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Wireless headphones are officially in our good books. It's been a long time since the days where wired headphones could claim superiority - the sound quality, usability and style have more than caught up. Whether you rock a big over-ear pair, or prefer to move with a discreet pair of wireless buds, there's something for everyone out there. And in this list, we've put together the absolute best wireless headphones available right now. For more background information on wireless headphones, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
 

How We Choose

Sometimes it feels like we see nothing but wireless headphones for weeks on end. We don't mean that as a complaint – there's just a constant stream of new models into our offices. We love pitting them against one another, and choosing our favorites. To get the list below, we looked at which headphones were best in certain key categories, such as best noise-canceling, best earbuds, best budget, and more. To get the winners in these categories, we looked not only at sound quality and design, but also ease-of-use and value-for-money.

The problem we faced is that there are hundreds and hundreds of models available, and no list can be completely exhaustive. We genuinely believe our choices below represent the best available, but we are always up for debating our choices. If you disagree with us, or want to point us to a model we've missed, please fight us (nicely) in the comments below.
 

Best Overall Wireless Headphones

1. Sony WH-1000XM3 ($348)

Sony WH1000XM3Category: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 28.5 Hours
Noise-Canceling: Yes
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant, Siri
What We Like: The WH-1000XM3s do everything well - and we do mean everything.
What We Don't: They remain reasonably expensive in comparison to lesser models.

These are best pair of wireless headphones currently available. No question. Sony's WH-1000XM3s tick just about every box we can think of. They not only offer outstanding sound quality, but also superb functionality. You can use the smartphone app to create your ideal mix of noise-canceling, ambient sound, and EQ, and the design and physical controls of the headphones are an absolute dream. They are light, at nine ounces, and have some of the best battery life of any pair of headphones we've ever tested. With the noise-canceling on, they will last a little over 28 hours; compare that to 20 hours for the $389 Bowers & Wilkins PX.

We do have one note of caution. Unlike many other sites and reviewers, we don't believe that Sony's noise-canceling tech is quite as good as that found on the Bose QuietComfort35 II, below. While the two headphones have an identical price, we just feel that the noise-cancelation in the Bose sounds a little bit more effective and natural. The difference is small, however, and the Sony headphones easily beat the Bose on sound quality - on most other things, in fact. These headphones are brilliant, and if you demand the best from your wireless listening, you need them in your life...Read our in-depth review
See the Sony WH-1000XM3
 

Best Wireless Headphones for Noise-Canceling

2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II ($349)

Bose Quietcomfort 35 IICategory: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 20 Hours
Noise-Canceling: Yes
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
What We Like: The best way to block out the world.
What We Don't: Sound quality suffers in comparison to other models.

The general consensus in the audio world is that the Sony WH-1000XM3s, above, have better noise-canceling than the Bose QuietComfort35 IIs. Objectively, this may be the case - the scientific measurements bare this out. But data isn't everything, sound can be subjective, and in our opinion, the Bose offer more appealing cancelation. We've tested both the Bose and the Sony on numerous transatlantic flights, and we just think the Bose do a better overall job. For noise-canceling, they remain the top pick, easily beating not just the Sony but models like the $400 Sennheiser HD1 Wireless.

However, we do think the sound quality of the QuietComfort35 IIs isn't as good as it could be, especially when compared directly to the Sony headphones. The Bose don't have the liveliness or detail that those headphones have, and are even beaten out by cheaper over-ear headphones, like the $280 V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless. It's worth taking that into account, but if you're prepared to put up with this, you'll find yourself owning a pair of the best wireless headphones currently available – and definitely the pair that blocks out the most noise...Read our in-depth review
See the Bose QuietComfort35 II
 

Best Wireless Earbuds

3. Jabra Elite Active 65t ($190)

Jabra Elite Active 65tCategory: True Wireless Earbuds
Battery Life: 15 Hours (When combined with charging case)
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri
What We Like: They take the concept of true wireless earbuds and supercharge it.
What We Don't: No magnetic lock inside case, control issues.

True wireless earbuds feel like a genuine revolution, a huge step-up from the standard wireless earbuds that remain joined by a single cord. The Jabra Elite Active 65t are everything that is good and pure and wonderful about true wireless buds. They have effortless fit, and it's nearly impossible to dislodge them. They deliver crystal-clear sound quality, and fantastic call quality. Compared to models like the $199 Bose Soundsport Free, they are both cheaper and offer a much better experience. We love our pair, which are always in rotation - especially at the gym, where they are truly convenient.

We don't, however, love the charging case, which is difficult to open. The buds are also not secured in the case - unlike the Apple AirPods - so it is easy to have them fall out. In addition, we had issues with the controls, which felt difficult to activate without really pushing. Ultimately, they aren't a perfect pair of earbuds. But those minor issues aside, the Jabras are the current best earbuds available, and easily beat the competition. Not bad for a company that was previously known for making corporate phone systems...Read our in-depth review
See the Jabra Elite Active 65t
 

Best Wireless Headphones for Running

4. Jaybird X4 Sport ($130)

Jaybird X4Category: Earbuds
Battery Life: 8 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri
What We Like: Affordable, great sound, simple to setup and use.
What We Don't: Not as rugged as we'd like.

