Best wireless Bluetooth headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best in-ear and on-ear wireless headphones you can buy in 2020.
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Wireless headphones have come a long way in the last decade. The wireless revolution means ever-more advanced Bluetooth codecs, longer-lasting batteries and better-sounding performance. While a few years ago we would always recommend a wired headphone for those who prioritise sound quality, now we’re happy to recommend several wireless pairs for those who value both performance and convenience. Such as these below.
With quality has come quantity, though, so you should decide what type you want. There are over-ear wireless headphones, often with noise-cancelling thrown in for good measure, with brand such as Bose, Sennheiser, B&W, Sony and AKG leading the way. And there are also now plenty of in-ear wireless earphones – some with neckband cables joining the buds, but others, known as ‘true wireless’, where the earpieces are completely wire-free. Yes, like AirPods.
Whatever wireless style you require, we’ve got the best wireless headphones you can buy, with prices starting at under £100 / $100 – and many pairs discounted in the January sales.
2019 (and 2018) What Hi-Fi? Award winners, the WH-1000XM3s are Sony’s latest wireless noise-cancelling headphones and one of the most comfortable pairs of on-ears we’ve tested with thick, cushioned earpads that completely envelop your ears. Features include Sony’s Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser which optimises the noise-cancelling for when you’re flying, touchpad controls and an accompanying Headphones Control app. Thanks to a quick charging battery (done via USB-C), the XM3s go from empty to full in three hours while a ten minute charge gives you a whopping five hours of use.
They produce an open, spacious sound that gives every instrument, effect and vocal room to breathe. Vocals sound focused and direct, but the instruments around them are delivered in a way that makes it feel as if you’re in the room with the band. Combine that spaciousness with greater detail, dynamic subtlety and loads of lovely deep bass and you’ve got a breathtaking noise-cancelling package. If you can stretch to these excellent Bluetooth cans you won’t be disappointed.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3
Got a slightly bigger budget for a pair of wireless noise-cancellers? This brand-new pair is an extraordinary effort by Sennheiser’s engineering team.
Sennheiser doesn’t need any ‘third time lucky’ well wishes for its third-generation Momentum Wirelesses – both the originals and second versions were instant knockouts when they arrived. These have been much improved over their predecessors in the sound department, promising an energetic, timely and hugely insightful listen you’ve no choice but to be entertained by.
That sonic success is backed by enhanced usability features too, although be aware that battery life is only 17 hours next to the above Sony’s 30-hour claim.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
When it comes to true wireless headphones, there’s a new king. Not only do these 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award winners come with more sizes of tip than most rivals, they pack brilliant noise-cancelling tech into their tiny frames too. The touch controls are intuitive (even if volume controls are conspicuous by their absence) and they sound wonderfully musical: instruments sound natural, believable and wholly expressive. There’s plenty of subtlety on show too, and a great level of detail. These take the crown from our previous favourite true wireless buds, the Sony WF-1000X. The king is dead, long live the king.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3
If an unadulterated sound is your sole concern, these buds are hard to beat in their price category. Another 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award winner, these budget-conscious in-ears offer a cohesive, expansive and rhythmically driven sound, but also an intuitive, playful soundstage that few wireless in-ears can achieve at the price.
A good fit is essential, and, due to the length of the earpiece itself, that might not be as easy to come by for everybody, but their sonic talent is such that it’s worth the effort and potential purchase of extra buds.
With nine hours battery life from the buds themselves, plus four additional charges from the case, that means an impressive 45 hours of continuous use from this little set-up. There’s no noise cancelling, but it is clear Cambridge Audio’s focus has been on great sound over bonus features.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
One of the most compact and convenient pairs of noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever tested, the AKG N60 NCs deliver a superb performance for the money. They’re a good-looking pair of on-ears with an excellent fit. Battery life is 15 hours with the noise-cancelling and Bluetooth engaged and this ramps up to 30 hours when the noise-cancelling is turned off.
Bass delivery is powerful yet transparent with crisp, detailed vocals, soaring highs and convincing dynamics. You’d be perfectly content to wear these all day and for the money, they’re extremely tough to beat.
Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless
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 PX7s tick all three boxes.
The Sonys that top this list might have pipped them to a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards Best Buy, but these are fine alternatives – especially for those who value sonic sprightliness and street-cred style.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to true wireless sports earphones – and with the Under Armour Flash as its predecessor, the JBL Reflect Flow is a hotly anticipated entrant to the flourishing, albeit rather niche, true-wireless-for-sports market.
In their niche category, though, the JBL Reflect Flow headphones are very good indeed, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the gym without resorting to cans – and the 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) will outlast a seriously long run.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow
The AKG Y50BTs have been around for a few years now, but their ability for the money is unquestionable. The sound is extraordinary by wireless standards. It’s remarkably clear, offering the sort of insight that makes it easy to tell the calibre of the talent on hand. Bags of detail go hand-in-hand with that clarity. You get all manner of texture to instruments and vocals, which are organised well enough for you to appreciate the sense of space and separation.
