Decision aid: the 10 best headphones of the moment (December 2020)

Those looking for a new pair of headphones are quickly confronted with the huge amount of choice from thousands of different models. From wired in-ear earphones of a few euros to large headphones with the most luxurious features. That is why we help you with choosing by means of this decision aid. These are the 10 best headphones right now.

Top 10 Best Headphones
  • 1. Sony WH-1000XM3
  • 2. Sennheiser HD 660 S
  • 3. Jabra Elite 85h
  • 4. Apple Airpods Pro
  • 5. Sony WF-1000XM3
  • 6. Bowers & Wilkins PX5
  • 7. Steelseries Arctis Pro Wireless
  • 8. Jabra Elite Active 75t
  • 9. HyperX Cloud II
  • 10. Sennheiser HD 820
Tips for your headphones
  • In- versus over-ear
  • The fit
  • Cable or wireless
  • Active noise cancellation (ANC)
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What types of headphones are there?
  • Is cheap always expensive?
  • What is the advantage of the different connections?
  • Do wireless headphones also have disadvantages?
  • What are SBC, aptX, AAC and LDAC?
  • What is active noise cancellation or active noise canceling (ANC)?
  • What is the difference between open or closed headphones?
  • What kind of headphones sound best?
  • Are gaming headsets a good option?

Top 10 Headphones (December 2020)

1. Sony WH-1000XM3

The all-round best headphones 10 Score 100

+ Comfort

+ Sound quality

+ Best ANC Quality

+ Neutral design

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is at home in all markets. The wireless headphones are not only known for their neutral and stylish design, but also offer the best active noise cancellation of the moment. In addition, the sound quality is excellent, even if the phone does have a slight emphasis on the lower tones. Since its launch, the price has dropped a lot, making it a pretty good deal these days too.Read our review here.

2. Sennheiser HD 660 S

Pure enjoyment 9 Score 90

+ Crisp sound

+ Comfortable

+ Build quality

- High impedance

If you're looking for no-fuss headphones and want to focus on sound quality, you should definitely look at the Sennheiser HD 660 S. The price of around 400 euros is hefty, but then you get something that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. . The headphones do have a fairly high impedance of 150 ohms, which means that an extra amplifier is not an unnecessary luxury. Your phone or laptop probably doesn't have enough power to let the HD 660 S come into its own. In addition, keep in mind that it is a completely open design, so everyone around you can listen in.

3. Jabra Elite 85h

Great value for money 8 Score 80

+ Price

+ ANC quality

+ Sound quality

- High clamping force

With the Elite 85h, Jabra shows that good ANC headphones do not have to cost 400 euros. Both the sound quality and active noise cancellation are remarkably good at this price point. The noise suppression not only manages to suppress noise from a train or plane well, but also voices have trouble getting in. This is actually the only model under 250 euros that can handle that well. The same goes for the sound quality. Lows are powerful without fading and mids are well detailed.

4. Apple Airpods Pro

The Best In-Ears For Apple Users 9 Score 90

+ Stylish design

+ Comfortable

+ iOS integration

- Controls

The Apple Airpods Pro are Apple's third generation Airpods and come with a lot of improvements. By considerably reducing the leg, the earphones are hardly larger than a wired in-ear headset and there is also less weight that hangs on your ear. The Airpods Pro are therefore even more comfortable than their predecessors, but that is very dependent on the three silicone inserts that Apple supplies. That is pretty meager at a price of 280 euros and not everyone will be able to find a suitable variant. The most significant change is the addition of active noise cancellation and significantly improved sound quality. Read our review here.

5. Sony WF-1000XM3

The most versatile in-ear 9 Score 90

+ Sound quality

+ ANC quality

+ Touch control

- Size and weight

. The Apple Airpods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 have a number of significant differences, but the choice is what is better for us mainly depending on the device you use with it. The Airpods Pro are the best match for Apple products, while the WF-1000XM3s are the best match for Android and Windows devices. Apple's in-ear headphones have a more compact design and better comfort, while the Sony WF-1000XM3 narrowly wins in terms of sound and ANC quality. If you look at the price, Sony is the big winner, because the WF-1000XM3 is no less than 90 euros cheaper. Read our review here.

6. Bowers & Wilkins PX5

The best on-ear 9 Score 90

+ Price

+ Lightweight

- Battery life

- Screen

If you are looking for stylish on-ear ANC headphones, you should turn to Bowers & Wilkins. This model is made of aluminum and fabric on the outside with a spectacular result. The headphones stand out because of the quality and materials used, but they don't scream for attention with bright colors or eye-catching logos. The excellent build quality translates into pleasant comfort with soft cushions and modest clamping force. This modest clamping force will also appeal to spectacle wearers because the temples of the glasses are not pressed against your skull. The sound has a nice balance between low and high, making the PX5 suitable for almost all genres. We are particularly pleased with the very deep bass reproduction. Those who want to exercise in peace with the headphones will also be very happy with the high-quality ANC, even if it does not close as well as on-ear headphones. Read our review here.

