Best iPhone headphones 2024: budget to premium, tested by experts

Home listening is the ideal, but if you want to hear a decent amount of music each week, you have to be practical. Most of us spend a lot of time listening to music on a portable wireless device like an iPhone, which is why it's worth making sure you have the best headphones for the job.

We've rounded up the best iPhone headphones below for all styles and for all use cases. After the best noise-cancelling money can buy? A budget pair that provide plenty of bang for your buck? Stellar build quality? All-rounders that do everything well? We've got a pair for you.

Included in our list are best Apple models (the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max), but there are plenty of other brands worth a look. 

We've picked out the main points on each pair, and linked to our full reviews if you want a more in-depth analysis. We've been reviewing audio products for almost 50 years, and have over 100 years of experience between us, so we know a great pair of headphones when we hear one, whether they're the highest of the high end or plucked straight from the bargain bin.

For a full rundown of how we test each pair, check out the how we test section further down this page.

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Joe Svetlik
Joe Svetlik

I've been writing about headphones for nearly 20 years, and using them for a lot longer than that. Apple's AirPods have improved greatly in recent years, but when it comes to iPhone headphones, you might be better served elsewhere, as our list goes to show...

The quick list

The best iPhone headphones we recommend in 2024

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

The best iPhone headphones overall

Apple's best-sounding wireless earbuds – if you own an iPhone, these are a no-brainer.

Specifications

Noise-cancelling: Yes
Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 6hrs (+24hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: Yes
Waterproof: Water resistant
Finishes: White

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, detailed and powerful sound
+
Excellent noise-cancelling
+
Longer battery life
+
Smooth, intuitive use with iOS devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Many features are iOS-only
-
No customisable ANC

AirPods: good, but not great. For years, that was the story we told about Apple's wireless earbuds, and it was backed up by a string of four-star reviews. But then the AirPods Pro 2 along came and flipped the script.

With improved noise cancellation, longer battery life, new features aplenty and a more polished sound quality, they finally achieved the fifth star that had eluded all of Apple's in-ears.

All of this came with no increase in price as well. Given the couple of years everyone has had, that's nothing short of miraculous.

A new XS size of eartip makes them more versatile for a wider range of ear sizes, and they feel less intrusive than some rivals. On-bud controls finally saw their AirPods debut as well, which makes them so much quicker and easier to control.

Prince among the new features is Adaptive Transparency, which dials down loud noises while still allowing through ambient audio like people talking, cars passing and station announcements. The idea is you're still aware of your surroundings without being bothered by them. That means you can enjoy the Pro 2's excellent sound quality (with added low end, more texture and improved dynamics) without being cut off from your environment.

In most situations, the Sony WF-1000XM5 are the best all-round wireless earbuds you can buy, but for use with an iPhone, the AirPods Pro 2 are the better bet. They're built for that use, after all, and the experience is so seamless, you'd be a fool to ignore them.

Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundApple has finally caught up with the best wireless earbuds around★★★★★
FeaturesSuperb, but only if you're an iOS user★★★★☆
ComfortThe new XS eartip size makes for a better fit★★★★★

The best premium over-ear iPhone headphones

Expensive, but the Max deliver stellar sound and noise-cancelling.

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC
Battery life: 20hr
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Transparency mode: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Superb sound and noise-cancelling
+
Cinematic spatial audio
+
Exceptional build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Near-pointless case
-
Audio cable not included
-
Practically Apple-only

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.

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

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundAmong the best around at this price level★★★★★
FeaturesAwesome, but less so for Android users★★★★★
ComfortLovingly made, with a painstaking attention to detail★★★★★

The best cheap on-ear iPhone headphones

Cheap but without much compromise, these on-ears are a real bargain for iPhone owners.

Specifications

Bluetooth: SBC, AAC
Battery life: 50hr
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced and engaging sound
+
Great battery life
+
Useful and extensive control app

Reasons to avoid

-
Dynamically inhibited
-
Could conceivably have greater insight

Under-promise, over-deliver – it's often said that's a recipe for success. While Sony isn't shy of talking up the WH-CH520, for the £50 price you might expect to be underwhelmed. You'd be surprised.

Now let's temper expectations a little here – they don't have a premium feel. But then they don't feel shoddy either. They're definitely solidly built, and the earcups are comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions. Which you may well indulge in, given that the battery lasts an impressive 50 hours on a single charge.

Sonically they're balanced and deliver plenty of detail, making them easy to enjoy (of course, the usual 'for the money' caveat applies here). The dynamics could use a bit more pep, but they provide an involving listen with plenty to like.

And features? These include Bluetooth Multipoint (which can be missing from pairs costing five times as much), Android Fast Pair, and Sony's Headphones Connect app which gives you control over the equaliser and the ability to personalise the sound to your specific hearing profile.

All for £50. Your iPhone won't know what's hit it.

Read the full Sony WH-CH520 review

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundStunning for the money★★★★★
FeaturesLike a stripped-back version of Sony's more premium pairs★★★★★
ComfortPlasticky, but very well built★★★★★

The best ANC over-ear iPhone headphones

Sony premium noise-cancelling headphones are a great option for iPhone users.

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
+
Nice to use
+
Punchy and precise, agile bass

Reasons to avoid

-
Build less premium than before
-
Don’t fold away completely

Sony's XM4 were some of our favourite over-ear headphones, which poses a big question: how do you improve on a classic? If you're Sony, it's with a wholesale redesign and boosted sound quality. The result is the best all-round over-ears at their price, and a solid bet to partner with your iPhone (or any phone, for that matter).

Credit where it's due: a complete revamp is a risky move for such a successful pair of headphones, but Sony pulled it off. The new noiseless design is slimmer and more seamless looking, with fewer places for the wind to catch and interfere with the sound. They feel a little less premium than their predecessors – and a lot less premium than pricier models like the AirPods Max – but it's a tradeoff we're happy to make.

The ANC has been upgraded too, and for the first time it optimises automatically depending on your surroundings. So if the background sound increases, the ANC works that bit harder to neutralise it. They're still some of the best noise-cancellers at the money.

While a lot of the same features carry over from the XM4, they have been improved and added to. The delay between the wearer speaking and the headphones pausing playback while engaging the ambient sound mode (the feature known as Speak to Chat) has been shortened slightly, for example. And they're that much quicker at pausing and restarting playback when you take the headphones off and put them back on, respectively (Wearing Detection).

But perhaps the biggest selling point is the sound quality, which has come on even from the XM4's already considerable level. It's now more detailed, with an excellent sense of rhythm and great musicality. If you're looking for an over-ear pair to partner your iPhone, the XM5 are the best at this level.

Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundEntertainingly musical, among the best at the price★★★★★
FeaturesGreat app, and lots of control options, but no waterproofing★★★★☆
ComfortPlenty of padding, and nicely judged clamping force★★★★★
Top Tip
Andy Madden author bio pic
Top Tip
Andy Madden

Like a lot of non-Apple brands, Sony’s mobile app works just as well with iPhones as Android phones. Headphones Connect is one of the better apps around, with lots of customisation options. And it works with lots of different Sony headphones, some much cheaper than the premium XM5.

The best audiophile over-ear iPhone headphones

We've never seen a pair of Bluetooth headphones quite like this...

Specifications

Bluetooth version: aptX Adaptive, aptX, SBC, AAC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 30hrs
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Compellingly big, spacious, clear sound
+
Pleasingly full-bodied balance
+
Gorgeous and solidly built

Reasons to avoid

-
Plasticky buttons

Focal made a name for itself with its premium wired headphones, and it's applied the same attention to detail with this, its first Bluetooth pair.

They still sit at the upper end of the market, but not at the pinnacle – they're somewhere between the B&W Px8 and Mark Levinson No. 5909. Which is very good company to keep.

Unsurprisingly given the price, they're a very plush pair of headphones. And the wireless performance is among the most engaging we've heard – smooth, warm-bodied, with buckets of rhythmic ability. They're more than comfortable enough to wear for longer listening sessions too – just plug in using the USB-C port (you'll need an adapter if you're using an iPhone 14 or earlier, as they have Lightning ports in place of the iPhone 15 range's USB-C). Their wired performance is even better than their wireless, being tighter and more refined.

Oh, and they pack noise cancellation, too. It's not up there with Bose's finest over-ears, but it is still very effective, and doesn't impinge too much on the sound quality either.

Read the full Focal Bathys review

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundBig, clear and weighty – listen wired and it's even better★★★★★
FeaturesaptX support, and both 3.5mm and USB-C cables are provided★★★★★
ComfortComfortable enough for long sessions in the listening room★★★★★

The best cheap iPhone earbuds

These no-frills Sony buds are a great budget option for iPhone users.

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

+
Compact and comfortable design
+
Spirited, well-balanced sound
+
Fine control app

Reasons to avoid

-
Ordinary battery life
-
Slightly small-scale sound
-
Numerous serious rivals

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 

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundNicely balanced and even handed★★★★★
FeaturesNothing special, but they cover all bases★★★★☆
ComfortWearable for hours★★★★★

The best ANC iPhone earbuds

Bose's latest noise-cancelling buds silence the competition.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: SBC, AAC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 24hrs (buds: 6hrs; case: 18hrs)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent noise-cancelling
+
Weighty bass
+
Punchy, musical sound
+
Comfy

Reasons to avoid

-
Immersive Audio saps battery
-
No Bluetooth multipoint
-
No wireless charging

It's a situation many of us find ourselves in: we want to cancel noise while listening to music on an iPhone, but don't want to cart around a bulky pair of over-ear headphones. Bose has just solved your problem.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds replace the Award-winning QuietComfort Earbuds II, which were succeeded only a year and a bit into their shelf life. As such, there's not a huge array of differences between the two, so if you see the QC Earbuds II on a deal, you should definitely consider them.

But in with the new. Their design is very similar to their forebears, but there are some differences. The stems have a new metallic finish, and the stability bands lock in place more easily with the addition of an added notch. They're more comfortable than the Sony WF-1000XM5, which is quite a feat.

Bose Immersive Audio is also new – basically Bose's take on spatial audio. It's a little hit and miss, working much better on some tracks than others, so we would advise experimenting with it. It does eat into your battery life, mind, which we think will sway plenty of people to leave it off. 

If you want wireless charging, you'll have to pay extra for the wireless case, and there's no Bluetooth multipoint for switching between wireless devices. But on the plus side, the noise-cancelling is the best of any wireless earbuds, and the sound quality is noticeably peppier than their predecessors – they're punchier, clearer, with a good sense of spaciousness. With quality like this, who needs over-ears?

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review 

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Test results
AttributesNotesRating
SoundLashings of musicality make for an entertaining listen★★★★★
FeaturesBoosted call quality, the best ANC around, but Immersive Audio is so-so★★★★☆
ComfortEven comfier than the Sony WF-1000XM5★★★★★

Also consider

The best iPhone headphones alternatives we've tested:

Sony WH-CH720N: a little pricier than the Sony WH-CH520 above, but with noise cancelling capabilities, these Award-winners are still excellent value.

Earfun Air: about as cheap as wireless headphones get, these sound phenomenal for the money and are surprisingly well-specced.

Apple AirPods 3: 'only' a four-star product, but their seamless usability with iPhones make them worth considering.

How to choose the best iPhone headphones for you

The first thing to consider is: are you going wireless? We would recommend wireless headphones them for iPhones – all of the above are wireless – because of their convenience, But if you prefer wired, there are plenty of great pairs available – check them out here. You'll almost certainly need an adapter though, as modern iPhones lack a 3.5mm headphone jack. iPhone 7-14 have a Lightning port, and the iPhone 15 range USB-C.

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.

All 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. If you will be using them for calls a lot, dig into our reviews and see what the call quality is like. Usually those with noise cancellation have better call quality, as the noise-cancelling mics can be used to neutralise wind noise.

How we test iPhone headphones

Between us at What Hi-Fi? we've used every iPhone since the first model, and we've tested thousands of pairs of headphones over the years. As such, we're ideally suited to recommending the best iPhone headphones.

Each pair is subject to our rigorous reviewing process, which involves testing their every feature in a variety of environments and situations. We use them as if we had bought them ourselves, listening on the bus, train, at work, while out for a stroll and – if we can – on a plane. If they have active noise cancellation (ANC), we listen with it both activated and deactivated to see how it impacts sound quality (headphones usually sound a little better with it switched off). And of course we try the ANC while both listening to music and when not, to gauge how effective it is.

We also try the various modes that use the ANC, like talk through and Adaptive Transparency.

We never review in isolation – rather, each pair is tested against its nearest price rivals to see how they stand up and where your money is best spent. Our stock room is full of our favourite headphones from the last few years, so each pair is pitted against the best in the market.

Review verdicts are agreed upon as a team, rather than one person. Not only does this avoid any personal bias, it also makes sure we haven't missed anything. We have over 100 years of reviewing experience between us, with experts in each field, so you can rest assured our reviews are the most thorough around. Over nearly 50 years, we've built a reputation as the home of unbiased reviews, and pride ourselves on helping you, the consumer, make the best decision with your budget. 

To find out more about our reviews process, check out our dedicated how we test page.

MORE:

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Read our iPhone 15 Pro Max review

And find out what the iPhone 16 could have in store

F.A.Q

What headphones are good with the iPhone?

Apple's AirPods work seamlessly with iPhones, as you would expect. But plenty of other headphones also work well, and while they might miss out on some features only Apple can create, their own feature sets and performance often make them the better choice.

Can I use any headphones with my iPhone?

No. Apple stopped including the 3.5mm headphone port on its phones with the iPhone 7 in 2016. Now most people listen wirelessly using Bluetooth headphones. If you want to listen wired, you'll need a pair of Lightning headphones (or more commonly, a Lightning adapter) for iPhones 7-14, and USB-C headphones (or adapter) for the iPhone 15.

Can you plug normal headphones into iPhone?

The iPhone doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone jack (the most common headphone connection), so no, "normal" headphones can't connect directly to an iPhone. But they can with an adapter. iPhones 7-14 use Apple's own Lightning connection, while the iPhone 15 (and future models) use USB-C. Check which you have before you buy an adapter

Recent updates

13th May 2024: Updated intro. Added Top Tip.

8th March 2024: Swapped Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II for the newer Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. Added Also Consider, F.A.Q. and Recent Updates sections.

5th October 2023: Dropped first-gen AirPods Pro.

25th August 2023: Dropped JBL Live Pro 2 TWS.

7th June 2023: Added new images, reformatted tech specs.

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