We review the best headphones you can buy in the UK in 2016. Get the most for your money with our top headphones for your smartphone or tablet, including best in-ear headphones, best on-ear headphones and best over-ear headphones. See also: Best headphones for kids.
Update 16 September: Added Final Audio Design Sonorous III | Update 8 September: Apple has now announced the iPhone 7 and it, as rumoured, doesn't have the headphone jack. Do not fear because the headphones below are still relevant. Apple supplies the phone with a Lightning to headphone jack adapter and you can also use wireless headphones, of course.
Walk the streets of any town or city and you will see myriad people locked in to their own world, listening intently to headphones plugged in to smartphone, tablet or even - surely not - an MP3 player. The digital audio revolution has happened, and I can't be the only person who travels to work in a train carriage silent to the outside world as my fellow travellers concentrate on music, podcasts, audiobooks and video to make the commute more fun (endurable).
Headphones are more than just a functional device. Like the display on your PC they are the crucial part in the link between you and your favourite portable device. As such it is worth investing in a good set of headphones. Moreover not all headphones are made equal: you can spend a lot of money on something that looks - rather than sounds - good. And for some people that is the key thing.
Even within the realm of good audio fidelity there is choice. We may wrinkle our noses at the bassy stylings of Beats by Dre Studio headphones, but we know plenty of DJs who swear by them. And that's before you get into questions of on-ear, in-ear or over ear. Which type of headphones you prefer will depend on your physical shape, your needs, your musical taste, and the size of your wallet.
If you really are strapped for cash, check out our best budget headphones group test where all entries are under £50.
The types of headphones on offer are fairly self-explanatorybut in-ears are small earbuds which you put into your ear canal, on-ear headphones have a headband but the cup sits on your ear while over-ear have larger cups so encompass your ear. Most headphones are wired but you can also get ones with Bluetooth to get a wire-free experience.
Regardless, here are the pick of all the headphones we have reviewed that are on the market right now. Best headphones for value, best headphones for audio, best headphones for exercise, best Bluetooth wireless headphones, and so on. We've got a wide range of headphones covering a broad set of prices so we hope you find something that fits your needs.
There are so many pairs of headphones on the market that we'd need to spend all our collective time, and then some, to review them all. So do bear in mind that these are the best of what we've had through the lab, not every pair ever made! We will be regularly updating this article as we review more headphones, so stay tuned.
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Best headphones UK 2016
- Reviewed on: 16 September 16
- RRP: £299 inc VAT
If you're looking for a set of headphones to use at home, the Final Audio Design Sonorous III provides fantastic sonic capabilities, while also incorporating a beautiful design.
Read our Final Audio Design Sonorous III review.
- Reviewed on: 23 June 16
- RRP: £289 inc VAT
They’ve been a long time coming but Bose has finally made a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones and they were worth the wait. They’re only £30 more than the QC25 which makes them a no brainer even if you use them chorded a lot of the time. They’re comfortable, the noise-cancelling is outstanding and the sound quality is high-quality too. An all-round excellent pair of immersive headphones. We’d just like a better app and control over the noise-cancelling.
Read our Bose QuietComfort 35 review.
- Reviewed on: 11 July 13
- RRP: £350 inc VAT
The AH-D600 headphones offer armchair comfort with analytical insight into the musical mix. These headphones possess comfort levels that rise above lighter street-friendly designs, but that will make them a little bulky and ostentatious for most people to use on the move. Nevertheless, if you want a great taste of high-end head sound the Denons will deliver with majestic and relaxed sound.
Read our Denon AH-D600 review.
- Reviewed on: 4 February 16
- RRP: £349 inc VAT
We found the Denon to deliver a fantastic overall package as a portable headphone with the AH-MM400. However, we did not find it capable to dethrone or compete with the older Denon AH-D600, D7100, D2000, D5000 and D7000 headphones, which simply outclassed the MM400 in almost every single aspect but for portability. The Denon AH-MM400 therefore provide current Denon owners with a great way of having a similar sound signature headphone on-the-go. In comparison to its competition in the portable headphone market, we felt the Denon AH-MM400 was almost unrivaled by its overall sound quality and build quality, making the headphones an easy recommendation for portable listeners.
Read our Denon AH-MM400 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 July 15
- RRP: £89 inc VAT
Well-balanced and versatile, the Audio-Technica headphones are revealing without becoming tiring – either sonically or in comfort terms. They deliver in sound quality and with a dramatic price drop are a great buy.
Read our Audio-Technica ATH-WS99 review.
- Reviewed on: 31 December 13
- RRP: £239 inc VAT
The Bose QC20 headphones make for an impressive set of in-ears which you're unlikely to regret if you travel a lot. Although sound performance isn't the best, the sensational noise cancelling, comfortable design and handy aware mode make these a great buy.
Read our Bose QuietComfort 20 review.