True wireless earbuds are great for the gym, but for running in outdoor conditions, a traditional pair of wireless buds are still king. The new Jaybird X4 Sport are the supreme rulers here. This upgrade on the X3 offers improved battery life and Bluetooth, as well as access to smart assistants. They are also priced very reasonably - at $130, they may be more expensive than the $79 Optoma NuForce BE Sport4, below, but it really does feel like you get a lot more than the extra $60 would promise. We do wish they didn't feel quite so flimsy - the build quality is fine, but they're not as rugged or robust as we'd like. All the same, they stay locked-in when running with very few microphonics (noises when you bump the cable, a well-known bane among runners).

It's worth noting that this model has a twin sister, the Tarah. These are a virtually identical pair to the X4, with slightly less battery life - six versus eight hours - and a reduced price of $100. Honestly: get the X4s instead. They are better, and cost only a little more. The Tarah buds are fine, but we couldn't justify including both on this list when they are so similar.
See the Jaybird X4 Sport
 

Best Budget Wireless Headphones

5. Tribit XFree Tune ($50)

Tribit XFree Tune Category: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 25 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Outstanding sound for the price, excellent battery life.
What We Don't: Slightly misleading specs, annoying controls.

Budget wireless headphones can be terrible. Below roughly $70, things can get pretty hairy. But the Tribit XFree Tune are one of the few models that really deliver. For $50, we haven't heard better sound quality. It feels punchy and crisp, with delivery that is easily comparable to the more expensive Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, which go for $175. The build is acceptable, especially for the price, and the battery life is good, too. At 25 hours on reasonable volume, they are beaten only by our top-ranked headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3s. Those offer 28.5 hours of battery - but they also cost $348.

However, Tribit also prominently advertise "up to" 40 hours of battery life under certain conditions. Given that these conditions involve unacceptably-low volume levels, we don't think this estimate is fair, and it does sour the experience a little. It's also pointless, given how good the battery life is already, to try inflate it further - who wouldn't be satisfied with an entire day of continuous playback? The controls, too, could use a rethink: right now they feel a little clunky and hard-to-use. Regardless, these are an otherwise solid pair of headphones, and easily deliver the best value on this list.
See the Tribit XFree Tune
 

Best High-End Wireless Headphones

6. Bowers & Wilkins PX ($398)

Bowers & Wilkins PXCategory: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 20 Hours
Noise-Canceling: Yes
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Gorgeous design, near-perfect sound.
What We Don't: Features no longer make it stand out from the crowd.

These aren't the most expensive wireless headphones we've ever come across - those would arguably be the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless, which retail for $699. But if you're going to spend money on a truly excellent pair of high-end wireless headphones, we'd advocate getting the Bowers & Wilkins PX. They are the perfect combination of crystal-clear sound and excellent, luxurious design. We loved wearing these, and never got tired of their premium comfort or stunning audio realism. They are just magnificent. And at $389, you get an awful lot for your money.

The problem is, as good as they are, the technological features they offer feel a bit mundane now. Pulling the earcup away to pause the music is pretty cool, as is offering different environment filters for the noise-canceling. But they are nothing that the cheaper and far-less-luxurious Sony WH-1000XM3s aren't doing. Then again, you don't buy these for advanced features. You buy them because you want a pair of wireless headphones that make you feel truly special.
See the Bowers & Wilkins PX


Best of the Rest

7. Bose Soundsport Free ($199)

Bose Soundsport Free

Category: True Wireless Earbuds
Battery Life: 15 Hours (When combined with charging case)
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant, Siri
What We Like: Among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds available.
What We Don't: A little boring.

The Bose SoundSport Frees might not be the prettiest buds on the market, but they certainly rank well on our list of wireless earbuds based on their sound quality. Out of all the earbuds we have listed here, the SoundSport Frees are, by far, the best for listening purposes. They have a wide, open soundstage, punchy but not overpowering bass with no distortion, a crisp and clear mid-range, and great volume. They're also loud enough that you'll never find yourself cranking them to full.

The connectivity on these is great, as is the range: we got up to forty feet away from our pair, without any issues. The battery also lasts a full four hours on a single charge, and the touch controls work accurately. The SoundSport Frees are comfortable and fit well in the ear, without sitting too far in the ear canal - though this does cause them to stick out a bit. They have rubber grips on the side, along with the controls, and super soft eartips. Our problem with them is that they just don't feel like a premium product - there's a dullness to the design and packaging, a lack of excitement in the sound. It's not that the audio quality isn't good - it is - but it made us feel like we'd bought a tool, rather than a toy. As good as these are, they come second to the Jabra Elite Active 65t.
See the Bose Soundsport Free
 

8. Apple AirPods ($159)

Apple AirpodsCategory: True Wireless Earbuds
Battery Life: 25 Hours (When combined with charging case)
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: Siri
What We Like: Intuitive design, great charging case.
What We Don't: Battery life can vary greatly with activity, no water resistance.

