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When you’re shopping for the best wired headphones, there’s a good chance that you want the best headphones you can buy with a dedicated connection free from glitches, which can sometimes happen when you rely on wireless Bluetooth connections. This doesn’t mean that you don’t want a wireless pair of headphones, but that you like the stability the wire can provide.
Wired headphones can technically include any type of over-ear and in-ear headphone from classic analog models, to headsets like the best USB headphones designed for business professionals and gamers, to wireless over and on-ear designs that can support wired connections if the battery is dead or you want to connect directly to a device. Given the primary purpose of headphones, you’ll want a pair with a durable wire and quality audio playback. But depending on your other objectives, you may need to factor in other features.
Keep reading our best wired headphones guide to learn more about choosing a new pair that’s perfect for you.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: With an attractive chrome-plated design, this device stands out. It has a 47-inch braided 3.5mm cable that offers compatibility with a wide variety of devices. Controls for volume, calls, and music playback simplify operation.
Available in over 11 different colors, the Ailihen C8 headphones will appeal to a wide variety of people. This device has an excellent folding design, allowing users to store and transport it easily. Equipped with an integrated mic, this headset lets users answer audio and video calls. Thanks to a streamlined design without a dangling boom mic, this device is ideal for use on the go. However, this unit has little padding on the headband.
The ear cups on this model are optimized for noise isolation, providing an immersive listening experience. It comes with a 47-inch braided cord that provides reliable connectivity. This headset features a 3.5mm connector that plugs into computers, mobile devices, and gaming consoles. An adjustable headband adapts to a variety of head shapes and sizes. Featuring a chrome-plated design and matte CD-style earcups, this headset offers visual appeal, and it has in-line controls for adjusting volume, pausing playback, and answering or ending calls.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: A lightweight design with a padded, folding headband and ear cups provides comfort. This headset has an anti-tangle cord that resists knotting, providing lasting durability.
The Artix CL750 headphones have a lightweight design that will appeal to people who listen to music for extended time periods. This headset has noise-isolating ear cups, providing a hypnotic listening experience, while powerful audio drivers produce sound with thumping bass. It has a number of in-line controls, allowing users to adjust the volume, pause playback, and start or end calls. It also has a button for navigating through music tracks easily. However, they lack a muting function.
A built-in microphone captures sound, allowing users to take calls and participate in multi-player eSports gamers. With a foldable headband, this device is easy to transport and store. These headphones are well-suited for use on public transport and during jogs. A tangle-free cord provides durability, and the headset is compatible with a wide variety of devices, including computers and smartphones. This unit features memory foam ear cup and headband padding for comfort.
Award: BEST FOR SPORTS
WHY WE LIKE IT: Featuring lightweight, compact construction, this headset is suitable for sports and public transport. The headset comes with three different sizes of earpieces for comfort.
With 9mm dome-type neodymium drivers, the Sony MDREX15AP headphones deliver crisp sounds that will appeal to music enthusiasts. These headphones feature a lightweight earbud construction that provides comfort. They are ideal for jogging and use on public transit. With an included Y-type cord and cord slider, this device prevents cord tangling. It’s available in a variety of exquisite colors, including violet and pink. However, this model is not optimized for extra bass.
A 3.5mm plug enables connecting these earphones to a variety of devices, including computers and smartphones. Equipped with three different sizes of earpieces, the device fits a wide variety of people. It has a built-in microphone that enables calling and engaging in gaming. A one-button control allows changing various settings on this device easily. This model has high-quality construction, featuring a water-resistant silicone housing that stands up to daily use. It has a wide 8 to 20kHz frequency range, producing accurate sounds.
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Award: BEST 3.5mm PLUG
WHY WE LIKE IT: These high-quality buds with three different sizes of soft silicone ear tips provide a pleasant listening experience. The headset has a long 3.6-foot, 3.5mm cord for connecting easily to computers and smartphones
With a sleek, minimalist design, the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 headphones offer excellent audio playback without being overbearing. They feature a long 3.6-foot cord that is suitable for connecting to smartphones, computers, and gaming consoles. With a frequency response range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz, this device produces accurate tones in all frequency ranges. It comes with small, medium, and large eartips, allowing users to get the perfect fit. However, this model lacks a microphone.
This particular unit has a brilliant blue color scheme, and the headphones are available in a variety of other colors. These earbuds have very soft eartips to prevent irritating the ears. A right-angle 3.5mm connector simplifies plugging this device to smartphones and other devices. With large 9mm neodymium drivers, this headset delivers refined sounds with deep bass. It boasts lightweight construction ideal for jogging and use in the gym.
Award: BEST HEADBAND
WHY WE LIKE IT: With high-quality stainless steel and aluminum construction, this headset provides durability. It comes with a soft carrying case for effortless mobility and boasts an remarkably adjustable headband for comfort.
