There are three main ways headphones are used, and you should look for a pair that will best suit your lifestyle.
1. Home use: Larger pairs with a headband are often best, as they tend to offer the premium sound quality and comfort. If you plan to use them to listen to your TV, see our separate guide to the best TV headphones.
2. Travel and commuting: Many will choose pairs with noise cancelling that actively eliminate unwanted external noises such as the hum of a train, and these pairs often come at a premium. For a cheaper alternative, you could opt for wired or wireless in-ear and earbud headphones.
3. Activities: Whether for dog walking or running, the best pairs will be lightweight, weatherproof, sweat-proof and stay nicely secure. Many opt for wireless in-ear and earbud headphones to save having to untangle long cables.
What makes a good set of headphones?
If you’re looking to get the most out of your music, you’ll need headphones that not only sound great, but are also comfortable to wear and built to last.
1. Sound quality: the best headphones provide full sound with the right balance of treble, mid-range and bass frequencies. In-ear models can struggle when it comes to producing bass, but a good pair of over-ear headphones will give you a rich, deep sound. Over-ear headphones come in two types: open-back and closed-back. Open-back headphones offer a more natural sound than closed headphones, but tend to leak more noise. Closed headphones can sound a bit muffled, but are good at preventing sound leakage and blocking out unwanted noise.
2. Comfort: whether you intend to use headphones every day or just occasionally, comfort is paramount when choosing the best set. Some in-ear headphones are comfortable but, if you plan to use your headphones for long periods, on-ear and over-ear models are typically a better choice.
3. Durability: Some headphones can have alarmingly short lifespans, developing serious signs of wear in a matter of months or less. This is a particular problem for budget headphones, which may seem like a bargain, but prove not to be when they have build quality that simply does not last.