Given how much we’re on our phones, doing everything from making phone calls to streaming music, picking the right pair of headphones can be a worthwhile investment. The difference can be quite noticeable, especially when compared to using low-quality earbuds often bundled with mobile devices. The key to finding a great pair of headphones is understanding what kind of user you are. Someone regularly running may not need the same kind of headphones as someone flying around the world, and a techno fan craving deep bass may have different needs than someone looking for rich vocals and acoustics.
Escape it all with Bose QuietComfort headphones
For years, the Bose QuietComfort Series headphones have been enormously popular with travelers. While they’re not considered top headphones for sound quality (though still sound great) and come with a bit of a price tag, they have noise-canceling capabilities that can’t be beat. They’ll prove to be invaluable to frequent flyers often finding themselves subjected to loud aircrafts, screaming kids and city sounds. When it comes to peace and quiet, having these on while navigating NYC subways can be a lifesaver. The latest Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are praised by experts as the industry standard for noise-canceling housed in a comfortable design that won’t squeeze ears too tightly. They’re super lightweight at just 8.3 oz, and the newest set provides wireless capabilities with Bluetooth. Soft, cushy earpads and a durable structure make it worth the $349 price tag. For a bit of savings without wireless capabilities, try the QC25 headphones at $299.
Price: $349 Ideal for: Traveling, blocking out city sounds Where to buy: Bose.com
Koss PortaPro for super inexpensive, awesome sound
For less than $30 for Prime users on Amazon, the Koss Porta Pro headphones are powerful and a bit weird looking. With an unchanged design since 1984 these on-ear cans looks like something out of Star Trek, but deliver powerful bass and great sound-quality. I personally use these for running and casual use. They’re super lightweight and easy to carry around, making them perfect for slipping into a coat, purse or backpack. A unique slider that adjusts tightness takes a little getting used to, but once figured out allows the PortaPros to fit wonderfully. While they don’t have noise-canceling capabilities, these headphones are perfect for a working out or getting work done at home.
Price: $28.99 on Amazon Ideal for: Exercising, casual use Where to buy: Amazon.com
Untangle Your Life With Apple AirPods
Apple’s AirPods are a solid choice for extreme portability and simplicity. As far as sound quality goes, they’re not the best quality earbuds out there, but they’re a logical choice for iPhone 7 users and a clear choice over EarPods. With Bluetooth and seamless iOS syncing all housed in a case about the size of a small container of floss, the entire design embraces beautiful simplicity in typical Apple fashion. Completely wireless, they operate just like regular earbuds minus the cord, making them extremely easy to slip in and out of a pocket. They get around five hours of battery life, but can get three hours of battery life on a 15-minute charge. Built-in microphones make these great for phone calls and jamming out to tunes.
Price: $159 Ideal for: Lightweight, portable, simple Where to buy: Apple.com
These Grados Offer Amazing Sound for Less Than $100
Brooklyn-based Grado has been known for years as a de facto choice for premium sound quality headphones. The SR80e Prestige Series headphones are lightweight (8.2 oz) with an open-ear design and beautiful sound quality for just $99. This is a no-frills pair of headphones. While many manufacturers try to win customers over with stylish exteriors and bright vibrant colors, Grado remains focused on great sound. These don’t come with microphones for making phone calls, but don’t require batteries or anything other than a device to connect them to.
Price: $99 Ideal for: Audiophile level sound quality on a budget Where to buy: Amazon.com
The Sennheiser HD800 Headphones for Spectacular Sound and Quality
These headphones universally receive excellent reviews for spectacular sound quality that’s both accurate and enjoyable. Some pro-quality reference headphones can be known to produce a somewhat clinical sound, even if they’re ideal for pro use. These Sennheisers are considered the perfect balance between delivering professional quality sound and consumer level vibrance, but heavy bass fans might be better suited looking at other options. Those willing to spend close to $1,000 for incredibly detailed sound housed in a relatively lightweight design (11.6 oz) would be well suited with these headphones.
Price: $971.68 for Amazon Prime users Ideal for: Professional quality sound Where to buy: Amazon.com
Marshall Mid Bluetooth for Rich Bass With a Cordless Design
Like offerings from Bose and Apple, the Marshall Mid Bluetooths have a cordless design with Bluetooth, letting you connect to great sound without getting tangled up. At $190.49 on Amazon, these on-ear headphones are a somewhat pricier pick, but offer great bass without sacrificing highs. PC Magazine describes them as delivering “excellent deep bass response and solid clarity in the highs, in a well-implemented, comfortable design.” They come with a somewhat modern, classic design and are extremely lightweight at just 6.7 oz. Battery life is estimated at 30 hours before needing to charge up again.
Price: $190.49 on Amazon Ideal for: Great bass, balanced sound Where to buy: Amazon.com