Wireless headphones were once some of the most expensive headphones outside of the audiophile genre, available only to those with deep pockets and enough patience to deal with their limited sound quality and battery life. In the past few years, however, the entire headphone industry has seen something of a renaissance, and wireless headsets in particular have benefited.
Now, you can find top-notch wireless solutions for your listening needs, with great sound quality, reliable wireless connection, and a comfortable fit, all at a relatively affordable price. However, with so many choices, it’s hard to figure out which might be the best wireless headphones for you.
To make your search easier, we’ve made a list of the best wireless headphones you can buy, at a variety of price points and for multiple use cases.
Why you should buy them: Beautiful wireless sound, plush comfort, and excellent noise-canceling capability.
Who they’re for: Anyone who wants a top-tier wireless experience, without the top-tier price.
How much they will cost: $300 to $350.
Why we picked the Sony WH-1000xM2:
Sony’s technology-packed WH-1000xM2 are the follow-up to the outstanding MDR-1000x model that offer top-tier noise-canceling capability, fantastic wireless audio, and plush comfort. This enticing combination earned the model a rare five-star rating from our reviewers, and – thanks to a few notable improvements — makes the latest version the best headphones you can buy right now.
At the heart of the WH-1000xM2 is their fantastic wireless sound. Sony’s LDAC technology delivers a wireless signal at what the company says is up to three times the quality of standard Bluetooth streaming, and the headphones also are compatible with the latest aptX HD codec (with supported devices like the LG v30). The 1000xM2 also “upscale” wireless music using a specially designed chip, helping to make music sound dynamic and beautiful, with punchy bass and clear treble response held together by a well-sculpted midrange.
The WH-1000xM2’s excellent noise-canceling ranks second only to the Bose QC35 II, from the brand that has long dominated the market in terms of sheer noise-blocking abilities. That said, the Sony headphones sound much better than this new bass-heavy Bose option, and offer numerous features that help to create a much more premium overall experience.
The WH-1000xM2’s advanced control systems allow you to pipe in various levels of ambient sound, with advanced features like voice-only mode, which helps filter through vocal frequencies so you can hear your music and the voices around you while blocking out other sounds. Responsive touch controls let you navigate volume, make calls, and play and pause music with ease, all while helping to maintain a clean aesthetic. Best of all, the WH-1000xM2 offer a staggering 30 hours of battery during normal use, providing even heavy users with days of listening from a single charge.
If you’re looking for a pair of extremely comfortable wireless over-ears with great sound and a massive number of features, these are the best you’ll find.
The best fully wireless earbuds
Jabra Elite 65t
Why you should buy them: Good sound, long battery life, and advanced functionality.
Who they’re for: Listeners who want total wireless autonomy without sacrificing usability or sound.
How much they will cost: $170 to $190.
Why we picked the Jabra Elite 65t:
Jabra’s Elite 65t resemble tiny versions of the Bluetooth headsets you may best know the brand for. Don’t be fooled by that aesthetic throwback, though. With five hours of battery life, solid sound quality, and a myriad of useful app-based features, these earbuds beat Apple’s industry leading AirPods as the best fully wireless headphones you can buy right now.
Three sets of silicone tips and an ergonomic design all but guarantees a perfect seal in your ears, giving you a comfortable fit with excellent passive noise isolation. Music itself comes through clear and detailed, with punchy bass response and a surprisingly agile treble range.
An included charging case adds two full charges on the go, and the company’s Sound+ app allows you to do things like adjust equalization and pick whether you want to use your phone’s built-in smart assistant (Siri on iOS, Google assistant on Android) or Amazon’s Alexa. You can even tell the headphones to play and pause music when you remove them from your ears, and pipe in varying amounts of sound from the outside world — great for hearing announcements on the train or that angry driver behind you on your bicycle.
They have a great feature set, comfortable fit, and good sound signature, but the main reason to buy the Jabra Elite 65t is that they just work. That’s still shockingly rare in this market segment, and when combined with the tech, it makes these the best fully wireless headphones you can buy in 2018.
Best stylish over-ears
Why you should buy them: A searing blend of high performance, good looks, comfort, and features galore.
Who’s it for: Those who want to cut the cord, and look good doing it
How much will they cost: $270 to $500.
Why we picked the Sennheiser HD1:
With the HD1s, you get everything we love about a quality headphone experience — comfort, durability, reliability — all without the worry of wires. You’re also really getting two great sets of cans in one, as plugging these cans in converts them into a top-tier over-ear that competes with the best of them.
