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Best Headphones 2023: The top pairs we’ve tested

There’s plenty of choice in the headphones market these days, with various different styles available for a range of price points.

However, with such a vast spectrum available, it can be difficult to know which ones would suit you just right. That’s why we’re here to help, with the list below giving you our top recommendations from the world of headphones. We’ve put each and every one of these products through rigorous real-life tests, including listening to a lot of different music genres, trying out the Active Noise Cancellation in busy public places, and comparing them all to similarly-priced alternatives so that we know just where they stand when it comes to value for money.

We’ve ensured that a wide range of price points are covered in the list below so that you’ll be catered for regardless of your means, as well as ticking off different types of headphones. So whether you prefer wired or wireless, in-ear or over-ear, you’ll find something to your tastes among these recommendations.

If you have a stronger idea of exactly what you want to buy, then we have some finely-tailored best lists as well that will be worth your perusal. We have a best wireless earbuds list if you’re looking for some true wireless options, and if you’re a gym bunny then we have a best running headphones list that’s just for you. If having some peace and quiet is your priority then the best noise cancelling headphones list will be worth your attention, and if you want the comfort afforded by over-ear Bluetooth cans then you should take a look at our recommendations for best wireless headphones.

Best headphones at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test headphones

Not just anybody can review a pair of headphones. You don’t need superhuman hearing to tell what’s good, but you do need to know what to listen out for.

Our headphone tests are done by some of the best and most prolific reviewers in the industry, with years of experience listening to everything from the plasticky freebie earbuds that come with your smartphone, to five-figure beasts of glass and marble. We love music and we want your tunes to sound good, too.

So we listen every pair of headphones we can get on or in our ears. We use a variety of sources, from basic MP3s playing on a laptop to high-quality tracks on dedicated hi-res audio players.

Our test tracks are wide-ranging to give headphones a thorough challenge. They’re also familiar, so we know every track backwards, and we know which bits might trouble the lesser performers.

We listen again and again, and we do that for weeks in case the sound changes – because it usually does. Then we’ll listen to similarly priced rivals and come up with a verdict that reflects the performance and features for the money.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best wireless headphones
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  • Excellent comfort
  • Musical, rich audio performance
  • Impressively clean and natural noise cancellation
  • Superb Ambient Mode
  • Great call quality


  • Non-foldable design
  • Connection gets choppy in busy areas

Winner of the best headphone and best noise cancelling headphones categories at our 2022 awards, the Sony WH-1000XM5 feature a new design and some subtle changes to the audio but they add up to one of the most impressive headphones at their price.

They have a more modern look than the WH-1000XM4 and the redesigned earcups can’t be collapsed, following in the footsteps of Bose’s NC 700 HP and Apple’s AirPods Max. This change has been done to offer better noise cancelling performance, and in testing we found it did reduced wind noise for a quieter ANC experience.

We also sensed the WH-1000XM5’s noise cancelling tackled higher frequency sounds with more confidence than the XM4, although we did feel the XM4 model suppressed voices a tad better. The new mode coped with other noises well, with everything from big crowds to commuting on transport reduced to a hush. With eight microphones to assist call quality and noise cancellation, the Ambient Mode offered a noticeable improvement over the older model with a clearer, natural sound.

There have also been incremental improvements to the already great audio performance. The mid-range sounds slightly richer and more detailed, with increased definition and clarity to instruments and voices. Music also takes place within a wider soundstage and bass has more texture and clarity then on older models. Taken together and it makes the WH-1000XM5 a great listen with any genre.

For features it’s much the same story as before. Quick Attention filters through outside sound at a moment’s notice, and Speak To Chat (which pauses music when you’re speaking) are back. Battery life remains unchanged at 30 hours of runtime, and we managed to get around a week’s use from these headphones. If you’re after more longevity then both the Technics EAH-A800 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless offer 50 and 60 hours respectively.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

 Best ANC earbuds
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  • Class-leading noise cancellation for an earbud
  • Neutral sound quality
  • Comfortable fit
  • Excellent transparency mode


  • Average battery life
  • No higher quality Bluetooth codecs
  • Design affected by wing noise

If you prefer the convenience wireless in-earphones, we’d highly recommend the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, especially if you’re in need of supreme noise cancelling performance, though they have been placed by the QuietComfort Earbuds II, which are claimed to be even more impressive.

The noise cancellation is one of the best we’ve tested in a pair of earbuds, with the QC Earbuds blocking out the sound of everything from a busy traffic intersection to large gatherings. This helps to protect hearing as there’s less of a need to raise the volume to hear music. The likes of Sony, Sennheiser and the Apple AirPods Pro 2 are rivals in terms of ANC performance.

While the QuietComfort Earbuds are chunky in size, they’re comfortable to wear due to their StayHear Max ear-tips that keep the earphones in. Along with an IPX4 resistance that protects them against water and sweat, they make a good option for exercise use, although we found during runs the design amplified wind noise, something Bose’s Sport Earbuds didn’t.

