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The best Bluetooth LDAC headphones
In the world of Bluetooth audio, not all codecs are created equal. The default SBC works everywhere, but it doesn’t offer the audio quality of more specialized formats, like aptX, AAC (if you’re using an iPhone), and, if you’re really lucky, LDAC. Marketed by Sony as a true Hi-Res codec, LDAC doesn’t exactly offer comparable audio to a wired connection, but you probably won’t notice the difference. Because Sony makes the codec, support is rather scant outside of the company’s own products, but there are certainly a few Bluetooth headphones with LDAC worth looking at.
- This article was updated on February 1, 2024, to add new Top Picks and ensure the timeliness of the information within.
The best headphones with LDAC support is the Sony WH-1000XM5
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the best pairs of headphones is also the best LDAC-compatible option on the market. The WH-1000XM5 may be expensive, but it’s worth it. An update to the similarly popular WH-1000XM4, these headphones bring best-in-class noise canceling, LDAC support, multipoint Bluetooth connectivity, and decent battery life, all wrapped up in a lightweight, comfortable build.
When you use the app, you have access to features such as EQ controls, ambient sound controls, DSEE Extreme audio upscaling, touch control customization, and 360 Reality Audio: Sony’s approach to in-ear spatial audio technology for an immersive listening experience. However, it requires a subscription to a premium streaming service such as Amazon Music HD or Deezer.
Sony’s latest sports a brand new visual design, with rebuilt internals and a new microphone array. The result is some of the best noise canceling on the market and some of the best noise rejection in calls on the market—seriously, sounds like car horns and keyboard strokes are almost inaudible.
The headset also boasts a pretty large improvement in battery capacity over its predecessor, lasting a few minutes shy of 32 hours on a single charge. That’s plenty long enough for even the lengthiest commutes or flights. It charges with USB-C and supports fast charging, so three minutes plugged in will net you 180 minutes of playback time.
The included touch controls do a solid job handling volume and playback, though finding them can be a little finicky, and you may feel like a bit of a dope doing it a lot in public. Regardless, something this expensive should offer a fantastic experience in almost every scenario,3, which almost certainly achieves that—just don’t take it out in the rain.
Before you buy any of the best Bluetooth LDAC headphones, study up on Bluetooth codecs
A Bluetooth codec is like a language device that headphones use to exchange audio information. By default, Bluetooth isn’t great at transmitting high-quality audio, so different standards have been developed to improve things. The default SBC codec is available on every Bluetooth device, and it gets the job done, but compressing audio for limited bitrates is extremely difficult. The better codecs for audiophiles are aptX and LDAC, which offer much higher quality audio and respectively make claims at offering “CD quality” and true “Hi-Res” sound.
Though LDAC falls short of Hi-Res claims, it’s still the best-performing Bluetooth codec currently available. 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. Sorry to break it to you: 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 brought support for these wireless standards to many phones, and assuming your headphones last longer than your smartphone does, your headphones will only sound better as the tech in your phone catches up. Additionally, the AAC codec performs far better when paired with an iPhone than an Android phone, so if you’re in the market for headphones to use with your Samsung Galaxy phone, maybe avoid the AirPods.
The Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) is built to last and sounds great right out of the box
The Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) is a refined successor to its first-generation counterpart. It aims to maintain its position among the best Bluetooth headphones with LDAC support while addressing previous limitations and introducing new features. The Gen 2 version prioritizes high-quality sound, robust build quality, and extensive codec support, including LDAC, aptX variants, AAC, and SBC, ensuring versatile device compatibility and high-quality, low-latency audio playback.
Notably, the AONIC 50 (Gen 2) introduces enhancements in battery life and the app experience, alongside maintaining its solid construction with an aluminum chassis and comfortable leather-analog ear pads. Despite its heft, the weight distribution ensures comfort over extended listening periods, and the headphones offer the convenience of folding flat for travel. You also get 3.5mm analog and USB-C ports on separate ear cups.
At its price point, the Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) presents a compelling option for those willing to engage in some sound personalization, offering a durable, high-quality listening experience with the benefits of advanced Bluetooth codec support.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is a versatile yet simple pair of LDAC Bluetooth headphones
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 takes everything about the beloved ATH-M50x and adds Bluetooth functionality, onboard controls, and a solid microphone system. Whether you’re a professional audio engineer or audio enthusiast, the ATH-M50xBT2 has something to offer you with its timeless design and great sound.
With the ATH-M50xBT2, you get the same famed, decades-old design chock full of new internal hardware. The onboard controls are easy to operate, though the smart assistant button is uncomfortably close to the volume up control, making it easy to misfire one or the other. Sound quality is very good and follows our studio curve closely enough, with some under-emphasized deviation in the midrange and treble. Isolation performance is standard for vinyl ear pads and will block out some high-pitched incidental sounds, but this isn’t the headset to take on an intercontinental flight.
You get software support through the OS-agnostic Audio-Technica Connect app, where you can update the firmware, EQ the sound, and choose your preferred Bluetooth codec. There’s not much else to these Audio-Technica headphones, which is a big part of the appeal.
If earbuds are more your speed, check out the Sony WF-1000XM5
The Sony WF-1000XM5 is the next iteration of flagship true wireless earbuds from Sony, and it’s among the best products on the market for a number of reasons, including LDAC support. This offers pretty much the best active noise canceling you can find in a pair of earbuds, with fantastic isolation to match.
The earphones use DSEE Extreme to upscale compressed music files, restoring data that may have been lost during compression. On top of LDAC, these also support AAC and SBC, so Apple users will have access to high-quality streaming, too. In our testing, the WF-1000XM5 lasted over 8 hours on a single charge, and the included charging case (which supports wireless charging) stores enough for two full charges, moving overall battery life to over 24 hours.
Using Sony’s Headphones Connect app, you get access to all sorts of goodies, like changing your control scheme, updating your virtual assistant, changing the WF-1000XM5 EQ, and more. The app even offers a fit test for its ear tips to help with maximizing your isolation performance.
The Anker Soundcore Space Q45 is are good bang for the buck
If you’re on a budget, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 headphones offer LDAC at a more reasonable price. The Q45 boasts features like Bluetooth 5.3 support, multipoint connectivity, a wired connection option, and a comfortable design coupled with impressive battery life and efficient, fast charging, making it an attractive choice for a wide range of users, particularly commuters and workers in need of reliable ANC headphones.
Users might find the app experience finicky, and the sound quality, while adequate for most, doesn’t hit the high marks of more expensive competitors. Despite these minor shortcomings, the Q45’s solid build, complemented by a useful set of controls and the convenience of a foldable design for easy storage, presents a compelling package. Anker’s inclusion of an 18-month warranty offers additional peace of mind concerning the product’s durability. While audiophiles may seek more refined sound quality, the average listener, especially those prioritizing ANC and comfort over audiophile-grade sound, will find the Q45 a solid choice.
The best Bluetooth LDAC headphones: Notable mentions
- Audeze Mobius ($279 at Amazon): This is one of the best gaming headsets you can buy, provided you can find it in stock. It’s high priced but worth it. The 3D audio sounds great, though it can feel a little gimmicky.
- Sony WH-1000XM4 ($348 at Amazon): The previous model of Sony’s flagship headphones is still one of the best on the market, and it supports LDAC just like the WH-1000XM5. The WH-1000XM4 doesn’t offer as good ANC, and it looks a little dated in comparison, but it offers almost identical features to this year’s model—it’s cheaper, too.
- Sony WF-1000XM4 ($278 at Amazon): As the predecessors to the latest XM5, the WF-1000XM4 earbuds still stand out with their exceptional ANC, LDAC support, and commendable battery life. While they might not have all the bells and whistles of the newer model, their now-reduced price point makes them a savvy choice for listeners not fixated on having the latest earbuds.
- Sony WH-XB910N ($148 at Amazon): This pair of headphones has solid ANC and great battery life. If you want to feel the bass rattle your skull, get this headset.
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The best Bluetooth LDAC headphones: FAQs
The Sony WH-1000XM5 steals the spotlight when it comes to LDAC support. But for those watching their wallets, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 offers LDAC at a friendlier price.
Absolutely! LDAC is Sony’s star player in the Bluetooth audio codec league. While the default SBC is the jack-of-all-trades, LDAC is the specialist, aiming for high-res audio over Bluetooth.
LDAC claims the crown as the best-performing Bluetooth codec currently on the scene. While aptX boasts “CD quality,” LDAC shoots for true “Hi-Res” sound, and it can sometimes fall a tad short of those claims.
LDAC is not a replacement for Bluetooth; it’s a codec that operates within the Bluetooth framework. Think of Bluetooth as the highway and LDAC as the sports car cruising on it, aiming to deliver high-quality audio.
If you’re an iPhone aficionado, AAC might be your jam. But if high-quality streaming is your endgame, LDAC’s got your back. Just remember, AAC plays nicer with iPhones than with Android.
LDAC is marketed as a true Hi-Res codec, while AAC is more of an iPhone’s best buddy. While LDAC aims for the audio stars, the real difference might be subtle to the average ear. But for the audiophiles? They might just pick up on those nuanced notes.