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22 July 2021

Most reliable headphone brands

Unique Which? reliability data can help you choose a headphones brand that lasts as we survey owners of AKG, Apple, Beats, Bose, JVC, Samsung, Sennheiser and Sony headphones so you really know how reliable they are.
Oliver Trebilcock
Best headphones brands 2

Wireless headphones last on average less than half the length of time wired pairs do, according to our reliability survey of owners.

Wireless headphones can also cost well over £100, so knowing how long a brand will last you, which brands develop the most faults, and how quickly, is an essential buying decision. That’s why each year we ask over 15,000 Which? members in our reliability survey to tell us whether they're pleased with their headphones, or have experienced problems.

Our unique survey data takes into account how often faults were reported, how serious they are, how rapidly they occurred, and the reason the headphones were ultimately replaced. In our latest analysis, we've looked at a whole range of headphones manufacturers – including AKG, Apple, Beats, Bose, JVC, Samsung, Sennheiser, Sony and many others – and have calculated a reliability rating for each so you know which brand won’t let you down, and which has pairs that are less reliable.

We also look at brand loyalty to find out who you turn to time and again, and crucially reveal how long you can expect headphones brands to last.

How long do different headphones brands last? 

We asked people how long in general they are likely to keep the product, and called this 'estimated consumer lifetime'.  

Estimated consumer lifetimes should only be used as a guide – there’s nothing to say your headphones will suddenly stop working when this time period is up! Consumers may also choose to replace a perfectly functioning product. But as a comparative indicator between brands, it’s a useful way to get an idea of how a product you own or are shopping for compares to others.

Wireless vs wired estimated lifespan

Brand
Wireless Estimated average consumer lifespan in years
Wired estimated average consumer lifespan in years
4.3
11.6
6.6
17.2
n/a
11.2
n/a
7.9
7.5
15.3
6.6
15.1
Wireless headphones data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 591 headphones.
Wired headphones data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 1,309 headphones.

How quickly do different headphones brands need replacing? 

The graph above shows how the length of time a brand stays fault-free can vary greatly around the overall average.

However, what is most stark is the different lifetimes of wireless versus wired headphones. Based on fault rates reported by owners in our survey, we estimate the average pair of wired headphones lasts for almost 20 years (19.8 years), whereas you can expect the average pair of wireless headphones to last less than half that (8.6 years). 

Not being able to replace the battery yourself in wireless headphones - and that many manufacturers do not even offer battery replacement schemes - will be a major contributing factor to this, and should be an important consideration when choosing between wired and wireless headphones.

The lifetime of a pair of headphones will also vary greatly depending on the model you choose as well as the brand. This is partly since cheaper pairs tend to have less robust build quality - but our reviews also regularly highlight that paying more is no guarantee of definitely getting strong build quality.

Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table below.

Headphones replaced due to fault

Brand
One year
Two years
Three years
11%
39%
58%
2%
14%
30%
2%
14%
25%
13%
26%
35%
10%
27%
42%
7%
17%
27%
18%
40%
62%

The above data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 591 headphones. We did not get enough responses to provide figures for more wireless headphones brands.

How satisfied are customers with different headphones brands? 

Our survey also reveals how satisfied people are with a brand overall – we use this to calculate a ‘customer satisfaction’ score, based on how likely people are to recommend it. 

Loyalty is also an important factor. Though it doesn’t always correlate directly with satisfaction, some brands have what it takes to keep customers coming back time and again. Our loyalty score is based on whether people stuck to the same brand when they upgraded.

Almost three times as many people chose to abandon our lowest scoring brand the next time they bought a new pair of headphones.

Wireless vs wired headphones scores

Brand
Wireless customer satisfaction score
Wireless customer loyalty score
Wired customer satisfaction score
Wired customer loyalty score
85%
n/a
n/a
n/a
83%
n/a
84%
n/a
73%
n/a
n/a
n/a
87%
84%
68%
75%
n/a
n/a
79%
n/a
76%
n/a
73%
n/a
88%
38%
84%
55%
n/a
n/a
80%
n/a
79%
n/a
n/a
n/a
76%
n/a
n/a
n/a
70%
n/a
67%
10%
81%
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
77%
n/a
73%
n/a
73%
n/a
75%
n/a
n/a
n/a
77%
n/a
64%
51%
82%
31%
83%
36%
73%
n/a
67%
n/a
83%
46%
76%
27%
Wireless headphones data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 1,309 wired headphones and 591 wireless headphones. Brand loyalty scores are only given where we had enough responses to calculate a score.
Wired headphones data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 1,309 wired headphones and 591 wireless headphones. Brand loyalty scores are only given where we had enough responses to calculate a score.

Common headphones problems

Overall the most common problems people experience with their headphones are the earcup material deteriorating - 15% of faults reported from wireless headphones owners were due to this, and one in five (21%) of wired headphones owner faults. For one high-end wired headphones brand, a whopping third (36%) of all faults reported were earcup fabric.

In addition for wireless headphones, faulty wireless connections (usually Bluetooth) were the cause of 15% of faults, sound stopped working 13%, sound deterioration 15%, deteriorating battery life 12% and 11% damaged headbands/joints.

For wired headphone owners, alongside deteriorating earcup fabric, 23% of faults were due to faulty physical connections (such as the cable and 3.5mm socket), 18% of faults reported involved sound not working, another 13% deterioration in sound quality and 12% of faults were due to damaged headband/joints.

We believe that headphones should last at least five years without developing a fault, and you should expect no major faults in the first year of ownership. Our data tells a different story. For example, one in twenty (5%) of owners of one premium-priced headphones brand suffering faults even within the first year of ownership.

The tables above show a marked difference between the very best and worst headphone manufacturers for reliability. Indeed, only 1% of wireless headphones from the most reliable brand developed even a minor fault after five years of ownership. Similarly, for wired headphones, owners of two brands even reported no faults whatsoever even after five years of ownership - a remarkable record. Find out which these are in the tables below.

Headphones brands rated

Choose a brand from the list below to find out more detail about its performance in our survey. If a headphone brand isn’t included it means we didn’t get enough responses from owners of headphones from that brand.

Aftershokz headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 1
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Aftershokz headphones score for reliability, and how Aftershokz fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what Aftershokz owners thought of its headphones – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with its products, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
AKG headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 2
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well AKG headphones score for reliability, and how AKG fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what AKG headphone owners thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Apple headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Anker headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 1
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Anker headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Anker headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Anker headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Apple headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys M
Brand reliability rating (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Apple headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Apple headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Apple headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Audio-Technica headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 2
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Anker wireless headphone owners suffered the worst reliability in our survey, with a score of only 88%.
  • Not all customers were satisfied either, with its 78% customer score being only higher than that of Sennheiser in our survey of owners.
Beats headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 9
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Beats headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Beats headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Beats headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Bose headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys 2
Estimated lifetime (wired headphones) *****
Customer score (wireless headphones) 78%
Customer score (wired headphones) 78%
Loyalty score (wireless headphones) 78%
Loyalty score (wired headphones) 78%
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Bose headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Beats, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Bose headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Bose headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Grado headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 1
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Anker wireless headphone owners suffered the worst reliability in our survey, with a score of only 88%.
  • Not all customers were satisfied either, with its 78% customer score being only higher than that of Sennheiser in our survey of owners.
Jabra headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 6
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Jabra headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Jabra headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Jabra headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
JBL headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 13
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well JBL headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of JBL headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with JBL headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
JVC headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 7
Number of Best Buys M
Estimated lifetime (wired headphones) M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Loyalty score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well JVC headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of JVC headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with JVC headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Mpow headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 0
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Mpow headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Mpow headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Mpow headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Panasonic headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 3
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Anker wireless headphone owners suffered the worst reliability in our survey, with a score of only 88%.
  • Not all customers were satisfied either, with its 78% customer score being only higher than that of Sennheiser in our survey of owners.
Philips headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 1
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes We didn’t get enough respondents from wireless Philips headphone owners to give a loyalty score. Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (at 16 October 2020) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey in April-July 2019 of 1485 wired and 1488 wireless headphone owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Philips headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Apple, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • Discover the most common issues found with Philips headphones as users report on a range of faults, including battery problems, sound issues and hardware faults.
  • See what owners of Philips headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Philips headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Plantronics headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 1
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Plantronics headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what Plantronics headphones owners thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with JVC headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Samsung headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys M
Estimated lifetime (wired headphones) M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Loyalty score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Samsung headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what Samsung headphone owners thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Samsung headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Sennheiser headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 28
Number of Best Buys M
Average test score in past three years M
Brand reliability rating (wired headphones) M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Loyalty score (wireless headphones) M
Loyalty score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Sennheiser headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Apple, Bose and Sony.
  • See what Sennheiser headphones owners thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Sennheiser headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Skullcandy headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 10
Number of Best Buys M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Any missing figures for estimated lifetime or loyalty score for wireless or wired headphones for this brand are due to a lack of a sufficient number of responses from owners in our survey. Any figures for customer score, loyalty score and estimated lifetime are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2020 of 3,543 wireless and 3,018 wired headphones owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Skullcandy headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.
  • See what owners of Skullcandy headphones thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Skullcandy headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Sony headphones overview table
Number tested in the past three years 41
Number of Best Buys M
Estimated lifetime (wireless headphones) M
Estimated lifetime (wired headphones) M
Customer score (wireless headphones) M
Customer score (wired headphones) M
Loyalty score (wireless headphones) M
Loyalty score (wired headphones) M
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (at 16 October 2020) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey in April-July 2019 of 1485 wired and 1488 wireless headphone owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 16 October 2020.
  • Find out how well Sony headphones score for reliability, and how it fares against rival headphone brands like Apple, Bose and Sennheiser.
  • See what Sony headphones owners thought of its products – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with Sony headphones, and how likely they were to recommend them to others.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

How we calculate the best and worst brands

Which? has a wealth of information on Britain's favourite headphones brands. Every year we ask Which? members to tell us about the technology products they own - from how likely they would be to recommend a brand, to how reliable the products are once they get them home.

This year more than 15,000 Which? members told us about nearly 100,000 devices. We calculate a brand's reliability and its customer score based on the results of our annual survey.

Our brand surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best headphones you should buy.

This data is crucial for our testing, too. If a brand falls far below the category average, we take away the manufacturer’s Best Buy awards and won’t recommend any of their products unless a marked improvement in the longevity of its products is shown.