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Best headphones for the holidays

Here's a wide selection of top wireless -- and a few wired -- headphones that are gift-worthy this holiday season.

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carnoy-headshot-2019-2

David Carnoy

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sony-1000xm3-7
1 of 35 Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony's WH-1000XM3, the third generation of Sony's excellent wireless noise-canceling headphones, is more comfortable and features even better performance. It's currently our top-rated noise-canceling headphone. 

Bose QuietComfort 35 II
2 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose has added a dedicated button for connecting to Google Assistant to its excellent QuietComfort 35 wireless noise-canceling headphone, which doubles as an advanced headset for making calls. Otherwise the headphone hasn't changed. The original earned an Editors' Choice award from CNET.

V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless
3 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless

V-Moda's Crossfade 2 Wireless is its best model yet, with improved sound, battery life and comfort. Featuring excellent build quality, it's one of the best premium over-ear wireless headphones, although it doesn't feature active noise-canceling.

Apple AirPods
4 of 35 James Martin/CNET

Apple AirPods

Apple's totally wireless AirPods have taken the world by storm. They're designed to automatically pair with the iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus, and other Apple devices running Apple latest operating systems (they're Bluetooth headphones, but Apple devices get access to special features).

Jabra Elite Active 65t
5 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra's Elite Active 65t are one of the top truly wireless earphones and are superior to Apple's AirPods in some ways. The step-down Elite 65t earphones aren't quite as durable, but there isn't a huge difference and they sometimes go on sale.

Beats Studio3 WIreless
6 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Studio3 WIreless

Although the design stayed the same, Beats upgraded its Studio Wireless headphones with new drivers and components. They also feature much improved noise-canceling and battery life plus a slightly better sound. 

Bose Soundsport Free
7 of 35 Bose

Bose Soundsport Free

The Soundsport Free totally wireless earphones are Bose's answer to Apple's AirPods -- and have dropped in price since their launch (they've been on sale for $170). They sound richer and fit more securely in your ears. 

02-sennheiser-momentum-true-wireless
8 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

While they're pricey at $300, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are the best-sounding truly wireless headphones to date.

Tribit XFree Tune
9 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Tribit XFree Tune

For $50, you'll be hard-pressed to find a Bluetooth headphone that sounds as good as the Tribit XFree Tune does.

See it at Amazon.

Jaybird X4
10 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird X4

Jaybird, one of the early leaders in wireless in-ear sport headphones, has a new X-series headphone, the X4. Not only is it sweat-proof, it's fully waterproof, and Jaybird has included new tips and fins that promise a more comfortable, secure fit. 

Jaybird Tarah
11 of 35 Jaybird

Jaybird Tarah

At $100, Jaybird's Tarah headphone looks a lot like the X4 but cost $30 less. (They've been on sale for $80, which makes them even more appealing).

Aside from the price, what's the difference? Well, the buds themselves are shaped a little differently and aren't designed to be worn with the cord looped back around the top of your ear. Also, the Tarah has two hours less battery life than the X4.

Otherwise the specs are similar.

microsoft-surface-headphones-29
12 of 35 David Carnoy/CNET

Microsoft Surface Headphones

The Surface Headphones don't quite match Bose and Sony noise-canceling headphones, but they're a strong freshman effort with some compelling feature and design elements.

Bose SoundSport Wireless
13 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose SoundSport Wireless

The Bose SoundSport Wireless is exactly that -- a great wireless sports headphone.

18-akg-n700-nc-wireless
14 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

AKG N700NC Wireless

AKG's entry in the premium wireless noise-canceling headphone arena serves up excellent sound and effective noise-canceling. It's also good for making calls. 

Plantronics BackBeat Go 410
15 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics BackBeat Go 410

Plantronics' new premium-sounding neckband-style wireless headphones feature active noise canceling at a moderate price with one feature missing from Bose's QuietControl 30.

Plantronics BackBeat Go 810
16 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics BackBeat Go 810

Plantronics has been putting out a steady stream of pretty affordable headphones that deliver good performance for the money, and the BackBeat Go 810 fits right in with them. Featuring noise-canceling in an over-ear design for $150, in many ways it's the "light" version of the company's BackBeat Pro 2, which lists for $200.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100
17 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100

Plantronics' BackBeat Fit headphone has been a favorite among runners. After four long years and thousands of units sold, that headphone has finally been upgraded. Like the original, the BackBeat Fit 2100, which adds touch controls but has similar sound, is priced at less than $100. 

