Finding the perfect headphones has become as complicated as car shopping in terms of the countless models, brands, features, and designs to choose from. Earbuds or over-ear? Wired or wireless? Noise cancelling or volume limiting?
The bottom line is that you need to choose a pair (or pairs) that work for your unique lifestyle and needs.
Just like suburban parents need minivans to ferry around children and city dwellers need compact cars to make parallel parking easier, you’ve got to think about how and when you’ll primarily be using the headphones. (I generally have a few pairs for different scenarios, which I definitely recommend.)
To make it easier for you, I found some the best of the best and organized by them by what they’re good for. Browse my picks below to find your perfect match.
Best for Work
The cool start-up you work for favors an open floor plan, which means you’ll need to wear these Skullcandy Knockouts ($68) all day, for both conference calls and blocking out office hubbub to focus. That’s no problem, since they’re designed specifically for women, to be stable and comfortable on your head, with cushiony memory foam ear pads. There’s a microphone on the cord with accessible controls for both calls and music, and they fold up so you can toss them in your purse or desk drawer (in a cute bag, I might add).
Best for Fitness
There’s nothing worse than spending your entire five-mile run readjusting your earbuds. That won’t be an issue with Beats Powerbeats 3 Wireless ($199.95) headphones, since secure-fit earhooks and a cable management clip (that sits behind your neck) hold them in place. They’re also sweat- and water-resistant, and have fast-fuel charging that allows you to plug them in for five minutes to get enough juice for an hour-long workout. And high-performance sound will power you through the toughest strength circuit.
Best for Fashion Cred
Top style bloggers and celebrities (i.e. Jessica Alba and Olivia Wilde) have been sporting Frends Taylor Headphones ($200) in Rose Gold for a while now, so if your goal is to look fly while rocking out to Adele, these are the “it” pair. (Bonus points if you can rock this crazy fur-embellished pair!).
Toss Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones ($199) in your carry-on before your next trip. They’re super lightweight and compact and will isolate you from crying babies and other airplane noise pollution. “Aware Mode” even lets you tune into what’s happening around you with a quick touch of a button.
Best for Audiophiles
CNET called Bowers & Wilkens P7 ($400) “one of the best luxury headphones you can buy” for the smooth, rich sound they deliver. They also have a cool vintage look and fold up for easy transporting.
Best for Techies
Currently only available for pre-order, Here One ($299) says you shouldn’t call its product headphones, rather it’s “the first all-in-one, truly wireless listening system.” It’s just two tiny wireless earbuds (they make Apple’s new Airpods look clunky) and an app with forward-thinking features like speech amplification for loud spaces, smart noise filters, and more. If you’re the type to wait in line three days early when new iPhones are released, this is for you.
Best for Design Junkies
Master & Dynamic MW60 Wireless Over Ear Headphones ($549) are like the Aston Martin of headphones—luxurious and high-class with serious design details like “premium cowhide” (AKA leather), stainless steel, and ear pads made with memory foam wrapped in soft lambskin.
Do you have a pair of headphones you absolutely swear by? Tell me why you love them in the comments below!