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Most people can’t listen to dozens of headphones to find the best pairs. At Consumer Reports we can, and we do it all year long.
We buy and evaluate headphones continually, rating them on factors including sound quality, noise cancellation, features, and fit. With CR on your side, finding the best headphones of 2022 is just a matter of deciding what type you’re looking for and how much you want to spend.
You can probably choose a category of headphones with a quick glance. A wired over-ear set may be best suited for home listening, while a true wireless model—with no cord connecting the earbuds—is convenient if you want to slide them into a pocket or wear them at the gym.
Budgets matter, too. The following list of the best headphones of 2022 includes both our top-rated picks (which tend to be pricier) and recommendations for bargain-priced headphones that deliver great performance.
For more information, check out CR’s headphone ratings, which are open to members. Note: CR buys the headphones in our labs through regular retail channels, just like we buy everything you’ll find in our ratings, from trucks to TVs.
Best True Wireless
The best: Samsung Galaxy Buds are one of the best-scoring portable Bluetooth models Consumer Reports has ever tested. That’s all the more impressive given their true wireless design. The Galaxy Buds produce exemplary audio quality packed into a pair of unobtrusive earpieces, complete with easy-to-use touch controls for playback, volume, and skipping tracks.
They have an advertised 6-hour battery life and a powered carrying case that will recharge the earphones for up to 7 additional hours of playback on the go. The case itself can be charged with a wireless charging mat, and it’s particularly compact compared with the cases that come with many true wireless models.
The bargain option: The Skullcandy Dime earphones are an absolute steal. The sound quality isn’t outstanding, but it’s above average—and very impressive considering the price. They have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life and a carrying/charging case good for another 8.5 hours of power. One caveat: Skullcandy gets a dismal rating for owner satisfaction in our latest headphones member survey. That doesn’t necessarily mean every Skullcandy product is a dud, though, and the Dime may be worth a gamble at this price.
Best Over-Ear Sound Quality
The best: The top two spots for sound quality are locked up by Grado, the storied audio company famous for its hand-built, Brooklyn-made headphones. The Grado RS2x is a “reference” model, meaning the sound quality is supposed to be so accurate it can be used to judge recordings and other audio equipment. That claim stands up in our tests, too, with the RS2x earning a higher score than any other model in our ratings. You get what you pay for; the headphones cost a whopping $550.
For the money, you get audiophile sound and an impressive aesthetic, with maple wood housing and Grado’s signature leather headband. This model uses an open-air design, meaning the back of the ear cups features a mesh screen instead of a sealed case. That gives the internal components room to breathe, so to speak, instead of forcing the sound to bounce around in a little box. That adds clarity to the audio but isn’t meant to block sound from bleeding in or out, so these headphones might not be suited for every environment.
The bargain option: Looking for a wired over-ear model for a little less? The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are a classic choice for both music producers and fans. They deliver high-quality sound, and unlike the Grados above, they’re closed-back and designed to isolate your ears. They retail for about $150. Of course, that’s not cheap, but it’s a deal for sound this good. (If you don’t mind the open-back design, you might want to consider the Grado SR80x, which sells for $125.)
Best Portable Noise-Canceling
The best: The WF-1000XM4 is the latest in Sony’s line of noise-canceling true wireless earbuds, and our tests show it has outstanding sound quality and sound-blocking performance. Apple’s AirPods Pro may be more popular, but we think Sony has a better product—though it’s a bit more expensive. (If you’re looking for a bargain, the previous model from Sony, the XM3, is cheaper than the AirPods and still outperforms them.)
Sony’s latest model comes packed with additional features, including variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound, a monitoring mode to actively pipe in audio from your surroundings, and Speak-to-Chat, which can automatically pause the music when you start talking.
According to Sony, the XM4 has a 5.5-hour battery life and comes with a portable charging case that holds 16 hours’ worth of power before it needs to be plugged in again. But our testers note that some users, particularly people with larger ears, may feel that this model doesn’t fit securely.
The bargain option: There are lots of great choices if you’re looking for less-expensive noise-canceling headphones. One of our top picks is 1MORE ColorBuds 2, which offer the convenience of true wireless headphones, great sound quality, and superb noise cancellation, all for less than $100. 1MORE advertises a 6-hour battery life backed by a charging case that holds enough power for two full cycles.
Best Over-Ear Bluetooth
The best: The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Headphones II don’t have noise-canceling tech like Bose’s best-known models, but they get a great rating for sound and cost a bit less than other options. They aren’t cheap but they’re lightweight, highly portable, and beat almost every model in this category. According to Bose, they have a 15-hour battery life. You can find them for about $230.
Technically, another over-ear Bluetooth model in our ratings, Grado’s GW100, scores a bit higher for sound. It shares Grado’s signature open-back headphone design, which is intended to improve audio quality. That’s unusual for a wireless model because it isn’t meant to completely muffle sound from getting in or out. But Grado says the GW100 is designed to limit sound leakage far better than its other models built for home listening. Still, we think a closed-back model like the Bose described above is a better choice for most people.
The bargain option: The JBL Tune 510BT is a no-brainer. This Bluetooth model delivers pretty good sound quality, it has a 40-hour advertised battery life, and we’ve seen it selling for as little as $30. The 510BT sits on the ears, which some people find more comfortable than being engulfed by the more common over-ear style. As an extra perk, you can use them with a cable if you forget to charge them.
Best Wired Earbuds
The best: For the best sound quality you can get from a portable model under $100, look no further than the 1More E1001 Triple Driver. You won’t find many competitors that deliver such impressive audio anywhere near this price. We’ve seen it go as low as $50.
These headphones have a sleek design and come with extras, including a removable shirt clip, a carrying case, and nine sets of earpieces of varying shapes and sizes to help you find a good fit.
The bargain option: The Panasonic RP-TCM125 is a great choice if you’re looking for inexpensive earbuds that don’t sound cheap. This pair just misses the cutoff for an official Consumer Reports recommendation, in part because of Panasonic’s mediocre rating for predicted reliability, our metric for how likely headphones are to have problems in the first two years of ownership. But that seems like a minor failing for a product that’s priced around $15, especially given this model’s above-average audio quality. We’ve tested headphones that cost ten times as much and sound far worse.
The best: The Sennheiser PXC 550-II is such a great deal we could almost call it the best and the bargain pick. It’s one of the highest-scoring headphones in our ratings, and it costs hundreds less than many competitors. In our tests, the PXC 550-II outperforms flagship models from manufacturers such as Beats and Sony, and gets almost the same score as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, one of our other top picks, priced at almost $400.
The PXC 550-II has appealing features, such as adjustable levels of noise cancellation and an ambient sound monitoring mode that lets noise from your environment back in, so you can hear your surroundings when necessary. Sennheiser says this model will run for up to 20 hours with both Bluetooth and noise cancellation turned on.
The bargain option: The Monoprice BT-300ANC is a fantastic pick. The audio quality is solid, the noise cancellation is great, and they’re moderately priced.
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