The search for the perfect pair of headphones is one well-trodden, but rarely properly seen through. Anyone who’s rolled with a dud pair way past their expiry date will know that hearing the latest tracks from Chance the Rapper, The Internet, and Ciara is not a task best left to the built-to-fall-apart set you picked up on your latest Virgin Atlantic flight. In a year that’s so far gifted us with unprecedented hip-hop output, you don’t need that static, fiddly connection and discomfort in your life.
And so — for your personal listening pleasure — we bring you the very best headphones on the market right now. It goes without saying that sturdiness and comfort should be top of your criteria for longevity, while being the style-conscious Highsnobiety reader you are means that design will certainly play its part, too. In our search, we’ve also taken into account the specifications that make up the perfect hip-hop listening experience — including an agile audio response to deal with thick instrumentals and fast beats.
Below, we’ve tailored our selection to your personal taste, be that an earphone that gets right up in your drums, some on-ear headphone steez, wireless efficiency, or a pair that block out your surroundings so you can really be at one with your jams. Whether you’re prioritizing portability or you’re all about getting the most out of your playlists, your new favorite accessory is in ear-shot.
Scroll down to see which headphones made the cut, and click through to shop for beats that can’t be beaten.
A bit of overhead hardware is the best way to exercise your inner-DJ, not only with regards to looking the part, but also in terms of their spec. Usually coming in slightly more costly than more portable wireless and in-ear options, we’re particularly fond of the Detroit-made Shinola Canfield headphones below, which boast memory foam lambskin ear pads and a 50mm dynamic transducer. A worthy opponent, however, comes from the award-winning sound on V-MODA’s Crossfade pair.
For the inconspicuous listeners out there who don’t find in-ear offerings fiddly or uncomfortable, our picks below are built to last in a way that your standard iPhone earphones can’t compare. The ME05 model from Master & Dynamic is particularly hard-wearing — precision-machined from palladium-coated brass with an impressive sound profile to match. Meanwhile, if it’s comfort you’re after, look no further than the soft foam and silicon buds of B&O’s E4.
If you’re of the headphones headspace that life’s too short for untangling wires, brands continue to incorporate fast-connecting Bluetooth technology into their designs. You’ll no doubt be familiar with Apple’s Air Pods, which lead the way when it comes to automatic connection, but other stand-out wireless hardware comes from the tech giant’s Beats offering, Both on- and in-ear models come with fine-tuned acoustics to maximize clarity, breadth, and balance.
Truly dedicated music fans need no distraction, and that’s where noise-canceling tech comes into play. Far from merely soundproofing with airtight earbuds, noise-canceling models reduce unwanted ambient sounds using active noise control — a true gamechanger. Heading up the tech, audio specialists Bose are making some of the best pairs, including wireless in-ear QuietControl earphones and their on-ear counterpart. Meanwhile, Sony’s over-ear set comes with a 30-hour battery life — that’s 21 uninterrupted playbacks of Scorpion.