Whether you’re a pro looking for a more convenient way to listen to music or a noob looking to make your first investment into a good pair of Bluetooth headphones, a quick search in your search engine of choice can be intimidating. There are tons of options to choose from and it can be more stressful than choosing your first starter Pokemon. This is especially true when you start looking into more expensive options. We’ve looked at some Bluetooth headphones you can pick up if you want to stay under a certain budget, but today we’re leveling up to some of the more expensive options. If you want the best Bluetooth headphones under $300, each of these are worth checking out before you spend your hard-earned money.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on September 15, 2020, to answer a question in the FAQ regarding Android compatibility with the Beats Solo Pro.
Most people should get the Jabra Elite 85h
So what are the best Bluetooth headphones under $300? It has to be the Jabra Elite 85h. They check all the boxes for what you want in a pair of great headphones. They have a water-resistant coating so you won’t have to worry about rain, multipoint connections for switching between devices, quick charging, are super comfortable, and even have decent active noise cancelling. Not to mention they have a sleek design and fold at the hinges to help save space in your bag.
Jabra Elite 85hFull Review
Plus, they got about 35 hours of constant playback in our testing, which is super impressive. And if the battery does give out, you can always just plug in an audio cable so you’re not stuck without music. Of course, nothing is perfect, and these are lacking any kind of high quality Bluetooth codec. They do support AAC thankfully, so even though it isn’t the highest quality when streaming, it’s better than the standard SBC codec and you won’t have to worry about lag when watching videos on your phone.
Things you should know
What are Bluetooth codecs?
One thing that’s important for all Bluetooth headphones, not just the ones on this list, are Bluetooth codecs. When it comes to wireless audio, one thing that manufacturer’s need to overcome is how to get audio from one device to another? The solution is Bluetooth, which is one method of transferring audio data between two devices. The problem is that Bluetooth wasn’t made to transfer audio, which can be pretty large amounts of data. To more efficiently transfer audio data from a source device to your headphones, companies rely on something called a Bluetooth codec.
Basically, this is just a method of compressing and decompressing a file. At its best, it results in more data being quickly transferred which results in better quality. 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 deadzone with terrible signal your video is likely going to be downgraded to a lower quality setting like 480p. When this happens, you can still technically watch the video, but it’s blurry and not as sharp.
Every Bluetooth device has the standard SBC codec built in, but in some of the higher end products you’ll start seeing Bluetooth codecs that are capable of sending and receiving more data, like AAC, aptX, and LDAC (in order from lower quality to higher quality). As long as both your headphones and your source device are compatible, you’ll be able to use a higher quality codec. One thing to note for future reference, is that there’s a new Bluetooth codec coming out in the next few years that should dramatically change how we think about and use Bluetooth audio devices. So while none of these are truly future-proof in the way that some classic wired headphones are, you’ll still get a few years of use at the least.
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 and Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.
Sorry iOS users, all you get is AAC
While we’re on the topic of Bluetooth codecs, another thing worth mentioning is that if you’re on iOS devices then you really don’t benefit from a pair of headphones that has anything other than AAC. The Apple iPhone and iPad are only compatible with AAC. Since you need both devices to be compatible with a certain codec in order to take full advantage of it, there’s really no point looking to get anything other than AAC.
What is frequency response?
One thing that you’ll see all over the place when researching headphones or speakers are references to a products frequency response. While we have a deep dive explaining the ins and out of what it is and what it means if you feel like learning something, you don’t need to be a pro to understand it. A products frequency response just refers to how accurately that particular 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.
For example, if you look at the frequency response of the AKG N700NC headphones, you’ll see that lower notes (pink) tend to have a slight emphasis. Practically, this means that sounds at or under 100HZ, like bass kicks and sub-bass synths, will likely sound slightly louder to you. If you wanted the headphones to play back music exactly as it is in the original source file, then you’d want a pair of headphones that are neutral. 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, and they’re usually called “neutral” or “flat” because the fluctuations are so small that the resulting frequency response graphs appears flat. But don’t worry, there’s no such thing as a perfectly neutral pair of headphones. It’s just an ideal that we conveniently use to show visually how a pair of headphones will likely make your music sound.
If you’re exclusively an iOS user, get the Beats Solo Pro
If you’re an Apple user and don’t feel like joining the true wireless crowd with the AirPods or AirPods Pro, then a Beats product is your next best bet. But don’t worry, the new Beats Solo Pro headphones are surprisingly good. While they’re still a little pricier than they probably should be, at least these are actually good now. You’ll get some seriously impressive active noise cancelling (especially for a pair of on-ears) and the H1 chip that makes pairing to iOS devices quick and seamless. While these still have the slight emphasis in the low end that Beats is known for, it’s not overpowering at all and can be described more as “consumer-friendly” than completely overblown now, which is nice.
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, though sometimes they go on sale for less so it’s worth keeping an eye out for that. The Beats Solo Pro headphones also don’t have a 3.5mm jack in true Apple fashion. That said, they do have quick charging which is nice. So you’ll get about three hours of constant playback after just 10 minutes on the charger.
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. These headphones build off the success of its predecessor with improved isolation, sound quality, active noise cancelling, and 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.
The sound quality on the PXC 550-II is also impressive, offering balanced lows and mids, and a slight emphasis in the highs for added treble clarity. 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.
See also: Best Sennheiser headphones
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 are just a hair under $300, but they still 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-XB900N headphones are the best value
If have some money to invest in a pair of Bluetooth cans but you’re not looking to spend anywhere near $300, then check out the Sony WH-XB900N. It’s the younger sibling to the internet famous WH-1000XM3 that many consider (including us) to be one of the best headphones you can get. The WH-XB900N are part of the extra bass line of headphones from Sony, so you can expect a little extra bump in the low end. Besides that, these support aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC, so you’ll get all of the goodness of these codecs assuming you have a compatible device.
Sony WH-XB900NFull Review
You’ll also get around 30 hours of constant playback, USB-C charging, a 3.5mm input in case the battery dies, strong active noise cancelling, and an ambient mode that you can enable by placing your hand over the ear cup. While the build quality isn’t great as these are mostly made of plastic, they’re still super comfortable so wearing them for long periods of time won’t be an issue.
Who should buy Bluetooth headphones?
While Bluetooth audio has improved greatly in the last few years, you’re still not going to get the best audio quality possible. If that’s what you’re after, then you might want to go wired. Still, Bluetooth headphones have their place since not having a wire tethering you to a spot is convenient as hell. If you find your headphones constantly getting snagged on things then maybe going wireless would benefit you.
I can speak from personal experience that Bluetooth headphones for a commute is a game-changer, but if you don’t find yourself on public transportation too often and just want headphones mainly for your desk then you might as well spend the money on a solid wired pair since you likely won’t need Bluetooth. Plus, you have to remember that Bluetooth headphones need to be charged every now and then so 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, then you’ll find yourself looking at headphones like the new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 or the Sony WH-1000XM4, both of which are priced at around $350 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 too. If you have a bottomless pocket, then another pair of Bluetooth headphones worth checking out are the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless, which are a giant pair of cans that sound great. That said, they’re not the most portable so if you spring for these it’s worth checking out the full review to know what the best use case is.
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.
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.