Audiophiles lament wireless headsets for their poor sound quality, and while there is some validity to that complaint, aptX Bluetooth headphones stand as a great middle-ground for consumers who want untethered listening without compromising audio quality. We’ve scoured the shelves for the best aptX headsets around, and feel there’s something for everyone here.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on May 1, 2020, to include the Shure AONIC 50 in the notable mentions section and make note of Sony WH-1000XM4 rumors.
The best aptX Bluetooth headphones are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT
Any audio veteran is bound to sing the praises of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, and the Bluetooth version runs with the same formula for success: durable design, excellent sound quality, and a comfortable fit with new on-board, tactile controls for wireless listening.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBTFull Review
This Bluetooth 5.0 headset supports both AAC and aptX for high-quality wireless streaming to iPhone and Android devices, meaning you shouldn’t notice compression in your music. The 45mm dynamic drivers amplify bass notes, making them slightly louder than even the most emphasized midrange notes. This follows what most consumer-oriented headsets reproduce as our brains are inclined to enjoy exaggerated low-frequency sounds. There’s a purposeful dip in loudness around the 4kHz mark in order to combat the ear’s natural resonances, thereby minimizing distortion. You get to enjoy a greater perceived clarity thanks to the 800Hz-3kHz bump, again a moniker of consumer-friendly audio.
Build quality is nearly identical to the original wired ATH-M50x, which may be a turnoff to those who were looking for a more modern aesthetic. The benefit of retaining an unchanged design, however, is that it’s tried and true. The rotating ear cups and folding hinges make this a portable headset despite its bulky build. Its insanely long battery life also makes the ATH-M50xBT a great travel companion: this headset lasts for 31.2 hours on a single charge, which is more than most top-tier aptX Bluetooth headphones offer. Unfortunately, it does take a long seven hours to complete a full charge cycle, but this can easily be done overnight.
Microphone quality is fine for casual hands-free calls as it appears Audio-Technica is using some type of voice enhancer processing on top of the microphone frequency response. Be it as it may, it’s unlikely that anyone will complain that you sound “distant” or “muffled” when using the ATH-M50xBT. Ultimately, every headset has its drawbacks and minor latency is present with these headphones, depending on what codec is being used to stream media, but it’s an easy drawback to reconcile.
What you should know about aptX Bluetooth headphones
Wired audio is still quality king
Even though aptX Bluetooth headphones facilitate some of the best, most stable wireless streaming around, the fact remains that wired audio is still king especially for anyone who listens to lossless audio files like FLAC or subscribes to the likes of Amazon Music HD, Deezer, and Tidal HiFi. Although aptX is excellent for Android devices, it isn’t supported by iOS devices; iPhone users need to pick an AAC-supported headset for high-quality streaming.
To optimize audio quality, get a proper fit
If external noise permeates your headphones’ seal, then auditory masking will degrade perceived sound quality. This phenomenon occurs because our brains have limited bandwidth for processing stimuli, audio included, and loud sounds are prioritized over relatively quieter ones. You’ve likely noticed this when walking and a train passes: the train’s roar makes it hard to hear your music, but it’s not that the volume on your media player happened to jump down at that moment, rather your brain focused on processing the loud, threatening sound of the train.
When using over-ear headphones, this means, ensuring that your ears are well within the perimeter of the ear cups. For those who wear glasses, you may want to swap those spectacles out for contacts or continue your search for a headset with velour earpads, like the Philips Fidelio X2 which happen to be the open-back cans that I use.
We included one pair of true wireless in-ears on this list, and if you happen to roll with those or any other set of earbuds, be sure to take the time to find the best-fitting ear tips. Most people are able to do this with some of the included sleeves, but if you require a more custom fit, third-party ear tips may be necessary.
Avoid noise-induced hearing loss
Many adults experience what the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) refers to as a normal degree of hearing loss. This comes with age and exposure to loud sounds over time, however more specific varieties of hearing loss like sensorineural and conductive hearing loss are preventable. With regards to headsets, the easiest way to prevent auditory damage is by keeping volume levels below a dangerous output.
We test our headsets at 75dB(SPL), which between the loudness of a dishwasher and city traffic, and most people won’t listen to volumes that loud for prolonged periods of time. Circling back to finding a proper fit, doing so also helps prevent noise-induced hearing loss because you’re less likely to increase volume to drown out surrounding noises.
The best noise cancelling option is the Sony WH-1000XM3
We write about Sony’s flagship headphones a lot, and they’ve merited the press: these noise cancelling headphones are among the best around and polyamorously marry form, function, comfort, and sound quality into one package. The headset is expensive but well worth it for anyone who regularly commutes or takes to the air.
Sony WH-1000XM3Full Review
The Sony WH-1000XM3 support the greatest number of high-quality Bluetooth codecs of all other listed aptX Bluetooth headphones. Sony’s LDAC is also supported, which isn’t necessarily hi-res due to its unstable performance. However, codec support aside, the default sound quality is excellent especially for those in search of a viable Beats alternative. Bass notes are reproduced louder than any midrange frequencies, adding a more engaging oomph to songs. For those who want a more neutral sound signature, granular adjustments can be made in the Sony | Headphones Connect app.
Microphone quality is about as good as it gets with the Sony WH-1000XM3, making it a great option for listeners whose days are filled with conference calls and video chats. The mics do a great job of clearly transmitting the speaker’s voice while simultaneously reducing background noise, too.
Sony WH-1000XM3 microphone demo:
Sony includes other useful features such as passthrough audio, which amplifies external noise through the headset, allowing you to engage in a quick conversation with a flight attendant or hear potential hazards when crossing the street. It also includes a nifty carrying case and portable design: the ear cups rotate and fold, so they take up less space during travel.
Should you wait for the Sony WH-1000XM4?
As of May 1, 2020, we don’t yet know the release date of the much anticipated Sony WH-1000XM4. Normally, we’re all for waiting when a current model (WH-1000XM3) is so far into its lifecycle, but given the state of production and an unconfirmed released date, we believe the Sony WH-1000XM3 is still a great buy in 2020. It remains the best all-around noise cancelling headphones consumers can purchase, and is frequently found for around $200 refurbished.
Related: Shure AONIC 50 vs Sony WH-1000XM3
If you are patient enough to wait indefinitely, there are a few features you can be sure to benefit from such as improved battery life, Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, and more effective noise cancellation. We anticipate hands-free access to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, too, as various leaks indicate such support. However, these updates may seem nominal, making now as good a time as ever to get the Sony WH-1000XM3.
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex can endure anything
Whether you’re a DJ or someone who’s just particularly rough with their equipment, V-Moda’s products are made for you. The Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex supports both aptX and AAC, which reduces latency across devices.
V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless CodexFull Review
These headphones are MIL-STD 810G certified; the headband can be bent and twisted in a multitude of directions without compromising structural integrity. Proprietary CliqFold hinges emit a satisfying click when engaged, and also decrease the headphones’ footprint for storage. These aren’t just tough, though; anyone who wants to show off their style will enjoy all the customization opportunities afforded by V-Moda. You can even choose what kind of screws are used in the headset and brandish the ear cups with your tasteful logo.
One of the best things about V-Moda and its products is the Immortal Life Program. The company stands by its products and gives listeners a V-Moda stands by its product by providing listeners with a one-year warranty and the opportunity to trade-in their current headset for a 20% discount on a newer V-Moda headset model. These are the most rugged aptX Bluetooth headphones you can get.
Save cash and space with the Creative Outlier Gold
We understand not everyone has room for on- or over-ear headphones in their bag, which is why we’re recommending the Creative Outlier Gold. These are Creative’s follow-up to the successful Outlier Air, and bring with them improvements to battery life, connection stability, and SXFI processing integration, albeit usage is limited.
Creative Outlier GoldFull Review
Standalone battery life was recorded at 10.3 hours on a single charge, and the USB-C charging tube provides an additional 1.8 charge cycles, supplying you with just over 30 hours of portable playtime. It takes 3.5 hours to fully charge the case, and quick charging isn’t supported; however, it’s easy to do this while at work or before bed.
The earbuds are IPX5-rated, making them a great workout buddy for gym rats of varying intensity. Just like the V-Moda headphones, the Bluetooth 5.0 Outlier Gold ‘buds support aptX and AAC which makes them a superb choice for Android and iPhone fans.
Creative Outlier Gold microphone demo:
Unlike many true wireless earbuds, the headset relays call audio through both earbuds for a stereo listening experience. Although this isn’t a necessity for most, it may be important if you frequently take business calls and the like. Unfortunately, mic quality isn’t great and the person on the other end of the call will certainly know you’re speaking with a pair of earbuds. Ultimately, these may not be conventional headphones but they’re a great pair of ‘buds for anyone with limited bag space and who wants to make few compromises.
The Grado GW100 open-back cans have the best audio quality
The Grado GW100 is the most peculiar pick on our list of aptX Bluetooth headphones. When we think of open-back cans, we typically imagine hi-res studio setups and sterile environments. That’s because the open-back build makes them a poor option for travel: external noise immediately degrades sound quality, making them a poor choice for out and about ventures.
Grado GW100Full Review
That said, the wireless flexibility is great for anyone who wants to enjoy high-quality natural audio reproduction within their home without being tethered to a chunky wire, as Grado is known for providing. There isn’t much to these headphones; you’re paying for raw audio performance rather than gimmicks.
Grado’s neutral-leaning audio reproduction bodes well for all genres of music, so listeners with an eclectic music library will enjoy their tunes as they were intended to be heard. Although these headphones are excellent, there is one major downside: price. You’re paying more than double what the Grado SR80e cost for wireless capabilities. If your smartphone still has a headphone jack, you may want to save some cash and get the wired model.
How we chose our favorite aptX Bluetooth headphones
We make sure to test every audio product that comes out way, subjecting each set of headphones to a battery of objective tests for battery life, isolation, microphone quality, and frequency response. We lay the facts bare here at SoundGuys in order to make your buying decision easier, and if we make a mistake, we own up to it. We don’t just rely on data to inform our recommendations, though; we also take audio products into the real world to see how they perform on a day-to-day basis. This means we exercise with workout earbuds and commute with noise cancelling headphones, to give readers a holistic illustration of how a given product performs.
Frequency response data
- Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC: Anyone who takes plenty of calls should consider this headset for its great microphone quality. It supports aptX LL, aptX, and AAC for high-quality low-latency streaming from Android devices. The ear cups are comfortable and overall weight is hardly noticeable.
- Master & Dynamic MW65: This stylish pair of noise cancelling cans supports aptX HD and boasts a premium, lightweight build. The replaceable earpads are a great touch, ensuring the headset will last years to come.
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3: Connection quality is excellent in part due to the Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and an array of high-quality Bluetooth codec support. If you want a snazzy pair of noise cancelling headphones and aren’t bothered by the high cost, the Momentum Wireless 3 could be your next travel buddy.
- Shure AONIC 50: This headset is for listeners who spend a lot of time traveling, be it by plane or by train; low-frequency attenuation is bar none, which is key for blocking out bassy sounds like engines and rumbles. The earpads are very comfortable, even for those with glasses, and it supports every Bluetooth codec you could want.
- Sony WH-CH700N: aptX, aptX HD, and AAC are all supported by this noise cancelling headset which is ~$150 cheaper than the flagship WH-100XM3. Bluetooth multipoint functionality is limited, whereby one source may be used as a handset only and the other as a media player.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We strive to educate our readers on the perpetually evolving world of consumer audio. When approaching any audio product, we acknowledge that assessing it requires a combination of objective testing and subjective reflection: not everyone wants a studio sound and that’s just fine. At the end of the day, we want you to be happy with your purchase if one is made. Although SoundGuys does use referral links, none of our writers may benefit from awarding one product over another.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, aptX headphones are a great option for video chats and conference calls because, when used with an aptX-compatible device, they reduce audio-visual lag which is a necessity when in video chats or conference calls. Each of our picks listed above has above-average microphone quality, too, which will benefit you when using apps like Zoom, Skype, or Twitch.