Next time you get on a flight, take a look around. I’m willing to bet that one of the most common types of headphones you’ll see are wireless headphones. We still have our doubts when it comes to Bluetooth headphones (especially Chris), but it’s hard to deny that Bluetooth has come a long way. Not only do some of the best wireless headphones sound great, but they also come with a number of useful features.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on June 7, 2019, to include the Creative SXFI Air and Master & Dynamic MW65 in the notable mentions section.
The best wireless headphones are Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT
Audiophiles and audio enthusiasts know Audio-Technica, and for good reason: it’s a prolific premium audio company that’s proved itself time and time again in the professional industry. Audio-Technica hits it out of the park with its wireless headphone debut.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBTFull Review
If you liked the ATH-M50x, you’ll love the M50xBT. It may be cliche to say, but these headphones take everything we love about the wired version and feature it in the wireless version. Save for the newly added playback controls, the headphones are nearly identical to their wired brethren. For better or worse, this means they feature the same synthetic padding, which remains a bit thin. That said, the headband is well reinforced due to its metal architecture; folding the ear cups in and up results in a compact, travel-friendly form.
Audio-Technica stays true to its roots, ensuring that audio quality takes precedence over headline-grabbing gimmicks. While it’s not a flashy set of headphones, it includes the necessities to keep pace with the best of them including Bluetooth 5 and aptX support.
Additionally, battery life is excellent; these lasted 31.2 hours on a single charge. If you’re looking for the best wireless headphones that can do it all, the ATH-M50xBT is all you need.
Who should buy the best Bluetooth headphones?
- Commuters. If you spend a lot of time surfing buses and trains, then you probably like to stay occupied with headphones. Well, cutting the cord makes blocking the world out that much easier.
- Office workers. Let’s say you want a break from your cubicle but don’t want to engage in casual banter. Easy solution: grab a pair of wireless headphones. They notify others that you’re not up for talking without having to explicitly say so.
- Students. Getting around campus can be a slow, monotonous process. You might as well exercise your mind and learn a thing or two from your favorite podcast while going from the quad to your English seminar.
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex are durable and versatile
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex are subject to military-level MIL-STD-810G standards, ensuring durability throughout their lifetime. Aside from being some of the toughest headphones on the market, the Crossfade 2 Codex are versatile. AAC and aptX codec support in tandem with hi-res certified wired listening make these the most durable best wireless headphones for general consumers and audio enthusiasts alike.
V-Moda Crossfade 2 CodexFull Review
Beneath the exoskeleton case and steel exterior, the headphones are quite comfortable. Much of the comfort is attributed to excellent headband architecture and supple ear cushions. Be aware, though, you will feel the weight of these after listening for about an hour or so.
Even if the style isn’t for you, the functionality and versatility of these headphones deserves to be lauded.
Superb audio quality and durability aside, the layout of the controls is worth appreciating. Seeing as most circumaural headphones feature buttons that rest on the lateral edge of one of the ear cups, the V-Moda Codex house the playback and volume controls so that they’re aligned with the removable shield, thus forming an upside down V-shape. Aside from looking good, the placement makes the buttons easy to differentiate and find on the ear cup.
Watch the video review here
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are the best noise cancelling headphones
For the past year this spot was occupied by the Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones, but now they’ve been updated with the newer WH-1000XM3. It’s no surprise that these reign as one of the best wireless headphones since they aren’t drastically different than their predecessor.
Sony WH-1000XM3Full Review
You get the same design and touch-sensitive ear cups for adjusting volume and skipping between tracks. The two big differences between the WH-1000XM2 and its predecessor are that the newer models now have deeper ear cups which should help with isolation, and they charge via USB Type-C. The build materials of the ear cup are also upgraded. Gone is the fake leather of the previous model and instead, you’ll get a smooth plastic.
Battery life is another key aspect of these headphones that got slightly better. If you pick yourself up a pair of WH-1000XM3 headphones you can expect to get a solid 24 hours of constant playback out of them. That’s with active noise cancelling turned on as well, so these will have your back even on the longest flights. Of course, the main issue that most people will have these is still the price tag, but if you do decide to invest in one of the best wireless headphones, you won’t be disappointed.
The Grado GW100 the best sound
The Grado GW100 open-back wireless headphones are a perplexing product. After all, Bluetooth headphones that are also open seem like an oxymoron: who wants to take open-back cans into noisy environments? These are one of the best wireless headphones not because they’re great commuter cans—they’re not—but because they grant you the freedom to move within your home or secluded office while enjoying high-quality, natural-sounding audio.
Grado GW100Full Review
If you’re familiar with the Grado SR80e or SR60e, then you’ll feel at home with the GW100, which is built similarly to both wired models. What’s more, the weight distribution across the headband is evenly distributed. The only time Lily had trouble wearing them for prolonged periods of time was when she wore glasses.
A myriad of buttons line the left ear cup and are easy to find without giving it a second thought. Below the buttons is a microUSB input, which may seem a dated choice but it keeps costs down, which we consumers can always appreciate.
Grado’s cans support aptX and operate via Bluetooth 4.2. Although the lack of AAC codec support may be disappointing for iPhone users, SBC streaming quality has come a long way since its inception; plus, many of our ears are too damaged to notice a significant difference between codecs.
Generally speaking, the GW100 sound signature is neutral-leaning meaning that audio is reproduced as the sound engineer intended. It also means that if you’re privy to EQ-ing your music, it’ll be easier to do without too much degradation to audio quality.
Looking to save some cash? Get the Anker Soundcore Vortex
When it comes to finding the best wireless headphones, going the inexpensive route may seem counterintuitive. Luckily, Anker specializes in bringing good quality products at a lower price point, and the Anker Soundcore Vortex is no different. They may not have a premium design or be as well-built as some of the other options on this list, but they do have a bunch of great features that hold their own against the big dogs.
Anker Soundcore VortexFull Review
For one, these are compatible with Qualcomm’s aptX codec for streaming in higher quality. They also have large, plush earcups for comfort and hinges to help them fold down for a smaller footprint when traveling. But the most impressive feature goes to the 20-hour battery life. If you’re not a fan of plugging in headphones every night to charge, then these might be for you.
How we picked the best wireless headphones
Choosing which product is best changes depending on what the category is. If you’re searching for the best headphones, we might focus more of our efforts on sound quality instead of cool extra features. On the flip side, if you’re looking for the best waterproof speakers, chances are we’re going to prioritize a strong, durable build over something like sound quality.
For this particular list, there were a few things that took priority. First was the Bluetooth connection. In order to be in the running for the best wireless headphones, a strong connection was a must. After that came sound quality. At the end of the day these are still headphones, and you’re going to be using them to listen to music.
Additionally, we took user feedback on battery life into account when weeding out products from our list. When we were writing our best Bluetooth earbuds best list, our readers made it very clear that battery life was the most important quality to assess after sound quality and comfort.
— SoundGuys (@realsoundguys) October 9, 2017
Bluetooth by itself has a bad rep when it comes to sound quality, but it’s become way better over the years. So you can be sure that anything on this list had to at the very least sound good. Lastly, some of our decisions were made based on internal objective testing of the best wireless headphones with special software and microphones.
What you should know about the best Bluetooth headphones
The Sony MDR-1000XM3 have spectacular active noise cancelling, but what is it? And how does it work? You can dive deeper into this if you’re really curious to learn the science behind it, but if you don’t feel like dusting off your old textbook and want the TL;DR version then here it is.
Tiny microphones built into the headphones pick up what’s going on around you and then play the opposite sound wave into your ear along with your music. Because the sound wave that’s produced by the headphones is basically the exact opposite of the one that’s outside of the headphones, it cancels out. Leaving you with just the sound of your blissful music. See? That wasn’t so bad. Science can be cool.
So you think you’re ready to understand what makes LDAC or aptX HD good? Get ready, there’s a ton of technical jargon and numbers we’re about to go over, but we’ll try and keep it relatively short. For a full breakdown make sure to check out this great article by Rob Triggs over at our sister site Android Authority.
LDAC is supposed to be better is because it has a higher bitrate than the standard SBC codec, but our testing revealed that LDAC falls short of hi-quality claims. We’re still waiting to see if aptX Adaptive is going to be as good as it seems, but luckily any issues are increasingly hard to hear as we age because, sorry to break it to you, but our ears aren’t that great when we’re old.
Even if your phone doesn’t currently support it, you should still get headphones that support these codecs anyway. Android 8.0 brings support for these wireless standards to lots of phones in the near future and assuming your headphones last longer than your smartphone does: your headphones will only sound better as the tech in your phone catches up.
Related: Understanding Bluetooth codecs
Test results for the best wireless headphones
If you don’t feel like diving into each individual review but are still interested in seeing the results for each pair of headphones, check out the charts below. For those who are unfamiliar with how to read freqeuency response, isolation, and microphone charts, be sure to checkout out explainer.
- Bose QC35 II: These active noise cancelling cans are neck-in-neck with the Sony WH-1000XM2 and feature a noise-rejecting, dual-mic system for clear voice recognition.
- Sennheiser HD-1: The HD1 headphones are more-or-less a rebrand of the Momentum Wireless headphones we reviewed back in the day, and they’re just as good. Though we removed them from this list to make room for some of our more recent favorites, they’re still a force to be reckoned with.
- AKG N60 NC Wireless: The N60 NC wireless headphones sound good, are comfortable, and are super portable. Definitely worth checking out if you’re always on the go.
- Plantronics Backbeat 500 Fit: They’re not the prettiest but the Backbeat 500 Fit is inexpensive, have a great battery life, and could be the perfect companion for hitting up the gym.
- Sony WH-1000XM2: Just because there’s a newer version of these headphones available doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider the M2. They’re still a great pair of cans.
- Beyerdynamic Custom Game: This headset is great for gamers who want the option to take their gaming headphones to the streets. It includes a detachable boom mic and a selection of ear cup plates.
- Jabra Move Wireless Style Elite: If you’re in need of a pair of stylish, functional, and affordable headphones, this is your one-stop shop. While high-quality codecs aren’t supported, the headphones produce a surprisingly clear sound thanks to Jabra’s proprietary DSP and the headphones’ 40mm dynamic drivers.
- Focal Listen Wireless: These aren’t cheap, but they are a solid pair of over-ears with good sound, great battery life, and exceptional passive isolation.
- Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless: If you want to enjoy your music without being bothered by the sounds of the people you’re living with, these cans are for you. The Amiron Wireless supports AAC, aptX, and aptX HD.
- Edifier W860NB: These headphones cost about half of the Sony WH-1000XM3 and provide excellent noise cancelling capabilities. While it doesn’t outperform the more expensive Sony cans, it’s a great alternative for those on a budget.
- Creative SXFI Air: gamerThese offer optional onboard storage, excellent mic quality, and replaceable ear pads for longevity. If you’re a who wants a versatile pair of headphones, get these.
- Master & Dynamic MW65: Master & Dynamic’s noise cancelling headphones are gorgeous. They support aptX for high-quality streaming and include an array of accessories.
Why you should trust us
In addition to the fact that this site is all of our day jobs, Adam, Chris, and Lily have several years of reviewing consumer audio products under their belts individually. Having kept a finger on the pulse of Bluetooth speakers for several years allows us to be able to figure out what’s good, and what’s best avoided.
Considering Chris’ burning hatred for wireless headphones, if he approves of something—it’s damned special. In a similar vein, Adam has reviewed tons of these speakers over the course of almost three years, so he’s heard the best (and worst) of what the category has to offer. Then you’ve got Lily who has put in countless hours working at a radio station in a professional studio environment and even reviewed audio products on her own time before coming to SoundGuys. Needless to say, she’s passionate about audio gear.
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