Best headphones: Lightning, Bluetooth, wired, on-ear and more [Reviews]


We've tested and reviewed top-rated headphones in a variety of categories and price ranges for you to choose the perfect pair.
We've tested and reviewed top-rated headphones in a variety of categories and price ranges for you to choose the perfect pair.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

We’ve gathered the latest and greatest headphones for review, and will update you regularly on our favorites. Whether you’re looking for the best over-ear headphones, the best wireless, Bluetooth or sports-specific headphones, Cult of Mac has you covered.

Check back often for our latest picks!

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Use the links below to jump to specific headphone categories:

1) Best Lightning headphones
2) Best Bluetooth headphones
3) Best on-ear headphones
4) Best over-ear headphones
5) Best children’s headphones

Best Lightning headphones

Headphones that utilize Apple’s proprietary Lightning port offer advantages to iPhone and iPad users.

Audeze EL-8 headphones
With a Lightning connection and an $800 price tag, the Audeze EL-8 headphones are very Apple-y.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Audeze EL-8 headphones with Lightning connection

They don’t call them “headphones” for nothing.

Slipping on a pair of quality closed-back headphones puts you in a rarefied headspace where sound envelopes you completely and nothing matters but the music. Just close your eyes, cue up the perfect tracks to suit your mood, and drift away.

The Audeze EL-8 Titanium headphones, which use a Lightning connector to plug into your Apple device, will take you to that special place. But you’ll pay a steep price for your trip to aural bliss. Read Cult of Mac’s full review. —Lewis Wallace

Price: $799

Buy from: Audeze, Apple

Best Bluetooth headphones

Bluetooth headphones free you from the tyranny of cables.

The JLab Fit do not compromise on style and deliver glorious sound while you work out.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

JLab Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds

Designed for your workout, JLab’s Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds are designed to go the distance in sound-quality and performance. Sweatproof, waterproof and washable, the Fit 2.0 are an incredible value compared to exercise headphones of similar quality. These over-ear headphones come with a large collection of accessories including seven cushioned ear-tips in varying sizes, two different-sized cables, and a cable clip to keep the cord in place during an intense workout.

The lightweight cables are reinforced with Kevlar for ultimate strength and flexibility and lead up to flexible earhooks which are ergonomically designed and can be molded to fit over your ear for a custom fit. The soft, silicone earbuds fit comfortably in your ear canal and, again, can be removed, rinsed off and replaced following an intense sweat session. there’s an inline remote control and mic located along the right ear’s cable. The right-ear cable houses a small inline remote which controls playback and call management. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust the volume from the remote, but from whatever sound device you’re using.

Sound quality is deep and balanced, and especially rich considering the super reasonable price point. We found the lowest price on Amazon. —Ami Icanberry

Buy from: Amazon

Jaybird Freedom wireless earbuds marry form and function, with a very small earprint.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

Jaybird Freedom wireless earbuds

Promoted by pro beach volleyballer and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, the Jaybird Freedom earbuds are premium sports headphones specifically designed for the active, lifestyle-focused consumer. That means those who work out and those who want to look great doing it.

These earbuds bring huge wireless sound to the trail, the gym, the street and anything in between. Jaybird CEO Judd Armstrong stopped by Cult of Mac for a demo, and says the Jaybird Freedom is designed to enhance any athletic and adventurous pursuits.

Jaybird’s smallest wireless earbuds ever, the Freedoms are an update to the original Jaybird X2 earbuds and provide huge sound while being super-minimal. Created four years ago, the X2 are made of plastic with all the tech concentrated in the actual earbuds, while the Freedoms are a sweatproof, metal design made from premium materials, with the tech components placed in the toggle control. This keeps the Freedom earbuds significantly smaller than the original. Read Cult of Mac’s full review. —Ami Icanberry

Buy from: Amazon

Fantastic-sounding audio without all the cable tangle.
Fantastic-sounding audio without all the cable tangle.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

NuForce BE6i Bluetooth earbuds by Optoma

Earbuds are essential for activities like running or working out, and they’re fantastic for those times when I don’t want to be wearing a heavy set of cans on my head. Still, running when wired is an exercise in frustration for me, as I usually end up flailing at some point and yanking out the headphones in my ears via the trailing cord.

