The best headphones and earphones of 2020 reflect some of the ways in which the landscape has changed. Until recently, wired earphones and headphones were still a serious consideration in the consumer personal audio space, but 2020 has shifted this trend significantly. Although wired headphones and earphones are still widely available, these options usually occupy the two extremes of the product segment - either audiophile-grade, high-end headphones, or very affordable entry-level earphones for budget smartphones. Everything in between has gone wireless, with the true wireless form factor gaining major ground.
That's why our list of top headphones and earphones this year largely includes wireless products. It's the way forward for most listeners, and newly launched options this year have proven just how far Bluetooth has come as a connectivity method when it comes to sound quality, battery life, and stability.
Do keep in mind that our top picks aren't necessarily objectively the best you can buy, or even premium options; we've taken value-for-money and the overall package on offer for the price as strong factors when choosing. Here are our top picks among headphones and earphones for 2020.
Sony's much-awaited WH-1000XM4 wireless active noise cancelling headphones were everything we expected them to be. The headphones do look largely the same as the WH-1000XM3, but significant changes under the hood make it stand out from its predecessor. With class-leading active noise cancellation, LDAC Bluetooth codec support, a tried-and-tested design, and useful features such as speak-to-chat -- this is the most technically advanced and capable pair of headphones you can buy today.
Although expensive at Rs. 29,990, the Sony WH-1000XM4 delivers the kind of experience that completely justifies its premium pricing. There's no Qualcomm aptX Bluetooth codec support, which is its only real weakness. However, LDAC support, a functional app, and very effective active noise cancellation largely make up for this, making this our top overall pick among headphones and earphones in 2020.
There weren't too many new launches in the budget wireless earphones segment this year, but the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z stood out. At Rs. 1,999, this is among the best value-for-money offerings in the segment right now, offering premium build quality, excellent battery life, very fast charging, and decent sound. If you aren't too enamoured by the idea of the true wireless form factor, this is the best wireless headset to buy right now for less than Rs. 2,000.
Support for the Qualcomm aptX Bluetooth codec might have made all the difference to the sound quality here, as the AAC Bluetooth codec meant that the earphones fell a bit short on detail in the sound. However, the overall package makes this an excellent pick at the price, and our top choice among wireless earphones this year.
Our top pick among true wireless earphones comes from a brand that you may not even have heard of, and that's what makes it so special. The Lypertek Tevi is an impressive true wireless headset that offers a lot for Rs. 6,999, including support for the Qualcomm aptX Bluetooth codec, class-leading battery life, IPX7 water resistance, and sound quality that far exceeds many headphones even twice the price.
We did find that the sound quality wasn't perfect at high volumes with a bit of audible shrillness, and the earpieces didn't always sit in the case securely. However, those things aside, there isn't much else to complain about; this is a very good pair of true wireless earphones that puts the focus squarely on musicality and natural sound quality, as it should be.
Although true wireless earphones can achieve good battery life figures if you factor in the charging case, you still have to charge the earpieces from time to time. For completely uninterrupted wireless listening, you need full-sized headphones, and the Jabra Elite 45h goes above and beyond in this department. With a battery life of around 50 hours per charge in our test, the Jabra Elite 45h simply does not need to be charged very often.
This can be particularly useful if you tend to forget to charge your headphones, or need them to keep going for hours at a stretch. There is a USB Type-C charging port for added convenience. The sound quality and design are also decent for the price. Although officially priced at Rs. 9,999, the Jabra Elite 45h is often available for much less online, making this a good value-for-money offering as well.
It might have been difficult to expect too much from a budget pair of true wireless earphones till recently, but the Oppo Enco W51 has proved us wrong. This pair of true wireless earphones has a proper in-canal fit, active noise cancellation, wireless and USB Type-C charging, and decent sound quality -- all for the price of Rs. 4,999. This is the best-equipped pair of earphones we've reviewed this year at this price.
This is by no means a perfect pair of true wireless earphones, even for the price, as the average battery life and unreliable controls hold it back a bit. However, the detailed sound alone makes it worth the money, with the additional features serving as welcome additions to the overall quality of the Oppo Enco W51.
The wireless revolution has meant that mainstream wired earphones are usually very affordable options, and one pair of earphones has stood out in this segment -- the Mi Dual-Driver Earphones. Priced at Rs. 799, this 3.5mm wired headset comes with a microphone and in-line remote, a unique dual dynamic driver setup, and very good sound quality. For those shopping on a tight budget and happy with 3.5mm connectivity, there's no better option right now.
Having two dynamic drivers in each earpiece means that the bass can sometimes be a bit excessive, which can either be a good thing or bad, depending on how you like your music. However, the Mi Dual-Driver Earphones are technically and physically the best you can buy for the price and impossible to ignore if you have a budget of less than Rs. 1,000.
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