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88

Plantronics BackBeat Go

969 Reviews
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£18.99

Info
24g
Info
13mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Aug 2017
The best rated pair of headphones under £50, with good features and two industry awards

84

Sony MDR‑XB50

84 Reviews
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£22.99

Info
8g
Info
12mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Nov 2015
A top-value and light weight 12mm driver In-ear style earphone, with exceptional user reviews and good features

84

Plantronics BackBeat FIT 305

11 Reviews
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£72.11

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14g
Info
6mm
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In-Ear
Info
Aug 2017
An award winning and relatively new 14g, 6mm driver earphone, with great features and a good price

83

Bose SoundSport

381 Reviews
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£55.27

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22.7g
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(Unknown)
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In-Ear
Info
Aug 2016
A best selling and award winning 22.7g Bluetooth earphone, with an Editor's Choice award from one expert review website

83

Brainwavz Delta

15 Reviews
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£19.35

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(Unknown)
Info
8mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Mar 2017
A top-value and very popular 8mm driver In-ear style earphone, with an Editor's Choice award from one expert review website and 4 further awards from other expert sites

82

ifrogz Earpollution Plugz

399 Reviews
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£6.07

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(Unknown)
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9mm
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In-Ear
Info
Dec 2016
An award winning and extremely cheap 9mm driver In-ear style pair of headphones, with an Editor's Choice award from two expert review websites

81

Veho Z

5 Reviews
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£6.54

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2g
Info
13.5mm
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In-Ear
Info
Feb 2017
A bargain price and amazingly light weight 13.5mm driver In-ear style earphone, with great user reviews and very good features

81

KitSound Bounce

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£5.99

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11g
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10mm
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In-Ear
Info
Oct 2017
A recently released and affordable 11g, 10mm driver pair of headphones, with very good features
Save £18

81

Klipsch R6

222 Reviews
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£76.56

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13.2g
Info
6.5mm
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In-Ear
Info
Dec 2015
A very highly rated and cheap 13.2g, 6.5mm driver earphone, with good features

80

Philips SHE3590

3 Reviews
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£6.33

(Unknown)
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10g
Info
11mm
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In-Ear
Info
Jan 2017
A bargain price and positively reviewed 10g, 11mm driver pair of headphones, with good features

80

Philips SHS8100

5 Reviews
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£12.99

(Unknown)
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15g
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15mm
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In-Ear
Info
Jan 2017
An excellent value for money and top-rated 15g, 15mm driver pair of headphones, with good features

80

Huawei AM61

2 Reviews
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£29.99

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19.7g
Info
11mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Jul 2017
A relatively new and affordable 19.7g, 11mm driver earphone, with an industry award and good features
Save £24

79

Moki Sports

10 Reviews
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£5.25

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(Unknown)
Info
15mm
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In-Ear
Info
May 2016
A highly rated and excellent value for money 15mm driver Ear-hook style pair of headphones, with good features

79

Philips SHE3800PK

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£5.90

(Unknown)
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11.5g
Info
86mm
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In-Ear
Info
Jan 2017
A relatively new and phenomenally cheap 11.5g In-ear style earphone, with very good features and one of the biggest speaker sizes around

79

FiiO F3

3 Reviews
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£20.99

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19.6g
Info
13.6mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Jun 2017
A very cheap and fairly new 19.6g, 13.6mm driver earphone, with excellent expert reviews and good features

78

Focal Spark

10 Reviews
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£22.53

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156g
Info
9.5mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Aug 2017
A very cheap and relatively new 156g, 9.5mm driver earphone, with two industry awards and good features

78

FiiO EX1

10 Reviews
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£55.00

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18g
Info
13mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
May 2016
An award winning but 2 year old 18g, 13mm driver earphone, with a cheap price and good features
Save £13

78

Shure SE215

654 Reviews
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£69.00

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(Unknown)
Info
(Unknown)
Info
In-Ear
Info
Feb 2016
An award winning but 2 year old In-ear style In-ear earphone, with a fair price but only middle of the road features

78

Philips SHS3200

7 Reviews
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£9.00

Info
17.5g
Info
15mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Mar 2006
An affordable and classic 17.5g, 15mm driver earphone, with good features

78

Philips SHQ1400

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£9.70

Info
13.1g
Info
13.6mm
Info
In-Ear
Info
Jan 2016
An extremely cheap and good spec 13.1g, 13.6mm driver pair of headphones

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

QWhat is the difference between earphones and headphones?
AWhile they can be used interchangeably, earphones are used to describe small in-ear models, while headphones cover the larger models that sit over the ear.
QCan headphones be used with any device?
AAlmost all devices use a standard 3.5mm audio jack, which is the industry standard for audio output, so a set of headphones should work in nearly every device capable of playing audio. The exception to this is certain newer models of mobile phone, which have dropped the audio jack, and will need to use an adapter.
QWhat is a 3-button control?
AThis is terminology you'll see on some headphones meant for use with mobile phones and mp3 players - it means the headphones have a set of 3 buttons, usually on the lead or attached to the ear cups themselves. These control play/pause, volume up and volume down.

