Finding the best pair of wireless headphones is like making a new best friend who isn't needy and knows how to let you be free. Wire-free, that is. OK, groan all you want, but not having to worry about getting tangled up in a wire while on your morning commute or accidentally strangling your seat neighbor on the way to the bathroom on a flight is a pretty great reason to get a set of wireless headphones. And if you like extra features like active noise cancelation (ANC), transparency mode, and companion apps that let you fine-tune EQ and other functions, then you're going to like the list we've put together below.
At Digital Trends, we're always looking for the best wireless headphones, and we also take comfort, audio quality, and battery life, seriously, too. For this roundup, we're focusing on wireless headphones of the over-ear variety. For the best wireless earbuds, we've got a roundup of those, too.
That said, we think that Sony's latest WH-1000XM5 are so good that they currently take the top spot on not just this list, but also our picks for the best noise-canceling headphones and the best headphones, period. They're light, very comfortable, have excellent noise cancellation and sound quality, and are packed with premium features.
But if you have something else in mind, like a set of earbuds or something a little more affordable, we have you covered with a variety of additional wireless headphones to compare.
The best wireless headphones overall
- Excellent sound
- Very good comfort
- Ultra-clear call quality
- Best-in-class noise canceling
- Very good battery life
- Hi-res compatible (wired/wireless)
- Hands-free voice assistant access
- Classy, modern design
- Fold-flat, but don’t fold up
The previous leader of this list was Sony's WH-1000XM4, and the WH-1000XM5 have everything that made those headphones amazing, plus a bit more.
Let's break them down. shall we? The design has gotten an update with smaller drivers and a slimmer, more elegant shape that also makes the headphones a little lighter to wear. The battery life of these new cans is almost unchanged, providing 30 hours with active noise cancellation (ANC) on and 40 hours without (the XM4s were just a tad behind that last number with 38 hours). And while Sony says it has improved its software algorithms and hardware when it comes to active noise cancellation, the 1000XM5 are basically the same as the XM4 — excellent.
Like the XM4s, Sony's WH-1000XM5s include Bluetooth multipoint connection, allowing them to be connected to two different devices at the same time. The wear sensor continues to be a handy addition, automatically pausing content when you remove the headphones. Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) Extreme tech that upscales compressed digital sound sources using artificial intelligence continues to get the most out of your audio files, too.
In addition to the updated design and improved ANC, the headset now includes more mics to bump up the call and chat accuracy. Are they worth an extra $50 for the upgrades? Absolutely: We still haven't seen a contender that can beat this headset line.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Best for comfort and conference calls
- Excellent noise canceling
- Extremely comfortable
- Remarkable voice clarity for calls and voice assistants
- Connect to multiple devices at once
- USB-C brings convenient quick-charging
- Boost to lower treble comes off as harsh
- Requires Bose Music App to control many functions
While the Sony WH-1000XM5s are our favorite pair of full-sized wireless cans overall, Bose steps in for calls with its Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 — which we’ll just call the Bose 700 from here on out. In testing, we found that the microphone on the Bose 700 consistently matched, and sometimes outclassed, the one built into the phone. Get ready for productive calls, as those on the other end won’t have to devote precious brainpower to deciphering garbled dialog.
Perfect for business users and those on frequent team calls, the Bose 700 has sufficient noise cancellation for perfect indoor conversations. They aren't exactly as good for conference calls on the go or outside, but if you're in an office you'll love their performance when communicating with others and hearing responses clearly.
The Bose 700’s controls are convenient, with three tactile buttons combined with a touch interface to give you one-touch access to volume and playback functions (another benefit during conference call management). One of those buttons allows you to adjust the noise-canceling intensity on a scale from zero to 10 or outright disable the feature altogether. There’s also a button dedicated to calling up your favorite virtual assistant.
The Bose 700s have the power to go as long as 20 hours when noise cancelation is engaged, and that runtime doubles to 40 hours with it off. Even if you’re an unusually heavy listener, a 15-minute charge with the included USB-C cable can get you two extra hours, so you should never feel the need to stay tethered.
