With regards to the very best headphones, it is laborious to slim issues all the way down to the very best of the very best, notably since there’s an infinite array of fantastic choices accessible, and it is unimaginable to overview each single mannequin on the planet. However I will attempt anyway. We are likely to give attention to wi-fi headphones, and true wi-fi specifically — sure, Apple’s AirPods have been insanely widespread over the previous a number of years — however this listing of finest headphones additionally consists of over-ear headphones, on-ear fashions, headphones with noise cancellation, and even some extra reasonably priced headphones as “price range” standouts for individuals who do not wish to drop lots of money to get nice sound and optimum consolation.

These are our present favorites for the “finest headphones” designation (with waterproofing scores included for in-ear fashions). Notice that we’ll be seeing loads of new fashions popping out quickly, a lot of which we’ll see previewed at CES 2021. We’ll replace this listing commonly as these new fashions preserve getting launched.

Learn extra: One of the best true wi-fi earbuds of 2021

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WaterproofSure (IPX4 ranking — splashproof).

The second-gen Momentum True Wi-fi 2, accessible now for preorder and delivery in April, aren’t low cost at $300, however this wi-fi earbud choice is healthier throughout than the unique, with a barely smaller, extra comfy design, energetic noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPod Professional, improved battery life (as much as 7 hours versus the unique’s 4) and higher noise discount throughout calls. And, should you do not like these Sennheiser Momentum Wi-fi headphones in black, a white model is slated to comply with later this yr. Most importantly, although, the Momentum True Wi-fi 2 have the identical stellar sound — for true wi-fi earbuds, anyway — providing clearly superior sound high quality to the AirPods Professional. That makes this wi-fi headphone arguably the finest true wi-fi earbuds available on the market at the moment and earns them a CNET Editors’ Alternative Award.

These use Bluetooth 5.1 with help for the AAC and AptX codecs (for gadgets which have AptX, comparable to Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones).

Learn our Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi 2 overview.

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WaterproofSure (IPX4 ranking — splash-proof).

Samsung’s Buds Plus look primarily the identical as the unique Galaxy Buds, however this earbud’s battery life is rated at 11 hours for music playback (up from 6), they usually pack twin drivers for higher sound and a further microphone in every bud to assist with exterior noise discount whereas making calls.

These headphones have nice sound. It is detailed and clean, with deep, well-defined bass. The sound is richer and extra spacious than that of the unique Galaxy Buds. Nicely-respected Austrian audio firm AKG, which Samsung acquired when it purchased Harman, is behind the audio. Whereas the unique Buds have been additionally “tuned” by AKG, these are a pleasant improve over the originals — and proper there with what you get with the Jabra Elite 75t, if not even a contact higher. They use Bluetooth 5.Zero and help for AAC (there’s now an app for iOS customers) and Samsung’s scalable codec, which is analogous to aptX however is proprietary to Samsung Galaxy telephones.

Learn our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus overview.

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Sony’s earlier WH-1000XM3 mannequin was nice. But when it had a weak point, that was voice calling, notably in noisier environments. The WH-1000XM4 mannequin has improved in that space and in addition provides multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you may join to 2 gadgets — comparable to your cellphone and PC — on the identical time. That implies that if a name is available in when you’re utilizing the headphones along with your laptop, the audio will change to your cellphone if you reply the decision.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 most likely nonetheless have a slight edge for voice calls, however the 1000XM4 headphones are arguably a tad extra comfy and still have another slight enhancements to noise cancellation and sound that make this mannequin an ideal all-around alternative. Even higher: This mannequin has been promoting for $278 throughout vacation gross sales, down from its listing worth of $350.

Learn our Sony WH-1000XM4 overview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

WaterproofSure (IPX4 ranking — splashproof).

Even when they do not sound as magical as you’d hope a $249 mannequin would, the Apple AirPods Professional nonetheless manages to be an ideal instance of a real wi-fi in-ear headphone with noise cancellation. That is largely attributable to their successful design and match, improved bass efficiency and efficient noise canceling. They’re a wonderful alternative if you wish to make a name or hearken to music throughout your exercise. Yeah, they’re costly at $250, however the excellent news is you may use them a lot you may most likely put on the battery down — it does degrade over time and is not replaceable — and have to purchase a brand new pair in 18 to 24 months should you do not lose them first.

Learn our Apple AirPods Professional overview.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to its Quiet Consolation 35 II fashions, will not be a quantum leap ahead however these wi-fi headphones supply barely higher sound high quality, name and noise-canceling high quality. Alas, these over-ear headphones value $400, however this noise cancelling headphone alternative is a powerful all-around performer with as much as 20 hours of battery life for listening to podcasts, music and extra. I favor the Sony WH-1000XM3’s design and match (and cheaper price tag), and when you can argue about which pair of headphones sounds higher, one factor is for certain: This noise-cancelling mannequin works considerably higher as a headset for making calls. For some folks that could be price the additional value of those Bose headphones.

Learn our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 overview.

WaterproofSure (IP55 ranking — can stand up to heavy sprays of water).

At first look, the Elite 75t, which was initially speculated to value $200 however now sells for $180 (£170 or AU$299), appeared extra like an evolutionary improve from the Elite 65t. However the updates turned out to be a little bit extra substantial than I first thought. The Elite 75t’s smaller dimension (the pair of earbuds and case are 20% smaller than the Elite 65t’s), its boosted battery life and USB-C charging are vital upgrades. After which there are the smaller adjustments, like the brand new charging case design with magnets inside it that make it simpler to open and shut and to maintain the buds inside. Whereas the Elite 75t is not fairly as comfy to put on because the AirPods Professional and does not have energetic noise canceling, it does sound higher for listening to your music, with clearer general sound and higher bass definition, as long as you get a good seal. Simply observe that the Jabra Elite Energetic 75t arrives in February, including barely higher water resistance for $20 extra.

Learn our Jabra Elite 75t overview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

WaterproofSure (IPX5 ranking — can stand up to heavy sprays of water).

If you cannot afford the AirPods Professional, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is an efficient different and a high mannequin for making calls or listening to your music playlist. Just like the AirPods Professional, this noise isolation wi-fi earbud choice does a remarkably good job of muffling ambient noise (callers stated they may hear me effective even with lots of road noise and background noise round me). Whereas they do not have energetic noise canceling, they sound almost nearly as good, have a snug match and their noise-isolating design passively seals out lots of ambient noise and white noise. They solely value $100.

Learn our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 overview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

WaterproofNo (lacks IPX certification).

Due to the WF-1000XM3, Sony has lastly turn into a participant within the true wi-fi (AirPod-style) headphone enviornment. Whereas this pair of headphones is not low cost, so far as sound high quality, they’re the very best wi-fi earbuds at this worth, matching and even perhaps exceeding the standard and efficiency of pricier rivals from Sennheiser, Beats, Grasp & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. It additionally has a characteristic that these wi-fi earbuds do not have: energetic noise-cancellation know-how to scale back ambient noise.

It isn’t stellar for making calls (their noise-reduction capabilities must be higher) and the earbuds aren’t rated as sweatproof or waterproof. That stated, I’ve used them for gentle exercises with a little bit of a sweat on the gymnasium and not using a drawback. They use Bluetooth 5.Zero with help for AAC however not aptX.

Learn our Sony WF-1000XM3 overview.

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One of the best true wi-fi earbuds accessible now


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WaterproofSure (IPX7 ranking — totally waterproof).

What’s most spectacular concerning the EarFun Free is the options: Bluetooth 5.0, each USB-C and wi-fi charging, and full waterproofing (IPX7), in response to their specs. Do they sound unbelievable? No, however these Bluetooth headphones sound fairly good. They do not have the readability of higher-end true wi-fi earbuds that value $150 or extra, however they do have plump bass and sufficient element to keep away from sounding uninteresting. They’re additionally fairly strong for making calls. A superb worth at lower than $50.

Learn our EarFun Free overview.

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V-Moda’s M-200 ($350) is a wired-only headphone and at the moment the one wired headphone on this listing. Launched in late 2019, these clear and detailed sounding over-ear headphones have wonderful bass response, and the soft ear cushion cups imply they’re additionally comfy to put on. That includes 50mm drivers with neodymium magnets, CCAW voice coils and fine-tuning by Roland engineers — sure, V-Moda is now owned by Roland — the M‑200 is Hello‑Res Audio licensed by the Japan Audio Society (JAS). Different V-Moda headphones are likely to push the bass a little bit, however this set of headphones has the extra impartial profile that you just’d count on from a studio monitor headphone. It comes with two cords, one in all which has a built-in microphone for making calls. It could be good if V-Moda supplied Lightning or USB-C headphone cables for telephones with out headphone jacks.

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I am not a fan of low cost noise-canceling headphones. I’ve truly been struggling to place collectively a listing of fashions for a finest noise-canceling headphones roundup as a result of there are so few that I would suggest shopping for. However Anker’s Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Energetic Noise Cancelling Headphones are an exception. They’re fairly respectable for his or her common listing worth of $60 they usually’re steadily on sale for $10 much less.

No, the Life Q20 does not sound nearly as good as premium fashions such because the Sony WH-1000XM3, but it surely sounds fairly good, which is all you may ask for at this worth. It is pretty nicely balanced with an affordable quantity of readability and plump bass that is not bloated or muddy (there is a bass enhance or BassUp mode if you need an additional serving to of bass). It is also comfy to put on, the noise canceling is acceptably efficient, it is strong as a headset for making calls and battery life is nice at 40 hours. A easy carrying pouch is included.

Sarah Tew/CNET

WaterproofSure (IPX4 ranking — splashproof).

Anker is understood extra for its worth headphones, but it surely’s making an attempt to step into extra premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Professional earbuds, which carry a listing worth of $150. From a design standpoint, they share some similarities with Sony’s WF-1000XM3, though this mannequin does not have energetic noise cancellation. Anker says they’ve massive 11mm drivers mixed with Knowles Balanced Armature, with as much as eight hours of battery life on a single cost (32 complete hours of playtime with the case) and noise-cancellation microphones to assist cut back ambient sound so callers can hear you higher. They cost through USB-C and in addition help wi-fi charging.

They do not sound fairly nearly as good because the Sony WF-1000XM3, however they definitely sound like premium true wi-fi earphones, with wealthy sound that features highly effective bass efficiency and plenty of element. Some folks could have some quibbles over the match — I needed to provide my very own XL tricks to get a good seal and located the Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 a little bit extra comfy — however the Soundcore Liberty 2 Professional are a very good worth. Whether or not you wish to use them as journey headphones or exercise headphones, they’re going to do the job. Additionally they work very nicely for making calls (they do a very good job decreasing background sound).

They use Bluetooth 5.Zero with help for AAC and aptX.

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