The right ear cup has buttons for volume, play/pause, and power/pairing. Pairing is easy – Bluetooth connection takes no time at all, and we don’t experience any dropouts. And they’re practical too. They’re comfortable to wear, even with glasses, and they don’t get warm too quickly. And when you’re done listening, the earcups swivel flat and fold inwards, small enough to fit in a coat pocket. If you’re looking for an affordable pair of Bluetooth on-ear headphones, look no further.
Read the full review: AKG Y50BT
The Bose SoundSport Wirelesses are a smart design and a good shout for sporty types. The in-line remote barely weighs anything, leaving nothing to drag the cable down, and they are comfortable to wear. The soft silicone rubber hooks trace the basic lines of the ear, making the fit secure enough for running or going to the gym. Battery life is a modest six hours, but that should be more than enough for the average workout, or commute.
Performance is very solid, though, able to take on trains and offices full of mobile phones without wireless integrity falling apart. The Bose sound is perfect for this kind of earphone too – the kind of powerful, punchy bass that might get you running that bit faster. These earphones are dynamic and make music sound lively. They’re fun all-rounders and well worth investigating, especially at this price.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum Free in-ears take all that’s great about the Sennheiser M2 In-Ears and place it in a wireless package. They’re an unfussy design with six hours of battery life and come with an in-line remote and mic. When they’re not pumping music into your ears, you can connect the earpieces to each other via integrated magnets.
They have the same powerful and dynamic sound you hear in the wired version of these Sennheiser headphones. You also get an impressive sense of clarity and detail for the money with the Momentum Frees carving out bass, mids and highs with expert precision.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Free
The AirPods Pros can’t quite match the best-in-class noise-cancelling true wireless headphones for sound quality, but the user experience and unprecedented levels of comfort still make them a very strong new option in the category.
And by combining that excellent noise-cancelling with a transparency mode that feels almost as natural as wearing non-isolating earphones, Apple has created a pair of headphones that’s as well suited to a long-haul flight as it is to a run around the block. For many, they could be the only pair of headphones they ever need.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
Now that the third-generation Sennheiser Momentum Wirelesses (in number two spot) have arrived, their predecessors (which launched back in 2015 and won a What Hi-Fi? Award in the same year) can be picked up for a heavy discount.
They’ve since lost their crown to Sony newcomers (in number one spot), but actually these Sennheisers are now more appealing than ever thanks to their reduced price. Now heavily discounted (they were £380 when they first arrived on the scene), these are absolute bargains.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
The BNX-60s show that noise-cancelling and Bluetooth can both carried off in a package under £100. They offer a comfortable, snug fit for an average pair of ears. One ear has a volume control, the on/off switch for the active noise-cancellation and a blue light that indicates when the ‘ANC’ feature is in use.
The other has the USB input for charging, pause/play/skip track controls, a Bluetooth connection light and a standard wired headphone output. A full charge is good for 15 hours of wireless music, or a little less with the active noise-cancelling.
At this price, you’d be worried about bright treble or booming bass, but instead, the Lindy BNX-60 headphones produce a balanced sound that’s easy to listen to. They also deliver a groove and also do a decent job with vocals. For this kind of money it’s extremely hard to grumble.
Read the full review: Lindy BNX-60
Bose says these Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 on-ears are ‘the biggest leap forward in headphones since the iconic QuietComfort’ – a bold claim considering the success of that range.
But they’re certainly innovative, with a noise-cancelling system as sophisticated as we’ve seen. The slender build and minimalist styling get a thumbs up for aesthetics, and comfort, too – their secure grip just the right balance between loose and vice-like.
They need a bit more transparency to trouble the class leaders in this category, but it’s hard not to get along with their crystal-clear, upfront and punchy sound.
Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
In some ways, the Grado GW100 headphones are as paradoxical as tech can get. They’re wireless, meaning their purpose is granting untethered portability so you can listen to music out and about free from wires. But their open-back design leaks sound both in and out, making them not only less than ideal in out-and-about environments, but also pretty unsociable in crowds.
Because while the open-back, wireless GW100s won’t be for everyone or every situation, they will be perfect for those who want a pair for home environments, for pottering around the garden or listening to a Bluetooth turntable, when isolation from their surroundings isn’t important. And within that niche capacity, they sound simply excellent – unlike any other wireless headphones we’ve heard – for their modest £169 price tag.
Read the full review: Grado GW100
It’s another big hit from Sony. There are wireless in-ear headphones and then there are truly wireless in-ear headphones. If you want to cut the cord completely, then the Sony WF-1000X wireless headphones are the second best you can buy. They’re a lightweight design and compact with it.
It’s quite the achievement, given the Sonys squeeze in batteries, playback controls, a Bluetooth receiver and active noise-cancelling. Battery life is three hours, although the supplied carry case doubles as a charger, giving you an extra six hours.
Their tonal balance is beautifully judged and timing is superb, with a good sense of rhythm and dynamics. Given the WF-1000Xs started out with a £200 price tag, the fact they’re now available for under £150 makes them a bit of a bargain.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000X