Best wireless headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best wireless headphones you can buy in 2022.
Wireless headphones have come a long way in the last decade. The wireless revolution means ever-more advanced Bluetooth codecs, longer-lasting batteries and better-sounding performance – great news for those of us who value both quality sound and the convenience of no wires. But the best news? That innovation looks only to be continuing on an upward trajectory, with wireless technologies and audio-enhancing hardware and software far from stagnant – most recently exemplified by the excellent (albeit pricey) Apple AirPods Max and (more accessible) Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless noise-cancelling over-ears, which top this list of the best wireless headphones you can currently buy.
While a few years ago we would have still recommended the best wired headphones for those who prioritise sound quality (and for the utmost sound-per-pound performance, we still would), the very best wireless headphones these days really do make ideal companions for listening to music on the move.
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How to choose the best wireless headphones for you
With quality has come quantity, though – the market is awash with wireless pairs – so before you start hunting you should decide what style of headphones you want. Our round-up of the best wireless headphones here includes plenty of over-ear designs – often with noise-cancelling thrown in for good measure – with brands such as Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, Bowers & Wilkins and (as of more recently) Apple leading the way. With Sonos wireless headphones reportedly on the horizon, too, the competition isn't letting up.
And then there are wireless earbuds – some with neckband cables joining the buds, and others known as true wireless earbuds where the earpieces are completely untethered from one another. Yes, like AirPods. The AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro may be the most popular of them all, but they are far from the very best – something the excellent Sony WF-1000XM4 and other awesome AirPods alternatives demonstrate.
Whatever style you require (need help? Here's how to choose the right pair of headphones), or budget you are tied to, we've got the best wireless headphones you can buy – all tried and tested by the What Hi-Fi? reviews team so you can be assured all of the suggestions below are truly excellent value for money.
- What's coming up? Here's everything we know about the AirPods Pro 2
- Looking for a bargain? Here are May's best headphones deals live right now
It can be tricky for a manufacturer to push the sound performance of a product consistently from generation to generation, but that is what Sony has managed to do with the WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones. Not only that, it has been achieved while executing a major redesign.
When we saw the official pictures of the Sony WH-1000XM5, we were more than a bit surprised. We wondered whether it was a wise move to give one of Sony’s biggest success stories in recent memory a major redesign. But it's paid off.
The Sony XM5 headphones might feel a little less premium than before, but the jump in sound quality from the previous generation is a big one, and rivals could once again have their work cut out. If you are looking for a new pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones, your auditioning should start here. The older XM4 (below) were already the best around, but the XM5 are undoubtedly better for those who can afford to pay the premium.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review
While now replaced with the newer XM5 (above), these XM4 are still excellent buys for those who are looking for noise-cancelling wireless headphones on a slightly tighter budget. Now that they're no longer the latest and greatest of Sony's crop, this 2020-launched model has dropped in price and is all the better value for it.
You won't benefit from the latest design cues and sound quality benchmark of the newer Sonys, but you're still getting a lot for your money – a highly musical and engaging sound that's better than nearly every pair at the price; useful features such as ‘Speak to Chat’, which allows you to talk to someone while the headphones are still on your head, all without moving a muscle; and a very comfortable and smart-minimalist design. Great buys – grab them while you can, bargain hunters.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
Yes, they're expensive (prohibitively so for many). Yes, they come with an ugly, arguably pointless case. And yes, their packaging omits an audio cable and wall charger. Yet they sit near the top of this highly competitive Best Buy page as the best-sounding wireless headphones on the market (even if we think the Sonys above are better value).
Why? Because for keen Apple users they're quite simply the best performing wireless headphones you can buy – and not by a small margin. In fact, their authenticity, detail, crispness and spaciousness elevate their audio quality so far above the previous best in the wireless noise-cancelling class (the Sony WH-1000XM4 below) that the comparison starts to become a little redundant, and you instead begin to consider them alongside proper hi-fi products.
Unsurprisingly, you do need an iPhone or iPad in order to get the most out of the AirPods Max. They will work with non-Apple products using standard Bluetooth 5.0, but you’ll miss out on many of their unique features, such as spatial audio and Siri voice control.
There’s no denying that they cost a lot more than typical products in this class but, if sound quality is king, there’s equally no denying that they’re worth it.
Read the full Apple AirPods Max review
Everything you need to know about Apple spatial audio for AirPods Max
Yes, it's another Sony – which just goes to show how consistent the brand is in the headphones space. With the WF-1000XM4, Sony has managed to build on the huge success of the WF-1000XM3 (a few spots below) and produce a sensational pair of true wireless earbuds.
There's dynamics and detail in spades and it's a balanced performance, with taut, precise bass notes and refined, sophisticated vocals. You can't help but be carried away by their sense of musicality.
Those who prioritise battery life in their AirPods alternatives should find the eight hours promised by the Sonys more than sufficient. The wireless charging case also extends this by a further 16 hours.
The Sonys are comfortable to wear too, with touch-sensitive controls and ear tips that provide excellent noise isolation. Combine this with brilliant noise cancelling courtesy of Sony's Integrated Processor V1 and the WF-1000XM4 are difficult to fault.
IPX4 water resistance is included, as are clever features such as Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat which both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds. If you buy one pair of true wireless earbuds this year, make it the WF-1000XM4.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Our pick of the best Sony headphones deals
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of cheap wireless earbuds. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers for their outlay.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise-cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
There are true wireless headphones that have proven so consistently commendable over the years that a new iteration is hard to ignore when it comes along, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are one of them.
Entering their third generation here, two years on from the launch of the sophomore efforts, the wireless noise-cancelling earbuds remain on the top rungs of an increasingly tall ladder with an improved performance that's right up there, a competitive spec sheet that offers great battery life (28 hours) and Bluetooth codec support (aptX Adaptive), and the bonus of extra in-app personalisation features. Oh, and a welcome new launch price below those of the former Momentum models.
They're nice and comfortable, deliver one of the most mature, spacious and refined performances in the market, and have the bonus of noise cancellation too.
In bowling, three strikes in a row is called a ‘turkey’; in What Hi-Fi? reviews, three five-star badges in a row is known as a blinder of a run. Building on an already winning recipe with an improved feature set, decent step up in performance and kinder price tag, the Momentum True Wireless 3 are as competitive as ever and Sennheiser’s best yet. A brilliant buy.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review
If you can get past the slightly bulky case and earpieces, lack of active noise cancellation and a somewhat retro design, there’s a great deal to enjoy in Shure’s debut traditional true wireless earbuds.
The earpieces, while large, fit securely, a fact helped immeasurably by the premium comply memory foam tip options supplied, in a total of three sizes. Unlike other designs which sport touch-capacitive controls using sensors (often with varying degrees of success), there’s a single tactile button on the top edge of both earbuds here. Because of the size of the units, the buttons are easy to find and they work really well. The ShurePlus Play App is slick, intuitive, reliable and offers more performance tweaks than we’re used to seeing at this level, too.
Although Sony’s XM4 (above) deliver a marginally more accessible sound – for want of a better word, they occasionally sound more fun – the Shure Aonic Free’s sonic recipe brims with precision, preferring to major in analysis. And that’s no bad thing. Ultimately, Shure’s trademark sonic profile is faithfully celebrated and delivered in the Aonic Free: expansive, clear across the frequencies, layered, emotive and with enough reserve to celebrate the nuances in your chosen source material.
Read the full Shure Aonic Free review
Cambridge’s compact, fuss-free and affordable design in its original Melomania 1 true wireless earbuds was a hit with us the first time around in 2019. The addition of a slicker paint-job, app support for EQ customisation and the step-up in sonic detail and refinement – without the anticipated price hike – only makes us want to heap extra praise upon the new Melomania 1 Plus.
While the original Melomania 1 can now be had for a significant discount, we’d still point you towards this updated model. There’s no noise-cancelling onboard, but those who don’t need shouldn't hesitate to add these latest Melomanias to their shortlist. For an engaging, detailed, expansive listen, the Melomania 1 Plus are very much in the running for best at this level.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
If you have a looser budget, know that these are the best true wireless earbuds with noise-cancelling on the market. Not only do these 2019 and 2020 What Hi-Fi? Award winners pack brilliant noise-cancelling tech into their tiny frames, they come with more sizes of tip than most rivals, so you should be able to achieve the perfect fit. The touch controls are intuitive (even if volume controls are conspicuous by their absence) and they sound wonderfully musical: instruments sound natural, believable and wholly expressive. There's plenty of subtlety on show too, and a great level of detail.
Sony upped its game when it came to noise-cancelling tech, too. At the heart of each earpiece lies a Sony QN1e HD noise-cancelling processor, which is both highly effective and easy on the battery. You get six hours of playback as standard, while the case has enough power for an extra three charges, giving a total of 24 hours when using Bluetooth and noise-cancelling together.
If you prefer earbuds to over-ear headphones, these are the cream of the current crop and well worth splashing out on.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM3 review
Building affordable true wireless in-ear headphones is a different discipline to building expensive ones, but it’s no less tricky. In the WF-C500 Sony has managed to bring a lot of what makes its expensive true wireless in-ears such a success without cutting too many corners too obviously – and in the process it’s made your job of choosing a great budget pair that little bit harder.
Yes, the WF-C500 can be bettered (and by quite a margin) for battery life, but you’ll be hard-pushed to find a more comfortable pair. Yes, you can buy greater outright scale of sound but you won’t encounter a more complete control app. Some alternatives are a punchier and more ‘exciting’ listen, but very few strike a more convincing sonic balance.
As an overall package, then, the Sony WF-C500 are genuine contenders.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
The Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are among the best Bluetooth headphones we have heard, period.
Providing you get a pair that properly fits (our first review sample had issues, but our second one didn't), we’re happy to say that you'd be hard-pushed to find better wireless performance for this premium amount of money. We listen to a variety of music, from classical to pop with much in between, and the Amiron Wireless are consistent in their performance. And that is to say, very good indeed. The sound is punchy and rhythmic with the clean, crisp midrange and treble complemented by a snappy well-timed bass. The lower registers are relayed confidently while not being overbearing, too.
While these Beyerdynamics do block out plenty of external sound, there is no active noise-cancelling, which less expensive rivals offer, and indeed this is a bulky, non-folding headset. But if you want the best sound you can get from a pair of wireless headphones for home use, you should look no further.
Read the full Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless review
If it’s an affordable, portable set of energetic wireless on-ears you seek, the AKG Y400 are currently unbeatable. These don't have noise-cancelling or app support, but what they do deliver is a sound that sets a new standard at this level; a sound that's expansive, detailed and with impeccable timing.
They’re supremely comfortable, portable and well built, too, and despite a reduction in size from the company’s previous on-ears (the Y500), these cheaper Y400 don’t represent a step down in terms of sound at all. If their 20 hours of battery life is acceptable, this is a hugely talented and thoroughly recommendable pair of on-ear headphones.
Read the full AKG Y400 review
Despite being recently surpassed by the new, third-gen model (above), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 still produce one of the most refined sounds we've heard from a pair of wireless buds.
The rounded earpieces are slim, so they don't protrude too much from your ears, and, more importantly, they're comfortable to have in place for long listening sessions. The noise-cancelling works extremely, and they're nice to use too.
Battery life is competitive too, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges, bringing the total battery life at your disposal to 28 hours.
It's all positive and we haven't even touched on the sound quality, which is extremely refined and sophisticated for the money. Highs and lows are composed and controlled but dynamics aren't sacrificed. The Sennheisers present a detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
These are the best Sennheiser headphones on the market
The HD 250BT might not feature any luxury flourishes, but they're a good-sounding, durable and truly likeable set of budget on-ears.
The build is a black plastic affair, but it is functional and solid and features the firm’s traditional S-in-a-rectangle white branding on each ear cup. Said ear cups are nicely padded, and although the headband is not.
When it comes to sound, the HD 250BT sound a good deal more musically detailed, agile and rhythmically gifted across the frequencies than one might expect given the eye-popping price tag.
All in all, the HD 250BT are a superb budget buy – and a great way to experience what Sennheiser is capable of, without breaking the bank.
Read the full Sennheiser HD 250BT review
iPhone users have got multiple models of AirPods to consider, but what about Android smartphone owners? We'd point them in the direction of the Pixel Buds A-Series, the latest true wireless earbuds to be launched by the search giant and their best effort to date.
They're light and comfortable, and while noise cancelling is off the menu, they do a good job of isolating you. Your colour choices are either white or 'Dark Olive' and the earbuds also boast IPX4 water resistance so you can use them for general exercise and running.
The five-hour battery life isn't exactly class-leading but should be enough for most people. You also get another 20 or so from the carry case. Pairing Pixel Buds A-Series is extremely simple, especially if you're using an Android smartphone or tablet that boasts the Fast Pair feature.
Come music time, there's a lot to like about the Pixel Buds thanks to their approachable, balanced sound. It doesn't favour any part of the sonic spectrum which can't always be said for true wireless earbuds at this level. They're well-rounded performers and available at a great price.
Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
Historically, the vast majority of Bose's noise-cancelling headphones have been on- and over-ear designs, but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds take the legendary line into the relatively new world of true wireless earbuds. And they do so with great success.
The Boses feel lightweight enough and we have no issues listening for a few hours at a time. For the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComforts are both sweat and weather-resistant) they are great to live with. Battery life is a claimed six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – a decent reserve, but by no means class-leading. And being able to customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation, in the companion app is handy.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by the Bose buds is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.
All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are great all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. They’re more than a match for any rival at this level.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
The best Bose headphones you can buy
B&W’s flagship noise-cancellers are born entertainers, capable of rubbing shoulders with the very best in their class. When you think about it, all a pair of headphones can do is sound, look and feel great – and the B&W PX7 tick all three of those boxes with a flourish.
Pressing a button on the headphones’ left cup allows you to cycle through noise-cancelling modes (low, medium and high), so you should be able to retreat into quiet solitude anytime, anywhere. The striking design is matched by exhilarating sound, which is detailed, tonally balanced and blessed with a large dose of rhythmic precision. As as is common with premium headphones, the PX7s have a proximity sensor: when you lift them off of your head, the track is automatically paused. Put them on, and the track restarts.
The Sonys higher up this list might have pipped these over-ears to a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards Best Buy, but the PX7 are fine alternatives – especially for those who value sonic sprightliness and good design.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review
Sennheiser didn't need any ‘third time lucky’ well wishes for its third-generation Momentum Wirelesses – both the originals and second versions were instant knockouts when they arrived. The Momentum 3 have been much improved over their predecessors in the sound department, delivering an energetic, timely and hugely insightful listen you've no choice but to be entertained by.
That sonic success is backed by enhanced usability features too. Through the Sennheiser control app, you can adjust EQ settings, view battery life and switch between three noise-cancelling modes: 'Max’, ‘Anti-Wind’ (which allows some surrounding noise in) and ‘Anti-Pressure’, the least intensive. A button on the right ear cup activates your chosen voice assistant on the connected phone, whether that’s Google Assistant or Siri.
It's worth noting that the battery life is only 17 hours next to the above Sony's 30-hour claim, but in every other respect these premium noise-cancellers are a class act.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless review
Yes, you can get true wireless earbuds not geared towards sport that, for a similar price, will deliver more insight into music by offering that bit more detail and dynamic subtlety. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Sony WF-1000XM3 are two such pairs. But, unlike these JBLs, they won’t have the honed ergonomics or ruggedness to be hailed as ideal fitness buddies.
Within the context of earbuds for exercise, the Reflect Flow Pro are like champion heptathletes – strong in all areas. They're waterproof, lightweight, comfortable and with multiple ear tip fin options, and sound very decent for the money. And for that they are extremely easy to recommend.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review
Don't care for ANC? Check out the cheaper JBL Reflect Flow
In their third generation, the AirPods are very much familiar faces but ones that have a new hair-do or job promotion glow about them, thanks to their improved sound, innovative Apple-centric features and Pro-inspired redesign.
The AirPods Pro (below) still justify their existence with superior sound, ANC and fit-friendly eartips. But the standard AirPods are a great way for Apple loyals to get a better design, decently balanced, clear and detailed sound and the worthwhile spatial audio feature at a lower price.
The AirPods 3 aren’t the best-sounding earbuds out there and are pretty pricey for a pair without active noise-cancelling in today’s competitive market. They won’t be for everyone fit-wise either, and of course they still hugely favour Apple device owners. But generally, third time proves a charm here.
Read the full AirPods 3 review
Want ANC? Check out the Apple AirPods Pro
AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro: what's the difference?
If you want a set of wireless over-ear headphones you can put on, deploy noise-cancelling on your commute or at your desk and largely extinguish the outside world for up to 24 hours, the Bose QC 45 has the edge over most of the competition at the price. And for many, that will be the end of the story.
Sonically, your money can buy better – the Sony WF-1000XM4 further up this list, for example. And if you want extra features like a more tailored noise-cancelling experience, an auto-pause function when you remove them, or sound EQ adjustment, you might be better shopping elsewhere.
We understand the inclination to stick to a winning design recipe, and that attitude has produced another very likeable (if not class-leading) pair of QuietComfort headphones.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort 45 review
How we test wireless headphones
While we have state-of-the-art testing facilities in Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door, wireless headphones are on-the-go products that deserved to be tested as such.
To that end, our wireless headphones reviewing process tests everyday aspects such as portability, comfort and battery life. If a pair has active noise cancellation, as is increasingly the case these days, we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments.
Of course, sound quality is key in forming our verdicts and star ratings too. As What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, each pair we review is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the many models we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. We keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to rival ones we know and love.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.