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Article updated on January 1, 2024 at 10:00 AM PST

Best Headphones for Students in 2024

We’ve rounded up all of the best wireless earbuds and headphones for students.

Our Experts

Written by 
David Carnoy
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
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, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
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Our Picks

$330 at Best Buy
A pair of white Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones against a blue background
Best new noise-canceling headphones
Sony WH-1000XM5
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$56 at Amazon
Image of Earfun Air Pro 3
Best new budget wireless earbuds
Earfun Air Pro 3
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$190 at Best Buy
Image of Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds
Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
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$60 at Amazon
Earfun Air S noise-canceling earbuds and case
Good value noise-canceling earbuds
Earfun Air S
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$160 at Best Buy
Image of Beats Fit Pro
Best sports buds for everyday use
Beats Fit Pro
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$120 at Amazon
Image of JBL Live Pro 2
Best AirPods Pro alternative for less
JBL Live Pro 2
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$150 at Amazon
Image of Soundcore by Anker Space Q45
Premium noise-canceling headphone for less
Soundcore by Anker Space Q45
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$170 at Samsung
Image of Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Best Samsung wireless earbuds
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
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$249 at Bose
Image of Bose QuietComfort 45
Latest Bose
Bose QuietComfort 45
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$48 at Amazon
Image of Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS
Best cheap open earbuds
Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS
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$80 at Amazon
Image of Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4
Best new Soundcore by Anker buds
Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4
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$149 at Amazon
Image of AirPods 3
Best open wireless earbuds
AirPods 3
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$198 at Amazon
Image of Sony LinkBuds S
Best Sony compact mid-range wireless
Sony LinkBuds S
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Whether you like to study to music or prefer to block out all outside distractions with white noise, headphones are vital for college life. A good pair of headphones will allow you to block out external sounds, using noise cancellation technology to keep all that ambient college noise at bay. Whether you’re trying to study or just want to unwind after a hectic day of classes, a good pair of headphones can be a game-changer. 

When it comes to picking out the right pair of headphones, with so many options to choose from, the process can feel a little overwhelming. To give you a helping hand, we’ve compiled a list of all the best headphones for college students. There's a combination of premium models mixed with some more budget-friendly buys.

If you want to check out even more great headphones or earbuds with amazing sound to pair with your computers, music players and other mobile devices, we also have drawn up lists of the best noise-canceling headphones, best wireless earbuds, best wireless headphones, best headphones for working from home and best workout headphones and earbuds at various prices with good quality audio at the forefront.

If you want to check out even more great headphones or earbuds with amazing sound to pair with your computers, music players and other mobile devices, we have drawn up lists of the best noise-canceling headphonesbest wireless earbudsbest wireless headphonesbest headphones for working from home and best workout headphones and earbuds at various prices with good quality audio at the forefront.

$330 at Best Buy

Best new noise-canceling headphones

Sony WH-1000XM5

When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony's WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they've improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it's done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $349 price tag most of those changes are good, and Sony's made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.

$56 at Amazon

Best new budget wireless earbuds

Earfun Air Pro 3

Earfun has put out a series of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years with one important commonality: They're very good values, made more so by frequent discounts. The company's new-for-2023 Earfun Air Pro 3 earbuds feature the latest Qualcomm QCC3071 system-on-a-chip with aptX Adaptive for Android and other devices that support the new LE Audio standard and LC3 audio codec, which is superior to the SBC codec (they also support AAC for Apple devices).

Lightweight and comfortable to wear -- I got a good seal with the largest ear tip size -- these aren't a huge upgrade over the Earfun Air S, but they are better. They have slightly larger wool-composite drivers (11mm versus 10mm), slightly improved noise canceling and better battery life (up to seven hours with noise canceling on, according to Earfun).

In short, the Earfun Air 3 deliver strong performance for their modest price, with robust bass, good clarity and a relatively wide soundstage. They also pack in a lot of features, including a wireless charging case and "multidevice" connectivity. (I could pair them to two devices simultaneously but had to pause the music on one device and hit play on the other for the audio to switch.) They're IPX5 splash-proof and also work well (though not exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls. 

Note that while the list price of these buds is $80, if you click the instant 10$-off coupon on their Amazon product page, you get an additional discount, bringing the buds' price down to $65.

$190 at Best Buy

Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds

Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)

The new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved -- Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.

$60 at Amazon

Good value noise-canceling earbuds

Earfun Air S

In the past, we've recommended Earfun's AirPro SV and Air Pro 2 as excellent budget noise-canceling earbuds choices (they're still good values). But the new-for-2022 Earfun Air S may be the best of the trio, with multipoint Bluetooth pairing, the latest Qualcomm QCC3046 SoC (system on a chip) with the AptX audio codec for Android and other devices that support it. It has the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and features surprisingly impressive sound for its modest price point. They also work well as a headset for making calls with decent background noise reduction.

The buds have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they're splashproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water. Note that the earbuds cost as low as $58 when you activate the instant coupon at checkout at Amazon.