7. Steelseries Arctis Pro Wireless

The best gaming headset 9 Score 90

+ Sound

+ Features

+ Comfort

- Comfort large head

Comfort, good sound and many different options. A combination that you don't often come across in a gaming headset, but Steelseries makes it true in the Arctis Pro Wireless. You will no longer miss footsteps and music also sounds very good in this fairly large headset. Steelseries includes two batteries, each good for about 10 hours of gaming fun, so you will never be left with empty batteries if you put the extra battery in the charger every time. Read our review here.

8. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best in-ears for athletes 8 Score 80

+ Sound quality

+ Comfortable

+ EQ in app

- Too powerful bass

The Jabra Elite Active 75t is one of the most comfortable true wireless in-ear headphones. The low weight and the very pleasant fit ensure that you can keep the earphones in all day without any problems. The sound is very good, provided you really like a pounding bass or want to play with the equalizer. The bass is in fact so strong by default that other tones are considerably drowned out. The asking price of 180 euros is on the high side, but you do get a top-quality waterproof set in return.

9. HyperX Cloud II

The best affordable gaming headset 7 Score 70

+ Price

+ Sound quality

+ Build quality

- Short analog cable

Gaming headsets are generally not known for their sound quality, but the HyperX Cloud II does remarkably well in this area. This also applies to the microphone: a very clear voice and few disturbing noises from the environment. The headphones are also not made of cheap plastic like many of the competition, but feel very sturdy. The biggest disadvantage is therefore the short cable if you do not want to use the supplied USB-DAC.

10. Sennheiser HD 820

The best of the best 9 Score 90

+ Unparalleledsound

+ Fantastic build quality

+ Cables

- Price

Some people only settle for the best of the best. If you are such a person, then buy the Sennheiser HD 820. This audio monster of a good 2000 euros knows how to reproduce sound so well that you can be disturbed by the smallest recording errors. Just don't forget to buy an amplifier from the same price range, because a regular laptop or telephone will certainly not suffice.

Tips for your headphones

There are many types and sizes of headphones for sale in all price ranges. Before you buy headphones, you should therefore know where and for what you want to use headphones. Headphones that you use for sports must meet different requirements than a model that you only use at home on the couch. There are also headphones that can provide you with extra peace of mind in public transport or at the office.

In- versus over-ear

Headphones are a broad term and cover everything from the largest over-ear headphones to very small in-ear models. The latter type generally sounds a little less good, but it does have other major advantages. After all, you take them with you much easier and sometimes look more stylish. Athletes, in particular, can benefit more from earplugs than headsets, as they don't weigh as much and are less in the way during workout sessions. Athletes who find in-ear headphones uncomfortable should also look at on-ear headphones. These models are obviously heavier than in-ears, but are also less sweaty than the insulating over-ear headphones. If you want to keep your ears completely free, take a look at headphones that work through bone conduction. The sound then goes straight from your jawbone to your braincase.

The fit

Headphones don't just have to sound good, they also have to sit comfortably. This is something that is difficult to compare online, so you should actually go to the store once to try on different models. We generally make a distinction between in-, on- and over-ear. Those names really speak for themselves. With in-ear headphones the speakers are in your ears, with on-ear the ear cups are pressed against your ears and with over-ear the shells are around them. On-ear models can pinch quickly, but tend to be smaller and lighter than over-ear headsets. Over-ear models, on the other hand, can be a bit bulky and completely shut you off from the outside world, but are often more comfortable because your ears remain free. Also something to keep in mind: with some headphones, the ear cups can be folded inwards, so that the entire headset is easier to store. This option is not available with other headphones, they have a fixed shape.

If you have never worn in-ear headphones before, it is advisable to try a set of friends or family first. Such headphones are often not allowed to be tried in the store and often cannot be returned. Since not everyone responds equally well to the feeling of in-ear headphones, it would be a waste of money if you don't like it.

