The best headphones to buy in 2020
There are three main types of headphones: in-ear (including earbuds), on-ear and over-ear. The type you choose will depend on a number of factors, including how portable and compact a design you desire, and how comfortable you want them to be for longer listening.
There is also an element of personal preference. In addition, many will choose wireless headphones to avoid messy cables and for frequent travellers, noise cancelling to block out external noises such as plane or train hum. Best earbud and in-ear headphones In-ear headphones either come with multiple sizes of flexible ear tips to fit your ear size, or a hard plastic one-size-fits-all earbud. Earbud headphones’ hard earpieces (like those of the standard Apple AirPods) nestle in the ear and can be easier to fit, but don’t fully seal it so are prone to letting those around you hear your tunes at higher volumes.
In-ear headphones with ear tips are more common for this reason: these fit snugly inside your ear canal using flexible soft ear tips, providing a tight seal. Pros: Earbuds are easy to take in and out, while ear tip headphones can minimise sound leakage to your surroundings. Ear tips also minimise letting outside sounds in, so help protect your hearing as you don’t need to listen at such high volumes. Cons: Sound can leak to your surroundings with earbuds, which also means you tend to listen at higher volumes, which poses more of a risk to your hearing.
And when it comes to ear tip headphones, some people can really struggle to get a good fit in their ears. All in-ear and earbud headphones are close in to your ears, so you need to take more care with these headphones to protect your hearing compared to on-ear and over-ear headphones which are further away from your eardrum.
1. Best on-ear headphones
On-ear headphones have a headband with earcups that sit on your ears. They are for those looking for headphones that are smaller and lighter than over-ear models but prefer a headband or don’t get on with in-ear models.
Pros: Compact. Easy to take on and off.
Cons: Pressure exerted on ears can be uncomfortable for long listening sessions.
2. Best over-ear headphones
Over-ear headphones are the largest type, with earcups that go round your entire ear rather than sitting on top of them. Most headphones with noise cancelling are over-ear headphones.
Pros: Can provide the best sound quality and comfort.
Cons: Often bulky and can cost more than other styles.
3. Best wireless headphones
Wireless headphones use a Bluetooth wireless signal so they have no cable that connects them to your device, such as your smartphone or tablet. (They can still have other wires, such as to connect the two earpieces together, or for charging them from the mains).
Pros: No long wires to untangle.
Cons: Have to remember to charge them, Bluetooth headphones connected to your smartphone will drain its battery.
4. Best noise cancelling headphones
Most headphones form an acoustic seal between your ears and the surroundings that will block our external sounds such as aeroplane noise to some degree. Active noise cancelling headphones go a stage further, sending out signals that actively cancel out these unwanted sounds.
Pros: You can listen to your music undisturbed by external noise.
Cons: Noise cancelling headphones can be very expensive due to the sophisticated technology involved.