Buying a pair of headphones is not always simple, on the contrary, if you intend to buy advanced models, the procedure for choosing the most suitable one for your needs can be particularly complex. The so-called audiophiles, or extremely demanding users who demand the most from their “system”, do not buy any piece of the audio chain if they have not previously tried and appreciated it in the shop or in the rehearsal rooms. The same speech can also be done with headphones and there are quite expensive and sought after compositions.
Going to a store to try on headphones or trying to choose the best model online for your needs without having at least basic skills can still be frustrating. But fear not, because in this guide I’ll explain how much you need to know to be able to recognize a quality pair of headphones from a cheap pair. In the following lines, in fact, you will find some tips and suggestions that will certainly come in handy during the selection phase, together with the essential definitions to be able to understand how to objectively establish the quality of your next headphones.
Before anything else, however, it is necessary to make a distinction: there are headphones designed for multimedia listening, mainly music or movies, and specific headphones for gaming. They can be recognized by the external appearance, but also by some details, such as the multi-channel support (not always present) or the presence of an integrated microphone. To learn more and to find out, therefore, which are the best headphones currently available on the market, go ahead and read.
The headphones, depending on the type and shape of their pads, are divided into various categories. Each of these categories has certain characteristics, with the so-called format that inevitably establishes some of the prerogatives – including musical, as well as aesthetic – of each pair of headphones on the market. Here are the main ones.
Closed headphones guarantee a high rate of sound insulation but can be annoying for those who are not used to wearing them. They are preferred if you know you will need to use them in noisy environments or if you know you will not be wearing them for a long period of time, as they can be very fatiguing. On the sound front they tend to emphasize low frequencies, reverbs and musical effects, usually resulting not very faithful to the original sound scene.
Open and semi-open headphones
Open headphones guarantee maximum comfort but fail to offer a good degree of sound isolation. Unlike the closed models they are more faithful and with a “frequency response” (I’ll explain the meaning of this feature later) closer to the original recording. If you want a compromise between the qualities of closed and open models, there are also semi-open headphones , which offer good sonic fidelity combined with good isolation.
The on-ear headphones are characterized by practicality and compact size: they are small and rest directly above the ear cups, not completely covering the ear. They are also known by the name of “supraural” because of this characteristic. They are born to be easily transportable, with some models that also have a foldable structure. The sound insulation is lower than that of open headphones, although there are models that use advanced systems for the suppression of ambient noise.
Over-ear / around-ear headphones
Over – ear headphones are generally large and allow all the ear cups to be enclosed in the ear cups of the headphones. In this way they allow to isolate the ear from sounds coming from the external environment without particular technologies, thus allowing listening even at lower volumes without tiring. However, they are heavier, and transport can be particularly inconvenient for long journeys. If you intend to buy headphones for use primarily at home, this is the model for you.
Types of headphones: wired or wireless
There are traditional headphones that can be connected to computers, smartphones, televisions, etc. exclusively through the use of a cable , the classic 3.5 mm (the so-called mini-jack), as well as through various digital technologies, for example: USB for PCs, USB Type-C for smartphones and Lightning for Apple mobile devices.
However, there are also wireless headphones which, on the other hand, work without wires. These too can be based on various technologies. Here they are.
- Infrared headphones – they are very inexpensive, but have a rather limited range.
- Radio frequency (RF) headphones – have a range of up to 100 meters and offer good audio quality, but are more prone to interference.
- Bluetooth headphones – currently the most popular. They are not as cheap as the infrared or radiofrequency models, but they have the advantage of working with computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices without the need for external receivers (as long as the latter have integrated Bluetooth support). In addition, they allow you to control multimedia playback and make calls (if equipped with a microphone). Their range is less than that of RF headphones but still sufficient. Audio quality is generally good, but obviously wired headphones still manage to offer a little more. Bluetooth headphones may also have an NFC chip that allows you to pair the source by simply bringing the two devices together.
Before buying headphones, it is also good to consider the following technical characteristics which, as I have already explained to you in many other buying guides, allow you to identify the advantages and disadvantages of each model without necessarily having to try it. Below I’ll explain what you need to know on a technical level before buying a pair of headphones without making a mistake.
The frequency response is the value that indicates the range of frequencies that the headphones can cover, and is expressed in Hz . The best headphones are those that have a wide frequency response even in the lower frequencies and a low gap. The so-called gap represents the number of decibels (dB) within which the headphones are able to remain over the entire frequency range and therefore ensure high sound fidelity. To properly evaluate these two parameters, know that the human ear can perceive a range that goes from 20 to 20,000 Hz.
