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When we’re testing out headphones, of course we’re going to be looking for superior audio quality and performance above all else — but if you’re going to be wearing them out and about, why wouldn’t you want them to be look as good as they sound? If you’re trying to zone out on plane, of course you’re going to want to want baby wail-blocking noise-cancellation, and for long runs, you’re going to want ear cups that stay put underneath the sweat. But in search of epic sound, sometimes headphones can get bogged down by clunky controls and uncomfortable designs.
The best-looking headphones not only make you look more stylish, but they pack in all the crisp sound and extra features you’d want out of something traditionally labeled for audiophiles. There may have been a time when all you saw was a sea of AirPods on public transport, but these days, audio companies are crafting their headphones like works of art, like using premium leather materials on the ear cups, or creating unique headband shapes.
You aren’t just seeing more streamlined, modernized designs, either — headphones have practically become must-have accessories. Wired headphones became a “new” phenomenon again in 2020 as a status symbol for urban trend-setters. Asos even started selling fake earbuds that don’t actually work as jewelry pieces.
So whether you’re looking for budget headphones that don’t actually seem like they’ll break in a week, or a pair that look like the audio equivalent of a sports car, we’ve picked some of the most stylish headphones we’ve seen, that also happen to sound great. While these headphones might all look a little different, they all have a few key criteria in common: top-notch sound performance, a range of features, and comfortability.
1. Urbanista Los Angeles
When we talk about design, we’re also referring to what’s under the hood, and Urbanista’s Los Angeles headphones are impeccably designed, inside and out. This stylish, minimalist pair are the world’s first self-charging wireless headphones, so you can say goodbye to your headphones running out of juice.
Inspired by LA’s love of music, parties, and of course, sunshine, these solar-powered headphones convert light (both indoors and outdoors) into energy, keeping your tunes going all night long. You can’t shut these “off” like traditional headphones, since the technology means that these headphones are always charging (there’s a USB-C cable included if you want to power up the old-fashioned way, though).
The headband not only looks chic and sophisticated, but houses the solar cells that keep this pair powered, while still maintaining an attractive “midnight black” or “sand gold” finish. But there’s more to these headphones than their self-charging tech — hybrid Active Noise-Cancellation and dynamic 40mm drivers create a deep soundstage that feels super immersive, thanks to a pair of cushy earcups.
The Urbanista Lost Angeles don’t just sound good, but they look as good as the city they’re inspired by.
2. Grado SR 325x
Grado’s SR 325xs aren’t just a great pair of wired headphones, their entire Prestige series are as classy as they are classic. With a level of commitment and care not normally found in most of the audio industry, these headphones are hand-built in Brooklyn by the family-owned company that’s been in business 1953.
This isn’t just a flimsy pair that’ll break just from jostling in your bag — SR 325xs are made out of premium materials like aluminum, leather, and copper that are designed to last a lifetime. The perfectly-circular ear cups have an eye-catching, speaker-like mesh centerpiece that immediately stands out. Within, you’ll find updated 44mm X Series drivers that provide even better performance and harmonic resolution, so you’ll hear every note with maximum clarity.
Instead of creating a bulky, overly-plush headband, Grado’s headphones have just enough padding to keep you comfortable all day, and nothing more. That has the added bonus of making these headphones super light. While we’re not huge fans of prominent logos or text on audio gear, we are fans of the thick, solid cable that Grado uses so it won’t fray. Grado’s SR 325xs are a statement piece, and a statement to Grado’s long-standing craftsmanship.
3. Apple AirPods Max
It’s no surprise that Apple’s headphones look as premium as they feel. These are one of the most comfortable pair of over-ear headphones we’ve ever tested too, and that’s incredibly important for getting the most out of Apple’s shockingly good noise-cancellation.
The flexible headband relieves all of the normal pressure you’d feel from wearing headphones with regular padding. That’s thanks to a knit mesh headband that contours to the shape of your head, and an easily-adjustable stainless steel frame. They’re also impressively light, considering their 13.6 ounce weight.
The AirPods Max carries over their sleek, minimalist design to their controls. One button controls playback and volume, while the only other button turns active noise cancellation on or off, or activates transparency mode. Apple has packed six outward-facing microphones in each ear cup, and the result is stellar noise cancellation. These headphones block out a lot of noise along a wide frequency range, from heat pipes and a microwave at home, to the dull roar of an airplane and chatter on public transport.
Apple doesn’t skimp on sound quality either, putting “computational audio” into these headphones that use two inward-facing microphones to automatically adjust its EQ several times per second. If you want a pair of headphones that block out all the noise you don’t want, while delivering a cocoon of mind-blowing sound, AirPods Max are your best choice.
4. V-MODA Crossfade 2
V-MODA, which has long been the go-to audio brand for DJs, look like the definition of cool. They’ve released special-edition Jimi Hendrix and Rolling Stones headphones, but you’ll be blown away by even their most stripped-down pair.
Their Bluetooth headphones feature V-MODA’s unique hexagonal-shaped ear pads, along with a sturdy metal headband. They’re meant for both pure analog wired and wireless listening, so it’s no wonder why professional musicians worldwide love their stuff. With pairing on multiple devices at a time (say, on your phone and your laptop) they’re great for casual listening, too.
The V-MODA Crossfade 2 shows up when it comes to tech features — the headphones boast up to 14 hours of wireless playback on a single charge, and unlimited listening in wired mode. Audiophiles will also appreciate the 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers for deep, distinct bass, and an immersive 3D soundstage. The large memory foam ear cushions and steel flex headband provide a ton of comfort for those longer listening sessions.
Whether you’re sitting on your next jam sesh, or just rocking out in your room, V-MODA’s Crossfade 2 deliver pure, unrivaled sound.
5. Mark Levinson No. 5909
The Mark Levinson No. 5909 over-ear headphones feel like you’re treating yourself, both in terms of audio quality and sheer aesthetics.
The No. 5909 follow Mark Levinson’s philosophy of making industrial audio gear with thoughtfully-designed touches. Thanks to their connection with the automotive industry, the outside of the ear cups are made out of a pretty solid aluminum frame, with an attractive, glossy metallic finish.
The headband frame is a premium textured leather, and glides smoothly if you need to adjust the fit to sit comfortably on your head. The headphones’ active noise cancellation is both immersive and highly-effective, even without a super tight fit. They get up to 34 hours of music playback per charge, and have an ambient mode that filters important sounds (i.e. traffic sounds, or a passing train) while still feeling seamless with your music playing.
But what’s truly impressive is how No. 5909 pairs with high-res audio, thanks to Sony’s LDAC and Qualcomm’s AptX Adaptive codecs for near-lossless Bluetooth streaming. You can adjust the EQ in the app, but the depth and purity of sound is almost unbeatable as-is.
While the price tag might turn some away, we can’t deny that the Mark Levinson No. 5909 is the Lamborghini of the personal audio world.