A great pair of headphones or earphones make a perfect Christmas present for your loved one. We’ve rounded up the best headphones, earbuds, and earphones for every situation.
In the case of headphones, we’ve focused primarily on comfort and noise cancellation features. Generally, headphones are at their best when you use them on your daily commute or simply when relaxing at home and you want to focus on listening to music. Alternatively, earphones and earbuds are perfect for when you’re active, such as when out walking, running or cycling. Bear in mind though that even the best noise cancelling earphones are rarely as effective as a good pair of noise cancellation headphones.
We’ve also thrown in a great pair of bone conduction headphones because these are a great alternative if you want to buy something a little different. Especially if the recipient of the gift has some hearing issues.
We’ve highlighted all our favorites here but throughout the year, we’ve looked at headphones and earphones in-depth. Don’t forget to check out the best truly wireless earbuds, best in-ear noise cancelling earbuds, best over-ear noise cancelling headphones, and best bone conduction headphones, to find out more.
Here’s our picks for the holiday season.
Best Noise Cancellation Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 ($349)
When you need some of the best noise cancellation headphones out there, go for the Bose QuietComfort 35. They offer three levels of noise cancellation so you can tweak them accordingly depending on if you’re sitting on a busy train or just want a bit of peace and quiet in a public place. It also has a noise rejecting dual microphone system to ensure that calls are just as smooth as merely listening. There’s Alexa support too, although you’ll be reasonably happy with the easy to use controls, as well as Bose Connect app functionality.
A battery life of 20 hours when noise cancellation is active, along with consistently great audio quality, ensures that these really are the best of the best at this price point. It’s the gift that will keep on giving for many years to come.
Best Lightweight Headphones: Plantronics BackBeat 500 ($63)
Many headphones are quite weighty which isn’t always ideal—especially if you have neck issues that are aggravated by wearing anything weighty. The Plantronics BackBeat 500s are a decent pair of headphones that are comfortable and light, so you won’t worry about wearing them for long sessions. The headband and ear cups are memory foam so they feel as comfy as you would expect.
These aren’t noise-cancellation headphones exactly but they do a decent job of isolating sound at least, so you won’t be interrupted too easily. Its rechargeable battery means you can listen for up to 18 hours on a single charge too, so even if you’re flying across the world, you’re good to go. Well priced and offering decent sound due to their 40mm drivers, the Plantronics BackBeat 500 are a good option for general everyday use.
Best Budget Noise Cancellation Headphones: Anker Soundcore Space NC Headphones ($99)
Effective active noise cancellation headphones don’t have to cost a fortune. When we reviewed the Anker Soundcore Space NC Headphones earlier this year, we were impressed so that’s why we’d continue to strongly recommend them as a gift idea.
For $99, you get a 20-hour battery life in noise cancelling mode, a lightweight design, and even a travel case for safe storage. The sound quality is pretty great for the price point too. The only real downside is that the swipe based on-ear touch pad is a little overly sensitive but that’s a small price to pay for some otherwise great budget noise cancellation headphones.
Best Premium Headphones: Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature ($861)
Money no object? Willing to pay over $800 for some headphones? We’re a little envious of being in that position but we’d strongly recommend the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature Headphones. They look amazing thanks to their use of Italian Saffiano leather, and they sound just as great too. They’re as high end as you’d expect for the price.
The headphones have uniquely vented multi-layer memory foam cushions used on the ear pads for maximum comfort, with high-quality leather on the outside and headband to feel comfy and look amazing. Everything about the style of these headphones look great. They sound amazing too, which is unsurprising given Bowers & Wilkins’s extensive experience in audio over the decades. They are the audio system of choice at the Abbey Road Studios in London after all.
The trade-off for all this? Well, they’re wired but at this price, you’ll probably use them mostly at home rather than on the move anyhow.
Best Budget Earphones: TaoTronics Bluetooth Headphones ($26)
Got a relative that easily loses their earphones? Buy them the TaoTronics Bluetooth Headphones. They have built-in magnets that let you attach the two headphones together when not in use, so it turns into a necklace. But also, they’re cheap enough that it’s not the end of the world if they lose their 20th pair in 2 years.
Despite their low price, they work pretty well as good headphones for when you’re working out or going for a walk. They sound good and they’re a snug fit inside your ear. They offer 6 to 8 hours of continuous music between charges, and have a standby time of 80 hours. There’s also a noise-cancelling microphone that reduces outside noise when you need to take a call. That’s all pretty good for the price.
Best Truly Wireless Earbuds: Jabra Elite 65t ($166)
Truly wireless earbuds feel quite liberating, providing they fit well and they offer decent battery life. Fortunately, the Jabra Elite 65t offer both of these key features. They fit comfortably in your ear without once feeling like they’re going to fall out. As well as that, they offer a remarkably sturdy battery life of about 5 hours with their charging case extending battery life to 15 hours.
In terms of audio quality, they’re hard to fault. They sound great, and even offer wind noise protection. Sound quality can be tweaked to your heart’s content too, courtesy of the Jabra Sound+ app that includes a customizable equalizer tool. There’s also Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant support so you can get right to the point. It’s all-round classy technology.
Best For Running: Jabra Elite Sport True ($190)
Avid runners love to track their workouts almost as much as they love to be able to listen to great music or podcasts while on the move. That’s why the Jabra Elite Sport True earbuds are a perfect gift for the runner in your life.
They offer the kind of sound quality you’d expect from Jabra, with great sounding audio that’s also clear at all times. Truly wireless, there’s up to 5 hours battery life with that being bumped up to 15 via the charging case. There’s support for the Jabra app too so you can tweak the equalizer to your liking. Where things get clever for the Jabra Elite Sport True is its motion sensor that ensures you can track your workout via them, so you know exactly how you’re doing. It’s a killer feature for the keen runner.
Best Robust Earphones: Creative Aurvana Trio ($100)
In the past year, I’ve used a lot of different earphones but in terms of sheer robustness, I’ve yet to find some that are better than the Creative Aurvana Trio. They’re traditional wired ones so you don’t have to worry about battery life. As well as that, they have a braided cable that’s detachable (if you want to replace it) so they can suffer a lot of rough usage.
Audio quality wise — the earphones use a hybrid triple driver system so they sound great, plus there’s 98% noise isolation so you don’t have to worry about other noise getting in the way. They might not look the coolest but they really are some of the best earphones out there for the price. Check out our full review for more information.
Best Bone Conduction Headphones: AfterShokz Trekz Air ($150)
Bone conduction headphones are great if you have issues with earphones falling out, hearing problems, or you just hate the feeling of earbuds in your ears (or headphones pressing into your head). The AfterShokz Trekz Air are the best pair out there right now. Designed for long term wear, you can wear them all day without feeling uncomfortable. They provide 6 hours of continuous use on a single charge, and wrap around neatly on your head.
The sound quality offers wide dynamic range and rich bass, with technology that reduces natural sound leakage so you can hear what’s around you but not too much. The headphones also include reflective strips that easily stick to your bike, helmet, shoes, or anywhere else you can think of. It’s a neat bonus for the safety conscious runner or cyclist.