The earbuds that came with your $600 iPhone are junk, and if you bought an iPad, Apple didn’t even include a pair in the box. It’s time to upgrade.
Trouble is, there are all kinds of cans out there. How do you know what set is right for you? Some people (like me) seem to have a pair for every situation. For everyone else, here’s our guide to the best.
The Best Portable Headphones
Lightweight, folding, comfortable and great-sounding, the KTCs add an inline remote and mic to the classic Porta Pros. Even if you’re happy with the crappy Apple earbuds, you should toss them out and buy these instead. It’s worth it. As our own John Brownlee says: “These are Cult of Mac’s favorite headphones. You should buy them. Preferably now.”
The Best Earbuds For Big Bass
If hip-hop’s the name, and bass is the game, these Monster classics are for you: your ears will feel like they’re standing next to a concert speaker stack.
If you like a balanced sound, of a comfortable fit, though, go elsewhere: one thing the Turbines are not is subtle.
The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones
These cans do a fine job of canceling out background hums and thrums, but it’s what happens after the noise has been dispatched that makes these headphones stand out: The sound is fantastic. Open, clear and accurate, but without being cold, the highs are clear and the bass full. And that’s before you even switch them on. They’re not cheap, nor are they particularly portable, but for no-compromise sound, these are the ones you want.
The Best In-Ear Headphones
Eers makes custom-fitted, canal-sealing earbuds which you mold yourself with the included jig. The result is something that cuts out sound about as effecively as active noise-canceling cans, and leaves you in peace to enjoy the sweet sounding music the dual drivers pump out. Bonus: you can listen at about half the volume you’d typically use.
The Best Headphone Mic Adapter
Griffin Smarttalk — $Varies
The Griffin Smarttalk is a classic, and — if you can find it — still the best. The adapter adds a mic and remote to any headphones, and has a clip so you can fix it to your jeans pocket for quick access to the play/pause/answer button.
It’s also tough, with a strong plastic body and a woven cord cover. The only thing missing is an inline volume control, but that’s a small problem. Tip: check you local Apple Store. Amazon is out of Smarttalks, but my Apple Store is well stocked.
Best Budget Over-The-Ear Headphones
Panasonic RP-HTX7 — $70
Retro style and a low price will bring you to these headphones, but a comfortable fit and great sound for the price will make you stay. The RP-HTX7s (which can be found for a lot less than the RRP listed here) were the cool over-the-ear headphones to be seen in way before Dre and his Beats crashed the party.
Best Headphones For Good Music
Many headphones are optimized for hip-hop, with big bass drowning out more subtle sounds. California Headphones makes headphones that sound better with rock, or pretty much anything that requires a good, rounded out sonic range. Our own reviewer Alex Kahney was impressed not just by their sound but by their solid construction — machined metal earpieces and plug-in, thread-covered cords.
If Marty McFly had wanted some headphones to match his 2015 sneakers, he would have chosen the Sonics. Yeah, they sound good, but these cans are all about the style, with smooth shapes and soft textures that verge on making them a plush toy. They even come with a fur-lined case — pimp-tastic.