Best Headphones for Listening to Podcasts

We’ll help you find the best headphones, from earbuds to over-ears. The result? Podcast and audiobook listening like never before!

best headphones for listening to podcasts

Do you need the best headphones to listen to podcasts? Definitely not. That doesn't mean that any old pair will do, though. A good set of earbuds or over-ears can make a huge difference to your listening experience.

If you're fed up with the 3.99 buds you get in TKMaxx that disintegrate after 2 hours in your pocket, then this article's for you. I'll explain why we recommend something a bit better than those paper-mache efforts, and what benefits they bring. Then we'll go on to our own recommendations for the best headphones for podcast listening.

Sound good? Of course they do – that's the point 🙂 Let's take a look at the best headphones for listening to podcasts!

A quick heads up that we use affiliate links in this roundup, so earn a small commission if you choose to buy through them. This is always at no extra cost to yourself.

We've updated this article for 2020 to include some of our new favourites!

> Skip to the recommendations

When Good Headphones are Worth It

There are two main reasons why you might want to think about your choice of earbuds or headphones when in the market for a new pair.

  1. You often listen in noisy or distracting environments
  2. You listen to highly produced shows and want a fuller audio experience

There's a good chance you'll also use the same headphones for listening to music on your device too. So even if you wouldn't class yourself as an “audiophile”, it's natural that you'll want the audio you're consuming to sound as good as it can.

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Types of Podcast

Firstly, we should clarify here that a “podcast” is ultimately a delivery method, and there's really no rule to say that one show will sound anything like the next.

There are generally accepted standards such as average loudness which an increasing number of producers adhere to.

But there are many different types of podcast. Perhaps the three most common types we see are

  1. Interview show, co-hosted or solo monologue
  2. Documentary-style
  3. Audio Drama

Production Styles

By looking at an audio file's waveform – its visual representation – we can see the differences between these styles.

Interviews, co-hosted shows and monologues are typically produced in mono, meaning the sound you hear is exactly the same in both ears.

Best headphones for the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast
An interview style podcast, showing a very uniform volume

This audio is generally less complex, which makes it easier for the producer to set a consistent volume level.

Many podcast interviews take place over tools such as Skype, meaning the audio quality often isn't the same standard as it would be if both people were in a studio together.

Having a mono show that's 99% spoken word content means the producer can set a much lower bitrate. This means the audio quality is lower, but the file is also smaller, making it easier for listeners to download.

Best headphones for the invisibilia podcast
More variance, as shown in a documentary style podcast.

Documentary or audio drama-style shows tend to be a bit more complex. They mix speech with music, ambience, and sound effects.

These shows will usually be produced in stereo, meaning there will be (usually subtle) differences between what you hear in each ear.

An overall consistent volume is harder to achieve, but a good producer will work hard to achieve this in the mastering stage.

Best headphones for the Bronzeville podcast
An audio drama, often showing the most volume variance.

They don't want you to be reaching for the volume dial every few minutes, yet they might have two people whispering in one scene, and a huge explosion in the next.

They'll want these sounds to keep their integrity and realism, but still provide a consistent listening experience that doesn't pull the listener out of the story because they need to stop to adjust their settings.

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Best Headphones for Listening to Podcasts

We've touched on some of the big variations between different styles of podcast.

The bottom line is that great headphones won't make bad audio sound good. On the other hand, low quality headphones won't make good audio sound bad, as such. Instead, you'll just be missing out on much of the experience.

Ultimately, you're in the hands of your favourite podcaster (or their producer).

So, assuming they've done a good job on the production side of things, what headphones should we use to best enjoy the fruits of their labour?

There's an almost infinite number of makes and models available out there, so we've narrowed it down to a few choices that we're keen on ourselves.

Best In-Ear Headphones or Earbuds

Best Budget Earbuds

Panasonic Ergo Fit

If you want the cheapest possible pair but don't want the cheapest possible sound, then the Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds fall nicely into that bracket.

Best Mid-Range In-Ear Headphones

1. 1More In-Ear Triple Driver Headphones

These were Colin's day-to-day headphones for quite a while: the 1More Triple Driver in-ears

Here's his report: First, the quality is brilliant – crystal clear and balanced. Second, they've enough oomph to out-blast the passing lorries and buses in the street, without being full-scale noise-cancelling headphones that see me blindly wandering across the road when a car's coming. And third, the cabling is the least tangly I've ever come across, with a lovely fabric-style cable. That makes it so easy to throw them in your bag, or stuff them in your pocket, without ending up with a bird's nest of cables when you remove them.

2. Sony WF-1000X

The Sony WF-1000X are truly wireless, noise cancelling and a nice little set of buds. The audio quality is great, but the noise cancelling isn't astounding. You notice a marginal cut in background hum when it's switched on, but it's not comparable to the Airpods below, or the Bose Quietcomforts. But then, the Sony 1000x buds are less than half the cost of either! If you want to go truly wireless, but on a more reasonble budget, these are great value.

Best High-End Earbuds

1. Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Prepared to invest in a high-end set? The Sennheiser Momentum earbuds will give you a premium quality sound for your podcasts, audio dramas, and music.

2. Apple Airpods Pro

Another recommendation from Colin. Here's his take: I'll be honest, the Apple Airpods Pro are now my day to day ‘phones. If you have an iPhone and price is no object, these are about as good as you get, and not just for the audio quality.

The audio is top-notch, though, and the noise cancellation works like a dream. Pop them in and just listen as that regular background noise disappears. You'll still hear the intermittent sounds, of course, but the low rumble and high hiss of the world at large just melts away. I have no trouble listening to a gentle voiced podcast while walking down a busy street.

Add to that, though, the extra utility Siri gives you and these are a magic combination. Love her, or hate her, she can be useful, and I've found myself turning into a regular user since getting hold of the Earpods. “Play on Pocketcasts” I'll say to start a podcast immediately, or “Add that book Tyler Cowen just mentioned on North Star to my todoist.” For Apple fans, these are an amazing tool!

Best Over-Ear Headphones

Best Budget Over-Ear Headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M20X

If you don't mind carrying a pair of actual headphones around with you, then the Audio Technica M20Xs are great value for money and provide an excellent listening experience. 

The cable is pretty long from a consumer point of view (they're really designed for in-studio use), but from a sound quality to price to comfort ratio, it's hard to see past them in this category.

Best High-End Over-Ear Headphones

GRADO SR325E

If you want to splash out on an expensive pair of quality headphones then take a peek at the retro-looking Grado SR325e headphones.

Best Noise Cancellation Headphones

Best Over-Ear Noise Cancellation Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35

If external noise spoils your podcast listening more than anything, then noise cancelling headphones might be for you. These have little mics built in to them designed to pick up the sounds around you and neutralise them.

For top of the range, look at the Bose QuietComfort 35. These are quite simply magic. Pop a pair on in the airport and turn a noisy, chaotic stressful experience into something quiet, peaceful, tranquil. Of course, they're not cheap, but I've had a pair of these for a couple of years now and I wouldn't live without them. 

If you don't quite have the budget for the wireless 35s, then forego the wireless… ness… and get the 25s. The Bose Quietcomfort 25 model has all the same noise cancellation and comfort features, for a fair chunk of cash less.

Best Noise Cancellation Earbuds

Apple Airpods Pro

Going back to the Apple Earpods Pro here, I'd say! The noise cancellation works a treat, which I find amazing, given their size. Look at my full comments on the Earpods above!

Putting Your Headphones to Good Use

So now that you're set up to get the best sound from your podcasts, how about some quality new shows to add to your playlist? Check out our ‘Best Of' roundups below where you'll surely find something you like.

And, if you've ever fancied creating your very own show, check out How to Start a Podcast. That's our free step-by-step guide that'll walk you through the entire process, from planning to promotion. If you want a deeper dive, consider joining The Podcast Host Academy. There, you'll find all of our courses and downloadable resources, plus our weekly live Q&A sessions, to answer all of your questions.

13 thoughts on “Best Headphones for Listening to Podcasts

  1. I use Bose Quiet Comfort 25’s. I have tried many earbuds and they fail to stay in the ear. Having been involved in radio for a while, the “over the ear” headphone is the only type I feel comfortable wearing.

  2. I have a studio and also travel. As such, budget studio is AKG K240 (open back). Premium is Beyer Dynamic DT770 and 1770. Both of the latter you can wear for hours. Budget travel is mid-range Shure in ear buds. Premium is Bose Quietcomfort (over ear) – agin you can wear for hours, even sleep in them. Tried my wife’s AKG noiseless and the were half as good (and half the price) and only ‘on ear’ type.

  3. All the earbuds [as well as over-the-ear type] that i have ever seen, have the “disc ” from which the sound emits ……..directed toward the center of my head.
    However, when i use my hands to turn that disc foreward, {toward the front of my face,} the CLARITY of sound suddenly increases dramatically which makes a world of difference as i am hard of hearing.

    Can you tell me if such “anatomically different ” ear buds can be found ?

    thank you,
    carol

  4. The QuiteComfort 35 is among the best however I’d like to add beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 and ATH-M50x in the list as well because according to my experience they are among the best. I tried several headsets for different purposes but these ones perform really good. Moreover thanks for your detailed insights! Cheers xx.

  5. Bang and Olufsen Beo Play E8. I used to own Beats and Bose. However, if I ever switch again I will try out some of those headphones you have listed.

  6. I have bluetooth earbuds (just a single one so that I can hear the environment around me), and for podcasts it’s fine, but for audiobooks it drives me crazy bc the first few letters in the first word of a sentence gets skipped. What brand wouldn’t do that? I got it off Amazon, so it’s a strange brand. I don’t want noise cancelling or isolating head phones. I would also like to stop and start the book by touching a button on the earbud.

  7. Great read man, Thanks for your content. I am a headphone addict, my opinion Qc 35 II is the best NC and overall headphone. now I am using bose 700, this one is enough good but not his predecessor.

  8. I use Soundpeats True Wireless Earbuds 5.0 Bluetooth, which are great for listening to audio books if you just want to use one bud (apparently only the right bud can be used solo). I walk in traffic, and want to be able to hear cars, etc., so these worked great. Problem, at six months of use, the right bud will not charge. Waiting to hear from Soundpeats on what can be done, but at $30 off Amazon, with the amount I use them, not devastated.

  9. Since my ears can’t tell the difference between the best and nearly the best headphones (microphones are different). I go for upper-middle quality with the brands I buy.
    I mostly use (1-2+ hours/day) a pair of wired/wireless Senneheiser Momentum 2 over-ears with noise-cancelling, wireless except when on airplanes of course.
    With my podcast rig I am using an older wired set of Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7 over-ear headphones.
    For mobility I currently have a set of Westone W40’s.

  10. Like Ellen Jaskol, I also use a single ear bluetooth earbud for all audiobooks and podcasts. Wireless bluetooth on one ear gives me the flexibility I need to move without wires, and allows me to hear the environment around me. I have used the Jabra Talk 2 for over 3 years. It has exceptional sound quality! However, it does not have the ability to stop and start the audiobook by pressing a button on the earbud. As mentioned, I’ve had this earbud for over 3 years, and the battery life is GREAT (7-8 hours on a single charge). Mind you, there may be better technology out given is 3 years old, but my experience with Jabra has been great.

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