Best headphones in 2018: 14 of the best over- and in-ear headphones you can buy right now
In 2018, getting hold of your favourite music is easier than ever. If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet, Spotify and Apple Music put almost unlimited libraries at your fingertips, providing you’re prepared to part with the associated monthly fees. But really, that only represents half the equation. If you want your music to sound its best, you’ll need a good pair of headphones.
If you’re still using the free headphones you got with your smartphone, then don’t worry because we’ve put together a list of the best kit for listening on the go and at home. We’ve catered for all budgets, with sets that cost from £45 right up to over £300. On this page, you can find all our favourite on-ear and over-ear cans and on the next page is a list of the best in-ear earphones you can buy right now.
Best on- and over-ear headphones 2018
1. Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Best noise-cancelling headphones under £350
Bose took its precious time releasing its first wireless noise cancelling headphones and it’s now already onto its second generation. The QuietComfort 35 II aren’t that much different from the originals. They’re still ultra-comfortable, they still get rid of annoying extraneous ambient noise better than any other ANC headphones and they still sound great. The difference this time around is that there’s an extra button on the left-hand earcup to activate Google Assistant.
Tap this button and the headphones will tell you the time and read out any unread notifications; hold it down and you can run Assistant queries just as you would on your phone, except you don’t have to embarrassingly yell “OK Google” every time you do it.
I’m not sure exactly how useful this feature is, but as a pair of wireless noise cancelling headphones, the QuietComfort 35 is without peer. If you have the money to spend, do yourself a favour and go and buy a pair or, failing that, pick up a pair of regular QuietComfort 35 for which the price has now dropped to a reasonable £279. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
2. Sony MDR-1000X: Best noise-cancelling headphones under £300
There are a few ANC headphones on the market, but none sound like the Sony MDR-1000X. These Bluetooth headphones are simply fantastic – in fact, they’re one of the best around due to their sumptuous sound quality. These knock all rival wireless headphones out the water, including the award-winning Bose QC35. The MDR-1000X might not cancel noise as well as the QC35, but still blocks out ambient noise extremely well.
It also holds a trick up its sleeve – you can quickly mute the headphones by placing your palm over the right-side cup, which is a useful feature when crossing the road or when you’re replying to someone asking for directions. If you’re looking for the best ANC Bluetooth headphones with a fantastic sound quality, get the Sony MDR-1000X.
3. Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II: Best noise-cancelling headphones under £200
You know what you’re getting with Bose, and that’s no different with its SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II. Sound quality is great, the headphones are well built and incredibly comfortable to wear, they feature hands-free calling (with a noise-cancelling microphone for clarity) and it comes with a handy carry case too. While battery life is rather excellent, if you do find yourself without any charge, Bose has included a 3.5mm aux cable so you can keep listening.
4. Philips SHB9850NC: Best noise-cancelling headphones under £150
If you’re after a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones that won’t cost you the earth, you could do worse than the Philips SHB9850NCs. They’re stuffed with features, they’re very comfortable, and they fold up nice and small. And although their sound quality isn’t as good as a solid wired pair of headphones, they perform well with most music – but are particularly heavy-handed on the bass and mid-range. Although their noise cancelling isn’t quite up to the standards of some others, it’s a bonus to have that sort to feature on a pair of cans at this price – so we’re willing to let them off. If you’re after a pair of wireless cans that give great performance for the money, then the Philips SHB9850NCs should be at the top of your list.
Read the full Philips SHB9850NC review on Expert Reviews
5. Lindy BNX-60: Best noise-cancelling headphones under £100
These are one of the most affordable and comfortable sets of noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever tried. When you take into account the nice, long battery life, it’s an absolute steal. You get 15 hours of juice when using Bluetooth and 30 hours if you choose to use the included audio cable instead.
The BNX-60 headphones are ultra-comfortable thanks to their large, padded ear cups. And of course, the sound quality is also very good, especially if you use the noise-cancelling feature which can be turned on and off using the toggle on the right cup. However, we did find that the bass was somewhat boomy instead of focused, but the mid and higher frequencies definitely made up for it. The headphones work well with a range of musical genres, so we recommend taking these out on a long journey and playing a wide range of material to truly see how great they are.
6. Bowers & Wilkins P7: Best wireless headphones for audiophiles under £350
They’re not noise-cancelling, but the B&W P7 – the firm’s top-line wireless headphones – are among the best wireless headphones we’ve ever listened to. Plus, they’re super comfy, and the squared-off earcups and slender chromed steel arms and leather padded headband look wonderfully boutique.
If you’re an audiophile and just can’t bring yourself to splash out on the Bose QC35, these are equally good – for very different reasons.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins P7 review
7. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless: Best wireless headphones for audiophiles under £300
The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless is a serious pair of headphones, both from the perspective of price and performance. They’re an over-the-ear design, super comfortable, fold up nice and compact, and have both aptX Bluetooth wireless connectivity and active noise cancellation.
One annoying feature is that you can’t disable the noise cancellation, but with 22-hour claimed battery life and the ability to plug the headphones in with a 3.5mm cable, this shouldn’t prove too much of a problem. They’re pricey, but brilliant.
8. SoundMAGIC HP151: Best wired headphones under £150
SoundMAGIC is best-known for their cheap and cheerful earphones, the E10 and E10C, however, the company also sell affordable headphones. The HP151 are designed for the home, with a 2.5m-long removable cable and 53mm drivers, you won’t see many opting to taking it on commutes. The headphones’ sound quality and especially soundstage, are what sets it apart from its competitors in its price bracket.
The SoundMAGIC headphones provide an open-back-type sound, with instrument separation performing above and beyond a lot of headphones, even £350-plus ‘phones. These are also extremely comfortable for long listening sessions, with soft PU leather material on the headband and soft ear pads, you can wear these with glasses without discomfort. If you’re looking for a set of affordable headphones for the home, then the HP151 should be your first choice.
Read the full SoundMAGIC HP151 review on Expert Reviews