Headphone Buying Guide

Headphones are a crucial part of everyday life, and your choice of headphone is a deeply personal one. From tiny in-ear monitors to enormous studio-quality cans, headphones come in all shapes, sizes, weights and colours. For someone not sure what they should get - or what they want - it can be a daunting issue. Our guide will attempt to answer some of the most common questions about headphones and give you an good overall knowledge of them.

Types Of Headphones

Let’s start with the different types of headphones. There are many different designs, but they all boil down to 2 different types: in-ear and on-ear. In-ear headphones are normally smaller, cheaper and with lessened sound quality - they are good for travel and easy to shove in a pocket when not in use. On-ear headphones tend to be larger and more chunky, but have a far superior sound quality (and normally, a far higher price to match). Let’s take a look at the difference between them:

In-ear headphones: These are smaller headphones, means to be placed into your ear. They usually have no band, and are designed to hang down from your ears. They are two main sub-categories of in-ear headphone:

  • earbuds (which are placed in the entrance to the ear)
  • in-ear monitors (which have rubber or foam caps, and are pushed directly into the ear canal. When inserted, the the rubber expands to create a tight seal inside the ear canal, meaning outside noise is blocked out)

Earbuds are the easiest headphones to wear, though let in a lot of noise and aren’t very stable - they can easily fall out of your ears while moving (especially jogging). Monitors, on the other hand, block out a lot of noise and provide a louder overall volume - making them best for public places or loud backgrounds. However, the act of pushing the foam caps into your ears can feel awkward, and requires some trial-and-error to find the best size/shape of caps. The end result may well be worth the perseverance - monitors allow for a far better overall sound quality, with less invasive noise to ruin your music.

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On-ear headphones: These types of headphones are bigger than in-ear models, and are designed with 2 speakers linked by a headband to keep them in place on your head. They are two main sub-categories of on-ear headphone:

  • on-ear headphones: these headphones sit over the entrance to the ear, directing sound into your ears. They normally have limited cushioning, but are normally light, so easy to wear for long periods. These are normally the cheapest style of large headphones, but you sacrifice the noise insulation and superior quality of over-ear models.
  • over-ear headphones: these types of headphones are larger, and actually encompass the entire ear - covering the whole ear so as to block out all other noise. This gives them excellent sound quality, but they are normally the most expensive type of headphone, due to their size and the amount of padding used to keep them comfortable pressing against your ears and head. Also, because they encompass the whole ear, many people find their ears can get uncomfortably hot and sweaty after wearing for a long time - meaning a break might be necessary every once in a while.

Over-ear headphones generally have the better sound quality, due to larger drivers and better noise insulation. However they are bulkier, more expensive, and may simply be more heavy-duty than many people need, especially if you’re just going to listen to music while you commute or at your desk. On ear headphones are lighter, and provide a good mid-point between the power of large cans, and the simple light ease of earbuds. Their quality isn’t the best though - they are very much the jack-of-all-trades of headphones. Which may be all you need!

Driver Units

Once you’ve decided the type of headphone you want, things get a bit more technical - next you want to think about driver unitss and power. Driver units are simply the part of the headphone that generates noise - they convert the audio signal into actual sound. Larger drivers mean the headphones are capable of generating more sound, making them louder. Crucially, this doesn’t mean the sound they generate will be a better quality, just that it’ll be louder. However it’s a good starting point for a pair of headphones - generally speaking better quality headphones will have larger drivers, so they have more volume and range to play with.

Unsurprisingly, on-ear headphones tend to have larger driver units, since they have a lot more space available to fill. In-ear phones generally don’t need particularly big driver units though - pushing the sound directly into your ear canal means a little goes a long way, and if you’re not careful a very loud volume can cause serious damage to your hearing.

Closed Ear vs. Open Ear

One important nuance of on-ear headphones is the choice between closed ear and open ear designs. This refers to how the cups of the headphones are designed, and how much noise insulation they give, as well as how they effect the sound of your music. Here is the main difference between the two;

Closed ear cups are solid cups that fully encompass the ear, letting no noise in or out. This makes them excellent for noise insulation, and they will not only block outside noise from disturbing your music, but will stop your music from leaking out and disturbing everyone around you. The downside is that the sound quality is slightly lessened by closed cup - it gains an echoey quality and some people feel that music sounds more dead and flat.

