Best wireless headphones 2024: Bluetooth headphones for every budget

Best wireless headphones: quick menu

Best wireless headphones Buying Guide 2024: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Bluetooth headphones you can buy in 2024.

Wireless headphones are very much the picture of convenience these days – no wires, quick and easy Bluetooth pairing, week-long battery lives and, in an increasing number of pairs, noise-cancelling functionality.

And while many audiophiles will refuse to give up on wired headphones (and for good reason: they still sound better), we can confirm that there are now great-sounding wireless pairs at every budget, having reviewed more than we could count over the years under our stringent testing process and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging.

Of course, not all wireless headphones are created equal. For every good pair that passes through our test rooms, there is typically a handful of them that fail to deliver in key areas, whether that's down to substandard audio quality, only moderately effective ANC or haphazard touch controls – all of which can ruin your music listening experience.

Here to help ensure you bag the right wireless headphones for your specific needs and budget, we’ve created this buying guide detailing the best options we’ve tried and tested. And if you're lucky, there may well be one of the below (or if not, another five-star performer at least) in our round-up of the best headphones deals.

So, let's start with our current crop of What Hi-Fi? Awards winners, shall we?

Written by
Becky Roberts
Written by
Becky Roberts

I've been testing and writing about headphones for more than a decade. I'm one of What Hi-Fi?'s go-to reviewers for wireless headphones – an expert at picking the best-performing and best-value pairs across the wide and wonderful spectrum thanks to years of first-hand testing experience and accumulative contextual knowledge of the market. My picks of the best wireless headphones and earbuds below are all class leaders at their respective price points, and I can assure you they won't disappoint.

The quick list

Best wireless headphones overall

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. New design, same winning result for Sony’s latest premium wireless headphones

Specifications

Bluetooth: SBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery life: 30hr
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Transparency mode: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Sensational sonic clarity
+
Touch controls are nice to use
+
Punchy and precise, agile bass

Reasons to avoid

-
Build less premium than XM4 predecessors
-
Don’t fold away completely

When we saw the official pictures of the XM5, 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, the WH-1000XM4, a major redesign. But it's paid off!

The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones might feel a little less premium than their predecessors (which are still available at a now-cheaper price), but the jump in sound quality from the previous generation is a big one, and rivals once again have their work cut out. Better call quality and improved noise-cancelling plus a better design – even if they do feel slightly less 'premium' than the XM4 – all make them a compelling buy for anyone with the funds.

If you are looking for a new pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones, your auditioning should start here. The older XM4 were already the best around – and still are if you can't stretch your budget to the latest pair – but the XM5 are undoubtedly better for those who can afford to pay the premium. They have a better combination of sound and features for their asking price than their closest rivals, including the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e and Bose QuietComfort.

And that's why they are the best Bluetooth headphones at this price point and worthy winners of the best premium wireless headphones What Hi-Fi? Award.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review

Or our Sony WH-1000XM5 vs XM4 comparison

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Sony WH-1000XM5 scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Entertaining and wonderfully musical★★★★★
Build Sleek and modern-looking★★★★★
Features Numerous control options, impressive app, but not waterproof ★★★★

Best cheap over-ears

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. Affordable over-ears with no obvious shortcomings

Specifications

Bluetooth: 5.2
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 35 hours
Charging: USB-C
Built in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Compellingly clear, direct sound
+
Decent ANC for the price
+
Solid, durable build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
A little over-enthusiastic in the bass
-
Sadly no case or foldability

If you’re on a very strict budget but want a decent set of over-ear wireless headphones, you won’t do better than the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Sony WH-CH720N, which are the next model down from the XM5 above.

While they don’t match the performance of the more expensive headphones in this list, including their big brothers, during our testing we were amazed at how few compromises Sony has had to make to keep costs down.

While they don’t have a fold-down design or come with a carry case, the WH-CH720N feel surprisingly well made and offer a comfortable fit, even during prolonged listening sessions.

Sound quality is also excellent considering the WH-CH720N’s price, and a clear step up on similarly priced rivals. Playing a variety of genres they delivered a forceful, robust, and enjoyable sound, with the only minor issue being that they're slightly over-enthusiastic with the bass.

