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Headphones

What's behind our headphone Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 162 models in headphones to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is based on sound quality and effectiveness of ambient noise reduction. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points.
  • Sound quality
    Represents the tonal accuracy, clarity, detail, ambience, and dynamics of the audio reproduced by the headphone.
  • Noise reduction
    Represents how well the headphone reduces ambient noise when the active noise cancellation feature is activated.
  • Sensitivity
    An assessment of how loud wire connected headphones will play for a given audio input signal level. This is an important consideration if the headphones will be used with audio devices that have relatively low maximum audio output signal levels like some battery powered portables. Some models have 2 sensitivity levels given: one with the highest selectable setting or noise-reduction switch ON and the other with the lowest selectable setting or noise-reduction switch OFF. Not applicable for wireless headphones that lack a cord connection option.
  • Type
    Over the ear models completely envelop the ear. On-ear models sit on top of the ears. Insert models are inserted into the ear canal. Earbud models rest in the ear outside of the ear canal and may have a portion that extends into the ear canal.
  • Design
    Closed headphones rest on or around the user's ears and rely on a seal between the user's ears and the headphone for proper bass response, and somewhat isolate the user from outside sounds. Open air models rest on or around the user's ears but do not rely on a seal between the user's ears and headphones for proper bass response and do not isolate the user from outside sounds. Ear insert models are inserted into and are held in place by the ear canal; they rely on a seal between the user's ears and the headphones for proper bass response, and somewhat isolate the user from outside sounds. Earbud models rest in the area outside of the ear canal and may extend into the ear canal but do not rely on the ear canal to be held in place; they do not rely on a seal between the user's ears and headphones for proper bass response and do not isolate the user from outside sounds.

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Recommended headphones

Recommended headphones are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
The type of headphones you buy depends mostly on your lifestyle and somewhat on your budget; they range in price from $10 to $500. If you're looking for information about headphones, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ headphone reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our headphone buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and headphone reviews to help you choose the best headphone for your needs.

Recently reviewed headphones

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J46BT
Portable Bluetooth wireless isolating ear-insert earphones that come with three pairs of earpieces of various sizes, two pairs of ear bowl clips of various sizes, USB charging cable, and a carrying case.

Headphone buying guide

At home, almost any good headphones will do. They can allow you to enjoy a late-night movie without disturbing your sleeping spouse or listen to music while the kids run amok in the background.

If you'll be listening to music or videos on a crowded plane, consider headphones that can reduce ambient noise. The physical design of some headphones can help block outside noise. That's true of closed, over-the-ear headphones, as well as in-ear-style earphones that are inserted into the ear canal, forming a seal against outside sounds, much like an earplug. Active noise-canceling models use battery-powered electronic circuitry that can reduce extraneous noises to various degrees. Use this headphone guide to find the right pair for you.

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