Best iPhone headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best iPhone headphones you can buy in 2023.
The iPhone is one of the best phones around. With thousands of apps, a user-friendly design and an amazing camera, no wonder it's the handset of choice for millions of people around the world. The biggest draw for us, though, is the brilliant sound quality.
Apple's retired its EarPods, the rather flimsy buds that used to come free in the box, so now is a great time to upgrade to a pair of headphones that will do your iPhone justice. The AirPods 3 are a step up but they still don't match the best wireless models on the market, while the AirPods Pro 2 offer better sound quality and noise-cancelling. You've also got the AirPods Max which are pricey, but in our eyes justify every penny.
But your options aren't just limited to Apple. Below, we've selected only the best iPhone headphones from our recent reviews that are compatible with Apple's handset so you can get the very best audio from your iPhone 14, iPhone 13, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro Max or any Apple handset for that matter.
So which will you choose? Wireless or wired? Noise-cancelling or noise-isolating? In-ear, on-ear or over-ear? Have a look and see which jump out at you.
- Everything you need to know about the iPhone 14
- All the details on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max
How to choose the best iPhone headphones for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
First things first: are you going wireless? Most of the below pairs are wireless, but you shouldn't discount wired models, especially if they themselves are discounted (some – but no means all – wired pairs are cheaper than their wireless counterparts).
Remember: newer iPhones don't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so some wired pairs on this list will require a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. Check you have access to one before you buy.
If you are going wireless, check which version of Bluetooth the headphones support. Newer headphones support 5.0 or later, which has much greater range than version 4, so you can stray further from your music source without tunes dropping out.
Noise-cancelling can shut out the outside world and let you hear your music more clearly without cranking it up, saving your hearing. But it can impact battery life – the non-noise-cancelling Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, for example, last a marathon 45 hours before needing powering up from a mains socket. It's a trade-off.
Most of these pairs have built-in microphones and controls too, so you can skip tracks and take calls without fishing your phone out of your pocket or bag.
Apple's in-ear AirPods have always been decent wireless earbuds, but unremarkable. They've picked up quite a number of four-star reviews over the years. But with the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has made a pair of wireless buds that delivers the goods.
How? Noise-cancelling is better, battery life is longer, and you get new features and, more importantly, much improved sound quality. They also cost the same as the original AirPods Pro, which helps.
Fit is very good, and the tweaked design feels a lot less intrusive than some in-ears. Apple has finally added on-bud volume controls, which takes the user experience up a level too.
The noise-cancelling works a treat, while Adaptive Transparency muffles loud noises when letting in ambient sounds. And the sound quality? With weight, detail and a good dose of dynamic subtlety, they really are accomplished performers.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
It can be tricky for a manufacturer to push the sound performance of a product consistently from generation to generation, but that is what Sony has managed to do with the WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones, our new Bluetooth ANC favourites.
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 – and some of the best iPhone headphones ever made – 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 iPhone headphones, your auditioning should start here. The older XM4 (below) were already the best around, but the XM5 are undoubtedly better for those who can afford to pay the premium.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review
Think of Sony's WF-C500 wireless earbuds as a no-frills version of the WF-1000XM4 above. They deliver a lot of what makes those wireless earbuds a success without cutting too many corners.
They're good for running and sports, thanks to their IPX4 rating, while you also get ‘fast pair’ connectivity with Android devices and ‘swift pair’ with Windows 10 PCs.
The sound is nicely balanced, there's loads of mid-range detail on show and it's presented in a cohesive and musical package.
Battery life is 10 hours from the buds themselves, which should be plenty for most, and the case provides another 10 hours, so the total battery life can be bettered by some rivals. But if you're after some of the best iPhone headphones, the WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
Apple's first over-ears certainly aren't cheap but they don't put a foot wrong when it comes to sonics. In fact, their detail and spaciousness puts them among the very best iPhone headphones we have ever tested – no wonder they won a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award.
They do work with non-Apple products, but you’ll miss out on most their unique features. Namely cinematic Spatial Audio, which provides a convincing virtual surround sound experience from 5.1, 7.1 and even Dolby Atmos content.
Apple's use of premium materials delivers excellent comfort but it does mean the AirPods Max are around 100g heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM4 (found higher up this list), which might be something to consider. Some may find the design quirky but you can't argue with Apple's superb build quality.
Overall, these iPhone headphones are an absolute triumph, albeit a very expensive one.
Read the full Apple AirPods Max review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of the best iPhone headphones. But perhaps it should be. The 2021 Award-winning RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wire-free earbuds with noise cancelling and they're sensational performers for the money.
Specs are thorough, with the noise-cancelling tech joined by an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5 hours from the buds and 13 hours 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 would 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
This Pro variant takes the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and adds active noise cancelling (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if you're out and about in noisy environments.
And considering the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low – a staple of Earfun's approach.
The headphones pair easily, and they're comfortable enough for even the longest of conference calls. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback; three skips to the next track. Double tapping the left earpiece accesses Siri on your iPhone and also answers or ends a call. The crucial function you’ll want to practise is a triple-tap of that left earpiece, as this scrolls between the Earfun’s noise-cancelling, ‘normal’ and ‘ambient sound’ modes.
They're built to survive a downpour, too. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for not a lot of money.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
The WF-1000XM4 produce one of the most dynamic, detailed and balanced performances we've heard from a pair of wireless in-ear headphones. These 2021 Award-winning Sonys deliver bass notes that are crisply defined and ooze texture, while vocals sound refined and extremely natural. They deliver tunes with such a sense of musicality that it's infectious and keeps you coming back for more. And you'll have plenty of time to be entertained thanks to the class-leading eight-hour battery life.
The Sonys are comfortable to wear too and you get great noise isolation from the ear tips and fantastic noise cancelling from Sony's Integrated Processor V1.
IPX4 water resistance comes as part of the WF-1000XM4 package, as does Sony's Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android. Plus there are Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat modes, which both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds. If you want some of the best iPhone headphones that won't tangle you up in wires, you need to try these Sonys.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 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 iPhone headphones yet. A brilliant buy.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones have pretty much everything they need to be the best iPhone headphones going – in fact, they used to top this list, until their successors came along. They're lightweight, comfortable and boast a stable Bluetooth connection and in our opinion, some of the best noise-cancelling on the market. They won a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award for their trouble. Oh, and they sound sensational too.
They replace the WH-1000XM3, which were previously the best iPhone headphones we could recommend, but the XM4 raise the bar. In terms of detail, clarity, precision and timing, they're extremely tough to beat. And now they're no longer the latest model, they should be available on some great deals.
The XM4 also provide you with a number of useful features such as Speak to Chat which allows you to talk to people without removing or touching the headphones. A premium pair of iPhone headphones, no doubt, but worth every penny.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
- Premium showdown: AirPods Max vs Sony XM4 vs Bose 700: which are better?
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. That doesn't detract from their status as some of the best iPhone headphones going.
Read the full B&W Px7 S2 review
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
The Melomania 1 Plus have some big shoes to fill given the popularity of the original Melomania 1. But we're glad to say that they hit the spot.
They boast app support, customisable EQ settings and the British audio firm's innovative High-Performance Audio Mode. Your colour options are white and black.
Like the originals, the real selling point is battery life. The 1 Plus provide a whopping nine hours from one charge, and you get an additional four charges from the carry case. That makes 45 hours of total run time. The fact there's no noise-cancelling onboard helps to explain the marathon battery life, as the tech can be a real drain.
The Melomanias deliver an impactful and expansive musical performance. They sound clear and more dynamic than their predecessors and there's a smidgen more detail too. If you want an affordable and accomplished pair of iPhone headphones, Cambridge Audio's offering definitely warrants a closer look, and listen.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus 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, 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
If you consider yourself a discerning listener, the 2021 Award-winning Aonic 3 in-ears should be near the top of your shortlist. Shure has been making professional audio products for over 80 years, so it's no surprise that the Aonic 3 are a delight to listen to. Their sense of rhythm and timing needs to be heard to be believed and their dynamic ability is nothing less than mesmerising.
They're some of Shure's smallest earbuds and extremely comfy to boot. The lightweight design, and the fact the headphone cable can be secured over the top of your ears so it doesn't hang down, means they're great on the go – something you'll want from the best iPhone headphones.
They aren't the most entertaining in-ears we've heard, but they have a transparent sound that will deliver your favourite tracks with beguiling authenticity. If sound quality is your priority, you won't find better at this price. Just remember you'll need a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adaptor (opens in new tab) if using wired headphones with iPhone 7 or later.
Read the full Shure Aonic 3 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 – 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 third generation AirPods (2021) are a joy to use and offer some nice upgrades over their predecessors, the second generation AirPods (2019). The smaller stems are reminiscent of the AirPods Pro, the new "low distortion" driver brings improved sound and the IPX4 rating makes them water and sweat resistant.
If you're an Apple Music subscriber, you'll be excited to hear that the AirPods 3 now join the AirPods Pro, AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max in exclusively offering the full spatial audio experience.
Battery life has been boosted from 24 hours to 30 hours (six hours from the buds themselves plus four full charges from the charging case). A five-minute ‘quick charge’ should give the AirPods 3 enough juice for an hour's playback.
The AirPods Pro still justify their existence with superior sound, ANC and fit-friendly eartips. But the AirPods 3 are a great buy Apple users who aren't bothered about noise-cancelling.
Read the full Apple AirPods 3 review
How we test headphones
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year – and that includes plenty of headphones. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency.
Of course we take headphones out in the field and use them as any buyer would, so we know how they perform in real-world conditions.
All are tested in comparison with rival products in the same price category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the best products to feature in our Best Buys. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended above, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
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