Headphones: Expert and User Reviews

Updated May 31, 2014
In this report

Headphones: Ratings of Sources

1. TheWirecutter.com Headphones, TheWirecutter.com, As of May 2014
Credibility:
Editors at TheWirecutter.com rate headphones in a variety of categories and price ranges. They comb through reviews and consult professionals to choose a short list of candidates for hands-on testing. These top picks then face a panel of audio experts who rate their sound quality, construction, comfort and features. The top-rated pair in each category earns "The Best" award, followed by a few runners up.
2. ConsumerReports.org Headphones, ConsumerReports.org
Credibility:
ConsumerReports.org conducts thorough tests of headphones, rating sound quality, sensitivity and noise reduction. Its latest test covers 150 models of headphones and earphones, spanning the price spectrum from $10 to $400. Editors classify headphones as either portable or home/studio style and noise-canceling or non-noise-canceling. Many of the top-rated models are earphones, but about 20 on-ear and over-the-ear headphones earn recommendations. ConsumerReports.org also offers a buying guide for headphones that's available to nonsubscribers.
3. Which? magazine Headphone Reviews, Which? magazine, As of May 2014
Credibility:
This British consumer advocacy magazine and website currently has ratings for 59 sets of headphones. A panel of three experts listens to seven pieces from a variety of genres to assess sound quality, as well as evaluating comfort and fit. Additional testers measure sound leakage and rate the quality of construction. Ten headphone sets are named as Best Buys, and another 11 are listed as "Don't Buys" to avoid.
4. CNET Best headphones, CNET, April 29, 2014
Credibility:
CNET's reviewers test a variety of headphones, both wired and wireless. Here, Justin Yu lists the site's top picks for various uses, such as "Best DJ headphone" and "Best noise-canceling headphone." Links at the side of the page take you to lists that show additional highly rated headphones in each category. Clicking on the name of a product pulls up a detailed review that covers design, comfort and performance.
5. PCMag.com The Best Headphones for Every Budget, PCMag.com, Jan. 16, 2014
Credibility:
This roundup includes 10 sets of on-ear and over-the-ear headphones that have earned the Editors' Choice award at PCMag.com. This page provides a rating and a one-sentence summary for each pair, plus a link to a hands-on review that discusses design, fit and audio performance in detail. A link at the bottom of the article takes you to a second roundup specifically for noise-canceling headphones.
6. What Hi-Fi? Best Buys Headphones, What Hi-Fi?, As of May 2014
Credibility:
What Hi-Fi? is a British magazine devoted to reviews of many types of audio equipment, including headphones. This page lists the headphones the magazine selected as Best Buys for 2013 in various categories and price ranges. Reviews are hands-on, covering design and performance, but they're less detailed than those at some other tech sites and not all headphones are available in the U.S.
7. Macworld Headphones, Macworld, As of May 2014
Credibility:
This page lists all recent headphone-related articles at Macworld and its sister site, TechHive.com. The main list of headphone reviews doesn't show ratings, but there's a short list at the side of the page that shows the five top-rated headphones on the site. The linked reviews vary in length and quality; some cover a single pair of headphones in detail, while others are roundups comparing several different sets in the same price range.
8. Laptop Magazine Headphone Reviews, Laptop Magazine, As of May 2014
Credibility:
Laptop has over 50 reviews for headphones and earphones, dating back to 2007. Ten models have earned the magazine's Editors' Choice award, although some of them are now discontinued. Reviews are hands-on, covering sound quality, design and features. The editors also provide a handy summary of pros and cons for each pair of headphones.
9. Wired Headphones, Wired, As of May 2014
Credibility:
Wired has reviewed many sets of headphones in the past two years. Reviews are based on hands-on testing, but they vary in length and quality. A bug in the site displays review titles incorrectly on this main page, but editors helpfully call out their three favorites. Right at the top: the Sennheiser Momentum for Best Sound, the Bowers & Wilkins P5 for Best Design, and the Creative Aurvana Live! for Best Value.
10. Good Gear Guide by PC World Australia Headphones Reviews, Good Gear Guide by PC World Australia, As of May 2014
Credibility:
The Good Gear Guide, a site run by PC World Australia, reviews many sets of headphones, and reviews can be sorted by date, type, rating and price. However, there's no way to see at a glance which headphones have received the site's Editor's Choice and Best Buy awards. Eventually, by clicking through reviews one by one, we found eight sets of headphones that have earned these top ratings.
11. Head-Fi.org Headphones, Head-Fi.org, As of May 2014
Credibility:
Head-Fi.org is a site devoted to audio gear of all kinds, including headphones. Users on this site tend to be knowledgeable about music and technology, so their reviews are often more substantial than those found on retail sites. The site also sums up the most commonly cited pros and cons for each set of headphones and shows what percentage of users recommend it.
12. Amazon.com Headphones Store, Amazon.com, As of May 2014
Credibility:
Amazon.com sells thousands of headphones, and some have hundreds or even thousands of reviews from users. With this many reviews, even small differences in overall rating can be statistically significant. The sheer volume of reviews makes it easier to spot problems that may affect only a fraction of users, such as uncomfortable fit or unreliable performance.
13. GoodCans.com by Listening Station Best Headphones: Headphone Recommendations, GoodCans.com by Listening Station
Credibility:
"Bill K," the proprietor of this online headphone store, offers reviews and comparisons of many models he sells. Here, he offers his top picks for headphones in several price ranges, from around $50 to over $1,000. More complete reviews of most of these headphones can be found elsewhere on the site, though the page doesn't link to them directly. The full reviews evaluate sound quality, design and features.
14. HiFi Headphones Best Headphones: Review of the Top 10 Best Headphones, HiFi Headphones
Credibility:
This British retail site sells headphones and nothing but headphones. On this page, the site's owners list their top 10 in-ear, hi-fi (audiophile) and portable headphones, with three or four models recommended in each category. Reviews of each model are only a few paragraphs, and there's no mention of testing methods, but the site does a good job of covering the basics.