There's an endless selection when it comes to headphones and finding the right pair is not only tough but there’s a lot of subjectivity involved depending on what matters most to you -- audio quality, comfort, features and so on. But one thing is for sure, if you’re serious about your music, movies and gaming those plastic earbuds that come with your smartphone just won’t cut it. We've gone through hundreds of tests from professional audio reviewers combined with our own views and experience to bring you our favorites headphones across a few different styles and categories, including over-the-ear, in-ear, noise cancelling, gaming, sports-oriented, budget and wireless. All of these should be at the top of your consideration list.

Best Over the Ear

Audio Technica ATH-M50x

The ATH-M50x are the most critically acclaimed model in Audio-Technica’s M-Series line, praised by audio engineers and pro audio reviewers alike. They are sort of the anti-Beats -- meant for listeners who appreciate the best representation of true sound possible over fashion accessories and the whole Beats marketing machine. These are technically “studio monitor” headphones, which means they are designed to reproduce accurate tones and vocals with minimal flavoring or sweetening.

In terms of performance What Hi-Fi says vocals and instruments have a good deal of texture and are nicely separated on a well-organised soundstage, while Soundguys says the bass hit the lows better than most headphones in its price range. It’s not overpowering and you can truly feel the sound.

The headphones are well-built and have a sturdy design that looks and feels like it will hold up well over time. The M50x are large but they’re comfortable enough to wear for extended periods. They have big 45mm drivers, sound great with all music genres, and provide a good amount of over-the-ear isolation. Cnet notes that although they don't have the active noise cancellation of the Bose QuietComfort series or Beats Studio, they do a good job of passively sealing out the sound from the outside world.

Every pair of M50x headphones comes with three cables in the box: the curly cable, the 3-meter straight cable, and a mobile-friendly 1.2-meter cable. The cables are detachable so you can, for example, use the long cable at your desk and the short one on your commute. Audio-Technica unfortunately doesn't include a cable with a controller and microphone with the ATH-M50x, but for the price they are still likely to appeal to a wide audience and not just audio purists.

Best In Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear M2 G/i

Sennheiser's Momentum range has a reputation for style and comfort and the Momentum In-Ear M2 is no exception. It's slick, lightweight and comfortable, and has a flat rubberized cable with an integrated remote and mic. The earpiece bodies are plastic, with a little plate of metal on the back with the Sennheiser logo, and a stainless steel sound tunnel on the inside.

The Momentum In-Ear provide excellent bass with depth and impact you might not expect to get from an in-ear headphone, coupled with a lively treble for an excellent dynamic range. What HiFi calls the lows rich and weighty, the highs crisp and precise, though Cnet finds there's not much warmth in the midrange.

Unlike most headphones equipped with a three-button remote that are made to work with iPhones, these come in both iOS and Android variants. The controller provides playback, pause, next track, previous track as well as volume up and down functionality, while the integrated microphone works well for calls.

The headphones come in a very well built zippered nylon case for protection and include four different-sized eartips to help promote a good seal for noise isolation an optimal listening experience. Priced at around $85 the Momentum In-Ear have a lot going for them and are a step above rivals such as the Sony MDR-EX650AP.

Best Noise Cancelling

Bose QuietComfort QC 25

Active noise-cancellation headphones are a Bose staple, with the company releasing some of the very best pairs in this class over the years. The QuietComfort 25 builds upon the outstanding reputation of its predecessor, the QuietComfort 15, while improving on a few areas.

In terms of design, for instance, Bose improved the folding design to make the QC25 fit into a more compact carrying case, while also sporting a more stylish look. The headphones feature large, comfortable ear cups with metal domes and leather cushions. The headband features a woven material on the outside and faux suede on the inside. Construction feels solid overall and despite using a lot of plastic they hold their own pretty well.

The noise cancelling feature is activated using a switch on the right cup and it’s very effective at muting the outside world, more so than any other device in this category. It’s extremely effective at zapping low-frequency hums. TrustedReviews, SoundGuys, Best Noise Cancelling all came out impressed after testing it in various environments, from air travel and commuting, to noisy office environments.

Active noise cancellation requires a single AAA battery. Though some reviewers were upset with the lack of a rechargeable battery, replacing a single battery is faster and arguably more convenient than plugging the headphones in to charge when needed. If we had to mention one downside is how easy it is to leave them on accidentally and killing the single battery, an auto-standby mechanism would be ideal here.

While noise cancellation is the main reason to buy the Bose QuietComfort 25, their sound is quite good, too. TrustedReviews notes the soundstage is wide and well defined without ever leaning towards any part of the frequency range. What Hi-Fi mentions its smooth and open midrange with plenty of detail and clarity, and while most reviews agree you can find better sound quality in this price range, you won't find anything better than the QC25 in the noise-canceling category.

The Bose QuietComfort 25 ships with a detachable cord featuring an inline remote control and microphone, as well as a zip-up protective case and a double 3.5mm jack adapter - the type used for some aircraft entertainment systems. For going out and about or just shutting out everyday ambient noise while listening to music or watching video, the QuietComfort 25 headphones are easy to recommend.

Best Gaming Headset

Kingston HyperX Cloud 2

Kingston is a brand primarily associated with storage devices, but back in 2014 the company released a surprisingly good gaming headset known as the HyperX Cloud. Its successor, the aptly named Kingston HyperX Cloud II retains the same design and snuggly fit while adding some new features like virtual 7.1 surround sound for extra immersion and stronger sound isolation.

In terms of comfort the HyperX Cloud II in a class of its own. TomsGuide calls it the most comfortable gaming headset they’ve tried, while IGN emphasizes you can wear this headphone for hours without getting a headache or having your ears pinched.

Gaming headsets sometimes tend to be pretty gaudy but Kinsgton keeps things stylish and understated -- except, perhaps, for the white and pink model. The headset's leatherette-coated band and ear cups are connected by metal forks on either side, which allow each ear cup to be adjusted about an inch up or down, and to swivel back and forth. The detachable Cloud II mic extends 6 inches, featuring a highly flexible coil and a large foam tip, while an USB dongle has controls for chat volume, game volume, toggling 7.1 surround sound and muting the mic.

Opinions vary on the 7.1-channel virtual surround sound feature, while some find it gimmicky others claim it provides an accurate approximation of where things like bullets, footsteps and grenades are coming from while gaming. Turning it on and off requires a single button press so you don’t need to use it if you prefer the stereo output.

There’s no active noise cancellation and that’s to be expected at this price point, the closed headphone design still manages to keep out a lot of external noise. Overall its 53mm drivers deliver the great bass and clear mid/high tones. The microphone is very good too, with the USB sound card providing external noise cancellation and echo cancellation.

The Kingston HyperX Cloud II ships with a carrying case, an airline adapter and replaceable velour ear cushions. For less than $100 it’s a well-built, comfortable, excellent-sounding gaming headset that packs plenty of features and extras for your dollars. Look forward to: While working on this guide, Kingston announced the HyperX Revolver for $120, and at least on paper they should be superior to the Cloud II. Initial reviews have been positive so we'll keep an eye out for more information coming out to keep this guide up to date.

Best Wireless

Sennheiser RS 165 Wireless Hi-Fi Headphones

In numbers

The RS 165 is the entry level model in Sennheiser's line of RF headphones consisting of two components: the actual headphones and a base station (transmitter) that doubles as a charging stand. Setup is pretty simple, just plug the base into a power source and then use a 3.5mm or optical cable to connect it to anything with an audio output -- most likely your home theather setup as that sort of use is what these headphones are designed for -- and audio will be transmitted interference-free to the headphones up to a 30m (100-foot) range using a proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless link.

