From in-ears to over-ears, closed-back and open-back, there are plenty of wired headphones options out there. They’re ideal if you’d rather have the reliable, charge-free, and tactile experience of a cable-toting pair of cans or buds. While 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?
We think the Grado SR325x (check price) are the best wired headphones. 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.
Other wired headphone recommendations
Are the Grado SR325x not quite right for you? Here’s a quick glance at our other picks:
The Superlux HD681 (check price) are, 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.
The Shure AONIC 3 (buy now) 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.
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X (buy now) is 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.
The best wired headphones you can buy today:
1. Grado SR325x
These stunning open-back cans are the best wired headphones you can buy
- Stunning clarity
- Gorgeous retro design
- Foam earpads are unsual
- Open backs leak sound
|Grado SR325x specs|
|Frequency Response||18 – 24,000 Hz|
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.
2. Superlux HD681
Amazing bang for your buck, if you’re after ultimate sound quality without breaking the bank, these are the headphones for you
- Neutral sound
- Comfortable fit
- Not the best build quality
- Can’t detach the cable
|Frequency Response||10 – 30,000 Hz|
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 ludicrously 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.
3. Shure Aonic 3
If in-ears are more you thing, you can’t go wrong with the Shure Aonic 3
- Impeccable sound
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Not the most dynamic
|Driver size||Balanced Armature|
|Frequency Response||20 – 18,500 Hz|
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.
4. Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
Yes, they’re expensive, but you certainly won’t be disappointed by the sound quality or comfort of these cabled headphones
- Incredibly comfortable
- Premium build quality
- Not the most portable option out there
|Frequency Response||5 – 40,000 Hz|
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.
5. RØDE NTH-100
The RØDE NTH-100 are the perfect pair of podcast headphones – fact.
- Uncoloured sound
- Adjustable fit
- Fairly heavy
- Fabric earcups are harder to clean than vinyl
|Frequency Response||5Hz – 35,000 Hz|
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
6. SoundMagic E11C
A truly excellent pair of wired in-ear headphones – affordable, entertaining, and complete with in-line controls.
- Thumping bass
- In-line controls and mic
- Lackluster design
|Frequency Response||15 – 22,000 Hz|
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. The 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.
7. Philips SHP9500
If you are looking for an open-back experience, these are a great pair of headphones to get you started.
- Wide, open soundstage
- Large and bulky
- Leak sound
|Frequency Response||12 – 35,000 Hz|
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.
8. Austrian Audio Hi-X15
If you want to listen to tracks with perfect balance at an affordable price, these will serve you well
- Seriously comfortable earpads
- Metail design, despite affordable price tag
- Benefits from the addition of a DAC or AMP
|Frequency Response||12 – 24,000 Hz|
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, translate 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.
9. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Used by professional audio engineers around the world, the ATH-M50x is a legendary pair of headphones
- Tank-like build
- Fantastic sound quality
- Getting a little old now
|Frequency Response||15 – 28,000 Hz|
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.
10. Campfire Audio Honeydew
With a unique design, these are definitely a top contender in the design department
- Standout design
- Great sound with plenty of bass
- On the expensive side
- Could be too bassy for some
|Frequency Response||5 – 18,000 Hz|
This rather unusual set of in-ears from Campfire Audio does a great job of standing out from the dull crowd that makes 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.
11. Sennheiser IE200
Entry-level IEMs have excellent build quality, supreme comfort, and a fantastic sonic performance for the money
- Supreme comfort
- Excellent build quality
- Lacks bass
- Replacement cables are pricey
|Frequency Response||6 – 20,000 Hz|
These entry-level IEMs have excellent build quality, supreme comfort, and a fantastic sonic performance for the money. They don’t go above and beyond, so as not to take the shine off Sennheiser’s more expensive in-ear models, but little else can rival it unless you’re prepared to take a shot on relatively unknown brands.
The connectors might be Sennheiser’s take on the industry-standard MCXX, but they make it a breeze to swap out the cable should it fail (or you fancy an upgrade). A bunch of silicone and foam ear tips in the box ensure a comfortable fit, too.
How to choose the best wired headphones for you
Wired headphones, as the name suggests, connect to your audio source using a physical cable rather than using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. While wired headphones come with the obvious limitation of mobility, they offer reliable audio performance, compatibility, and often deliver excellent sound quality at an affordable price.
That last point is the most important, really. Wired headphones generally offer better sound quality compared to their wireless counterparts, as the audio signal is transmitted directly through the cable without any potential loss of quality or interference.
The wired connection also provides a more reliable audio transmission, so you don’t have to worry about connectivity issues (is there anything more grating than Bluetooth transmission issues?).
You also don’t need to worry about confusing pairing processes, which can be incredibly annoying if you pair with more than one device, or battery life.
One thing that you will need to bear in mind is the length and durability of the cable provided with your wired headphones.
If you’re looking to properly block out the outside world, you should check out Stuff‘s guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones.