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[TechRadar] buying guide: The best headphones 2016: which headphones should you buy?
buying guide: The best headphones 2016: which headphones should you buy?

<img src="" alt="buying guide: The best headphones 2016: which headphones should you buy?"/><h3>Best headphones: which set should you buy?</h3><p>We're not audio snobs here. We're not going to claim that you're not a 'real' music fan if you're still using the cheap earbuds that came with your phone to listen to music. </p><p>But what we will say is that just spending a little bit of extra money on a decent pair of headphones will get you a long way in terms of music quality, and will allow you to discern subtle details in your favorite songs that you might have otherwise missed. </p><p>Bass notes that otherwise sounded overwhelming and booming will instead sound tight and refined, trebles will be crisper, and mids will shine through the mix rather than being buried. </p><p>Before you start looking at the best sounding pair of headphones you need to settle on what form factor suits your listening needs. Over-ears are the most bulky but generally the most comfortable, while on-ears and in-ears are more portable at the expense of comfort. </p><p>Not to mention the fact that wireless headphones (both on-ear and in-ear) are increasingly popular as battery life and connectivity technologies improve. </p><p>If you're still confused as to what form factor will suit your needs the best, then check out our short video guide below. We've also got a more in-depth guide available on the second page.</p><p>Even if you're still unsure which set fits your lifestyle, there is a perfect set of headphones out there for you. With this guide, we want to help you find them.</p><mediainsert caption="null" mediatype="YouTube" height="315" src="" width="420">YouTube :><h3>What does techradar recommend?</h3><p>Below, you'll find the top contenders in each category of headphones. We're always reviewing the latest and greatest headphones available, so you can ensure that this guide is up-to-date.</p><p><img src="" alt="Optoma NuForce HEM6" width="420"></img></p><h3>Best in-ear headphones: Optoma NuForce HEM6</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Premium in-ears with a price point to match</p></div><p>Acoustic design: N/A | Weight: 0.01 pounds | Cable length: 4.52 feet | Frequency response: 18Hz - 40kHz | Drivers: 3 per ear | Driver type: Knowels balanced armature | Sensitivity: 113dB+/-3dB | Impedance: 37 Ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Optoma%20NuForce%20HEM6 "><p><a href="">See more Optoma NuForce HEM6 deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Great frequency response</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Comfortable to wear</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> A little warm-sounding</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Pricey</div><p>If you can get on board with the price point, the HEM6s are a great pair of headphones that really sing when paired with the right music genres.</p><p>It also helps that these headphones are very comfortable and have a decent number of accessories to help you get the most out of them.</p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="">Optoma NuForce HEM6</a></p><ul><li><strong>Alternative pick:</strong> Looking for bass-heavy in-ear headphones? Check out the <a href="">Razer Hammerhead Pro V2</a></li></ul><p><img src="" alt="Best Headphones" width="420"></img></p><h3>Best on-ear headphones: Samsung Level On Pro Wireless</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Samsung crashes the wireless noise-cancelling party</p></div><p><strong>Acoustic design:</strong> Closed | <strong>Weight:</strong> .7 pounds | <strong>Cable length:</strong> 3.6 feet | <strong>Frequency response:</strong> 20Hz to 20kHz | <strong>Drivers:</strong> 40mm Dual-Layered Diaphragm | <strong>Driver type:</strong> Dynamic | <strong>Sensitivity:</strong> N/A | <strong>Impedance:</strong> N/A | <strong>Battery life:</strong> 8 hours | <strong>Wireless range:</strong> 30 meters (98ft) | <strong>NFC:</strong> Yes</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Samsung%20Level%20On%20Pro%20Wireless%20Headphones "><p><a href="">See more Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Comfy faux-leather earpads</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Extra features for Samsung owners</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Plastic, fragile bridge</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Short-range wireless</div><p>The Samsung Level On Pro Wireless are one of the few headphones I've tested that feel like they're meant as a package deal for another device. Yes they'll work with every Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack-equipped handset on the market, but you're better off sticking to a Samsung device in order to squeeze every ounce of aural goodness from the UHQ audio codec.</p><p>It's one of the comfiest pair of cans on the market, and one of the best noise-cancelling, too. If it had a better sound quality for the vast majority of cell phone users it would be an easy recommendation but, as it stands, really makes the most sense at checkout when purchased alongside Samsung's Next Big Thing.</p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="">Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones</a></p><p><img src="" alt="Best Headphones" width="420"></img></p><h3>Best over-ear headphones: Focal Listen</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Some of the best high-end headphones that don't destroy the bank</p></div><p><strong>Acoustic design:</strong> Closed | <strong>Weight:</strong> 0.60 pounds | <strong>Cable length:</strong> 4.6 ft | <strong>Frequency response:</strong> 15Hz – 22kHz | <strong>Drivers:</strong> 40mm | <strong>Driver type:</strong> Mylar/Titanium | <strong>Sensitivity:</strong> 122dB | <strong>Impedance:</strong> 32 ohms | <strong>Battery life:</strong> N/A | <strong>Wireless range:</strong> N/A | <strong>NFC:</strong> N/A</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Focal%20Listen "><p><a href="">See more Focal Listen deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Rich, balanced sound</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Great noise isolation</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Awkward remote</div><p>Overall, the Focal Listen offer a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. We love their balance, build quality and understated design – they may not be as high resolution as the Pioneer SE-MHR5 and other headphones capable of High-Res Audio playback, but their sound-to-dollar ratio is impressive.</p><p>At $250 (£150, AU$329) they're a bit on the pricey side, but they're much cheaper than our previous over-ear recommendation winner – the Oppo PM 3. Should Focal continue to pump out cans that provide balanced sound and top-notch build quality at an affordable price, audiophiles might look more and more in the French company's direction.</p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="">Focal Listen</a></p><ul><li><strong>Alternative pick:</strong> If you have a deep enough wallet, stop reading this and buy the <a href="">Oppo PM-3</a>.</li></ul><p><img src="" alt="Best Headphones 2016" width="420"></img></p><h3>Best wireless headphones: Skullcandy Grind Wireless</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Stellar sound without shredding your wallet</p></div><p><strong>Acoustic design:</strong> Closed | <strong>Weight:</strong> 0.68 pounds | <strong>Cable length:</strong> N/A | <strong>Frequency response:</strong> N/A | <strong>Drivers:</strong> 40mm | <strong>Driver type:</strong> Dynamic | <strong>Sensitivity:</strong> N/A | <strong>Impedance:</strong> N/A | <strong>Battery life:</strong> 12 hours | <strong>Wireless range:</strong> 33 feet | <strong>NFC:</strong> No</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Skullcandy%20Grind%20Wireless "><p><a href="">See more Skullcandy Grind Wireless deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Comfortable ear pads</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Deep, rich sound</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Short battery life</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Too few accessories</div><p>In the battle of the brands, it can be hard to trust an outsider. You probably know and trust companies like Sennheiser, Sony, Bose and Beats. And nothing against the tried and true headphone manufacturers, but a lot of what you're paying for is the name.</p><p>The Skullcandy Grind Wireless is a black sheep, it breaks convention left and right and yet delivers in all the major areas. It's far from perfect (see: battery life and accessories), but, for its $89 (£69, about AU$116) price tag, you're getting a great-sounding, well-constructed pair of cans that know how to rumble with bass notes and rock with mids and highs.</p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="">Skullcandy Grind Wireless</a></p><ul><li><strong>Alternative pick:</strong> The <a href="">Jabra Move Wireless</a> is a cheap choice that looks slick.</li></ul><p><img src="" alt="Bose QuietComfort 35" width="420"></img></p><h3>Best noise-cancelling headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Bose has cut the wires off its flagship noise-cancellers with great success</p></div><p>Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Bose%20QuietComfort%2035 "><p><a href="">See more Bose QuietComfort 35 deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Broad and clear soundstage</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Amazing noise cancellation</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Active EQ an acquired taste</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Boring looks</div><p>Bose has finally brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones and it's done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones. They sound great, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights. </p><p>At $349.95 (£289.95 / AU pricing tbc) the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now then you can't get any better. </p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="">Bose QuietComfort 35</a></p><ul><li><strong>Alternative pick:</strong> If you're looking for a super premium pair of noise-canceling cans, check out the <a href="">Philips Fidelio NC1</a>. </li></ul><h3>What else should you consider?