Best wireless headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best wireless headphones you can buy in 2021.
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 – greats news for those of us who value both quality sound and the convenience of no wires. 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 with the excellent Apple AirPods Max.
While a few years ago we would have still recommended the best headphones with wires 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. Such as the ones you'll see below.
With quality has come quantity, though – the market is awash with wireless pairs – so before you start hunting you should decide what type of headphones you want. Our round-up of the best wireless headphones here includes over-ear wireless headphones, often with noise-cancelling thrown in for good measure, with brands such as Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, B&W, AKG and, as of very recently, Apple leading the way.
There are also now plenty of wireless earbuds (or earphones, if you like) – some with neckband cables joining the buds, and others known as 'true wireless', where the earpieces are completely untethered from one another. Yes, like AirPods. The AirPods and AirPods Pro may be the most popular of them all, but they aren't the very best – something the forthcoming AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2 and Sony WF-1000XM4 will look to rectify when they're (hopefully) released later this year.
Whatever style you require, 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 excellent value for money.
The arrival of the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-cancelling headphones was probably the biggest headphone launch of 2020 – OK, joint most important alongside the Apple AirPods Max (below). They just happen to replace the Bose-baiting, Sennheiser-slaying, What Hi-Fi? Award-winning WH-1000XM3 (also below), one of the most popular pairs of headphones on the planet. They are quite a big deal and – good news – live up to their hype. As such, they're too What Hi-Fi? 2020 Award winners and the best around at their price.
They’re as comfortable as their predecessors (which is very, by the way); they introduce new useful features that elevate the user experience (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, more importantly, you’re getting a serious hike in sound quality over the XM3 for the money – in part down to a new DSEE Extreme sound processor.
The line's sense of musicality and enthusiasm remains as addictive as ever here, but you can also hear big improvements over the XM3 across the board. The WH-1000XM4 sounds more composed and confident, especially when it comes to lower frequencies.
We’re in no doubt these sensational Sony headphones will be tough to beat when it comes to value.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM4
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 the Sony's 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 review: Apple AirPods Max
While no longer Sony's latest and greatest wireless noise-cancelling headphones (that'd be the WH-1000XM4 at the top of this page), the XM3 are still superb options – especially for those with tighter budgets; they've dropped in price a fair bit since their successors came along.
They're 2020, 2019 and 2018 What Hi-Fi? Award winners and remain one of the most comfortable, best-sounding and most intuitive pairs of on-ears we’ve tested. Features include Sony's Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser which optimises the noise-cancelling for when you're flying, touchpad controls and an accompanying Headphones Control app. Thanks to a quick charging battery (done via USB-C), the WH-1000XM3 go from empty to full in three hours while a ten minute charge gives you a whopping five hours of use.
They produce an open, spacious sound that gives every instrument, effect and vocal room to breathe. Vocals sound focused and direct, but the instruments around them are delivered in a way that makes it feel as if you’re in the room with the band. Combine that spaciousness with greater detail, dynamic subtlety and loads of lovely deep bass and you've got a breathtaking noise-cancelling package. If you're looking for excellent noise-cancellers but can't afford the WH-1000XM4's outlay, you won't be disappointed with these.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3
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 review: Panasonic RZ-S500W
If you're searching for a pair of true wireless earbuds on a budget, however, these Cambridges are hard to beat for the money. Another multi-What Hi-Fi?-Award winner, these budget-conscious in-ears offer a cohesive, expansive and rhythmically driven sound, but also an intuitive, playful soundstage that few wireless in-ears can achieve at the price.
When it comes to in-ears, a good fit is essential. Due to the length of the earpiece itself, that might not be as easy to come by for everybody but, given their exceptional sonic talent, it's worth the effort and potential purchase of extra buds.
With nine hours battery life from the buds themselves, plus four additional charges from the case, that means a marathon 45 hours of continuous use from this little set-up. There's no active noise cancelling, but it's abundantly clear that Cambridge Audio has focused on great sound over bonus features. The result? Sonically-superior buds that fall within most budgets. A superb buy and big shoes to fill for the just-announced Melomania 1+ successors.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
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 review: Sony WF-1000XM3
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 review: Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless
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 review: AKG Y400
One of the most compact and convenient pairs of noise-cancelling headphones we've ever tested, the AKG N60NC deliver a superb performance for the money. They're a good-looking pair of on-ears with an excellent fit. Battery life is 15 hours with the noise-cancelling and Bluetooth engaged and this ramps up to 30 hours when the noise-cancelling is turned off.
Bass delivery is powerful yet transparent with crisp vocals, soaring highs and convincing dynamics that sound impressively spacious sound given the compact, on-the-go design. Sturdy metal (rather than plastic) housings between the ear cups and headband mean these cans should travel well.
The active noise-cancelling automatically kicks in when using these headphones wirelessly, but you'll find a 3.5mm cable in the box for wired use. They're not quite as comfy as the pricier Sony WH-1000XM3, but we'd still be content to wear them all day. For the money, they're extremely tough to beat.
Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless
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 review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
At first glance, the Earfun Air true wireless earbuds may seem too good to be true. Their extensive feature-list includes voice assistance, an impressively long battery life of 35 hours, a Qi wireless charging-supporting case, Bluetooth 5.0 support, and a waterproof IPX7 rating allowing them to be submerged in water up to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes. (Want noise-cancelling? The excellent Earfun Air Pro below are the Earfuns for you.)
Most wireless earbuds with similar spec sheets involve three-figure prices, but these earbuds from the little-known Hong Kong audio firm cost around half that. And, guess what, they're as good in practise as they are on paper.
They're clear, energetic listens that aren't bereft of the pleasant spaciousness often associated with pricier earbuds. No, they don't have the insight of the pricier earbuds you'll see on this list, but if you’re after something inexpensive that’ll sound good on the treadmill, the Earfun Air buds could just be the ideal proposition.
Read the full review: Earfun Air
Earfun builds on the success of its Earfun Air (above) by cramming even more features into a new ‘Pro’ variant, the main addition being active noise cancellation. There is now a 10mm driver and three mics per earpiece, too. But, considering the claims on the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low.]
They're a solid proposition for the money: they fit securely, connect easily, have reliable controls and feature basic but effective noise-cancelling profiles – for just a small premium on the Air model. There’s also USB-C charging and wearer detection, plus the sound is pretty decent for the money – well-balanced, relatively transparent, taut and full through the bass, and musically pleasing overall. We haven't come across anything at this level that does everything these Earfuns do, as well as they do it.
Read the full review: Earfun Air Pro
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 review: Bowers & Wilkins PX7
Sennheiser doesn’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 review: Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
The Sony WF-SP800N earbuds certainly try to please everyone. They want to please those who need accompaniment to their workout and also those who have a commute to endure. They aim to please those who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on some well-specified, true wireless in-ear headphones with active noise-cancellation, but also those who have spent enough on a Deezer or Tidal subscription to have access to 360 Reality Audio, Sony’s spatial audio format. And in a nutshell, they succeed.
These Sonys may have average battery life (18 hours total) and an arguably daft look (they aren't exactly discreet and do fill your lugholes), but their dynamic sound, decent noise-cancelling and indisputable build combine to ensure they're front-runners in their field.
Read the full review: Sony WF-SP800N
JBL has already established itself as a heavy hitter when it comes to wireless sports earphones, but the Reflect Flow is the firm's hotly anticipated entrant into the (slightly niche) true wireless 'sport' in-ears category.
Designed to get you through a a tough run or workout at the gym, these Bluetooth 5.0 buds come with a waterproof IPX7 rating and a healthy dose of deep, playful bass. Three sets of tips and fins are supplied in the box, so you should be be able to achieve a secure and sports-worthy fit (when we tested them, they didn't budge).
Features include ambient mode, which lets in some external sound, and 'TalkThru', which lowers the volume and allows for conversation without removing the buds. Battery life is ten hours from the buds themselves, plus 20 more via the chunky case, and the whole lot can go from empty to fully charged in about two hours.
Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1 buds offer more detail and sonic sparkle – but those buds are not intended for sport use. Within their niche, the JBL Reflect Flow headphones are very good indeed, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the gym without resorting to cans.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow
In the market for a pair of talented wireless earbuds and don’t mind a neckband design? You should definitely consider these new Bowers & Wilkins PI3. Bluetooth aptX Adaptive is supported, which should ensure higher quality audio from smartphones and tablets, and removes the potential for any lip-sync issues when it comes to watching video content. And their eight-hour battery life is good for this class (a 15-minute quick charge gets you two hours of playtime, too).
Design and finish are superb (as reflected in the price tag). If the earpieces are a little chunky, that's because they house B&W's Dual Driver technology, with one driver is used for highs and mids, and another for bass. The result is a clean-sounding presentation with a combination of crisp, distinct highs and a solid, punchy bass bringing up the rear. Indeed, these are confident and composed performers that serve to expand B&W’s headphone offering for the better.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PI3
The CX 400BT are more sonically gifted than most at this price (a price that fluctuates above and below the three-figure mark so do keep an eye out).
They're not water- or sweat-resistant but they do boast Bluetooth 5.1 support and a mobile app, neither of which is a given at this level. The former promises high-quality, far-reaching Bluetooth transmission, while the latter opens doors to EQ adjustment and control customisation.
The controls are simple for voice calls, too. Just tap the right earbud once to activate your phone’s voice assistant or accept incoming calls, twice to jump forward a track or rejects calls, or hold it down to increase volume. Battery life is seven hours, which is decent but can be bettered in this company.
Sound quality is where the Sennheisers excel, though. They produce a detailed and lively sound with bags of energy and enthusiasm. For the money, it's hugely appealing and earbuds of this standard aren't to be sniffed at.
Read the full review: Sennheiser CX 400BT
The Bose SoundSport Wirelesses are a smart design and a good choice for active types. They're sweat resistant and certified to IPX4, meaning they can’t be submerged but will handle sweat and splashes better than normal earphones. The in-line remote barely weighs anything, while the soft silicone rubber hooks make for a fit secure enough for running or going to the gym.
Battery life is a modest six hours, but that should be more than enough for the average workout, daily commute or leisurely jog. Performance is solid and the Bose sound is perfect for this kind of earphone, delivering the kind of powerful, punchy bass that might get you running that bit faster.
The Bose SoundSport Wirelesses are the more conventional siblings of the SoundSport Pulse. They lose heart-rate tracking, but keep everything else, including the dynamic, lively performance. They’re good, fun all-rounders and well worth investigating, especially at this price.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum Free in-ears take all that's great about the Sennheiser M2 In-Ears and place it in a wireless package. They're an unfussy design with six hours of battery life and come with an in-line remote and mic.
There's a short length of cable running between the earpieces – you can adjust the length via the attached slider, and run the cable either behind your neck or under your chin. When they’re not pumping music into your ears, you can connect the earpieces to each other via integrated magnets.
They have the powerful and dynamic sound we've come to expect from the wired Sennheiser Momentum headphones, so you get an impressive sense of clarity and detail for the money. The Momentum Frees really do carve out bass, mids and highs with expert precision, making rivals such as the Bose Soundsport Wireless sound almost thick and muddied in comparison.
With the price now much lower than at launch, these wireless in-ears are fantastic value for money.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Free
The AirPods Pros can't quite match the best-in-class noise-cancelling true wireless headphones for sound quality, but the user experience and unprecedented levels of comfort still make them a very strong option. By combining excellent noise-cancelling with a transparency mode that feels almost as natural as wearing non-isolating earphones, Apple has created a pair of headphones that’s as well suited to a long-haul flight as it is to a run around the block.
Powering the whole experience is Apple H1 chip, which ensures flawless wireless performance and supremely quick pairing. Battery life is is decent, too, with a claimed five hours for the earphones and another 19 hours available thanks to an included charging case. If the buds die, there's the option to fast-charge in the case: five minutes returns an hour of listening. They might not sound quite as dynamic and rich as the Sony WF-1000XM3s but, for many, they could be the only pair of headphones they ever need.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
Audio specialist Shure has designed some of the best wired in-ear and over-ear headphones we’ve heard over the years and its products are used by artists ranging from Haim to Hozier. But why stop there?
