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The best headphones for 2023 (and why they've made our list)

Whether you're a picky audiophile, gym rat, or just in it for the aesthetics, there's a pair of headphones for you.
By Bethany Allard and Jennifer Allen  on 
All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers. If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Our Top 8 Picks

Bose QuietComfort 45 (opens in a new tab)

Most comfortable option

One of Bose's best creations yet, the Quiet Comfort 45s offer a clean look, impressive noise cancellation, and are comfortable enough to wear for hours on end.

The Good

  • Wear comfortably for long stretches of time
  • Well-balanced sound with little to no distortion
  • Amazing noise cancellation
  • Long-lasting battery life

The Bad

  • Bluetooth range could be better
  • Pairing can be touch and go
Pros & Cons

Bose 700 (opens in a new tab)

Best noise canceling headphones

Drown out all the distractions with superior noise canceling technology and 11 levels of active noise cancellation.

The Good

  • Sleek design and easy to use
  • Top-notch sound quality with excellent, controllable noise cancellation
  • Makes phone calls in noisy environments much easier to take

The Bad

  • Price could be a turnoff
  • Can be more uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time
Pros & Cons

AirPods Pro (opens in a new tab)

Best earbuds

If portability, active noise cancellation, and balanced sound are what you're looking for, your search ends with the AirPods Pro.

The Good

  • Impressive noise cancellation for the size
  • Water resistance
  • Way more comfortable than other in-ear buds
  • Longer battery life than the previous gen

The Bad

  • Silicone tips feel like they could wear out easily
  • AirPods battery life is known for deteriorating over the years
Pros & Cons

Beats Fit Pro (opens in a new tab)

Best workout headphones

Gymgoers and runners know how painful it is for their earbuds to constantly fall out — these puppies will stay in while delivering exceptional volume.

The Good

  • The wingtips actually wear comfortably for hours
  • Rich sound quality
  • Have active noise cancellation
  • Tons of colorway options

The Bad

  • More of an investment than other earbuds
  • Not all features are available to Android users
Pros & Cons

Amazon Echo Buds (opens in a new tab)

Best budget earbuds

Amazon went back to the lab for its second iteration of Echo Buds and came out with a really solid pair of noise-canceling earbuds that will go easy on your wallet.

The Good

  • Effective active noise cancellation
  • Smaller and more comfortable
  • Solid sound quality
  • Reasonable price
  • Often on sale for less than $100

The Bad

  • Too much Alexa
  • Overly sensitive touch panels
  • Average battery life
Pros & Cons

Sennheiser IE 300 (opens in a new tab)

Best wired earbuds

Sennheiser's high-end wired earbuds deliver some of the best sound quality you'll find anywhere, but non-audiophiles should consider something cheaper.

The Good

  • Unreal sound quality
  • Several ear fit options

The Bad

  • Ear hooks can be irritating
  • Few special features
Pros & Cons

Sony WH-1000XM5 (opens in a new tab)

Best for long battery life

If you’re looking for headphones with excellent audio performance and a battery that’ll last all day, these headphones are an excellent choice.

The Good

  • Top-tier audio performance with rich bass and detailed highs
  • Solid noise cancellation with in-app adjustments
  • Customizable EQ
  • Simple, responsive on-ear controls
  • Comfortable fit

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • Don't fold up and carrying case is bulky
  • Not waterproof or water-resistant
Pros & Cons

Skullcandy Sesh Evo (opens in a new tab)

Best headphones under $50

They definitely get the job done, but the budget price tag comes with problems in the charging case and a lack of special features.

The Good

  • Can fit in your pocket
  • Great option if you're prone to losing earbuds
  • Stay in place well and are comfortable to wear for hours at a time
  • Tile tracker functionality built in
  • Regularly on sale for nearly half off

The Bad

  • Mediocre highs and mids
  • Short wireless range
  • Users report some issues with the charging case
Pros & Cons

There are literally thousands of different headphones, earphones, and earbuds out there to choose from — all in varying shapes, sizes, styles, and colors. All have the same idea at heart — to provide you with audio without having to play it out loud for everyone to hear. But some achieve this result so much better — and in better style — than others.

While there are a few pairs of budget headphones that'll more than do the job, it's good to know when your headphone needs require an investment.

Headphones really are quite a personal purchase. Are you planning on listening at home or on the go? Is noise cancellation a requirement? How long do you really need your battery life to be? Maybe you're ready to go back to the wired headphone world.

To help you answer these questions and point you in the right direction, we've researched and tested tons of headphones to come up with this list of the best of the best.

