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Best wireless headphones
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 from when it was first announced. Not only do some of the best wireless headphones sound great, but they also come with a number of useful features.
- This list was updated on July 5, 2023, to add the Focal Bathys and JBL Live 660NC to Notable mentions.
Commuters will find a lot of value in Bluetooth headphones. If you spend a lot of time riding 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 will also find a pair really helpful. 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.
Why is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 the best pair of wireless headphones for most?
Audiophiles and audio enthusiasts know Audio-Technica: it’s a prolific premium audio company that’s proven itself time and time again in the professional industry. Audio-Technica hits it out of the park with its wireless headphone debut.
If you liked the wired ATH-M50x, you’ll love the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. It may be cliché to say, but this headset takes everything we love about the wired version and features it in the wireless version. Save for the newly added playback controls, the headset is nearly identical to its wired brethren. For better or worse, this means it features the same synthetic padding, which remains a bit thin. That said, the headband is well-reinforced by its metal frame. Folding the ear cups in and up results in a compact, travel-friendly form, too.
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 LDAC support.
Additionally, battery life is excellent; it lasts well over 64 hours on a single charge. If you’re looking for the best wireless headphones that can do it all, the ATH-M50xBT2 is all you need.
The microphone on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is great for phone and Zoom calls, and it does a good job rejecting household noise so your voice comes through loud and clear. Take a listen for yourself:
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Marshall Major IV is a portable set of on-ear headphones
If you’ve worn a lot of on-ear headphones, you know that they are typically much smaller than conventional over-ears. You also know that they can feel uncomfortable pretty quickly. However, the Marshall Major IV are a notable exception with memory foam ear pads and a lightweight build — merely 165 grams.
Supporting their small size, the Major IV also folds somewhat. The clever toggle control centralizes commands in a nifty fashion too. In addition to Bluetooth capability, they can use a 3.5mm connection. Sure, you miss out on apps and higher-quality codecs, but depending on your priorities, a set of comfortable and small headphones might be your main goal above the codecs. Plus, you can always use an EQ app to adjust the tuning.
In ideal circumstances, the Marshall Major IV sounds pretty natural. However, it can struggle to attenuate environmental noise, but your voice will still come through.
Marshall Major IV microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Marshall Major IV microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
What makes the Sony WH-1000XM5 the best noise canceling headphones?
For the past year, the Sony WH-1000XM4 occupied this spot, but now the WH-1000XM5 takes its place. It’s no surprise that it reigns as one of the best wireless headphones since it isn’t drastically different from its predecessor, with the same great app experience and high-tech features. The two headsets diverge when it comes to the fundamentals like sound quality, ANC, and microphone quality.
The newer model improves upon its predecessor in active noise canceling performance and passive isolation, doing an even better job at blocking out environmental noise. This makes it great for traveling or studying when you want to silence the world around you. With the XM5 headphones, you can enjoy a less treble-heavy sound compared to the XM4, which bodes well for those with eclectic music taste. Like its predecessor, the WH-1000XM5 is a bit heavy on the bass, but it won’t shake your skull.
The WH-1000XM5 also has great features like ambient sound control options, automatic ear detection, a fantastic microphone, and speak-to-chat, which automatically pauses your music when talking. It also has Bluetooth multipoint, making it easy to switch between two devices at a time. The WH-1000XM5 retains many well-loved features of its predecessor, making it an obvious pick on this list.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 has an excellent microphone, and it has great noise rejection as well. You can’t even tell there’s any background noise in our wind conditions demo. Take a listen:
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Wind conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
While the Sony WH-1000XM5 has taken the spot on this list that the Sony WH-1000XM4 once held, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is still worth getting if you don’t want to spend as much money. Considering it still has excellent noise canceling, good sound quality, and a lot of the premium features the WH-1000XM5 has, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is still a great pick for a lot of people.
