On the hunt for the best wired headphones? You’re in the right place. From in-ears to over-ears, closed-back and open-back, there are plenty of options out there. Ideal if you’d rather have the reliable, charge-free, and tactile experience of a cable-toting pair of cans or buds.
While fancy Bluetooth headphones have become the norm, audiophiles and people who’d rather not have to deal with charging another gadget still flock to wired headphones to get their audio fix. With so many different options available, choosing the right ones for you can be tricky. That’s why we’ve rounded up our top pick of the best wired headphones, to help make your decision that little bit easier.
What are the best wired headphones?
Before we look at the full list of best wired headphones, here’s a quick glance at our three main picks:
- Best budget over-ear headphones: Superlux HD681
This semi-open back pair of headphones is, to be rather blunt, ludicrously under-priced considering the sonic performance they offer. Regarded to be one of the best value-for-money headphones around, they’re superb for those who place sound quality over looks and all-day comfort.
- Best wired in-ear headphones: Shure AONIC 3
The AONIC 3 in-ears are light and comfortable, with the cables cleverly looping over your ears for a secure fit. Oh, and they sound absolutely fabulous too, with superb sound isolation thrown in for good measure. There are few rivals at this price.
- Best premium wired headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
One of the more expensive options on our list, the DT 900 Pro X headphones blend exceptional sound performance with a sturdy, premium, and comfortable build for great all-round performance.
Our round-up of the best wired headphones
Better known for its microphones, RØDE’s NTH-100 are the company’s first-ever pair of headphones. A pair of over-ear monitors aimed at professionals like podcasters, live streamers and audio engineers, they combine excellent sonic performance with superior all-day comfort, with a sturdy build quality to boot. A pair of 40mm dynamic drivers deliver a frequency response ranging from 5Hz to 35kHz. That provides a clarity you might normally expect to hear from a high-end pair of open-back headphones.
Despite their impressive specs, they won’t break the bank, and luxurious materials like Alcantara-covered memory foam earpads belie the sticker price. The pads are made with a layer of CoolTech gel, which helps absorb and dissipate heat. This means you remain comfortable during marathon listening sessions. A solid all-rounder for work and play.
- Read more: RØDE NTH-100 review
SoundMagic prides itself on providing great sound at budget prices, and the E11C is no exception. A successor to the critically-acclaimed E10, each bud in the E11C packs in improved drivers, which provide substantial thump for bass lovers. Sound is warm and balanced, with nothing harsh or jarring to disturb sensitive ears.
They might not look exciting, but for a pair of buds that sound this good for this low a price, there’s little to complain about. Throw in built-in in-line controls for volume, music and call playback… And you’ve got a set of headphones that serve up heaps of bang for your buck.
The Philips SHP9500 have an open-back design, which gives music a wider, more open feeling, and, in most cases, more accurate, better sound. The downside though, is that they also leak sound, which will disturb anyone else around you. They also let in external noises too. So if you’re going for an open-back pair of headphones, bear in mind that they’ll be best suited for use at home, ideally in a quiet room.
With all that said, if you are looking for an open-back experience, these are a great pair of headphones to get you started. Punchy 50mm drivers provide crisp yet balanced lows, mids and highs. They’ve been specifically positioned to better deliver sound directly into your ears. With premium materials including a steel headband and breathable ear cushions, they look and feel the part too.
If you dive deep enough down the near-infinite depths of audiophile forums and Reddit threads, you’ll eventually come across people discussing the Superlux HD681. Described as semi-open (but definitely more on the open end of things), they are regarded by audio enthusiasts to be one of the best headphones around, period. Despite their ludicriously low price, they are lauded for their fantastic, rich, balanced sound. Although many people do recommend nudging the high end down in an EQ app to reduce the sharpness.
At this price, you’re not going to get luxurious build quality of comfort, which is where the HD681 is likely to let you down. Still, the sound quality to price ratio is, quite frankly, insane. They’re absolutely worth a punt if you’re starting out on your audiophile journey or simply want to experience their value for money with your own ears,
Austrian Audio Hi-X15
These closed-back headphones have a solid metal construction for a more robust feel, along with soft memory foam earpads for comfort. They’re foldable for easier storage too, and come with a generous 1.4m-long detachable cable. The 44mm drivers, in conjunction with a ring magnet system, translates to a crisp, clear, and accurate listening experience.
Reviews mention a slight lack of bass — or, rather, accurate bass that’s a faithful reproduction of the artist intended. If you’re used to more bass-orientated mainstream headphones, or simply prefer more oomph, then these crisp cans might not be the best choice. But if you want to listen to tracks with perfect balance at an affordable price, these will serve you well.
Shure Aonic 3
Shure has historically made some of the best wired headphones around, and the Aonic 3 is up there with them. Lightweight and comfortable, the cable is designed to hook over your ears for a secure fit. The included nine different ear tips provide an excellent choice for a comfortable fit with superb sound isolation.
Sound quality is exceptional, as you’d hope at this price, and not many other in-ear buds can rival them for sound quality. The in-line controls are handy too, saving you from whipping your phone out to change tracks or answer calls.
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
If you’re prepared to drop a big wad of cash for some top-tier headphones, Beyerdynamic’s offering won’t disappoint. Open-backed for a more spatial listening experience, its Stellar.45 driver promises to loudly reproduce the best sound in studio quality. And Beyerdynamic promises no distortion, regardless of what device you’re using. Just be wary of the quality of your source, as they’re accurate to the point of bringing out flaws in poor-quality material.
Comfort-wise your ears will have no complaints either, thanks to soft velour earpads and a memory foam headband — both of which can be easily replaced for improved longevity. Coupled with a rugged cable, metal, and glass-fibre reinforced plastic parts, this is a pair of over-ears that should last you for years to come.
Used by professional audio engineers around the world (not to mention heavy hitters including Drake, Mariah Carey, and Lady Gaga), the ATH-M50x is a legendary pair of headphones. They’re renowned for their tank-like build and useful 90-degree swivelling earcups for easy one-ear monitoring.
Sound quality is, unsurprisingly, excellent, driven by 45mm large-aperture drivers. A selection of different cables available in different lengths and coil types makes for a flexible solution depending on the scenario. They look the part too, with a minimal-yet-functional design aesthetic that should appeal to practically everyone.
New York-based Grado has been crafting some incredible headphones for just shy of 70 years, and their retro design never fails to impress. Don’t be deceived though — there’s plenty of audio tech hidden beneath those foam earpads and padded headband.
An open-back pair of headphones with 44mm drivers and a premium metal construction, they’ll pump precisely balanced, music into your ears with incredible clarity. A reassuringly durable, braided cable provides extra peace of mind.
Campfire Audio Honeydew
This rather unusual set of in-ears from Campfire Audio does a great job of standing out from the dull crowd that make up the majority of its competitors. With a strikingly soft-yet-angular shape and a rich, deep yellow/orange colour, it’s definitely a top contender in the design department.
Looks aside, they sound superb too, thanks to 10mm drivers that offer up a very impressive amount of bass compared to most rivals, without muddying the audio waters. If your ears love hanging out in the low end, and you’re after a premium experience with an eye-catching design to match, look no further.
They’re far from cheap, but if you’re happy to pay the price, these wired studio-quality reference in-ears from Etymotic will not let you down. Aimed at listeners who refuse to accept anything other than the highest-fidelity experience possible, they promise to serve up a perfectly balanced performance, letting you hear every detail in clarity. Key specs for audiophiles include a 20-Hz-16Hz frequency range, a 122dB maximum output, and 35-42 dB noise isolation.
Practical features include a robust build, noise-isolating ear tips, and a removable braided cable —all of which should make for a pair of buds that should last you for years to come with proper care.