2014 Best of Year Headphone Awards

Are you a bass lover or a purist audiophile? Either way, we've got the cans for you.

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Whether you're looking for the best headphones money can buy or just need some emergency buds on a budget, it's not easy to find the best. Fortunately, a little research can make all the difference between a great new pair of headphones and cans that are a weight around your neck. Well, don't sweat it: We've done the research for you.

All year long, we've been putting the latest over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear headphones through our gauntlet of lab tests, singling out the best-looking, best-sounding, most comfortable headphones of 2014. We're confident there's a perfect choice for every listener in our list of Best of Year winners, no matter your budget or style.


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Best Headphones of the Year

Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro

Still widely available—and at lower prices than ever—it's no surprise that Beyerdynamic's Custom One Pro over-ear headphones have taken our award for best headphones for the second year running. The Pros offer a level of sound customization that's yet to be bested in the realm of personal audio, providing four separate audio modes to suit a wide range of listening preferences and content types. They're also very comfy and reliably durable—but that's just icing on the cake. (Est. price: $165–$229)

Read our full review of the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro.

Runner-up: JBL Synchros S200i

If you're craving high-end sound in a tiny package, the buck stops at JBL's Synchros S200 in-ear headphones. Available in Apple and Android variants, these 'buds combine sturdy craftsmanship with sound that's on-par with audiophile cans. (Est. price: $99)

Read our full review of the JBL Syncros S200i.


Best Over-Ear Headphones

Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro

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Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro

Whether you're listening to lossless audio files in the comfort of your home or soaking up a podcast during your lunch break, these comfy over-ears get the job done. With soundscapes that range from flat, audiophile-grade presentation to bass-boosted thumping that'll rattle your skull, the Pros offer consumers an unprecedented range of flexibility and customization. (Est. price: $165–$229)

Read our full review of the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro.

Runner-up: Shure SRH1540

A household name among musicians, Shure's SRH1540 over-ear headphones are the very definition of "premium." They're so comfortable you may just fall asleep in them and be swept off to an audio dreamland that's impeccably balanced and completely free of distortion. (Est. price: $499)

Read our full review of the Shure SRH1540.


Best Value Over-Ear Headphones

Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro

Like a finely aged wine, the Custom One Pros seem to just get better and better over the years. Well, they don't sound any better, but they keep getting cheaper. Securing such phenomenal performance at this price is win-win for consumers everywhere. (Est. price: $165–$229)

Read our full review of the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro.

Runner-up: Sony MDR-7506

If you haven't already heard of Sony's MDR-7506 over-ears, you're in for a treat. These cans sound great, fit like a glove, and will keep your ears happy for years if you take good care of them. We'd pay twice as much for this kind of quality, but don't tell Sony that. (Est. price: $99)

Read our full review of the Sony MDR-7506.


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Best On-Ear Headphones

Beats Solo2

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Beats Solo2

Love it or hate it, Beats is a whirlwind force in the personal audio industry, and the Solo2 on-ears are one reason why. Their compact, durable, street-ready design yields a surprisingly balanced sound profile with ample support for bass and treble. Don't let the iconic branding fool you: These on-ears deserve a spot on any audiophile's shortlist of premium mobile cans. (Est. price: $199)

Read our full review of the Beats Solo2.

Runner-up: Beyerdynamic T51p

The T51p are extraordinarily comfortable, with a sleek, unique design that's both lightweight and durable. Their sound quality is entirely distortion-free, and pleasingly robust for such fashion-forward headphones. (Est. price: $289)

Read our full review of the Beyerdynamic T51p.


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Best In-Ear Headphones

JBL Synchros S200i

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JBL Synchros S200i

When it comes to speakers, bigger is usually better. Yet with the S200 in-ears, JBL somehow crammed big speaker sound into tiny ear buds. These headphones provide healthy bass support, a detailed midrange, and plenty of harmonic preservation. Add great extras like an in-line mic/remote control and a durable, portable design, and you've got a winning product. (Est. price: $99)

Read our full review of the JBL Syncros S200i.

Runner-up: AKG K 323XS

AKG's K 323XS in-ear headphones are a testament to modern engineering, providing huge, healthy sound in a form factor that's compact enough to fit in your pocket. An understated design belies the stellar sound these in-ears are capable of. (Est. price: $39–$49)

Read our full review of the AKG K 323XS.