$160 at Best Buy

Best sports buds for everyday use

Beats Fit Pro

While the Beats Fit Pro technically aren't AirPods, they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple's H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted (they're IPX4 splash-proof). And for some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro.

$120 at Amazon

Best AirPods Pro alternative for less

JBL Live Pro 2

Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing that really got me too excited. That's finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand's new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 buds. Both sets of buds -- the Live Pro 2 have stems while the Live Free 2 have a pill-shaped design -- offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.

The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.

$150 at Amazon

Premium noise-canceling headphone for less

Soundcore by Anker Space Q45

If you can't afford Sony's WH-1000XM5 or Bose QC45, the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 (yes, there's a bit of copying going on here) is a good alternative for $150, and we should see occasional discounts on it. While it may not fit some smaller heads, it's comfortable to wear, with nicely padded ear cups and a dual-hinge folding design. Sound quality is very good and the headphones offer better noise canceling than the step-down Q35, as well as multipoint Bluetooth pairing (these are equipped with Bluetooth 5.3) and support for the LDAC audio codec for streaming high-resolution music tracks over Bluetooth, if you have a device that supports LDAC. Many Android phones do, although Samsung's Galaxy phones don't. 

Battery life is very good at up to 50 hours with noise canceling on at moderate volume levels and the headphones come with a hard carrying case for travel. And as of right now, Amazon is offering an additional $20 discount with the on-page coupon to save you a little more.

$170 at Samsung

Best Samsung wireless earbuds

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offer improved noise canceling along with very good sound and voice-calling performance, plus support for high-resolution wireless audio streaming if you're a Galaxy device owner with the right setup. That said, their biggest upgrade may be their new design and smaller size, which make them a better fit for more ears. Aside from their somewhat high price tag, their only drawback is that some of their key features only work with Samsung Galaxy devices. They're fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating.

$298 at Bose

Latest Bose

Bose QuietComfort 45

The QuietComfort 45 has virtually the same design as its predecessor, the QuietComfort QC35 II, which many people considered one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones -- if not the most comfortable. It has the same drivers, according to Bose, and the buttons are in the same place. However, there are small but notable changes. First off, these thankfully have USB-C instead of Micro-USB.

Secondly, the microphone configuration is different. Not only have the mics been shifted on the headphones, but there's now an extra external microphone for voice pick-up, which means the QC45 has a total of six microphones, four of which are beamforming and used for voice. By contrast, the QC35 II has a total of four, two of which are used for voice. (The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 also have six microphones total.)

These headphones are excellent for making calls. They're similar to the Bose Headphones 700 in that regard. They also include top-notch noise canceling and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them with a PC and your phone simultaneously. Read our full review of the QuietComfort 45.

$48 at Amazon

Best cheap open earbuds

Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS

What makes these Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS buds special is that they sound surprisingly good for open earbuds -- they're pretty close to what you get from Apple's AirPods 3 for sound. On top of that, they support Sony's LDAC audio codec for devices that offer it. Not too many cheap open earbuds have good sound but these Soundpeats have good bass response and clarity. They're also good for making calls and have a low-latency gaming mode. Clip the on-page coupon to get an additional 15% off, bringing the price down to $39 -- a very good deal if you're looking for open-style earbuds.

$80 at Amazon

Best new Soundcore by Anker buds

Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4

While their sound isn't quite up to the level of higher-end buds like Apple's AirPods Pro 2 and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 that cost significantly more, the Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 earbuds have a strong set of features, including a spatial audio mode with head tracking, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, up to nine hours of battery life, wireless charging and support for Sony's LDAC audio codec that can offer sound improvements if you have the right setup.

Compared to top-sounding buds I've reviewed, they lack a bit of overall clarity, accuracy and bass definition. But most people will think they sound quite good -- they play plenty loud and deliver strong bass -- and you can tweak their sound profile in the app or create a personal HearID Sound profile (it's also for noise canceling). 

$149 at Amazon

Best open wireless earbuds

AirPods 3

Take one look at the new design of the third-gen AirPods, and the first thing you'll probably think is: "Those look like the AirPods Pro without ear tips." You wouldn't be wrong. While they're more fraternal than identical twins, the AirPods 3 are shaped like the AirPods Pro, with the same shorter stems and same pinch controls as those of the Pro. Aside from the design change, which should fit most ears better than the AirPods 2nd Generation (though not very small ears), the biggest change is to the sound quality: It's much improved. Also, battery life is better, and the AirPods 3 are officially water-resistant.

They're a good pick for students who prefer "open earbuds" and don't like noise-isolating earbuds with tips they have to jam in their ears.

$198 at Amazon

Best Sony compact mid-range wireless

Sony LinkBuds S

Unlike the "open" LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S are traditional noise-isolating earbuds with tips you jam in your ears. They're more compact and lighter than Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4 and also feature Sony's V1 processor. While their sound and noise canceling don't quite measure up to the XM4's, they're close and cost less. They're the Sony buds for people who can deal with larger buds like the XM4 but want 80 to 85% of those buds' features and performance for less money.