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless
18 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless

Sennheiser's PXC 550 Wireless is a worthy competitor to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Like that model, it's very comfortable, features impressive noise cancelation and works very well as a headset for making calls.

Bowers and Wilkins PX
19 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bowers and Wilkins PX

Bowers and Wilkins' PX wireless headphone is the first to include noise-canceling. While its noise-canceling isn't quite as strong as Bose's, its design and sound are top-notch.

Marshall Mid ANC
20 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Marshall Mid ANC

The Marshall Mid ANC is the company's first headphone with noise-canceling. It sounds excellent for an on-ear wireless headphone.

Sony WF-S700N
21 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony WF-S700N

Sony's latest true wireless WF-SP700N earphones retail for $180 and are essentially the sports version of Sony's earlier  WF-1000X. Both have an active noise-canceling feature that helps muffle ambient noise -- something missing from Apple's slightly less expensive AirPods.

Beats Solo 3 Wireless
22 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Solo 3 Wireless

Thanks to having been updated with Apple's new low-energy W1 custom Bluetooth chip, Beats' Solo 3 Wireless has much better battery life than its predecessor. Its impressive 40-hour battery life is tops for a Bluetooth headphone.

AfterShokz Trekz Air
23 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

AfterShokz Trekz Air

AfterShokz' bone-conduction wireless headphones continue to improve with each generation, and the Trekz Air is the company's best headphone yet.

BeatsX
24 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

BeatsX

If you're looking for a more traditional wireless alternative to the AirPods, the BeatsX is a fresh take on the neckband-style Bluetooth headphone.

B&O Play by Bang and Olufsen Beoplay H4
25 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

B&O Play by Bang and Olufsen Beoplay H4

The Beoplay H4, B&O Play's entry-level over-ear Bluetooth headphone, doesn't have much in the way of bells and whistles. However, it sounds very good and it's comfortable.

Sennheiser HD 4.50BTNC Wireless Headphones
26 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sennheiser HD 4.50BTNC Wireless Headphones

The Sennheiser 4.50BTNC may not be quite as good as Bose's QuietComfort 35 II, but it costs significantly less.

Bose QuietControl 30
27 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose QuietControl 30

Bose QuietControl 30 is essentially the wireless version of the company's QuietComfort 20 headphone -- an in-ear model that also features active noise-cancelation.

JBL Reflect Mini 2
28 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

JBL Reflect Mini 2

JBL's Reflect Mini 2 is a lightweight, comfortable wireless sports headphone that also sounds pretty good and has a reflective cord.

AKG N60NC Wireless
29 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

AKG N60NC Wireless

The AKG N60NC is a wireless on-ear noise-canceling headphone that sounds very good. It's come down in price since it launched, making it a better value.

Plantronics BackBeat 500
30 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics BackBeat 500

If you're looking for an affordable on-ear headphone not named Beats that's attractively designed and sounds very good, Plantronics' BackBeat 500 fits the bill.

UA Sport Wireless Flex
31 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

UA Sport Wireless Flex by JBL

Though it costs more than some competitors, the UA Sport Wireless Flex by JBL fits well, sounds good and should please runners and players of other sports, especially if they exercise at night.

Beats Powerbeats 3 Wireless
32 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Powerbeats 3 Wireless

Beats' Powerbeats Wireless 3 improves slightly on the design of the popular Powerbeats 2 Wireless sports headphone and adds Apple's energy-efficient W1 custom Bluetooth chip, which makes connecting the headphones very easy (for Apple users) and significantly boosts battery life.

B&O Play BeoPlay H7
33 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

B&O Play BeoPlay H7

B&O Play's BeoPlay H7, an around-ear model, is stylish, comfortable and sounds very good.

Focal Listen Wireless
34 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

Focal Listen Wireless

Focal's Listen Wireless headphone is the Bluetooth version of the French company's audiophile-grade wired headphone. It now comes in multiple color options.

iFrogz Impulse Duo
35 of 35 Sarah Tew/CNET

iFrogz Impulse Duo

This is one of iFrogz' higher-end in-ear headphones, but it's still quite affordable and sounds very good for its price point.

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