In today’s switched-on world, classic headphones have become a popular companion when commuting, working out, or just chilling with playlists and podcasts.

Choosing the right set of cans is important, but the range on offer can be overwhelming, so here are some prime considerations before you buy.

OVER-EAR AND ON-EAR
Headphones come in three different types: over-ear, on-ear and in-ear. In-ear headphones are another name for earbuds and will be discussed in the next section, so let’s take a look at what distinguishes the other two.

Over-ear headphones are the classic design with dual padded earcups that completely cover the ears, keeping the party inside and effectively blocking external sounds – especially in tandem with noise-cancelling tech. They are bigger than their on-ear counterparts with larger drivers (speakers) for better sound.

The best fit is determined by the size of the user’s ears, so try before you buy.

On-ear headphones, as the name suggests, have smaller earcups that sit on top of the ears and are more open to ambient noise. They are lighter and fit snugly, with more airflow for comfort. On-ear cans are usually less expensive than over-ear and designed for one-size-fits-all.

OPEN BACK AND CLOSED BACK
Open-back headphones allow airflow through the earcups from the rear of the speaker, eliminating any air pressure that could affect the sound for more natural audio. External noise is audible, which is a benefit where some situational awareness is required, or if you want music to complement an outside soundscape. There can be some sound leakage, which makes open-back sets best for home/private use rather than the daily commute or office environments.

Closed-back headphones seal in the sound and often feature noise cancellation for a more personal listening experience that keeps the music front and centre, making them good for use in surroundings where external noise is high.

best headphones 2022

WIRED AND WIRELESS
Wired headphones offer plug-in-and-play convenience. Direct connection eliminates any audio dropouts that can occur when wireless sets move out of Bluetooth range, as well as the need to charge the battery. They can also feature convenient in-line controls for volume, play, pause, track selection and taking calls (if microphone-enabled). Always be mindful of the cable, however, which can snag and rudely yank the cans from your head.

With many smartphones having dispensed with a 3.5mm jack, wireless headphones are a popular choice for their convenient, cable-free connectivity via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when paired with devices – say goodbye to unravelling a Gordian knot of cable tangle, but be sure to keep the battery charged. Hybrid sets offer the flexibility of cable connection for the best of both worlds.

In terms of sound quality, contemporary Bluetooth connectivity is now comparable with a wired connection, so the choice between the two comes down to personal preference.

Whether you’re looking for the best in noise cancellation, a boost of bass, authentic studio sound, smart connectivity, lengthy battery life, or all of the above, there’s a set of cans to suit all ears and budgets.

ENTRY-LEVEL

 

Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
The M20xBTs are a traditional over-ear closed back design with 40mm drivers. The left ear cup has three buttons to control volume, play, pause, and skip tracks. From a single charge you’ll get 60 hours use and, if caught short, a ten minute top-up restores a generous three hours of play.

The M20xBTs are a solid performer with the same sonic signature as AT’s wired M20x professional studio headphones. The sound is well balanced and equally at home hosting Black Sabbath or Beethoven. Call quality is consistent, too.

Multipairing allows connection to two different sources – a laptop and smartphone – eliminating the hassle of disconnecting and reconnecting when switching between devices.

At a glance:
Colour: Black
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: No
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 60 hours
Wired option: 1.2m cable
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

JBL Tune 660 Wireless Noise Cancelling On-Ear Headphones
Active Noise Cancelling is a big plus in entry-level cans and the ANC here is as good as you’ll find in mid-range sets.

Sound quality is powerful and well balanced across a range of music genres, with JBL Pure Bass Sound adding weight to the low end – these are a must for those who like their bass deep.

Earcup buttons provide easy control of volume, hands-free calling and voice assistant access, and the 660s will instantly synch with an Android device using Google’s Fast Pair.

Battery life is 44 hours with ANC on, and up to 55 hours using Bluetooth only. There is also a cable included for a wired connection.

At a glance:
Colour: Black, White
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: ACN
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 55 hours (BT)
Wired option: Yes

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sennheiser HD 350 Over-Ear Wireless Headphones
Audio veteran Sennheiser brings its solid reputation to the 350s. While there is no noise cancelling, these durable cans deliver where it counts in the sound department with high quality audio codecs and dynamic bass comparable to mid-range models. Vocal clarity is exceptional, making these a good choice for avid podcast and audiobook listeners.

Tactile buttons on the earcup control sound and calls, with a dedicated voice assistant button to access Siri or Google. EQ preferences can be customised using the Sennheiser Smart Control app.

30 hours of battery life provides all-day listening, although there is no wired connection option.

At a glance:
Colour: Black, White
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: No
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: 30 hours
Wired option: No
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

MID-RANGE

 

JBL Tour One Wireless Noise- Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones
With intuitive controls, Ambient Aware tech and True Adaptive Noise Cancelling, which adjusts the NC in real time to suit changes in environment, the Tour Ones are feature-packed cans that also sound great.

