Forget Bose and Sony: These $180 headphones look good and sound better

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Edifier WH950NB headphones hanging from a banister

Jada Jones/ZDNET

If you’re hesitant to buy the headphones everyone seems to be talking about — Apple’s AirPods Max, Sony’s WH-1000XM5, or Bose’s QuietComfort 45 — because price is an obstacle, you’re not alone.

There are plenty of people out there, me included, who want headphones of comparable quality but don’t cost upwards of $550.

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds right now

If that sounds like you, the Edifier WH950NB headphones may be the one for you. For $180, you can have a pair of headphones with impressive ANC, a stylish design, and high-quality sound. Here’s the low-down of what you get for the money.

Edifer WH950NB headphones in Ivory laying in a rock bed


Edifier WH950NB

The Edifier WH950NB headphones’ plush ear cups and long-lasting battery provide hours of comfort and playtime.

These headphones are sleek and fashionable. They’re adorned with matte finishes and chrome details, easily passable for something more expensive. The polyurethane leather ear cups are fluffy and comfortable, too, with most of the headphones’ weight sitting in the ear cups.

Also: The best kids’ headphones, according to parents and parenting experts

A small detail I love about the Edifier headphones is that the adjustable headband doesn’t expose plastic extenders. Instead, the headband extends to reveal the rest of the chrome headband tucked under the extending mechanism. 

Edifer WH950NB headphones in Ivory laying in a rock bed

Jada Jones/ZDNET

I also love the hardshell carrying case; it’s made of Oxford cloth, flannel, and hard plastic, and there’s a pouch inside equipped with a USB-A to USB-C cable, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and an airplane charging adapter.

For audio playback, the Edifier WH950NB have a 40mm dynamic driver that allows a singer’s voice to sound clear and balanced, while the treble doesn’t get too high to pierce your eardrums. The bass gets deep, with notable thumping if you’re a fan of that. The overall sound quality is clear, balanced, and well worth the $180.

Also: The best wireless headphones, tested by experts

I listened to The City by The 1975 and was impressed with how many layered harmonies I heard in the song’s chorus. I enjoyed the small details the WH950NB headphones brought out in the sound, and the bass was deep enough to keep me in the groove.

The WH950NB headphones sport deep ear cups that provide decent noise isolation, but I have heard better. Fortunately, these cans have two noise-canceling modes: High noise cancellation, and Medium noise cancellation. 

Medium noise cancelation will dull out droning noises like a car engine or a running refrigerator, and it will also eliminate sharp noises, such as a mouse clicking or a person typing on a keyboard. High noise cancelation will eliminate both sharp and droning noises at the expense of battery life.

Also: Bose QuietComfort 45: The perfect headphones for all-day listening

I took the WH950NB headphones to my local Starbucks and found that the barista’s blender easily skipped past the ANC. However, turning the volume right over 50% significantly muted the noise of crunching ice being transformed into a Frappucino.

Tinkering with the EQ settings is tricky and can be complicated because you’re toying with ratio magnification, quality factor, and frequency, rather than directly toggling the bass, treble, and mids. If you move the EQ settings around on the WH950NB headphones, you’ll hear the difference, but you might not understand what you’re changing.

Edifer WH950NB headphones in Ivory on a wooden table

Jada Jones/ZDNET

Despite that issue, the Edifier headphones’ audio straight out of the box is great. I didn’t need to tweak much, as the preset EQ was more than adequate for my tastes.

Also: $80 noise-cancelling earbuds should not sound this good

Edifier says the headphones will last up to 55 hours with ANC off, and about 33 hours with ANC on, which is a longer battery life than what Sony, Bose, and Apple offer with their flagship over-ear headphones.

You also receive seven hours of playtime with just 10 minutes of charging. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

For $180, you also get LDAC listening, Google Fast Pair, and multipoint connectivity. The multipoint feature has a slight delay, but it doesn’t give me more trouble than my AirPods when switching audio from my iPhone to my MacBook.

ZDNET’s buying advice

$180 may sound like a steep price for a pair of headphones, but when you compare Edifier’s WH950NB to the best of the best, it’s easy to see why they’re such a steal. In addition to their functionality and sound quality, the headphones look stylish enough to be a statement piece in your everyday outfit.

There are some elements in the sound quality of the WH950NB headphones that are missing. I want clearer mids and a more detailed treble output, which are elements you’ll find in more expensive headphones. But if you’re looking for the next best thing for a little less money, these ones from Edifier are for you.

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