Warm and detailed sound profile. Comfortable earpads and headband. Excellent noise cancellation. Highly adjustable EQ and sound profile with app. Connects via Bluetooth 5.0 or included standard audio cable.
Somewhat pricey. Sound may feel processed compared to wired headphones.
Boasts 3 levels of noise cancelling plus transparency mode. Balanced sound. Convenient quick-tap NFC pairing. Can pair with 2 devices at once. Light frame and memory foam ear cups fit comfortably.
Does not support AptX.
Less hiss and eardrum pressure than competition. Detailed, transparent sound quality for audiophiles, even with ANC on. Solid aluminum construction. Memory foam mesh was a welcome feature in our testing.
Expensive. Heavy. Limited formats. Doesn't accept analog signals.
On-ear design with soft, cushy pads won't feel warm on the head. Large 40mm drivers reproduce excellent sound quality. Excellent mics for phone calls. Boasts 50 hours of battery life with 10 hours on quick charge. Collapsible and foldable.
On-ear designs aren't for everyone. Can slip off during strenuous activity.
Bone-conduction headphones direct sound directly into the temples, leaving ears open and free. IP55 water resistance is great for sweat or rain. Excellent sound quality. Lightweight and flexible frame for comfort.
Not noise-cancelling. Can begin to ache after 6 hours of prolonged use.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested most of our top five—including the Apple AirPods Max and the AfterShokz Air Bone Conduction Wireless Bluetooth Headphones—to be sure that these products are worth your time. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.
When Apple first announced the iPhone 7 would not have a 3.5mm headphone port, everything changed: they effectively were announcing the beginning of the end for wired headphones as rival smartphone makers were certain to follow. And while many have complained, argued, and mourned the loss of wired headphones, the fact still remains that wireless headphones are the future.
Thankfully, modern Bluetooth wireless headphones sound incredible, and are finally affordable after years of being prohibitively expensive. It’s now possible to find a solid set of wireless headphones for the same cost as some wired versions without having to sacrifice any sound quality.
Most wireless headphones offer the same basic functionality: they connect to a device and play whatever audio is coming from it. However, there are a few additional features found on some that are invaluable – features that take a pair of wireless headphones from good to great.
An in-line microphone: If you want to use your headphones for phone calls, an in-line microphone is a must. In-line microphones are tiny mics that are part of the earphone wiring; they look like tiny circles and are typically located with the connectivity buttons. With an inline mic, taking calls with your headphones is incredibly convenient, and it helps keep your hands free.
Earbud tips: Most, but not all, wireless earbud headphones include tips of different sizes so you can choose the ones that best fit your ears. With earbuds in particular, a good fit is crucial; a bad fit will make music sound tinny, or worse, it will make it hard to hear people on phone calls. As you shop for wireless headphones, pay special attention to which models include multiple earbud tips and which are “one size fits all.”
Most wireless headphones fall into one of three form factors: earbuds, over-the-ear wireless headphones, or true wireless headphones.
Earbuds are headphones with small silicon tips that nestle in your ear canal. In wireless models, they typically connect via a single cable that hangs behind the neck. Wireless earbuds are great general-purpose headphones; they’re the least expensive choice, they’re small, and in most cases, they make music sound great.
Connected by a band that goes over the head, over-the-ear wireless headphones are traditional hi-fi style headphones with larger speakers that cover the entire ear. These models deliver a premium audio experience, but their weight makes them a bad candidate for high-motion activity like working out. If you want wireless headphones strictly for music listening, or if you don’t expect to exercise while wearing them, a set of over-the-ear wireless headphones is ideal.
So-called “true wireless” headphones are usually sold as two earbuds that wirelessly communicate with an audio source and each other. They’re called “true wireless” because no wires are needed to connect the earbuds. True wireless headphones are expensive, although prices are expected to drop as their unique form factor becomes more mainstream.
When it comes to wireless headphones, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot. However, a greater expenditure may be worth it in some cases.
Between $15 and $30
Wireless headphones in this price range deliver respectable audio quality and a surprisingly long battery life. If you’re not an audiophile, or if you just need a solid set of wireless headphones that will last a few years, don’t spend more than $30.
Between $31 and $99
In this higher price range, expect to find wireless headphones with more luxury features, such as a longer battery life or a better wireless range. If you need wireless headphones for daily work or want a pair that delivers above-average audio, you’ll need to pony up a little more cash.
Between $100 and $350
In this top tier, you’ll encounter the best wireless headphones available: models that sound incredible and include features like noise cancellation and digital assistant support. Many users find that audio quality on less-expensive models is more than sufficient, but if you love bleeding-edge tech, expect to pay top dollar for it.
If you’re using wireless earbuds, make sure they form a tight seal inside your ears. This helps ensure a good audio experience.
If your earbuds don’t sound as good as you think they should, try using earbud tips of a different size. Many wireless headphones include several different sizes. It could be that you need a better fit.
To avoid damaging your hearing, play audio in your wireless headphones at a reasonable volume. As a general rule, listening to any audio source above 60% of its total volume could cause problems.
When you first get your wireless headphones, practice connecting them to your phone and answering calls with them. Most wireless headphones have unique connection methods. It usually takes a few tries to learn how a given set works.
Q. How long does it usually take to charge a pair of wireless headphones?
A. Charging time varies, but it typically takes between two and four hours to completely charge a pair of wireless headphones. However, some luxury models feature “quick charging” in which the battery is able to recharge a significant amount (usually to 85% or so) within 15 minutes. If you plan to use your wireless headphones all day for work, you should buy a pair that supports quick charging.
Q. Can I use wireless headphones with a desktop computer or a laptop?
A. Yes, as long as the computer or laptop supports Bluetooth. Most laptops built in the last five years include Bluetooth support as a standard functionality, although the same can’t always be said for desktop computers. Bottom line: most Bluetooth wireless headphones will work with any device that supports Bluetooth, whether it’s a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer.
Q. Will my wireless headphone battery eventually stop holding a charge?
A. Yes, but it will take quite a while. All rechargeable batteries deteriorate over time and eventually reach a point where they can’t hold a charge. In the case of most wireless headphones, battery deterioration starts around the two-year mark – assuming they’re used frequently – and will continue to hold a charge for a few years after that.