The 10 best headphones to gift this holiday season

Headphones make the best presents

A woman with headphones.
(Image credit: Courtesy Bose)

Forget the charity goat, the scarf no one will wear, and the gift card for Olive Garden. The one thing everyone on your list wants is a new set of headphones. Even if you got everyone headphones last year, they probably lost them. Do you want your money to go to something that will get used? In this always-plugged-in era, that's headphones. The question is: Which headphones are best? Relax. We did the work for you. These 10 headphones will cover every gift scenario in your life.

For sanity

Donning a comfy pair of over-ear headphones can fix a plane flight, provide respite from a chaotic home life, and create a cone of concentration anywhere. Do you need to drop a fortune to give stress-free goodness to someone you love? No. The Plantronics BackBeat GO 810 headphones sound great, keep going for 22 hours on one charge, and have active noise cancelation. A steal at $150.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

For motivation

Someone on your list has been saying, "I need more exercise!" How to be supportive without being judgmental? The Plantronics BackBeatFIT 3100 ($150) are a slick pair of wireless — as in seriously, no wires; you wear them in your ears — headphones that can get sweaty and rained on. They will turn that walk or run into the best part of the day. And they let you hear through your audiobook or tunes so you aren't oblivious to your environment. That's safer.

For the swimmer

Lap swimmers need a sound track, too. How cool would you be if you made that happen? The Surge S+ headphones ($50) from H2O Audio are designed to be listened to in the top 12 feet of the pool. Not only are they waterproof, they have minimal wires and the sound is optimized for immersion.

For gaming

Gamers have needs when it comes to headsets. They need immersive sound quality to hear that stealthy opponent and distant gunfire. They need to be heard by other gamers in the virtual world when they shout expletives. And they need to connect to a gaming console. Dell's Alienware Wireless Elite Gaming Headset ($200) hits all these marks.

For their stockings

If you want to drop something useful into everyone's stocking, check out Wicked Audio's Shred2 Bluetooth ($50) earbuds. Slick-looking and wireless, they wrap behind your neck so you can wear them all over town. They are waterproof and sweat-resistant. The wired version of the same cost less than $20.

For Alexa fans

There is always someone who needs to should "Alexa!" from across every room. These headphones let that guy wear Amazon's (or Google's) personal assistant on his head. More Alexa, less shouting. The Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II ($350) are high-fidelity and noise canceling. But how sweet is this? Just ask aloud for a song and Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant will find it and play it right into your ears.

For she who is pretty in pink

Urbanears makes slick, minimal headphones that are high on design and low on hassle. Color is always a thing with this brand and this year they launched a lot of pink. The Jakan Powder Pink ($79) earbuds will look great with her dress, sound good in his ears, and not break your bank.

For the audiophile

The nuraphone ($399) are the headphones for people who are very serious about listening. I've watched grown men cry while listening to a favorite song played through these. The first time you put them on, they play a tone into your ears that tunes the headphones to the way you hear. They are earbuds inside of over-ear headphones, which is a bit odd. But, if what you want for Christmas is to blow someone's mind with music, this is how you do it.

For chin-waggers

For some people, phones are for talking into. They do it often, in public, in the bathroom, for hours. For them, a great headphone is one where the phone sounds good; that they can listen to music or podcasts is just gravy. Enter the Jabra Elite Active 65t ($190). Wearable, completely wireless, easily connected, and optimized for talking on the phone. Bonus: a slick charging case and the ability to connect to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

For the kiddos

Wearing earbuds to listen to loud music has destroyed the hearing of an entire generation. Protect a youngster on your shopping list from this fate with the Puro BT2200 Volume Limited Kids' Bluetooth Headphones ($1100). These over-ear headphones won't let the volume get dangerously high, even if the kids want it that way, and they come in cute colors. They also sound great.

Editor's note: The Week has affiliate partnerships with certain retailers, and may get a share of the revenue from these purchases.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.