Best of 2018 Awards — The Best Headphones

Side profile of Sony WH-1000XM3
Side profile of Sony WH-1000XM3 (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

2018 was a monumental year for the audio industry. With more and more phones ditching the headphone jack, audio manufacturers shifted their attention to the wireless segment, offering great products in the process. Sony paved the way with its LDAC high-fidelity wireless audio codec, which is now a mainstay on all Android phones running Oreo and above. The company soon followed it up with the WH1000XM3, which combines outstanding sound quality with class-leading noise isolation.

Why we picked the Sony WH1000XM3 as the Best Headphones of 2018

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

You would've seen the Sony WH1000XM3 featured on a lot of holiday lists this year. That's for good reason: they offer an excellent combination of comfort, sound quality, and noise isolation. Sony has raised its game significantly this year, even managing to dethrone Bose when it comes to noise cancellation. That doesn't happen often, and is testament to the advances Sony made over the last 12 months.

Sony has redefined the wireless audio segment with the WH1000XM3.

Sony debuted a new QN1 processor dedicated to handle noise isolation, and that makes a tangible difference in day-to-day usage. The headphones do a fantastic job tuning out ambient sounds, but what's more impressive is the sound quality. It's safe to say that the WH1000XM3 are the best-sounding headphones for under $400 right now.

Sony has also fixed a long-standing complaint with the earlier models in the series — a Micro-USB port. The WH1000XM3 charge over USB-C, and they also offer a fast charging feature that gets you five hours' worth of listening time after just a 10-minute charge. On a full charge, the headphones deliver over 30 hours of battery life.

There's also Google Assistant integration, easy pairing over NFC, and touch controls on the right for music playback and calls. Simply put, the WH1000XM3 offers much more than any other headphones in this space.

Runners Up

Bottom line

2018 was the year when audio manufacturers finally showed that Bluetooth headphones can be of the same caliber as their wired counterparts. No product epitomizes that belief as much as the $348 Sony WH1000XM3. At the foundation of the WH1000XM3 is exquisite sound quality, and the headphones build on that by offering unmatched noise isolation, 30-hour battery life, USB-C charging, and a sturdy design with a plush headband for all-day comfort. Right now, there really isn't a product that can come close to the WH1000XM3 in this space.

While Sony was tweaking away at the XM3, OnePlus expanded on its audio offerings with the $69 Bullets Wireless. Like OnePlus' phones, the Bullets Wireless offer a compelling set of features at a low cost. The sound quality is perfect if you listen to a lot of bass-heavy tunes, you can easily invoke Google Assistant, and the magnetic connectors at the end of the earbuds offer a seamless way to control music playback. The standard black model looks muted, but the earbuds also come in a more vibrant red color option.

If you don't want an over-ear solution, Samsung's $129 Gear IconX 2018 may just be the ideal alternative. Samsung has done a great job fixing the annoyances with the first-gen model, and the 2018 variant gets everything right. The audio quality is surprisingly good, the touch controls are great for controlling music playback, they're extremely lightweight at just 8gms, and the build quality is top-notch.

All of the products listed above are great in their own right, but if you're looking for the absolute best headphones right now, the Sony WH1000XM3 is the outright winner.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is Android Central's Senior Editor of Asia. In his current role, he oversees the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, networking products, and AV gear. He has been testing phones for over a decade, and has extensive experience in mobile hardware and the global semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.