Users who prefer an on-ear device should consider the Beats EP headphones. This unit is available in blue, black, red, and white, so users can pick a variant that meets their tastes. Featuring a lightweight aluminum headband, this device is suitable for users who listen to music or stream podcasts for hours on end. This aluminum headband is adjustable, featuring vertical sliders for customizable comfort. However, the mic lacks noise canceling tech.
In-line controls on this model enable adjusting the volume easily. The headset has padded ear cups with a durable liner designed for comfort. With a reinforced stainless steel core, this headset is durable and it stands up to daily use. It comes with a soft carrying case to facilitate transportation and storage, and a built-in mic with an excellent sound pickup pattern facilitates video conferencing, phone calls, and multi-player gaming.
Award: BEST FOR MUSIC RECORDING
WHY WE LIKE IT: A modular design with a replaceable cord and padding provides durability. This unit comes with a long 9.8-foot cord and is compatible with music instruments and equipment for studio recording.
Featuring a closed-back design, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones are ideal for people who want to be fully engaged in their music. This headset features large circumaural ear cups that cradle the ears to provide a hypnotic listening experience. Weighing just 285g, this device is lightweight, so it’s easy to carry around for hours. It comes with an ultra-long 9.8-foot coiled cord that supports connecting to TVs, and mobile devices. However, the tight design of the headband is uncomfortable for some people.
With a wide frequency response that ranges between 8Hz and 25,000Hz, this headset produces accurate lows, mids, and highs. It has a heavily-padded, adjustable headband that contours around various head shapes. The earcups are also heavily padded and they feature a durable liner. We like the modular design with replaceable ear pads, headband padding, and cord. An included ¼” adaptor offers wide-ranging compatibility. This unit is compatible with various music instruments, making it a good choice for music production applications.
Technically speaking, the wired headphones category can be a large one. While most people are referring to models with a permanently attached wire, this can also include the best wireless headphones that come with a removable 3.5-millimeter audio cable designed to work with most standard audio jack ports still found on most devices.
This allows wireless headphone users to still access audio content via detachable cables in situations where wireless isn’t supported or possible. For example, if the battery on your wireless headphones dies, you can connect to a device through the wire and continue listening without any issue. Or, if you’re on a flight with wireless headphones but want to access the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, you’re usually going to need a 3.5-millimeter compatible wire to do so.
But traditionally, wired headphones refer to models with permanent wires, which you can see in our Audeze SINE on-ear headphone review. Moreover, this includes analog models that simply emit audio content but don’t offer any built-in functionality, such as volume controls, track selection, microphone support, or the ability to accept or end calls. For budget-focused shoppers, analog wired headphones usually have an incredibly affordable price range unless you’re shopping for a model with noise cancelation support to block background noise.
However, many people prefer wired headphones, as they offer true audio output. And especially for gamers, musicians, or sound editors where audio clarity is essential, wired headphones are a must.
The distinction between wired and wireless headphones can get murky — especially since many wireless headphones come with 3.5-millimeter wires to support wired connectivity. The only issue is that some of the top over-ear headphones for working out shouldn’t be wired, unless you prefer them.
However, in general, premium wired headphones are usually known for having better audio quality output than their wireless counterparts — even models that support both wired and wireless connections. Usually, this is because the higher cost is targeted towards accurate sound output rather than integrated Bluetooth technology. Note that “enhanced audio quality” isn’t a feature that will apply to budget wired headphones. These may be the best headphonhes for teens, as they promise a better listening experience.
These days, wired headphones are usually limited to on-ear and over-ear designs. However, you can still find wired in-ear headphones if you prefer. The biggest difference between true wired headphones with a permanent wired connection versus wireless headphones is that they don’t support Bluetooth connectivity, like the Beats studio wireless over-ear headphones, which use Bluetooth 4.0. Likewise, with a pair of wired headphones, you don’t have to worry about your headphones dying throughout the day.
Depending on the type of wired headphones you select, they can come standard with intuitive features that allow you to be hands-free. For example, you can find wired headphones with built-in active noise cancellation, on-ear controls for volume and track selection, and even a built-in microphone and the ability to accept and end calls.
Also, depending on how you plan on using wired headphones, you can find models that include different adapters to support a range of connections. For instance, DJs use wired headphones as ear monitors and will almost exclusively focus on premium models known for high fidelity audio output (even in noisy environments) and that come standard with a ¼-inch jack which is compatible with DJ hardware such as mixers and controllers. For those wanting to enhance their audio experience, they need to use a digital audio converter adapter, like you can read about in our HIFIMAN HM-101 USB DAC review.
