Adaptive Sound Control to Speak-to-Chat. It’s a small step forward but they remain the best over-ear headphones you can buy.

The caveat, as usual, is that considering this is refinement and not reinvention, you can buy previous generations, even the WH-1000XM4, for much lower prices providing a better value option.

Read our full
Review Sony WH-1000XM5

2. Sony WF-1000XM4 – Best Wireless Earbuds

Pros

Class leading ANC

Incredible sound

Smart features

Cons

More expensive than some

Bulky for small ears

Sony has done it again with its latest pair of flagship earbuds with an unmatched combination of sound quality, top-notch noise cancelling and high-end smart features borrowed from the WH model.

They also have strong battery life so they are the best package on the market if you can afford them. 

There’s very little to be disappointed with here, perhaps only that the earbuds themselves are still bigger than some rivals so aren’t well-suited to smaller ears.

Read our full
Review Sony WF-1000XM4

3. Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch – Best Battery Life

Pros

Epic battery life

Great sound

Useful app

Comfortable

Cons

No ANC

Slow to switch modes

Slightly awkward case

RRP:



£129.95

They don’t have noise cancelling, but the Melomania Touch are still a great pair of wireless earbuds.

As long as ANC isn’t a must-have feature, they offer excellent sound quality and a comfortable design with changeable fins.

The standout here is unrivalled battery life with the ability to go for a whopping total of 50 hours if you use them in low power mode. They can still last an awesome 44 hours in high performance mode.

Read our full
Review Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch

4. NuraLoop – Best Custom Sound

Pros

Superb personalised sound

Excellent ANC

Good value

Cons

Proprietary eartips and adapter

No digital assistant support

Bulky case

RRP:



£149

Best Prices Today:



£112.68 at Amazon£149 at Nura

NuraLoop manages to condense the audio wizardry found in the company’s first product and deliver an in-ear alternative that’s hard to beat in terms of comfort, quality sound, top-notch noise cancellation and battery longevity.

Better yet, at this price, they undercut Apple’s AirPods Pro while delivering a better audio experience overall. Just be aware that they lack virtual assistant support and relies on some proprietary components that might cost a little extra to replace.

They are now cheaper due to the introduction of the
NuraTrue earbuds.

Read our full
Review NuraLoop

5. Bose QuietComfort 45 – Best Comfort

Pros

Light and comfortable

Effective noise cancelling

Solid battery life

Cons

No ANC adjustment

Lacking smart features

Plasticky build

It was a long wait for Bose to update the QC35 II and five years later the QuietComfort 45 still live up to the name.

With cloud-like cushions and a lightweight design, they are the best choice for long listening sessions – whether you’re simply at your desk or on a long haul flight. 

Noise cancelling performance is top-notch as you’d expect from Bose and battery life is solid – with wired mode still an option.

Things are surprisingly simple though with just two ANC modes – Quiet and Aware – missing the 11 levels of adjustment found on the QC Earbuds. They also lack smart features such as ear detection.

Read our full
Review Bose QC45

6. Anker Soundcore Life A2 NC – Best Budget Wireless Earbuds

Pros

Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation

Powerful bass

Great battery life

Cons

No auto-pause

Case feels a little cheap

No auto-switching of ANC profiles

RRP:



£79.99

Best Prices Today:



£59.99 at Amazon

If you’re not on a tight budget then you’ll struggle to find better wireless earbuds than these.

They might have a slightly cheap-feeling case and no auto-pausing tech (aka wear detection) but those downsides are massively overshadowed by great performance and a surprisingly comprehensive feature set.

As well as powerful bass, the A2 buds have excellent noise cancelling with three presets for different environments and the app offers EQ sound customisation. Throw in touch controls and solid battery life and there’s very little to dislike.

And you can easily find them at prices lower than the RRP.

Read our full
Review Anker Soundcore Life A2 NC

7. Adidas RPD-01 – Best for Running

Pros

Impressive fit

Great audio quality

Budget friendly

Cons

Slow charging

Middling battery life

Awkward media controls

RRP:



£69.99

If you need headphones for running or other forms of exercise then this pair from Adidas is a steal.

They don’t charge very fast and the controls are tricky to master but they get a lot of more important stuff starting with a range of tips and wings to ensure a secure fit.

They are also lightweight and have an IPX4 splash resistant. Sound quality is great, particularly the bass, and the price is rather agreeable. If you need longer battery life look to the more premium
Adidas FWD-01.

Read our full
Review Adidas RPD-01

8. Marshall Monitor II ANC – Best Style

Pros

Build quality

Comfortable & compact

Good battery life

Cons

Middling ANC

Joystick control won’t suit everyone

If noise cancelling is your top priority then Marshall is a little behind rivals in this area, but the Monitor II ANC headphones have a lot to offer.

For starters, they have a more affordable price (RRP) and offer one of the most compact and comfortable designs for a pair of over-ear headphones. They also sound very good, too.

We also like the useful buttons, long battery life and the way the app allows you to customise various elements.

Read our full
Review Marshall Monitor II ANC

9. Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 – Best Under £50

Pros

Cheap

Great sound

Interchangeable filters

Cons

No mic as standard

RRP:



£43.90

Best Prices Today:



£20.57 at Amazon

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 this price 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.

Read our full
Review Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2

10. Apple AirPods Max – Best Luxury Listening

Pros

Incredible sound quality

Premium build

Great ANC

Impressive smarts

Cons

Limited Android support

No power button

Silly Smart Case

No Lossless support

RRP:



£549

Best Prices Today:



£549.00 at Apple

They got off to a rocky start but after some firmware updates, the AirPods Max are an excellent choice for Apple users who can afford them.

The design and build are among the most luxurious we’ve ever seen (ignoring the ridiculous Smart Case) and they sound great too, even without Lossless playback support.

You also get active noise cancelling with an excellent transparency mode along with smart features like Hey Siri and Spatial Audio with head-tracking for a more immersive listening experience, whether that’s music or movies.

Read our full
Review Apple AirPods Max

Your buying guide to the best headphones

One of the main things you need to do, apart from deciding 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 inexpensiveOver-ear – Comfortable and space to house larger driversOn-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 headphonesNeckbuds – Wireless headphones connected together with a section designed to sit around the neckTrue wireless earbuds – Earbuds that are not connected to each other with a wire

Find out how we test audio.

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 and best budget 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.

Headphones, Home Audio

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