Updated 6 September 2022
Would you like more substantial sound when you listen to music? A pair of classic over-ear headphones often give the best possible sound, the most functions and the best comfort in the long run. But which ones should you buy? We tested the most popular models on the market.
Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products in real conditions. We tested the wireless headphones in a number of different ways and in different environments, such as silent indoor, peaceful outdoor and noisy urban environments. If the headphones have noise cancellation, they were also tested close to a motorway, and if they are intended for gaming, we tested them while multiplayer gaming.
If the headphones have different types of connection, we tested all of these, but if they are wireless it was primarily the sound quality through the wireless connection that we took into account. We also used a number of different playback sources. They were also tested with different musical genres so we could assess their versatility.
Important aspects that we took into account during our tests are:
Sound quality: What’s the sound like on the headphones? Is the sound balanced? Is the treble clear and clean? How good is the bass? How broad is the soundstage? Does the mid-range come through nicely?
Ergonomics: How well do the headphones fit? What adjustment options are there? Do they still feel comfortable after a couple of hours’ use?
Ease of use: Can you adjust the sound volume and other functions directly on the ear cups? Can you do the same on the cable? How long is the cable? Is it easy to adjust the size?
We also tested and took into account other aspects when allocating a score, such as the range if the headphones are wireless, build quality and material selection, together with the accessories included. We also took into account the price of the products – expensive headphones were judged more strictly than cheap ones. The final score reflects how good we think the headphones are in terms of value.
We tested a selection of the most popular headphones on the market. Compare prices for all headphones listed on PriceRunner.
Innovative and cocky challenger
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0), wired (3.5 mm) Range: 11 m (measured) Headset: Yes Weight: 278 g Battery life: 30 h (25 h with ANC activated) Miscellaneous: Touch control on one ear cup, fast charging (15 minutes gives 6 hours)
Philips PH805 are a pair of really competent headphones. They sound very good given the price class, and have high quality touch controls.
You control noise cancellation by tapping once and adjust the volume by swiping over the ear cup with your finger. This works really well. You can also access your voice assistant by resting one finger on the ear cup, which allows you to quickly change track or make a phone call.
Such controls are becoming increasingly common in the over-ear segment, but primarily the premium class. At the time of writing, Philips’ model falls into the medium class, and this makes it unique.
In terms of sound, the PH805s do a really good job – even though the balance and response is better in premium headphones, this Philips medium class model offers a very good value alternative. You have deep bass, a rich mid-range and a pleasantly clear treble. This is the best sound we’ve heard up to now in this price class.
What you “lose” by moving down in the medium segment is noise cancellation. Philips’ model does have noise cancellation and ambient noise is quite clearly reduced. But it’s not noise elimination like you get on more expensive models. They particularly struggle with piercing sounds. You can hear aeroplane engines clearly, together with nearby conversations.
There’s also a certain amount of hiss with the noise cancellation activated. The headphones are OK on this point but no more than that.
What does get loads of plus points is the battery life. We can use the headphones for three working days without problems before it’s time to recharge them. Given that most people only use their headphones for a couple of hours a day you can get away with recharging these once a week, which is really good.
The headphones feel quite plasticky. The material is primarily plastic and it creaks a fair amount when we put them on. But they sit nicely on your head.
You recharge them via micro-USB. We’d have preferred USB-C because most mobile phones today have it, so you could use the same cable – but on the other hand micro-USB is still common.
Philips PH805 headphones are ideal for someone looking for good sound for a reasonable price (less than £150). The manufacturer has reduced costs by choosing simple materials and cutting down a bit on noise cancellation. But at the same time they’ve done a good job when it comes to control, fit and sound quality. And this feels like a good balance given the target group.
Amazing sound with impressive battery life
Type: Wireless over-ear headphones with adaptive noise cancellation Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.2), 2.5 mm Battery life: 60 hours (with ANC) Weight: 293 g
The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4 is not only Sennheiser’s fourth round of premium headphones, it’s also the biggest step forward. While if we’re honest, we preferred the slightly more sober design of its predecessors, the Momentum 4 knocks it out of the park.
This time, the leather design has been replaced with matte plastic and the same fabric upholstery found on the battery case of the company’s luxury true wireless headphones. It’s super-stylish, and most importantly comfortable, but fabric doesn't offer quite the same luxury feel as leather.
Since we tested the Momentum 4 during the summer, we had good opportunities to test how hot they get. Full-coverage headphones can easily feel like a sauna if they fail to offer sufficient ventilation. The Momentum 4 naturally makes us warm, but sitting still in an office and home environment is still relatively sweat-free – something that’s quite an achievement in itself. Meanwhile, this is a pair of really comfortable headphones, even for longer sessions.
The touch controls on the right cover give you perfectly acceptable control. Unfortunately, you can’t set the controls yourself in the app. On the other hand, it’s really nice that the app sets the sound for you using your own favourite music instead of test tones and similar.
We don't immediately hear any clear improvements in the sound of the Momentum 4 over its predecessors. And that’s not really necessary – when it comes to clean, clear and detailed sound, Sennheiser’s top models have always been among the best. Instead, we do find a lot of updates in the usual sound.
To start with, they work really well to talk in, far better than their predecessors. They also use adaptive noise cancellation to let some of your own voice through, so you don't feel as much as if you’re talking inside a tin can. The noise cancellation has also been improved and is now among the better you can find for these types of headphones. A group of screaming kids still get through, but most of the time the headphones keep out the ambient noise.
The most impressive thing of all is the battery life. Sennheiser promises 60 hours in wireless mode (wired takes no battery at all) and with noise cancellation turned on. Considering that this is twice the battery life of many competitors, you can’t help but be impressed. Just remember to turn them off with the button, because we couldn’t seem to figure out the automatic switch-off (and above all how the headphones wake up again).
The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4 is really, really good. With a long battery life, they’re hard to beat among the more luxurious over-ear headphones.
Extremely powerful headphones
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active and passive Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm), NFC Range: 14.5 m (measured) Headset: Yes Weight: 255 g Battery life: 30 h Miscellaneous: Ear cup touch controls
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the successor to their enormously popular X3 over-ear headphones. This entire series of audio products has had a very good reception among sound fans, and it’s not hard to understand why.
As you’d expect, the sound quality is fantastic. The breadth in the sound is exemplary. All registers come through nicely. The treble is clear and clean, the mid-range well-defined and the bass both punchy and deep without submerging anything else. Here you don’t need to choose if you want one or the other – with these headphones you can have it all. The only time we feel that the sound becomes less than wonderful is when we significantly turn up the volume. It’s absolutely not muddy, but nor does it feel quite so well-defined any longer.
The app has an equaliser where you can adapt the sound to your own preferences, or if you want to adjust it to the musical style you’re currently listening to.
The app has a number of other welcome functions. For example, you can allow the speakers to be connected to Bluetooth devices at the same time, or that they should pause the music when you remove them and switch off a little later if you don’t put them back on again. The pause function works very well, but they don’t always switch off when you’d want them to.
The headphones also support what Sony call 360 reality audio, which is intended to give a richer sound. But you do need to use music apps that support this, such as Deezer. Unfortunately there’s no support for the 3D audio format that the Sony PlayStation 5 offers for headphones.
There’s even a function that means the headphones sense where you are or if you’ve started to speak. For example, you can set it so that when you’re moving the noise cancellation should be reduced so you can hear your surroundings, that when you’re in the office the noise cancellation should be on maximum, but if you begin to speak the music should pause – and if you’re at home none of this should happen.
And the noise cancellation is excellent. A good amount of the more difficult type of engine noise, and almost all background office noise, disappears. It’s not 100% noise elimination. If someone’s talking loudly right beside you, you’ll still hear what they’re saying. But compared to other headphones that don’t even come close, these get top marks.
In other words, the WH-1000XM4 contains a whole load of modern technology that you can adapt to your own needs. At the same time they have a very detailed and well judged soundstage.
But you get what you pay for – and there are actually a couple of things you need to think about before buying these. For example, the XM4 has no IP classification to speak of. In other words these aren’t headphones you can wear in the rain. The touch controls are also good, but a bit sluggish when it comes to increasing the volume (they were quicker on the older version). And finally, the sound plays up sometimes for people we talk to on the phone. Whether that’s the microphone or software is difficult to say, but restarting them fix it.
Fit and ergonomics, however, are excellent. The build quality too is extremely high and the materials feel very good quality. We measure the range outdoors to about 35 m and indoors it covers the entire 150 m2 house with closed doors in between without any problems. The stated battery life of 30 hours agrees very well with what we get.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is a pair of fantastic headphones for indoor use. They’re ideal for anyone looking for top class sound, phenomenal fit and feel, adaptable configuration and modern technology. Can they get a maximum score without any IP classification? No, but you don’t get any closer than this.
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones Pristine - Black
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones | Black
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones with Mic for Phone-Call and Alexa Voice Control, Black
Extremely good noise cancellation and excellent sound
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active and passive Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm), NFC Range: 14.5 m (measured) Headset: Yes Weight: 255 g Battery life: 30 h Miscellaneous: Ear cup touch controls
Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones are interesting, not only because the controls are built-in touch ones on the ear cups themselves but also for the great balance in the sound they deliver. The price tag may be steep, but you really get what you pay for.
The noise cancellation is top class. If you’re sitting in an office wearing these you won’t have any problems shutting out the sound around you – nor if you’re walking close to a motorway. And they allow virtually no sound to leak out either. Our tester has to turn the volume right up for somebody standing just next to them in a silent room to hear any sound at all.
It takes a while to get used to controlling the volume, changing track and so on with touch controls directly on the ear cups. The headphones actually have only two physical buttons, on/off – which also activates Bluetooth pairing with a longer press – and one that switches noise cancellation on/off and a mode called ambient sound control. The latter means you can control the strength of the noise cancellation and adjust the equaliser via an app. It’s important to understand these settings so you can adapt the noise cancellation to your requirements, but they’re quite easy to learn.
The touch control for other settings works well, but it’s more a cool function than an improvement of the standard button system.
The battery life, on the other hand, is far more than standard. 1000XMX3 headphones last for two full working days with all functions running without any problems. The range for Bluetooth connection is about 15 m, which is pretty good.
Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones also provide really good sound quality. They'd be ideal for anyone who’s a musical omnivore. For example, they work really well with classical music but just as well for pop or R&B. It’s only if you’re a total basshead who listens to hardstyle or similar genres that you’d maybe want to turn the bass up a bit. The bass is punchy and enveloping, so it’s actually really good even for these musical styles.
The treble hits a nice balance too. Details in the mid-range come through nicely, and there’s no distortion at higher volume.
The only actual disadvantage with the 1000XM3 is the microphone. To the person on the other end of the line, the sound is a bit tinny and remote. But this is common in headsets with microphones that aren’t close to the mouth. The other person can still hear you clearly, however, so this isn’t a major criticism.
The fit is good and it’s easy to adjust the headphones. Given the price, the materials used could have been a little more varied, as there’s a lot of plastic. On the other hand, they’re very lightweight.
These headphones are very good buy if you want the best noise cancellation on the market, great fit, really good sound quality and well-balanced sound that suits many musical genres.
Great sound quality for anyone in the studio
Type: Open headphones Noise cancellation: No Connection: Wired (3.5 mm) Headset: No Weight: 380 g
Philips Fidelio X3 are a pair of wired headphones offering extremely good sound quality. The sound is broad and balanced with a good texture. If you listen to classical music a lot, you’ll really appreciate how nicely each part of the orchestra comes through. One possible area for complaint is the rather anonymous treble, but it’s still very much a sound that lives up to the price tag.
Fidelio X3 sit in the premium layer in terms of price and have some tough competition, but these headphones really do belong in that price class. Of course, we’re assuming that you're listening to music from a high definition audio source. These aren't really intended for Spotify – there are lots of cheaper and more suitable models for that. These headphones are instead aimed at connoisseurs or anyone involved in sound production.
The design of both the headphones and the package they come in oozes quality. The cups on the headphones are quite large and the whole thing weighs a fair bit, but that really only adds to the premium feeling. They sit really nicely on your head even when worn for a long time.
The headphones look like closed over-ear headphones, but are actually open. This means they do leak some sound, but it also helps to raise the overall sound quality.
As we mentioned above, these headphones are wired. This means there’s a cable connected to each cover, and then another to your audio source. The cables are very long, which is both positive and negative. In terms of price, we would have liked a normal-length cable as standard and for Philips to have included an extension in the same kit so you can extend the range if necessary.
Philips Fidelio X3 are ideal for anyone wanting studio quality audio. You have to put up with a long cable and an expensive price tag, but given that most of the time you're likely to be in a fixed place when you mix or record music that isn’t going to be an issue.
Comfortable enough to melt your ears
Type: Wireless headphones with active noise cancellation Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.2) Battery life: 24 hours (without ANC) Weight: 260 g
Huawei Freebuds Studio are a really good attempt to get from small in-ear headphones up to full-size over-ear headphones. Above all, they’re just really comfortable. The battery life could certainly have been better, but at the same time Huawei succeeds flawlessly with the otherwise so fiddly touch controls.
Once out of the packaging, you might feel a little disappointed with the design. There's nothing actually wrong overall, it’s just that you’ll feel like you've seen this pretty anonymous design before.
That opinion, however, will change as soon as you put them on, because they are so indescribably comfortable. You can hardly feel the headband even after a long session, and the pads sit like soft pillows over your ears. Headphones tend to be one of two extremes, either uncomfortable or unnoticeable. You’ll notice that you're wearing Freebuds Studio but only in a positive sense, because they are actually really comfy to wear.
On top of that, these headphones also remain cool so that you won’t feel as if you’re sitting in a sauna after half an hour.
Battery life is reasonable – but no more than that. 24 hours without noise cancellation is OK, but hardly exceptional in this price class.
The connection with your phone is really stable. If you have an iPhone, they work like a pair of standard Bluetooth headphones. Android users, however, can choose more settings via Huawei's app, while Huawei users get even more help with their connection.
In terms of buttons, the headphones themselves are quite sparse. You get power and noise cancellation. The noise cancellation works really well in most situations and you can quickly change it to allow sound through when needed. The noise cancellation should also be present during phone calls. This isn't something we notice to any great extent, but at the same time we have no problems with the speech quality, either for us or for the other party.
Control is generally handled with touch controls on the ear pads. As soon as we understand how Huawei intends the controls to work, we're amazed at how accurate it is in most situations.
In terms of music, the sound is really good without being exaggerated. The mid-range has unusual depth and neither the bass nor the treble disappear or are found wanting. At the same time, the sound is all very neutral. So much so that it almost feels like it lacks any kind of identity, even though it does actually work fine.
Huawei Freebuds Studio are rather anonymous in terms of design and sound. At the same time, the sound quality is really good and they are some of the most comfortable headphones we’ve ever tested.
Peerless sound quality and great noise cancellation
Type: Noise cancelling on-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active and passive Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (USB) Range: 30 m (measured) Headset: Yes (with microphone arm) Weight: 177 g Battery life: 30 h Miscellaneous: Charging cradle
Jabra Evolve 75 headphones are distinguished by a combination of very good sound, attractive design and impressive noise cancellation. The noise cancellation swallows up pretty much everything without appreciably impairing the sound quality – even if they don’t quite achieve the same class as our test winner.
As a mobile headset too, these headphones deliver all the way, with unbeatable sound quality for both ends of the call. There’s no hint of artefacts or distortion.
And there’s another thing that makes these headphones good as a headset, which is their fantastic range. In our indoor test we didn’t just get the 10 m required for a pass result, but had to go down the stairs a floor and a bit before the signal even began to think about breaking up. The stated range is 30 m, and that’s about what we got too.
About the only shortcoming is that the buttons and controls can occasionally be a bit tricky to find on the ear cups, but then again this is something you’d get used to.
Jabra Evolve 75 headphones have a relatively anonymous exterior. They’re definitely not ugly, just a simpler design than most of the products in this segment. They also have relatively small headphone cups. This means they fit really nicely without pressing or chafing anywhere. It should probably also mean worse sound than you’d get from headphones that enclose your ears more. But this is where Jabra provide an enormous surprise.
Because their Evolve 75s offer a really impressive listening experience of the type you’d primarily associate with larger ear cups. The sound really envelops you. The treble is extremely well defined and the bass offers impressive depth. The mid-range is maybe a little restrained, but it feels more like an intention than a shortcoming, because it gives a pleasant sound.
A classy charging cradle is also included, which you can connect to a USB port.
Very good sound and great noise cancellation
Type: Noise cancelling on-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm, USB) Range: 11 m (measured) Cable length: 1.2 m Headset: Yes Weight: 234 g Battery life: 20 h Miscellaneous: NFC, FM-radio, reversible ear cups
Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are comfortable and provide high quality sound.
They have very good noise cancellation but not the best in the class. It’s still far better than standard, however, and has no problem at all at blocking out noises such as traffic and so on. In office environments, the odd bit of conversation can seep through, particularly from higher voices. But this is a minor criticism, because still very little of the sound gets through.
And if you want to be aware of your surroundings, it’s easy to reduce the strength of the noise cancellation. You do this at the touch of a button, and there are three different levels.
The ON button is directly on the ear cup and has a combined Bluetooth pairing function. The position makes it very easy to find the button so you can quickly switch off the headphones to save the battery. The battery life is reasonable but could have been a few hours longer given the price.
Something we really like is that you can start Siri or Google Assistant with a simple press of a button. In practice these headphones are so well-designed that you very rarely need to get out your mobile phone.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones offer a very good fit and high build quality. Our testers could stretch and twist them without them feeling fragile or making noises. And for over-ear headphones they’re also very compact, which is nice.
The sound quality is extremely good. The sound is well balanced with deep bass that’s obvious but doesn’t take over. The mid-range comes through nicely and the details in the treble aren’t exaggerated.
Another plus point is the app, which gives you options including detailed control of the noise cancellation. Two people can also connect simultaneously, so if you have a friend with the same headphones you can listen to a single playlist together.
Best of all is that Bose haven’t economised on the microphone. The sound is clear for the person on the other end of the line despite the fact that the microphone isn’t visible and consequently isn’t positioned in front of your mouth. We measure the headphone range at just over 10 m, which is fine.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones will suit anyone looking for very good sound quality and who also wants a good headset function and noise cancellation in a single device.
Extremely good sound
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0), wired (3.5 mm) Range: 10 m Headset: Yes Weight: 231 g Battery life: 20 h Miscellaneous: Ear cup touch controls
The fact that Sennheiser is one of the big names for wireless headphones is no news. They have a long history of audio products, and when it comes to wireless headphones you often get what you pay for. And this also applies to the PXC 550-II, which gives fantastic sound for the money. The 550-II offers incredible clarity. The registers are rich, and the well-balanced sound impresses far beyond our expectations. It’s quite simply very difficult to find anything to complain about.
The headphones have quite small cups, but are otherwise very well built. On the right-hand cup of the 550-II is a touchpad that you control music and conversations with. As with all of these touchpads for control, it’s easy to touch them by mistake, but that’s not unique to Sennheiser and touch controls are fashionable in the premium segment just now.
The range on these headphones is great. We have no problems moving around a 150 m2 house, even between rooms in a flat with concrete walls.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II has several different modes you can set for noise cancellation – such as active noise cancellation, where three microphones control the noise cancellation, for example, during phone conversations. This is a good and clever idea, but it didn’t feel like there was that much difference when we tested it, at least not so much that it felt worth changing your headphones.
Another disadvantage of the PXC 550-II is that there’s no off button. You switch them off by folding in the right-hand cup, and that doesn’t always work flawlessly. It would have also been handier to have a button as you don’t always want to have them folded up.
But if you can live with these minor shortcomings, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II will live up to its price in terms of build quality, sound profile and as a headset.
Lifetime guarantee headphones that work for everything, whether running, shopping or as an iPhone headset.
These are actually the same headphones as the excellent Koss Porta Pro, but Koss iPorta Pros also have a hands-free microphone for iPhone on the cable. They deliver surprisingly good sound in relation to size and price. The soundstage is airy and transparent while the bass is distinct without being overwhelming. These headphones therefore work well for both heavier and acoustic music.