Open ear cups have perforated cups surrounding the driver unit, meaning that air can freely flow in and our of the headphones. This helps give the music from the cans a more natural feel - it doesn’t feel projected right into your eardrums, but instead as if it is more naturally coming from around you. However the main disadvantage is that you will have little insulation from all the noise around you - meaning loud surroundings will interfere with your music. This goes both ways - your music will also ‘leak’ more, and will be heard by people around you. Depending on your surroundings and who is around you, this might not be a beneficial thing - not everyone wants to listen to atonal screamcore death metal at 10am in a library!

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Noise Cancelling

Noise cancelling technology is an important addition of on-ear headphones, and one that has improved drastically in recent years. First off, it’s important to note the difference between active noise cancelling, and passive noise insulation. Closed-cup on-ear headphones and well-fitting monitors provide noise insulation - i.e. they block external noise from reaching your ears and disturbing your music. This is passive, and depends largely on the fit of your headphones.

Active noise cancelling is far more interesting and complicated, but here’s a brief rundown. At it’s most basic, sound is a pressure wave with peaks and troughs - the exact makeup of this wave denotes both the sound and the loudness of the noise. Noise cancelling headphones use a tech known as ‘active noise control’ - they monitor the external noise coming into the headphones, and generate a pressure wave with exactly the same volume, but completely opposite peaks and troughs (known as ‘antiphase’). When these two waves combine, they effectively cancel each other out, leading to silence - a process called interference. This allows noise cancelling headphones to entirely block out all external noise, leaving you to enjoy music free of absolutely all external distractions.

While an excellent addition, there are a couple of caveats to noise cancelling headphones. First off - because of the microphones and extra tech required, it is only found in larger on-ear headphones, not earbuds or in-ear monitors. Secondly, the tech requires a sizeable power draw, meaning that noise-cancelling headphones normally require batteries (or a recharging internal battery) to function. Finally, the tech is still relatively new, and thus confined to the top-tier headphones, meaning you’re going to be paying a premium for it. However if you frequently struggle to listen to music in high-noise areas (such as the Tube or on planes), this expenditure may well be worth it to be able to hear your music again!

Wired vs. Wireless

A quick note on wired and wireless headphones. Traditionally headphones have been entirely wired - meaning the audio signal was sent from the music source to the headphones via a wire. However in recent years the rise of bluetooth and improvements in battery technology have meant wireless headphones are becoming more and more common. These headphones have an internal rechargeable battery (some still use AAs, but these are blessedly rare) and connect to the music source via bluetooth. This allows them to stream music from a phone, computer or hifi without the need for wires - meaning no getting tangled up in cables, no trapping/breaking cables and the freedom to roam away from your computer when listening to music!

There are some negatives to wireless headphones - first off, they usually come at a premium price when compared to standard wired headphones. Moreover, they need power to function - most use a rechargeable battery - which means that if the battery runs dry, you will either have to plug in a wire, or use a different pair of headphones. Battery life varies massively with wireless headphones - some will only get 5-6 hours of life before needing a recharge, while others boast a full 24 hours of use before they die. Pay close attention to the battery life, especially if you use your headphones for long journeys. Finally, wireless headphones can experience some latency - the lag between the signal being sent to the headphones, and it being heard by your ears. When listening to music, this isn’t a massive issue - a few milliseconds of lag isn’t noticeable at all. However if you are watching a movie or playing a video game, larger amounts of latency may cause the audio in your headphones to run out of sync with the video, leading to a sub-par experience. Generally though, the tech for wireless headphones has progressed enough that a good £150-200 pair of wireless headphones will serve you very well indeed!

Extra Features

Headphones come in many different shapes and sizes, and with a lot of different extra bells and whistles. Here are some of the more common additions:

Sports Headphones: these are a special subset of in-ear headphones, designed to be worn while running or working out. They push into the ear like in-ear headphones, but have a headband to keep them stable while you move. Many have extra water-resistance to protect against lots of sweat - some are even fully waterproof, meaning they can be used while swimming!

Bone Conduction: this is a very different type of headphone - in fact they don’t actually make any sound at all. Instead they conduct sound from the device to the inner ear via vibrations sent through the bones in the skull - meaning sound in heard ‘inside’ your head without any external sound actually being made. Bone conduction headphones are very rare, but used with specialist underwater headphones (such as those used for divers) or military earpieces, where it’s a benefit to make no external noise. They are also of a benefit for people with limited hearing, since they bypass much of the ear completely, and deliver sound direct to the inner ear.

Integrated Microphone: these headphones have a microphone built into the frame of the headset, meaning you can talk while wearing the headphones. This is useful for taking phonecalls while wearing your headphones, or for voice chat while playing multiplayer video games, which means you don’t need a separate microphone to pick up your voice.

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