</h3><p>There's usually more to a set of headphone than meets the eye. As such, we've provided a breakdown of what you can expect to find in each kind of headphone.</p><p>Not only will learning more about headphones help you make a more informed purchase, but you'll know when you're really getting your money's worth.</p><mediainsert caption="null" mediatype="YouTube" height="315" src="" width="420">YouTube :<h3>In-ear headphones</h3><p>This type of headphone, more commonly referred to as an earbud or earphone, is usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. If you've purchased an MP3 player, or more recently, a smartphone, it's likely that a set was included with the purchase.</p><p>Earphones rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. Compared to other types of headphones, these are the most discreet ones you'll find. Their small form-factor also makes them the king/queen of portability and the prime choice for athletes.</p><p>You're not likely to find strong performers at the low-end of the price spectrum. Their sound delivery is generally muddled, lacking bass and overcompensating for that with harsh mids and highs. That said, it won't cost you much money at all to find a value-packed option complete with inline controls and a microphone.</p><ul><li><a href="">Check out some of our other favorite models out here</a></li></ul><h3>On-ear headphones</h3><p>While similar to over-ear headphones in appearance, they fit to your head a little differently. Instead of enveloping your ears with a soft cushion, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable seal around your ear. Thus, the noise isolation is much less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but there are big benefits to consider here.</p><p>On-ear headphones are usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, and as such they appeal to travellers and the fitness crowd. Taking a walk or a jog around town is also safer, as you can hear traffic go by and be aware of potential hazards.</p><ul><li><a href="">Want to see more of our favorite picks?</a></li></ul><h3>Over-ear headphones</h3><p>This ear-muff style of headphone generally provides greater richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. Additionally, over-ear, or circum-aural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.</p><p>The price range for a set of on-ear headphones begins around $100 and from there, the sky's the limit. For example, the <a href="">Oppo PM-1</a>, while excellent, are priced exorbitantly at $1,099. It's definitely not necessary to spend that much. That said, you tend to get what you pay for.</p><p>If your headphone budget is in the $2-300, you'll start getting into options that have excellent build quality, premium materials and amazing sound and features like ANC (active noise cancellation.)</p><ul><li><a href="">Here are a few more of our top picks</a></li></ul><h3>Wireless headphones</h3><p>This style of headphone doesn't limit you to a specific form factor like the others. In fact, you can find in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphone styles sans wire.</p><p>Opting to go wireless will cost you a premium of anywhere between $50-100 over the price of wired cans. Going futuristic isn't cheap. One important thing to consider is that your music player must support the Bluetooth wireless protocol, as it's required to use this type of headphone.</p><p>Speaking of Bluetooth, it has become exponentially more reliable over time, but it's always susceptible to disturbances in the force. In short, any little thing, from the understandable (conflicting Wi-Fi signals, microwaves, cordless telephones), to the absurd (sticking a hand in the space between the device and the headphones) can sometimes interrupt a wireless listening experience.</p><ul><li><a href="">Looking for more wireless options?</a></li></ul><h3>Noise-cancelling headphones</h3><p>This category, like wireless headphones, isn't limited to a form factor. You can find this clever mix of technologies integrated into the ear pieces of in-ear and over-ear headphones alike.</p><p>Many companies falsely claim to offer true noise cancellation with just the padding included around the ear cups. Don't believe it. This is PNC (passive noise cancellation), and it doesn't amount to much. You can even replicate this effect by cupping your hands around your ears, so why shell out the big bucks for it?</p><p>On the other hand, ANC (active noise cancellation) is the real deal. This technique employs a set of external microphones, which detect the decibel level outside. Once it has an idea of the incoming noise level, the headphone speakers inside transmit a noise generated to dampen the racket. The end result is an effect that hushes the outside noise, allowing you to focus.</p><ul><li><a href="">More options to help keep the noise out</a></li></ul><img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

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