The headphones feature a closed-back design, the earpads are thick and the headband has a bit of extra padding to minimize pressure points. The right earcup has built-in volume controls and a bass-boost on/off switch. The RS 165 isn’t particularly attractive, if anything they're a bit bulky, but also quite comfortable to use even during long binge watching sessions.

Headphones & Earphones Reviews says the RS 165 sound a lot better than the typical high-end Bluetooth headphones while Cnet agrees they are more or less on par with similarly priced wired headphone models. The Wirecutter calls its bass smooth and defined, dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and found the headphones to have good left- and right-channel separation. The bass boost option is best left off when watching movies but can add a good deal of kick when listening to music.

At $185 the RS 165 is pricey compared with wireless Bluetooth options but offers a rock-steady connection, no latency issues and extended range. Battery life is rated at 18 hours so as lons as you remember to place them over the transmitter for charging when not in use, they'll always be good to go.

Best Sports

Jaybird Bluebuds X2 Wireless

Jaybird has carved out its niche in the market with products aimed at fitness and sports enthusiasts. The BlueBuds X2 are the successor to the well-regarded and now discontinued Bluebuds X, bringing some minor modifications to the mix such as more contoured flaps to fit more securely into your ear, three additional sizes of Comply foam tips, a rubberized case rather than X's clamshell, and five different colors rather than two.

Its earpieces are a little on the large side but this is offset by solid 8-hour battery life as well as impressive sound quality well-suited to any sort of music. Soundguys call their bass performance well defined without giving way to boominess, while The Wirecutter notes the mids have a depth that’s surprising in a Bluetooth headphone with the high end open-sounding and clear.

Connectivity-wise JayBird uses Bluetooth 2.1 HDR instead of the more battery-efficient Bluetooth 4.0, but in terms of sound quality there's apparently no difference between the two. The company uses something it calls ‘Shift Premium Bluetooth Audio’, essentially a proprietary SBC Bluetooth codec which compresses audio to maintain the high quality, and they also claim to have improved the signal strength on the X2 so you'll never experience skipping.

The included mic and remote features three buttons. The plus and minus buttons control volume with a tap, while holding them down for one second will skip tracks. The middle button is used to pause and resume playback or answer and end calls with a tap, while holding it down for one second will turn the X2s on or reject calls. Holding the button down for four seconds turns the X2 off.

Importantly, being aimed at fitness and sports enthusiasts, the X2 offer a lifetime sweatproof warranty. They are very light and likely to fit most sets of ears. Despite a relatively high price tag X2 is one of the best options out there in its class.

Best Budget

Sennheiser HD 202 2

The HD 202 II are over-ear headphones of the closed-back variety, meaning the earcups filter out a decent amount of ambient sounds which is appreciated when using on your commute or out and about. Design-wise they don't look particularly special, but are very durable compared with other plastic headphones and they don't feel cheap despite costing just $20.

Sound quality is impressive for a set of earphones in its price range. WhatHiFi says the audio's a little more enclosed compared to an open-backed pair, but for closed-backs these are pleasantly spacious and airy with lovely vocal focus and instrument clarity. Headfonia did some comparisson testing against more expensive units like the Audio Technica M-50 and Superlux HD668B and came away impressed with the HD202 II’s midrange, low level detail and ambiance.

Technicalities aside, if you are looking looking for an affordable step up from your smartphone earbuds for casual listening to music or watching movies at home, the HD 202 II will likely offer a big upgrade in sound quality. They also offer a comfortable fit and replaceable earcups. One (forgivable) gripe reviewers had is that its 10 feet (3 meters) long cable is an inconvenience when on the go.

Product images by Sound Guys & Trigame (Audio-Technica ATH-M50x), G Style Magazine (Bose QuietComfort QC 25), JayzTwoCents (Kingston HyperX Cloud II), RandomFrankP (Jaybird Bluebuds X2 Wireless), EarMass (Sennheiser HD202 II), Hardware Canucks (Sennheiser RS 165 Wireless).