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Best headphones for the holidays 2019

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

David Carnoy
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
David Carnoy
Beats Solo 3 Wireless
1 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Solo Pro

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

2 of 27 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. 

3 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to its QuietComfort 35 II models, may not be a quantum leap forward but they offer slightly better sound, call and noise-canceling quality. Alas, they cost $400, but they're a strong all-around performer with up to 20 hours of battery life.

4 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony WF-1000XM3

While they aren't water-resistant, Sony's new WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones feature excellent sound, are great to listen to music with, and they have something you won't find in Apple's AirPods: active noise cancelation. At $230, they're not cheap, but with a battery life lasting up to 24 hours, they are among the best new true wireless earphones of 2019.

Powerbeats Pro
5 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Powerbeats Pro

Yes, the Powerbeats Pro's jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple's AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that won't fall out of your ear is a winning proposition. Just make sure you buy them somewhere that has a good return policy in case you're in the minority with ears that aren't quite a match for them.

6 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

The new Liberty Air 2 ($100) has been upgraded with USB-C charging and wireless charging, better battery life and improved call quality (it's impressive), as well as a classier looking matte finish.It's a good deal at just less than $100.

7 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird Vista

At $180 (£160, AU$280), this pair of earbuds is more expensive than it should be, but it's among the better true wireless headphones to hit the market in 2019. The Vista earbuds will appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless sports earbuds that offer full waterproofing. Good for runners.

8 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Earfun Free True Wireless

What's most impressive about the EarFun Free is the features: Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging and fully waterproof (IPX7), according to their specs. Do they sound fantastic? No, but they sound pretty good. They don't have the clarity of higher-end true wireless earbuds that cost $150 or more, but they do have plump bass and enough detail to avoid sounding dull. They're also pretty solid for making calls. An excellent value at less than $45.

Apple AirPods 2019
9 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple AirPods 2019

The 2nd-gen AirPods add a couple of small but key improvements to the original, including always-on voice recognition and a wireless charging case option. They're also good for making calls, indoors and out. 

The base model remains at $159 (£159, AU$249) while the version with the wireless charging case lists for $199 (£199, AU$319). However, you can often find both models for slightly cheaper online.

10 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Jabra Elite 85h

When Jabra first announced its new Elite 85h ($300, £280 or about AU$435 converted) over-ear premium wireless headphones, it said it would be equipped with always-on (hands-free) voice assistant control using Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Alas, that feature didn't make it into the final product -- apparently it affected battery life too much -- but the Elite 85h is nevertheless an excellent noise-canceling headphone that makes music sound great. It has good audio quality, is comfortable to wear and works well as a headset for making calls.

11 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro

Anker is known more for its value headphones, but it's trying to step into more premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds, which carry a list price of $150. From a design standpoint, they share some similarities with Sony's WF-1000XM3, although this model doesn't have active noise cancelation. Anker says these earbuds have large 11mm drivers combined with Knowles Balanced Armature, with up to 8 hours of battery life on a single charge (32 total hours of playtime with the case) and noise-cancelation microphones to help reduce ambient sound so callers can hear you better. They charge via USB-C and also support wireless charging.

I'm not sure they sound quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM3, but they certainly sound like premium true wireless earphones, with rich sound that includes powerful bass performance and lots of detail. Some people may have some quibbles over the fit -- I had to supply my own XL tips to get a tight seal and found the Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 a little more comfortable -- but the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro are a good value.

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
12 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless

When it comes to premium noise-canceling headphones, Bose and Sony have been the dominant players over the last few years. But now Sennheiser has turned up with its new Momentum 3 Wireless and it deserves some attention, particularly from folks who are fans of the Momentum line. It's available now for $400 (£369) -- the same price as Bose's Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

It's an excellent headphone. Not only does it feature improved noise-canceling features and excellent sound, but it also performs well as headset for making calls.

Plantronics BackBeat Go 810
13 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100

Plantronics has been putting out a steady stream of pretty affordable headphones that deliver good performance for the money, and the BackBeat Fit 6100 fits right in with them.

The adjustable sport-fit headband has an IPX5-rated water-resistant and sweatproof design, 40 mm angled drivers, and noise-isolating earcups with an "Awareness" mode. Battery life is rated at 24 hours. It's available in black, camo and gray.

Beats Studio3 WIreless
14 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Studio3 WIreless

Beats upgraded its Solo series this year but its Studio3 Wireless is still its top over-ear model and has come down in price since it's been out a while.

15 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

While they're pricey at around $250, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are among the best-sounding truly wireless headphones to date.

Tribit XFree Tune
16 of 27 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.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II
17 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose's newer Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are out Bose is still selling its QuietComfort 35 II, which is arguably slightly more comfortable -- and costs a little less. The original earned an Editors' Choice award from CNET.

18 of 27 Bang and Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9

Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay H9 doesn't get mentioned much in the discussion of top noise-canceling headphones because at $500, it's a pricey pair of headphones. The latest 3rd-gen version has been upgraded in a few significant ways that make it better than the earlier H9i. Battery life has improved to 25 hours, there's now a dedicated button for your voice assistant, the padding on the ear cushions and headband is cushier and the touch controls have been tweaked.

19 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics Backbeat Pro 5100

Plantronics new premium true wireless earphones, the BackBeat Pro 5100 ($170, £160, AU$299), are among the handful of true wireless headphones that are good for making calls. For calling, they're on par with the AirPods (they have good noise reduction) and sound better for listening to music.

Bose Soundsport Free
20 of 27 Bose

Bose Soundsport Free

The Soundsport Free have been out a while but they remain one of the better true wireless earphones, and may people like how they fit (though they're a little bulky). Bose is set to come out with an updated version called the Earphones 500, but these will be around for the holidays -- hopefully at a discount. 

Bowers and Wilkins PX
21 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bowers and Wilkins PX

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

22 of 27

JBL Reflect Flow

The Jaybird Vista is an excellent sports model that fits securely in your ears. It's arguably more comfortable than the JBL Reflect Flow, but the Flow, which retails for $150, arguably sounds better. It's similar to the JBL UA True Wireless Flash but has a more compact case and costs about $20 less.

23 of 27 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. Also, since they've been out a while, you can now get them for for $250 or $100 their original list price.

24 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

JBL Live 650BTNC

While its noise-canceling feature and comfort levels aren't quite on par with competing models from Bose and Sony, JBL's Live 650BTNC ($199) measures up well in terms of sound. These over-ear headphones are worth considering if you don't want to spend $300 or more on a noise-canceling headphone.

Marshall Mid ANC
25 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Marshall Mid ANC

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

AfterShokz Trekz Air
26 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

AfterShokz Aeropex

AfterShokz bone conduction wireless headphones deliver sound to your ear through your cheekbones. The big benefit of this technology is that, thanks to its open design, you can hear what's going on around you while listening to music or having a phone conversation through the wireless headphones. That openness allows runners to hear traffic sound, an important safety feature.

New for 2019 is the Aeropex ($160, £150) over-ear headphones, which AfterShokz describes as its "lightest, highest-quality headphones yet." The sound quality is definitely better than that of the company's previous flagship model, the Trekz Air -- or the Air ($119 at Amazon), as it's now called. It's also slightly more comfortable to wear with a comfortable fit.

Sennheiser HD 4.50BTNC Wireless Headphones
27 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sennheiser HD 4.50BTNC Wireless Headphones

The Sennheiser 4.50BTNC may not be as good as Bose's Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones, but it costs significantly less.

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