Impedance is the value that indicates the resistance exerted by the headphones on the audio signal, and is expressed in volts / ampere (ohms) . The higher the impedance, the better the sound quality, however a higher impedance leads to a decrease in the overall sound volume (so a high impedance headphone should be connected to a dedicated amplifier). For optimal listening, the headphones and the device from which the sound is reproduced (e.g. smartphone, computer, etc.) must have the same degree of impedance.
The term sensitivity indicates the acoustic pressure expressed by the headphones in relation to the applied voltage (2.83 volts listening to 1 meter away). The higher this value and, in short, the greater the volume guaranteed by the integrated speakers with the same “effort” practiced by the integrated or external power supply. The sensitivity value is expressed by the manufacturers in decibels (dB) .
Headphones that work only via cable do not need to be recharged, they are powered by the devices to which they are connected. The wireless ones, on the other hand, can contain rechargeable batteries or can be powered with classic batteries. Before purchasing wireless headphones, check their degree of autonomy and the type of power supply they use.
The headphones can support various audio channels . For listening to music, stereo ones are recommended, which have two speakers (one for each ear). For gaming and watching movies, 5.1 or 7.1 ones can be considered, which depending on the number of speakers used, are divided into real and virtual. Real 5.1 headphones have four speakers per ear, while virtual 5.1 headphones have two speakers like stereo but simulate the sound of 5.1 audio systems. The same goes for 7.1 headphones (the real ones have 10 speakers).
Microphone and controls
In some headphones you can find a microphone , which is useful when you pair them with a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. The microphone is essential to converse during calls or to give commands to the voice assistant and in the technical characteristics you can also find its frequency response. In wired headphones, the microphone can be integrated inside a small capsule along the cable, which can also contain a remote remote control with playback and volume selection controls. In wireless headphones, on the other hand, controls and microphone can be positioned along one of the pavilions.
Other technical features
There are also other very important technical characteristics in the headphones that you find on the market: the headphones can in fact have more or less large drivers , and of more or less refined materials. Most models use neodymium drivers, a material that offers excellent acoustic properties while weighing very little. The bigger the driver is and, usually, the better the sound performance, although of course headphones with drivers over 40 mm can become really uncomfortable during prolonged listening.
The headphones can then support the Hi-Res standard , which indicates high audio resolution, i.e. high-quality sound sources recorded at more than 16-bit and 44.1 kHz. aptX , on the other hand, is an audio codec whose license is now owned by Qualcomm. It allows you to take advantage of particular algorithms to transport via Bluetooth a higher amount of data than traditional standards.
There are also several technologies for active noise reduction , which use the microphone to record environmental sounds and send frequencies to the headphones to counter them, in order to isolate the listener from the surrounding environment in an “artificial” but very effective way.
Which headphones to buy
By now you should have a pretty clear idea which type of headphones to buy. So, let’s ban the chatter and see immediately which are the best headphones of the moment.
Best budget headphones (under 50 euros)
The Sony MDR-ZX110 are supra-aural headphones with a sensitivity of 98 dB and an impedance of 24 Ohms. They are characterized by a very low price, with a sound quality that could be considered acceptable if you do not have too many pretensions. They are offered with a 1.2m cable, ensuring a claimed frequency response (very optimistically) of 12-22,000 Hz. The integrated drivers are 30mm neodymium.
JBL Tune 500 / Tune500BT
JBL also offers budget headphones in its catalog, and among the entry-level models we have the Tune 500 , with cable, on-ear design with swivel and foldable ear cups to simplify transport. The drivers are 32mm and offer music reproduction with deep and powerful bass. The frequency response is from 20 to 20,000 Hz and there are also microphone and controls on the cable to manage calls and listening music. They are available in various colors.
Philips H4205BK / 00
The Philips H4205BK / 00 are supra-aural Bluetooth headphones with 32 mm drivers with a particularly attractive cost. They have a light, adjustable and padded temple that, together with the foldable and soft shells, give maximum comfort even during prolonged listening sessions. The headphones also feature the Bass Boost button, which allows you to get powerful bass on command, and a multifunction button to manage music and calls. They guarantee up to 29 hours of music playback and also support the fast charging function.
The Mpow H7 are foldable over-ear Bluetooth headphones that offer excellent value for money. They have rotating pavilions and two large 40mm diameter drivers, but nevertheless they are designed to be comfortable and light. They have a built-in microphone, are compatible with the Bluetooth 4.1 standard for matching to the source and offer an autonomy of 25 hours with medium volume. Eventually, they can also be used in wired mode.
