Best wireless headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best wireless headphones you can buy in 2020.
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 quality sound and convenience.
While a few years ago we would have still recommended wired headphones for those who prioritise sound quality (and for the utmost sound-per-pound, we still would), the 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 includes over-ear wireless headphones, often with noise-cancelling thrown in for good measure, with brands such as Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, B&W and AKG leading the way. And there are also now plenty of in-ear wireless earphones – some with neckband cables joining the buds, but others, known as 'true wireless', where the earpieces are completely untethered from one another. Yes, like AirPods.
Whatever wireless style you require, we've got the best wireless headphones you can buy, all tried and tested by the What Hi-Fi? reviews team.
2019 (and 2018) What Hi-Fi? Award winners, the WH-1000XM3s are Sony's latest wireless noise-cancelling headphones and one of the most comfortable pairs of on-ears we’ve tested with thick, cushioned earpads that completely envelop your ears. 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-1000XM3s 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 can stretch to these excellent Bluetooth cans you won't be disappointed.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3
If you're searching for sonic purity, these buds are hard to beat for the money. Another 2019 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 focussed on great sound over bonus features. The result? Sonically-superior buds that fall within most budgets. A superb buy.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
Not only do these 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award winners come 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 comes 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
One of the most compact and convenient pairs of noise-cancelling headphones we've ever tested, the AKG N60NCs 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-1000XM3s, 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
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 PX7s 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 at the top this list might have pipped these over-ears to a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards Best Buy, but the PX7s are fine alternatives – especially for those who value sonic sprightliness and good design.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review
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 3s 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
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 (above) 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
The AKG Y50BTs have been around for a few years now, but their ability for the money is unquestionable. The sound is excellent by wireless standards. It’s remarkably clear, offering the sort of insight that makes it easy to tell the calibre of the talent on hand. Bags of detail go hand-in-hand with that clarity. You get all manner of texture to instruments and vocals, which are organised well enough for you to appreciate the sense of space and separation.
The right ear cup has buttons for volume, play/pause, and power/pairing. Pairing is easy – Bluetooth connection takes no time at all, and we don’t experience any dropouts. And they’re practical too. They’re comfortable to wear, even with glasses, and they don’t get warm too quickly. And when you’re done listening, the earcups swivel flat and fold inwards, small enough to fit in a coat pocket. If you’re looking for an affordable pair of Bluetooth on-ear headphones, look no further.
Read the full review: AKG Y50BT
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 PI3s. 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 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
Now that the third-generation Sennheiser Momentum Wirelesses have arrived (currently occupying the number two spot on this list), their predecessors, which launched back in 2015 and won a What Hi-Fi? Award, can be picked up at a tempting discount.
From a design perspective, the Momentum 2.0 Wireless are as desirable as ever, with thick leather ear cups and and an all-leather headband. They're also collapsible for added portability. Headline features include aptX Bluetooth and active noise cancellation, both of which produce excellent results. Sound is rich and full-bodied, displaying plenty of that signature Momentum verve.
You get around 22 hours of wireless music playback with noise cancellation activated, and should you drain that you can attach the included cable and continue listening passively (passive mode is available when wired only). Now that these cans are heavily discounted, these premium noise-cancellers are an absolute bargain.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
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 review
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
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
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
If you want to cut the cord completely, then the Sony WF-1000X wireless in-ear headphones are some of the best you can buy. Since launching a couple of tears ago, they've been surpassed by the brilliant WF-1000XM3s, but that means you can pick them up at a discount.
They're a lightweight design and compact with it – quite the achievement, given that the Sony has managed to squeeze in noise-cancelling, batteries, playback controls and a Bluetooth receiver. Battery life is a comparatively modest three hours, although the supplied carry case doubles as a charger, giving you an extra six hours. The mic answers phone calls and aids in the WF-1000Xs’ compatibility with the Siri voice assistant.
Sound is packed with detail and clarity, while tonal balance is beautifully judged. Timing is superb, with a good sense of rhythm and dynamics. We awarded them five stars in our original review. Since then, the price has dropped by almost half, which makes them a real bargain.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000X