They're comfortable to wear but the build quality seems a bit flimsy. The headphones can be adjusted both vertically and in terms of how hard they press against the ears. Lifetime guarantee!
Rock marathon with noise cancellation
Type: Wireless over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0), 3.5 mm Battery life: 30 hours (with ANC), 45 hours (without ANC) Weight: 320 g
Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones follow a well-trodden path when it comes to recent Marshall headphones. Release a version, then follow that up with the same version featuring noise cancellation. In this case, it’s the top model Monitor II that has now been enhanced with active noise cancellation.
The design is clearly recognisable from previous versions and also from the popular Major series. Everything is a little bigger and more substantial here, but still has the clear Marshall details in the form of fake leather, a robust design and buttons resembling rivets.
Control is done via a reasonably reliable joystick, while a separate button for each handles the noise cancellation and equaliser presets. Using the associated app, you can adjust most settings to your own taste.
That includes the sound. Marshall's cheaper headphones are set to sound a bit like that preset rock mode you can find on some equalisers. And even though it’s much more toned down here, it’s still obvious and is still improved by fine tuning. While the sound in general is great, and above all fast, we never quite get used to the treble, which tends to verge on the shrill and scratchy at times.
When it comes to the active noise cancellation, you can equally well set the modes to "off", "max" or "monitoring” (the latter lets in ambient sound). Because even on maximum, the Monitor II ANC are a good way from something like Sony's equivalent top quality headphones.
Another disadvantage is that the fake leather makes them incredibly warm. This may be useful instead of a pair of ear muffs in the winter, but indoors or during the summer you find you’d rather not wear them for long periods. Not even for the length of a film. Which is a bit of a shame, because they have enough battery life to do you for an entire round-the-world flight, even with noise cancellation switched on.
The Marshall Monitor II ANC is the best pair of headphones you can get if you want a true rock experience. They're fantastic in many ways, but they're unfortunately not entirely problem-free.
Premium headphones with pointless noise cancellation
Type: Wireless over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0), 3.5 mm Battery life: 23 hours Weight: 277 g Miscellaneous: 2 devices connected at the same time
AKG normally stick to studio headphones and other professional equipment. So it’s kind of interesting that their N700 is up against Sony, Bose and the other giants when it comes to noise-reducing headphones in the upper consumer bracket. Actually, the result is a bit of a mixed bag.
As well as accessing equaliser functions, you can use the associated app to choose what the noise cancellation button does. For example, you can have noise cancellation on, allow speech or allow other noise from outside. But you can’t turn off noise cancellation completely – it’s always on. And that feels a little strange. However, the battery life is so good that it isn’t really a disadvantage either.
On the other hand, AKG's active noise cancellation is far from what their competitors achieve. In fact the headphones themselves probably remove more noise than the noise cancellation does. That's a shame, because they sound good otherwise.
The soundstage feels very much like studio headphones, where tones and nuances must appear clearly and correctly throughout the entire range. This means you might not get the most lively sound, but it’s really nuanced and detailed regardless of music style.
The headphones themselves also appear to be taken straight from the mixing desk. There have straight and clean lines, almost to the point of anonymity. They fit comfortably – even for long periods.
And a big plus is that the buttons are all physical ones. You control all of the functions via real buttons on the side of the ear cups rather than flimsy touch controls. It doesn’t take long to get used to the button placement, and navigation feels very natural.
AKG's N700 headphones may have almost pointless noise cancellation and fairly anonymous lines. But they balance that with a good price, a really good battery life and a very clean and detailed sound.
Kings of sound quality plus built-in Tile support
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: ANC Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm), NFC Range: 10 m (measured) Headset: Yes Weight: 305 g Battery life: 17 h Miscellaneous: Tile (save the headphones via the Tile app), USB-C
Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones are really comfortable and offer incredibly good sound quality. They are wireless and have a reasonable battery life, even though we would have liked to get a few hours more out of them given the price and competition.
The fit is very good. They’re just tight enough around the ears, are comfortable, soft and nicely padded and still feel good even if you wear them for several hours at a time.
Sennheiser haven’t jumped onto the touch bandwagon like many other manufacturers, and the headphones still have physical buttons for commands such as volume, Bluetooth pairing etc. They do, of course, have built-in support for voice assistants, which makes it easy to change track and so on.
Unfortunately the software is a bit flaky when it comes to calls. Several times it parks the person we’re talking to, and once or twice it even hangs up, usually when we’ve been talking for longer than an hour.
One really handy function is Tile support, which is great if you often forget where you last saw your headphones. You can easily find your Momentum 3s via the Tile app. We’d have liked to see this included in Sennheiser’s own app, but perhaps that isn’t technically possible. In any case, you can call your headphones and see them on a map. You can even report them as stolen and other users with Tile support located near them will register where they are.
Sennheiser’s own app is really handy. In it, you can adjust the sound (equaliser) and how powerful the noise cancellation should be, and see the exact battery status.
The noise cancellation is reasonable. Above all, Momentum 3 headphones perform really well on lower and mid-range sound. These over-ear headphones have a lot more difficulty with more high-frequency sounds. For example, we notice this when flying, when the only sound that gets through clearly is when the engines warm up, which produces a rather distinct high frequency sound that can be heard clearly even with noise cancellation turned on. But they do block out nearby conversations and engine noise.
With music on you even drown out the high-frequency sounds. And the sound quality is fantastic. The sound is well-balanced and all registers come through clearly. The bass is punchy. If we were being really fussy we’d have liked slightly more clarity in the sound. But you can’t avoid the fact that Sennheiser's Momentum 3s perform extremely well on the sound front.
What reduces the score above all is the lack of a dedicated button to switch off the headphones. You turn them off by folding them up. This is a dubious solution for two reasons. One is that you’re wasting battery when you’ve got them round your neck or they're hanging up, and the second one is that this doesn’t always work, which means that 2-3 times during our testing they’ve got no battery left when we come to use them. It doesn’t happen often, but the fact that it happens at all is very irritating.
These are definitely top class headphones, but the price tag is rather high compared to competitors such as Bose and Sony. But Momentum 3s are still top quality premium headphones. They offer extremely good sound quality, a very good fit with comfortable ear cups and reasonable noise cancellation.
Impressive sound and noise cancellation in a compact format
Type: Noise cancelling on-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.0 aptX), wired (3.5 mm, USB) Range: 10 m (measured) Cable length: 1.2 m Frequency response: 10-22,000 Hz Impedance: 32 ohm Headset: Yes Battery life: 15 h (noise cancellation and wireless) 30 h (ANC) Weight: 150 g Miscellaneous: Folding
AKG N60NC headphones exude quality on all levels, from the soundstage to the noise cancellation. The sound quality is fantastic, and actually matches many more expensive headphones. Above all, they're impressive for the smooth treble, but the mid-range and bass are also exceptionally good. You can assume that the sound reproduction is fairly “honest”, given AKG’s studio heritage.
