Finding the best headphone is no easy job especially with the sheer number of contenders we had. We took all the best picks from the different price categories and decided to find the best headphone for your money.
We understand this, so we partnered with Rontek an audio company known for their speakers, amplifiers and power management systems. Each of the headphones were personally tested by Rontek’s CEO Mr.Jacob Abraham who has an experience of 20 years.
To find the best headphone for you we spent over 3 days testing the headphones. We conducted detailed testing that involved not only testing the headphone subjectively, but also objectively using a recording chamber we fabricated ourselves.
After all the work we put in, these were our best picks.
The Best Headphone
Bose Quietcomfort 35
The QuietComfort 35 simply put is one of the best headphones in Bose’ arsenal. Their most premium and most advanced pair of cans that you can buy. The QC35 has class leading noise-cancellation, excellent sound quality and a great wireless experience with amazing battery life. The Bose QC35 is perfect for travel. It completely sucks out all the noise and you are left with the only thing that matters - your music. It offers a very comfortable listening experience too. This headphone has an in-line mic which is perfect for making calls. When testing we found the voice was clear and pleasant with optimum loudness.
While we tested and reviewed the Bose QuietComfort 35, you can also pick the upgraded version of it, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. The 35 II has a dedicated button for Google Assistant and Toggling the Noise Cancellation level along with support for Quick Charging.
The Best budget Headphone
Sennheiser HD 598 SR
The Sennheiser HD 598 brings a concert like experience to the table with its unique open back design. Ambient sounds seep through and get mixed with the music which gives you a very different but nice soundstage. As we have come to associate Sennheiser’s with clean, natural sound the 598 is no different, giving a sound signature that is devoid any unnecessary applications in the bass region. Although the Bose is much better in the low end owing to its closed back and noise cancellation, the Sennheiser is still very good, but for a different type of listener. They're well built and feel durable, the ear cups also completely cover your ear. But being open-back which leaks sound, lack of noise cancellation and wired connection means you are restricted to listening in your home/ studio only.
To read more about how the Sennheiser 598SR performs read our detailed review of it here.
This is a really long post! Use the links below to jump around.
Why Trust Us?
To find the best headphones we spend almost 3 days testing each headphone for sound quality, comfort and noise isolation. To do justice to the audio testing we partnered with Rontek, a company with over 20 years’ of experience in manufacturing high quality audio amplification systems and loudspeakers.
At Rontek we measured the sound quality of each headphone subjectively and objectively. Good sound quality isn't all that makes a headphone good, so we used each headphone for at least 2 & 1/2 hours to understand the kind of comfort they offer.
How we selected?
We started our best headphone testing by picking all the winners of our previous articles. These included headphones ranging from Rs.1,000 to Rs.10,000. These were the headphones we had picked.
Best headphones under Rs.5000:
- Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Over-Ear Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
- Skullcandy S5URHW-509 On-Ear Wireless Headphones
Best Headphones under Rs.3000:
- Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB550AP On-Ear Headphones with Mic
- Boat Rockerz 510 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with Mic
Best Headphones under Rs.2000:
- Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB450AP On-Ear Headphones with Mic
- Sony MDR-XB450 Wired Headphone
- Motorola Pulse Max Headset with Mic
Best Headphones under Rs.1000:
- Sennheiser HD 180 Wired Headphone
- Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 Anti Headphone
- Sony MDR-ZX110 A Wired Headphone
To this list we added two more headphones, we picked these two based based on recommendations from other audio review websites like Sound Guys, Trusted Reviews etc.
These were the final two headphones we selected:
- Bose QuietComfort 35
- Sony MDR-1A
How we tested?
When buying a headphone, sound quality alone is not enough. You must also make sure the ear cups of the headphone are comfortable enough to at least watch a movie. There's no point in buying a headphone with great sound which continuously hurts your ears. We wanted to make sure the headphone you buy has great sound quality and delivers on other features as well. Here’s what we tested.
