Best iPhone headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best iPhone headphones you can buy in 2020.
The iPhone is one of the finest 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's 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. To truly unleash its potential, you need the best headphones your budget will allow.
That's where we come in. 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 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 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 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.
- 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-1000XM3s (below), which were previously the best iPhone headphones we could recommend, but the XM4s 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, but we think they're worth it.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM4
For true wireless headphones, the Melomania 1s 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 review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
After months of build-up, Apple has 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'll 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 review: Apple AirPods Max
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 review: Sony WF-1000XM3
Klipsch knows how to make a decent pair of affordable in-ear headphones. In 2018, it was the Award-winning R6i IIs (see below) that delivered the sonic goods, 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.
The Klipschs 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.
Read the full review: Klipsch T5M Wired
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 review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The AirPods Pros 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-1000XM3s. 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 review: Apple AirPods Pro
These premium buds are capable of 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 Pros 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 give 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'd opt for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
The inclusion of Apple's W1 chip gives these wireless Beats buds a super seamless connection to your iPhone and you get a good fit and similarly good noise isolation (noise-cancellation isn't part of the package). Battery life is 12 hours, while a quick five-minute charge will get you one hour of use.
The bassy sound can be a bit overpowering, but this makes them a good option if you're using them in noisy environments. They're also a fun listen, which makes them a good match for the entertaining audio of an iPhone.
Read our full review: Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless
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 review: Sony WF-SP800N
If you consider yourself a discerning listener, the Aonic 3s 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 3s 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 review: Shure Aonic 3
The new Y400s wireless headphones are slightly smaller than the excellent Y500s (below), 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 Y500s) 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 Y500s. Still, when you consider the Y400's offer supreme levels of comfort and an energetic performance, these are some of the best budget wireless iPhone headphones around.
Read the full review: AKG Y400
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 review: Sony WH-1000XM3
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 review: Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd
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 review: Apple AirPods (2020)
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 review: Bose SoundSport Wireless
Apple's EarPods and AirPods don't offer an amazing fit, which can make them less than ideal for the gym or running. The Jaybird Vista earbuds, on the other hand, offer good sound and an even better fit. They're true wireless earbuds with IPX7 water- and sweat-proofing, robust enough to withstand daily training sessions and the great outdoors.
Power up the clever Jaybird app and besides pairing you can also tweak their sound for your ears and reassign the controls on each earbud. There's USB-C charging – a five-minute 'super-charge' is enough for one hour, while a full charge gives you six. You get 10 extra hours from the charging case too. And it's all topped off with a hefty and upbeat sound.
Read the full review: Jaybird Vista
Fancy a pair of quality wireless earbuds and don’t mind a neckband design? You should definitely consider the Bowers & Wilkins PI3.
Design and finish are superb, and that's reflected in the price tag. The earpieces are a little chunky but they house B&W's Dual Driver technology, with one driver used for highs and mids, and another for bass. The result is a clean-sounding presentation with a combination of crisp, distinct highs and a solid, punchy bass bringing up the rear.
Bluetooth aptX Adaptive is supported, which should ensure higher quality audio from smartphones and tablets, and removes the potential for any lip-sync issues when it comes to watching video content. And their eight-hour battery life is good for this class (a 15-minute quick charge gets you two hours of playtime, too). These are good performers that serve to expand B&W’s headphone offering for the better. Quality and composed-sounding all-rounders.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PI3
These are some of the most affordable iPhone headphones money can buy. But just because they're cheap doesn't mean you'll be selling your iPhone short – the sound is bursting with energy, remaining well-balanced and highly entertaining. There's both depth and warmth, and the treble never veers to the wrong side of bright. If it's a no-nonsense, full-bodied sound you're after on a budget, look no further. Don't forget, you will need that 3.5mm dongle, though.
Read the full review: SoundMagic E11C
The Y500 has now been trumped by the newer Y400s (above) but they still offer plenty of appeal – especially if you can pick up a pair at a reduced price. They are a little more grown-up (and expensive) than the older Y50s mentioned below – gone is the massive AKG branding on the earcups, and in comes a more subtle colour palette. They lack the energy of their cheaper counterparts, but in exchange, you get a more refined listen – there's lots of detail on offer, and tracks remain composed and clear. Timing is handled confidently, and the overall presentation is a lot more polished. Build-wise, they're satisfyingly sturdy, while remaining lightweight enough to wear for hours.
Read the full review: AKG Y500 Wireless
Sadly, these headphones don't fold down completely (the earcups merely fold flat), so they're not as portable as some. But that's about the only fault we could find with them. They are B&W's first wireless pair with noise-cancellation, though, from their superb build quality and performance, you'd never know it. The noise-cancellation does a fine job of muting the outside world, while there are some neat features that are well thought out – lift one earcup and the music pauses, for example, or put them back on after a short break and the track picks up where you left off. The sound quality is excellent, too, full of purpose, with a level of refinement not often seen in wireless pairs. A premium upgrade for your premium iPhone.
Read the full review: B&W PX
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to wireless sports earbuds and the JBL Reflect Flow is a value-packed option to partner your iPhone.
The Reflect Flows are just the ticket, especially if you desire a bass-heavy sound for the gym but don't fancy a pair of over-ear headphones. You get 10 hours of battery life plus an extra 20 hours from the case, and JBL promises a quick 10-minute charge will provide an hour's playback.
With the right tip and fin combination, they produce a stable fit, while that excellent sense of timing and an extra helping of articulate bass will encourage you to set a new personal best.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow
These in-ears picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2018 for their combination of excellent sound and affordable price. They're comfy, fitting snugly enough to stay put without ever causing discomfort, and the build quality is excellent. Pop them in your ears, and you're greeted with an enthusiastic and dynamic sound with an amazing sense of timing and organisation. It's all balanced well, but the bass stands out as a particular highlight. The best in-ears for your iPhone currently available at this price.
Read the full review: Klipsch R6i II
A five-time What Hi-Fi? Award-winner, the Y50s are some of the best on-ears of the last decade. They're colourful too, coming in rather fetching red, yellow and teal finishes, as well as the usual black. They're exceptionally well made (not something that can be said of all headphones aimed at younger users) and they fold flat for easy storage. And the sound doesn't let them down – they're rhythmic, with excellent timing and punchy expression. The only downside? They're a touch quiet, so you might have to crank the volume to get the most from them. You'll also need a Lightning to 3.5mm dongle on hand.
Read the full review: AKG Y50
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