Noise cancellation too is top class. They succeed admirably at eliminating intrusive and noisy frequencies. The headphones do tend to leak a fair amount of sound to the surroundings, however, which can be a problem if you like your music up loud. They may not disturb people around you quite so much if you're standing on a noisy platform, but if you're sitting in the quiet compartment on a train they leak so much that people are definitely going to react.
AKG categorise their N60NCs as headphones, but they also have a built-in microphone. As a headset, N60NC headphones work pretty well. The people on the other end of our test calls said the sound was a little enclosed, but it was only after we asked that they noticed any shortcomings in the sound – not spontaneously.
The headphones are relatively light for their size, and very comfortable to wear even over a long period. They're also very compact when folded, which is something you shouldn’t underestimate.
AKG don’t state any Bluetooth range in the specifications, but the connection starts to drop after about 10 metres, which is fine. Buttons and controls are intuitively positioned and you can easily reach them with the headphones on.
Amplified bass and reasonable noise cancellation for a low price
Type: Noise cancelling on-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm) Range: 12 m (measured) Headset: Yes Battery life: 15 h (with everything running) Weight: 258 g
JBL E65BTNC headphones are good value for money headphones with relatively good sound quality for anyone who prefers their sound with a bit more bass. The noise cancellation is reasonable, but there’s clearly room for improvement. And it's only noise reduction, not noise elimination like you get in some premium headphones.
The noise cancellation is sufficient to partially block computer fan sound and the surroundings on less busy streets, but not to effectively counteract sound from conversations in the office or nearby motorway traffic. They do best on low-frequency sound than they do on the upper register. So noise cancellation together with music on low volume makes a good combination.
Despite having quite a stiff band, a pair of E65BTNCs sits quite nicely around your ears. The ear cups are possibly a touch on the small side. The band is textile covered, which gives a quality feel. The padding around the ear cups is soft and comfortable, but could have actually been a bit stiffer. But they're still comfortable even after a couple of hours’ use.
The stated range of 10 metres is accurate. We even get to 12 m away with a door in between before the connection drops.
JBL E65BTNCs provide a relatively spacious sound, but at the same time it’s rather soft and undetailed – particularly if you listen to a lot of classical music. The sound is best suited to pop and R&B, as you get a good punch and nice depth in the bass. Unfortunately at higher volumes the details are overwhelmed and the bass tends to submerge the mid-range.
But the headset function works very well. For anyone on the other end of the line, it sounds like you’re talking directly into the mobile phone microphone, despite the fact that the headphone microphone isn’t directly in front of your mouth.
E65BTNC headphones have quite a lot of buttons and it takes a while to learn all the functions. They get plus points for the power button being grooved so it’s easy to find with your finger when you're wearing the headphones. It's a sliding control type with an LED so you can see if you've forgotten to switch them off. This is useful because they don’t have an automatic shut-off when you’re not sending sound to them.
All of the buttons give nice haptic feedback. The battery life is good but we’d have preferred it if there was voice information about remaining battery when you started the headphones.
JBL E65BTNC headphones are ideal for anyone looking for a pair of noise cancelling headphones in the budget price class. Considering they are noise cancelling headphones, they’re a very reasonable price. They’re also suitable for a musical omnivore who wants a bit more peace and quiet in the office or on public transport.
The successor everyone was waiting for
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.1), wired (3.5 mm, USB-C) Range: 9 m Cable length: 1.2 m Headset: Yes Weight: 240 g Battery life: 24 hrs (10 hrs measured with active noise cancellation) Miscellaneous: Adapter for 3.5 mm to 2.5 mm
Bose’s QuietComfort 45 replaces the hugely popular predecessor QC 35 II. The new headphones are almost identical to the previous version in terms of appearance, with the exception of a slightly clearer logo and being equipped with USB-C instead of micro-USB for charging.
A fast charge of 15 minutes gives a full 3 hours of battery life. For full battery life, you need to charge them for just over 2.5 hours, which is normal for this type of headphone.
The operating time is claimed to be 24 hours. Our headphones used about ten percent battery per hour playing music and with full noise cancellation. This means they last only 10 hours in practice, and that the claimed time of 24 hours was probably measured at low volume without noise cancellation activated.
One good feature of the Bose QC 45 is that you can have them connected to two different sources at the same time. For example, you can have them connected to your phone and your computer, so you can have meetings in Teams and still make a phone call without having to switch between devices in your Bluetooth settings.
Bose stick to physical buttons instead of using the touch controls that have become popular on slightly more expensive headphones. This is a question of taste and preference. But we prefer buttons to touch controls because this means there are fewer "misunderstandings". Buttons make it harder to mispress and end up with a different command than you intended.
But it’s important that the buttons are clearly marked so you know which button does what. And Bose have definitely succeeded with this. It’s also important that you have buttons for all the different functions. In this respect Bose have done less well. There’s no dedicated button to change the song, for example, but you can use the built-in voice assistant instead.
These headphones are quite compact and have small cups. Many people appreciated this in the predecessor, and the design remains the same here. They are comfortable when worn for long periods and really convenient.
New to QC45 is Aware mode. One button activates either full noise cancellation or Aware mode, which means you can hear your surroundings. The predecessors had three different levels of noise cancellation, one of which meant you turned it off completely. We do miss the latter somewhat.
However, the new mode works well and is user-friendly. The noise cancellation itself does an OK job of muffling external noise – but isn’t on a par with Sony's XM4s. So, for example, you still hear people talking in the room next door when you have full noise cancellation running.
These headphones also work well as a headset. The microphone allows you to speak without the person you’re talking to being disturbed by the environmental noise around you.
The sound quality of the headphones is generally good, but at the same time there’s still room for improvement. Competitors in the same price class are much better, and time has caught up with Bose in this respect. For example, QuietComfort 45 headphones are a little too expensive to have such a sharp treble at high volume and such weak pressure in the bass. The mid-range, on the other hand, is nicely detailed. Piano compositions and pop sound very good, especially vocals. You also get really good sound for podcasts. While genres like RnB never really take off, nor does classical music get the breadth it deserves.
There’s an app where you can change some settings. Unfortunately, this lacks an equaliser so you can’t fine-tune the balance. Overall, the QC45 doesn’t have the Hi-Fi sound you’d expect from a pair of premium headphones, but is probably good enough for most people with normal needs. They should suit anyone looking for compact over-ear headphones with good connection options, reasonable battery life and sound quality that works well for mainstream music.