Sound Quality: The sound quality testing was done at Rontek with the help of Mr. Jacob. We split the sound quality testing into two parts, Objective and Subjective. The Subjective testing is where Mr.Jacob listens to a selection of songs from different genres and then grades each headphone for sound quality.
The Objective testing is where things get interesting. Objectively testing a headphone is much more difficult than a normal speaker. Still, with the help of Rontek we built our own test rig, which consisted of a box to simulate the human head, fitted into which was a calibrated microphone to record sound. With this setup we managed to perform the LARSA test on all the headphones. LARSA test helps to plot the frequency response curve of the headphone which shows the frequency and loudness of the headphones.
Comfort: As we said before, we don’t want you to be stuck with headphones that hurt your ears. So, to test the comfort of each headphone our researcher wore each headphone for over two hours, looking out for any sort of pain in the ear, irritation, sweating etc.
Durability: Next we wanted to check the durability of the headphone padding. So we checked the sponge quality, softness, thickness of padding on each of the headphone. We also checked verified reviews on Amazon and Flipkart to assess whether people had problems with the padding.
Next we checked the cable quality to see if they were actually tangle-free. We tried tangling the cable and then tried removing the tangles.
Noise Isolation: To test the noise isolation, we sat down next to a TV and put the headphones on. We kept increasing the volume on the TV until the sound from the TV was louder than the sound from the headphone. We noted the exact point at which this occurred.
Noise Cancellation - To test noise cancellation we wanted to simulate a aeroplane sound and then see how well the Active Noise Cancellation feature (ANC). To achieve this we played the sound of an aeroplane on a laptop and sat next to the laptop with the headphone (with ANC turned on). We then noted how well the sound of the aeroplane gets cancelled.
Quality of Mic: The mic was tested by calling different people to check the call clarity and volume. We made around three phone calls per headphone to check the call quality.
Bluetooth - We tested headphones with bluetooth by connecting to a laptop and mobile phone. These headphones we checked for their connection speed, stability, range , battery life and charging.
Warranty and Service: We called each headphone company to find out the warranty and service policy and process for getting a headphone replaced or fixed for each headphone.
Also Read: Best Headphones Under Rs 10000 in India 2018
The Best Headphone
The best sounding headphones with great comfort and good noise cancellation and isolation.
- Great Sound Quality
- Quality padding makes headphone comfortable to use for long hours
- Good clarity for voice calls
- Intuitive controls on the earcups
- Completely foldable with carry case included in box
- 3.5mm cable provided for wired listening
- Bluetooth and NFC connectivity
- 10+ hours of battery life
- No 6.3mm cable/ adapter provided
- 3.5mm cable is too thin
- Build Quality could be better
Quality of Sound: Unmistakably Bose; Loud, Clear and Full of Bass
Bose QuietComfort headphones have become synonymous with a few things like, class leading sound quality, the best noise cancellation, simple, thoughtful design and a larger sticker price. The QC35 is no different, it holds good on all the counts and is simply the best Bose has ever produced, and that is saying something.
Now Bose audio products are not know for their flat sound signature say like Audio Technica or Sennheiser, rather Bose tends to boost certain areas like the bass or the area where the guitar strings are prominent around the 1-2 kHz range. These areas are boosted as people will prefer the sound that way. This selective boosting can be seen in the frequency response curve of the Bose when we tested them objectively.
Now getting the technical talk away how are they to listen you may think, right? In one word amazing, even more amazing when you turn on the noise cancellation. This potent combination of great audio and excellent noise cancellation gives you an aural experience that is rare to find in most other headphones. Also unlike most headphones where you really need to have a good ear to listen to the difference in audio quality the Bose simply sounds good to everyone, normal listeners and audiophiles. This is one reason that makes it the best headphone for all type of listeners.
The bass has a smooth build up, the loudness is very good, the trebles are never sharp, they are simply perfect. Turn off your audio and watch a movie and this headphone adapts effortlessly helping you listen to the crisp dialogue delivery. Again as we said good at everything. Coming to noise isolation, the difference between the noise isolation off and on setting is astounding. Your brain cannot comprehend where all the sounds around you have vanished. It’s simple a very immersive experience that is perfect for unwinding after a long day.
For optimal results use a DAC for great listening experience
Build and Comfort: Simple, Light and Portable
The Bose QC35 has large ear cups that completely engulf your ears. This is one of the reason for the effectiveness of the noise cancellation. The soft fabric and lightweight means you can wear them for long periods without any listening fatigue.
The headphone has a unique design that means you can fold them completely to make them extremely portable, a hardcover case is also throw in. While this is very good the build quality of the headphone does feel a little fragile so handle with care.
Also it is semi sweat resistant on the ear cups make them more suited for listening on the couch rather than on a treadmill. We found almost no complaints about the cable quality or earpads durability from online reviews.
This headphone has an inline mic and can be used for calling purpose, also volume control buttons on the headphone. Taking voice calls on this headphones was clear without any distortion.
Battery life & Connectivity : Great battery life, Hassle free connectivity
With the great sound and excellent noise cancellation the Bose still manages a great battery life of over 10 hours on a single charge. Charging time is also fast at around an hour.
The headphone maintains good quality sound even till a distance of 25 feet, after which the connection gets disturbed.
Setting up the headphone with your Android/ iOS phone is easy and hassle-free. You can also use the built-in NFC feature to pair the headphone and phone. Once paired, a voice command lets you get going.
What makes the Bose headphone our best pick is the fact that it can do just about everything you ask it. It sounds great, has noise cancellation, can be used for phone calls, is light yet has great battery life, can be heard wirelessly as well as wired and folds into a small case when you want to carry it.
A note on Warranty and Service
To analyse the warranty we spent a few hours calling the customer care numbers to find out the warranty policy for each of the headphones.
Bose: The Bose has only a one year warranty on the headphones. This is low in comparison to Sony’s 2 year warranty and Sennheiser’s 3 year warranty. But it is a small price to pay for the quality of sound and noise cancellation you get. For any issues with the product you drop off the product at the service center or ring up the customer care for assistance. There are around 10 service centers in India.
The headphone will be replaced if under warranty period. The invoice or bill copy is the warranty card, so keep it safe. If there are any minor issues, the product can be repaired.
Those that didn’t make the cut
Sony MDR-1A: Price is one of the key factors where the Sony MDR-1A loses it, priced at more than Rs.25,000 its almost close to the Bose QC35, but the price tag here is not justified. The Bose offers you one of the best listening experiences in the world whereas the Sony lacks noise cancellation. The Sony also lacks portability and wireless audio which for the price point is not acceptable.
The MDR-1A has a warm sound which many will prefer however the bass lacks controls. The mids and highs are however very good, but given that you are shelling out a pretty large sum you are better off with the Bose QC35, or the much affordable Sennheiser 598 SR.
Limitations in our testing
At Topcut researching is our daily bread and butter. Everyday we work not only newer products and newer review techniques but we also revisit our old reviews to see what can be improved.
In reviewing, headphones we wanted to assess the audio performance objectively, which involved conducting the Frequency Response tests on all the headphones. Now conducting the test on speakers is simple as the speakers send the sound outwards and we listen to them from a distance. But on a headphone the sound is not emitted out and therefore is harder to measure. This is why we used a dummy of a human head with a microphone sticking in the middle near the dummies brain. Finding such a equipment for testing was extremely difficult hence we build our own version with a box. Now because of the box size being small with the flat sides there maybe be sound bouncing on the walls which might contribute to some inaccuracies. Also objective testing could not be conducted on Bluetooth only headphones as the calibrated microphone is designed to work with wired headphones only