With more audio content available, online and offline, than ever before, 2018 has been the year to invest in the best headphones possible. But how do they compare to each other? Finding the perfect pair of headphones will be different for every individual, and only you know the trade-off you want between noise cancellation, wires/wireless, size, comfort, look and price.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones (30 Hours Battery Life, Quick Charge, Gesture Control, Ambient Sound Mode), Silver
At the highest end of the market this year, Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones have a lot of bang for their buck – not that you’ll hear anything unwanted through the noise cancellation. Unlike some wireless headphones whose short battery life is a hindrance to enjoying music wirelessly on long journeys or across a day without needing to recharge every few hours, this model boasts an impressive 30 hours, meaning that if you listened to them through a work week starting first thing Monday morning, it would be Thursday afternoon before they needed recharging! But do remember they will and be prepared, as you would with any other wireless headphones.
The model has also been engineered for lightness and comfort – while some manufacturers have been known to add plates of redundant metal into their headphones just to give a sense of weight and importance, Sony knows the most important part of your experience is your comfort and immersion. To further boost your immersion in the music the headphones offer an ambient sound mode, which is why there is industry-leading ambient noise cancellation included as well, ensuring you will not have to raise the volume to uncomfortable or dangerous levels. While these appear to be the best headphones for user experience, and won the editor’s choice at CNET for best headphone, they don’t come cheap at $348. But, by the crystal-clear sound of things, worth every cent.
Jabra Active Elite 65t
Denmark-based headphone specialist Jabra brings these wireless ear buds to the market to directly compete with Apple AirPods. CNET reviews suggest they have a better sound quality than the Apple competitor and are truly resistant to sweat and the danger of detaching from the ear. However, they can suffer from too tight a fit in the ear, which not all listeners will find pleasant, so if you choose to buy a pair, see if it is possible to check the fit first for this issue.
With their smaller size a shorter battery life is to be expected and the batteries last for 5 hours with quick charge options. While cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM3 model at $189.99 across all major marketplaces, these headphones are still a substantial investment. However, Jabra offers a range of products below their Elite series, including the Engage and Evolve lines, both of which retain many of the positive features but see prices drop to be within tighter budgets. The Evolve 65t coming soon will be earbuds that boast a 15-hour battery life so, if battery life with the convenience and feel of ear buds is a priority, it may be worth waiting for them to be unveiled.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Bose’s upgrade to the existing top-quality QuietComfort 35 series adds ease of access for Google Assistant to a set of headphones that already do almost everything required of them in 2018. Retailing across the board at $349 Bose know they are at the top of the market with Sony’s WH-1000XM and other similar models. Bose has a long-standing reputation for excellence in sound technology, and indeed this model changes little of the already excellent QuietComfort 35, sadly including a non-replaceable battery meaning that if there is a battery problem that could very well be the end of your headphones, which can be less of a problem in other lines. However, if you are upgrading to a first set of top of the line headphones these could very well be the pair for you, with the Google Assistant commands allowing you to organise your life while you walk and listen.
Easy to carry, listen to, and of course easiest to run in collaboration with other Apple devices, Apple’s own headphones, available for $159 from Apple and slightly cheaper elsewhere, are still the go-to template most people think of when they hear “wireless headphones”. While they lose out in sound quality and ability to stick in all ears equally to Jabra, the AirPods offer a convenient protective charging case, good sound quality and a super light earbud which effectively blocks ambient noise for the vast majority of customers. Again, this is a product to check and try before you buy. As one of the world’s leading companies Apple has the resources to keep upgrading the AirPods, and it will be interesting to see what new developments happen with them.