Whether you’re listening via Bluetooth or the traditional headphone jack, these headphones boast brilliant sound performance with a big soundstage and powerful, authoritative bass. Oh yeah, and you also get decent (though not fantastic) noise cancellation, easy and intuitive playback controls, automated voice prompts, excellent call quality, style … yeah, these are great cans.
One interesting feature of note is that if the headphones are on, so is noise cancellation — there is no off button. However, while you might think that would get annoying, the isolation really just serves to provide better sound performance and has yet to present any issue in real world use for us; if you’re jamming out with over-ear cans, you probably won’t be very responsive to the world around you, noise canceling or not. You can often find the previous version of these headphones — the Momentum 2.0 — at a dramatically lowered price online, if you want to save a few bucks.
The best budget in-ear
Shure SE112 Wireless
Why you should buy them: You want a simple pair of in-ear headphones that are both streamlined and more affordable than other models of similar quality.
Who’s it for: The discerning shopper looking for a pair of quality in-ears.
How much will they cost: $88 to $150.
Why we picked the Shure SE112 Wireless:
In an age where earbuds have largely replaced over-ear and on-ear headphones as the average commuter’s listening device of choice, it’s easy to find some … well, quite frankly, really bad in-ear headphones. Scores of model line store shelves and cost anywhere from $10 to $20. Unfortunately, as with most material things in life, you get what you pay for, and the reality is that, while their price might not immediately read as “budget,” in the world of high-quality in-ears, the Shure SE112 Wireless are a steal.
When we reviewed the SE112’s wired version, we were pleased to find an affordable pair of in-ears with high performance quality. We were also impressed with several other aspects of the Shure SE112, including the excellent passive sound isolation and great design and construction.
The wireless model, naturally, adds the benefit of unfettered connection via Bluetooth to the already stellar sound and build qualit. But there’s more. The wired version of the Shure SE112 Wireless lacked an in-line mic for phone calls, but this has been rectified with the SE112 Wireless. An in-line mic and remote sit on the right-hand side, making them even more of an upgrade over their wired predecessors.
While you could buy wireless in-ears for less, these are the best budget in-ears you should buy.
The best cheap on-ear
Plantronics Backbeat Sense
Why you should buy them: They’re cheap, comfortable, and bursting with features.
Who’s it for: Those looking for the best sound in a wireless over-ear for their buck.
How much will they cost: $70 to $200.
Why we picked the Plantronics Backbeat Sense:
That’s right: Plantronics, purveyor of Bluetooth ea pieces, has one of the best wireless over-ear headphone options available. These headphones are light and simple. Though they likely won’t turn any heads when it comes to design, they are a comfortable wear, and offer some of the best sound quality of any wireless headphone at any price point. These headphones falter a bit at higher volume levels, and they don’t feature noise-canceling, but just about any genre sounds great with the Sense, and you’ll be able to listen for prolonged sessions thanks to an 18-hour battery life. They also have some of the best wireless range on the market.
The best headphones don’t play to specific genres of music, they do them all well, and that’s what we’ve got here. The bass is balanced and musical, but not especially deep or overpowering. Any bass-heavy track sounds fine, and the lows do come through as the volume increases, making for a very solid listening experience.
A pressure sensor built into the right earcup knows when you’re wearing the headphones and when you’re not. Lifting the Sense off your head immediately pauses the music, though simply lifting off the right earcup will do the same. Bluetooth 4.0 is supported, and up to two devices can be connected simultaneously. For example, you can connect to your tablet to watch a video while also connecting to your phone, just in case a call comes in. That, plus built-in play/pause controls and an in-line microphone, means the Backbeat Sense do everything that higher-priced headphones do — and more.
The best budget noise-cancelers
Phiaton BT 100 NC
Why you should buy them: Noise canceling, solid battery life, and great sound.
Who’s it for: Those who are looking for a vivid sound and noise-canceling that won’t break the bank.
How much will they cost: $99.
Why we picked the Phiaton BT 100 NC:
Phiaton has been at the vanguard of the Bluetooth headphone charge for years, and for good reason: Its headphones are still some of the best. When it comes to in-ear wireless options, the BT 100 NC stay true to the company’s impeccable track record.
Armed with Bluetooth 4.0 and AptX support for near-CD quality sound on compatible devices (i.e., select Android phones), the BT 100 NC deliver not only superior sound quality, but also the ability to connect to multiple devices. Better yet, you’ll be able to focus in on what you’re listening to, thanks to noise canceling and silicone tips that create a top-notch seal in the ear. That makes the BT 100 NC are particularly well-suited to travel.
With so much functionality, you’d expect a reasonably hefty price tag, but the BT 100 NC are offered at a killer bargain. While there is the newer $150 model, you won’t be losing out by going with the BT 150 NC.
