Best wireless headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Bluetooth 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 – exemplified by a new wave of very premium over-ears such as the Apple AirPods Max and Mark Levinson No.5909, as well as the more accessible Sony WH-1000XM5, which top this list of the best wireless headphones out there for value.
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 Bluetooth 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
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With quality has come quantity, though – the market is awash with wireless pairs – so before you start hunting you should decide what style of Bluetooth 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 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 – those with neckband cables joining the buds, and the much more popular 'true wireless' earbuds where the earpieces are completely untethered from one another. Yes, like AirPods. The AirPods 3 and new AirPods Pro 2 may be the most popular of them all, but they aren't the very best – something the excellent Sony WF-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II 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 Bluetooth 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.
And what makes them even more excellent value for money? A deal, that's what. If you're on the hunt for a bargain, take a look at our round-up of the best headphones deals on the internet right now.
- What's coming up? Here's our wishlist for the AirPods Max 2
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. 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.
And that's why they are the best Bluetooth headphones for the money and worthy winners of a 2022 Product of the Year What Hi-Fi? Award.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 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 as the WF-1000XM4 below) such a success without cutting too many corners too obviously.
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. Another deserved What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 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, hence why they are able to remain 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award winners.
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.
Still very much one of the best Bluetooth headphones around. Grab them while you can, bargain hunters.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
The HD 250BT might not feature any luxury flourishes, but they're a good-sounding, durable and ultimately our favourite set of budget on-ears. Hence their What Hi-Fi? Award 2022, defining them as one of the best Bluetooth headphones around.
That's not to say the spec is bare. Features include Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX Low Latency, a 25-hour battery life, app support and Sennheiser’s beloved-of-DJs transducer tech.
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
Say hello to the best premium wireless earbud winners at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022. As the title of the award suggests, these premium Bluetooth in-ears sound amazing and set a new benchmark for wireless earbuds at this level.
Smaller and lighter than the original QC Earbuds (which you can find a few places below), the Earbuds II provide a comfortable fit and lots of features. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, and the Bose app allows you to alter the amount of noise-cancelling on offer via a number of customisable presets.
Speaking of noise-cancelling, the Bose are at the top of their game. They can automatically adjust the amount of ANC on offer so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises and the effect is deeply impressive. As for sound, it's balanced and neutral and overflowing with fine detail.
It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD (though aptX Adaptive is coming next February...), nor is there wireless charging or Bluetooth multipoint. But we don't think this is the end of the world when you consider that these classy buds ooze such sophistication.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
The Mark Levinsons enter our test room doors as the most expensive wireless pair we’ve tested and therefore do so with a weight of expectation on their shoulders. Can wireless performance ever be so good as to justify such an expense? You bet it can.
If we hadn’t unboxed the Levinsons and gone through the simple Bluetooth pairing process ourselves, we would be tempted to check for any wires dangling from the earcups. While the No. 5909’s performance is still short of the best available from similarly priced wired headphones, it’s easily the best wireless headphones performance we’ve come across.
Anyone who is after the convenience of wireless without sacrificing too much sound quality to get it, and lucky enough to afford such a best-of-both-worlds solution, the Mark Levinsons are highly recommendable.
Perceived value may not get top marks (they don't look as bling as they could), but sonic value certainly does – and that’s really what matters here. Mark (ahem) our words, these wireless headphones really wow and, while expensive, the best Bluetooth headphones we have ever heard.
Read the full Mark Levinson No. 5909 review
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 multi-award-winning WF-1000XM3 and produce a sensational pair of true wireless earbuds. Another multi-Award-winner, at that.
There are 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
Focal’s entrance into this burgeoning premium Bluetooth headphones market isn’t surprising considering its presence at the premium end of the wired space. And nor is the success of its first effort. The gorgeous-looking Bathys are highly recommendable for anyone after the convenience of portability in a premium pair of headphones at this price, who can stretch their budget above the B&W Px8 but not to the heights of the Mark Levinson No5.909.
