The purpose of headphones is pretty simple (shoot audio into our ears), but choosing the Best Headphone in 2019 isn’t necessarily an easy task. There are various types, styles, and features that we must consider. Do we want portability? Are we going to work out with it? Is wireless important?
This is why we’ve compiled Best of lists for each headphone category, such as the best over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, and in-ear headphones available today. But now it’s time to consider the best of the best headphones.
- 1 Top Headphones for 2019
- 2 Best Over Ear Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
- 3 Best On-Ear V-MODA XS
- 4 Best In-Ear Shure SE215
- 5 Best Noise Canceling Bose QuietComfort 25
- 6 Best Workout Headphones Jaybird X2
- 7 Key Factors look for in the Best Headphones
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid
- 9 Most Important Features
- 10 Which Headphones are Right For You?
Top Headphones for 2019
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Best Over Ear Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
Price: $349 | Wireless: No, but there is a wireless variant | Weight: 190g
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Immaculate construction backed by style and superior acoustics.
Sennheiser is a renowned name in the audiophile community. The German audio manufacturer has been around for a while and the expertise certainly shows when you listen to its headphones. The Momentum line is Sennheiser’s bread and butter, and its perfected balance between style and audio quality makes it among the best over ear headphones you can buy. Currently on its 2nd iteration, the Momentum 2.0 is our favorite over ear because it does so many things right.
The build is very light for the size, the ear pads isolate well and are super comfy, and the audio reproduction is exquisite. Sennheiser always aims to provide the trueness of music, so the sound is balanced, clear, and detailed. The Momentum 2.0’s predecessor did not have the ability to fold, so that’s now added, along with a compact carrying case. You can get the Momentum 2.0 in either black, ivory, or brown colors.
Best On-Ear V-MODA XS
Price: $212 | Wireless: No | Weight: 195g
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Engineered to the gills and killer audio.
If on-ears are more your thing, our favorite one currently is produced by V-MODA. You should check out V-MODA’s headphones if you get the chance; they have a killer sound. And the manufacturer’s latest on-ear, the XS, is certainly no exception. Despite having smaller drivers than the flagship M-100 over-ears, it still brings V-MODA’s impactful and engaging sound signature. Bass isn’t quite as strong on the XS (on-ears aren’t generally the best headphones for bass), but the trade-off there is a more lush mid-range. Vocals, in particular, are prominent and sound superbly natural.
V-MODA’s sweet design is also carried over to the XS. A leather headband meets unique metal stems, which have a hinge that fold the headphones down to an impressively compact size (V-MODA also includes a robust, hard-shell carrying case). The cushions on the ear pads are soft and also wrapped in leather, making them easy on the ears. You can get the XS in either matte black or white/silver colors.
Best In-Ear Shure SE215
Price: $99 | Wireless: No | Weight: 30g
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Awesome entry-level into the world of high-end in-ear monitors.
Shure is another audio manufacturer that continually gets great reception from the audiophile community, especially in the in-ear arena. We typically regard “audiophile” headphones with expensive prices, but lately, top-end manufacturers like Shure have been broadening their lineups with more affordable offerings. The SE215 in-ears are part of that effort, and its not hard to see why they’re among today’s best earbuds.
We love the SE215 because it still brings Shure’s excellent sound, despite the relatively low $99 price tag (also making them the best headphones under 100 on our list). The detail and fullness that fans love about Shure reproduction is there. The treble and mid-range are both rich and work very well together. The bass is relevant and sounds great, but we wouldn’t recommend it for bassheads.
A neat feature, which you won’t find on other best in ear headphones at this price-point, is a removable cable. This allows you to swap for a third-party cable (if you don’t like Shure’s stock cable) or replace it if the cable fails. The SE215 comes in either black or clear colors.
Best Noise Canceling Bose QuietComfort 25
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Bose’s noise-cancellation technology is second to none.
Most consumers know about Bose and that it knows how to do audio. If you want a quality headphone, you can’t go wrong with Bose. That is, as long as you’re willing to pay up. They’re not the cheapest option out there. But you do get your money’s worth in a thought-out design and fine sound quality.
These points are even more true when we talk about noise-cancellation technology. There aren’t many headphones out there that can electronically block out external noise, and even less that can do it well. It’s safe to say that Bose has the best noise cancelling headphones, and its flagship is the QuietComfort 25.
The design and build of the QC 25 is fairly basic, but the more important things, like comfort and ergonomics, are as good as you’ll find on an over-ear headphone. The star of the show is the active noise-cancellation feature. It is easily toggled by a switch on the right ear cup. A single AAA battery gives you around 35 hours of playback. However, if you’re out of juice, the QC 25 can still function (sans the noise-cancellation ability). Sound-wise, Bose aimed at a neutral and perfected quality. But it isn’t necessarily “reference”-sounding. It’s both detailed and engaging across the entire spectrum.
Best Workout Headphones Jaybird X2
Price: $179 | Wireless: Yes | Weight: 13.8g
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The complete package, from sport-ready fit to solid audio.
Jaybird did a great job making its mark in the wireless headphone industry. The original Bluebuds X nailed it for the manufacturer’s first try. It was sporty, compact, fit securely, and sounded exceptionally compared to other wireless earphones. When it came time for a sequel, Jaybird carried over all these successful factors and refined those details that could use fine tuning. That makes the X2 very hard to beat in both wireless and active headphone markets.
The X2’s earpieces are sweatproof and bridged by a flat, thin cable (with an in-line remote). Jaybird includes an earfin bit that helps them stay in your ears while active. These factors make them among the best headphones for running. You’ll get plenty of play between charges with an 8 hour battery life rating. Aesthetics is also thought about. The X2 is offered in a variety of color schemes.
Fortunately, Jaybird puts as much focus on sound quality as it does function. We particularly loved the rich treble and expansive soundstage, as well as the natural presence of the mid-range. Although, while the bass is done well, it’s not strong.
Key Factors look for in the Best Headphones
Comfort/Fit: Headphones are an accessory that we wear, so how well they fit/feel is just as important as how they sound. You’ll see many different approaches to ergonomics and materials. Over/On-ears utilize ear pads differently. With over-ears, the pads go around the ear, so the ear cup opening should be suitable. With on-ears, there shouldn’t be too much clamping force and the material should be soft, or it won’t take long until your ears start to hurt. And with in-ears, the fit in the ear canal is crucial. If the ear tips don’t stay in place, then sound will leak.
Light weight: Manufacturers must be cognoscente about the headphone’s weight when they’re packing all those features. The experience will be ruined if after a while you get a pain-point on the top of your head, or gravity pulls your earpieces out. This is more crucial if you plan to work out with them. Always check that the weight sounds reasonable on the headphone’s spec sheet.
Isolation: It’s not easy keeping external noise from ruining your listening session. Manufacturers approach the problem in different ways. With over-ears and on-ears, thicker cushions wrapped in leather work well, because they’re also comfortable. In-ears can be trickier, because the ear tip must fit well within the ear canal (we all have different ear shapes). If a good seal isn’t made, sound with leak in and out and ruin the quality. Most manufacturers use silicone tips because they’re flexible and last, but if isolation is of utmost importance, then foam tips are the ticket (they expand and fill the space).
Wireless: Bluetooth/Wireless headphones is the new wave today. It does take some consideration, though, and wireless headphones are not all created equally. For instance, battery life may be annoyingly short, or ergonomics/comfort/fit may be compromised to make way for the wireless components. A manufacturer has a lot more engineering to do to make it all come together well. And then there’s sound quality. Bluetooth streaming involves compression, so if you value high-end acoustics, the cord-free convenience may not be worth it.
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t go too cheap: We all like to save a buck, but sometimes that expression “You get what you pay for” comes back to bite us. Headphones that are too cheap likely have to compromise on something important (ergonomics, comfort, sound quality, etc.). However, there are some hidden treasures out there. If you’re on a strict budget, look out for alternatives that have a consensus of being the best budget headphones and a great bang for the buck.
Impedance: Impedance is the electric resistance of the headphones, which affects how much power it takes to drive them. Or in other words, how much volume you need to hear them. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem. Most headphones have impedances lower than 100 ohms and are easily driven by mobile devices. But if you start to get into high-end over-ears (impedances at 300 ohms or higher), you may find that your source is too weak. You’ll then need to spend even more on a dedicated amplifier. Check the spec sheet and make sure that the impedance is reasonable for the source you plan to use.
Remote Compatibility: An easy mistake to make is buying a headphone with the wrong in-line remote. Many headphones these days come with a 3-button remote on the stock cable. However, because the two most popular mobile operating systems function differently, manufacturers have to create two versions of the remote. Make sure you buy the appropriate iOS or Android headphone model.
Most Important Features
- The competence of the headphone’s audio reproduction is a huge factor, but isolation can be just as important. We often use our headphones on-the-go, which means that external noise can seep in.
- Over-ears handle isolation better than on-ears, because the ear pads enclose more of the ear. Manufacturers try to make more substantial or thicker ear pads to try to counter sound leak.
- With in-ears, foam tips isolate much better than silicone tips, because they can expand to fill the space in the ear canal. Most manufacturers use silicone tips, but fortunately, there are third-party options out there, like Comply foam tips.
- You’ll have to think about what features are most important to you. For instance, wireless headphones are convenient, but there’s a trade-off with regard to sound quality (compared to wired headphones of the same cost).
- If portability is at the top of your list, then you want an over/on-ear with a foldable design or go with an in-ear headphone.
- Some headphones allow you to remove the cable, which can be nifty for changing it out for a longer one or replacing it if it fails.
- Select headphones have noise-cancellation technology. If external noise is often a problem, then that narrows your search.
Which Headphones are Right For You?
The headphone market is a very exciting space today. There’s so much going on in terms of design and features, and so many choices that are fighting for our money. When it comes down to choosing, think about how you’ll use the headphone and what features matter most. And of course, budget plays a big role. Headphones can range from a few dollars to thousands. But you don’t necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg to get a great all-arounder. Unfortunately, most headphones out there aren’t available for us to try before buying, so lean on user feedback and reviews.
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