The best premium noise-cancelers
Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II
Why you should buy them: You won’t find better noise-canceling tech out there.
Who’s it for: Those who listen in noisy settings like offices or public transportation.
How much will they cost: $300 to $329.
Why we picked the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II:
Frankly, you just won’t find better active noise canceling, period. The QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones II (we’ll stick with QC35 Wireless II, for short) are at the forefront of Bose’s noise-canceling fleet.
Listening to music with the QC35 Wireless II is a pleasure. The sound quality is remarkable, and the headphones boast Bose’s lightly boosted bass signature that has defined the brand’s headphones for over a generation. It’s worth mentioning that, while Bose is clearly proud of its enhanced low-end properties, this feature has proven divisive in audiophile circles. That said, we mean it when we say these are the best noise-cancelers out there, even edging out our top pick, the Sony MDR-1000X, in this category.
While that covers the “quiet” in QuietComfort, we should mention the “comfort,” too. The QC35 wireless come in a stylish, understated black or silver finish, and feature a lightweight build with generous padding that keeps them comfortable even after long listening sessions. Got an international flight to tackle? The Bose QC35 Wireless II not only have a robust battery to last the trip, but they’ll feel great the entire time.
The best for sports
Jabra Elite Sport
Why you should buy them: Good audio quality, fully wireless convenience, and impressive sweatproofing.
Who they’re for: Those who want to jam out while breaking a sweat, but don’t want wires to get in the way of those reps.
How much they will cost: $160 to $220.
Why we picked the Jabra Elite Sport:
One place where fully wireless headphones have a clear advantage is at the gym. Whether powering through reps or attempting your fastest mile, any kind of cable — even the slim behind-the-head wires of banded wireless headphones — can get in the way.
That’s why our pick for the best workout headphone is the fully wireless Jabra Elite Sport. Based on Jabra’s Sport Pulse Special Edition, the headphones boast an embedded heart rate sensor in the left earpiece, as well as an IP67 rating — good for 30 minutes submerged in 3.3 feet of water. That makes them decent for short bouts in a pool, and sweatproof enough for the hottest summer days. It also means you can safely rinse them off after extra-sweaty workouts.
The Elite Sport offer 4.5-hours of playback per charge, meaning that the headphones will last through every workout experience save a marathon (unless you’re one of the fastest runners on Earth), and the included charging case adds two extra charges to keep these buds raring to go. Jabra’s Sport Life app includes activity tracking and voice prompts to go along with heart-rate readings during workouts, and you can even add and track specific kinds of activities — be it running, weights, or anything else.
Sound quality is decent, with a variety of eartips that offer a great seal for punchy bass response, and a tight high end that brings a good amount of clarity to your favorite tunes. Sure, they won’t offer the same vivid sound signature as more affordable wired in-ears like the V-Moda Forza, but the added convenience of wireless audio could make up for the price difference for many. If you’re looking to break a sweat while listening to your favorite tunes or bingeing a podcast, these are the earbuds for you.
The best bass bumpers
Sennheiser Urbanite XL
Why you should buy them: They sound better, look better, and cost less than Beats.
Who’s it for: Those looking for rich, bass-laden sound that doesn’t compromise the rest of the sound spectrum.
How much will they cost: $83 to $268.
Why we picked the Sennheiser Urbanite XL:
Sennheiser’s Urbanite XL model cuts the cord but not the sound quality. Sennheiser is gunning for the celeb-branded competition with the Urbanite XL, delivering meaty bass tones that rival anything Dre or 50 Cent have to offer. Better yet, unlike those other brands, the XL don’t compromise on balance or clarity. They’re a little bulky, but still comfortable for long listening sessions.
The Urbanite are designed to offer the style and boosted bass today’s young listeners are into, but — staying true to Sennheiser form — without sacrificing overall sound quality. It sounds like a simple idea, and Sennheiser isn’t the first to have it, but the Urbanite execute it better than any pair of headphones we’ve heard before, and totally earn their asking price.
The fact is, when folks get their ears on these headphones and realize it’s possible to have bumping bass without otherwise sacrificing balance, or giving up detail, clarity, dynamics and musicality, they’ll never turn back, especially at a $100 less than the Beats Studio Wireless line.
How we test
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair of headphones through a rigorous process over the course of several days. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios — be it on a bus, in the listening room, or at the office — and playing back from a wide array of sources. We know most people use their headphones with a smartphone, often with lower quality MP3 resolution tracks, so we do, too.
However, we also move up to high-resolution audio files, as well as a wide variety of sources, including plugging in directly to a PC or Mac, using USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters), and employing high-quality dedicated portable players and amplifiers. Finally, we compare the headphones to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight.