Best iPhone headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best iPhone headphones you can buy in 2022.
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.
How to choose the best iPhone headphones for you
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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.
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
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
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
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
- Premium showdown: AirPods Max vs Sony XM4 vs Bose 700: which are better?
If the AirPods Max aren't premium enough for you, maybe the Mark Levinson No. 5909 will be. They're almost twice the price of Apple's over-ears – can a wireless pair ever justify such a high price?
They might be the most expensive wireless pair we've ever tested, but their performance is just as impressive as we would expect. Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive and Sony's LDAC Bluetooth codecs are supported, as is active noise-cancellation. The headphone cups fold flat for packing away in the carry case, and the 34-hour battery life is impressive, up there with the likes of the (much cheaper) Sony WH-1000XM5.
The button layout could be a bit clearer, but that's where our criticism starts and ends. These. Sound. Phenomenal. While they don't sound quite as amazing as the best similarly-priced wired headphones, it’s easily the best wireless headphones performance we’ve come across. Tracks are crisply detailed and regimentally organised, with bags of dynamics. To justify their price tag, they need to sound a lot better than the wireless competition – and they do.
Read the full Mark Levinson No. 5909 review
Sennheiser’s IE 900 headphones will appeal to purists who want to get the best audio possible from a high-quality source. They come packaged like premium in-ear headphones with six ear tip options and three cables with a choice of normal 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm and 4.4mm connectors. The only thing they don't have is an in-line remote.
Sennheiser's engineers have chosen to go with a single driver rather than the more fashionable multiple unit approach that many rivals take and it's made with rigidity and low resonance in mind. And the results are fantastic. They’re impressively clear and open sounding, able to dig deep into the production of a recording. They sound confident and insightful too, revealing layers of low-level information and organising every track they're faced with into a structured and cohesive whole.
Partner them with a high-quality outboard DAC, such as the Chord Mojo and use good quality files and you'll hear just why the IE 900 justify their hefty price tag.
Read the full Sennheiser IE 900 review
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
You're spoiled for choice when it comes to over-ear wireless headphones. Only the strongest film franchises tend to get a fourth go and, like Toy Story 4, the Momentum 4 Wireless have dutifully honoured the legacy of those that came before it – sonically and feature-wise, if not aesthetically.
We are disappointed to see the classy design of Momentums of old giving way to one that’s markedly more non-descript, but the new guise is fit for purpose and we recognise that many might like its low-key discretion.
The fourth-generation Momentum Wireless’ noise-cancelling peformance is very decent, and the 60-hour battery life betters most rivals by two or three times.
That they undercut the Sony XM5 makes them highly recommendable for those that can’t afford the extra outlay for their class-leading rival's sonic transparency, and perhaps the best alternative if you prefer your music to be more lively than analytical.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review
These Sonys are a few years old now, but they're so good, they're still on sale. And they can be had at some knockdown prices, if you know where to look.
Compromises? They have a plastic headband, which feels less premium than their predecessors' metal one. But the upside is they're lighter and more comfortable to wear for extended periods. Which you will do once you've had a listen – they sound superb, open and spacious, giving every element of the track room to breathe. But there's also plenty of detail, and a subtlety to the dynamics that few headphones can match. And they're also some of the best noise cancellers around.
A great option for anyone able to spend a bit more on their iPhone headphones, though they are cheaper now they've been succeeded by the WH-1000XM4 and XM5.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM3 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
The AirPods Pro are a fine alternative to the standard AirPods you'll find further down this list. They're pricier, but you get better sound quality, an improved level of comfort and excellent noise cancelling.
Each bud has a force sensor on the stem – squeeze it to activate Siri, answer calls, skip a track, etc. The only disappointment is that Siri is the only method for adjusting volume without reaching into your pocket for your phone.
Battery life is a claimed five hours for the earphones with another 19 hours from the charging case. In a hurry? A five-minute charge will give you another hour of listening.
The AirPods Pro earbuds are sweat- and water-resistant but they don't sound as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4. But if you're an iPhone user, you're going to want to give these superb wireless earbuds an audition. They're a joy to use.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro review
These premium buds are great all rounders and capable of impressive musicality. They pair well with iPhones, or any smartphone for that matter, and offer six hours of playback (the case provides another 12 hours, for a total of 18 hours' playback).
Their not-so-secret weapon? Bose's remarkably-efficient, adjustable noise-cancelling technology. It provides 11 grades of noise cancelling from zero (off) to 10 (maximum) and works incredibly well. You can even cycle through the grades by double-tapping the touch-sensitive earpiece.
Apple's AirPods Pro sound good, but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds sound even better, conveying a sense of enthusiasm and excitement that's undeniable. From full-bodied bass to precise rhythms, Bose's unobtrusive noise-cancelling tech allows every note room to shine.
Apple users will find that the AirPods Pro deliver a more seamless iOS experience. But if you want the best combination of sound quality and noise cancelling in your iPhone headphones, we would opt for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
The CX 400BT are an affordable and sonically gifted pair of headphones that will work swimmingly well with any iPhone.
They're not water- or sweat-resistant but they do boast Bluetooth 5.1 support and a mobile app, neither of which is a given at this level. The former promises high-quality, far-reaching Bluetooth transmission, while the latter opens doors to EQ adjustment and control customisation.
The controls are simple for voice calls, too. Just tap the right earbud once to activate your phone’s voice assistant or accept incoming calls, twice to jump forward a track or rejects calls, or hold it down to increase volume. Battery life is seven hours, which is decent but can be bettered in this company.
Sound quality is where the Sennheisers excel, though. They produce a detailed and lively sound with bags of energy and enthusiasm. For the money, it's hugely appealing – earbuds of this standard aren't to be sniffed at.
Read the full Sennheiser CX 400BT 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
Weighing just 6g, these Byrds are light enough to take flight. But the sound is anything but lightweight. It's well balanced, giving equal billing to the bass, midrange and treble, lending proceedings a well-rounded, weighty feel. Which is particularly impressive given the price.
They're comfortable too, thanks to the five pairs of bundled eartips, and they come in a robust, slimline carry case complete with elasticated strap. Another excellent budget option to partner with your iPhone (and 3.5mm dongle).
Read the full Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd 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.
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
These improve on the original AirPods in every way – they're louder (which is welcome seeing as they don't fill the ear cavity and so let outside noise leak in), with a cleaner sound that's blissfully free of artificial manipulation. The audio is more subtle and sophisticated than their predecessors too, not to mention more detailed.
They're beautifully small and light, with impressive battery life and effortless usability. They're far from the finest headphones around, but they sound pretty decent, and none play more easily with the iPhone than this Apple-made pair.
They're not as advanced as the latest model (above), but at their new low price they're very tempting indeed.
Read the full Apple AirPods (2019) 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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