Best Wireless Headphones

Daniel Brown
• Thursday, 17 December, 2020
• 9 min read

Stereo headphones have been around since before the first Sony Walkman, and that's roughly how long we've put up with tangled wires while listening to music on the go. And now that many phone makers are ditching the headphone jack, wireless headphones are a good way to ensure compatibility with just about any new device.

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If you aren't primarily looking for a set of wireless earphones for the gym, conventional headphones can offer a very good listening experience. Bluetooth's headphones are convenient when they're charged, but once the batteries run out you're left without music.

Wireless earphones almost never have this option, because they're already so small there simply isn't any room to place a headphone cable jack. It was previously an expensive, cumbersome technology that couldn't be found on wireless headphones, but that changed a few years ago with advances in battery life and circuit miniaturization.

You'll pay a premium for headphones with active noise cancellation, but it's a handy feature if you just want to tune out everything around you besides your music. Apple got the wire-free ball rolling with the AirPods, and since then many other earphone manufacturers have been working on their own takes on the concept.

The trade-off is that most wire-free earphones have inferior battery life compared with tethered models, forcing you to pop them in their charging case fairly often. Their small size also means on-earphone controls are generally limited, and their price is usually significantly more than similar tethered wireless earphones.

Our reviews go into greater detail about these benefits and limitations, and highlight how certain models are starting to overcome these growing pains. If you're an iPhone user, it's worth considering a pair of headphones that use Apple's proprietary H (or older W1) chip.

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If you're shopping on a budget, head over to best headphones under $50 for plenty of great options that won't break the bank. Whether you're listening to the latest episode of the Get WIRED podcast or hitting the trail with the new Gorilla album, the right pair of wireless headphones can make or break your day.

Updated October 2020: We've added the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Sabra Elite 45H, and Marshall Mid ANC. The WH-1000XM4 (9/10, WIRED Recommends) offer 30 hours of battery life, an ergonomic design, and some of the best sound quality you'll find, thanks to Sony's SEE Extreme upscaling engine.

New microphones combined with better processing make these great for Zoom meetings and phone calls alike. Such comfort, sound quality, and AirPods-beating six hours of battery life at a price tag that’s $60 less make them the best wire free earbuds you can buy right now.

The earclip-style buds stay attached during workouts, with a wire behind the head that keeps you from losing one and lets you hang them around your neck when you're not listening. Special digital signal processing (DSP) and an advanced microphone array inside Bose’s latest flagship headphones allow them to limit background noise and focus on your voice alone, making them the best headphones you can buy when it comes to call quality.

Plus, the special mics and DSP pair with Bose’s incredibly effective noise-canceling tech for amazing peace and quiet when you’re home or out and about. All of that plus great comfort, long battery life, and excellent sound quality mean the Bose 700 should be your top pick if you do a lot of phone calls and Zoom meetings.

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You won’t get the same level of noise-canceling or battery life as you will from the two top Sony or Bose headphones on our list, but the third generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless still silences a lot of noise, and it is a tour de force when it comes to sound quality and design. These posh over-ears are reminiscent of studio headphones from the rock and roll era, with robust stainless steel and plush leather ear pads that stay comfortable for hours on end.

It can be tough to plunk down the big bucks for flagship headphones from Sony and Bose. They're on-ear headphones with a '70s rock aesthetic that sound good, and they boast 20 hours of playback with noise-canceling enabled.

The level of silence these are able to achieve is astonishing; I routinely had roommates and animals scare the ever loving crap out of me during testing sessions. I also like that they get six hours of battery life and have super comfortable ear fins for a secure fit.

Master & Dynamic's MW07 Go (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are light, comfortable, and compact, but they still sound fantastic, which is why they're now my go-to buds at the gym. I also like the physical buttons on top of each bud, which never gets jostled when you adjust them during workouts, unlike pesky touch controls.

For one thing, they're much more comfortable and secure thanks to silicone ear tips that replace the standard AirPods' hard plastic. The Elite Active 75T are the perfect earbuds for people who can't stop breaking their phone screens.

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They're tiny and have an ergonomic fit, so they won't fall off during a jog, and there's an IP57 rating to weather the elements. These sound great too, with excellent call quality and a solid 7.5-hour battery life outside the case.

Sabra has also recently added noise-canceling tech via a software update, which is rad, but it's not quite as powerful as the noise-canceling options from Sony and Bose. They're padded with ridiculously soft lambskin and built around a metal frame with high-quality 40-mm beryllium drivers.

Battery life is listed at seven and a half hours of listening time per charge, which is about enough for a full workday. The charging case is small enough to fit in the coin pocket of a pair of jeans and provides an additional 20 hours of battery life.

The earbuds sound great with music, and the microphones are wonderful at reducing moderate wind noise while keeping your voice clear to your callers. Sabra recently added active noise cancellation via a free firmware update, which makes these an even better buy.

Photo: Rosette Ago Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Sabra Elite was a joy to use but there were some minor issues that didn’t ruin our listening experience. Although we were able to find a sound profile that made us happy by adjusting the Elite 75t via the Sabra Sound+ app, we wished that the bass and treble had been a little more reined in right out of the box.

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If you’re looking for a different style, if you want something for less money, or if you want to read more info on our top pick, see our full review of the best wireless earbuds. Who this is for: This pair of earbuds is perfect for commuters who want excellent noise cancellation in a small, convenient package.

Why we like it: The 1More Dual Driver ANC Pro collar-style Bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds are a fantastic choice for frequent travelers. They can connect to your device wirelessly or via an included cable, and the noise cancellation works through both methods, which is not always the case among the competition.

Plus, they’re lightweight, they coil up for easy storage in a shoulder bag or carry-on, the fit is comfortable, and the controls are simple to use by feel. The bestwirelessheadphones of 2021 is a list filled with some of the most advanced audio tech we’ve ever seen.

The more choice the better in our book, but so many options can mean it’s difficult to find which wireless headphones are the best for your needs, your budget and your style. We’ve spent the best part of 10 years trialing the best headphones on the market, which means we know a thing or two about finding the perfect pair of wireless cans for everyone.

Reasons to avoid The Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver excellent noise-cancellation and surprising sound quality all in a lightweight, wireless design. While they don't look significantly different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3, a number of new features including multi point pairing, SEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor all help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best headphones in 2020.

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As an alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM4, these wireless headphones sound fantastic, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced sound stage and offer the same great noise-cancellation you'd expect from Bose. They don't have the same dexterity as the WH-1000XM4 and the battery life is also 10 hours less than Sony headphones despite costing more, but they're perhaps the bestwirelessheadphones for making calls with.

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins) Specifications Frequency response: 10 – 30,000 Hz Reasons to avoid If you’re looking for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, and you're not put off by the $399 / £349 / AU$600 price tag, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are well worth considering.

Offering class-leading battery life, terrific style and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h are easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier wireless headphones on the market at this price point.

This means you still get the class-leading noise cancellation Bose is known for, good sound quality, and incredible comfort. Said simply, these wireless headphones sound great and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.

The release of the Apple AirPods Max represented the highest-profile headphones launch for some time, having been the subject of rumor and speculation for two years, and come with active noise cancellation, superb audio quality, and a design that sets them apart from most noise-cancelling headphones on the market. Despite their high price, the AirPods Max aren’t exactly aimed at the audiophile crowd, owing to their lack of 3.5 mm audio port; instead, these cans are squarely targeted at card-carrying members of the Apple ecosystem, with nifty features for iOS users and an unmistakably ‘Apple’ design.

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The AKG N60NC Wireless sound like a pair of headphones that should be much more expensive than they are. Our biggest issue with these headphones is the fact that they're on-ear rather than over-ear, meaning that we found that they got uncomfortable over longer periods.

(Image credit: Sabra) The best value wireless on-ear headphones you can buy Faux leather and memory foam, combined with winningly creaky plastic, make for a comfortable fit (even if the ear pads themselves absorb ear-heat quite quickly and then give it straight back).

There’s voice control available from Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Sabra’s Sound+ control app even walks you through a brief hearing test to establish exactly how the EQs should be set to best suit your ears.

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