Apple AirPods Max
Best for iPhone users
- Best-in-class ANC
- Amazing transparency mode
- Excellent build quality
- Excellent sound quality
- Top-notch call quality
- Charges via Lightning cable
- Heavy on head
Yes, their price is high. In fact, at $549, they're the most expensive headphones on this list by a mile. But if you're willing to make that investment, Apple rewards you with a beautiful design, high-quality materials, and a feature set that will please the most discerning listener.
Where the AirPods Max truly shine is their ANC, transparency, and call quality, each of which is best-in-class for wireless headphones. That's saying something considering just how good the competition (Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700) is. The noise-canceling is sublime, and our reviewer believes their transparency mode is the closest thing you can get to not wearing headphones at all.
Apple has also done its usual "it just works" magic with the AirPods Max's controls. The digital crown knob may look a little unusual perched on top of the right earcup, but it's intuitive and even a little addictive. The dedicated button for ANC/transparency is also perfectly positioned and works like a charm.
The innovative mesh materials used on the headband and ear cushions are comfortable, but they can't quite make up for the AirPods Max's one major drawback: Their weight. Considerably heavier than any other models on this list, you may find that they're simply too weighty for long listening sessions.
Battery life is on the low end at 20 hours, but this number might be conservative. At lower volume levels, it could easily extend to 25. Pairing with and switching between Apple devices is a snap. The only thing we think Apple has to rethink with the AirPods Max is the protective travel case, which is neither very protective nor very useful for travelers. Thankfully, there's no shortage of AirPods Max accessories to remedy that fact.
It's been more than two years since Apple updated the AirPods Max, and the rumor mill is spinning that a second-gen may be on the way, so you might want to wait — for the new tech and for the first-gen to go on sale. That said, here's what we'd like to see with a refreshed AirPods Max.
Urbanista Los Angeles
Best for the eco-minded music fan
- Solar charging really works
- Secure fit
- Real-time power meter in app
- Huge 80-hour battery
- Only works under optimal conditions
- No EQ adjustments
This Urbanista headset offers a fascinating proposition: Wear them out in the sun, and they'll recharge automatically thanks to the solar cells in the headband. Leave them out long enough, and they'll fill up an enormous 80-hour battery reserve you can use for days. While that's a very climate-dependent benefit (they're called "Los Angeles" for a reason), those in the right areas have plenty to benefit from.
Solar power is far from the only thing the Los Angeles offer. The headset also delivers competent ANC, with an ambient sound mode (aka transparency mode) so you can hear the outside world while you're moving around, plus complete app controls that allow you to monitor operation, adjust volume, and check on the solar sensor.
The headset supports Google Assistant, Siri, and Bluetooth 5.0 connections. The ear shell design uses vegan leather for sound-canceling foam for a comfortable (if simple) design. Of course, outdoor users will get a lot more out of the headset than others, but it's still an ambitious — and clever — result from Urbanista.
Best budget wireless headphones
- Great sound quality
- Very comfortable for long periods
- Ridiculous battery life
- Solid ANC performance
- Great app support
- Affordable price
- No wear sensors
- Wired mode disables extra features
When we list the best features of the SonoFlow, we know it sounds like a headset well over $100, especially with ANC and a transparency mode included. But no, these wireless headphones are incredibly affordable compared to other options and come packed with desirable features – including especially good sound quality at this price.
1More has also done miracles with the SonoFlow’s battery, which can last up to 50 hours with ANC turned on, making these headphones one of the best picks for those who want to go wireless for as long as possible before plugging in. We’re also impressed with the detailed app options included here, with a variety of different modes to choose from and plenty of EQ adjustments. Plus, the design is simple and comfortable to wear even for long periods.
The minor issues with SonoFlow don’t have a lot of impact on your listening experience: You lose some features when in wired mode, and there’s no wear sensor to automatically pause when you take the headphones up. That’s a small price to pay for, well, such a small price on these excellent headphones.