Apple did very well with the AirPods, which feel like a genuine improvement over the wired EarPods. They get several important things right, many of which make them an easy top-ten wireless pick. Their design is simple and effective - even if you aren't a fan of the way they stick out of the ears, it's hard not to be impressed by how easy they are to setup and use. You can use them perfectly well with an Android phone, through standard Bluetooth pairing, but they will automatically pair with any newer-generation iPhone. They also have a fantastic little charging case, with a magnetic clip to keep the AirPods from falling out - something our top-ranked Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds can't boast.

Unfortunately, the AirPods aren't the best true wireless earbuds available. Despite the advertised 25 hours of battery life when combined with the charging case, we found ours varied greatly depending on a number of a factors. Unlike the Bose or Jabra buds, they lack any water resistance, making them unsuitable for, say, running in the rain. We'd say it's worth spending the extra money for the aforementioned buds, rather than these, but they are an excellent alternative if you're on a budget, or exist within the Apple Ecosystem...Read our in-depth review
See the Apple AirPods
 

9. Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 ($79)

Optoma NuForce BE Sport4Category: Earbuds
Battery Life: 8 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri
What We Like: Terrific fit, good sound for the price.
What We Don't: Doesn't really improve all that much on the previous model.

Optoma make some excellent wireless headphones. Their nuForce BE Sport range has always been worth a look - we've tested several in the past, and they've impressed us with their value and good sound quality. For under $100, the new Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 manage to deliver decent sound. They have a well-defined mid-range that manages to cut through the noise of the outside world, even if you're in a busy gym, or on a commute.

It must be said that we think it's worth your time to buy a slightly more expensive and fully-featured set of earbuds, like the Jabra Elite Active 65t, above. Those offer far more value than these do, despite the latter's low price. The BE Sport4 aren't a huge leap forward from the previous model. As good as they are, we don't feel like they are a top five pick - especially in a world where the Jaybird X4s exist. Consider these a solid 8/10. Good, but not quite the best.
See the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
 

10. Master & Dynamic MW07 ($300)

Master & Dynamic MW07 Category: True Wireless Earbuds
Battery Life: 13 Hours (When combined with charging case)
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Tight and compact sound, premium design.
What We Don't: Very old-school for a pair of true wireless earbuds, case is a magnet for fingerprints.

We were excited for the Master & Dynamic MW07. The New York company makes some phenomenal headphones, and their first attempt at true wireless earbuds was bound to be worth listening to. There's no doubt in our mind that these are a top ten pick. Having spent some time with them, we can say they sound fantastic, with tight, compact audio quality and fabulous detail. The tortoiseshell acetate housing looks phenomenal, too, and it genuinely feels like these are worth the premium price. Given that they are $100 more expensive than the Bose Soundsport Free, that's saying something.

However, while they are definitely top ten, they only just squeaked onto our list. For true wireless earbuds, they feel distinctly old school. There is no app, and no way of adjusting the sound in the way you would with the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which allow fine-grained EQ control from within the app. On the one hand, that clearly wasn't M&D's intention with the MW07. But on the other, anybody who buys a pair of true wireless earbuds expecting these features is going to be disappointed. We're also going to take off marks for the charging case – the metal looks good, but will be covered in fingerprints within seconds...Read our in-depth review
See the Master & Dynamic MW07
 

11. Sennheiser HD1 ($400)

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless

Category: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 22 Hours
Noise-Canceling: Yes
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Great looks and portability.
What We Don't: Quite pricey, and they're a little old now.

The Sennheiser HD1 - previously known as the Momentum Wireless, for reasons too utterly boring to explain here - are superb. The multi-function controls are easily accessible from the rim edge of the earcups. There are also not one but several miniature mics - two for hands free calling (when paired with your smartphone) and a further four for the built in NoiseGard active noise-cancelation circuit. Interestingly, after being auditioned in a passive mode and then switched to an active mode - especially with the NoiseGard (ANC) circuit on - the sound character changes quite substantially for the better.

In its intended wireless Bluetooth mode, the audio is rich and uninterrupted. This is thanks to the Bluetooth version 4.0, and the aptX helps enormously - whether you use the HD1s for music, movie soundtracks or for playing games. As with many headphones in this price range, the included accessories are top notch, and the elegant carry case is perfect for protection. They are quite old now, hence their low position on the list, but we still really like them...Read our in-depth review of the Momentum Wireless - same cans, different name.
See the Sennheiser HD1
 

12. Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless ($685)

Beyerdynamic Amiron WirelessCategory: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 25 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: The most comfortable headphones ever made - now wireless.
What We Don't: Poor app, still quite bulky.

The original Beyerdynamic Amiron Home headphones were outstanding, and super-comfortable to wear. The Amiron Wireless take those headphones, wedge aptX Bluetooth into them, and set them free. You get the same effortless, balanced sound quality, and the same perfect earcups and clamping pressure. You can wear these for hours without complaint, and although there's no noise-canceling, the big earcups provide solid isolation.

But it's those big cups that are the Amiron Wireless' achilles heel. The headphones are very bulky for a wireless model - compare them to the less-expensive Bowers & Wilkins PX, above, which are cheaper and far more svelte. They also have an app that really needs a second pass from Beyerdynamic. The Amiron Wireless are excellent headphones, but as a pair of wireless headphones, they have some shortcomings. We'd recommend these an alternative if you can't find the PX, or if you want wireless listening and aren't worried about a bulky pair of cans. Oh, and if you see the smaller Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless model, steer clear. They are awful.
See the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless
 

13. V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless ($280)

V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless

Category: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 12 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Supremely fancy design.
What We Don't: Want aptX? Hope you like Rose Gold...

V-Moda really want you to believe that the Crossfade 2 Wireless are a premium pair of headphones, custom built by Italian craftsmen. Yeah…not so much. Don't get us wrong: we enjoyed using them immensely, and they are definitely worth the asking price. But subtle these are not. They're a major improvement on the original Crossfade, being far more comfortable and versatile (as well as finally being foldable) but they're definitely an acquired taste.

For starters: the sound, while it manages to avoid the overcooked bass of models like the Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless, is still heavily biased towards the lower end, and definitely isn't what you'd call reference-grade. Nothing wrong with that – we like pumping up our music, too, when we're in the mood – but you do need to be aware before you buy them. Secondly: the design is definitely not going to appeal to everyone. It's blingy, fancy, and fabulous - especially in Rose Gold, which is the color you'll need to buy if you want aptX Bluetooth...Read our in-depth review
See the V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless
 

14. Shure SE535 ($450)

Shure SE535Category: Earbuds
Battery Life: 6.5 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Among the best-fitting wireless earbuds around.
What We Don't: Very expensive for what you get.

Noise-canceling can often have an effect on sound quality - just look at the Bose QuietComfort35 IIs, above. Those have amazing noise-canceling, but the sound quality suffers. What if you want a pair of headphones that avoid this problem, but still manage to block out the world? Easy: the Shure SE535 - a pair of wireless earbuds fit like a dream. Their housing and tips slot effortless into the ear, and stay there, delivering clear and involving sound while passively isolating your music perfectly.

You'll pay for this privilege, however. At $499, the SE535s are more expensive than the Bowers & Wilkins PX, the Sony WH-1000XM3s, and the Master & Dynamic MW07s. Their huge price tag puts them out of the range of most budgets, and we wouldn't pick them over the models mentioned. They do serve a unique niche, though, and are worth looking into if you have the cash to spend.
See the Shure SE535


15. Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 ($199)

Plantronics Wireless Noise Cancelling Backbeat Pro 2

Category: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 24 Hours
Noise-Canceling: Yes
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Solid sound with a super-robust build quality.
What We Don't: Noise Cancelation could be better.

For those unfamiliar with the company, Plantronics have been gaining momentum and public awareness lately, due to their incredible value-for-money. This doesn't mean that their stuff is cheap - what they're really trying to do is pack the best of the current tech for truly competitive prices. They've done exactly that with the BackBeat PRO 2s, which promise both contemporary sonics as well as leading class cancelation.

The build quality of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s is good - they look fantastic, and feel solid. As for audio performance, they have slightly enhanced tops and even more enhanced bass. It may get a bit woolly at times, but it's far from upsetting or fatiguing. The battery also lasts 24 hours - generally excellent, even when compared to the amazing (and far more expensive) Sony WH-1000XM3s. We have to admit that they aren't really up there with Sony's level of cancelation; opting for those, or even a QuietComfort 35 II over a BackBeat Pro 2 would be a good idea for most people. Still, they remain a viable alternative.
See the Plantronic Backbeat PRO 2
 

16. Pioneer C8 ($119)

Pioneer C8Category: True Wireless Earbuds
Battery Life: 8.5 Hours (When combined with charging case)
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: An affordable pair of true wireless earbuds.
What We Don't: Poor battery life, clunky design, large case.

True wireless earbuds tend to be expensive. The Pioneer C8, however, prove that this doesn't have to be the case. For $100, you get a perfectly competent pair of earbuds with highly acceptable sound quality. They allow you to experience true wireless audio without having to pay huge amounts of money - and in terms of budget wireless earbuds, they are among the best.

Sacrifices had to be made to keep the price low, however. You only get 8.5 hours of battery life, total - in our tests, they were easily eclipsed by the $159 Apple AirPods. They are also bigger than most true wireless earbuds, and have a truly large charging case. Good luck slipping that into a pocket - we certainly couldn't. We think they deserve to be on this list, thanks to their value-for-money, but you should definitely be aware of their shortcomings before you buy them.
See the Pioneer C8
 

17. MPOW Flame ($20)

Mpow FlameCategory: Earbuds
Battery Life: 7 Hours
Noise-Canceling: No
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Ideal for those on a budget, water resistant.
What We Don't: Flimsy build, cynical Amazon listing.

We don't believe wireless headphones should be the preserve of those with a ton of cash to spend. Several models on our list are affordable, and although the MPOW Flame aren't nearly as good as the $50 Tribit XTune Free, they remain a solid option for twenty dollars. If you want a basic pair of earbuds for simple wireless listening, these have a great reputation - having tested them, we'd agree. They also have reasonable battery life, and IPX7 waterproofing, meaning they can be immersed in three feet of water for half an hour. In this way, they are better than the $199 Bose Soundsport Free, which are IPX4.

Don't expect exceptional build quality, however - the MPOW Flames are relatively flimsy, unlikely to survive a drop. We also aren't particularly impressed with MPOW's Amazon listing for the Flames. It states that they have CVC 6.0 noise-canceling, which is entirely accurate - it's a type of noise-canceling that blocks out wind noise during calls. It works well, but it's not a widely-known piece of tech. We'd submit that most people reading the listing would think that the MPOW has some sort of cancelation that works when music is playing. But they don't, and that means it's hard to get behind these for a higher spot on the list.
See the MPOW Flame
 

And Finally, Please Don't Buy These

18. Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless ($350)

Beats-Studio3-WirelessCategory: Over-Ear
Battery Life: 23 Hours
Noise-Canceling: Yes
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Gets rid of most noise from the world around you.
What We Don't: Overpriced, awful sound quality.

You'll see the Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless on plenty of other wireless headphone lists, with other reviewers extolling their bass, volume, and build quality. We don't get it. Our test of the Studio3 Wireless went so badly that we thought they were broken. TMS Deputy Editor Alyssa took the unusual step of tracking down additional pairs to confirm this. As it turns out, they weren't broken - they just sounded terrible. We have no qualms about telling you to avoid these, no matter how many people you see wearing them.

They deliver lackluster bass, and the overall sound quality is atrocious. And while the noise-canceling does a good job, we just couldn't get over how wonky everything else sounded. To add insult to injury, they cost $350. For that money, you can buy the top-ranked Sony WH-1000XM3s, which are brilliant - and are, in fact, a couple of dollars cheaper. Steer clear of the utter travesty that are the Studio3 Wireless...Read our in-depth review
See the Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless
 

New Wireless Headphones Coming Soon

Audio heavy-hitter, Pioneer, claimed a spot on this list with their wireless earbuds, but rumor has it that we'll be seeing a stylish new pair of wireless over-ears later this year. The Pioneer S9 wireless headphones will feature active noise-canceling, Google Assistant, aptX Bluetooth, and Pioneer's signature sound. They'll also be equipped with NFC instant-pairing for Android phones and have a battery life of 27 hours, as well as a handful of unique features.

The sneak peak we've gotten of the S9 headphones show them looking sleek, with either black or gold finishes, and comfortable looking leather earcups. We're hopeful that Pioneer is able to pull off all the goods they've promised in their press releases, as these headphones could potentially top our best wireless headphones list with their immense feature-set and style. The Pioneer S9 headphones will hit the market at roughly $256, and we can't wait to test them out.
 

Wireless Headphones Comparison Table

Headphones Price Category Batt.* Canc.* Smart Asst. B'Tooth
Sony WH-1000XM3 $348 Over-Ear 28.5 Hours Yes Google, Siri 4.2, aptX
Bose Quietcomfort 35 II $349 Over-Ear 20 Hours Yes Google, Alexa 4.1, aptX
Jabra Elite Active 65t $190 True Wireless 15 Hours No Google, Alexa, Siri 5.0
Jaybird X4 Sport $130 Earbuds 8 Hours No Google, Alexa, Siri 4.1
Tribit XFree Tune $50 Over-Ear 25 Hours No None 4.1
Bowers & Wilkins PX $398 Over-Ear 20 Hours Yes None 4.1, aptX
Bose Soundsport Free $199 True Wireless 15 Hours No Google, Siri Unknown
Apple AirPods $159 True Wireless 25 Hours No Siri 4.2
Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 $79 Earbuds 8 Hours No Google, Alexa, Siri 4.1, aptX
Master & Dynamic MW07 $300 True Wireless 13 Hours No None 4.2, aptX
Sennheiser HD1 $400 Over-Ear 22 Hours Yes None 4.0, aptX
B'dynamic Amiron Wireless $685 Over-Ear 25 Hours No None 4.1, aptX
V-Moda Crossfade 2 $280 Over-Ear 12 Hours No None 4.1, aptX
Shure SE535 $450 Earbuds 6.5 Hours No None 4.1
Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 $199 Over-Ear 24 Hours Yes None 4.0, aptX
Pioneer C8 $119 True Wireless 8.5 Hours No None 4.2
MPOW Flame $20 Earbuds 7 Hours No None 4.1
Beats Studio3 Wireless $350 Over-Ear 23 Hours Yes Siri Unknown

*Batt. = Battery Life
**Canc. = Noise-Cancelation

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The Bowers & Wilkins PX are a stellar pair of wireless headphones - our top high-end pick | The Master Switch
The Bowers & Wilkins PX are a stellar pair of wireless headphones - our top high-end pick | The Master Switch

Wireless Headphones Buying Advice

Wireless vs. Wired Headphones

On the surface, this debate is quite simple. Traditional wired headphones offer better sound quality, which wireless headphones sacrifice for portability and convenience. The problem is, it's not 2008 anymore, and the debate is a little bit more complicated.

To understand why, you need to know a little bit about how headphones work. Very obviously, they need power to be able to make sound. This power is provided via a headphone amplifier, which generates the electricity needed to drive the headphones, while at the same time polishes and sharps the sound. As a general rule, the bigger and more expensive a headphone amplifier is, the better the sound quality will be, and the more power it will deliver. A dedicated $2,000 amplifier will deliver better sound quality than the tiny headphone amp in your smartphone - although in most cases, a smartphone amp is perfectly acceptable.

Wireless headphones need amplifiers too. In this case, the amp is actually contained within the headphones themselves. On the one hand, this does mean that there are limitations to the power and quality they provide – and traditionally, they have not delivered sound that is quite as good as wired headphones powered by an external amplifier. But it isn't quite that simple. Wired headphones do not have any control over the type of amplifier they are connected to, whereas wireless headphones obviously do. This allows you fine-grained control over the sound, as well as having an amplifier that has been tuned to the specific type of headphones. Couple that with advances in Bluetooth streaming – which we talk about below – and you have a situation where wireless headphones are actually more than capable of standing up to their wired counterparts, in terms of sound quality. As an example, we'd put the $348 Sony WH-1000XM3 (full review here) up against any similarly priced wired pair. They not only offer comparable sound quality, but they give you a ton of control over the actual sound itself.

Of course, wireless headphones have another significant advantage of that wired models will never be able to replicate: they are convenient and portable. A pair of true wireless earbuds is, at this particular point in time, the single most convenient and hassle-free way to listen to music, abandoning wires entirely. Ultimately, at this point, there is no reason for any music fan not to own a pair of wireless headphones, even if they are adamant that wired ones offer better sound quality. Being able to listen to your music on-the-go is one of the greatest pleasures we can think of – and if you pick up any of the headphones on the list above, you'll enjoy it even more.

Three excellent true wireless earbuds - from Jabra, Master & Dynamic, and Pioneer | The Master Switch
Three excellent true wireless earbuds - from Jabra, Master & Dynamic, and Pioneer | The Master Switch

Wireless Earbuds vs. True Wireless Earbuds

Because why not confuse people with a marketing term? Yes: the term True Wireless is needlessly confusing, and deeply annoying. It just sounds so pretentious. It's a term that refers to earbuds (in-ear headphones). All the earbuds on our list are wireless, in that they are not connected to their playback source. But some are further designated - by whichever ridiculous industry body decides these things - as True Wireless. That means that, in addition to not being physically connected to their playback source, the individual buds are not connected to each other. A master bud transmits the Bluetooth signal to the secondary bud, bouncing it across. As an example: the Jaybird X4 Sport are wireless, and the more expensive Jabra Elite Active 65t (full review here) are True Wireless.

True Wireless earbuds always come with a charging case, and in many cases, this can hold power itself - meaning if you run out while on the go, you can just stick the buds in the case for a bit. In many cases, such as the $159 Apple AirPods (full review here), a quick charge of a few minutes will give you a few hours' worth of battery life. They are extremely convenient for working out in the gym – although we do think that traditional wireless earbuds are better for running, thanks to their ability not to bounce into traffic if they fall out. One of the other big disadvantages to true wireless earbuds is that it is very possible to lose one of them, and replacements can be expensive. Say what you will about traditional headphones, it's not often you hear people complaining about losing one side...

True wireless earbuds rely on their charging cases for extra battery | The Master Switch
Three excellent true wireless earbuds - from Jabra, Master & Dynamic, and Pioneer | The Master Switch

Wireless Headphones Battery Life

No, it isn't just a simple as a pair of headphones lasting for the exact amount of hours that the manufacturer specifies. That would be useful, but sadly, it's often untrue. This isn't because the manufacturers are duplicitous. It's just that they use various tricks to get the most out of their official headphone battery life, in order to use it in their marketing, and advertise how many hours the headphones will run for. We suggest taking every battery life figure you see with a grain of salt. Here's why.

To get their battery life figures, what manufacturers do is typically run the headphones in ideal conditions. They will run them at anywhere between 50-70% of maximum volume – lower volume means less power means extended battery life – and they will almost certainly do this in thermal conditions that help the battery last longer. What that means is that if the manufacturer says you will get forty hours of battery life out of something, like the $50 Tribit XFree Tune, you won't be able to unless you replicate those exact conditions. Which, because we all play our headphones at different volumes and in different conditions, is unlikely. In our tests, the Tribit headphones clocked around 25 hours, which is still pretty respectable.

The good news: normally, the variance is between half an hour and an hour from the stated figure, and even though you aren't likely to get as much battery life as advertised, you should still get more than enough. For reference, the headphones that perform the best on this list, in terms of battery life, are the $348 Sony WH-1000XM3. They offer a whopping 30 hours of battery life, and they get pretty close to that - our tests peaked at 28.5 hours, at a moderate volume.

Not happy with your battery life? There are a few things you can do to improve it. If possible, turn off noise-cancelation. If you're going to be in one position for a while – such as in an airplane seat or at your desk – you should make sure to use the wired option, if your headphones have one. That will mean that the internal battery doesn't have to be drained.

Both the Bose QuietComfort35 IIs and the Sony WH-1000XM3s have excellent noise-canceling | The Master Switch
Both the Bose QuietComfort35 IIs and the Sony WH-1000XM3s have excellent noise-canceling | The Master Switch

Noise Cancelation Explained

Noise cancelation - or Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) - is about making sure you can't hear the outside world while listening to music. It relies on a process called phase reversal. The active circuit within noise-canceling headphones incorporates tiny microphones 'monitoring' the surrounding ambient sounds. The mics feed the external sounds into a noise cancelation mini-speaker (present in the headphones cups). They then playback these external sounds in real time, but with an inverted phase (direction) to that of the original sound. The two ambient sounds - the real and the reversed - cancel each other out, like two ocean waves crashing into each. Science! Boom!

The process results in a greatly reduced environment volume, and even complete silence. In most cases, not all external sounds can be kept out - active noise suppression is at its most effective when applied on low frequencies such as deep hums, long crowd chatter, rumble noise, etc. Constant or sustained sounds are easier to tame with active noise reduction, while short, sudden clicks, bumps, or snaps are tougher. For higher frequencies in particular, passive treatments (think good ear isolation) are still very effective for noise suppression. It's why headphones like the Shure SE535 are so good, because they fit so well. They seal the ear canal so effectively that they do not need active noise-cancelation.

What happens if you 'un-reverse' the direction of the canceled ambient noise? You'll suddenly be able to hear everything around and this process is often called 'ambience aware' mode - many headphones now feature a switch, allowing you to do exactly that. Handy for those moments that you might actually need your ears. The best noise-canceling headphones on our list, by the way, are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II (full review here). Unquestionably. For $349, they offer absolutely brilliant cancelation.

The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless has 4.1 and aptX Bluetooth | The Master Switch
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless has 4.1 and aptX Bluetooth | The Master Switch

Bluetooth: 4.2 vs. 5.0 vs. aptX

Any pair of wireless headphones will have a list of specs relating to its Bluetooth compatibility. These specs can often be very confusing, and it's easy to get lost. Fortunately, the different types of Bluetooth are easy to understand, with just a little explanation. There are two main things you need to be aware of: the Bluetooth version (indicated by number like 4.2 or 5.0) and whether or not a pair of headphones has something called aptX.

Bluetooth, very obviously, is how you get sound from your playback device to the headphones. It's a transmission protocol that takes the audio data, and sends it wirelessly to a receiver in the headphones themselves. The more data that can be sent, the faster it arrives, and the less energy it uses, the better. In this context, understanding the little number in your headphones specs is pretty straightforward. Bluetooth 5.0 is better than Bluetooth 4.2, which is better than Bluetooth 4.0. The leading edge of tech right now is Bluetooth 5.0, which not only transmits two megabytes per second - double the amount of data that Bluetooth 4.2 transmits – but also allows for the inclusion of some nifty features. It uses a feature called Bluetooth Low Energy to spare your battery, and it allows you to connect more than one pair of headphones to a single device. That being said: very few of the wireless headphones on our list actually use Bluetooth 5.0 – only the $190 Jabra Elite Active 65t (full review here) has it. Even the most expensive headphones on the list, the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless, only have 4.1. That's because right now, Bluetooth 5.0 is largely restricted to transmission devices, like smartphones. This isn't too big of a deal – Bluetooth standards are pretty good, even at 4.1 or 4.2. You can also expect to see plenty of 5.0 headphones in the future, which means even better sound quality.

Of course, none of that explains what aptX is. For any data to be sent along a Bluetooth connection, it has to be compressed. The lower the file size, the easier it is to send the data. The problem is, compression can do horrible things to audio, as anyone who has heard a low-resolution MP3 file can attest to. But there are many different ways of compressing audio, and aptX is currently one of the best ways to do so. Think about it like this: the Bluetooth version, described above, is a highway. Higher versions of Bluetooth, like 5.0, are highways that are wider and have much higher speed limits. The people on the highway - the families, office workers, bikers - are the data, and the compression methods are the cars themselves. Very obviously, the people on the highway will be faster and more maneuverable in Ferraris than they would be in Honda Priuses. Right now, aptX is the Ferrari of the compression world. If you see it listed in our specs table above, you know the sound is going to be good. It used to be the case that aptX would only appear in more expensive wireless headphones, but this is no longer true. As an example, the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4, which cost a mere $79, contain aptX transmission.

One word of caution about aptX. For it to work, both the transmission device and the receiving device need to have it. In other words, if your smartphone can compress data using aptX, but your wireless headphones don't have the ability to receive it, then the aptX won't work. You'll still get audio, but it won't be as high quality. It's worth taking a look at the specs of your particular smartphone, tablet, or PC, to determine whether or not it is capable of aptX transmission. You'll be able to find these details quite easily, using a quick Google search.

The Sony WH-1000XM3s are the best overall wireless headphones | The Master Switch
The Sony WH-1000XM3s are the best overall wireless headphones | The Master Switch

Wireless Headphone Smart Assistants Explained

These days, many wireless headphones allow you to quickly and efficiently access a virtual assistant. With a single touch of a button and a few words, you can have the assistant tell you the weather, give you directions, set an appointment, or play a specific song or playlist. The three main virtual assistants currently available are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri. The differences between them are explored in a lot more detail here.

