Best iPhone headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best iPhone headphones you can buy in 2021.
The iPhone is one of the best smartphones 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 are a step up but they're still good rather than great. 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 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro Max or any iPhone for that matter.
Remember: newer iPhones don't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so some pairs on this list will require a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter (although the majority recommended below are wireless designs). Check you have access to one before you buy.
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.
If you're in no hurry, you might be better off waiting. Apple is prepping the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2, both of which promise to build on the success of their predecessors. And Sony's WF-1000XM4 should land soon too – their forbears are the finest wireless earbuds we've tested, so we can't wait to see their successors.
- Read all our Apple iPhone reviews
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones have pretty much everything you need to be the perfect partners for your iPhone. They're lightweight, comfortable and boast a stable Bluetooth connection and in our opinion, some of the best noise-cancelling on the market. Oh, and they sound sensational too.
They replace the WH-1000XM3 (below), which were previously the best iPhone headphones we could recommend, but the XM4 raise the bar across the board. In terms of detail, clarity, precision and timing, they're extremely tough to beat.
The Sonys also provide you with a number of useful new 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 we think they're worth it.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of cheap wireless earbuds. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers for the money.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs 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
For true wireless headphones, the Melomania 1 sound phenomenal – they handle dynamic shifts within a track with barely a shrug, while the vocal detail on offer is second to none. But it's the battery life that's the real headline-grabber – they last a whopping 45 hours, thanks to the carry case which doubles as a portable charger. Noise-cancellation comes as standard, as does Siri/Google Assistant compatibility. They're sweat- and water-resistant, too. And all without a cable in sight.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review
After months of build-up, Apple finally released its first pair of over-ear headphones. The AirPods Max 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 wireless noise-cancelling headphones we've ever tested.
They do work with non-Apple products, but you’ll miss out on most their unique features. Namely cinematic spacial 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 levels but it does mean the AirPods Max are around 100g heavier than the Sony XM4 (above), which might be something to consider. Some may find the design quirky but you can't argue with Apple's superb build quality.
Overall, Apple's first noise-cancelling headphones are a triumph. If you are a keen iOS user, the AirPods Max are some of the best wireless headphones you can buy.
Read the full Apple AirPods Max review
- Premium showdown: AirPods Max vs Sony XM4 vs Bose 700: which is better?
Unlike the SoundSport Wireless, these Sonys are truly wireless – there's not a cable in sight, just two earbuds you pop in your lug holes. Of all the true wireless models around, these are the best. A new Bluetooth chip sharpens up music synchronization, while the noise-cancellation is second to none. And the sound? Truly fantastic – this is a clear, expressive, detailed performance that will delight any listener, even those sceptical of true wireless models. The future has arrived.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM3 review
Klipsch knows how to make a decent pair of affordable in-ear headphones. In 2018, it was the Award-winning R6i II that delivered the sonic goods, but Klipsch's latest release, the T5M Wired, are even better. Not only are they extremely comfortable (which helps), they're also extremely musical and fun to listen to.
They sound detailed and dynamic with an even balance and accurate sense of timing. The only slight negatives are the amount of cable noise generated if you don't use the supplied clothing clip and you can't change volume via the one-button control/mic. If you can live with that, they'll do your iPhone proud.
Read the full Klipsch T5 M Wired 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 our 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
If your budget allows, this premium pair of wireless earbuds are perfect for the iPhone. The design is excellent: those slim earpieces don't protrude too much, and, more importantly, they're comfortable enough for long listening sessions.
The noise-cancelling works extremely well and gives the Sony WF-1000XM3 a run for their money. The Sennheisers are nice to use too, with touch-sensitive pads on each earpiece which control music playback and other features.
Battery life is competitive too, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges.
So design and features are excellent and so too is sound quality, which is extremely refined and sophisticated. Highs and lows are composed and controlled but dynamics aren't sacrificed. The Sennheisers present a detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority. They're a little pricier than other iPhone headphones, but if your budget can stretch, you won't be disappointed.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 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-1000XM3. 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 seamless iOS experience. But if you want the best combination of sound quality and noise cancelling, 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 and earbuds of this standard aren't to be sniffed at.
Read the full Sennheiser CX 400BT review
The Sony WF-SP800N earbuds aren't blessed with head-turning looks, but they offer excellent sound for the money. If you're in the market for some well-specified, in-ear iPhone headphones with active noise-cancellation, these budget buds are well worth considering.
Their appeal is boosted by Sony's slick control app, as well as impressive build quality, solid noise cancelling and a good fit, but it's the dynamic performance that seals the deal. Audio is crisp and insightful while 360 Reality Audio tracks (Sony's own spatial audio format) sound both vibrant and convincing.
In a nutshell, the affordable and energetic-sounding Sony WF-SP800N buds will pair well with iPhones and iPads over Bluetooth. That said, some may find the Apple AirPods have more to offer iOS users.
Read the full Sony WF-SP800N review
If you consider yourself a discerning listener, the 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.
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 if using wired headphones with iPhone 7 or higher.
Read the full Shure Aonic 3 review
The new Y400 wireless headphones are slightly smaller than the excellent Y500, but aside from that, they're reassuringly familiar. The build is durable and the wearer-detection feature, which pauses playback when you remove the headphones from your ears, has been improved. AKG’s Ambient Aware feature is another welcome addition, dialling back the volume level when you want to be able to hear what's going on around you.
Bluetooth has been updated to the 5.0 version (from 4.2 in the Y500) and pairing is effortless. Our tests found the wireless connection to hugely reliable – whether listening to music or taking calls. Sound is detailed, expansive and sets a new standard for such an affordable price point.
The one disappointment? The 20-hour battery life, which is down from 33 hours in the Y500. Still, when you consider the Y400 offer supreme levels of comfort and an energetic performance, these are some of the best budget wireless iPhone headphones around.
Read the full AKG Y400 review
These Sonys 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.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM3 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
These improve on the original AirPods in every way – they're louder (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.
Read the full Apple AirPods (2019) review
These might have 'wireless' in the name, but they're not a true wireless pair – there's a cable connecting the two earbuds. But that sits around the back of your neck out of the way, so there's nothing tethering you to your music source. It's a winning design – secure enough for running or a session in the gym, while keeping your hands free. They're sweat-resistant too, while the sound is punchy enough to spur you on to go that extra mile.
Read the full Bose SoundSport Wireless review
B&W’s flagship noise-cancellers are born entertainers and can rub shoulders with the very best. All a pair of headphones can do is sound, look and feel great – and the B&W PX7 tick all three boxes.
Even in a market crowded with premium offerings, the PX7 stand out for their sophisticated styling and quality of build and materials. (Though as anyone familiar with B&W's oeuvre will tell you, that's hardly surprising.)
They don't skimp on features, either. There are three tiers of noise cancelling, depending on whether you want to block out background noise completely, quite a lot, or just a bit. This is joined by aptX Adaptive Bluetooth tech, which improves data rates and reduces latency.
The Sonys that top this list might have pipped them to a What Hi-Fi? Awards Best Buy due to their better value, but these are fine alternatives – especially for those who value sonic sprightliness and street-cred style. B&W, we like the cut of your jib.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review
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