Sennheiser Momentum 4
Best for sound quality
- Amazing battery life
- Outstanding sound
- Effective wind noise reduction
- Effective ANC
- No auto-off function
We were amazed at the audio quality with the Momentum 3, but somehow Sennheiser found multiple ways to upgrade it with the 4. This is still the best wireless sound you can get for the money, suitable for every kind of audio but shining especially well when it comes to strong, accurate bass and detailed treble.
The Momentum 4 also comes with ANC that features specific modes to combat wind interference or switch to transparency options. And while the new over-ear design is undeniably large, Sennheiser has enough experience to make sure they’re comfortable for long periods of listening as well. Battery life is also excellent – in fact, our review found it lasted up to 60 hours with ANC on, something that no other headphones can manage yet (and far, far better than the Momentum 3 managed).
Some things are missing here, though, such as an automatic off function (although wear sensors are included), but you aren’t giving up much at all for the huge sound upgrade that undoubtedly makes these headphones worth it.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro
Best for gaming
- Top-tier audio quality
- Expansive Sonar software
- High-quality ANC
- Comfortable fit with multiple adjustment points
- Fully retractable microphone
- Dual USB inputs
- GameDAC doesn't fully integrate with Sonar
- Microphone is prone to pick up noise
- Spatial audio can have nasty interactions with EQ
SteelSeries has long known how to make a high-quality gaming headset, but the Arctis Nova Pro takes gaming audio to another level with its incredible redesign. The Sonar software allows for deep customization (and even title-specific suggestions), including a parametric EQ, but these headphones are tuned for accurate audio right of the box, so you don't have to worry about the details if you don't want to.
Other important features also make these headphones usable around the home, including great ANC, and a fit that's lightweight without feeling cheap, plus plenty of physical adjustments you can make. The retractable mic also works well (we found it sometimes picks up ambient noise, though) and won't ever get in the way.
The Arctis Nova Pros have a swappable battery design that's made for switching the actual battery on the fly — so you have one on deck charging at all times. But a USB-C port does allow for on-ear charging, albeit a bit awkwardly, as noted by our senior gaming writer, Jacob Roach, in his full review. Two battery packs are included with the headset — which is good, because battery life is lower than past SteelSeries headsets at 22 hours at only 2.4Ghz wireless, and 18 hours when using 2.4GHz and Bluetooth at the same time, with with ANC on.
Best for kids
- Automatic audio limitation so music doesn't get too loud
- Strong sound quality
- Comfortable design
- Can't compare to wireless headphones designed for sound quality
When we say “best wireless headphones for kids,” we aren’t talking about the cutest or most colorful — though we could see a case being made for the PuroQuiet being referred to as such. Instead, what we mean are the safest headphones for kids. As reviewers of audio equipment, hearing damage and loss rank pretty high on our list of fears, so we can empathize with parents looking for the safest pair for their kids. In this department, the PuroQuiet can’t be beaten.
The PuroQuiet are noise-canceling headphones designed for kids that come with a hard volume limit to prevent your child’s tiny ears from getting damaged.
Despite children’s products being stereotyped as low-quality (rightfully so, in many cases), Puro hasn’t cut corners on the PuroQuiet, which punch well above their weight when it comes to looks and build quality. The headphones feature rectangular-shaped earcups that are made out of robust metal and come in vibrant colors like electric blue or bright pink. They’re blocky and colorful, as kid stuff often is, but don’t look or feel childish, if that makes sense.
They also strike a balance between comfort and design, with a plush, round headband coated in soft imitation leather. Even the adjustment section of the headband, which is also metal, feels solid and strong, and the headphones are durable enough to take a beating, too.
However, the standout feature here is the Puro PuroQuiet headphones’ custom, built-in software limiter. It’s designed to keep music below 85 decibels while maintaining a balanced sound signature. This means that your budding audiophile can crank them all the way up, and you’ll still never have to worry about them blasting their ears out. And thanks to 16 hours of battery life, your kids can listen for as long as they (by which we mean you) want.
