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Best wired headphones 2024: Over-ear, on-ear and in-ear options for every budget

best wired headphones lead

Whatever your style preference, there’s a pair out there for you. Here’s our pick of the best wired headphones

In the ever-evolving world of audio, the appeal of the best wired headphones remains strong. Despite the growing dominance of their wireless counterparts, wired designs still offer benefits that audiophiles and discerning listeners simply can’t ignore.

Below, we’ve got a comprehensive guide exploring the nuances of wired headphones, helping you navigate through the intricacies of design, sound signature, comfort and more, so that you can find yourself the perfect pair. After the buying guide, you’ll find short reviews of the products we currently recommend, all of which have been tested extensively.

Best wired headphones: At a glance

Best overallSennheiser HD 560S | £139Check price at Amazon
Best cheap wired earphonesSoundMagic E11 | £40Check price at Amazon
Best wireless earphones alternativeBeats Flex | £44Check price at Amazon

How to choose the best wired headphones for you

Why choose wired headphones over wireless?

Wireless headphones may be in vogue due to how incredibly convenient they are but wired headphones have key benefits of their own. Audio enthusiasts, studio professionals and those who value accuracy will appreciate the absence of audio lag and, perhaps more crucially, the direct connection’s higher fidelity. Plus, wired headphones work tirelessly without the need for battery replenishment – no need to remember to charge your headphones the night before your daily excursions.

In-ear, on-ear or over-ear; open-back or closed-back?

Determining your preferred wired headphones begins with design considerations, specifically whether you’re more inclined towards the in-ear, on-ear or over-ear format.

In-ear models work best for on-the-go usage due to their compact form factor, while well-padded over-ear options offer all day comfort suited to extended home listening sessions. On-ear headphones act as the middle ground, resting on your ears to provide a comfortable fit over shorter periods, making them a preferred choice of DJs.

If you prefer over-ear or on-ear headphones, a further question emerges: should you buy a closed-back or open-back option? While open-back designs let more sound in and leak more sound out, they tend to deliver more expansive, natural audio. On the flip side, closed-back variants provide a sealed environment, perfect for commuters seeking sound isolation.

What connectivity options do wired headphones offer?

Most wired headphones use a 3.5mm cable, though you’ll find some options that can also be hooked up using a USB-C connection. It’s important to ensure that the headphones you buy are compatible with the devices you use more frequently, so make sure to double-check the connection method before making a purchase. Should you intend to use your headphones with desktop systems or hi-fi setups, keep an eye out for bundled accessories like longer cables or 6.3mm adapters.

Many wireless Bluetooth headphones will have a socket for wired listening, too: you can listen to lossless audio through a stable connection when required. This is arguably the best of both worlds, but it’s worth noting that some wireless headphones sound very different when using a wired connection, or when the device isn’t using power from its internal battery.

How we test wired headphones

For all the headphones that come through the Expert Reviews offices, we keep the testing process as consistent as possible. However, wired headphones have their own specific testing conditions.

Across the board we begin with judgements of build quality and durability. Once we put them on, we move on to assessments of comfort by wearing them for extended periods of time.

Sound quality is one of the most important factors to evaluate and we spend the majority of our time listening to different audio content from various sources, including music from streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music as well as locally stored high-resolution audio files. The benefit of wired headphones is that you can take advantage of higher quality audio sources than wireless ones, meaning that latter point is particularly important.

Should headphones support any particular features, or be used for specific purposes, then we’ll make sure to try them out as well – though wired headphones tend to have a lot less than wireless ones, if they have any at all. Many wired headphones do have microphones however, and we’ll make cellular/Wi-Fi phone calls, use them for virtual meetings and make our own voice recordings to see how they fare.

All the headphones listed below have been thoroughly tested by us and any additions that make it to this page will get the same treatment outlined above.

READ NEXT: The best headphones to buy

The best wired headphones you can buy in 2024

1. Sennheiser HD 560S: Best wired over-ear headphones

Price when reviewed: £139 | Check price at Amazon

best wired headphones Sennheiser HD 560SThe Sennheiser HD 560S are open-back headphones capable of producing spacious, refined and uncoloured audio. Angled drivers aim to replicate a triangular listening position akin to that found in recording studios, and this helps enhance the overall speaker-like experience in combination with their cavernous over-ear design.