With the Aonic 50s, Shure is embarking on an ambitious journey to break into two new markets at once. Given this is new ground for Shure, the Aonic 50s are a solid first attempt at a pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones. They aren't the last word in engagement (they don't leave the same lasting impression as the Sony WH-1000XM3s or B&W PX7s above, for example), but they’re strong performers in a lot of areas.
Looking for a premium pair of noise-cancelling headphones with some of Shure’s famous audio pedigree, the Aonic 50s are worth a listen.
Read the full review: Shure Aonic 50
Bose says these Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 on-ears are ‘the biggest leap forward in headphones since the iconic QuietComfort’ – a bold claim considering the success of that range.
They're certainly innovative, with a noise-cancelling system as sophisticated as we've seen. It features eight microphones and 11 increments (from 0-10) of noise-cancellation intensity, allowing you to transition from full isolation to full transparency. The only downside to all that advanced tech is its impact on battery life, which is about 20 hours here – ten hours less than the Sony WH-1000XMX3s.
The sleek, minimalist cans gets a thumbs up for aesthetics and comfort – their secure grip just the right balance between loose and vice-like. There's also touch controls, meaning you can adjust the volume or skip a track with the swipe of a finger. They need a bit more transparency to trouble the class leaders in this category, but it's hard not to get along with their crystal-clear, upfront and punchy sound.
Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
While they may lack the outright transparency and simplicity of the very best noise-cancelling pairs out there, there really is plenty to like in the HD 450BTs – not least in the way of top-notch features, such as excellent, 30-hour battery life and aptX Low Latency support, which are far from given in headphones of this price.
If battery and bass are up there on your list of priorities, you won’t regret making these Sennheisers yours.
Read the full review: Sennheiser HD 450BT
Philips’s strategy is to pack in most of the functionality of the current market-leaders, wrap it in a design not a million miles away from that of the current market-leaders, and then charge a fair bit less than the current market-leaders. And it's mostly nailed that strategy here, offering a controlled, full-bodied performance and competitive battery life.
Aside from the slightly inhibited high-end reproduction, the PH805s are a really even-handed listen all the way down to the bottom of the frequency range. Certainly, no area gets undue emphasis, and integration is nice and smooth too.
However, if one of your major considerations when selecting your next pair of headphones is their noise-cancelling efficiency, the PH805s may not be for you. They just don’t negate as much external noise as their rivals.
Read the full review: Philips PH805
The budget BNX-60s show that noise-cancelling and aptX Bluetooth can both carried off in a package well under what you'd expect for these features. And what they lack in frills, they make up for in comfort and pound-for-pound performance.
Functionality is simple. One ear cup has a volume control, the on/off switch for the active noise-cancellation and a blue light that indicates when noise-cancelling is in use. The other cup has the USB input for charging, pause/play/skip track controls, a Bluetooth connection light and a standard wired headphone output. A full charge is good for 15 hours of wireless music, or a little less with the active noise-cancelling.
At this price, you'd be worried about bright treble or booming bass, but instead, the Lindy BNX-60s produce a balanced sound that’s easy to listen to. The noise-cancelling does the solid job but isn't as capable as the (more expensive) Sony, Bose and Sennheiser models in this list. But for this kind of money, it's extremely hard to grumble.
Read the full review: Lindy BNX-60
Grado's GW100 headphones are something of a contradiction. They’re wireless, meaning their purpose is granting untethered portability so you can listen to music out and about, free of wires. But their open-back design leaks sound both in and out, making them less than ideal in noisy environments, and pretty unsociable in crowded train carriages.
Still, it's their openness that gifts the GW100s a wonderful sonic ability. Midrange is fast, clean and lively and, compared with many closed-back headphones, superbly spacious. Their solid, retro design features basic functionality. We found the power and volume buttons, as well as the instant Bluetooth pairing, more than satisfactory. You can use them for wired listening, but the supplied cable doesn't have an in-line remote.
While the GW100s won’t be for everyone, they are perfect for home environments, pottering around the garden or listening to a Bluetooth turntable when isolation isn't important. A bit niche, perhaps, but they do deliver up excellent sound for the money.
Read the full review: Grado GW100