What to look for when buying

Quality and Performance

Sound quality

For most people any of the headphones available in Pick Your Best will sound great. If you are serious about sound and have the budget then you can opt for the very best - but you will need the very best audio device to make this worthwhile (streaming audio or CDs won't be good enough).

Battery life

Important if you are commuting or exercising. Wireless headphones or Noise cancelling headphones need to use a battery and can how long it lasts can vary a lot.

Splash resistant

One to consider if you are going to use your headphones outside, in the rain, or whilst exercising. Headphones that are splash resistant help prevent any damage caused by sweat or when you get caught in a downpour.

Latest model

Like most electronic devices, headphones are being upgraded regularly. Latest models tend to have better features but you can often find that an older model will do everything you need and has been discounted giving good value for money.


Noise cancellation

Noise cancellation headphones use a technology that reduces the amount of background noise (chattering people or the rumble of the train) so that your music is unspoilt. Look for this if you regularly listen to your music in noisy environments, or simply want to block out the outside world.


If you don't want wires getting in your way and you can afford the extra cost you can opt for a wireless pair leaving you free to move around untangled. Most wireless headphones can connect to your phone or music player using a technology called Bluetooth. However there are some advanced headphones that use a dedicated transmitter that you need to plug into your home hifi system.


If you plan to use your headphones to also make calls, you'll want a set with a built-in microphone. Some headphones have the microphone built into the earcup, others have the microphone on the wire.

Device compatibility

If you want to use your headphones with your smartphone you will need to check they are compatible. Most headphones will play music from any device but if you want to use the remote control and microphone we have identified the smartphones they will work with.


A carry case can help prevent damage to your headphones. In particular if you regular slide them in and out of your bag it can prevent catching the cables or twisting the earphone. Headphones that come with a case will save you buying a separate accessory and you know it will fit properly.

Size and styles


We have identified 3 types of headphones. In-Ear have small earbuds that fit snuggly inside your ear, perfect for those on the go. On-Ear sit on top of your ear, whilst they let in some background noise they are generally comfortable, light and easy to carry around. Over-Ear models are the biggest, sitting over the top of your entire ear, helping block out the outside world. They generally offer the highest sound quality.


If you want to take your headphones with you, you should consider a pair that will fold away easily. In some models the headband bends, in others the earbuds spin to help the headphones sit flatter so you can easy store in the provided carry case or in your bag.


For the serious exerciser no matter how good the headphones sound, if they fall out regularly they’re useless. In-Ear headphones with earhooks provide the most guaranteed fit to keep your headphones in place.

Back cover

The design of your headphones can affect how much you can hear those around you - but also how much they can hear your music. Open headphones can be comfy to wear and give a more natural sound but they can let in background noise and if up loud you can disturb people nearby. Closed headphones are more common and the sound leak is much lower so ideal for listening around other people.