Mark Levinson No. 5909
Best price-is-no-object wireless headphones
- Sumptuous sound
- Very comfortable
- Excellent call quality
- Good ANC and transparency
- Excellent codec support
- Good case, tons of accessories
- Over-the-top expensive
- Annoying voice announcements
- Needs ANC mode control
In Simon Cohen's review, he called these Mark Levinson headphones “hard to recommend,” not because they are bad – they’re incredibly high-quality headphones – but because they’re just too expensive for the average buyer, even those willing to dish out hundreds of dollars for amazing audio. But if price really is no object and you want headphones that can dish out awesome sound while looking incredible, these $1,000 cans will be everything you desire.
Their features include some of the best wireless sound we have ever heard, paired with a comfortable, elite design that features thick padding and earcups to both optimize audio and let others know that listening to music is serious business for you: It has a classy automobile vibe complete with chrome accents and auto-inspired paint job.
The headphones also include important features like good ANC with a transparency mode included, automatic ear detection for pausing, and easy onboard buttons for playback, answering calls, and bringing up your voice assistant. In-app controls allow for a number of different customizations, but it’s the Bluetooth support that really impresses us: As you’d expect from highest-end wireless headphones, it supports codecs including aptX Adaptative, LDAC, and SBC, and AAC. That’s excellent for streaming high-resolution sound from devices like Android phones, although the best support hasn’t come to iPhone yet, so Apple users may want to stay away for now.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wired headphones will almost always offer better fidelity, longevity, and durability. For most folks, though, wireless headphones offer significantly more convenience and most let you use them as wired headphones too.
This depends on many factors, but batteries last anywhere from three to 36 hours or more per charge (some models go up to 40 to 50 hours, but this is rare). Expect battery life on the lower end of that scale for wireless earbuds, while full-sized over-ear headphones typically last much longer. If the wireless headphones in question offer a decently fast quick-charge option, that can make up for a smaller battery capacity.
A bigger question is: How long will those rechargeable batteries continue to hold a full charge? As we've seen with Apple's AirPods, the answer isn't always great.
As long as they have a built-in microphone, which the vast majority do, you can make calls with your wireless headphones.
Yes, if they have an IPX rating for water or sweat resistance.
This depends heavily upon the make and model. Look for aluminum frames and durable foam if you want your headphones to last. The good news is that you don't have to worry about cables ripping or tearing.
Yes, wireless headphones don't turn off or stop working while you charge them, and most do include a detachable cable for a 3.5mm jack as well. In some unusual cases, certain features or audio settings may not be available while headphones are charging. You also don't need to worry much about headphones overcharging, as modern headphone batteries come with protection against overcharging damage.
Generally only with TVs that output Bluetooth audio, many of which do not. Otherwise, you’ll usually need an adapter or select soundbars with Bluetooth transmission.
That can vary a lot based on the headphones. Full headphones may not have quick-charge features more often found on earbuds, where only 5 to 10 minutes can give you enough charge for an upcoming activity (although some, like the AirPods Max, do have quick charging). Most will fully charge in two to three hours, or slower if you are using them at the same time.
This is a feature in many headphones with ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) that allows some environmental sounds to enter the headphones instead of blocking off as much as possible. Transparency modes are useful while jogging or cycling to hear the world outside and avoid possible accidents, or if you need to keep an ear open for sounds from another room, timers going off, etc.
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair of headphones through a rigorous process over 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.
Latency and lag are rarely noticeable on today's wireless headphones. It shouldn't be a problem when watching shows or games, for example, unless something is wrong with your internet connection. For the best results, use devices compatible with the latest standards like Bluetooth's aptX, which includes a low latency feature with excellent results. Even wireless gaming headsets are a common option, and when latency is measured in milliseconds there's not much to worry about.
All that said, there will technically be more latency on wireless headphones than with a wired connection.
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