'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
There are many options for listening to your music or podcasts, gaming, or taking video calls for work: Earbuds, bone conduction, wireless and wired, and, of course, the classic over-the-ear headphones. Over-the-ear headphones have gotten an upgrade in recent years -- now they feature Bluetooth connectivity and active noise cancellation technology.
Sure, you can snag a pair of earbuds, but headphones are better for your hearing in the long term, especially if you want to block out the noise around you.
That's why we've rounded up the best headphones -- from high-tech headsets to budget-friendly options -- so you can choose the best product for your listening preferences.
Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear, closed-back | Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 | Battery life: 30 hours (3 hours on a 3-minute charge) | Frequency response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz
Sony's WH-1000XM headphones have been the go-to active noise cancelation (ANC) headphones since the technology was first popular in the 1980s. Over different models, Sony has continued to improve its sound quality, ANC functionality, and battery life. And the WH-1000XM5 headphones offer the best ANC technology yet, with some of the best overall sound-blocking technology currently available on the market.
These upgrades don't come cheaply, but they still offer an excellent value in a long-wearing, comfortable pair of headphones that block out most exterior noise through a combination of passive sound isolation and advanced ANC technology. Couple that with 30 hours of battery life in one single charge, and these headphones are worth their price tag.
Tech Specs: Form factor: On-ear | Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 | Battery life: 40 hours (2 hours on a 5-minute charge) | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
Looking to spend less on quality headphones? These headphones from JBL provide great sound at about half the cost of the other headphones on this list. JBL is known for its deep bass sound, and these budget-friendly headphones have JBL's built-in Pure Bass sound, which sounds great at both low and high volumes. While the headphones have a built-in microphone, they work best for hands-free calls from your smartphone rather than making Zoom calls.
Buttons on the headphone's ear cups let you control the volume, pair to a device via Bluetooth, as well as activate voice assistants (Siri and Google Assistant) by pressing the multi-function button. The headphones' foldable design also comes in four color options: black, blue, white, and rose.
Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear | Connectivity: USB adapter | Battery life: 300 hours | Frequency response: 15 Hz – 21 kHz
If you didn't think 300 hours of battery life was possible, these headphones from HyperX Cloud prove you wrong. Their impressive battery life allows you to game and stream for eight hours a day for over a month before they need to be charged. And all this is even with their DTS Headphone: X audio drivers enabled. In addition, the microphone is detachable, so you can remove it depending on the type of gaming you are doing; it's also adjustable, so you don't peak your audio or sound muffled while talking to other gamers.
This headset has an excellent audio quality that provides a rich, clean sound even at low volumes. A Ngenuity desktop app enables or disables the spatial audio and DTS Headphone: X settings to monitor the battery, adjust volume, and create custom equalizer settings so no matter what you're playing will sound its absolute best.
Read the review: HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless review: Solid, no-nonsense audio for gaming, music, and more
Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear, open-backed | Connectivity: Wired | Battery life: N/A | Frequency response: 5-40,000 Hz and nominal impedance of 48 ohms
Wireless headphones have become the most popular model type in recent years thanks to advances in Bluetooth. However, wired headphones still exist and are still worth it, as is evident with the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X. This model is a mid-range headphone option for mixing and streaming or for anyone who wants to hear every detailed sound in their music. The detachable mini-XLR cable can be changed at will or exchanged with other connection options.
These headphones are open-backed, allowing air and sound to transmit freely through the earcups' grills, resulting in a more natural, speaker-like sound; you can definitely hear this difference in their natural frequency response and reliable sound. Plus, their included memory foam provides an ergonomic and comfortable fit.
Read the review: Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X headphones review: Brutally honest sound for under $300
Tech specs: Form factor: Over-ear, closed-back | Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0 | Battery life: 20 hours (1.5 hours on a 5-minute charge) | Frequency response: 10 Hz-20,000 Hz (estimated)
While a newer player in the headphone sector compared to other brands, Apple's AirPods Max has found a niche fanbase in that it's the only device that combines exceptional sound with all of the same benefits Apple device owners have enjoyed for years with the smaller AirPods earbuds. These features include instant connectivity, multi-device switching, and the ability to tweak settings and see charge levels on any Apple device.
The sound quality is by far the best of any Apple headphones today, especially with their ANC technology that meets or exceeds what competitors like Sony and Bose currently offer. So if you're an avid Apple user and don't mind spending a little more, the Apple AirPods Max are excellent headphones.
Read the review: AirPods Max review: Stunning sound and performance mean I'm keeping the $550 headphones
It depends on what you're looking for. We broke down different product categories so that whether you're looking for ANC, wired, or Apple-friendly headphones, there is a top option for you.
4 Hz-40,000 Hz
JBL Tune 510BT
HyperX Cloud Alpha
15 Hz – 21 kHz
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X
Apple AirPods Max
10 Hz-20,000 Hz
While all of these headphones are excellent picks, it ultimately depends on what type of connectivity you prefer, if noise cancellation is important to you, what kind of battery life they have, and how much you're willing to spend on a pair.
Choose these headphones...
If you want...
Exceptional noise-canceling headphones.
JBL Tune 510BT
Budget-friendly headphones with a deep bass sound.
HyperX Cloud Alpha
Headphones perfect for gaming.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X
Wired headphones for analytic listening.
Apple AirPods Max
Over-the-ear headphones for Apple users.
We chose these headphones by conducting extensive research as well as our own experiences using these devices ourselves to listen to music and podcasts. We compared ratings and reviews from customers (both good and bad), standout features, brands, and different price points to help you find the best headphones for your budget and needs.
You'll find brands like Sony, Bose, JBL, and Sennheiser make quality headphones that last.
Over-the-ear and on-ear headphones are considered a better option than earbuds for your health since you're not physically sticking anything in your ear. However, regular headphones can still cause hearing issues if you turn up the volume too loud or wear them for more than an hour at a time.
If you're looking for tips for preventing hearing loss caused by headphones, there are some things you can do. Try to keep the volume lower (and opt for ANC headphones to cancel out exterior noise rather than turning up the volume even more), use higher-quality headphones, and take frequent breaks while working with headphones on so you can give your eardrums a breather.
On average, a pair of headphones will last about two to three years before the components start to wear down or malfunction. However, a good quality pair of headphones that are more expensive should last you longer (about four to five years).
Here are a few other options to look into: