The best wireless headphones are a must-have tool for multitasking and staying connected, and thanks to constant improvements in Bluetooth connectivity and battery life, they’re only getting better with time. Whether you’re in the market for a wireless gaming headset for staying competitive, water-resistant earbuds for working out unencumbered, or a classic noise-cancelling headset for working in the field, wireless headphones give you the freedom to move freely and stay productive without struggling with tangled cables and loose connectors. We’ll break down some of the best wireless headphones currently available on the market and review a few key considerations to keep in mind when adding this essential piece of tech to your busy lifestyle.
How We Picked the Best Wireless Headphones
With so many feature-rich products to consider, compiling a list of the best wireless headphones was no simple task. Here are a few of the key features we took into account to arrive at our selections.
Battery Life: Battery life is perhaps the most significant limiting factor to a wireless product’s usefulness. All of the best wireless headphones on this list offer a single-charge battery life between 20 and 50 hours with the exception of the Apple AirPods Pro, which offer only 4.5 hours of listening per charge due to their significantly small form factor. They balance that short charge length with wireless charging via their charging case for a total playtime of 24 hours.
Brand: Brand history and track record are factors that we took into consideration when compiling this list. Wherever possible, we favored products from companies with a history of manufacturing many different types of audio gear. Banking on the reputation of well-known audio manufacturers can better ensure product reliability and quality of customer service, which can make all the difference when making a larger purchase.
Design: Wireless headphones come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, and we leaned heavily into the style, comfort, and convenience of each design when making this list. Each of the selections is suited for busy lifestyles and long-term use, with lighter weights and smaller forms favored wherever possible.
Compatibility: Though Bluetooth is the standard for wireless headphone connectivity, not every pair of wireless headphones is compatible with every Bluetooth device. We took care to select wireless headphones that are compatible with the widest variety of wireless devices, and whenever possible, we picked wireless headphones that offer a 3.5-millimeter audio jack for use with legacy audio devices like older computers and some gaming consoles.
We further explain how we test audio gear here.
The Best Wireless Headphones: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Wireless Headphones Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4
Why It Made The Cut: These wireless headphones from Sony feature some of the best noise-cancelling performance available on the market and offer substantial single-charge battery life.
— Battery Life: 30 hours
— Water-Resistant: No
— 3.5 mm Jack: Yes
— Automatically pauses playback when removed
— 10-minute burst charge for 5 hours of operation
— Multi-device pairing for productivity
— Not water-resistant
— Easy to accidentally trigger touch controls
— Most settings only accessible via the smartphone app
The stylish and well-rounded Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headphones are a great example of the best wireless headphones the market currently has to offer. With the unique combination of a utilitarian feature set and a premium fit and finish, these headphones are suitable for a wide range of lifestyles from the most casual to the most demanding. They feature an above-average maximum operation time of 30 hours on a single charge, which makes them a reliable choice for everyday use while commuting or working. A built-in quick charging function allows users to enjoy an extra five hours of operation with a brief 10-minute charge, so this is a great option if you’ll be running down your battery on a regular basis. They’re also able to pair with multiple Bluetooth devices simultaneously, which is perfect for working uninterrupted when pivoting from a computer to a smartphone.
While the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones have plenty of thoughtful features that make them good for everyday use, they do have a few design idiosyncrasies to work around. For example, they aren’t officially water-resistant, so they’re not the best choice for extended use outdoors. They also feature a capacitive touch control system that’s located on one of the ear cup exteriors, which makes unintentional taps inevitable when adjusting the headset. Finally, all of the headphones’ advanced features are only accessible through a smartphone app, which means that you won’t be able to make fine adjustments to your equalization (EQ) or even pair to new devices without getting out your phone.
This item is available refurbished on Amazon for $257.97 ($90 less expensive)
Best In-Ear Wireless Headphones: Apple AirPods Pro
Why It Made The Cut: The highly-engineered Apple AirPods Pro get high marks for flexibility, style, and sound quality.
— Battery Life: 24 hours
— Water-Resistant: Yes
— 3.5 mm Jack: No
— Compatible with Apple MagSafe wireless charger
— Active noise-cancelling and hear-through modes
— Includes three sets of silicone tips for customizable fit
— Single-charge battery life limited to 4.5 listening hours
— No charging cable included
— Small speakers allow for limited bass response
Featuring one of the richest feature sets in their class and sporting an instantly recognizable design that’s built for convenience and portability, the new Apple AirPods Pro are some of the best in-ear wireless headphones that money can buy. These sweat and water-resistant earbuds feature active noise-cancelling technology that performs on a level comparable to that of bulkier over-ear designs, aided in part by customizable silicone ear tips that ensure good isolation and a snug fit. Users can also toggle between noise-cancelling and hear-through modes to engage in conversation and maintain situational awareness without the need to remove an earbud, making them a flexible option for listening in public spaces. The AirPods Pro do their best to push bass frequencies despite their small size, and thanks to built-in adaptive EQ tech that automatically optimizes the headphone’s tonal balance based upon your listening material, the AirPods Pro offer quite a consistent and well-rounded sound overall.
As far as battery life goes, the AirPods Pro offer a rather brief 4.5 hours of playtime on a single charge, but this range can be extended to 24 hours with use of the charging case. This is to be expected for such a compact product, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’ll be using them often. The charging case itself is a new-and-improved MagSafe compatible design that allows for secure wireless charging using Apple’s proprietary MagSafe magnetic charger, but it’s also chargeable via Lightning cable. Unfortunately, neither charger is included with the AirPods Pro, so you’ll have to pick one up if you don’t already have one on hand.
Best Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700
Why It Made The Cut: Bose’s industry-leading sound quality meets powerful noise-canceling tech in these sleek headphones.
— Battery Life: 20 hours
— Water-Resistant: Yes
— 3.5 mm Jack: Yes
— Tailored four-microphone design for improved voice recognition
— 11 adjustable levels of noise-cancelling
— Durable premium build with stainless steel headband
— Needs to be powered off to charge
— Voice recognition may require calibration out of the box
— Touch controls are sensitive and can be accidentally initiated
The Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 from Bose are a perfect match for studying, taking calls, attending virtual meetings, or listening to music in noisy environments. As the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones, these are set apart by their robust four-microphone pickup design that works to isolate users’ voices from their environment for improved dialog clarity. Listeners can even toggle between 11 different levels of noise-cancellation strength for further customization. The headset uses a combination of touch controls and physical buttons that allow users to access Alexa, control playback, and adjust noise-cancelling settings without the need to go through the optional smartphone app. As is customary with the technologies, the touch controls tend to erroneously trigger during user adjustment of the headphones, while the physical buttons don’t suffer so much from this problem.
For the best user experience, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 require a bit of adjustment out of the box. The headphones tend to cut out and mistake voice input for background noise, but this voice sensitivity can easily be adjusted via the app to calibrate an optimal level of voice isolation. Charging also needs to take place with the headphones powered off, which limits their flexibility somewhat. Perhaps most significantly, the headphones don’t offer a hear-through mode, which limits their usefulness in social settings like shared workspaces. Still, the noise-cancelling performance of this model is second-to-none if you’re looking for some legitimate aural isolation.
Best Wireless Gaming Headphones: Razer BlackShark V2 Pro
Why It Made The Cut: The BlackShark V2 Pro features a gooseneck microphone and a boosted low-frequency response paired with a solid high-frequency lift for immersive game audio and pronounced vocal clarity.
— Battery Life: 24 hours
— Water-Resistant: No
— 3.5 mm Jack: Yes
— THX 7.1 surround-sound compatible for dimensional audio
— Comfortable foam earpads with lightweight structure for extended wearing
— Removable super cardioid mic for pronounced voice isolation
— Not wirelessly compatible with Xbox
— Passive noise cancellation is less effective in loud environments
— Mini-USB charging port can feel loose
Thanks to the dexterity enhancement, voice connectivity, and freedom of movement they offer, wireless headphones are a no-brainer upgrade for any competitive gaming setup. Razer’s BlackShark V2 Pro gaming headset is one of the best wireless gaming headphones on the market, featuring a lightweight construction with soft earpads that won’t get uncomfortable or weigh you down over long gaming sessions. A detachable gooseneck microphone with a tightly-focused super cardioid pickup pattern allows users to send crystal-clear voice communications via Bluetooth, and integrated support for 7.1 surround sound offers spatial audio playback that’s a must-have for an immersive gameplay experience. The headset uses an included Micro-USB cable that can feel rather loose in its socket, but thanks to its single-charge battery life of over 20 hours, this isn’t a problem you should encounter too often.
