Wireless headphones were once some of the most expensive headphones outside of the audiophile genre, available only to those with deep pockets and enough patience to deal with their limited sound quality and battery life. In the past few years, however, the entire headphone industry has seen something of a renaissance, and wireless headsets especially have benefited.
Now, you can find top-notch wireless solutions for your listening needs with great sound quality, reliable wireless connection, and a comfortable fit, all at a relatively affordable price. However, with so many choices, it’s hard to figure out which might be the best wireless headphones for you.
To make your search easier, we’ve made a list of the best wireless headphones you can buy, at a variety of price points and for multiple use cases.
Why you should buy them: Crystalline sound, plush comfort, and top-tier noise canceling make the Sony MDR-1000x the headphones to beat.
Who’s it for: Those looking for total sonic isolation, but refuse to give up high fidelity sound to get it.
How much will they cost: $250
Why we picked the Sony MDR-1000x:
While the MDR-1000x may be a bit older than their younger (and far more expensive) sibling, the Sony WH-100XM2, they remain one of Sony’s most technologically advanced pairs of headphones ever, offering advanced touch controls, extreme comfort, and the best audio fidelity we’ve heard in their class. And now that they’ve seen a price drop, the Sony MDR-1000X are the best deal in wireless headphones, period.
A thoroughbred pair of headphones designed with the business class in mind, the 1000x offer 20 hours of battery life and extremely soft padding that make them an absolute dream during extended travel.
Two microphones on each earcup (one inside and one outside) send sound to advanced chips that analyze the sound around you, providing a whisper-quiet interior. In addition, the superbly tuned audio drivers offer impressive audio performance, especially for a wireless headphone.
Music playback is dynamic and gorgeous, with punchy bass tones and a shimmery treble all held together by a well-rounded midrange. Part of the reason they sound so great is a higher fidelity signal; Sony employs special LDAC technology to deliver audio at what it claims is three times the quality of standard Bluetooth streaming. The headphones can also “upscale” sounds from lower resolution audio files using a special chip.
But that’s not all. You can also allow various levels of ambient noise to come in, should you desire to hear sounds from the outside world. You can even select a voice-only mode, which is designed to filter through vocal frequencies so you can hear your music and the voices around you, but not much else.
Comfort, near-perfect noise canceling, and beautiful audio fidelity make the Sony MDR-1000x one of the only pairs of headphones we have ever awarded a perfect 5/5 in review.
The best fully wireless earbuds
Bragi The Headphone
Why you should buy them: You’re looking for affordable true wireless earbuds that deliver on sound, comfort, and functionality.
Who’s it for: Listeners who want total wireless autonomy at a nice price.
How much will they cost: $150
Why we picked the Bragi The Headphone:
While Bragi’s first attempt at true wireless earbuds, The Dash, had a myriad of cool features, they just weren’t reliable enough on a basic level. Thankfully, the company hit the reset button with impressive results for its latest model, labeled simply (and a bit brazenly) The Headphone.
With The Headphone, Bragi cut a lot of the bells and whistles of the earbuds’ predecessor, including waterproofing and workout functions, and even went so far as to drop what has become a staple in the true wireless earbuds movement: a portable wireless charging case. But when you make a product that works this well, it really doesn’t matter.
These no-nonsense earbuds make up for their somewhat austere feature set by delivering a triple-threat of awesomeness, including top-notch battery life (their six hours of playback time doubles that of many competitors and even outpaces Apple’s AirPods), an extremely comfortable fit, and impressive audio performance.
Perhaps the best reason to choose The Headphone is they just work. They offer extremely solid wireless connection free of the kind of stereo sync issues and spotty connection woes that plague so many of their pricier peers.
Anyone looking for a reliable pair of wireless ‘buds that fit right, sound great, and outlast the crowd for hours of solid streaming will find the full package in The Headphone.
Best stylish over-ears
Why you should buy them: A searing blend of high performance, good looks, comfort, and features galore.
Who’s it for: Those who want to cut the cord, and look good doing it
How much will they cost: $500
Why we picked the Sennheiser HD1:
With the HD1s, you get everything we love about a quality headphone experience — comfort, durability, reliability — all without the worry of wires. You’re also really getting two great sets of cans in one, as plugging these cans in converts them into a top-tier over-ear that competes with the best of them.
Whether you’re listening via Bluetooth or the traditional headphone jack, these headphones boast brilliant sound performance with a big soundstage and powerful, authoritative bass. Oh yeah, and you also get decent (though not fantastic) noise cancellation, easy and intuitive playback controls, automated voice prompts, excellent call quality, style … yeah, these are great cans.
One interesting feature of note is that if the headphones are on, so is noise cancellation — there is no off button. However, while you might think that would get annoying, the isolation really just serves to provide better sound performance and has yet to present any issue in real world use for us; if you’re jamming out with over-ear cans, you probably won’t be very responsive to the world around you, noise canceling or not. You can often find the previous version of these headphones — the Momentum 2.0 — at a dramatically lowered price online, if you want to save a few bucks.
The best budget in-ear
Shure SE112 Wireless
Why you should buy them: You want a simple pair of in-ear headphones that are both streamlined and more affordable than other models of similar quality
Who’s it for: The discerning shopper looking for a quality in-ear pair
How much will they cost: $100
Why we picked the Shure SE112 Wireless:
In an age where earbuds have largely replaced over- and on-ear headphones as the common commuter’s listening device of choice, it’s easy to find some … well, quite frankly, really bad in-ear headphones. You can probably list a number of brands off the top of your head that line store shelves and cost anywhere from $10-20. Unfortunately, as with most material things in life, you get what you pay for, and the reality is that, while their price might not immediately read as “budget,” in the world of high quality in-ears, the Shure SE112 Wireless are a steal.
When we reviewed the SE112’s wired version, we were pleased to find an affordable pair of in-ears with high performance quality. We were also impressed with several other aspects of the Shure SE112, including the excellent passive sound isolation and great design and construction.
The wireless model, naturally, adds the benefit unfettered connection via Bluetooth to the already stellar sound and build quality; but there’s more. The wired version of the Shure SE112 Wireless lacked an in-line mic for phone calls, but this has been rectified with the SE112 Wireless. An in-line mic and remote sit on the right-hand side, making them even more of an upgrade over their wired predecessors.
While you could buy wireless in-ears for less, these are the best budget in-ears you should buy.
The best cheap on-ear
Plantronics Backbeat Sense
Why you should buy them: They’re cheap, comfortable, and they’re bursting with features.
Who’s it for: Those looking for the best sound in a wireless over-ear for their buck.
How much will they cost: $100-150
Why we picked the Plantronics Backbeat Sense:
That’s right: Plantronics, purveyor of Bluetooth ear pieces, has one of the best wireless over-ear headphone options available. These headphones are light and simple. Though they likely won’t turn any heads when it comes to design, they are a comfortable wear, and offer some of the best sound quality of any wireless headphone at any price point. These headphones falter a bit at higher volume levels, and they don’t feature noise-cancelling, but just about any genre sounds great with the Sense, and you’ll be able to listen for prolonged sessions thanks to an 18-hour battery life. They also have some of the best wireless range on the market.
A pressure sensor built into the right ear cup knows when you’re wearing the headphones and when you’re not. Lifting the Sense off your head immediately pauses the music, though simply lifting off the right ear cup will do the same. Bluetooth 4.0 is supported, and up to two devices can be connected simultaneously – think connecting to your tablet to watch a video while connecting to your phone, just in case a call comes in. That, plus built-in play/pause controls and an in-line microphone mean that the Backbeat Sense do everything that more expensive headphones do, and more.
The best headphones don’t play to specific genres of music, they do them all well, and that’s what we’ve got here. The bass is balanced and musical, but not especially deep or overpowering. Any bass-heavy track sounds fine, and the lows do come through as the volume increases, making for a very solid listening experience.
The best budget noise-cancelers
Phiaton BT 100 NC
Why you should buy them: Noise cancelling, solid battery life, and great sound.
Who’s it for: Those who are looking for a vivid sound, noise-cancelling, but not to break the bank.
How much will they cost: $50
Why we picked the Phiaton BT 100 NC:
Phiaton has been at the vanguard of the Bluetooth headphone charge for years, and for good reason: its headphones are still some of the best. When it comes to in-ear wireless options, the BT 100 NC stays true to the company’s impeccable track record.
Armed with Bluetooth 4.0 and AptX support for near-CD quality sound on compatible devices (i.e. select Android phones), the BT 100 NC delivers not only superior sound quality, but also the ability to connect to multiple devices. Better yet, you’ll be able to focus in on what you’re listening to, thanks to noise cancelling and silicone tips that create a top-notch seal in the ear. That makes the BT 100 NC are particularly well-suited to travel.