Packing 40mm dynamic drivers and JBL Pro Sound for punchy bass, these headphones are also Hi-Res audio certified, handling frequencies up to 40kHz for the best sound quality every time. Fine-tuning sound and adjusting ANC can be performed via the My JBL Headphones app.

Four mics and acoustic echo-cancelling tech ensure calls are clear, while TalkThru lets you chat without shutting off the tunes. The cans will auto pause music when taken off.

The battery is good for 25 hours with NC on, and up to 50 hours using BT only, and there’s a cable connection for indefinite listening.

At a glance:
Colour: Black
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 50 hours (BT)
Wired option: Yes
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sony WH-XB910N Wireless Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones
With a suite of features including a Dual Noise Sensor for premium noise cancelling and 360 Reality Audio to recreate the sound of a concert or studio session, these headphones are excellent value for money.

Designed for bass lovers, an EXTRA BASS feature enhances the low end using a dedicated bass duct to increase the air seal between driver and eardrum, so you really feel the rumble.

A Digital Sound Enhancement Engine reproduces recordings as close as possible to the original source by restoring high frequencies lost to compression, while Adaptive Sound Control adjusts ambient noise for optimal listening. EQ settings can be tweaked via the Sony Headphones Connect app.

The earcup’s intuitive touch panel controls volume, ambient sound and call taking, with support for Google and Alexa voice assistants and Fast pair with Android devices.

At a glance:
Colour: Black, Blue
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Noise cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 30 hours (BT)
Wired option: Yes
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

TOP SHELF

 

Sony WH-1000XM5 Premium Noise Cancelling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
Sony brings its industry-leading noise-cancelling tech to its latest model headphones, utilising eight microphones to block ambient noise and an ANC optimiser and adaptive sound function that auto adjusts to suit your environment.

The XM5’s 30mm driver unit delivers authentic sound and enhanced bass and supports Hi-Res Audio formats and advanced digital file upscaling in real time. And four mics and AI-based noise reduction deliver exceptional call clarity.

Smart features include Speak-to-Chat, which auto stops play and lets in ambient sound during hands-free calls, built-in Google and Alexa voice control, and quick access to Spotify Tap.

You’ll get 30 hours of battery life with ANC and up to 40 with BT use only, and the cans can be stashed in a collapsible storage case.

At a glance:
Colour: Black, Silver
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Noise cancelling:
Yes
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 40 hours (BT)
Wired option: Yes
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Bose QuietComfort 45 Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones
Bose are renowned for acoustic noise-cancelling tech and these Bluetooth headphones utilise six mics and enhanced signal processing to block ambient noise. Aware Mode will disable ANC and let in external sounds. The QC45s are the perfect companion for a long haul flight or a moment of quiet repose.

The audio quality – a hallmark of the QC range – delivers extended, but natural, bass via vents in the earcups, and the EQ can be set using the Bose Music app, which also offers a range of sound profiles to choose from.

Battery life lasts up to 24 hours on a full charge, and a 15-minute burst will restore 2.5 hours of play time.

At a glance:
Colour: Triple Black, White Smoke
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1
Noise cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: 24 hours
Wired option: Yes
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Technics Wireless Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones
The ANC tech in these cans combines Dual Hybrid feedforward and feedback noise cancelling with analogue processing for a premium listening experience, while eight mics with wind noise reduction deliver exceptional call clarity.

40mm drivers and an acoustic control chamber create authentic and detailed sound with precise balance of top and low end frequencies, without going overboard on the bass.

Smart functionality includes multipoint connectivity for synching two Bluetooth devices at once, Alexa and Siri smartphone integration, and further control and customisation using the Technics Audio Connect app.

A single charge delivers 50 hours with ANC, and a 15-minute quick charge will clock up ten hours of play.

At a glance:
Colour: Black, Silver
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Noise cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 50 hours (ANC)
Wired option: Yes
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Audio-Technica ATH-M50XBT2 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
Designed for those who want studio quality cans with wireless convenience. Whether your bag is EDM, pop bangers, acoustic or classical, these headphones sound incredible.

Supporting a range of high quality audio codecs, the 45mm drivers deliver exceptional clarity and deep, accurate bass response. Although there’s no noise cancelling, the big earcups effectively block most external sounds, and dual microphones deliver clear, natural vocals for calls and when using the built-in Alexa voice assistant.

There’s multipoint connectivity to wirelessly synch to two BT devices simultaneously, and battery life from a full charge is 50 hours, with a quick three-hour recharge in ten minutes.

The A-T Connect app controls the low latency mode, EQ, volume and balance, and will even locate your cans if you’ve misplaced them.

At a glance:
Colour: Black
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: No
Built-in mic: Yes
Battery life: Up to 50 hours
Wired option: Yes
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Hear here! Your STACK 2022 audio guide – everything you need to know in sound!