What Are The Best Wireless Headphones To Buy
Whether you're listening to the latest episode of the Gadget Lab podcast or hitting the trail with Taylor Swift's album on repeat, the right pair of wireless headphones can make or break your day. The only problem is that there are so many to choose from. WIRED's Gear team is constantly testing new models, and these are the very best we've found.
what are the best wireless headphones to buy
They're some of the most expensive wireless headphones on the market, but Apple's AirPods Max (8/10, WIRED Recommends) will get you the best sound. They have rich bass, a massive soundstage, and excellent noise cancellation. My favorite part? The large Apple Watch-like knob on the top of the right ear cup, which you use to easily adjust the volume. Apple users will love how well they integrate with iOS devices, and especially how well they handle video. When watching via certain apps (HBO Max, for example), they can track your head to simulate full object-based surround sound.
The Pixel Buds Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are a perfect alternative to the AirPods Pro if you're an Android fan, like me. The cute multicolored earbuds have great noise canceling, a super comfortable fit, and an hour more playtime (seven) than the Apple-made equivalents. I also like that they switch quickly between multiple paired devices, which makes it nice for those of us who use headphones for both work and workouts. The only downside is that they don't work super well with iPhones. Too bad. So sad.
The Focal Bathys, with their bespoke French drivers and comfortable leather earpads, are the best premium wireless headphones I've heard yet. They look fantastic, with light-up logos on the outside of each earcup, but they sound even better. DNA from its higher-end headphones trickles down heavily here. These noise-canceling headphones possess some of the clearest, most fun sound quality I've heard so far.
When you don't want to listen wirelessly, these have a high-quality, built-in, digital-to-analog converter (DAC), a chip that will make your laptop or cell phone sound much better if you plug it in via the USB-C port. Thirty hours of battery life means they'll last for even the longest trips, plus rapid charging means you can plug them in for 15 minutes and get five quick hours. They're perfect for the stylishly forgetful traveler, if you can stomach the price tag.
If you're an on-the-go audiophile, you're probably used to toting a fancy portable player and wired over-ears. But nothing beats the sound/convenience combo inside Astell & Kern's UW100 (8/10, WIRED Recommends). These buds feature a 32-bit digital-to-analog converter and the aptX adaptive codec, meaning you'll get top-tier conversion and nearly lossless wireless sound. Two balanced armature drivers also reproduce your tunes with very high fidelity. They're the best-sounding wireless earbuds I've ever tried, and awesome for folks who like to do deep listening while working out or puttering around the house.
For a much more affordable option, we like these wire-free earbuds from JLab (8/10, WIRED Recommends). They get only five hours of battery life per charge, and the case (which holds about four extra charges) has an open-top design that can collect a bit of dirt and lint from your pockets, but they're great cheap headphones. They are small and comfortable in your ears, and they sound good enough for the price. They also have an IP44 water-resistance rating, so you can sweat in them without worry. And the case has a built-in USB cable, so you don't need to tote an extra cord.
We also really like the Back Bay Audio Tempo 30 (8/10, WIRED Recommends), which suffer in call quality but have nice build quality, are waterproof, and beat the JLabs on battery life. Check out our other favorite cheap headphones for more.
A combination of soft memory-foam-filled leather, flawlessly applied fabric, and high-quality plastics makes these light noise-canceling headphones (9/10, WIRED Recommends) the most comfortable I have tried. The sound, too, is remarkable. This established English audio brand showcased the full weight of its many decades of engineering high-end loudspeakers and headphones. The only downside is that this pair doesn't cancel noise quite as well as the best from Sony or Bose, so you may want one of those if you're primarily concerned with silence.
If you like hearing the sounds of the world along with the sound of music when you're on the go, the new LinkBuds (8/10, WIRED Recommends) are for you. These tiny buds have holes in the center of each driver, so outside sounds can filter into your ears. This makes them great for runs or bike rides, where safety is an issue. They're small and comfortable, and they come with a compact charging case that fits in even the smallest pockets. Our only gripe? No wireless charging.
