There are tons of Bluetooth headphones to choose from and it can be more stressful than choosing your first starter Pokemon. We’ve looked at some budget Bluetooth headphones, but today we turn our attention to the best Bluetooth headphones under $300. Each option is worth your consideration before you spend your hard-earned money.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on February 11, 2021, to include the Sony WH-1000XM3 (Renewed).
Most people should get the Jabra Elite 85h
So what are the best Bluetooth headphones for under $300? It has to be the Jabra Elite 85h. This headset checks all the boxes: it has a water-resistant coating, multipoint connection for switching between devices, quick charging, and even have decent active noise cancelling (ANC). Not to mention the Elite 85h has a sleek design and folds at the hinges to help save space in your bag.
Jabra Elite 85hFull Review
Plus, you get 35 hours of constant playback with ANC enabled, which is super impressive. And if the battery does give out, you can always just plug in an audio cable. Of course, nothing is perfect, and these support just two Bluetooth codecs: AAC and SBC. The AAC codec isn’t consistent across Android devices but it works extremely well with iPhones.
The noise cancelling leaves plenty to be desired, but midrange frequencies sound half to one-quarter as loud with ANC enabled compared to no ANC at all. Passive isolation is very good, so unpredictable background noises like sharp fits of laughter and the clang of dishware are rendered nearly imperceptible. These thick ear pads make it comfortable to wear the Elite 85h even with glasses.
Things you should know
What are Bluetooth codecs?
One thing that’s important for all Bluetooth headphones is Bluetooth codec support. Your smartphone needs a way to communicate with your headset, and Bluetooth is the solution. Audio transfer rates need to be high in order to preserve the most amount of data, which is taxing; Bluetooth wasn’t developed with enough bandwidth to transfer lossless audio, so the codecs are an efficient way of packing data to send from your phone to the headset.
This is just a method of compressing and decompressing a file. Ideally, a great amount of data can transfer quickly, which yields better audio quality and connection stability. A good visual analogy for this is when you’re watching YouTube videos: when you have great service from your provider, the video appears crystal clear in 1080p. However, when you’re in a dead zone with a terrible signal your video is downgraded to a low-quality setting (480p). You can still watch the video, but it’s blury.
Every Bluetooth device supports SBC, and some high-end products support high-quality Bluetooth codecs that are capable of sending and receiving more data (AAC, aptX, and LDAC). As long as both your headphones and your source device are compatible, you’ll be able to use a higher quality codec.
Some companies have even gone to great lengths to develop their own Bluetooth streaming codecs. Samsung’s Scalable Codec is the company’s proprietary technology that varies its data transfer rate in order to balance sound quality and connection performance. Unfortunately, the codec is only supported by Samsung Galaxy devices, and is available in the company’s own line of audio products—including the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
What is frequency response?
One of the most popular specifications that marketers and reviews cite is a headset’s frequency response. This refers to how accurately that pair of headphones can reproduce a signal. This doesn’t always tell you exactly how something sounds, it just gives you a rough idea of what frequencies the headphones tend to make louder than others.
When you view the frequency response chart for the AKG N700NC headphones, you’ll see that lower notes (pink) are emphasized relative to the mids and treble (green and cyan). Therefore, sounds at or under 100Hz, like bass kicks and sub-bass synths, will sound slightly louder than higher frequency sounds.
If you wanted the headphones to playback music exactly as it is in the original source file, then you’d want a pair of headphones with a neutral-leaning frequency response (one that closely follows the red dotted line on the chart). That means that every sound that goes into the headphones gets output through the ear cups into your ears at exactly the same volume; this is what studio headphones aim to do.
If you’re exclusively an iOS user, get the Beats Solo Pro
Apple users who don’t want to join the true wireless crowd with the AirPods or AirPods Pro, should invest in a Beats product. The Beats Solo Pro headphones are surprisingly good, though a bit pricy. You’ll get some seriously impressive active noise cancelling (especially for a pair of on-ears) and the H1 chip that makes it easy for you to pair it to an iOS device. While these still have Beats’ signature bass emphasis, it’s not overpowering and leans more toward the standard consumer-friendly sound profile.
Beats Solo ProFull Review
Now of course, we can’t talk about these headphones without addressing a few of the negatives. For one, they’re not cheap. These only just barely made this list of Bluetooth headphones under $300, unless they’re on promotion. The Beats Solo Pro headphones lack a 3.5mm jack in true Apple fashion. But hey, at least they support quick charging: 10 minutes of charging via Lightning cable yields three hours of constant playback.
Drown out the world with the Sennheiser PXC 550-II
With the PXC 550-II, Sennheiser proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune for a great pair of active noise cancelling headphones. This headset builds off the success of its predecessor with improved isolation, sound quality, active noise cancelling, and expanded codec support.
Sennheiser PXC 550-IIFull Review
The PXC 550-II features the best active noise cancelling performance for a pair of headphones under $200. While it may not rival more expensive options like the Sony WH-1000XM4, the ANC on the PXC 550-II is impressive, with its ability to significantly attenuate low-frequency noises like jet engine rumbles.
See also: Best Sennheiser headphones
The sound quality on the PXC 550-II is also impressive: frequencies are accurately reproduced until the 1.5kHz mark. This means that the PXC 550-II reproduces the most important sounds of your music accurately. The PXC 550-II also supports a slew of Bluetooth codecs, including SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency. This extensive codec support, coupled with the neutral-leaning sound signature, delivers a listening experience that will suit all listeners—from general consumers to audiophiles.
The AKG N700NC M2 also has great active noise cancelling
When it comes to active noise cancelling headphones, one of the most overlooked headphones on the market are the AKG N700NC M2. These hold their own against the more expensive Sony and Bose headphones that everyone talks about. Besides the adaptive active noise cancelling that changes intensity depending on the sounds going on around you, the AKG N700NC M2 also fold down for a smaller footprint and have memory foam earpads for a more comfortable fit and better isolation.
AKG N700NC M2Full Review
You can expect upwards of 20 hours of constant playback with Bluetooth and around 32 if you use these hardwired to your source device. Overall, these aren’t as flashy, good sounding, or as well-built as some of the other picks, but if what you want is top-notch ANC then definitely give them a shot.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 (Renewed) is the best value
The Sony WH-1000XM3 may technically be last-gen technology; however, its active noise cancelling performance, great sound quality, and deep software controls still make it a worthwhile investment today. It may not feature automatic ear detection, speak to chat, or any fancy AI audio processing, but it holds one advantage over the WH-1000XM4: price. the Sony WH-1000XM3 is currently available for just under $300—an absolute steal considering its sound quality and ANC performance.
Sony WH-1000XM3 (Renwed)Full Review
If you’re looking for a pair of reasonably priced ANC headphones, the WH-1000XM3 is definitely worth considering; especially since further price drops are expected with seasonal sales.
Who should buy Bluetooth headphones?
While Bluetooth audio has improved greatly in the last few years, wired audio is still the best option for lossless playback. Even still, Bluetooth headsets have their place, and are extremely convenient during a morning commute or at the gym.
Bluetooth headphones have their drawbacks: they need to be charged every now and then. If you forget to charge them, you might be in for an annoying commute. That said, many headphones have adopted quick-charging technology so that plugging them in to charge for just a few minutes before you go out the door can give you enough juice for the day.
What can you get at other price points?
If you’re okay with spending a little more than $300 USD, then you’ll find yourself looking at headphones like the IPX4 rated Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 or the Sony WH-1000XM4. Both flagship headsets cost about $349 USD and are two of the best Bluetooth headphones you can get. They both have amazing battery life, top of class active noise cancelling, and sound great.
If you have a bottomless pocket, then another pair of Bluetooth headphones you should check out is the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless. For Apple device owners looking to burn some cash, the AirPods Max won’t disappoint—complete with great noise cancelling performance, great sound quality, and seamless connectivity via the company’s H1 chip.
If you’re on a slightly thinner budget, you can still get some truly great options. We recommend checking out our lists for the best Bluetooth headphones in the $100 and $200 ranges as well. They’re all still great headphones, and with the money you save you can go get a nice dinner with a loved one and gush over your new headphones. For example, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 features impressive noise cancellation, sound quality, and a comfortable design, all for under $80 USD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although it works best with iOS, the Beats Solo Pro acts like any other pair of Bluetooth headphones on Android. In fact, Beats has an app for Android that allows you to manage and control your product. Unfortunately, using Beats on Android comes with a few limitations: such as the lack of instant pairing and variable AAC performance.