Well-built headphones with long battery life
Type: Noise cancelling over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Yes Connections: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0), wired (3.5 mm) Range: 10 metres Headset: Yes Weight: 296 g Battery life: 41 hrs Miscellaneous: Turn off when you take them off, fast charging gives 5 hrs use in 15 mins, two simultaneously connected devices
The Jabra Elite 85H are a pair of noise-reducing headphones in the middle price range. They have active noise cancellation which is decent without being class winning. Above all, they excel at eliminating high-frequency sounds. However, when it comes to low frequency sounds, they just don’t measure up against the very best.
The sound quality in the headphones is really good once you download Jabra's app and use the equaliser. In the standard version, the sound is a bit unbalanced and the bass tends to drown out the mid-range, but you can adjust all of that via the app.
The app is also really easy to use – one of the better ones on the market, in fact.
The Elite 85H is charged via the included USB-C cable. In addition to this, it also comes with a 3.5 mm cable, an aeroplane adapter and a small bag to store everything in.
The Jabra Elite 85h headphones are fairly well built. They are a slightly larger model with a little more weight. And after wearing them for a couple of hours, they can start to hurt. They become heavy and uncomfortable.
We also found that the microphone left a lot to be desired. It absorbs a lot of ambient noise and that makes it difficult to focus on the conversation, especially in noisy environments.
Like many other models in this price class, the 85H comes with most modern functions. For example, they turn themselves off when you turn the cups, which is actually a bit of a double-edged sword – but if you like that solution, you can find it here.
The battery life of a full 41 hours is really good, and similar to what we measured. But if you turn on noise cancellation, you only get around 30 hours. You can also quickly charge these headphones and get a full five hours’ use in just 15 minutes.
Jabra Elite 85H headphones offer a well-designed app, good sound quality and a long battery life.
For those of you who don’t want to keep charging your headphones
Type: Headphones (on-ear) Battery life: 80 h Weight: 165 g Miscellaneous: No IP rating, no support for AI assistants, no noise cancellation
Swedish Zound Industries have had a minor hit with their products under the licensed name of Marshall. These gadgets also carry clear visual nods to the classic amplifier. You’ve got to love rock'n'roll aesthetics to want to buy these products, and the Major IV headphones are no exception. They’re black, fake leather and, to us, they have quite an appealing look. But that’s a personal opinion.
These are on-ear headphones In other words, they don’t cover the ears, but rest on the ear, which makes them suitable for use when, for example, you’re working out and don't want in-ear headphones. That’s provided the headphones sit nicely on your head, which the Major IV does.
The sound is a bit reminiscent of what you get with Urbanears headphones. That’s a good thing, without a doubt. There’s perhaps a bit too much rumble in the bass for it to be considered fantastic. Treble and mid-range offer nice definition and good balance. Nothing to write home about, maybe, but OK.
However, we did experience some problems when we used the headphones during phone calls. The sound is fuzzy in the lower mid-range in a way that makes it difficult to hear what the recipient is saying. On the other hand, this isn’t a pair of headphones primarily intended as a hands-free headset. They’re really designed for listening to music. Likewise there is no support for AI assistants or the like.
Another thing missing, and which is starting to feel like an increasingly important feature when it comes to all kinds of headphones, is active noise cancellation. This is certainly reflected in the price, but it’s useful to be aware of.
On the plus side, the manufacturer’s astonishing battery life claim of 80 hours really does seem to be accurate. We only had time to test up to 70 hours, but there was no indication that the headphones were about to run out of charge. It’s also quite easy to charge these headphones, as they support wireless charging in addition to USB-C.
Good for workouts, but not for anything else
Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Noise cancellation: No Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Range: 10 m (measured) Headset: Yes Battery life: 36 h (22 with ANC) Weight: 299 g Miscellaneous: Replaceable ear pads
Danish company Miiego were clearly on to something with their first edition Boom headphones, and with their Boom ANC they want to take the product a step further. These are extremely versatile and impact-resistant headphones that also now offer active noise cancellation.
The idea of the Boom series is that the ear pads are removable. In the box you get a pair of rather sweaty fake leather ones plus a pair in function material. You click the latter in when it’s time for a workout, which gives you a pair of headphones that breathe better and actually stay in place really well during most types of sporting activity.
Over-ear headphones with this type of fabric covering tend to be cooler than normal headphones, but still fairly warm. But Boom ANC headphones do a really good job of dissipating the heat and don’t feel anything like as hot as this type of headphone normally does.
For some reason, we were particularly clumsy in the gym during the test period, which resulted in a number of knocks for the headphones. But they stood up to this abuse admirably, with no visible scratches or defects.
We’d have preferred to see more of this phenomenal ventilation on the plastic ear pads too, because these get quite warm very quickly. And the case could have had space for both the headphones and extra pads.
But what about the sound? Well you don’t have to worry about call sound, because there’s no microphone. When it comes to music they do a reasonable job. The upper and mid-ranges are relatively detailed, but perhaps lacking a bit of extra pressure. As the name indicates, these headphones do better with the bass. Here we have all the pressure and rumble we could want, but it’s lacking detail.
The noise cancellation does a pretty good job, although the headphones shut out a lot of sound even before we switch it on. At the same time it’s more that the ambient noise level is significantly reduced rather than the majority of sounds disappearing completely.
One major disadvantage is that they can’t cope with film viewing. There’s so much delay that we can’t use them for anything that requires synchronised sound.
Miiego’s Boom ANC headphones are really good for workouts – amongst the best over-ear sport headphones we’ve tested. But out in everyday life they’re not so good, although they don’t completely drop the ball.
100% sport focused
Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Noise cancellation: No Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Range: 20 m (measured) Headset: Yes Battery life: 40 h Weight: 209 g Miscellaneous: Removable & washable parts, function button
Adidas RPT-01 is the rather unsexy name of the first headphones made by Adidas together with Swedish company Zound Industries, and they’re siblings of the equally boringly named FWD-01 in-ear headphones. But this is hardly crucial in a pair of otherwise really good sport headphones.
There’s a reason why most sports headphones are in-ear type. Over-ear headphones are fiddly to get correctly positioned on the ear. They have to stay in place even during the sweatiest of workouts and you also get really warm from having a pair of earmuffs on during your session.
But Adidas succeed in almost all respects with their RPT-01s. The attractive fabric design gives enough ventilation not to pose problems in a warm gym. At the same time they block outdoor cold well enough to replace a hat during chilly winter runs. And the reflectors on the side of the headband also come in handy on dark days.
After your workout you can remove the sweatiest parts of the headphones and wash them with your exercise gear, which we think is really clever.
The fit is very tight. This means they stick like glue during runs and all types of exercise where your head is upright. But if you’re sweating and lie down to do an exercise in the gym, they're prone to sliding off. Here, we’d have liked the ribbed rubber strip on the headband to be ribbed lengthways instead of widthways, which would have offered a bit more friction.
At the same time, as we say, they fit very tightly. A normal gym workout or run is comfortable, but if you’re wearing them for several hours they start pressing quite hard on your ears.
This is a bit of a shame, because the battery life means you could have worn them all day without the battery running out.
When it comes to the sound, we’d expected a lot more nuance given the price. On the whole the sound is good, but we don’t really get much detail anywhere in the register. It’s not exactly bad as such, but quite flat and uninspired. They work OK for calls providing the surroundings are fairly quiet.
You access almost all functions through an oversized joystick button on the right ear cup. It looks weird, but turns out to be really useful, as you can easily control your music even with gloves on. On the left ear cup there’s another button. You can set this to do whatever you want using the Adidas app on your phone. Well, as long as “whatever you want” means starting a Spotify playlist or activating your voice assistant. In other words, there aren’t enough functions for a dedicated button.
If you prefer wearing over-ear headphones to exercise, Adidas RPT-01s are a good choice. While you’re exercising they do what they should, but they definitely aren’t headphones you’re going to want to wear all day because they’re just too tight.
Stable and easily driven headphones that provide a nuanced soundstage
The soundstage has plenty of space and gives a good feeling of proximity. Bass, mid-range and treble all come out clearly, and the well-designed balanced means this is a pair of really good all-round headphones. However, they aren’t as comfortable on your head as Koss Porta Pro headphones. The construction feels relatively stable despite the over-ear design.
One of the Sennheiser PX100’s hallmarks is that they can be folded up completely and easily fit in your pocket. The headphones are amongst the most easily driven in the test, which means that if you’re using them with an MP3 player the battery will last for a long time.
Extremely niche headphones with very enveloping soundstage
Type: Gaming headset Drivers: 50 mm Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz Impedance: 32 ohm Connection: Bluetooth, USB, 3.5 mm Microphone: Yes, integrated
Creative SFXi Air headphones are primarily intended for gamers. If you want to use them something else, you have to change quite a lot of settings. With that said, here’s our introduction to this review:
Anybody who’s grown up on a council estate knows exactly what a car stereo sounds like in a classic car. Lots of bass, very little mid-range and excessive treble. And that’s pretty much what Creative’s SXFi Air headphones sound like if you use the automatically activated “holographic” Super X-Fi sound mode when you listen to music.
We get it. This isn’t a mode intended for music, but primarily for gaming. It’s supposed to be enveloping and give you a feeling of space that headphones don’t normally deliver.
But if you’re going to use them to listen to music, this isn’t particularly successful. The lower mid-range is hollow and the bass is far too deep in relation to the other parts of the frequency spectrum. You also get a touch of reverberation in the soundstage as if you’d organised a disco in a poorly insulated space. Creative say that you should hear the sound as if it didn’t come from the headphones, but... Well, that’s not how we’d describe it.
It gets much better – although not perfect – when we deactivate that mode. But if you want the most from these headphones, you have to dig into the app and correct quite a lot of things in the equaliser settings. The existing pre-selections aren’t at all good, and listening to pop music on the “pop” setting does the headphones a disservice. Because the sound is actually pretty good when you fiddle with them a bit. So be ready to need to change settings when you move from gaming to listening to music.
But if you play games with headphones – an area where Creative excel as do few other manufacturers – Super X-Fi is tremendous fun. For the best results, you should connect the headphones to a computer via USB. You get plenty of rumble with explosions, and the surround sound feel is total. The sound quality isn’t amazing, but the effect is quite clear. And this is also the best way to use these headphones. You can use them for gaming over Bluetooth as well, but the sound is worse and above all you get a good bit of delay.
The design is best described as conventional, without any parts that particularly stand out. The headphones are quite chunky and heavy. They aren’t uncomfortable in any way, but you feel that they're there. But that’s pretty typical of gaming headphones.
One clever detail is that they have an integrated memory card slot, which means you can listen to music directly from the headphones without needing a Bluetooth sound source that drains the battery. This is really useful, not least if you’re travelling and know you’ll be spending a longer period away from a power source. The battery life is 10 hours, which in any case should also cover most long flights.
These headphones are primarily intended for someone who’s looking for gaming headphones that sound good when they’re connected via a cable and that can be used as “spare” Bluetooth headphones on long trips. If the latter is more important, there are clearly better alternatives on the market. But connected to a computer via USB they are undoubtedly hard to beat for an enveloping sound experience.
Light and neat with good battery life
Type: Over-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active with transparency Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm) Range: 10 m (measured) Headset: Yes Weight: 249 g Battery life: 30 h
JBL Live 650BTNC headphones play the starring role in 2019’s range of over-ear headphones from popular brand JBL, acting as their flagship model.
Although “flagship” doesn’t indicate quite the right segment. In terms of both price and quality these headphones belong more to the medium than the premium class – which is only to be expected given that JBL are the manufacturers. The company generally makes good value and effective products. But we won’t be praising these headphones to the skies.
Let’s start with the positive. The headphones have a stylish and well-built design. They’re light and quite small without fitting badly around the ears. They’re also comfortable even after a longer period of use.
They’re also stated as having a full 30 hours of battery life, which agrees pretty well with our measurements. If you keep noise cancellation switched on, we measure the battery life as about 18 hours – which is still really good given the price.
Unfortunately, they lack both bass pressure and a detailed mid-range – in other words, this isn’t at all the high-quality sound for the price class that we associate with JBL. This means that music just never really comes into its own. You never get that powerful feeling in genres like classical music, musicals and film music, nor the pressure and swing you’d expect from R&B, soul and so on. The music comes out rather flat and boring.
If the headphones had been 20 or 30 quid cheaper we could have excused this, but as it is they’re so close to premium headphones in price that we expected better.
And when we look at gaming instead, explosions and other more bass-heavy sounds are more like firecrackers than bombs.
But the headphones work well if you put the game sound through your speakers and just use the headphones to talk to your fellow gamers. It’s clear who’s saying what, and everyone we play with says they can hear us well too. The same applies if you use the headphones as a headset for mobile calls.
650BTNC headphones come with noise cancellation, which is a useful addition. However, this includes what’s known as transparency. This means they don’t offer full noise cancellation, but only a reduction in environmental sound so you can hear ambient noise to an extent. This is OK given the price class, and they do what we expect. You get a quieter background, but can still pay attention to things going on around you.
But given that for only a bit more money you can buy a pair of premium headphones with better noise cancellation and sound quality, it’s hard to recommend these for their current price. JBL Live 650BTNC headphones are best suited to anyone who is on the run and wants reasonable sound in a pair of compact and light headphones without having to charge them too often.
Comfortable headphones that fit comfortably over ears and head for a low price
Skullcandy are pioneers of cool street designs in headphones and are available in loads of colours and combinations – white, pink, furry – you name it! The large, soft ear cups contribute to the headphones being comfortable to wear, but they leak sound both out and in.
The headphones deliver powerful sound even though the different frequency areas aren’t as separate as we’d have liked. This means the soundstage lacks both space and proximity.
The headphones are cheap and feel quite plasticky.
Heavy and substantial with very deep bass
Type: Noise cancelling on-ear headphones Noise cancellation: Active Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth), wired (3.5 mm, USB) Range: 10 m (measured) Cable length: 1.2 m Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz Headset: Yes Weight: 290 g Battery life: 22 h Miscellaneous: NFC, folding, app with equaliser
Sony MDR-XB950N1 headphones are attractive and provide really powerful bass. They’re also quite large and heavy, which often means they also sound really good. The fact that we’ve been spoilt by previous good Sony headphones also undoubtedly contributes to our high expectations, but the truth is that MDR-XB950N1s are a bit of a disappointment.
They don’t sound bad, but they don’t sound as good as they should for this price class either. They lack something in terms of treble and the mid-range is also a bit too restrained. The big problem is the bass, however, which provides a little too much pressure. So you can imagine our surprise when we try to switch off the extra bass... and find it’s already off.
With the Bass Effect on, they produce a whole lot of bass, and if the sound had been balanced we’d have appreciated the function. But you really can’t say the sound is good. Then again, if you're after extremely dominant bass you should be happy.
The noise cancellation in MDR-XB950N1 headphones works OK but isn’t impressive. It lets through quite a lot of sound. As a headset, however, the headphones work well. They sit nicely on your head too, even if the size can be a bit of a problem, for instance if you want to lean against the bulkhead on a plane or train while you're listening.
They’re also quite heavy, which is a pain if you're travelling with them in your hand luggage and every gram is important. The stated range is quite accurate, and the Bluetooth signal only starts to drop when we get about 10 m from the connected phone. A big plus point for these Sony headphones is that they're really attractive, particularly in the military green version we tested.
Attractive and cleverly designed headphones available in many different colours with good build quality
Urbanears Plattan headphones have a clean, attractive Scandinavian street design and a hands-free microphone on the cable. Unfortunately the soundstage is flat and rather tinny. Neither the treble nor deep bass get any room, which means the sound lacks both space and proximity.
You can adjust the ear pads vertically, but they're quite hard. So they don’t really seal around your ears, and consequently means they leak quite a lot of sound. But if you're only after a fashion statement, Urbanears are amongst the coolest headphones on the market.
Wireless sports headphones with good battery life
Type: Sports headset Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.1) Battery life: 11 h Weight: 41 g
Miiego AL3+ Freedom Woman headphones are a compact, wireless headset with soft cups that lie against your ears instead of being inserted in them. According to the packaging, the headset has been specifically designed for women, so the neckband has been made shorter. Whether this makes any difference to the fit is difficult to say as we haven’t tested any version with a longer one.
Otherwise, the neckband is a softish plastic one. This unfolds when you use the headset and automatically contracts when you remove it. This means the headset takes up very little space when it’s not in use.
As we’ve already said, the cups lie against the outer ear. Unfortunately, the solution with such a thick band over the ear is uncomfortable, and this becomes more and more obvious during the workout. They slip down and force the tester's ears into an abnormal and unpleasant position. The fit also seems to deteriorate over time, particularly if they get hot and sweaty. During several runs they slide down under our tester’s ears.
One advantage of the AL3+ headphones is that they have clearly marked buttons on the right-hand ear cup. It’s easy to find the button you want with your finger without having to remove the headphones. They also have a good range and reach up to 10 m with a closed door between them and the sound source.
But the best thing of all is the battery life. It lasts for several longer workouts without you having to charge them in between, and the headphones tell you when it’s getting to the point where you need to think about charging them.
In terms of sound they perform OK for this type of external headset. You lose a good bit of richness and pressure on the sound, but that’s often the case with these headphones. Unfortunately they're also lacking detail in the mid-range, and this can’t be blamed on the design. The sound tends towards the muted side.
But they shut out enough ambient noise and you can get a good bit of volume out of them. For normal workout pop music in noisy environments, they work well enough.
Buying a pair of headphones is a good way to ensure that you can listen to music both on the bus to work and at home when the rest of the family are sleeping. Today’s headphones come in a range of different designs. Everything from buds you pop into your ears (in-ear headphones) to large cups that you place over your ears (over-ear headphones). And on-ear headphones are in between, with cups that lie against the ear.
In this test we've looked at both on-ear and over-ear headphones. The advantage of these is that their size and form mean you can get very good sound quality in an ergonomic design.
In the best headphones, the sound is balanced, rich and detailed across the entire spectrum. In the best case, headphones also deliver music and other sound so that only you can hear them – in the worst case they leak the sound so that anyone around you can hear something of what you’re listening to.
One specific type of headphones is noise cancelling. It’s taken a while, but technological development has finally made it possible to have headphones that both keep out external noise and don’t require cables. Over the last three years a minor explosion has occurred in this area as consumers are no longer satisfied with one or the other but instead want both.
When you choose between different headphones, the first question you should ask is what type of headphone you’re looking for. Are you a music enthusiast seeking quality headphones that you’ll only use in the peace and quiet of your home? Are they headphones that will need to come along on your travels and work in noisy environments? Or are you perhaps looking for headphones that will join you in the gym?
Think about your needs and then answer the following questions:
Do I want wireless headphones? The advantage is that you don’t have to deal with tangled wires or limited range. The disadvantage is that you have to remember to charge them, but if you buy a pair with a good battery life this doesn’t need to be a negative factor.
Do I want the headphones to be able to filter out ambient noise? If so, noise cancelling headphones – ideally with active noise cancellation – is what you’re after.
Do I want to be able to hear what’s going on around me? A pair of on-ear headphones lets through more sound than over-ear headphones and is therefore more suitable in an office environment, for example. Over-ear headphones create a more closed environment, but without noise cancellation most of them still let through a certain amount of ambient noise so you won’t be completely isolated.
The sound quality and fit are obviously at least as important when you’re looking for headphones. But it’s only when you know which category you’re looking for that you can start thinking about those points.
When it comes to sound quality, it’s largely a matter of taste. Some people like more bass, others more treble. So when we test headphones, we look for a balanced soundstage where all registers can be heard. If we test headphones that claim to have more emphasis on a particular register, such as amplified bass, we take that into account during the test but still expect all registers to sound good.
Fit is also an individual question. It’s a good idea to try out several different pairs of headphones and keep them on while you walk around the shop. Feel the padding of the ear cups too – how well filled are they? How sturdy does the build quality feel overall? You should also think about how compact they are when folded up if you’re travelling a lot and want to be able to put them away easily.
And finally it’s important to choose a pair of headphones that are good value for money. Based on your budget, they should have as good sound quality and fit as possible and be both user-friendly and have all the required functions. By reading this test you’ll get a good idea of how different products perform on all of these points.