For a wireless headphone performance, it’s among the most engaging we have heard. And if you want them to double up as home headphones for longer listening stints, which they are more than comfortable enough to wear for, know that going wired via the built-in DAC/USB-C port does add a degree of refinement and tightness to the delivery.
Noise cancellation is fairly non-intrusive to the performance, too, and if you need it – as we did on two flights during testing – it does a decent job of diminishing distracting outside world noise from your music listening in ‘Silent’ mode.
Read the full Focal Bathys review
Apple’s AirPods Max may have kick-started the market for higher-end wireless noise-cancelling headphones but, to our ears, these B&Ws deliver even more in the way of musical insight and enjoyment.
Aside from a different drive cone material that is supposedly lighter, more rigid and better controlled in its behaviour, the spec sheet reads the same as for the company's Px7 S2 (below) – and that’s no bad thing. The Px8 have Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive compatibility, four microphones for noise cancelling plus another two for voice pick-up in phone calls and a claimed 30-hour battery life.
There are some niggles (see our 'against' list above) but nothing that comes close to denting our enthusiasm for these headphones. They are a fine effort that deserve serious consideration if you are buying at this level.
Read the full B&W Px8 review
The AirPods and AirPods Pro in-ears have always been one step behind the competition, particularly when it came to sound quality. They’ve been good-but-not-great wireless earbuds; lovely to use for iOS users, but never quite reaching the sonic heights established by the top noise-cancelling earbuds in this crowded and popular category.
That’s set to change with the new AirPods Pro 2. The second generation of Apple’s flagship wireless ANC earbuds promises a more powerful processor, with advancements in active noise-cancelling, longer battery life, new features and, more importantly, better audio performance.
We certainly didn’t expect them to trouble the best-in-class competitors such as Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QC Earbuds II (just higher up this list), but with the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has more than caught up. The Pro 2 are a five-star stunner.
Read the full AirPods Pro 2 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
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
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
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
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
These are the best Sennheiser headphones on the market
The Px7 S2 are a clear step forward for B&W, offering a more sophisticated, neutral and detailed sound compared to the 2020-released PX7. These are headphones that really prompt the listener to dig in and analyse their music. Some of the best wireless headphones competition, such as the leaderboard-topping Sony WH-1000XM5, are arguably more engaging, but the Px7 S2 are still an excellent and stylish alternative for those who enjoy attentive listening.
Generally, the Px7 S2 put in a strong noise-cancelling performance, too, with consistency and minimal sound colouration across the different settings. The 30-hour battery life is welcome, as is fast charging. And support for aptX Adaptive and aptX HD are big ticks in the box for those who own sources that also support these higher-quality Bluetooth codecs.
Note that the Px7 S2 don’t support passive audio, though, so must be charged up and powered on even for cabled listening.
Read the full B&W Px7 S2 review
Only the strongest film franchises tend to get a fourth go and, like Toy Story 4, the Momentum 4 Wireless noise-cancelling over-ear headphones have dutifully honoured the legacy of those that came before it – sonically and feature-wise, if not aesthetically. We are disappointed to see the classy design of Momentums of old giving way to one that’s markedly more non-descript, but the new guise is fit for purpose and we recognise that many might like its low-key discretion.
The fourth-generation Momentum Wireless’ noise-cancelling peformance is very decent, and the 60-hour battery life betters most rivals by two or three times.
That they undercut the Sony XM5 makes them highly recommendable for those that can’t afford the extra outlay for their class-leading rival's sonic transparency, and perhaps the best alternative if you prefer your music to be more lively than analytical.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless 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
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
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
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 3 and Sony WF-1000XM4 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
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 the portability and ruggedness of their build, their long-wear comfort and how their claimed battery life translates into real-life use. 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 various environments, such as an office, on public transport and – when we can – during flights.
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.