Engineered for comfort during extended use, their sizable earcups are fitted with soft velour earpads and a plush headband pad. And despite their lightweight build, the headphones’ construction suggests strong durability from our testing.

Some users may find the neutral sound signature lacking in bass, and the HD 560S’ high impedance may require a dedicated headphone amp or DAC for optimal performance. But overall, they are excellent value and our favourite over-ear open-back option.

Read our full Sennheiser HD 560S review

Key specs – Type: Over-ear; Connections: 3.5mm; Weight: 240g; Cable length: 3m

2. OneOdio Monitor 80: Best wired headphones under £100

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at Amazon

best wired headphones OneOdio Monitor 80

The OneOdio Monitor 80 are the ideal budget-friendly option for home studio setups. They deliver a well-balanced and accurate audio experience with a flat frequency response, meaning audio engineers and budget-conscious audiophiles who want to hear tunes as the artist intended will get the most out of them.

While the open-back design limits their powers in noisy environments, they are exceptionally comfortable, with an appealing matte finish. A protective carry case means you can take them with you wherever you go. There are even two detachable audio cables – one with a 6.3mm jack and the other with a 3.5mm one – eliminating the need for an adapter. For spacious and articulate sound at an affordable price, these are the best wired option around.

Read our full OneOdio Monitor 80 review

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear; Connections: 3.5mm/6.3mm jack; Weight: 299g; Cable length: 3m (straight), 1m-3.5m (coiled)

3. Sennheiser HD 25: Best wired on-ear headphones

Price when reviewed: £125 | Check price at Gear4Music

best wired headphones Sennheiser HD 25

The Sennheiser HD 25 headphones are a timeless classic in the DJ world and continue to reign supreme as a wired on-ear option today. Their clamping force ensures a secure fit and offers some of the best passive isolation we’ve experienced with on-ear headphones, while their design is both lightweight and durable too.

With modular components that are easy to replace or repair should anything get broken, alongside meticulously detailed audio, the Sennheiser HD 25 are versatile daily drivers capable of doing justice to whatever you’re listening to via a wired connection.

Read our full Sennheiser HD 25 review

Key specs – Headphone type: On-ear; Connections: 3.5mm (6.3mm jack adapter included); Weight: 140g; Cable length: 1.5m

Check price at Gear4Music

4. SoundMagic E11: Best cheap wired earphones

Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at Amazon

best wired headphones SoundMagic E11

The SoundMagic E11 earphones continue the legacy of their highly acclaimed predecessors, the E10. Though they come at a slightly higher price point, the additional investment is justified, given SoundMagic’s enhancements across nearly every area. The E11 offer an expanded and more immersive soundstage, crisper treble notes and a more controlled bass response.

They exude a sense of elegance too, setting them apart from the sea of low-cost competitors, through their unique silver-plated copper cable. In the realm of wired, in-ear audio solutions, the E11 truly stand out as an exceptional pair of earphones.

Read our full SoundMagic E11 review

Key specs – Type: In-ear; Connections: 3.5mm; Weight: 9g; Cable length: 1.2m

5. Beats Flex: Best wireless earphones alternative

Price when reviewed: £44 | Check price on Amazon

best wired headphones Beats Flex

The Beats Flex are not wired headphones – they use Bluetooth to pair with your devices rather than a physical connection – but are an excellent alternative if you want in-ear headphones joined by a section of wire. This makes them less likely to be lost than their true wireless counterparts and they have longer battery life than earbuds, too.

Following a full charge, you’ll be able to enjoy music uninterrupted for up to 12 hours, while their Apple W1 chip grants quick pairing with iOS devices, making them a great pick if you own an iPhone. A magnetic connection between the buds is handy for keeping the earpieces together and content is paused as soon as contact is made, which is particularly useful.

They’re not water-resistant, so you need to be careful when using them outdoors and in the gym, but otherwise, the Beats Flex are a great-value option capable of delivering balanced, neutral sound.

Read our full Beats Flex review

Key specs – Type: In-ear; Connections: Bluetooth ; Weight: Unknown; Cable length: 1.2m; Battery life (total): 12hrs