The 10 Best Headphones and Earbuds of 2017

Tech Lists
The 10 Best Headphones and Earbuds of 2017

The world of high quality wireless audio is rife with overwhelming bottom lines, products that cost users several hundred dollars and more than a modicum of buyer’s remorse. Like many consumer electronics, top-notch audio equipment (both wired and not) comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and price ranges, but cutting through the noise to find a product that is both high in quality and value can feel like a goose chase.

We’ve selected 10 of our favorite pairs of headphones and earbuds at a range of prices and formats. Here are the best headphones and earbuds of 2017.

10. Unit 1 Soundshield – $299


Ever tried to wear a helmet and a pair of headphones at the same time? It’s not easy. Inevitably, you end up frustrated with your earphones falling out all the time or pressed in your ears too tightly. That solution is Soundshield by Unit 1, providing users with a helmet and headphones combined safely. It’s perfect for avid skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders and pretty much anyone else that uses a helmet regularly. The beauty here is that when you don’t need your helmet, you can still take your headphones with you. The headphones have been designed specifically as part of the full product, ensuring they’re firmly attached to the helmet while just as easily removed when you need them to be. —Jennifer Allen

9. Vi Fitness Tracker Bluetooth Headphones – $179.99


While most wireless headphones today attempt to connect you to your favorite music without the messy tangles of a corded experience, LifeBeam Labs’ Vi adds artificial intelligence to make its headphones smarter. For joggers looking to train, track vital stats to get peak performance or just get some extra motivation on a solo run, wearing Vi is like having a fitness coach in your ears. With wireless earbuds connected to a collar, Vi’s design is not unlike that of LG’s Infinim series or Samsung’s Level U Pro. Vi’s semi-tethered earphone design gave it a more reassuring feel, especially when you’re constantly moving around, compared to the completely untethered experience of wearing truly wireless earphones, like the AirPods. If you’re the type of jogger who takes your music with you when you’re working out, the embedded heart rate sensor means you won’t need to wear another device — like a smartwatch — to keep track of vital stats. —Chuong Nguyen

8. Bragi The Headphone – $118.99

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No truly wireless headphones are worthy of being chosen over the other options on this list, but if you absolutely can’t stand your earbuds having any type of cord, Bragi’s Headphones are the best value right now. At $149 list, they aren’t as terrible a financial decision as many of the fully wireless buds that have come to market, and for that price you get a well-built pair with decent sound, solid battery life and an integrated microphone allowing you to make calls as well as listen to music. The Headphone delivers a solid Bluetooth listening experience without the messiness of wires at an even more affordable price in an attractive, albeit understated, package that fits snuggly in your ears. In essence, The Headphone is the modern “hearing aid” for music listeners, delivering a great audio experience that keeps you in tune to the world around you. —Chuong Nguyen

7. Sony MDR-1000XM2 – $349.00


Though Bose has long been the most lauded manufacturer when it comes to noise cancelling headphones, Sony made huge strides toward capturing that crown with the MDR-1000X. A top-notch pair of headphones, albeit with a price to match, these cans are comfortable, have great battery life and offer some of the best sound you’ll find in a wireless form factor. This year’s 1000XM2 model knocks $50 off the price, putting it more in line with Bose’s top offering, and the complete package you get is worth the price tag. —Eric Walters

6. Plantronics BackBeat 500 – $79.99


A leader in the world of communications hardware for more than 50 years, Plantronics has made a name for itself in consumer headphones in recently, specifically by offering high quality wireless cans that don’t break the bank. The BackBeat 500s are the sportier, on-ear brother of last year’s Backbeat Pro 2s, and they offer a similarly enticing package for just $79.99. The 40mm drivers do a respectable job delivering audio with well represented highs and mids and a healthy amount of low end. If you want bigger and better and have the budget to make it happen, you can find superior sound. But, if you’re looking to be frugal without much sacrifice, these headphones are a great option. —Eric Walters

