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 July 9, 2021, to include the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which replaced the AKG N700NC M2.
Most people should get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is one of the best pairs of Bluetooth headphones you can get for under $300.
What makes it stand out are its high-quality active noise cancelling (ANC) and noise isolation. The latter will not only block out noise, but it will also make music sound better. You won’t get tired of wearing the QC 35 II all day long, as it remains one of the most comfortable headsets on the market. And when your day is done, it folds up and stores easily.
Bose QuietComfort 35 IIFull Review
Avid users of Google Assistant will appreciate the Action Button, which accepts commands with no delay. Alternatively, you can program this button to toggle the ANC levels. The Bose Connect app (iOS and Android) will guide you through the setup of the headphones and these additional features.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II also provides a strong Bluetooth connection, something important if you care for call quality or move around a lot while using your headphones. What’s more, the microphone provides decent sound quality, too.
There isn’t much of a downside to the QC 35 II, though it does only support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. Most people will still enjoy the sound and iOS users will benefit from the consistent streaming quality and low latency. If you’re looking for LDAC or aptX support, consider the Sony or Sennheiser headphones in this list, instead. The Sony also features USB-C charging, in case you want to get away from microUSB.
What should you know about the best Bluetooth headphones under $300
No matter your budget, when you’re buying a set of wireless headphones there are a few features to consider, one of the most obvious of which is battery life. If your headset doesn’t last more than a few hours, it’s not very useful as a wireless option. Most Bluetooth headphones last at least 15 hours on a single charge, so that shouldn’t be an issue, but be aware that battery life degrades over time. Other things to consider are wireless audio and quality and general frequency response.
Bluetooth codecs determine wireless audio quality
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 blurry.
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 reference 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.
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.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 go toe-to-toe with the best Bluetooth headphones under $300
The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 has the features and specs to match the top offerings from Sony and Bose despite coming in under $300. Now that the Surface Headphones 2 has been out for a while, you might even be able to catch it on sale for an even better value.
Microsoft Surface Headphones 2Full Review
In our full review of the Surface Headphones 2, we found that the fit was more comfortable than the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. The minimalist design is flexible and allows the ear cups to rotate to stow away in a bag or drawer.
Microsoft lets users pick between 13 levels of noise cancelling intensity, or enable passthrough audio to hear surroundings. While the headphone doesn’t take the crown for blocking out the most ambient noise, it is more than effective in most environments. Be aware: you can’t completely disable ambient passthrough or noise cancelling modes. You can only transition from one to another via the rotating ring on the right ear cup.
The headset supports Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and aptX codecs, the latter of which allows for high-quality streaming on Android. iPhone owners will default to the SBC codec, which isn’t optimal but it works just fine. It also supports multipoint connections, so you can connect it to more than one device at once.
Microphone quality is very good. You can find our demo here, where former SoundGuys Editor Adam Molina’s voice is relayed clearly in the demo above. Battery life is also good and the Surface Headphones 2 clock in at 17 hours, 47 minutes of playtime with ANC enabled. The headset takes two hours to fully charge via USB-C, as there’s no fast charging functionality.
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 on 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 some of the best 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 and it significantly attenuates low-frequency noises like jet engine rumbles.
See also: Best Sennheiser headphones
The sound quality on the PXC 550-II is also quite good: 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.
Exercise with the Jabra Elite 85h
The Jabra Elite 85h has a water-repellent nano-coating that protects it from sweat droplets and moisture buildup. This headset checks all the boxes: it has a water-resistant coating, multipoint connection for switching between devices, quick charging, and even has decent active noise cancelling. 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.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 (Renewed) is the best value
The Sony WH-1000XM3 may technically be the 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, hence why it made the cut as one of the best Bluetooth headphones 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.
If you are a fan of Sony audio products, the Sony WF-1000XM4 might pique your interest. This set of true wireless earbuds is more portable than over-ear headphones, with unique features such as Sony’s proprietary 360 Reality Audio and an IPX4 rating.
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.
Best Bluetooth headphones under $300: Notable mentions
- AKG N700NC M2: While the build quality isn’t great, the ANC performance, which adapts to your surrounding, is quite impressive.
- Beats Solo Pro: This isn’t the most comfortable headset you’ll wear, but the noise cancelling is uniquely good for a pair of on-ear headphones.
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 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 Monoprice BT-600 ANC features impressive noise cancellation, sound quality, and a comfortable design, all for under $100 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.