Traditional wired headphones work straightforwardly. Once the wire is plugged into a 3.5-millimeter jack (or via an adapter into a jack of a different size), they automatically emit sound as received from the device.
True wired headphones will usually lack the functionality that’s present on wireless models that support wired connections. This means you’re less likely to see options like volume control, track selection, or call support. However, you can find noise-canceling headphones — although this is still a premium feature.
Not including wired earbuds, wired headphones are usually further divided into open back or closed back categories. Open-back headphones are designed so that the back of each cup is open while closed-back headphones refer to models where the cup is usually covered. Music listeners concerned with being overheard by others will prefer closed back designs as they’re better at preventing sound from leaching out of the ear cups.
However, people that prefer a more holistic and realistic listening experience often prefer open-back design wired headphones as these models are better at allowing not just sound to escape, but for ambient sound to enter the cups — which is similar to a real-world listening experience without headphones. Keep in mind the distinction between open-back and closed-back is usually limited to listening sessions and serious music lovers.
There is something appealing about knowing that you don’t have to worry about remembering to charge your headphones. If you’re tired of having to constantly charge your wireless pair or the battery simply isn’t holding a charge anymore, a pair of wired headphones might be just what you’re looking for. While there’s a lot to love about the permanence of wired headphones, there are some times when you might find that wireless headphones are still preferable.
The average lifespan for a pair of headphones is three to five years, although individual mileage will vary. This includes wired models too. Many factors can impact how long you’re able to make a pair of headphones last — and of course, user behavior will be a major contributing factor.
First, if you want your headphones to last, invest in a good-quality pair. Especially for serious audiophiles, you’re going to want to steer clear of budget-priced headphones. Similarly, you’ll want to look for models made from sturdy material — especially when inspecting the wire as this is the key feature that will impact your headphone’s functionality.
Likewise, treat your headphones with respect. Avoid letting the wire get knotted or tangled. Remember that with wired headphones, if the wire is broken, you’re going to be left with a useless paperweight. So, treat the wire with care, and avoid yanking on it roughly. And when disconnecting it from devices, hold the connection firmly when removing rather than yanking from the middle of the wire.
With wired headphones, your core focus will usually be more on audio quality as opposed to premium features, since they’re often not present on true wired headphones. However, you’ll also want to consider other factors such as style and a comfortable design.
Remember that many wireless headphones come with a wire adapter to accommodate direct connections. If you’re the type who likes some of the enhanced functionality found on wireless headphones like volume controls, track selection, or call support — but still want the option for a wired connection — then looking for a pair of wireless headphones with the wire accessory is a smart choice.
Obviously, if you’re buying headphones, you’re trying to listen to content in some form. But this question is deeper than that. If you’re simply listening in a room while stationary, then any quality wired headphones will do.
If you’re going to be moving around frequently, then you’ll want headphones with a coiled wire that allow for more movement without risking damaging the wire. Meanwhile, if you’re solely focused on audio quality, then the debate of open back versus closed back and excellent noise cancellation support becomes more important.
The last thing you want is to buy a pair of headphones that fall apart a month later. Look for a pair of high-end headphones with quality construction. This means cans (ear cups) that are sturdily built and have a durable wire. Still, you’ll want to take care of the wire as wire fatigue will literally make or break your headphones.
Wired headphones can come in a wide array of price points from budget-friendly on-ear and in-ear models with modest functionality to premium headphones with noise cancellation and studio-quality audio playback. Consider your budget and shop accordingly.
Similar to the “how will you use your headphones” question, where you’re most likely to use them will also matter. If you’re a frequent flier or are often in noisy locations — even ambient noise — a pair of wired headphones with noise cancellation support is going to be important. Just keep in mind that noise cancellation is still considered a premium feature, even for wired headphones.
The wired headphones category is a large one which, of course, also encompasses hybrid wireless headsets that come with accessory wires. But you can find in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear models. The question of which is best is going to depend on personal taste, goals, and comfort levels.
If you’re the type who struggles to keep in-ear headphones or wireless earbuds in place, you’ll probably do better with on-ear or over-ear designs. Meanwhile, anyone who experiences discomfort from on-ear models will prefer over-ear headphones with soft cups that sit comfortably around the ear. But if you’re concerned about the added weight that on-ear and over-ear headphones can bring, in-ear headphones offer a lightweight design.
Not everyone will find this to be a critical factor. But depending on your industry or your travel habits, this can be important. Especially for people who work in entertainment, a pair of wired headphones that are either designed with a ¼-inch plug as standard — or comes with an adapter that screws over the 3.5-millimeter plug — is going to be important. And while not as common, a dual 3.5-millimeter plug design can still be a necessity as some airlines still use this headphone jack style to connect headphones to their IFE system.