When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony's WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they've improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it's done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $400 price ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of those changes are good, and Sony's made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.
Sennheiser's previous-generation Momentum Wireless headphones have always had a pretty distinct look that was part retro, part modern, and stood out for the exposed metal on their headband. For better or worse, that's all gone now, and the new Momentum 4 Wireless, Sennheiser's flagship noise-canceling headphones, look a bit more subdued and also a bit more like some of their competitors.
Equipped with 42mm drivers, Sennheiser says the Momentum 4 Wireless offer "best-in-class" sound, which is debatable. I'd say the Momentum 4's sound quality is right there with other models in this price range -- they sound excellent, with the requisite well-defined, punchy bass, relatively wide soundstage (they sound pretty open) and smooth treble that brings out some of the finer details in well-recorded tracks. They're a pleasure to listen to.
Yes, they're expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose, Sony and work very well as a headset for making calls. While I wouldn't recommend them for Android and Windows users, they're the best wireless headphones for iOS and Mac users who want to switch easily between their Apple devices.
They also feature arguably the best noise canceling on the market, along with premium build quality and Apple's virtual surround spatial audio feature for video watching. While they're heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions.
Bose's second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are not only about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable. They feature best-in-class noise canceling and improved sound, thanks to Bose's new CustomTune sound calibration system that customizes the sound for your ears. Voice-calling performance is also significantly better than that of the original QuietComfort Earbuds.
The QuietComfort 45 has virtually the same design as its predecessor, the QuietComfort QC35 II, which many people considered one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones -- if not the most comfortable. It has the same drivers, according to Bose, and the buttons are in the same place. However, there are small but notable changes. First off, these thankfully have USB-C instead of Micro-USB.
Secondly, the microphone configuration is different. Not only have the mics been shifted on the headphones, but there's now an extra external microphone for voice pickup, which means the QC45 has a total of six microphones, four of which are beamforming and used for voice. By contrast, the QC35 II has a total of four, two of which are used for voice. (The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 also have six microphones total.)
These headphones are excellent for making calls. They're similar to the Bose Headphones 700 in that regard. They also include top-notch noise canceling and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them with a PC and your phone simultaneously. Read our full review of the QuietComfort 45.
If you can't afford Sony's WH-1000XM5 or Bose QC45, the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 (yes, there's a bit of copying going on here) is a good alternative for $150, and we should see occasional discounts on it. While it may not fit some smaller heads, it's comfortable to wear, with nicely padded ear cups and a dual-hinge folding design. Sound quality is very good and the headphones offer better noise canceling than the step-down Q35, as well as multipoint Bluetooth pairing (these are equipped with Bluetooth 5.3) and support for the LDAC audio codec for streaming high-resolution music tracks over Bluetooth, if you have a device that supports LDAC. Many Android phones do, although Samsung's Galaxy phones don't.
Available in three color options (gray, blue and black), Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 headphones offer some significant improvements over the first-generation version. Not only are these headphones more comfortable -- they tip the scales at 307 grams -- but they sound better and have better noise-canceling and voice-calling performance with improved noise reduction. I don't necessarily think they're a better option than the lighter and even more comfortable Sony WH-1000XM5. But the PX7 S2 certainly looks and feels luxurious, with its sturdy design, and delivers very good sound with better voice-calling performance thanks to an upgraded microphone setup.
In the past, we've recommended Earfun's AirPro SV and Air Pro 2 as excellent budget noise-canceling earbuds choices (they're still good values). But the Earfun Air S may be the best of the trio, with multipoint Bluetooth pairing and the latest Qualcomm QCC3046 chip with the aptX audio codec for Android and other devices that support it. They have the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and feature surprisingly impressive sound for their modest price. They also work well as a headset for making calls with decent background noise reduction. The buds have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they're splashproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water. 041b061a72