The headphone category has probably never been as blooming as it is in 2018. As while the usual headphone brands have continued to output their updated models with the latest technologies and improvements, less traditional brands have now entered the market with their own solutions that are further tweaked at the software level to offer a decent take on sound quality. So there is literally a variety of headphones to now choose from and ones that span just about every price point. So how do the newer headphone brands stack up against the tried and tested names? Well it would seem not quite as well as they might have hoped, as below you will find our best headphone picks for the 2018-2019 Holiday season and most come from the well-established audio brands. To make it easier to find the pair that’s right for you, the picks below have been broken down as the best in class for different uses. So whether you are looking for the best overall option, the best noise cancellation, the best headphones for kids, or even the best headphones for sleeping, you’ll find them here.
Prices below are subject to change. This post will be updated regularly to ensure the most up-to-date pricing, but during the holidays, there will be flash sales and price drops so keep that in mind.
Best overall headphones - all things considered
If you want the quick fix answer on which pair of headphones you should just buy without having to worry too much about any particular area then the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are the ones to go for. There are headphones that do out-perform these in some areas but not really any that outperforms in all areas. Making these the definitive go-to option for this holiday season. As the Sony WH-1000XM3 feature solid 40mm drivers, offer great sound, massive battery live, and an unrivaled noise canceling level. What’s more, while they are not cheap, they are also not that expensive compared to other high-end options boasting the same features. Consider these headphones first.
Best if money is no object - when price is not a concern
The Bowers and Wilkins P9 Signature are not new headphones, and they are certainly not for everyone as they are expensive. But that’s sort of the point and if you have the money to spend on a pair of luxury headphones then you will certainly pay more for lesser headphones. Besides their premium design (including Italian Saffiano leather), these headphones offer very good sound quality. Again, it’s not the best sound quality available (another reason why you shouldn't buy these) but it’s a rich sound with a nice emphasis on lower end frequencies.
Best true wireless earbuds - for those who are done with wires permanently
True wireless headphones are a developing market and that means the selection is limited compared to other sections. However, there is still quite a few options to choose from although one that checks all the boxes are very few and far between. Based on that here are two options that you might want to consider. First is the Jabra Elite 65t. For many these have become the industry standard and with good reason as they are a great option which provide a reliable connection, a durable build quality and a decent battery life. These are what you should be considering first. However, where they lack a little is in the sound quality department. The sound is not terrible, but is certainly lacking compared to other options included RHA’s TrueConnect earbuds. That’s not to say the RHA’s TrueConnect are massively better, though the overall sound quality is rich enough for them to be worth considering alongside the Elite 65t. What’s more, while both offer a similar level of natural battery life, the case which comes with the TrueConnect earbuds offer more charge cycles - something else to consider. To make the choice a little harder between these two, they both retail for the exact same amount.
Best for sound - the headphones that get the basics right
If sound quality is your biggest concern then the best option to go for right now is the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless headphones. Make no mistake, these are not a cheap pair of headphones but the price you are paying is representative of the quality you can expect. As they are excellent sounding headphones and to boot come with a very comfortable fit making them an ideal solution for longer-lasting sessions. To improve the personal experience even more these headphones are compatible with a smartphone app which looks to further curate and fine-tune the experience for a more individually optimized sound.
Best noise cancelling - when all you want to here is the music
To be clear, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are probably the best noise canceling headphones right now and that’s one of the reasons why they have been ranked as the best overall on this list. However, the difference between the Sony option and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is somewhat negligible. More to the point, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II have been the best noise cancelling for quite a long time and are considered by many as the benchmark in this respect. So you have a choice here as you can either go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 or opt for the tried and tested Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Whichever you opt for, you can expect excellent noise cancellation. Specifically in terms of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, you get three different levels of noise cancellation to choose from and a battery that’s rated to offer up to 20 hours of usage when in wireless mode. In addition to Amazon Alexa support.