Trust GXT 322 Carus
The Trust GXT 322 Carus are low-end analog gaming headsets (with 3.5mm nylon cable) that feature mesh mesh earcups, perfect for intense and prolonged gaming sessions. They have an adjustable headband and flexible microphone, have a volume control and mute system and offer deep bass. They can be used without problems on both computers and consoles, as well as on mobile devices.
Best mid-range headphones (between 50 euros and 150 euros)
If you are looking for comfortable headphones that are easy to carry around there are the Beats EP , which were designed primarily for listening to music. They are wired and on-ear type and have a durable and lightweight design, reinforced with stainless steel. The acoustics are optimized to offer clarity, depth and balance of sound at the highest levels and with sound isolation. The cable also incorporates the microphone, the controls for music playback and those for volume.
Marshall Major III
The Marshall Major III are wired headphones with 40 mm neodymium drivers, characterized by an impedance of 32 Ohms, a frequency response from 20 to 20,000 Hz and a sensitivity of 99 dB. They are compatible with the vast majority of devices on the market, they also integrate a microphone for calls and are aimed at an audience that needs a model that can be carried around safely.
The headphones in question are eventually also available in a Bluetooth version , which offers compatibility with the aptX standard, more than 30 hours of battery life on a single charge and a remote control to remotely manage the audio.
These Sony MDR-RF855RK are instead wireless radio frequency headphones with charging support included in the price. They use 40mm neodymium units that guarantee a declared frequency response of 10-22000 Hz, with an autonomy on a single charge of 18 hours. These are headphones to be used mainly at home, better if connected to a device such as a computer, TV or stereo.
Made by one of the best known manufacturers in the wireless audio environment, the Jabra Elite are excellent Bluetooth headphones with a fairly minimalist on-ear design that make lightness their strong point. The pads are in memory foam and offer extremely high comfort, the design is light, solid and foldable and the autonomy declared by the company is 50 hours. They also have two integrated microphones and controls to manage audio in calls and music.
Sennheiser RS 120 II
Among the best headphones in this price range we have the Sennheiser RS 120 II , which are open type supra-aural and radio frequency, with a range of up to 80 m. They can be connected to any audio source via analog output and offer detailed, balanced sound quality with good clarity and excellent bass response. The headphones are also extremely light and are equipped with a padded headband that offers maximum comfort. They are ideal for long listening sessions or for watching TV.
Best high-end headphones (more than 150 euros)
The Beats Solo3 headphones are on-ear type and can be connected to the source via Bluetooth. They weigh around 200 grams and are aimed at those who want to listen to their music on the go thanks to the foldable design. They have an autonomy of 40 hours and with 5 minutes of charge they can offer about 3 hours of listening. The soft ear pads are adjustable and have a microphone for calls. To manage the volume and playback controls, you can rely on the dedicated multifunction controls. They are available in various colors and are also equipped with the Apple W1 chip, which allows you to make the most of the headphones on the devices of the “bitten apple”.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless are wireless headphones characterized by an ergonomic design and a foldable structure that take advantage of the Bluetooth connection. In addition, they bring the Smart Pause function, which reacts to movement with automatic shutdown, take advantage of an adaptive sound elimination technology and integrate Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. The sensitivity is 110 dB, with a declared frequency response of 17-23000 Hz. The autonomy is about 30 hours, with a recharge time of 3 hours.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
If you do not accept compromises of any kind, then I recommend the Bose QuietComfort 35 II , which are considered by experts to be among the best wireless headphones on the market right now. To a great audio quality they combine the support of Amazon Alexa, an active system for noise cancellation and support for the Bluetooth protocol for pairing with the source, even via NFC. The equalization can be configured according to the volume and the autonomy is about 20 hours, with a balanced sound quality on all frequencies.
Among the best headphones you can buy right now are the Sony WH-1000XM3 , with support for the Bluetooth protocol and a quality at the top of the category. They have a processor dedicated to noise cancellation and a declared autonomy of 30 hours, with fast charging that guarantees up to 5 hours of autonomy with only 10 minutes of charging. The frequency response is from 4 to 40,000 Hz (in wireless mode, however, it decreases to 20 – 20,000 Hz), with the possibility of upscaling the sound source up to 990 kbps. This model offers microphone, built-in controls and customizable noise cancellation. The headphones also support Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
Razer Nari Ultimate
The Razer Nari Ultimate are wireless headphones (possibly also usable with audio connector or via USB cable) mainly oriented to gaming, but of course they can also be used for telephone conversations or for listening to music. They are equipped with HyperSense technology, which recognizes specific audio signals and uses vibrations to add tactile feedback, and they take advantage of THX Spatial Audio, which offers 360 ° audio. They have ear cushions that help reduce heat build-up and that have leatherette padding that offers high noise isolation, then there is the self-adjusting headband and the earphones are rotatable.