Best Value In-Ear Headphones

AKG K 323XS

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AKG K323

The K323 in-ears don't just sound great, they're also a fast friend to value shoppers everywhere. A perfect stocking stuffer for the music lover in your life, the K323s provide a surprisingly impressive soundscape—in fact, they punch well above their weight class. (Est. price: $39–$49)

Read our full review of the AKG K 323XS.

Runner-up: ME Electronics M9P

The M9Ps produce a smooth, distortion-free sound at a low price point that's almost hard to believe. Available in a variety of attractive colors, the ME Electronics M9Ps are a comfortable, flexible option for consumers on a budget—or pretty much anyone else who's just looking for a great-sounding pair of in-ears. (Est. price: $20)

Read our full review of the ME Electronics M9P.


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Best Active Noise Cancellation

Bose QC25

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Bose QC25

When it comes to active noise canceling, Bose usually has the last word. The successors to the ubiquitous QC15s, the QC25s update expectations for modern noise canceling while still providing excellent, detailed audio. In fact, the QC25s get a serious boost to sound quality whenever active canceling is on, so you'll probably want to keep extra AAA batteries on hand. That's a small price to pay for the best of both worlds, though. (Est. price: $299)

Read our full review of the Bose QC25.

Runner-up: Panasonic RP-HC800

Panasonic's RP-HC800s forego design flourishes and extras, sticking to the basics of great noise canceling and audio. A durable, understated design puts all emphasis on performance, helping sweeten your commute with a winning mix of solid sound and quiet surroundings. (Est. price: $199–$229)

Read our full review of the Panasonic RP-HC800.


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Best Passive Noise Cancellation

AKG K 323XS

It's no surprise that great performers like the AKG 323s would provide great passive noise cancellation. Because of the way they fill your ears, in-ear headphones tend to block and dampen surrounding noise with ease. Thanks to their subtle, straightforward design, the 323s block a healthy helping of noise, especially rumbling bass notes like airplane engines. These are a great choice for anyone who travels often, or who values peace and quiet. (Est. price: $39–$49)

Read our full review of the AKG K 323XS.

Runner-up: Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE

Beyerdynamic's well-designed DX 160 in-ears do a great job putting a stopper in the outside world. These comfortable buds come with a multitude of silicone sleeves in different sizes, ensuring that ears both large and small can secure a great fit. (Est. price: $115)

Read our full review of the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE.


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Sennheiser Momentum

Best Headphone Design (High-End)

Sennheiser Momentum

A venerable name in audiophile circles, the Momentum on-ears are Sennheiser's nod to consumers who place equal value on design and sound. A sophisticated combination of industrial parts, muted colors, and hints of fabric speaks to a decidedly grown-up audience, while neat stitches in rows along the leather band ensure that the Momentums are as durable as they are fashionable.

They're not a purist's cup of tea, but not everybody likes tea. The Momentum on-ears boost the low end, providing good bass support at the cost of some musical detail. Outside the audiophile realm, however, the Momentums are a great choice for fashion-forward ears. (Est. price: $149–$199)

Read our full review of the Sennheiser Momentum.


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Harman Kardon Soho

Best Headphone Design (Mid-Range)

Harman Kardon SoHo

The SoHo on-ears successfully marry a beautiful, delicate design with audio quality that's plenty fierce. These pint-sized on ears are available in your choice of white or black, and both shades impress the eye with an arc of well-stitched leather that falls neatly into stainless steel joints. Like the rest of the high-fashion industry, the SoHo on-ears can be a touch uncomfortable at times, but it's a small trade off considering how absolutely stunning they look.

Best of all, the SoHos produce a stand-up sound that will please most listeners. Boasting a distortion-free soundscape with considerable bass support, the SoHos are a beautiful melding of form and function. (Est. price: $199)

Read our full review of the Harman Kardon SoHo.


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JVC HA-S400

Best Headphone Design (Value)

JVC HA-S400

It's almost impossible to find affordable headphones with any kind of aesthetic appeal, but the JVC HA-S400 are an exception to that rule. Rings of twinkling silver encircle either ear cup, and the handsome, cushy ear pads manage to feel just as good as they look. The matte finish ensures that these cans will look classy—and fingerprint free—for a good long while.

The HA-S400s don't boast an entirely premium soundscape, but they're sure to win over bass lovers everywhere. A sincere affinity for the low-end is the defining trait here, and with the S400s, you'll be rattling your skull in style. (Est. price: $28)

Read our full review of the JVC HA-S400.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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