The Grado SR325e, one of Consumer Reports' best-rated wired headphones
Photo: Grado

You can’t beat wireless headphones for convenience, and Bluetooth headphones are becoming more and more popular as cell phones with a headphone jack get harder to find. But there are a few reasons you might want to stick with classic wired headphones. For one, wired headphones still deliver the best audio.

“If you’re looking for the ultimate in sound quality, you’ll find it in a wired headphone,” says Maria Rerecich, Consumer Reports’ senior director of product testing. “Although wireless headphones can be great, they don’t match the best wired headphones.”

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Wired headphones have other advantages as well. Of course, you won’t need to buy or recharge batteries for the headphones, unless they’re a noise-canceling model. And the cheapest wired headphones are typically less expensive than low-priced wireless headphones.

Consumer Reports’ experts test more than 40 headphones every year on a range of criteria, including comfort, audio quality, and features such as noise cancellation. We don’t accept samples from manufacturers. Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organization that buys every pair at retail, just like you might.

Grado Prestige SR325e

If you won’t settle for anything but the best in audio quality, the Grado Prestige SR325e should hold your attention. It’s not only Grado’s flagship model but also a sound-quality champ, according to our testers.

The Grado looks good, too. With the powder-coated aluminum housing and leather headband, these headphones are the perfect choice for the audiophile who appreciates a retro aesthetic.

You probably won’t be showing them off in public, though. The open-back ear cups—an intentional design choice meant to add clarity to the audio—aren’t intended to block sound from bleeding in or out, so they might not be suited for noisy environments or when you don’t want to bother a neighbor. The SR325e is best for the listener who wants to plunk down in a comfy chair and bask in the glory of high-fidelity sound.

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Grado Prestige SR325e

Price: $295

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1More Triple Driver

The 1More E1001 Triple Driver is among the best-sounding headphones in CR’s tests, and it’s a real bargain, too. The Triple Driver can be found for well under $100.

The integrated microphone, call/connect, playback, and volume controls will play nicely with your iPhone, though as with a lot headphones, some controls might not work on every device. The isolating design also muffles ambient noise and blocks some sound from bleeding out and bothering your neighbors.

For a boost in sound quality, you might consider the next step up from 1More, the Quad Driver. It’s more expensive and gets the same score in our ratings, but our testers noted that the Quad Driver’s bass and treble performance is more even.

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1MORE E1001 Triple Driver

Price: $70

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Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Over the years, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x has earned a loyal fan base among serious music listeners as a dependable option for both at-home listening and professional studio use. These $150 headphones have great audio quality, and their closed-back design will muffle some external noise and limit sound escaping while you listen. They come with three detachable cables, one coiled and two straight in varying lengths.  

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Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Price: $150

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Grado Prestige SR80e

The Grado Prestige SR80e is a perennial favorite among audio fans who want top-notch sound at a midrange price. Make no mistake, these headphones sound great, but they didn’t score quite as well in our tests as some high-end models. But at $100, even the most critical listener will probably agree that they’re a bargain.

Like all of Grado’s home/studio-style headphones, the SR80s have a classic throwback design. And as with the SR325e, this model’s open-back ear cups let sound in and out, so they’re best for a quiet listening environment.

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Grado Prestige SR80e

Price: $100

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Scosche SportFlex 3

The Scosche SportFlex 3 is a steal at about $15. According to our tests, these earphones produce better sound than some models that cost 10 times as much.

The manufacturer claims the SportFlex 3 is water-resistant. (Consumer Reports doesn’t test this feature in headphones.) The model comes with built-in call and audio-playback controls that work with iPhones and most Android devices. And the ergonomic adjustable ear hooks hold the earpieces in place during a workout.

Those ear hooks make the earphones a little bulkier than others, however, and that can take away from comfort and fit for some users. If you’re looking for other options in the same price range, the $15 Panasonic RP-TCM125 is a decent alternative, though the sound quality isn’t quite as good.

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Scosche SportFlex 3

Price: $15

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Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro

The Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro headphones sell for just about $20. They won’t win any awards for sound, but the audio quality is decent, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better over-the-ear pair of headphones for the money. 

This home/studio-style model is better suited for the couch than the treadmill. The headphones have an isolating, closed-back design that helps block some ambient noise.

The “DJ-style” moniker signifies that the ear cups rotate, a must-have for budding DJs who want the classic look and the convenience of letting in the outside world for a second without taking off your headphones.

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Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style

Price: $20

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How to Choose Headphones

With so many types of headphones, how do you know which pair is right for you? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Elias Arias explains everything you need to know.