These NuForce BE6i Bluetooth earbuds solve both problems: They’re fantastic-sounding, good-looking in-ear headphones without the cord issue. They also sound surprisingly good. They faithfully reproduce rock and EDM music equally well, and have enough bass and mid- to high-range that I never felt like I had to mess with the EQ settings on my iPhone or Mac. Read Cult of Mac’s full review.—Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon

Best on-ear headphones

On-ear headphones, aka supra-aural headphones, have pads that sit atop the earlobes rather than encircling them. They are typically lightweight and can offer excellent audio quality.

Moshi's Avanti headphones are easy to wear and easy to carry. They sound [pretty great too.
Moshi’s Avanti headphones are easy to wear and easy to carry. They sound pretty great too.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Avanti On-Ear Headphones by Moshi

I like the convenience of carrying earbuds in my pocket, but I’ve never liked jamming them in my ears. I love the sound of full-size headphones, but not the bulk.

I’ve discovered a happy middle ground. Moshi’s new $200 Avanti On-Ear Headphones are lightweight, folding headphones that sit atop your ears, not in them or over them. They’re like a pair of soft pillowy hamburger buns that sound pretty darn great.

It wasn’t love at first sight. At first, the Avanti headphones felt too light. It took me awhile to get used to the on-ear design. I didn’t like the feel of the earpads sitting on top of my ears instead of covering them. It felt a bit, well, naked and exposed.

Still, the lightweight and super-portable headphones are well-made. The earpads are made of soft vegan leather. They are angled to provide a close fit that’s not too tight. Once adjusted, I almost forget they were there — except for the sound, of course. Read Cult of Mac’s full review. —Leander Kahney

Buy from: Amazon

Best over-ear headphones

Over-ear headphones, aka circumaural headphones, fully enclose the earlobes. They are typically larger and heavier than other options, but they naturally block out external noise and can deliver top-notch audio quality.

These big cans are super light and comfortable.
These big cans are super-light and comfortable.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

SteelSeries Siberia 350 headphones

Massive over-ear headphones are the best way to immerse yourself in a video game, whether you’re managing the minutiae of Civilization V, hiding from the xenomorph in Alien Isolation, or blasting your way across multiplayer maps in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Huge sound is a big part of gaming on your Mac, PC or PS4, and these fantastic-sounding and incredibly comfortable Siberia 350 headphones from SteelSeries are the best way to get your game on without sacrificing on comfort.

I’ve been wearing the Siberia 350 headphones for hours at a time, gaming and listening to music on my Mac. The incredibly light headset, the unique suspension-style headband, and the big, comfy ear cup cushions all make it easy to keep them on my head long past the point where other headphones start to hurt. It’s easy to forget I’ve got these on my head, even with the thick cable sneaking down from the left earpiece. All-night gaming sessions are much better when your ears aren’t in pain from inferior headsets. Read Cult of Mac’s full review. —Rob LeFebvre

Price: $119

Buy from: Amazon

Best children’s headphones

Headphones designed for smaller noggins with volume-control to prevent hearing damage.

Headphones designed for smaller noggins with volume-control to prevent hearing damage.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

BT220 Bluetooth Children’s Headphones by Puro Sound Labs

Finding headphones for my two-year-old daughter was an exercise in safety and design. I wanted something that would not damage her ears, and she likes headphones that look like daddy’s.

The BT220 Studio Grade Children’s Bluetooth Headphones by Puro Sound Labs kept popping up in searches and had glowing reviews, so I decided they at least looked cool enough to consider.

Check out the video below for my full review. Read Cult of Mac’s full review. —Ste Smith

Buy from: Amazon

Cult of Mac received review units for this roundup. Read Cult of Mac’s reviews policy.


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