This type of lists of "best" somethings are popular, but incredibly flawed and outright stupid. With this premise in mind, I will try to write my version, anyway.
There isn't such thing as "best crossbow, period". The ideal crossbow would be light, quiet, easy to draw, with great balance, equipped with the latest safety and quality-of-life features, and on top of that would launch arrows at unbelievable velocity. And this crossbow does not exist. Like most things in life, each model comes with one or more trade-offs. You have to decide for yourself what is it you are seeking in a crossbow.
Is speed what you are after? Prepare to spend a couple of grand on one of the top models, which is likely to be quite heavy and noisy as well.
Maybe you prefer something that is very easy to cock? Then you'd need a crank device and a compatible crossbow.
Want a lightweight and well-balanced weapon that is a joy to carry around? Well, I bet that one won't shoot at top speeds.
Let's take a look at some good picks in each category.
This one is easy - the Ravin R500 shoots arrows with whooping.. Can you guess by the model name? Those 500 FPS make it the fastest crossbow on the market. And those arrows carry the unbelievable 222 ft/lbs of kinetic energy while flying.
It also happens to be a very compact weapon, measuring at only 28" length and axle-to-axle width of 3.6" when cocked. Not the most lightweight, though, as it weighs 8.4 pounds.
Honestly, I wouldn't embark on a quest to find the quietest crossbow. Because there is no practical difference between the decibels that the current models generate when shot.
All crossbows are pretty loud. But here are some pointers if the sound level is of particular importance to you:
All that said, there are subtle differences in noise levels between the different crossbow models. Here is a video with a real-life test of some popular ones:
It turns out the Excalibur Micro 360TD and the Scorpyd Deathstalker are some of the quietest. But not by any significant amount.
Those crossbows that come or can be equipped with a crank cocking device are the easiest to draw. Such tool reduces the drawing effort by about 95% which translates to just 5 to 17 pounds.
Most of the premium-prices crossbow models have a crank device built-into their body, or can be equipped with one.
Some manufacturers go even further. The new Ravin R500E (note the "E" suffix) includes a battery-powered electronic cocking option that pulls the string for you!
If you are on the market for something that is particularly easy to carry around and handle, look for some of the lower-powered and/or compact crossbows.
The Excalibur Micro 360TD can is just 5.6 pounds and the bow part can be taken off the stock for even easier transportation.
If you prefer a compound alternative, look no further than the Wicked Ridge M-370, which is a tiny bit heavier (5.8 pounds) but a little faster (370 FPS) and considerably cheaper.
So far, the Ravin R500 and the Excalibur Micro 360TD seem to be the two best choices - each one for at least two reasons, right? The former model is the most powerful on the planet, which happens to be the easiest to cock (if you choose the R500E option), while the latter is a rare combination of low weight, transportability and reliability at a very reasonable price.
If by "best" you imagine a weapon that is well-balanced, relatively lightweight and pleasant to use, but also powerful and produced by a reputable manufacturer, here are some of my favorites that don't come at the top of any of the above categories but excel at being well-rounded quality tools: