When students head back to school this fall, plenty of them will be looking for a new set of cans or earbuds, whether they want to kick back with tunes or watch movies — or for actual schoolwork. With that in mind, here are some of the best student headphone picks, with some affordable picks mixed in with premium options. If you’re looking for even more headphone or earbud options, we’ve got the listings for you The best headphones for working from home
When you have a product that many people love, change can be risky. That’s the case with the Sony WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and are becoming increasingly popular as they improve with each generation. Sony has made a few tweaks to the design over the years, but nothing as dramatic as what they did with the WH-1000XM5. Aside from the higher $400 price tag ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of these changes are good, and Sony has made some dramatic improvements to voice call performance, as well as even better noise cancellation and a more refined sound.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.
In the past, we’ve recommended Earfun’s AirPro SV and Air Pro 2 as excellent choices for budget noise-canceling headphones (they’re still good values). But the new-for-2022 Earfun Air S might be the best of the trio, with Bluetooth multi-point pairing, the latest Qualcomm QCC3046 SoC (system on a chip) with AptX audio codec for Android, and other devices that support it. It has the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and offers surprisingly impressive sound for its modest price. They also work well as a headset for phone calls with decent background noise reduction.
The buds have a water resistance rating of IPX5, which means that they are resistant to splashing water and can withstand continuous water spray. Note that through September 11, 2002 you can get them for $49 by clicking the 10% instant coupon on the product page and using the code AIRSCNET at checkout on Amazon.
While the Beats Fit Pro ($200) aren’t technically AirPods, they’re built on the same technology platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats’ earlier and cheaper Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro includes an Apple H1 chip and has most of the features of the AirPods Pro, including active noise cancellation, surround sound and Adaptive EQ. I’d venture to call them the sporty AirPods you’ve always wanted (they’re IPX4 splash-proof). And for some people, they might be better than AirPods Pro.
Read our Beats Fit Pro review.
JBL has released some decent wireless headphones over the years, but nothing that got me too excited. That has finally changed with the arrival of the new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 from Samsung. 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 cancellation, very good sound quality and voice call performance, plus a robust feature set, including Bluetooth multi-point pairing, anti- splash water IPX5 and wireless charging.
The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 feature the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicone tips. Aside from design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; Live Free 2 without a stopwatch is rated for up to seven hours, while Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. Live Pro 2 is available in four color variants.
Waterproof: Yes (IPX5 degree of protection – resistant to splashing water).
Be the first to read our JBL Live Pro 2 review.
If you can’t afford Sony’s WH-1000XM5 or the similarly named Bose QC45 (yes, a bit of a copycat here), the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 is a good $150 alternative (and we should see discounts on it occasionally). While it may not fit some smaller heads, it’s comfortable to wear, with nicely padded ear cups and a two-hinged folding design. Sound quality is very good and the headphones offer better noise cancellation than the step-down Q35, as well as multi-point Bluetooth pairing (these are equipped with Bluetooth 5.3) and support for the LDAC audio codec for streaming hi-res music over Bluetooth if you have a device that supports it LDAC. Many Android phones do, although Samsung Galaxy phones don’t.
Battery life is very good up to 50 hours with noise canceling on at medium volume levels and the headphones come with a hard case for travel.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offer improved noise cancellation along with very good audio and voice call performance, plus support for high-definition wireless audio streaming if you own a Galaxy device with the right settings. That said, their biggest improvement may be their new design and smaller size, making them a better fit for more ears. Apart from their somewhat high price, their only downside is that some of their key features only work with Samsung Galaxy devices. They are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review.
The QuietComfort 45 has virtually the same design as its predecessor, the QuietComfort QC35 II, which many people considered to be one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones out there—if not. and most convenient. According to Bose, it has the same controls and the buttons are in the same place. However, there are small but notable changes. First, these thankfully have USB-C instead of micro-USB.
Second, the microphone configuration is different. Not only have the microphones been moved around on the headphones, but there’s now an additional external microphone for voice pickup, meaning the QC45 has a total of six microphones, four of which are beam and are used for voice. In contrast, the QC35 II has a total of four, two of which are for voice. (The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 also have a total of six microphones.)
These headphones are great for phone calls. In this respect, they are similar to the Bose Headphones 700. They also include superior noise cancellation and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them to your PC and phone at the same time. Read our full QuietComfort 45 review.
Look at the new design of the third-generation AirPods ($179), and the first thing you’ll probably think is, “They look like AirPods Pro without the ear tips.” You wouldn’t be wrong. Although more fraternal than identical, the AirPods 3 are shaped like the AirPods Pro, with the same shorter stems and the same controls as the Pro. Aside from the design change, which should fit most ears better than the 2nd generation AirPods (though not very small ears), the biggest change is the sound quality: It’s much better. Battery life is also better and AirPods 3 are officially waterproof.
They are a good choice for students who prefer “open headphones” and don’t like noise-isolating headphones with tips that have to be pushed into their ears.
Read our AirPods 3 review.
Unlike the “open” LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S are traditional noise-isolating headphones with tips that you stick into your ears. They are more compact and lighter than the flagship Sony WF-1000M4 and also feature a Sony V1 processor. While their sound and noise cancellation aren’t quite up to par with the WF-1000XM4, they’re close and cost less. These are Sony headphones for people who can handle larger headphones like the WF-1000XM4, but want 80-85% of the features and performance of these headphones for $80 less.
Read our Sony LinkBuds S review.
The Tranya F1 headphones are essentially AirPods that cost a lot less. They have an open design like the AirPods 3 and produce pretty decent sound for open headphones, especially if you’re not in a noisy environment (open headphones let in ambient sound). They also work well for voice calls with good noise reduction.
They have tiny physical buttons to control playback and adjust volume, and their other distinguishing feature is that they have an “LED Digital Power Display” integrated into their case that displays the battery life levels of your headphones. They’re splash-proof with an IPX5 rating, and the battery life is rated for up to 7 hours at medium volume levels, plus another 25 hours of juice in the charging case, which offers USB-C and wireless charging.
They’re good for anyone who loses their headphones a lot and doesn’t want to feel so bad when they go missing since they’re only around $40.