It's worth understanding just how smart assistants work with wireless headphones. Let's say you use a smartphone which contains a virtual assistant – an example would be any Android phone, which contains the Google Assistant. If you use a pair of wireless headphones without a dedicated smart assistant button, like the $300 Master & Dynamic MW07, you would have to fish your phone out of your pocket to activate the smart assistant. Once you've woken it up, you can use the internal microphone in the headphones to talk to it, and get it to do your bidding.

The beauty of many wireless headphones now is that they remove that step entirely. You now no longer need to take your phone out of your pocket. You can simply tap a button on the headphones themselves, and issue a command. It will link directly with the smart assistant, and in most cases, it works seamlessly. As an example, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II have a dedicated button that lets you summon Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa. If this kind of functionality is important, then we'd strongly recommend going for a pair of headphones that supports this kind of interaction. If you see any smart assistants listed in our specs table above, the headphones will be able to summon them directly, without you having to take your phone out of your pocket.

Apple's Airpods are a type of earbud known as true wireless | The Master Switch
Apple's Airpods are a type of earbud known as true wireless | The Master Switch

Over-Ear Headphones vs. On-Ear Headphones vs. Earbuds​

The obvious differences such as size and shape are important when choosing one type over the other, as they may affect a particular hairstyle, or the wearing of hats, helmets, glasses, and earrings. Wearing glasses or headgear may affect the comfort and sound quality of your headphones - so it's crucial to pick a type you're comfortable with. And comfort can be a legitimate reason why you'd consider the earbud option, as opposed to over-ear headphones. If you were looking at headphones but hadn't considered earbuds until now, you might want to check out the Jaybird X4 Sport, which cost $130 and absolutely crush it.

Over-ear, or on-ear, models are a little bit different. They cover your entire ear, and are the type to choose if you're OK with a little bit of extra weight and bulk, in exchange for improved sound quality. By the way, headphone makers like to confuse people - so if you see the terms circumaural or supra-aural, they literally just mean over-ear and on-ear, respectively. The $348 Sony WH-1000XM3 are the best pair of wireless over-ear headphones currently available.

Just a few of the headphones we tested | The Master Switch
Just a few of the headphones we tested | The Master Switch

Open-Back Wireless Headphones Explained

Open-back headphones refer to models where the outer part of the housing isn't solid. Instead, it takes the form of a grille, through which you can usually see the internal driver. The advantage of this is that the air that interacts with the driver vastly improves the sound signature, making it, quite literally, more airy, with much more space and detail. The downside of these headphones is that they leak sound like crazy. There's nothing to prevent the noise the driver makes from emanating out through the grille, not just into your ear. That means that everyone else around you is likely to hear what you're listening to. As wireless headphones, by definition, are designed to be used in places with other people – planes, trains, buses, workplaces – you would think it's probably not the best choice to have open-back wireless headphones.

Or at least, that used to be the case. Legendary headphone manufacturer, Grado, recently released the world's first pair of open back wireless headphones, the GW100. They cost $249, and promise to combine airy, open back sound with a unique housing that reduces the amount of audio leakage by up to 60%. Why are they not on our list? Because at the time of writing, we haven't heard them – Grado have promised us a pair, but they haven't arrived yet. We don't want to make any judgements until we've tested them ourselves, but having heard models from the company in the past, we are confident that they can pull it off. We will report back.

Back To Our Wireless Headphone Picks Back To Our Comparison Table

Best Headphones of 2018

One of the greatest pleasures we know is blocking out the world's distractions with good pair of headphones. Here are some of the best ones of this year - wired, wireless, true wireless, budget, high-end, all of it. We've got you covered.

Best High-End Headphones of 2018

Sometimes, you need to take a step back, look at how you’re listening to music, and improve it. Sometimes, you just need to break the bank, go deep, and invest in something that will last you that years and deliver the best sound you’ve ever heard.

Best Earbuds of 2018

Earbuds have become the most convenient way to enjoy music or movies. Whether you go for traditional wired, or completely wireless, you'll never find a more simple way to get connected.

Best Digital Audio Players of 2018

Remember the very first iPod from seventeen years ago? No? Damn, we're old. Anyway, it sold around three hundred and sixty million units. It changed the way we listen to music forever - and today, Apple is no longer the market leader.

Best Headphone Amps of 2018

You wouldn't expect headphones to need any special equipment to work. They are just about as simple as audio equipment gets. You plug them in, turn your device on, and music comes through. But what if you don’t just want to listen to your music?

Best Wireless Speakers of 2018

Wireless and Bluetooth speakers are the bomb. Whether you're using a portable Bluetooth speaker at the beach, or listening to music in the kitchen, you're virtually guaranteed solid sound quality and a great experience.

4 Ways To Improve Your Headphone Sound

At The Master Switch, we spend an awful lot of time thinking about audio. More importantly, we spend an awful lot of time thinking about how to improve it. Everything we do is geared towards creating bigger, better sound.

Audio Formats Explained

FLAC, WAV, AIFF, DSD… There’s no denying that picking the right type of audio to listen to can be crazy confusing. Fortunately, we're here to help, with our full guide to this audio topic.

Review: Sennheiser HD1 Wireless

Some things in this world just work. Bacon sandwiches. Very cold beer. Dre and Pac on California Love. The relationship between Supergirl and The Flash. And the Sennheiser HD1s.