Admit it: You need to get some wireless headphones. With Bluetooth improving every year and headphone jacks disappearing from all of our devices, it makes sense to invest in a future without wires if you like listening to music, watching videos, or just making the outside world less loud. Of course, how you use your headphones should determine which ones you buy — and that’s what this guide is for.
Whether you’re an audiophile, a long-distance runner, or someone who cares about fashion and function, there’s a set of wireless headphones for you. If you’re looking for earbuds, ear muffs, or something in between, we’ve got you covered.
Buying forecast for spring 2020: 2020 has been a challenging year for electronics makers, with manufacturing and shipping delays making it hard for companies to get new products into the hands of consumers in a timely fashion. But it hasn’t put a stop to new headphone options being introduced.
Sony’s long anticipated WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-cancelling headphones are finally available, and 2020 has seen the competition playing catch up to Sony, with alternatives like the excellent Razer Opus coming close to matching the sound quality of the WH-1000XM4, at a much cheaper price point. Samsung has also recently announced its new AirPods rivals in the Galaxy Buds Live, which feature a less intrusive fit than most earbuds and the addition of limited active noise cancelling tech.
As we move towards the holidays we can also expect hefty discounts on headphones as retailers attempt to boost revenues to make for a very challenging year.
The best not-quite-wireless wireless headphones
Who are you?
Even though truly wireless earbuds are all the rage, you might be worried about losing one of the buds or you could just want better battery life. You might also like the idea of dangling earbuds around your neck.
Our pick: Powerbeats 4 ($219.95)
If you want a pair of earbuds that aren’t exactly wireless — either because you don’t want to spend the money or because you prefer a pair that offers more stability for your workouts — then Apple’s Beats brand has a near-perfect pair. The new Powerbeats 4 are similar to the pricier Powerbeats Pro in that they have ear hooks to keep the buds in place, but the corded version has, well, a cord. It’s also much cheaper than the wireless Pro.
If you’re thinking about getting wireless earbuds that are connected by a wire, your options are virtually limitless. Jaybird makes some great buds that are tailored to runners, and the $170 Tarah model is the best budget option. The pricier Tarah Pro is even better, if you prefer a pair of earbuds with a fabric-covered cord and inline controls.
The best budget headband
Who are you?
You like the idea of better-sounding and sort of cool-looking headband-style headphones. But you also don’t want to spend a ton of money, and you’re not terribly worried about getting tons of features.
Our pick: Jabra Move Wireless ($119)
The Jabra Move Wireless are the best cheap way to get into the wireless headphones game. They connect seamlessly with any device. They sound pretty dang good. They’re comfortable and lightweight without feeling flimsy. Jabra is now selling the Moves for less than $100 in some stores. That might be a sign that a new model is on the way.
That price tag on the Jabra is pretty exceptional. Other good quality wireless headphones for folks on a budget will cost between $150 and $300. The $299 Sony Extra Bass Wireless headphones are a solid option, even if you’re not a bass lover. (You can turn off the bass boost.) V-Moda’s $225 Crossfade Wireless are extremely durable, dependable, and they sound great too! The JBL Everest line is also fantastic. The JBL Everest 700 model retails for under $300.
The best noise-cancelling headphones
Who are you?
You spend time on aeroplanes or in coffee shops or on the subway or in an open-plan office or literally anywhere that’s too noisy.
Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($549.95)
The fourth generation of Sony’s noise-cancelling wireless headphones continue to dominate this field. With the latest version Sony has made some minor improvements to the fit making an already comfortable and lightweight pair of headphones even easier to wear, and has further improved its noise-cancelling capabilities, particularly when it comes to the sound of human voices. Usability has been improved to, with a feature that allows the wearer to simply start talking to activate the headphone’s ambient sound mode, so you can have a conversation without having to actually remove the headphones. At $549.95 they’re still on the pricier end of wireless headphones, but they justify that price tag with excellent sound quality, a robust app, and unmatched noise cancelling performance.
Everybody loves the $349 Bose QuietComfort II for good reason. They’re great — just not as good as the new Sony headphones. Meanwhile, the $550+ Bowers & Wilkins PX don’t offer the very best noise-cancelling, but the terrific sound quality will appeal to the audiophile set. They’re also gorgeous. If you’re looking to spend slightly less, check out the $399 JBL Everest Elite 750NC. They’re less gorgeous but work just fine.
The best truly wireless earbuds
Who are you?
You want in on this tiny wireless earbud craze, but you don’t want to have to charge them every ten minutes. Also, you want something that’s just as dependable as much larger wireless headphones.
Our pick: Jabra Elite 75T ($297)
These earbuds pack all the best features of the popular Jabra Elite 59 T into a smaller package and add a few new tricks, too. With 7.5-hours of battery life, terrific Bluetooth 5 connectivity, and four total microphones for making crystal clear phone calls, the Jabra Elite 75t earbuds tick off all the right boxes. There’s also a newly redesigned case that fits nicely in most pockets. On top of all that, the snug fit means you won’t worry about these things flying out of year ears, which is a concern for some other wireless earbuds, namely AirPods.
The $249 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are the best-sounding earbuds we’ve tried so far. (More on that in a second.) And the $479 Master & Dynamic MW07 earbuds are comparable, although slightly less mind-blowing. If you’re just after decent sound and good connectivity, the $230 Apple AirPods are a popular option, and the newer $350 AirPods Pro are simply excellent. And the $278 Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are a great budget option for those with Samsung devices (and they’re also compatible with iOS).
The best athletic earbuds
Who are you?
You like going to the gym, where you tend to sweat — and sweat tends not to agree with electronics. What to do?
Our pick: Jabra Elite Active 75t ($327)
The sweat-resistant version of Jabra’s all-around amazing wireless earbuds are $30 more than the base model, and worth the premium for those who work out. They sound every bit as good as the Elite 75t, with the bonus of being waterproof so you don’t have to worry about frying them with sweat. Jabra’s HearThrough feature lets you filter in ambient noise on the go, which you can toggle on in Jabra’s app or by pressing the left earbud while you run. With a customisable equaliser that lets you personalise the audio to your preferences, Jabra’s workout earbuds are the best you can buy.
The $350 PowerBeats Pro are an excellent but pricier alternative to the Elite Active 68 T if you want a stable ear hook to keep your earbuds in place. They’re also the most secure headset we’ve ever tested. Seriously, a hurricane couldn’t throw these off your head. Apple’s AirPods Pro are also sweat-resistant with adjustable ear tips (but also extremely expensive at $350).
The most superb sound
Who are you?
Audiophile might be a strong word, but you want the best sound quality out of your wireless headphones. Full stop.
Our pick: Sennheiser Momentum (Around $530)
Let’s make this easy for you. If you’re after the best sound quality and you’re not sure if you want the bigger over-ear headphones or the ultra minimal truly wireless headphones or something in between, look no further than the Sennheiser Momentum family. The recently redesigned $538 Momentum Wireless headphones are some of the best ear muffs we’ve tested, and the $249 Momentum True Wireless earbuds sound simply phenomenal. Yes, both options are expensive, but you said you wanted the best so…
If you’re looking for something unique, the $US400 ($553) Bowers and Wilkins PX7 (over ear) and PX5 (on ear) models are delightful options with great sound and an interesting carbon fibre construction. The $690 Beoplay H9i are also a luxurious treat, especially if you like that Bang & Olufsen signature design. And since we’re feeling spendy, also consider the $760 Master & Dynamic MW60. It’s also safe to say that you don’t need to spend any more than that on a pair of wireless headphones, because remember: you can also just spend $100.
How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:
3/15/19: Added the Samsung Galaxy buds to “Also consider” for truly wireless earbuds.
8/20/19: Added the Jaybird Vista wireless earbuds as “The best athletic earbuds” and added “Buying Forecast for Winter/Spring 2019.”
11/25/19: Added the Jabra Elite 68 T as “Best truly wireless earbuds” and added the PowerBeats Pro to “The best athletic earbuds.” Added the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless to “The most superb sound” and added the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and PX5 to “Also consider” for best sound. Updated “Buying Forecast for Winter 2019.”
4/2/20: Added Jabra’s Elite Active 68 T as “The best athletic earbuds,” Powerbeats 4 as “The best not quite wireless wireless earbuds,” and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ to “The best wireless earbuds.” We also updated the 2020 buying forecast.
8/7/20: Added Sony’s WH-1000XM4 as “The best noise cancelling headphones” and updated the buying forecast for spring 2020.