Add to this their usable active noise cancellation, which is powerful enough to drown out background office noise and week-long battery life and the Sony WH-CH720N becomes an easy recommendation for any buyer on a budget. No other over-ear wireless pair that we've tested around this price even comes close.

Read our full Sony WH-CH720N review

Check out the best Sony headphones

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Sony WH-CH720N scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Forceful, robust sound presentation★★★★★
Build Solid build quality★★★★
Features No travel case or foldability★★★★★

Best cheap in-ears

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. The definitive pick of the budget true wireless earbuds bunch

Specifications

Bluetooth: SBC, AAC
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 10hrs (20hrs with charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
All-day comfort
+
Spirited, well-balanced sound
+
Decent control app

Reasons to avoid

-
Only OK total battery life
-
Slightly small-scale sound

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 flagship WF-1000XM5 earbuds (below) such a success without cutting too many corners.

Yes, the WF-C500 can be bettered for battery life (they offer 20 hours from the buds and case combined), but you’ll be hard-pushed to find a more comfortable pair. You can buy greater outright scale of sound, though 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, the Sony WF-C500 are genuine contenders for those with tighter budgets. Another deserved What Hi-Fi? Award winner.

Got a slightly bigger budget and fancy a pair with active noise cancelling? The next-level-up Sony WF-C700N and JBL Live Pro 2 TWS around the £100 / $100 / AU$150 mark offer ANC and a worthwhile jump in sound quality for not much more cash. Conversely, if you're after an even cheaper pair, the five-star Earfun Air are the most affordable model we can heartily recommend.

Read our full Sony WF-C500 review

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Sony WF-C500 scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Well balanced★★★★★
Build Compact and comfortable design★★★★
Features Intuitive control app★★★★★
TOP TIP
Becky Roberts
TOP TIP
Becky Roberts

I have to say, Sony's dominance at both ends of the wireless headphones and earbuds market is quite astonishing. The WF-C500 are easily the best entry-level pair for people wanting to spend no more than £60/$60/AU$100, combining comfort with great sound. That said, I'd heartily recommend the next-model-up Sony WF-C700 for those who can spend 20 per cent more – they sound even better and boast active noise cancellation.

Best premium in-ears

What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. Sony's best true wireless earbuds to date, with a price tag to match

Specifications

Bluetooth: SBC, AAC, LDAC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 8hrs (24hrs with charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading levels of detail and clarity
+
Top-notch musicality and timing
+
Comfortable, lightweight design

Reasons to avoid

-
Some rivals produce more bass
-
Bose QC Ultra (below) edge it for ANC performance

Yes, it's another Sony – which just goes to show how consistent the brand is across the headphones space. With the WF-1000XM5 (note that the 'WF' refers to in-ears, and the 'WH' to over-ears), Sony has managed to build on the huge success of the old XM4 and produce another sensational pair of true wireless earbuds. 

Approximately 20 per cent lighter and 25 per cent smaller than the WF-1000XM4 they replace, the buds have been noticeably trimmed down, with smoother lines and more subtle curves. That means the case is more compact, too. 

Inside there’s a new 8.4mm Dynamic Driver X, which doesn’t sound quite as rich or full in the bass but clarity and detail are class-leading, with top-notch musicality and timing. Sony has sacrificed a little bit of the fun that was so appealing in their predecessors, but they’re an improvement in almost every other respect. 

The eight-hour battery life (with another 16 in the case) compares favourably to the likes of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds (our favourite noise-cancelling earbuds, below) and the AirPods Pro 2 (our favourite Apple earbuds, also below), though it is worth mentioning that the five-star Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 boast slightly more endurance.

Still, throw in improved touch controls, better noise cancellation and a packed feature list that includes Multipoint Bluetooth, Adaptive Sound Control and Speak-to-Chat, and the WF-1000XM5 are difficult to fault at their price. They are the choice pick in their competitive category. Can't quite stretch your budget to them? The previous Sony XM4 are sensational value as they approach their end of life.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM5 review

Or our Sony XM5 vs XM4 earbuds comparison

Here's our pick of the best Sony headphones deals

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Sony WF-1000XM5 scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Class-leading levels of detail and clarity★★★★★
Build Comfortable, discreet design★★★★★
Features Great companion app★★★★★

Best ANC in-ears

Bose's premium wireless ANC earbuds sound the business

Specifications

Bluetooth: SBC, AAC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6hrs (24hrs with charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, musical sound
+
Solid, weighty bass
+
Class-leading ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
Immersive Audio greatly impacts battery life
-
No multipoint Bluetooth
-
No wireless charging

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are more than just a new lick of paint over the QuietComfort Earbuds II they replace (which remain very good options at their discounted price in their final weeks of shelf life). 

Interesting is the addition of Immersive Audio, which is basically the company’s spatial audio tech. The general idea is to get the sound out of your head so it feels less like you’re listening to headphones and more like you’re listening to an image served up by a traditional pair of stereo speakers. That said, we found it a little hit-and-miss during testing so isn't, in our minds, an imperative feature.

We’d be worried if the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds weren’t competitive on the ANC front and we can confirm they’re still arguably the class leaders in this department. They’re able to take the noisiest environments, whether it's the rumble of heavy machinery as you walk past a building site or the loud chatter and sound system of a crowded pub, and reduce their impact quite dramatically.

Bose has kept the same tonal characteristics which is great in terms of consistency. There’s a familiar richness and fullness to the sound, but the new buds have a bit more of a skip in their step, sounding a touch punchier and a little clearer in their delivery. A welcome move indeed.

Ultimately, the QuietComfort II were already excellent... and the Ultra Earbuds sound a little better and call quality has improved. Add to that the still-excellent noise-cancelling and you’re looking at some of the best earbuds improved – easily another five-star pair. Of that there is no doubt.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review

Check out the best Bose headphones – all tried and tested

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Detailed, dynamic and musical sound★★★★★
Build Fantastic sense of refinement★★★★
Features Exceptional noise-cancelling★★★★★

Best for Apple

Apple's best-sounding AirPods yet are up there with the very best

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6hrs (30hrs with charging case)
Charging: Lightning
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, detailed and powerful sound
+
Very decent adaptive noise-cancelling
+
Smooth, intuitive use with iOS devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Many features restricted to iOS devices
-
Sony XM5 and Bose (above) sound superior

The AirPods and AirPods Pro earbuds have typically been one step behind the class-leading 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 pairs in this crowded and popular category. 

That all changed with the new AirPods Pro 2. The second generation of Apple’s flagship wireless ANC earbuds introduces a more powerful processor, advancements in active noise-cancelling, a longer battery life, new features and, more importantly, much better audio performance. 

We certainly didn’t expect them to trouble the best-in-class competitors such as the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QC Ultra Earbuds (both above), but with the AirPods Pro 2 Apple has put in a good fight and come very close to the benchmark. The Pro 2 are five-star stunners that ensure Apple loyalists who want noise cancellation aren't settling for less than great. Until the (unannounced) AirPods Pro 3 come along, these are the best Apple earbuds you can buy.

Read our full AirPods Pro 2 review

Check out the best AirPods you can buy – ranked and rated

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Apple AirPods Pro 2 scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Clear, detailed and powerful sound★★★★★
Build Compact and now with USB C charging★★★★
Features Excellent noise-cancelling★★★★★

Best for home

Open-back designs and Bluetooth don't logically go hand in hand – but these Grados sound glorious

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC, SBC, aptX Adaptive
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 46hrs
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Hugely clean, open, enthusiastic sound
+
Excellent battery life
+
Quality, no-frills build

Reasons to avoid

-
Design doesn't fold
-
No noise cancelling
-
Sound leakage doesn't suit outdoor listening

As we remarked with the original Grado GW100 (which these GW100x replace), the idea of a pair of Bluetooth (and inherently portable) headphones that are 'open-back' and therefore leak sound in and out, and that lack noise cancellation, puts them in a strange, somewhat contradictory position compared with the 'closed-back', noise-cancelling market leaders from Bose, Sennheiser and Sony.

Still, if you are after a pair of wireless headphones for use mainly in quiet spaces and prioritise great audio above all else, the GW1000x should certainly be on your radar. They sound fantastic, whether you go wireless or use the 3.5mm jack, and have an impressive 46-hour battery life (at half volume).