Most comfortable option
  • Battery life: 20 hours
  • Colors: Black, blue, grey, white
  • Bluetooth range: 30 feet

The need to know: Over-the-ear headphones are ideal for an immersive listening experience with top-tier ANC, but are more likely to sacrifice your comfort in the process. With the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones(opens in a new tab), you get all-day wear without sacrifice.

Shopping Reporter Haley Henschel uses the Bose QuietComfort 45 on a daily basis and praises them as the most comfortable headphones she's owned: "I had an impossible time finding a pair of on- or over-ear headphones that fit well. I don't know if I have a huge dome or what, but most of the name-brand models I tried made my head ache after just a couple minutes of wear (specifically, JBL and Beats). That wasn't the case with the cushiony and lightweight Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones, which feel secure but not overly snug — I can wear them for an entire workday, no problem. The cherry on top is their fantastic noise cancellation, which is a godsend for my eardrums when my parrot (who lives in my office) decides to randomly scream. All in all, I'd say they certainly live up to their name."

The nice to know: As with any Bose product, these headphones deliver well-balanced audio, but we wouldn't consider it their biggest draw. They do have adjustable EQ so you can balance your music exactly how you like, but it isn't necessary to have a pleasant listening experience. A 20-hour battery life (greatly increased if you switch off noise cancellation) means the music won't stop any time soon either.

As Henschel wrote, the ANC is fantastic, though not adjustable like the Bose 700 headphones. Still, between the two modes, these headphones are well-equipped to block out low rumbling sounds and higher-pitched tones, making them great for plane rides and working in the office.

Best noise canceling headphones
Credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable
  • Battery life: 20 hours
  • Colors: Black, soapstone, silver luxe
  • Bluetooth range: 33 feet

Read our full review of the Bose 700 headphones.

The need to know: Like the existing Bose QuietComfort series of over-the-ear headphones, the Bose 700 headphones aim to deliver high-quality audio while canceling out the noise around you.

Many headphones with ANC have at least one level of noise cancellation, plus a transparency mode, so you're not completely unaware of the world around you in every situation. The Bose 700s amp that up tenfold, giving you ten different adjustable levels of ANC, plus one level without, for the ultimate customization experience. You can adjust either from the app, or between the three favorite settings on the headphones themselves. When Mashable tech reporter Alex Perry tested out these headphones, he found they worked effortlessly in multiple loud scenarios: "I've tried these out in the lively Mashable office, on the busy streets of New York City, and even in a particularly noisy bar. In every scenario, I couldn't hear much, except for what I chose to listen to."

The adjustable ANC will run a bit more, as these headphones start at $379, but for many, they could be more than worth it.

The nice to know: The Bose 700s are as easy to use as they are to look at. Pairing is as simple as with any other Bluetooth device, though the Bose app used for pairing can have a little trouble switching between devices. Once you're done with that, there's a typical array of touch commands on the right side. Phone calls also come through especially clearly, as a four-microphone system isolates your voice, so both you and the person you're talking to have an easy-to-hear call, despite the hustle and bustle around you.

As for comfort, they're not quite at the level of the Bose QC 45s, and can feel more noticeable after hours of wear. Still, the stainless steel headband feels light yet reliable, the rubber padding on its interior rests well on the top of your head, and the foam earcups are plenty comfortable to wear for pretty heavy use.

Best earbuds
Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
  • Battery life: 6 hours per charge (30 hours with case)
  • Colors: White
  • Bluetooth range: 800 feet

Read our full review of the second-generation AirPods Pro.

The need to know: It's not uncommon for earbuds to have active noise cancellation these days, but if you want some of the best, the AirPods Pro deliver an impressive performance. The second generation of the earbuds dropped last fall, bringing with them several minor improvements that add up to an all-around better product, as Mashable Senior Editor Stan Schroeder wrote in his review.

After wearing the buds for a week, this is what he found: "In some aspects, the active noise cancelation was even better than on my daily drivers: B&W's excellent PX7 over-ear headphones. For example, the new AirPods Pro were better at canceling the noise of people talking (again, this may not be ideal for people who want to drown out background noise but still be available when someone talks to them). These are the first pair of earbuds I'd actually consider taking on an airplane (instead of my much larger and clunkier over-ear headphones)."

Despite their size and enhanced ANC, the Pros battery lasts for up to six hours on a single charge, and 30 hours overall with the case. It is worth noting though, though they've not been out long enough for us to test it ourselves, AirPods users frequently see noticeable dips in battery longevity after a couple years.

The nice to know: For a pair of earbuds, the Pros have decently long battery life and standout ANC, which makes them a great on-the-go option that doesn't sacrifice quality. With that said, they are on the pricey side, though not unreasonably so for what they're offering. They pair easily with any Apple product, and will likely be best for those who are already at least a little in the fruit company's ecosystem, thanks to the lightning port.