With so much functionality, you’d expect a reasonably hefty price tag, but the BT 100 NC are offered at a killer bargain. While there is the newer $150 model, the BT 150 NC with its own features and updated design, in terms of quality and functionality you won’t be losing out by going with the BT 100 NC.
The best premium noise-cancelers
Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II
Why you should buy them: You won’t find better noise-canceling tech out there
Who’s it for: Those who listen in noisy settings like offices or public transportation
How much will they cost: $350
Why we picked the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II:
Frankly, you just won’t find better active noise canceling, period. The QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones II (we’ll stick with QC35 Wireless II, for short) are the vanguard of Bose’s noise-canceling fleet.
Listening to music with the QC35 Wireless II is excellent. The sound quality is remarkable, and the headphones boast Bose’s lightly boosted bass signature that has defined the brand’s headphones for over a generation. It’s worth mentioning that, while Bose is clearly proud of its enhanced low-end properties, this feature has proven divisive in audiophile circles. That said, we mean it when we say these are the best noise-cancelers out there, even edging out our top-pick, the Sony MDR-1000X in this category.
While that covers the “quiet” in QuietComfort, we should mention the “comfort,” too. The QC35 wireless come in a stylish, understated black or silver finish, and feature a lightweight build with generous padding that keeps them comfortable even after long listening sessions. Got an international flight to tackle? The Bose QC35 Wireless II not only have a robust battery to last the trip, they’ll feel great the entire time.
The best for sports
Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Special Edition
Why you should buy them: They have great sound quality, heart-rate tracking, and step tracking, all for around $100.
Who’s it for: Those looking for a solid mix of fitness features and good sound for an affordable price.
How much will they cost: $160
Why we picked the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Special Edition:
Rock solid sound quality, an in-ear heart rate monitor, and an intuitive app make the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Special Edition the best fitness headphone we have tested thus far. Smart features like workout mode and voice coach mode — which tells you your elapsed workout time, current heart rate, step count, and what training zone you are in — make it easy to get info while on the go, and these buds will even call out particular workout milestones and awards while you’re mid-sweating to the oldies.
Beyond the bells and whistles, these in-ears offer good passive noise isolation and an ample boost of bass, while three sizes of foam tips and ear hooks mean you can all but guarantee a comfortable fit. The sound is improved over the previous Jabra Sport Pulse, and while the four-five hours of battery life per charge is still pretty average, these earphones are more than capable of lasting through all but the most lengthy workout sessions.
While there are certainly better sounding and longer lasting headphones on our list, these earbuds are a killer way to keep your workout going strong, while offering just the right balance of noise isolation and a kick of bass to keep you on that routine, day in and day out.
The best bass bumpers
Sennheiser Urbanite XL
Why you should buy them: They sound better, look better, and cost less than Beats.
Who’s it for: Those looking for rich, bass-laden sound that doesn’t compromise the rest of the sound spectrum.
How much will they cost: $150
Why we picked the Sennheiser Urbanite XL:
Sennheiser’s Urbanite XL model cuts the cord but not the sound quality. Sennheiser is gunning for the celeb-branded competition with the Urbanite XL, delivering meaty bass tones that rival anything Dre or 50 Cent have to offer. Better yet, unlike those other brands, the XL don’t compromise on balance or clarity. They’re a little bulky, but still comfortable for long listening sessions.
The Urbanite are designed to offer the style and boosted bass today’s young listeners are into, but — staying true to Sennheiser form — without sacrificing overall sound quality. It sounds like a simple idea, and Sennheiser isn’t the first to have it, but the Urbanite execute it better than any pair of headphones we’ve heard before, and totally earn their asking price.
The fact is, when folks get their ears on these headphones and realize it’s possible to have bumping bass without otherwise sacrificing balance, or giving up detail, clarity, dynamics and musicality, they’ll never turn back, especially at a $100 less than the Beats Studio Wireless line.
How we test
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair of headphones through a rigorous process over the course of several days. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios — be it on a bus, in the listening room, or at the office — and playing back from a wide array of sources. We know most people use their headphones with a smartphone, often with lower quality MP3 resolution tracks, so we do too.
However, we also move up to high-resolution audio files, as well as a wide variety of sources, including plugging in directly to a PC or Mac, using USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters), and employing high-quality dedicated portable players and amplifiers. Finally, we compare the headphones to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight.
Published at Sat, 02 Dec 2017 01:15:12 +0000