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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 the codec is made by Sony, support is rather scant outside of the company’s own products, but there are certainly a few Bluetooth headphones with LDAC worth looking at.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on June 21, 2022 to include the Sony WH-1000XM5.
The best product with LDAC support is the WH-1000XM5
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the best pairs of headphones of the last year 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 cancelling, LDAC support, multipoint Bluetooth connectivity, 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 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 cancelling 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 and this 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 devices and headphones use to exchange audio information. By default, Bluetooth just 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 because. 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 brings support for these wireless standards to lots of 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 is built to last and sounds great right out of the box
The Shure AONIC 50 doesn’t try to compete with more software-heavy headsets like the Bose QuietComfort 45 and QuietComfort 35 II, instead, it relies on great sound and build quality to stand out from the crowd. Not only does the AONIC 50 support LDAC, it also supports SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Low Latency. Suffice it to say, you get high-quality low-latency playback no matter your device, making the AONIC 50 a great choice for listeners with multiple operating systems.
The Shure AONIC 50 has very good ANC, though it can’t outperform the WH-1000XM4 or Bose QC 35 II. It will quite the hum of an airplane cabin and can help protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss as you travel around town.
By default, the AONIC 50 has a consumer-friendly frequency response with gently boosted upper-bass and treble notes. Pretty much all music will sound good with this headset, and if you want, you can go the extra mile to EQ the sound from the ShurePlay PLUS app (iOS and Android).
Frankly, if you’re looking for a durable headset with premium materials, a headphone jack, and USB-C audio passthrough port, then you’re in luck and can end your search here.
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-1000XM4
The Sony WF-1000XM4 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 cancelling 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-1000XM4 lasted 7 hours, 43 minutes 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-1000XM4 EQ, and more. The app even offers a fit test for its ear tips, to help with maximizing your isolation performance.
The Audeze Mobius makes the case for gaming headphones being your main headphones too
If any headphones on this list can compete with the WH-1000XM4 in terms of raw audio quality, it’s the Audeze Mobius. The first attempt at a gaming headset from luxury audio company Audeze, the Mobius sports 100mm planar magnetic audio drivers, and it sounds fantastic. However, don’t rush out just yet if you’re looking for an obvious alternative to a typical pair of wireless headphones.
This is a gaming headset, and its primary use is over a wired connection on PC, so a lot of its best features aren’t available over a Bluetooth connection to a mobile device. However, if you’re a gamer who doesn’t necessarily want to own a bunch of different headphones for different activities, it’s worth a look. When it’s connected via USB (or Bluetooth to a laptop) this gaming headset features 3D audio and head tracking via WavesNx tech for simulated directional audio pretty cool. In game, it means surround sound is accurate and responsive. Out of game, it simulates a stereo home theatre, so audio sounds like it’s coming in from in front of you, and it maintains a set point of origin regardless of how you turn your head. Those who own the Apple AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, or both, will be familiar with this kind of spatial audio effect.
While this all probably sounds pretty neat, the flip side of this is that it jettisons the typical niceties you’d expect of a $400 pair of Bluetooth headphones. The headset can’t last as long, with only 10 hours of battery life. It’s heavier, due to the planar magnetic drivers. On top of all that, there’s no ANC—the included memory foam ear pads do a fine job with isolation, but not out of the ordinary.
The best LDAC headphones: Notable mentions
- Panasonic RP-HD805N-K: This has an all-plastic design which keeps both the cost and weight down. It has very good active noise cancelling that compares well against the Sony WH-1000XM3. It’s technically discontinued, so you’ll find this renewed or through third-party sellers for well under $100 USD.
- Sony WH-H910N h.ear on 3: These headphones are a little more expensive that the XB900n, but they’re newer, with support for Bluetooth 5.0 and up to 35 hours of battery life on a single charge.
- Sony WH-1000XM4: 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 WH-XB910N: 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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