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With thousands of headphones on the market across a massive spectrum of prices, it can be hard to figure out exactly which ones will give you the most bang for your buck. To help out, we’ve created this handy guide that will tell you exactly which headphones are the best buy for the audiophile in your life, no matter what budget you’re working with. From college students to venture capitalists, we’ve got your listening needs covered.
Best headphones for running: Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbud Headphones $15 (but can be found for at low as $8)
Just because you’re living on a budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also experience crystal clear audio when you’re listening to your headphones. These little wonders cost less than a movie ticket but pump out remarkable sound thanks to large 9mm neodymium drivers and wide frequency response. Their soft Ergofit design and different sizes of earpads ensure no matter how big your earholes these sweet babies will fit snuggly inside and block out some basic ambient noise. If you’re a heavy sweater who kills earbuds with ease while jogging, these simple, low-cost beauties are the solution you’re looking for, but they’re perfect for a morning commute as well. Plus no one tries to rob the guy in $15 ear buds.
Best headphones under $50: Samson SR850 $39.99
If you prioritize sound over fashion and don’t mind lugging around a massive pair of cans, the Samson SR850 provides a remarkable bang for your buck. For $40, these studio headphones pump out incredible sound, thanks to 50mm drivers and a massive dynamic range. Its 10Hz-30kHz frequency response means you’ll be able to hear the lowest of bass tones or the highest trebles your tunes can pump out, providing a beautiful listening experience no matter what genre gets you going. It even comes with an adapter to plug into your home stereo. While their bulk makes them a slightly awkward set to walk around with, the auto adjusting headband will make sure you get a comfy fit no matter what size your head is. For sitting on a plane or working at the office, you can’t do better for $40 than these little marvels.
Best noise-canceling headphones under $200: Samsung Level On $127-$160
These wireless noise-canceling headphones may not have a chord, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a remote. Utilizing Smart Touch button-free controls, you can pause, skip tracks, or adjust the volume of your playback, and the built-in microphone allows you to take calls while listening on your phone. If your battery dies, you can easily plug in an aux chord and keep your music going. Battery life is 11 hours using both Bluetooth and Active Noise Control, and 23 hours with just Bluetooth. Both of these features can be turned off individually, to conserve battery life however you want. Sound quality is clear, with strong bass and a full dynamic range whether you’re blasting rap or classical music. Some reviews have complained about their construction, so be nice to them, but if you’re looking for a stylish pair of wireless headphones under $200 these are a great bet.
Best headphones for $200: V-Moda Crossfade M-100
Sadly, the best sound quality around still comes from wired headphones, but with options like the V-Moda Crossfade M-100s you won’t mind. These award-winning headphones were fine-tuned by 200 audiophiles, leading to the perfect combination of deep bass, vivid mid ranges, and crystal clear high tones. Plus you never have to worry about charging them. Their special CLIQFOLD design helps keep these headphones from taking up too much space in your travel bag, but their beautiful design is something you won’t mind showing off. The M-100s biggest selling point is the special 50mm dual-diaphragm driver, which offers inner and outer rings that separate bass from the mids and highs, letting you enjoy the full range of sounds from your music.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 $349
The Bose QuietComfort 35’s might be pricey, but you’re getting some of the best active noise cancellation around, staggering comfort for your ears, and the rich sound that Bose has built its reputation on for years. Whether you’re connecting via Bluetooth, NFC, or the included wire, there’s no one who offers this level of sound quality and noise cancellation. Utilizing a noise-rejecting dual-microphone system, these cans listen to the world around you and figure out what sounds to block out, meaning they handle the quiet roar of an airplane or a crowded train station with equal skill. You can expect around 20 hours of battery life on wireless mode, and they take about 2.25 hours to fully charge. They’re not sweat or weather resistant, so don’t use them for your work out, but if money’s no object and you simply care about noise cancellation and sound quality, you’ll quickly learn why the QuietComfort 35s are so popular.
Best-sounding headphones: Oppo PM-3 $399
When the only thing that matters is sound, you can’t do any better than the Oppo PM-3s. With a frequency response of 10-50,000Hz, there’ll be able to pick up every subtle hint from the music you listen to. Did the guitar player scratch his nose during a recording? If it’s on the track, you’ll hear it. Their powerful noise cancellation isn’t quite as smart as Bose, but most casual listeners will never be able to tell the difference. With big comfy earpads and a weight of about half a pound, these cans won’t weigh your head down on a walk or cause any discomfort during prolonged use. There’s a noted lack of bells and whistles here, which should let you know just how good the sound quality you’re getting is. You are paying $399 for the best-sounding headphones available and nothing more. If you care about sound, that’s all the selling points you’ll need.
John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.