Updated

Best Headphones under $400 - Spring 2017
Reviews

This price range is for listeners who want a premium set of headphones that delivers a good and balanced listening experience. This means the headphones in this list are either very versatile or highly specialized for critical listening. They're well-built, well designed, comfortable and deliver a rich and even audio reproduction. They also provide additional features like wireless Bluetooth, active noise canceling, unique control schemes and much more. Below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $400 we have tested so far.

Best Over-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
7.4Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.9Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.1Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.6Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best over-ear headphones under $400 are the Sony MDR 1000X. They are good everyday headphones and they isolate incredibly well, which means they’re great if you're often in loud environments or plan to use them on your daily commute. They’re also comfortable, sturdy and packed with active features that make them versatile for most use cases except for sports due to their bulky design. Also, if you don’t mind using the audio cable sometimes then the sound quality is excellent but on wireless, they may lack a bit of treble.

See our review

Runner-Up

If sound quality and comfort are the only things that are essential for you, then get the K702. The ear cups are well padded with a suede-like material that feels nice on the skin, and despite their slightly bulky design, they’re quite lightweight. They also have an excellent and open sound that immerses you in your environment and measure about the same as the much pricier K712 Pro.  However, you can’t use them outdoors or for any other use cases than critical listening

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
7.2Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.6Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.0Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.3Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.1Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The Beats Solo 3 are great sounding on-ear headphones. If you like the design and aesthetic of the Solo 2 or the Studio Wireless, then get the solo 3. They’re well built, decently comfortable headphones with a phenomenal battery life for their quick charging capabilities. They also have a far-reaching wireless range, a pretty balanced sound that should please casual and critical listeners and good integration with the IOS platform. Unfortunately, this means you may lack some features on Android and they do not isolate well in loud environments, so they won’t be ideal for commuting.

See our review

Runner-Up

If you find most on-ears too tight, then get the Bose SoundLink OE. They have one of the most comfortable on-ear design we’ve tested so far. They’re easy to use with a simple and efficient control scheme, a decent battery life and a compact format that’s relatively easy to carry around. Unfortunately, they also struggle in loud environments but leak a little less than the Solo 3 while delivering an almost comparable sound.

See our review

Best In-Ear/Earbuds Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
7.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.9Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.7Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.6Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
8.2Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

If you need a good pair of headphones to use at the office and don’t find the typical in-ear design comfortable, then the Quiet Control 30 are an excellent option.  They’re portable, stable and have a good set of active features that make them versatile enough for most use cases. They barely leak but also isolate remarkably well, which makes them also a good pick if you are often commuting or traveling. The around-the-neck design won't be for everyone, and sound-wise, they struggle a bit with higher frequencies but not enough to be an issue even for more critical listeners. 

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $400 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

A few examples of headphones under $400 that didn't make the cut:

  • Sennheiser PXC 550. The wired version of the P5. Great build and sound quality but not the most comfortable fit for everyone.  See our review
  • Bose QuietComfort 35.Simple and comfortable wireless design. Great isolation but slightly leaky at high volumes. See our review
  • V-MODA Crossfade M-100. Great build and audio quality. Stable and comfortable design but a bit leaky and weak isolation. See our review
  • Bowers & Wilkins P7. Great, sturdy build and well-balanced sound. But poor isolation and relatively high leakage.  See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones under $400. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no ideal headphones. Personal tastes, preferences, and listening habits will matter more in your selection. 

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