The audio carries a neutral tone and detailed sound, with the top end of the frequency sharp and bright, the midrange spacious and detailed and bass lent weight and power. Since the QuietComfort Earbuds launched, Bose has added EQ options for treble and bass to the app so listeners can customise to their tastes. These earphones aren’t as musical-sounding as the Sony WF-1000XM4, nor quite as rich as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, but are well suited to those who prefer an uncoloured sound.

Compared to other premium earbuds, the Bose have a low battery life. The QuietComfort Earbuds only have 18 hours in total, 6 hours less than the WF-1000XM4 and ten hours fewer than Sennheiser. They could survive regularly use across a day, but need charging fairly often as a result.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Rode NTH-100

Best wired headphones for professional use
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  • Articulate, convincing sound in all scenarios
  • Built to last
  • Good-looking (in a purposeful sort of way)


  • Sonic even-handedness won’t suit everybody
  • Hard-wired configuration won’t be for all
  • Earpads heat up over time

The Røde NTH-100 are a fantastic choice if you’re in need of a pair of headphones for professional use. This is reflected in their detailed and balanced audio that makes them ideal as a pair of reference headphones for mixing, especially when dealing with lossless audio.

Our reviewer found the bass carried plenty of depth without the typical superficial excitement present with cheaper headphones. The mid-range unpacks every last detail of a track, alongside a smooth top-end that makes listening to these headphones a pleasure.

The NTH-100 lack the features of wireless headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds on this list. What you do get is a very long 2.4m cable (an optional 1.2m is available for extra cost) and a clever fitting system known as FitLock that allows you to lock in the headband position of the NTH-100 so it remains in the correct position for your head at all times.

In terms of their design, the NTH-100 adhere totally to the expectation of what over ear headphones look like in general. They build quality is very fine, the all-black finish and Alcantara-covered memory foam for earpads contact helps them to be especially comfortable. If performance-per-pound is what you’re in the market for, then the Røde are great whether it’s for casual or critical listening.

Reviewer: Simon Lucas
Full Review: Røde NTH-100

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus

Best affordable true wireless
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  • Impressive sound for the money
  • Long battery life
  • Good call quality
  • App support
  • Affordable


  • Some won’t like the ‘plugged in’ feeling
  • Connection can get spotty in busy areas

The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ first launched in 2021 at £119.95, but have since then dropped in to below £50, marking them out as a terrific budget buy.

The Melomania 1+ don’t feature any noise cancellation to block sounds out, relying on the passive noise isolating qualities of the design to reduce any distractions in a solid manner. They’re shaped like a bullet but they proved cozy to wear and by using physical push buttons the controls are more reliable than touch controls. Some, however, won’t like the plugged in feeling of the buds in which case a design like the OneSonic BXS-HD1 might be of more interest.

Like we mentioned above, the Cambridge doesn’t feature noise cancellation or a transparency mode, but they do boast features in the Melomania app with customisation of the audio and touch controls, plus the ability to switch between audio modes for better quality sound as seen on the Melomania Touch.

Switching modes affects the battery life, with the Low Power mode offering 9 hours per bud and High Performance mode 7 hours per earphone. Both are figures we found to be respectable for a true wireless.

The sound is a step up in our minds from the original Melomania. The bass response is improved with more weight and punch that makes the Melomania 1 sound feeble in comparison. Vocals are smoother in tone and sound bigger, and while the original is crisper and sharper with high frequencies, we found the Melomania 1+ overall struck a better balance across the frequency range. At this price we’d rate at as a bargain not to be missed out on.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+

Grado SR325x

Best wired on-ears
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  • Insightful, detailed and spacious presentation
  • Striking design
  • Low impedance drivers


  • Comfort may be an issue for some
  • Design isn’t especially portable

Anyone familiar with the Grado brand will be able to identify the SR325x as one of their headphones in a heartbeat. A pair of on-ears with an open-backed design, it’s an approach that’s been at the heart of Grado’s offering for decades, the open-backed design grants these headphones a bigger, more spacious soundstage.

It does make them a leaky-sounding pair of headphones, so if you’re using these on public transport, be prepared to to have people looking at you. The Grado SR325x offer terrific consistency in their balanced approach to music, emphasising a natural tone and fantastic clarity with instruments and vocals. We found the stereo image to be full of depth, the sharpness and definition, giving music a great sense of fidelity.

You will need high quality audio files to get the best from them but with their 38 ohm impedance, you’ll be able to connect these wired headphones to a range of devices without the need for further amplification to drive them.

We found the design to be of premium quality, the metal housing for each earcup offers a durable finish, and the brand’s ‘F’ type earcups are ones we felt were especially comfortable during use. As seems to be the case with on-ears, you may experience a degree of pinching depending on the size of your ear, in which case an over-ear such as the Monolith M1070 or Austrian Audio Hi-X65 may be preferable.

Nevertheless, these are an insightful, precise and detailed pair of on-ear headphones, an audiophile pair of cans without the price tag to go with it.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Grado SR325x

Final UX3000

Best affordable noise cancelling headphones
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  • Good comfort
  • Effective ANC
  • Rich, warm sound
  • Solid battery life
  • Simple operation


  • Stripped-down feature set
  • Minimalist looks may be interpreted as bland

If the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM5 are too far out of your budget, then the Final UX3000 demonstrate that you don’t need to spend a fortune for good noise cancelling headphones.