- Reviewed on: 27 September 13
- RRP: £89 inc VAT
Although Denon's AH-W150 Bluetooth earphones are not for audiophiles, they produce excellent sound quality and volume at an affordable price point, particularly considering they are wireless.
Read our Denon AH-W150 Wireless Fitness review.
- Reviewed on: 19 May 15
- RRP: £249 inc VAT
While original P5 owners don't need to jump at this upgrade, the P5 Series 2 are one of the best pairs of on-ear headphones we've tested. The price tag might be a little high for some but Bowers & Wilkins has done a sterling job once again of combining design and build with decent comfort, noise isolation and excellent sound quality.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 review.
9. Kef M100
- Reviewed on: 17 September 15
- RRP: £119 inc VAT
We were impressed by Kef's first headphones, the M500 on-ear cans, and the M100 in-ears are really no different. They offer excellent build quality, a lightweight comfortable design combined with nicely balanced and crisp sound performance. They're also not as pricey as we had expected making them a solid choice for a pair of in-ear headphones.
Read our Kef M100 review.
10. KEF M500
- Reviewed on: 12 July 13
- RRP: £250 inc VAT
KEF has come up trumps with its first pair of headphones offering excellent build quality and a stylish comfortable design. After running in, the M500 headphones sound clear, punchy and balanced but won't blow you away quite as touted. They are also pricey for our liking and you can find similar or better sound quality for less.
Read our KEF M500 review.
- Reviewed on: 9 June 16
- RRP: £220 inc VAT
Sony has done a great job of combining style, functionality and great sound quality into a pair of headphones which aren't too expensive for what you're getting. Most importantly, the wireless sound quality is excellent and we're impressed with the noise cancelling, too. Build quality is good for plastic and extra features such as NFC and easy to use controls add to the experience. These are a great choice for anyone looking for wireless over-ear headphones with noise cancelling and solid sound quality.
- Reviewed on: 6 July 15
- RRP: £329.99 inc VAT
We said in our Series 2 review that some might find the £249 price a little hard to swallow, and it’s harder still to stump up £80 more for the removal of a cable. Yet, if you are specifically after wireless headphones, these are one of the best pairs we’ve tested.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless review.
- Reviewed on: 5 July 12
- RRP: £169
Bowers & Wilkins has delivered an excellent balance of price, design, build quality and sound performance with the P3. For the reasonable price of £169 you get a comfortable and stylish pair of portable headphones with balanced and clear sound.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins P3 review.
- Reviewed on: 31 March 16
- RRP: £143 inc VAT
They might not be the complete package, but Audio-Technica has created some seriously good sounding headphones here. The ATH-MSR7 offer good build and stylish design, although they aren't the most comfortable or portable around. What we're most taken by, though, is the sound quality you get at this price which makes them a good buy.
Read our Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 review.
15. RHA T10i
- Reviewed on: 18 August 15
- RRP: £149.95 inc. VAT
So, taking into consideration all of the above, are they worth buying? We definitely feel the RHA T10i worth buying, even at their full price. For build quality alone in this price range they stand out. Features and audio quality are of a sufficiently good quality, and it helps that there is that three year guarantee. Not for the pure audiophile, but a great step up for the music lover who wants a better quality of headphones.
Read our RHA T10i review.
16. Kef M400
- Reviewed on: 24 November 15
- RRP: £199 inc VAT
Once again, Kef has made a stylish and well-built pair of headphones in the M400. They are lightweight, portable and the optional splash of colour is nice. Sound quality is once again very good although these aren't the best choice for bass lovers. Our main issue is that you can currently buy the flagship M500 headphones for less making these hard to recommend until the price drops.
Read our Kef M400 review.
- Reviewed on: 29 August 16
- RRP: £149 inc VAT
Audio-Technica has created a stylish and lightweight pair of on-ear headphones which won’t break the bank. Although we haven’t found them the most comfortable in the world, they have a lot to offer including NFC, good wireless performance and decent sound quality.
Read our Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT review.
18. Rock Jaw Kommand
- Reviewed on: 27 May 15
- RRP: £119 inc VAT
The Kommand IEM is a step up from the Alpha Genus and any other sub-£50 headphones, but you'd expect that at more than twice that price. There's lots to like about their sound quality, but some might find the ear hooks uncomfortable.
Read our Rock Jaw Kommand review.
- Reviewed on: 2 June 14
- RRP: £450 inc. VAT
Although expensive, we rate the Sony MDR-HW700DS wireless surround headphones as a compelling alternative to a physical multichannel speaker setup, and they're a great practical solution when it's just not possible to crank things up.
- Reviewed on: 8 July 15
- RRP: £249 inc VAT
If you can afford the price, the Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless headphones provide great sound over Bluetooth, offering punchy bass without going over the top. There are handy features such as NFC, a smart touchpad for controls, and a microphone for calls. Some might find the build is a little on the plastic side, and these headphones are pretty bulky – but that's the street style that Sennheiser is aiming for.
Read our Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless review.