How to Buy Good Headphones

Looking to upgrade to good headphones? We round up the best advice and recommendations out there.

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Are you willing to spend more than $9 on good headphones?

Then according to, you'll find something better than the earbuds packed in with your phone. While there are pricier options for the true audiophile, you can pick up great budget picks for around $10, solid improvements for around $30, and excellent choices for $100, depending on your particular need.

Good earbuds

Pros: Use them if you find traditional headphones uncomfortable, or if you wear glasses. They're lightweight, portable, inexpensive, and do a decent job blocking outside noise Cons: Earbuds get thrown around—they'll likely end up damaged or lost. Tips: Make sure what you buy comes with different sized tips so you can fit them comfortably in your ears. Recommended: Panasonic RP-TCM125-K ($13), RHA MA150 ($13), and Sony MDR-EX37B ($18).

Good headphones for running or workouts

Pros: These should be built to stay put during intense movement, and constructed to be sweat-resistant. Cons: They get thrown around, so don't make a huge investment. However, it might be worth paying for a pair that fit better or are more durable, even if the sound quality is similar to cheaper models. Tips: Try to find out if the headphones won't slip, and if they pass a stress test. You can't always depend on the packaging. Recommended: Yurbuds Ironman Inspire Duros ($40) and Adidas OCX 685i Sennheiser Sports Earphones ($54).

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Best over-ear headphones

Pros: Feels good on your head and ears for long periods of time. Higher-end models are built to last—designed more for an at-home listening experience than a workout. Cons: Less likely to block ambient sound, so they're best in a quiet space. Tips: Try these on at a store before you order—they should feel comfortable and sturdy. Recommended: Koss KSC75 ($17), Grado Prestige Series SR-60i ($79), and Sony MDR7506 ($85).

Best noise-canceling headphones

Courtesy V-MODA

Pros: Sound-isolating headphones minimize ambient noises; noise-canceling headphones eliminate them, so you get excellent sound quality pretty much anywhere. Cons: Expense. Also, noise-canceling headphones often require batteries and can generate a soft "buzz" sound. Tips: Buy these for at home (not treadmill) use, or whenever you want to block out outside sound. Look for durable, extremely comfortable models, with a good replacement plan just in case. Try them on before you buy. Recommended: V-MODA Crossfade M-100 ($300; sound-isolating) and Bose Quiet Comfort 15 ($300; noise-canceling).

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