They have added into the GW100's successful mix 44mm drivers, redesigned speaker housings and support for the aptX Adaptive codec, as well as a host of new tweaks and fixes, and the result is some of the best-sounding wireless cans you can find at this price. 

Quirky, yes, but unquestionably talented.

Read our full Grado GW100x review

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Grado GW100x scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound Clean, open, enthusiastic sound, detailed and powerful sound★★★★★
Build No thrills, but excellent quality★★★★
Features Excellent battery life, but no ANC★★★
TOP TIP
Becky Roberts
TOP TIP
Becky Roberts

You may well associate wireless headphones with travel – and very reasonably too. But if you want to cut the cord for convenience and predominantly listen indoors, away from the noise of the outdoor world, these open-back (i.e. leaky!) Grados will reward you with better sound quality than you'd get from any similarly priced, traditional closed-backs on this list.

Best for audiophiles

Bridges the gap between wired and wireless performance more than anything else we've heard

Specifications

Bluetooth: aptX Adaptive, AAC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 35-70hrs
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Benchmark wireless sound performance
+
Lightweight for all-day comfort
+
Very decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Inaccessible price for most
-
Fit may not suit wider heads
-
Treble could be sweeter

True to its Solitaire name, the T+A are gems, alone in a territory of wireless performance quality that no other pair we’ve heard can occupy.

They cost hundreds more than most people would ever dream of paying for headphones, wired or wireless, but for those who prioritise convenience and sound quality equally, and have the budget to spend big, the T+A Solitaire T nail that balance without compromise and are the most convincing wired/wireless hybrids we’ve come across. 

What strikes us first about the Solitaire T is how squeaky clean and natural-sounding they are. These are headphones that don’t wish to impart any character or colour on your music; they want to tell it as it is, and it makes for listen that we can’t describe as anything else but pure. Already we know they bridge the gap between wired and wireless performance as we know it.

Previously the Mark Levinson No.5909 set the benchmark at this four-figure price point, but T+A has pushed it that bit higher. For now, they’re in a league of their own.

Read our full T+A Solitaire T review

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T+A Solitaire T scores in-depth
AttributesNotesRating
Sound The current benchmark for audio quality★★★★★
Build Lightweight but a little tight for wider heads★★★★
Features Excellent battery life★★★★★

Recent updates

  • January 2024: Added 'also consider' products to the bottom of each product entry where relevant.
  • December 2023: Replaced the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II with the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra.
  • November 2023: Labelled our newly crowned What Hi-Fi? Award winners as such.
  • August 2023: Added the Sony WH-CH720N headphones as our best cheap over-ears pick, replacing the outgoing Sennheiser HD 250BT.

How to choose the best wireless headphones for you

The world is awash with wireless headphones, so how do you know which pair is best for you?

Before you start browsing you should first and foremost decide which style of Bluetooth headphones you want. Our round-up of the best wireless headphones above includes several over-ear designs, which – as you might've guessed – sit over your ears, with the earcups connected by a headband. These tend to provide good physical isolation and an enveloping, spacious sound compared with in-ear designs, and more often than not throw in active noise cancellation (ANC) for good measure – though naturally they are bulkier to wear and transport and tend to cost more. Brands such as Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, Bowers & Wilkins and Apple lead the way, though with Sonos wireless headphones reportedly on the horizon, the competition isn't letting up.

And then there are in-ear wireless earbuds – those now-rare pairs with a neckband cable 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 AirPods Pro 2 may be the most popular of them all, but they aren't the very best sounding – something the excellent Sony WF-1000XM5 and other awesome AirPods alternatives demonstrate. The most obvious benefit of wireless earbuds is their discreetness and portability, not to mention that you can get pairs for less than the price of a drinks round.

Once you've decided on a style, you need to decide which features are must-haves. Bluetooth connectivity goes without saying (seeing as you've landed on a best wireless headphones buying guide!), but also consider how much importance you place on active noise cancellation (do you need to block out noise?), battery life (24+ hours is decent) and waterproofness (look for an IP rating on the spec sheet). Getting a pair that supports a high-quality Bluetooth codec could offer better sound quality if your source device (say, your phone) also supports that same codec, too.

Our more comprehensive