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The future is cutting the cord, judging from all the phones eliminating the headphone jack. If you're ready to make the switch to wireless headphones, it may be hard to pick the best ones. There are plenty on the market from reputable brands like Bose, Sony, Jabra, and Jaybird. Each come with their own set of features, like water resistance, noise cancellation, and different levels of comfort and battery life. Our experts have researched and reviewed, and put together a list of the best ones to get.
If your focus is more on gym and outdoor exercise, you should check out our list of best workout headphones. If you prefer more minimalist earbuds, our list of best wireless earbuds have plenty of recommendations.
Excellent audio quality
Impressive active noise canceling
Remarkable battery life
Less comfortable for larger heads
With the Elite 85h, Jabra offers a powerful, well-rounded pair of over-ear headphones with a lot of little features that make a big difference in usability. Its elegant, functional design, as our reviewer appreciated, lets you enjoy top-quality audio with very little fuss. Connecting (and reconnecting) over Bluetooth is impressively quick and reliable. Opening and closing the headphones turns them on and off. Taking them off your ears automatically pauses your audio until you put them back on.
Sound quality from the Elite 85h's 44mm drivers is outstanding, too, benefiting additionally from adaptive SmartSound technology that shapes your audio experience based on your preferences and current environment. The active noise canceling is very effective, with our tester even preferring the stronger bass when it was enabled. When you need to hear something around you, a handy hear-through feature sends exterior noise into the headphones instead of canceling it out. All this runs on a 36-hour battery life that's among the best you'll find.
The Elite 85h is simply a premium product, and though its price reflects that, you can actually save some money compared to comparable models from Bose and other competitors, all while sacrificing little to none of the quality.
"You get great sound quality, excellent active noise canceling, a durable, attractive exterior, and design choices that make listening to music a little more effortless." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Amazing audio quality
Come with a carrying case
Not as stylish as some other models
Short charging cable
Bose's QC35 headphones are best in class for their extreme comfort, excellent audio quality, and top-of-the-line noise-canceling capabilities. Our reviewer even went so far as to say that she wouldn’t travel without them ever again. Their battery life clocks in at an impressive 20 hours—however, our reviewer notes Bose has moved away from AAAs to a rechargeable battery mechanism, which makes it impossible to swap in new batteries should yours die in the middle of a listening session. The QC35 can also be used with a wire so it’s easy to just plug in and continue listening, though our tester noted that because it was only 10 inches long, it was tough to charge the headphones and wear them at the same time.
"Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II headphones are jam-packed with technology that’s designed to block out ambient noise and offer the best audio quality possible. We think they definitely delivered on both." — Don Reisinger, Product Tester
Amazing sound quality
Impressive noise cancellation
Unintuitive touch controls
These Sony headphones deliver 30 hours of playback on a single charge. They also have quick-charge capabilities—even 10 minutes can provide up to five hours of use—plus superior sound quality, effective noise cancelation, and an ergonomic design that fits securely and comfortably for all-day wear. The over-ear speakers contain 40mm Hi-Res Audio drivers that are capable of reproducing a frequency range of up to 40kHz. They also feature 32bit audio signal processing and a low signal-to-noise ratio, which translates into exceptional audio quality. While our reviewer noted their high price tag, he also thought it would be difficult to have any buyer’s remorse with this "exceptional" product.
"The Sony WH-1000XM3 are quite possibly the perfect pair of Bluetooth headphones you can buy on the market right now." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Impressive noise cancelling
Very comfortable for extended listening
Touch controls are easily triggered
Battery life needs work
The gold standard for sound quality, the Bose 700 are the company’s response to increased competition, once again demonstrating its refusal to relinquish the throne. They’re a bit on the expensive side, but with them, you can be assured that price is synonymous with quality. Our reviewer felt that their build quality was excellent, showing the care Bose took in offering a premium product.
Those in the market for noise cancellation will struggle to find headphones that do it better than the 700. Noise cancellation is adjustable, with the highest levels blocking out all sound, and the lowest level letting in clear ambient noises to evoke the sense that you’re not wearing headphones at all. For music lovers, the audio is crisp, tight and balanced — the bass is not overwhelming and the quality is rich and provides depth, supporting many different types of music. They’re also great for making calls: A four-mic system picks up voices so you can hold conversations on busy streets or use your voice assistant without background noise interfering.
"As soon as we unboxed the Bose 700 we could tell these headphones are built to a high standard." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Distinct black-and-gold design
Collapsible and portable
Very solid sound quality
Better audio and noise canceling can be found
Not as comfortable for some
While the best wireless headphones should prioritize sounding great over looking great, there's nothing wrong with showing off some style as you sport yours around town. Marshall designed its Mid ANC model with a retro feel, distinct squarish earcups, and black leather with gold accents that fit right in with the brand. Functionally, the headphones are cleverly built with a multipurpose control knob on one side, an ANC on/off switch on the other, and sturdy hinges that let them fold into a compact, portable size. You can then pop them into the included travel case, black with red velvet inner lining, serving as a classy extra touch to round out the premium-looking package. Our reviewer, Andy Zahn, was blown away by the Mid ANC's amazing build quality and ability to deliver absolutely killer sound.
On the sonic side, the Mid ANC headphones present plenty of appeal as well. A strong low end and rich, clear highs make them an excellent entry among mid-range wireless headphones, and use of the aptX Bluetooth codec helps pipe in seamless, high-quality audio. As far as the active noise canceling indicated by the ANC in its name, its performance doesn't match higher-end competitors, but it's still very effective at blocking out sound while keeping audio sounding natural—and this is despite having an on-ear design rather than an over-ear one that helps block out noise by completely covering your ears.
"With their eye-catching looks and top-notch build quality, they manage to live up to the high expectations attached to the Marshall brand and their steep price tag." —Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Excellent sound quality
Connection drops sometimes
Bose knows how to make headphones sound great, and the SoundSport Free is no exception. They’ve got a fantastic, comfortable fit and they’re sweat-resistant, making them great for working out. Plus, if they get lost, you’ll be able to locate them using the Bose Connect app—which also makes pairing a bit easier than standard ways of connecting Bluetooth devices. The earbuds themselves also have volume, pause, and skip controls built-in. Although online reviewers were satisfied with these headphones' sound quality and fit, some online reviewers reported a spotty Bluetooth connection, particularly in the left earbud.
"The Bose SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds are great for those who want no-nonsense, comfortable workout buds." —Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Clear phone calls
Short battery life
Very snug fit won't please everyone
Apple might have much of the public's attention when it comes to in-ear wireless headphones, but this pair from Jabra is equally deserving of it. They’re truly wireless and have noise cancelation circuitry (they also feature an adjustable slider to let some ambient noise through, if you prefer). Plus, they're sweatproof and dustproof: “These will withstand workouts and outdoor adventures longer than much of the competition,” raved our reviewer. They also come with different-sized ear covers, but the overall fit was very snug: "If you don’t like the feel of eartips pressed very closely into your ears," our tester noted, "this could be uncomfortable." These headphones work with both iOS and Android devices, plus your Mac or PC. Our tester did, however, wish that their battery life were slightly longer.
"The one thing most people won’t argue with is that the sound quality on the Elite 65t is great." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Cool color options
Super functional accompanying app
Extremely snug fit
Can’t charge via USB
If you want wireless headphones that can withstand your toughest workouts, you won’t find anything better than the Jaybird X4. The earbuds are IXP7 waterproof and sweatproof (though it's important to note that they’re not meant for swimming). They also have eight hours of listening per charge—plus, if you plug them in for just 10 minutes, you can get an hour of playback time. There are several ways to customize fit, including different-sized silicone and foam tips and fins along with a “Speed Cinch” that lets you tighten or loosen the cable hanging around your neck. Our tester felt strongly that “runners will love their build quality, bass response, and snug fit.”
"There’s a satisfying fullness and richness to them that will give fans of electronic music a certain satisfaction." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Surprisingly strong, balanced sound
Clean, simple design
Excellent value for the price
No active noise canceling
Some users report Bluetooth/charging failure
You don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a high-quality wireless audio experience, and the BT One on-ear headphones from Status Audio are proof. For about $100 (often less), you get surprisingly powerful bass and crisp, balanced sound throughout its 20Hz to 20kHz range. It won't blow you away, but the quality overall is more balanced and natural than you often hear at the price range. Our reviewer Andy loved the BT One's gorgeous, high-end design, and that spectacular audio quality (especially at this price point).
Besides connecting easily to your devices via Bluetooth, the BT One comes with a 3.5mm audio cable for wired listening if you've run out of power. The listed 30-hour battery life keeps it running for a long time, though, and it charges quickly through USB-C. There's also a decently clear microphone built into the headset, though some users reported poor quality on the other end of their calls. A few people also received units that stopped working in terms of Bluetooth connection or holding a charge, but the majority of buyers were quite pleased by how much value they received for their money.
"The Status BT One offers comfort, long battery life, and decent audio quality." —Andy Zahn, Product Tester
The best wireless headphones for the average user are the excellent Jabra Elite 85h. In terms of comfort, audio quality, and noise cancellation, they offer the best bang for the buck. If you're more of a sporty person, the truly wireless Jabra Elite 65t cut the cord entirely, have a snug, durable fit, and offer great audio quality. We also like the Sony WH-1000XM3 for their best-in-class noise cancelling and their useful app that lets you tweak just about every setting.
Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate wireless headphones based on design, comfort, sound quality, and connectivity. We test headphones in actual use cases and also evaluate reported specs like frequency response and Bluetooth range. We also consider each set of headphones as a value proposition—whether or not they justify their price tag, and how they compare to competitive products. All of the headphones we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.
Jason Schneider has been writing about tech and audio products for nearly a decade. Previously published on Thrillist, Greatist, and more, he has a degree in Music Technology and his own band. He's reviewed just about all the audio products on Lifewire, and most of the headphones on this list. He liked the Sony WH-100XM3 for its excellent noise cancellation and the Jabra Elite 65t for its great audio quality and secure fit.
Andy Zahn has written for Lifewire since 2019. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoys using tech on the road. He particularly liked Bose's new noise cancelling 700 headphones for their high-quality build and comfortable fit.
Don Reisinger has been covering tech for more than 12 years. He's previously been published on PCMag, CNET, and other sites. He liked the Bose QuietComfort 35 II for its excellent noise cancellation, the added support for voice commands, and the solid overall sound quality.
A great pair of wireless headphones can transform anyone’s listening experience. However, because there are so many different options out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. Read on for our guide to finding the best pair of wireless headphones for you.
Although wired headphones tend to offer better sound quality, if you’re not an audiophile with a love of high-fidelity music, the best wireless options on the market should more than satisfy you. Plus, going wireless is infinitely more convenient and portable—especially if you love to listen to music while you travel or exercise.
Wireless headphones generally have a listening distance of around 10 meters, or 33 feet, but that’s likely to change as Bluetooth 5.0, which supports a distance of up to 800 feet, continues to roll out.
The first thing to think about when buying a new pair of wireless headphones is the form factor. In general, there are three major form factors to consider: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.
In-ear headphones can get a bad rep, but they're also the most portable headphones on the market. Some in-ear headphones rest in your ear, while others rest on a section of your outer ear called the antitragus. Other models are pushed slightly deeper into the ear canal, which helps them stay in place.
Comfort is less of a given. Some pairs can even do damage to your ear cartilage, though those instances are very rare. Most people get used to the feel of in-ear headphones, but if you buy a new pair of wireless earbuds, it may take a few days of use for that to happen.
Some in-ear headphones have a small wire that wraps around the back of your head. Recently, however, “true wireless” headphones, like Apple’s AirPods, have become more popular. These earbuds connect wirelessly to your listening device and often come with a charging case when not in use. This technology is still in its infancy but has improved immensely over the past few years—and will definitely continue to do so.
On-ear headphones offer a happy medium between in-ear and over-ear models. While they keep the same general shape as over-ear headphones, they tend to be a little smaller. The trade-off is that most people find on-ear headphones to be more comfortable than in-ears, and they often have better sound quality.
When it comes to comfort, on-ear headphones offer a compromise between the two other types, with padding that rests on the outer ear. Their comfort level is more defined by how hard the clamp is. If it's too hard, the headphones can’t be worn for long without getting uncomfortable; if it's too soft, they'll fall off.
Over-ear headphones are the ultimate in comfort and sound quality but are by far the least portable. As the name suggests, these headphones often don’t touch your ears at all. Instead, they have padding that clamps around your ears, which is how they’re able to stay comfortable for so long. Part of the reason over-ear headphones sound better is that they have more room for larger drivers, or different types of drivers, that require more space to work properly.
While the look of the headphones may be important to you, their design refers to whether they’re closed-back or open-back. The vast majority of consumer headphones are closed-back, but some audiophile-focused headphones are open-back. The difference in sound quality can be enormous.
Most headphones you see in a store will be closed-back. What that means is that the outside of the headphones is designed to keep your music inside while rebuffing outside sounds. There are some advantages and some disadvantages to this. Closed-back headphones are better for those who want to take their headphones on the go or listen to music with others in the room. The main drawback is sound quality—most audiophiles argue that open-back headphones sound more natural. Read on to find out why.
While closed-back headphones are designed to keep your music at least somewhat isolated, open-back headphones are designed to do the opposite. Here's why: if sound can escape your headphones, it won't reverberate inside them. While largely imperceivable, those echoes do create a tighter soundstage. Open-back headphones sound a little wider and more open.
There are some cons, though. Just as sound inside the headphones can get out, outside sound can also creep in. Also, because there's a lack of a physical barrier between the outside world and the electronics inside your headphones, they're more easily damaged by the elements.
If you plan on listening in a quiet environment and simply want the best listening experience, then open-back headphones could well be the way to go.
There are also semi-open-back headphones. These cover most of the outside of your ear but leave a little space. These headphones have a slightly more natural sound but with all of the disadvantages of open-back headphones. We really only recommend semi-open-back headphones to users who plan on listening at home and are willing to compromise on some of that openness for a slightly more isolated listening experience.
When purchasing new wireless headphones, there are a number of other audio-related qualities to evaluate. Many are only worth considering if you're looking for the best possible sound quality, but even if you’re not, it can be helpful to know a little more about how your headphones work.
Frequency response refers to the different frequencies that headphones are able to reproduce, ultimately resulting in a full sound.
Instruments like bass guitars, bass synths, and kick drums largely live in the lower frequencies, while the sizzle of cymbals and sibilance on a vocal lives in the higher frequencies. Guitars, other drums, the body of a vocal, and so on, all live in between.
The frequency range of human hearing is 20Hz to 20kHz, though most adults can’t hear much past 17kHz. Most headphones have an advertised frequency range of 20Hz - 20kHz—so, while you shouldn’t consider headphones that have a frequency response of less than this, don’t simply assume that this range means they’ll sound good.
Just like speakers, headphones have drivers—at least one on each side. The driver is what vibrates the air, creating sound. There are a few main kinds of drivers.
Dynamic drivers are found on the vast majority of consumer-level headphones. They're the cheapest to produce, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they sound bad. Generally, they're great at creating a solid bass response without much power. The trade-off is that they can distort more easily at higher volumes.
Balanced armature drivers are only used in in-ear headphones, and work slightly differently in that they can be tuned to specific frequencies. Many in-ear headphones feature two sets of balanced armature drivers, tuned to different frequencies, or are also coupled with dynamic drivers for an evener frequency response.
Planar magnetic headphones are usually only found on higher end over-ear headphones because of their larger size, but they’re often able to produce a much better sound. However, they require a headphone amp to run properly, as they need a little more power than dynamic headphones.
Last but not least is the electrostatic driver, which is able to produce a largely undistorted sound and a wide, natural soundstage. They also have a very natural frequency response. However, they’re larger, much more expensive to make, and require a headphone amplifier.
Impedance refers to the opposition your headphones give to the flow of current from your headphone amplifier. Impedance generally varies from 8Ω (ohms) to the hundreds of ohms on high-end models.
Most consumer headphones are low-impedance and can be powered easily by a smartphone or computer. High-impedance headphones require a dedicated headphone amplifier to output enough sound.
If you plan on using your headphones with a phone or computer, any headphones with an impedance of under 25Ω should be fine. If you have a headphone amplifier, however, you could get higher-impedance headphones—though just how high depends on the amplifier.
Sensitivity refers to how loud headphones can get. This volume is measured in decibels. Generally, sensitivity is measured per 1mW (milliwatt). So, if headphones have a sensitivity of 90 dB / mW, that means they can produce 90 dB of volume using 1 milliwatt of power. Usually, a sensitivity of between 90dB and 120dB / 1mW will be perfectly fine for use.
In recent years, noise cancelation tech has improved greatly. Active noise cancelation uses a microphone to detect outside sounds, then plays back an opposite version, effectively canceling it out to your ears. Generally, Bose and Audio Technica are known for their excellent noise cancelation.
There is a downside to this technology: it usually affects audio quality in small ways. For example, noise-canceling headphones can sometimes produce a faint hiss, and the frequency response might be slightly different depending on the frequencies being filtered out.
There are also noise-isolating headphones, which are also known as passive noise-canceling headphones. These models physically cut out any outside noise by creating a seal around your ears with sound-proof materials. This is both lower-tech and less effective, but can still help prevent unwanted sound from distracting you.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind when it comes to buying wireless headphones, and that’s battery life. Battery life varies widely depending on the type of headphones you have. A good battery life for true wireless headphones is anything more than four hours of continuous playback—though the charging case will extend that if you don’t listen for four hours straight. Non-true wireless earbuds should have at least 8-10 hours of playback on a charge. On-ear headphones should be able to offer 15 hours or more, and over-ear headphones should offer at least 16 or 17 hours—though it can range up to around 25 hours.
Wireless headphones are often full of extra features. Many have controls built right into the ear cup. Certain pairs also offer support for a digital assistant like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, while others go even further, with sensors that can track your heart rate through a workout. Some have features to limit the volume, preventing you from doing too much damage to your ears (which are especially great for kids).
No two pairs of wireless headphones are the same. But for the average consumer, the most important things to consider are form factor, design, general sound quality, and battery life. Ultimately, the perfect pair of headphones doesn’t exist—it'll depend on your needs, budget, and taste. Hopefully, armed with this new information, you'll have a better idea of what to look for.