Best workout headphones
Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable
  • Battery life: 6 hours (24 hours with case)
  • Colors: Black, white, coral, gray, purple, blue, yellow, tan, brown, beige
  • Bluetooth range: 30 feet

Read our full review of the Beats Fit Pro.

The need to know: When it comes to workout headphones, you need a pair that'll actually stay in your ears — motivating yourself to get through a set of push ups is hard enough without an earbud popping out. The Beats Fit Pro earbuds are more than up to the task — and they deliver exceptional battery life, sound quality, and a few extras.

Earbuds designed for exercise typically have some sort of wingtip to help hold them in place, but those wingtips can often squeeze uncomfortably on your ears, especially with longer-term use. The small wingtip of these Beats hit the sweet spot — they're large enough to provide hold, and small enough to be undetectable. Mashable tech reporter Alex Perry writes that the wingtips "result [in] a pair of earbuds that never feel like they're going to fall out and, more importantly, never intrude on your comfort. I've worn these bad boys for six straight hours without any problems. It's hard to ask for more than that."

Beyond comfort, these earbuds provide an impressive sound profile, including that deep bass that Beats are known for. And of course, as any workout earbuds should be, these earbuds are sweat and water-resistant with an IPX4 rating.

The nice to know: If you need your headphones to help you get into the zone, you'll appreciate the ANC on the Beats Fit Pros. Compared to the $249 AirPods Pro, $200 isn't bad for this feature. You'll also get six hours of battery life per charge (that's with the ANC on) and 24 hours overall. To top it off, you get your choice between ten different colorways.

Best budget earbuds
Credit: Amazon / Mashable Composite
  • Battery life: 5 hours (15 hours with case)
  • Colors: Black, white
  • Bluetooth range: 20 feet

Read our full review of the Amazon Echo Buds.

The need to know:  Amazon's Echo Buds(opens in a new tab) deliver good sound quality, effective ANC, and a slimmed-down build for a startlingly low price. These are solid, dependable earbuds.

The 5.7mm drivers provide good-but-not-great sound quality and noise-canceling technology is perfectly adequate, but the best thing about these is undoubtedly the price. When we stacked the Echo Buds up against similar quality competitors, they had the best price by a wide margin. Here's what Mashable Tech Reporter Alex Perry had to say about them in his review:

"The second generation of Amazon Echo Buds are a serious improvement over the original thanks to a slimmer size and the addition of real active noise cancellation. At such a comparatively low price, I'd call them a steal for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the world of ANC without setting their wallet on fire. They're also particularly enticing for those who aren't married to Android or iOS, which can be a real barrier for AirPods or Galaxy Buds adoption."

The biggest downsides to these second-generation Echo Buds(opens in a new tab) are an average battery life and a short Bluetooth headphone range, plus a somewhat unnerving reliance on Amazon's Alexa voice assistant and average battery life.

The nice to know: Counterpoint to the above is that if Alexa has become a big part of your day-to-day life then you'll love the AI integration with these headphones — you just may not be able to escape it. If you're looking to get the best bang for your buck, the Echo Buds regularly dip down to just $80.

Best wired earbuds
Credit: Alex Perry / Mashable
  • Battery life: N/A
  • Colors: Black
  • Bluetooth range: Wired

Read our full review on the Sennheiser IE 300 earbuds.

The need to know: The best thing about these earbuds by Sennheiser is their incredible sound. Audiophiles: take note. Sennheiser jammed a 7mm transducer and a 6Hz to 20kHz frequency response into the IE 300s, and the results are "the best-sounding earbuds" that our reviewer Alex Perry has ever used. We want to be clear — just because these earbuds are wired doesn't make them a budget pick. As Alex puts it, "The Sennheiser IE 300s cost more than AirPods Pro despite being wired and including little in the way of special features. With all that in mind, you'd expect them to sound incredible. Why else would they cost so much? The good news is, yes, the sound quality here is a real highlight."

Note that these are wired earbuds, so you'll need a headphone jack (or a dongle, for the iPhone users out there) in order to listen. The fit is comfortable, with several options provided for nestling into your ears, though the hooks can be a bit irritating.

The nice to know: Not a whole lot in the way of special features here, although you may consider it a plus that these will never lose their charge. (Because they're wired. Get it?) If you're a true audiophile, the Sennheiser IE 300 earbuds are a good way to go.

Best for long battery life
Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable
  • Battery life: 30 hours
  • Colors: Black, blue, silver
  • Bluetooth range: 30 feet

Read our full review on the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones.

The need to know: The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones(opens in a new tab) deliver top-notch ANC and audiophile-level sound quality, with an incredible 30-hour battery life. Their design offers a less expensive alternative to the AirPods Max, for those who like their headphones to sound and look good.

If you're into Bose headphones but aren't totally sold on Sony, we're willing to bet you'll see something you like in the WH-1000XM5s. Often, people herald Bose as having the superior ANC but Sony as owning the sound space. Senior Reviews Editor Miller Kern definitely noticed these headphones excelling in the latter when she tested them out: "The sound itself is also impressive — it’s full and clear, and feels like surround sound. I’m a big fan of power ballads (I’m not allowed to pick the music at parties), and Brandi Carlile’s “Right on Time(opens in a new tab)” sounded like it was meant to be listened to on these headphones. The vocals and instruments all got to shine, and the headphones made it feel like I was there in the studio. These are probably the best-sounding headphones I’ve ever tried.

Perhaps even better is that the 30 hours of battery life beats every other headphone on this list (and both pairs of Bose headphones by 10 hours). If you like to minimize your recharges, these Sony headphones are almost certainly for you.

The nice to know: If you already own a pair of the WH-1000XM4s, it probably won't be worth it to spring for the upgrade. Though there are improvements to both the ANC and sound, it's not worth spending an additional $400. In addition to looking good, these headphones come with plenty of (customizable) controls, activated by swiping and pressing on the earcups.

Maybe their biggest flaw is that you can't fold the earcups in, so these headphones are a little bulky if you ever need to stash them in your bag.

Best headphones under $50
Credit: Skullcandy
  • Battery life: 5 hours (24 hours with charging case)
  • Colors: Black, grey, mint, blue
  • Bluetooth range: 6 feet

The need to know: Wireless earphones don't have to cost a fortune, provided you're willing to compromise. That's the thinking behind a lot of Skullcandy's headphones, but especially the Sesh Evo(opens in a new tab) earbuds.

There are no options for tweaking frequency response, and certainly no dedicated app, but if you want some earphones that simply just work, these are worth a purchase. Battery life weighs in at about five hours, which should be good for your daily commute and gym session. The case has 24 hours of charge overall, but it might take a while to juice the earbuds back up (so don't expect the quick charge you might get from AirPods or Bose headphones). At their full price, these headphones are slightly stepped up from our former budget pick, the Skullcandy Jib(opens in a new tab) earbuds. However, they do come with some extra features, including a built-in Tile tracker you can activate by downloading the Tile app. They're also regularly on sale for about $30, putting them squarely in the same price range as the Jibs.

The nice to know: The low price means that these Skullcandy earbuds lack the extras that elevate your listening experience. There's a built-in mic so you can take hands-free calls, and a button for volume and accepting calls, but that's about it. Still, you can appreciate that they're super lightweight, easy to put in your pocket, and way cheaper than a pair of AirPods.

Note: we did not hands-on test these earbuds, but we did choose them after extensive research, including reading through many of the 49,000-plus Amazon reviews.

More in Music

How we tested

Over the years, we've tested out a lot of headphones at Mashable. To determine the best of the best, and not just pick what's trendy at the moment, we went back through our reviews from former and current tech reporters, editors, and shopping reporters, then compared our notes to what people are buying these days. As always, we did our research to make sure we left no major headphone stone uncovered, and the result is this list — our favorite headphones of 2023 (so far).

In making our selections, here's what we weighed:

  • Sound: Since headphones are first and foremost a way for you to listen to audio, if a pair of headphones didn't sound good, they didn't make the list — that goes for our budget pick, too.

  • Noise cancellation: These days, some form of noise cancellation is near-essential for any pair of headphones. We prioritized models that featured solid noise cancellation.

  • Comfort: What's the point of a great pair of headphones if they're too uncomfortable to wear?

  • Customization: Whether it be for ANC levels, transparency modes, or touch controls, headphones that allow you to adjust their settings are more likely to make them feel like they were made for you.

  • Battery life: Most headphones on the market are Bluetooth, so having a battery you can rely on for at least a few hours of listening time is key.

  • Special features: Any other special features headphones had to offer were taken into consideration. We expected at least a special feature or two for any headphones in the $200-plus price range.

You might notice that the AirPods Max(opens in a new tab) are missing from our top picks. It's not that we don't like them — in fact, we think they sound and look great. But when we reviewed them, we found that they didn't have a practical storage option, we didn't like that they never turn off (thus draining some of the great battery life), and honestly, they're just too damn expensive. We get it if you like them regardless, but personally, we think there are better options at lower price points.

The only headphones that made our list that were not hands-on tested by the Mashable staff are the Skullcandy Sesh Evo earbuds. Skullcandy has been a budget-friendly favorite of ours in the past, and we found from scouring the reviews and specs that users find they perform well in the above criteria.

If you're interested in learning more about any other of the headphones on our list (minus the Skullcandy headphones), make sure you check out our full reviews linked.

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