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 okay but they still don't match the best wireless earbuds on the market.
Speaking of which, the AirPods Pro 2 are now up there with the very best. They're a viable, five-star alternative to the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II thanks to their excellent sound quality and noise-cancelling. Finally, for those who want an excellent pair of over-ear headphones, you have the AirPods Max which are quite expensive, 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 Apple smartphone.
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 takes your fancy.
The quick list
With brilliant sound and unbeatable usability, Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 are the perfect partner for your iPhone.
Best premium over-ears
Best premium over-ears
If you can afford them, these are the best premium over-ears that you can buy for an iPhone.
Best cheap on-ears
Best cheap on-ears
These on-ears make up for their plasticky build with an audio performance that’s easily in excess of the asking price.
Best ANC over-ears
Best ANC over-ears
With sensational sonic clarity, punchy delivery and an extensive list of handy features, these over-ear Sony noise-cancellers are an absolute joy to use.
Best audiophile over-ears
Best audiophile over-ears
The Bathys are easy to recommend for anyone after portability in a premium pair of headphones.
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The best iPhone headphones overall
Apple's in-ear AirPods have always been decent but unremarkable wireless earbuds. 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 impress there too. We love Sony's WF-1000XM5 as well, but the way the AirPods mesh with Apple's ecosystem makes them the go-to pair for iPhone owners.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
The best premium over-ear iPhone headphones
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 their most 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 nearly 150g heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM5, 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
The best cheap on-ear iPhone headphones
You can’t really expect the Earth when you’re paying less than £50 for a pair of headphones, but what’s remarkable about the Sony WH-CH520 is how little compromise they demand of you considering the cost.
Sure, these over-ears don’t exactly feel luxurious, but they don’t feel badly put together either. Despite weighing just 147g everything feels solid and robust, with padding that makes them comfortable to wear for long periods – and with a battery that lasts up to 50 hours between charges that’s certainly a possibility.
That extends to their sonic performance, too, with a nicely balanced, fairly informative, and enjoyable listen making them hard to take off. They’re a bit limited when it comes to dynamism but overall it’s an engaging sound, particularly considering the price tag.
They don’t skimp on features either, with multipoint Bluetooth 5.2, Android Fast Pair, and Sony’s Headphones Connect app offering some EQ presets, a five-band equaliser, and a hearing test to help you customise the sound to your ears.
Make no mistake, the Sony WH-CH520 are an absolute bargain.
The best ANC over-ear iPhone headphones
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 favourite wireless, ANC over-ears.
When we first saw 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 once again have their work cut out. If you are looking for a new pair of premium over-ear iPhone headphones and you can't stretch to the AirPods Max, your auditioning should start here.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review
The best audiophile over-ear iPhone headphones
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, although you'll need a dongle to do that with an iPhone.
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 best cheap iPhone earbuds
Think of Sony's WF-C500 wireless earbuds as a no-frills version of the WF-1000XM5. They deliver a lot of what makes those wireless earbuds a success without cutting too many corners.
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. Sony's WF-C700N are even better if you can afford to spend a bit more, but if you're after some of the best cheap iPhone headphones, the WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
The best ANC iPhone earbuds
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 offer slightly better, more customisable ANC than the AirPods Pro.
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 arrived in February), nor is there wireless charging or Multipoint Bluetooth. But we don't think this is the end of the world when you consider that these classy buds ooze such sophistication in every other area.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
How to choose the best iPhone headphones for you
First things first: are you going wireless? Most of the pairs above 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: modern 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 Bluetooth 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.
How we test iPhone 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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