The best design goes to the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is a great headset, even compared to the newer Bose QuietComfort 45. As the next iteration of the ANC line from Bose, it has a brand new design that makes the QC35 II before it look ancient. The only downside is that you no longer get any folding hinges with the NCH 700, but you can still rotate the ear cups to lay flat, and the new metal headband is much more durable.
You have to interact with a touch-sensitive gesture pad on the right ear cup to control your music, and the touch sensitivity is nearly perfect. Sound quality is very good on this headset, as is the active noise canceling. One thing about Bose: it does a great job with releasing significant firmware updates to its headsets. It’s significantly improved both the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and Bose QC 35 II’s noise canceling over the past few years.
You get around 21 hours of battery life from this headset and top it up via the USB-C charging port. Fast charging is efficient, with a 15-minute charge yielding 120 minutes of playback. These sleek headphones are free of sharp edges and have some of the most responsive touch controls we’ve used.
The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 has a good microphone with good noise rejection. It’s perfectly good for phone calls and Zoom calls.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Sennheiser HD 350BT is a great pair of headphones for around $100
Very few people brag about how great their sub $100 headphones sound, but the Sennheiser HD 350BT is worth talking about. This pair of over-ear Sennheiser headphones sounds excellent and gives more expensive headsets a run for their money, at least when it comes to audio quality.
Anyone who needs wireless headphones can enjoy the HD 350BT because it offers some premium features at a reasonable price. You get a host of Bluetooth codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency are all available, so no matter your operating system, you can enjoy high-quality wireless audio. These codecs are necessary because Sennheiser nixed the headphone jack from the HD 350BT, so wired audio is a no-go here.
The Sennheiser HD 350BT looks a lot like its noise canceling sibling, the Sennheiser HD 450BT, but rest assured, the HD 350BT is much more comfortable. Sennheiser reduced the clamping force of its non-noise canceling headphones, which makes it easier to wear for long listening sessions. Even still, the ear pads may not be comfortable if you have larger ear lobes. You might even find that it fits more like on-ears rather than over-ears, depending on your ear anatomy.
Sound quality is superb: the dynamic drivers reproduce accurate audio across the low and midrange-frequency spectrum. This accurate response is great for anyone who likes to EQ their headphones, which you can do within the Sennheiser Smart Control app. No matter your music tastes, everything is bound to sound accurate through these cans.
The microphone in the Sennheiser HD 350BT is good for phone calls and video calls, and it has a sidetone feature that allows you to hear yourself while talking (which you can turn off, thankfully). Take a listen:
Sennheiser HD 350BT microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you save up for the Apple AirPods Max?
The Apple AirPods Max costs $424.99 at Amazon, which means plenty of us would need to take out a small loan just to afford Apple’s noise canceling headphones. Since we’re not financial advisors here, it’s a bit unwise to recommend you purchase something so pricey when other products of similar quality go for much less. However, the AirPods Max performed better than any other headphones we’ve tested for active noise canceling, and it also sounds really good. The AirPods Max may be right up your alley if money isn’t an object and you’re happy to pay a premium for absolute convenience (assuming you’re deep into the Apple ecosystem).
Apple integrated its H1 chip into each AirPods Max ear cup, so it has plenty of processing power for things like Adaptive EQ, Transparency mode, active noise canceling, hands-free Siri access, automatic device switching, and more. These features require basic operating system requirements depending on your Apple hardware, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
Battery life is on par with the Sony WH-1000XM4 at around 20 hours, and you need a Lightning cable to charge the AirPods Max. It supports passthrough audio if you purchase a Lightning to USB-C cable, which may be useful for audiophiles.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is a sensible choice
If your goal is a solid set of wireless headphones with good codec support, the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless might be the right choice. For one thing, Sennheiser gave the headphones SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive codecs, which basically means it connects to anything and supplies high-quality audio. In addition, you also get a 3.5mm connection and USB-C listening. Plus, it supports Bluetooth multipoint.
That the headphones get quite close to our house frequency response curve means you needn’t do much equalizing, but you can use the Smart Control app if you want to alter it. The ANC onboard is not quite as strong as the Sony WH-1000XM5, although it should still help out on your commute. Lastly, you don’t get any spatial audio as with the WH-1000XM5, but the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless does outperform nearly all headphones we’ve tested with its 56 hours and 21 minutes of battery life.
For the price, the form and functionality of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless deserve your consideration.
The best wireless headphones: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Life Q35 ($99 at Amazon): This headset might not have a premium design or be as well-built as some of the other options on this list, but it does offer a bunch of great features that allow it to hold its own against the big dogs for much less.
- Anker Soundcore Space Q45 ($149 at Amazon): For this price, you get really great noise cancelation and an app with comprehensive EQ options. Its default sound isn’t ideal, but it’s by no means bad.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT ($79 at Amazon): This budget-friendly set of headphones is designed to go with you to and from the studio. It sports a fairly steep volume roll-off in the sub-bass, but otherwise, should please all but the bass heads.
- Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless ($599 at Amazon): If you want to enjoy your music without being bothered by the sounds of the people you’re living with, these studio-style cans are for you. The Amiron Wireless supports AAC, aptX, and aptX HD.
- Bose QuietComfort 45 ($279 at Amazon): If you want the best active noise canceling and comfort around, look no further. This one builds upon the QC 35 II with improved ANC.
- Edifier Stax Spirit S3 ($209 at Amazon): These headphones stand out for having electrostatic drivers rather than the conventional dynamic drivers found on the vast majority of wireless headphones. Oh yeah, they also sound great.
- Focal Bathys ($699 at Amazon): Look, Apple started it. The prices of wireless headphones have been increasing. At least with the Focal Bathys, you’re getting a superb-sounding pair of headphones with ANC, but that doesn’t come cheaply.
- Jabra Elite 45h ($99 at Amazon): If you want affordable, on-ear headphones with an insane battery life, the Elite 45h is for you. The portable design and two-year warranty make this headset great for taking anywhere, and its battery lasts 54 hours on a single charge, so it’s an excellent adventure companion.
- Jabra Evolve2 85 ($372 at Amazon): For the individual who demands a set of headphones capable of handling professional calls, PC gaming, noise canceling, and commuting, this one has both a removable boom mic and built-in mic to suit your needs. Plus, 15 minutes of charge equals a full workday’s battery.
- JBL Live 660NC ($149 at Amazon): Striking a reasonable balance between form, function, and cost, these noise canceling headphones do a good job of quieting noise, working as expected, and throwing in a bit of extra bass.
- Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 ($249.99 at Amazon): Microsoft’s noise canceling headphones sound great and look even better. These modern cans can go anywhere and have the best Bluetooth multipoint functionality around. If you want something that can keep pace with your workflow, get the Surface Headphones 2.
- Monoprice BT-600ANC ($84.99 at Amazon): If you want to keep a pretty low budget and get premium features like very good ANC, aptX HD, and solid battery life, you’ll like Monoprice’s headset. It isn’t perfect, though, as the sound quality favors bass and treble much more than most people would like.
- Shure AONIC 50 ($298 at Amazon): For some pretty good noise cancelation and a premium build, pony up for the AONIC 50. These headphones are extremely comfortable to wear (yes, even with glasses), and they support all the high-quality Bluetooth codecs you could ever want.
- Sony WH-XB910N ($148 at Amazon): If you want a bass-heavy headset with very good ANC and plenty of software features, including 360 Reality Audio, this is a good pick.
- Sony WH-1000XM4 ($348 at Amazon): This is one of the best active noise canceling headphones available, even though the newer Sony WH-1000XM5 outperforms it. If you’re looking to save some cash, though, this is generally cheaper than the newer model.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know about the best wireless headphones
In the early days of Bluetooth, stable connectivity was an issue. Fortunately, it rarely crops up these days due to the incremental improvements over the generations of Bluetooth. Now the main concerns you’ll encounter with wireless headphones are whether they have active noise canceling (ANC) or not, the Bluetooth codec selection (see below), and battery life. All else consists of added luxuries, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care, but if there’s a specific feature you want, it might not be available on all headphones.
Starting with a good-sounding set of cans is usually a must, regardless of whether you look at wired or wireless headphones. Otherwise, unique to Bluetooth is the inclusion of companion apps on the go with your phone to adjust EQ, ANC ambient modes, touch controls, spatial audio, and more.
What is active noise canceling, and how does it work?
You can dive deeper if you’re really curious to learn the science behind active noise canceling, but if you don’t feel like dusting off your old textbook and want the TL;DR version, 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 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.
How do Bluetooth codecs work?
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.
LDAC is supposed to be better because it can carry more audible information than the standard SBC codec, but our testing revealed that LDAC isn’t completely able to replace a wire. Luckily any performance 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.
You can use Bluetooth headphones to watch TV, but typically this demands some kind of Bluetooth base transmitter, such as the Sennheiser BT T100 Bluetooth Audio Transmitter () in order to act as a go-between for the TV and headphones. Some TVs have Bluetooth, but ordinarily, wireless headphones for TV use radio frequencies (RF) instead, such as in the Sennheiser RS 195 RF ($2999.99 at Amazon) to transmit audio to your headphones.
When considering Bluetooth headphones to pair with a TV, make sure your headphones have compatible low-latency Bluetooth codecs like aptX Adaptive or aptX Low Latency to ensure your audio synchronizes with the video. A good match would be the aforementioned Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless which uses aptX Adaptive with the Sennheiser BT T100 (if your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth).
If you don’t want to shell out for a dedicated Bluetooth base or RF wireless headphones, consider grabbing a set of wireless gaming headphones if your TV has a USB port. These cost much less than TV headphones that use RF and do not require an additional base. Something like the Razer Barracuda X (2022) even has a removable mic alongside its 2.4GHz dongle that you can plug into your TV’s USB port and sells for only $99 at Amazon. However, you wouldn’t want to use the Barracuda X (2022) for its Bluetooth utility with your TV because it only supports the SBC codec, which most likely will encounter noticeable latency.
How we choose 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 list of the best Bluetooth earbuds, our readers made it very clear that battery life was the most important quality to assess after sound quality and comfort.
Bluetooth by itself has a bad rep when it comes to sound quality, but it’s come a long way over the years, so 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.
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Frequently asked questions about the best wireless headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM4 actually does come with a 3.5mm cable. While their microphone isn’t perfect, it’s good enough to relay your voice clearly. If you need the headphones for professional calls at your desk and the mic quality isn’t meeting your requirements, we’d recommend looking into a separate standalone microphone.
While Beats are definitely an attractive brand of headphones, their sound quality just isn’t worth their price. Beats overemphasize bass frequencies to the point of loss of detail in the mid and high frequencies, and they cost the same as some of the best Bluetooth headphones around. We don’t typically recommend Beats, but if your heart is set on the brand, we recommend the Beats Solo Pro.
Whether you’re looking for wireless or wired earbuds, the best will depend on the OS you have, what use case you want the earbuds for; and how much you are willing to spend. If you’re willing to spend a bit more for noise cancellation, the Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro are great options, but Apple’s AirPods work best on iPhones. Want an immediate pairing process on Android? Get the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, or check out our list of the best Android earbuds.
Yes, It should!
Just because we didn’t select a certain pair of headphones for this list doesn’t mean they’re not good; it simply means they don’t satisfy some set of criteria to make them one of the five headphones we highlight. Maybe they don’t test as well as the ones on the list, or they don’t offer certain features that make them less appropriate for it. I know that might not be a satisfying answer, but five headphones are a pretty narrow selection for any category. Be sure to check out our reviews if you want to learn more about any set of headphones you’re looking for.