Apple AirPods Max
If you have an iPhone, iPad or any Apple device, I can only recommend the Apple AirPods Max, which actually work very well even with devices not marketed by the parent company. They are very high quality over-ear headphones, which connect via Bluetooth or cable to the source. In case you have an Apple device, they can take advantage of the two integrated Apple H1 chips for instant pairing, but they also work on other devices for computational audio processing, providing a clean and refined sound for any type of multimedia content. . There is no lack of active cancellation of environmental noise (ANC) and Transparency mode, which allows you to hear the sounds of the external environment reproduced thanks to the integrated microphones. The AirPods Max are also a style icon: steel frame, anodized aluminum pavilions offered in five different colors, and fabric with a particular breathable texture for both the memory foam pads and the headband. They cost a lot, but the price is related to the very high quality of the product.
Best DJ headphones
Are you a DJ or do you aspire to become one? Are you looking for this good headphones designed specifically for the musical profession? Don’t worry, I’ve thought of you too! If the headphones I have talked about so far are in fact mainly intended for everyday use, the ones we are going to see now together represent some of the most interesting headphones for professional DJ use.
OneOdio Pro 10
If you are looking for an affordable product with excellent performance, the DJ headphones for you are undoubtedly the OneOdio Pro 10.. These headphones have in fact been specifically designed to carry out professional activities in the world of music. At an affordable cost, they deliver perfectly balanced Hi-Fi sound quality, characterized by powerful, deep bass and crisp, clear highs. They feature 50 mm speakers incorporated in comfortable over-ear insulating ear cups, have a declared frequency response from 20 to 40,000 Hz, an impedance of 32 Ohms, a sensitivity of 110 dB and a maximum power of 300 mW. What makes the OneOdio Pro 10 perfect for DJing is also the foldable design that allows you to flex, turn and rotate the pavilions in an extremely versatile way. They are also supplied with a 3.5mm jack cable with microphone length of 1.2m and a coiled jack cable of 6.35mm up to 3m in length.
Pioneer DJ HDJ-CUE1
The Pioneer DJ HDJ-CUE1they are excellent mid-range DJ headphones with a very good value for money. They have a high sound quality that allows you to perceive bass, mids and highs in a crystal clear way (fundamental feature for mixing music). Frequency response from 5 to 30,000 Hz, impedance of 32 Ohms, sensitivity of 104 dB and maximum input power of 2000 mW make these headphones perfect for professional DJ use. The construction materials are also excellent, suitable to withstand any stress of use. The headphones in question are equipped with a coiled jack cable, conveniently detachable, with a variable length from 1.2 m to 1.8 m, which allows you to move easily during their use. On the design front, a functional rotation mechanism of the headband and over-ear ear cups allow you to listen to audio with headphones even with a single ear. It should also be emphasized the possibility of customizing the headphones with a series of interchangeable colored cushions and cables.
Sennheiser HD 25
If you try to search the Internet for the best DJ headphones , you are sure that among the main results you will see models of the Sennheiser brand, synonymous with guarantee in the field of headphones and earphones. Therefore I could not help but include in this guide, one of the most popular products of the well-known German company, namely the Sennheiser HD 25. They have practical and compact on-ear supra-aural ear cups, which make them perfect for mixing, as they are comfortable to put on and take off; frequency response guaranteed from 16 to 22,000 Hz; 70 Ohm impedance which ensures excellent stability of the audio signal and excellent sound quality; 120 dB sensitivity for precise management of sound pressure levels. The connectivity technology of the Sennheiser HD 25 is supported by the equipment of a solid removable 3.5 mm jack cable of 1.5 m length, specifically designed to withstand the constant movements and vibrations to which it is subjected during DJ activity . Coming to the build quality, the use of aluminum for the solid structure of the headphones and the insertion of numerous pins that allow you to open the headband and completely rotate an auricle in order to be able to use only one. A plus is also given by the fact that all the components of these headphones are removable and therefore replaceable over time in case of wear, extending their life.