best brands for used headphones

Guide to the best brands in headphones and how to find the perfect pair

Updated on June 13, 2024

Looking for the perfect pair of headphones or earbuds but don’t know where to start? In our guide to the best headphone brands, we help you decide what to look for in a good pair of headphones, what brands you can count on, and where to shop for the best deals on quality audio equipment.

In a world flooded with audio options, choosing between headphones or earbuds can be a daunting task. There are so many different brands and products out there. Some are super expensive, others seem unrealistically cheap, and you can’t tell the difference between them without listening to every single one. Since that’s not an option for most people, we’re here to help with our recommendations for the best brands of headphones to choose from.

What makes a good pair of headphones?

A good pair of headphones should do more than simply deliver sound to your ears — they should provide an immersive audio experience and should feel good to wear. Here are some key factors that contribute to excellence in headphones and earbuds:

  • Sound quality: The heart of any headphone lies in its ability to reproduce sound faithfully. Good headphones should offer clear, balanced, and detailed audio across various frequencies, whether you're into heart-thumping bass or crystal-clear highs.

  • Comfort and fit: Long listening sessions should be a pleasure, not a pain. Soft ear cups, an adjustable headband, and a secure fit are crucial for over-ear headphones. In-ear buds should fit the contours of your ears, staying secure without discomfort.

  • Style and build quality: The look of your headphones or earbuds certainly matters, and so does durability. Whether you go sleek and minimalist or bold and vibrant, you should find a model that matches your personal style and holds up to the demands of your lifestyle.

  • Noise-canceling options: If you want to hear nothing besides your music, then you need headphones with effective noise cancellation or noise isolation. Sometimes you need to stay aware of your surroundings, however, so you might look for a version with the option to turn these features off.

  • Additional features: From touch controls to customizable sound profiles, additional features can elevate your headphone experience. Consider what extras matter most to you, whether it's extra long battery life, touch-sensitive controls, or hands-free options.

Value for the money: The best brands strike a balance between performance and price, delivering the essentials you hope for without an exorbitant price tag. If limiting cost is a primary concern, you might look at refurbished headphones or earbuds to find good deals on superior models.

In your pursuit of the perfect pair of headphones, balancing these elements according to your needs should land you with a product that not only meets but exceeds your expectations for the listening experience.

Best brands for headphones and earbuds

Now that we’ve covered the factors to look for in a pair of headphones, here are the brands we recommend you start your search with. To help make your choice, think about the kind of sound profile you like. If you prefer a rich bass, for example, look for brands that are known for delivering deeper tones. If you are more concerned with crisp and clear, look for those with a well-rounded profile and superior noise cancellation.

Finding a pair of headphones that you like is a lot like wine tasting — different people will prefer different sound profiles! Our advice: Find one or two brands with models that you like, and then stick with them.

Bose headphones

A renowned leader in audio products, Bose became known for some of the best noise-canceling headphones early on. They are still a big name in the headphone market, though other brands have effectively caught up in technology. That being said, there’s no reason not to look at Bose for high-quality headphones, and you can find a really great deal in refurbished products if you want to go that route.

In particular, the QC35 and Bose 700 noise-canceling models offer a balanced sound signature, making them well-suited for genres like classical and jazz. However, it's important to note that different models offer varying sound profiles, and some may not be ideal if you like a heavy bass for electronic or hip-hop. Bose makes earbud products as well, but over-ear headphones are where this brand really shines.

Sony headphones and earbuds

Sony is a well-respected name in the entertainment industry, and their headphones certainly live up to the reputation of the brand. While most Sony headphones aren’t necessarily top-of-the-line models, they offer some of the best bang for your buck that you’ll find. For example, the WH-1000XM3 and its newer version, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are priced cheaper than some Bose and Beats rivals but perform arguably just as well.

In general, Sony headphones have a well-rounded sound profile that most people will really enjoy. Lows, mids, highs — it’s all there, and the noise-canceling properties are superior on many of their models. In fact, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds offer best-in-class noise-canceling at a competitive price. So no matter what you listen to, it will probably sound good on a pair of Sony earbuds or headphones, and you can save some money by looking at refurbished products instead of brand-new ones.

Sennheiser headphones

The German audio equipment maker Sennheiser has been around since 1945 and is famous in audiophile circles for making the world’s very best — and most expensive — pair of headphones. The Sennheiser HE-1 commands a starting price of $50,000. But don’t let that tidbit of info turn you off from Sennheiser in general. The company also makes headphones for the rest of us at very reasonable prices.

Their consumer-grade headphones offer a wide range of choices at competitive price points. Some models are known for their crisp sound and balanced frequency response, while others prioritize specific ranges like bass. Check out the variety of Sennheiser headphones available to find a model and price range that works for you. Even the cheaper models are known for being surprisingly good, and don’t forget that you can buy refurbished Sennheiser headphones to save even more.

Beats headphones and earbuds

Initially called Beats by Dre, Beats headphones were started by hip-hop legend Dr. Dre in 2006 and became an instant hit. Considering their origins, you might guess that Beats come in swanky styles and put out some heavy bass. Their look and sound may not appeal to everyone, however, and their price tends to be much higher than comparable options from other brands. If you are worried about the cost, but still want to make a statement with a pair of Beats, consider buying refurbished to save big over the retail price.

Apple AirPods

No list of headphones brands would be complete without mentioning the entries from Apple. If you’re an Apple user and you don’t already have a pair of AirPods wireless earbuds, what are you waiting for? You can find a great deal on refurbished models, including the hi-fi AirPods Pro (2nd generation) that deliver superior adaptive sound technology.

All hype on Apple products aside, the brand really does make high-quality audio equipment. For example, the over-ear Apple AirPods Max are a preferred choice for many media professionals. Though the prices of Apple products are typically higher than most competitors, you won’t be disappointed by the performance from any of their headphones or earbuds.

Other good brands to consider

Now that we’ve covered our top picks, we still have to acknowledge other brands that make very good headphones. Some of these are very niche, catering to certain preferences for style or audio quality. A few are also much more expensive than the brands we discussed previously, but if you’re really serious about sound, then these are worth checking out:

If you're like most people, then you don’t necessarily care about the best possible audio at every frequency range. You just want a quality pair of headphones that suits your personal style, and you want it at a reasonable price. You might even be wondering just how low you can go on cost and still get a decent product, so let’s talk about that.

Cheap headphones: How cheap is too cheap?

There’s nothing better than getting a pair of surprisingly good cheap headphones. But whenever you’re paying under $50 for headphones, you’re taking a risk. That’s why we strongly suggest reading user reviews for the specific model that you want. Even famous higher-end brands like Bose sell lower-grade headphones that won’t impress any sound junkies.

If you want to save a buck, don’t forget that certified refurbished headphones offer like-new quality for a lower price than retail. So by shopping top brands on Back Market, you might just find the perfect AirPods or Pixel Buds or other headphones at a price you can afford. In case you aren’t completely satisfied when you listen to them, your purchase is protected by a one-year warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can shop with confidence in finding your next favorite pair of headphones or earbuds on Back Market.

Miguel G.

Written by Miguel G.Sr. Tech Copywriter (US)

Miguel is always looking for new ways to provide unique perspective on popular tech and has taken his writing to the refurbished industry to promote sustainability. Outside of creating content, you might find him travelling the globe, coaching a fitness class, or cheering on his favorite sports teams (Go Dolphins!)

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