The UX3000 are not heavy on the features with a simple on-off button for the active noise cancellation but they deal with persistent noises, busy road junctions and crowds of people well. The noise cancellation can be switched on without having to power the headphones, too. Similar to the Ausounds AU-XT ANC, we’d recommend turning the ANC on if you’re listening to music as they sound better with it on.

The audio here is some of the best we’ve heard for less than £150, eliciting a confident, musical performance from the tracks we played, with weighty bass and a rich mid-range rich. The warmth of their presentation means they’re not quite as detailed or incisive as either the Austrian Audio Hi-X25BT or the Cleer Enduro ANC, but overall we found the UX3000 had a better handle over music those two rivals, with solid dynamics and a decently wide soundstage.

We found 25-hour battery life good enough to last a week with general use and with ANC off the headphones can reach up to 35 hours. The design is minimalist in appearance, the finish referred to as ‘Shibo’, an old terms that refers to wrinkled paper of leather, a texture that can repel dust or dirt for an always-clean look

Operation is via physical buttons that cover volume, ANC and playback making the UX3000 an easy pair of headphones to use. We also found they were comfortable over extended periods, which we found made them a good partner for commutes into work.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Final UX3000

SoundMagic P23BT

Best affordable on-ears
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  • Refined and detailed sound
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Long battery life
  • Cheap


  • Can pinch on the ears
  • Not what you’d call stylish

On-ear headphones have their pros and cons, but they still remain a popular choice among commuters, and the SoundMagic P23BT are one of the best we’ve reviewed in recent years.

The P23BT are an affordable (£49.99), support aptX-HD Bluetooth for higher quality sound and can last for around 50-60 hours.

The design has the same issues that plague any on-ear, in that they can pinch around the earlobes (especially if you have bigger ears) and it can leak sound in from the outside world. Get past that and the SoundMagic have a lightweight and foldable design that made it easier for us to stow away when not in use. Touch controls are cleverly integrated into the earcups. In use, they’re surprisingly responsive.

Features are few for a pair of headphones such as these, with aptX-HD Bluetooth the most notable in offering wearers the chance to stream music at a higher quality bit-rate. Our reviewer found the headphones capable of much more subtlety than expected, with a midrange full of detail, treble that’s bright and sharp and detailed bass. The Marshall Major IV are a great deal more bassy in their performance, but we find the P23BT more balanced overall.

Given the price these headphones are bargain, and for those not big on features and just need a simple pair of on-ears to listen to, we highly recommend the SoundMagic.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: SoundMagic P23BT

Tribit TR-KH01

Best affordable kids’ headphones
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  • Cute and comfortable design
  • Volume-limited to protect ears
  • Great sound quality for their price


  • No volume up/down button on the cable
  • Call quality suffers with volume-limiting on
  • Kids can turn off volume-limiting easily

The Tribit Starlet01 Kids are cute, comfortable and volume-limited, making them a great buy for any parent looking to protect their kids’ ears while they do homework, watch movies and play games. 

The headphones have a bright, single-colour design, making them look vibrant and age-appropriate without running the risk of appearing too childish in the same vein as the animal ear-toting Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones

The fit is comfortable too, with the headband being lightweight and adjustable, and the ear cups soft and padded. 

The headline feature here is the volume-limiting technology. This feature ensures the volume is kept to the WHO-recommended level of 85dB, with the option to switch over to 94dB in busier environments. This is a popular feature for kids’ headphones as it helps to prevent issues like noise-induced hearing loss. You can also find volume-limiting on certain adult headphones, such as the PuroPro Hybrid ANC headphones

The Starlet01 Kids are wired headphones, meaning there’s no Bluetooth support for wireless listening. One benefit to this is that you don’t need to worry about charging up the battery before a trip, though you may find you need to pick up an adapter to use the headphones with any device that doesn’t carry a 3.5mm jack (the iPhone 14, for example). 

For those in need of volume-limited wireless headphones, look toward the Planet Buddies Wireless Headphones or Tribit’s own Starlet02 kids headphones. 

Despite this, the Starlet01 outperform the Planet Buddies when it comes to audio quality, offering fantastic tonal balance and detail for such an affordable pair of kids’ headphones. 

There are some drawbacks to the Tribit Starlet01. Playback controls are limited and the volume limit switch is easily accessible to kids. However, the volume cannot go higher than 94dB and both the sound quality and fit are fantastic, making the Starlet01 our favourite pair of budget kids’ headphones. 

Reviewer: Hannah Davies
Full Review: Tribit Starlet01 Kids

We also considered…

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What are the best Bluetooth headphones?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 would get vote for the best overall headphones. The feature set is comprehensive, the wireless connection reliable, and of course, they sound excellent for the money, too.

Comparison specs

IP rating
Battery Hours
Wirless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Release Date
Model Number
Audio Resolution
Driver (s)
Noise Cancellation?
Frequency Range
Headphone Type
Voice Assistant

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