Best NC on a budget - when you want to hear just the music at a better price
For those looking to save a little on the cost the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are also a solid noise canceling option. These are not as good as either the Sony or Bose option but the price reflects this with this pair commonly available under $200. In fact, their size, the 24-hour battery level, sound quality, smart sensors, and noise cancellation all helps to make these headphones an ideal option for travelers in particular.
Best NC in-ear - when you only want to hear the music while on-the-go
Typically speaking, noise cancellation is best served through on-ear or over-ear headphones due to their more closed-off design. However Bose has managed to bring a fantastic level of noise cancellation to the in-ear market through its Bose QuietControl 30 earphones. For earphones, these are not cheap but you are getting what you pay for here with great sound quality, additional comfort support through their neckband design, and even the ability to control the level of noise cancellation. This is all in addition to a battery that’s rated to offer up to 10 hours of usage off the charge - again, pretty good for an in-ear solution.
Best for studio - for when the details matter
There are plenty of great “studio” or “monitoring” options to choose from now although if you want a quick suggestion then the Sennheiser HD 650 are one of the best. As they offer a great sound profile in general, a frequency response of 10 - 41000 Hz, a 300 Ω impedance, and also feature an open-back design. The latter of which results in more of a soundstage experience as well as benefiting from more room to breathe so they can be worn for longer periods of time without becoming too hot or uncomfortable.
Best for running - run for longer with great sound quality
The Jaybird X4 is a great option for runners as well as gym-goers in general. While pretty much any headphone product from Jaybird is worth active users considering, the X4 has proven to be a reliable and workhorse type of product and therefore consumers can expect this one to go the distance and not let them down. Some of the benefits on offer with the X4 include an IPX7 rating for protection against the elements, up to eight hours of battery use, and a decent selection of tips to ensure you find the size which offers the best and most comfortable fit. This is all in addition to a great sound quality which can be further tweaked and optimized through the corresponding smartphone app.
Best for kids - safe, durable and good quality headphones for younger listeners
The best headphones are always the right headphones. That is, the ones that are best suited to the needs of the user and when it comes to younger listeners, this is even more important. Thankfully, there’s the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 which is the best headphones for children as it comes with a number of protections designed with kids in mind. These include a volume cap to protect eardrums, a choke-free and stumble-free design, and a build quality that's made up of non-toxic materials. Add to that an 18-hour battery for wireless use and a price that’s highly affordable, making =the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 a very good option for children and parents alike.
Best for durability - if you want to be sure your headphones will survive a busy lifestyle
If a long-lasting build quality is a major requirement then check out the V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless. This are specifically built to be durable thanks to their steel frame and what the company refers to as a “virtually Indestructible’ headband. Add to that, a MIL-STD-810G rated level of durability and a design that lets the headphones fold in on itself for a smaller size when transported - in its equally durable case. This is all actually without even mentioning the sound quality which is just as good thanks to the inclusion of 50mm drivers, or its battery that’s rated to offer up to 14-hours of usage. All in all a very decent set of headphones that will last.
Best for gaming - the best headphones for gaming at home or on-the-go
If you’re in the market for a new gaming headset then the Kingston HyperX Cloud MIX is the one to go for this Holiday season. Kingston already has a number of gamer-focused headsets available under its Kingston HyperX banner but the Kingston HyperX Cloud MIX takes it to the next level. As not only are these headsets that can be used in a wired fashion and with an attachable (included in the box) mic, but they can also be switched for use like traditional lifestyle headphones. That is they can be used as a wireless set of headphones and make use of a separate built-in mic when the attachable mic is removed. Basically, the Kingston HyperX Cloud MIX offers the best of both worlds as a headphone solution gamers can use at home when gaming, and away from home as and when needed.
Best not for music - when the music doesn’t matter at all
Believe it or not, not all headphones are made to play your favorite tunes and the Bose Noise-Masking Sleep Buds are a prime example. As these earphones are actually designed to filter out surrounding noise to provide the wearer with a better night’s sleep. Different, to just plugging your ears with something, however, the Sleep Buds do also provide “soothing sounds” designed to further add to the meditative experience and increase the likelihood of better sleep quality. So if you are in the market for a pair of headphones that don’t play music, go with the Sleepbuds.