Cable or wireless

Do you want to listen via a cable, or rather wirelessly? There is something to be said for both. Wired headsets have a 3.5 millimeter connection and can therefore be connected to almost all audio equipment. You can listen as long as you want, because such headsets do not require a separate power supply. Wireless headsets, on the other hand, work via Bluetooth and therefore run on an internal battery. So now and then they have to be recharged. Manufacturers often tell you what the maximum battery capacity is. These kinds of wireless headphones seem to be the future as more and more smartphone manufacturers choose not to build a headphone jack in their latest phones. If you still want to listen with a wired headset, then you have to rely on adapters/dongles, namely 3.5 mm-to-usb-c. The reason that many users still swear by wired headphones is the sound quality: due to the limitations in the bandwidth of Bluetooth, the quality is often better with a cable.

Active noise cancellation (ANC)

Wireless headphones in the more expensive segment in particular often offer noise canceling, or noise suppression. This technique ensures that ambient sounds are filtered, so that you no longer hear anything from outside and can completely immerse yourself in the music. The question is whether you want to pay the extra for it. Noise reduction is particularly an interesting option for people who travel a lot: on the train or on long flights, it can really be a godsend. Even if you're not listening, you can still filter out the hum of your fellow passengers and the hum of the engines to take a nap in peace. The most luxurious headsets can now automatically let sound through, so that you don't miss any broadcasters at stations, for example. Some headphones have adaptive noise canceling; this means that - often in combination with an app - you can set the noise reduction to different degrees.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of headphones are there?

We are talking globally about in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones. We also know in-ear as earplugs; the speakers are in your ears. With an on-ear model, the sound box rests on your ears and with over-ear your ears are completely wrapped by the ear cups.

Is cheap always expensive?

Yes and no. Whatever type of headphones you choose, the models in the euro bins of the Blokker or at the checkout of the Action often break very quickly. For in-ear models it is therefore wise to look online for models from 15 euros. For on- and over-ear models, a minimum price of 30 euros is a nice guideline. Are you looking for a wireless model? Then it will cost you at least 50 euros. If you also want to add ANC, then there is very little of quality to be found under 150 euros.

What is the advantage of the different connections?

A cable with a 3.5mm jack often offers the highest sound quality, but the freedom of wireless headphones is the deciding factor for many people. Some gaming headsets have a USB connection to reproduce virtual 7.1 sound.

Do wireless headphones also have disadvantages?

The main disadvantage of wireless headphones is that they depend on their internal battery. That means that you have to charge the device every so often. In addition, audio purists will tell you that the quality of music via Bluetooth is inferior to audio via a cable. While that is theoretically correct, in some cases it takes a trained ear to hear the difference. You should rather look for a difference in sound quality in different price ranges, for example, or the presence of certain codecs. Read more about that in the next question. What is very important is the delay caused by the Bluetooth connection. In the most extreme cases, the delay is so great that voices are clearly out of sync with the images of the mouth.

What are SBC, aptX, AAC and LDAC?

SBC, aptX, AAC and LDAC are different codecs that transmit sound via Bluetooth. SBC is the basis and is sufficient for many people, but if you are looking for better sound quality, then aptX HD and LDAC are nice features to have. With a strong connection between your smartphone and the headphones, LDAC can even almost match a cable. For a fast connection with as little delay as possible, aptX LL is recommended. AAC is the alternative to aptX for Apple devices.

What is active noise cancellation or active noise canceling (ANC)?

We speak of active noise cancellation, also called Active Noise Canceling (ANC), if the headphones produce anti-noise with the help of the speakers. This reduces noise from outside the headphones, resulting in a wonderful silence. Ideal if you want to take a nap on the plane, concentrate in a busy office or completely isolate yourself from the rest of the household. The technology can be found in headphones from a few tens to hundreds of euros with large differences in quality.

What is the difference between open or closed headphones?

Unfortunately, the difference is often difficult to see and poorly indicated on the packaging, but can have a major effect on your experience and that of the people around you. Open headphones have openings on the outside of the headphones that allow the speaker diaphragm to move more easily. This ensures better sound quality, but also means that the sound is clearly audible to the people around you. In addition, the openings also ensure that you continue to hear more sound from the environment. Closed headphones have no openings and therefore let much less sound out.

What kind of headphones sound best?

In general, open over-ear headphones sound best, but that doesn't mean you experience the music best. If you often listen to music in a noisy environment or in public, closed headphones are a better choice because less sound 'leaks' in and out of the headphones.

Are gaming headsets a good option?

Part of the headphone market is completely focused on gaming. You can often recognize these headsets by their special appearance, often equipped with colored LED lighting. You can usually listen to great music with a gaming headset, although the sound image is not as specifically tuned to it as with regular models. Almost always, a gaming headset also has a microphone, to communicate with your friends while playing online. Another thing to look out for is the support for surround sound, 5.1 or even 7.1. This has added value in shooters in particular, you hear exactly where the enemies come from and the bullets fly around your ears lifelike. Games must also support this themselves.

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