It’s rare that I don’t have something playing through speakers, be it music, podcasts, video editing or video conferencing. And given my propensity to be very persnickety regarding audio, I’ve found many headphones on the market fall short of my expectations.
True audiophile gear is generally out of the price range of the average consumer, nor should you concern yourself with that range of equipment. We’re not going that route. Instead, we’ll stick to the practical and cover most use cases with an eye for affordability and keen sound.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is one of the most often-suggested headphones on the market. With industry-leading noise cancellation and two CPUs to control eight microphones, these headphones automatically optimize based on your environment. You’ll hear brilliant sonic clarity and more bass than you might expect from headphones.
Although far from the cheapest headphones on the list at $389.00 on Amazon, if you’re looking for some of the best sound and the most comfort, you cannot go wrong with the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless Bluetooth headphones. If you can pay the premium price, you’ll not regret this purchase.
I’ve been using Audio-Technica M50s for years, and they have yet to let me down. The one thing to understand about these headphones is that they aren’t going to change the sound of what you’re listening to. That’s the beauty of these cans: They offer a more neutral sound to deliver the music (or whatever it is you’re listening to) exactly as it was intended. There’s no bass boosting, noise-canceling, or other tricks up the M50X sleeve. Instead, these headphones produce a clear, neutral, beautiful sound that only improves with age.
This version also includes a detachable and replaceable cable. If I had to choose just one pair of headphones from this list, it would be the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X. They are currently only $169.00 on Amazon.
Shokz OpenRun Pro
Between running and rowing, my Shokz OpenRun Pro bone-conducting headphones get quite the workout. Even more, I’m a serious sweater, which means I’ve gone through so many headphones that claim to be sweat resistant. I’ve even had headphones fail on me in their first outing because of sweat.
The Shokz OpenRun Pro has never failed me. With the ability to connect via Bluetooth to multiple devices, I can pick and choose the source of my music and trust they’ll never lose their connection. Although the sound isn’t nearly as rich as other headphones on the list, you don’t buy these for sound clarity — you buy them so you can be aware of your surroundings while you exercise outside. I cannot imagine ever choosing a different pair of phones for exercise. These headphones are worth every penny of their $179.95 price tag.
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
If you’re looking for some of the best-sounding headphones that won’t break the bank, look no further than the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X. These deliver sonic detail you probably won’t find in other headphones at this price. And although they might not have all the bells and whistles of the Sony’s, if you’re looking for something to simply deliver high-quality, rich and transparent sound, these are the ones you’re looking for.
These headphones are impeccably balanced with the slightest V curve in the lower end to keep things from getting muddy. If you want straightforward sound for various types of media and games, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pair of headphones than these at the sub-300 dollar price range.
Looking for the best-sounding earbuds that won’t decimate your bank account? The Grado GT220 ($259.00 on Amazon) is exactly what you’re looking for. No, these aren’t nearly as sexy as the Apple AirPods or as gimmicky as the Pixel Buds, but these earbuds deliver on sound in ways the others can’t compete with.
The Grado GT220 provides a well-balanced sound, outstanding battery life (around 6 hours), a 30-foot Bluetooth range and includes just enough touch control to make it useful but not confusing. If a rich sound is the most important aspect for you, you absolutely will not find a better pair of true wireless earbuds.
How to choose from these high-quality headphones
I wouldn’t call any of the above headphones audiophile quality, but for everyday usage, I consider every single one of the above headphones to be the highest value. You’ll get better sound and a more enjoyable overall experience if you go with any of these options. Just know what you want and need from your headphones and choose accordingly.
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