5. Apple AirPods – $206.99


If you’re integrated into Apple’s ecosystem, there is no better truly wireless option than the company’s own AirPods. Yes, Apple has a long way to go before these headphones become truly worth your while, but if you’re rocking an iPhone 7, you can’t deny the ease of use. —Chuong Nguyen

4. Bose QC35 II – $349.00


Bose has long been a household name in noise cancelling headphones. The company’s latest effort offers the same excellent experience users have come to know from the QuietComfort series. The QC35s are a favorite among travellers for their supreme comfort, and their ability to block out nearly all surrounding noise. Add in a 20 hour battery life, and the QC35 are a great choice for anyone looking for a pair of Bluetooth headphones that checks every box. The latest version even adds direct integration of Google Assistant. —Eric Walters

3. Libratone Q Adapt – $179.00

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Danish audio studio Libratone foray into the on-ear headphone market is an impressive first effort, delivering rich audio in a comfortable design with a few extra perks. Minimalists will appreciate the clean lines of the Libratone Q Adapt for its clean and sophisticated style, and these wireless Bluetooth headphones come with a clever smartphone app that brings even more customization to your audio experience. Priced at $249, the Q Adapt not only competes against Bowers & Wilkins’ P3 headphones, the simple silhouette makes these headphones appear as a cross between the P3s and rival Bang & Olufsen’s stylings. While the highlight feature of the Q Adapt is its wireless connectivity—you can pair the headphones to your laptop, smartphone or smartwatch using Bluetooth 4.1, and the cans also support the higher quality aptX audio standard—audiophiles can also use these headphones as a wired set alongside a DAC for even better audio quality. —Chuong Nguyen

2. Bragi Dash Pro Smart Headphones – $329.99

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After having launched the first hearable device—a wearable computer fitted inside wireless headphones—Bragi is back again with a second generation device called the Dash Pro. Dash Pro will be available in two configurations, a standard Pro model as well as a custom-fitted model tailored by Starkey, a leading US manufacturer of hearing aids. Equipped with 27 sensors and a 32-bit microprocessor, Dash Pro is created from 150 micro-components. These sensors work in conjunction with Bragi’s Kinetic UI, allowing to to turn your body, tap your cheek or nod to control the virtual 4D menu for a hands-free and/or voice-free experience. The new hearables come with iTranslate capabilities, which brings real-time face-to-face conversational language translation with support for 40 languages. The feature integrates with the iTranslate Pro app, which requires a separate subscription. If you’re a jogger in an urban environment, one of my favorite features about the original Dash is the audio transparency feature, which brings in background noise of your environment to keep you aware of your surrounding. Rather than canceling noise, you can now listen to music and still hear cars and the sounds of the city around you. —Chuong Nguyen

1. Blue Ella Headphones – $699.99


Blue is best known for its excellent, affordable array of microphones, which are recommended by everyone from musicians to YouTubers. The company’s approach with its lineup of microphones has always been simple: Make the best possible product and sell it at the best possible price for consumer. The company’s other hardware endeavor has far less exposure, and a different approach. Blue’s headphones aren’t about wooing the budget-conscious crowd, but instead impressing the stingy audiophile demographic; people who know their audio and are willing to invest large amounts of money to find the best equipment, and best sound, possible. It does offer two, the Lola and Sadie, that are more in the affordable range at $250 and $400 each, but the crown jewel are the Ella at $700. Nothing like these cans, with their metal and leather finish, planar magnetic drivers and built-in headphone amplifier, exist in the company’s line of microphones. This is the most premium, and highest-ticket, item Blue makes. If you’re an audiophile looking to up their equipment but not ready to lay down the astronomical amount of money some of that equipment calls for, the Blue Ella headphones are a phenomenal choice. Their combination of hardware and sound is unmatched by any pair I’ve had the pleasure of testing in the past year. The Ellas are, without a doubt, an exceptional pair of headphones. —Eric Walters

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