The BlackShark V2 Pro is a Bluetooth-compatible wireless headset that works with PlayStation as well as gaming PCs, but it’s unfortunately incompatible with Xbox via its wireless interface. An included 3.5-millimeter audio cable circumvents this problem, but if you’re an Xbox user looking for a fully wireless experience, you’ll want to grab a proper Xbox Wireless Headset instead. The headset also lacks active noise cancelling, but it does offer some level of passive noise cancellation thanks to its substantial ear cups, which help to block minor ambient noises like air conditioners and street noise.
This item is available refurbished on Amazon for $114.98 ($25 less expensive)
Best Budget Wireless Headphones: Jabra Elite 45h
Why It Made The Cut: The Jabra Elite 45h wireless headphones pack an impressive maximum single-charge life of 50 hours that’s hands-down one of the best budget wireless headphones on the market.
— Battery Life: 50 hours
— Water-Resistant: Yes
— 3.5 mm Jack: No
— Extremely long battery life
— Foldable and compact
— Able to function while charging via USB-C
— Lacks a wired connection
— On-ear design may slide and require intermittent adjustment
— Unreliable support for use with computers
While they may lack the bells and whistles of other headphones at least twice their price, these stripped-down wireless headphones from Jabra are flexible enough to be worth a look regardless of your price preference. Besides their affordable price point, the Elite 45h’s primary advantage over competitors is their whopping maximum single-charge battery life of 50 hours, which allows for multiple days of use while limiting the odds of being caught with a dead battery. They’re also lightweight and compact, which makes them a good companion for traveling and commuting.
In terms of connectivity, the Elite 45h is a strictly wireless Bluetooth design and isn’t compatible with Lightning or 3.5-millimeter audio connections. The headphones are able to achieve some degree of wireless connectivity with computers, but Jabra’s support for this is spotty at best, meaning that you’ll be officially limited to using these with tablets and smartphones. The Elite 45h is also an on-ear design that’s liable to shift during use over extended periods, so there’s a minor trade-off between value and comfort in that regard. For charging, a single included USB-C cable does the trick, and the headphones offer the added bonus of being fully functional even while charging.
Things to Consider Before Buying Wireless Headphones
Duration of Use
The key limiting factor to wireless headphones’ usefulness is their built-in battery life. The best wireless headphones typically offer a battery life within the range of 20 to 30 hours on a single charge, with some extending up to 50 hours before needing to juice up. Whether or not you’ll be using them on a regular basis, remembering to charge your wireless headphones when they’re not in use can make or break your ability to use them when you need them. When in doubt, opt for a pair with a longer battery life to make your life easier.
If you’ll be using your wireless headphones while working out, go for a design that’s built to water-resistant specifications. Not only will this prevent sweat from slowly killing your wireless headphones, but it’ll also protect them during the odd jog in the rain. You might also want to consider an in-ear design, which is more liable to stay put during bouts of physical activity than a traditional over-the-head model.
Multi-device pairing is a relatively new feature that’s making its way into wireless headphones and other audio devices, and it’s convenient for pivoting between devices like laptops and smartphones when engaging in multiple work activities. If you’ll be keeping on your wireless headphones while moving to and from your workspace, a design that’s capable of simultaneous multi-device pairing is worth a look.
Compatibility with Wired Audio Devices
Though they seem all but extinct, audio devices that require a traditional 3.5-millimeter audio connection for use with headphones still do exist. Some wireless headphones include this backwards-compatible connector technology and feature a cable that allows users to hear audio from devices like music players and gaming consoles with a 3.5-mm jack. If you continue to use technology that includes audio jacks, then this is definitely a factor to consider before making a purchase.
Q: How much do wireless headphones cost?
On average, wireless headphones cost anywhere between $100 to $500. You generally shouldn’t have to pay any higher to enjoy high-quality wireless sound. Of course, certain specialty designs like the $3000 electrostatic Shure KSE1500 in-ear headphones do exist, but these are exceptions to the rule.
Q: Are wireless headphones good for gaming?
Wireless headphones are a great choice for gaming thanks to the added freedom of movement they provide. The best gaming headsets like the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro generally include a gooseneck microphone at close mouth proximity that delivers clear voice communication, while some models also include spatial audio compatibility for added immersion.
Q: How do I recycle old headphones or earbuds?
Recycling old headphones and earbuds involves following the same process that you’d take when recycling any old electronic components, which varies depending on the programs available in your local community. Some headphone manufacturers also offer their own sustainability programs that encourage users to send in used stock for refurbishment and recycling.
Q: Wireless vs true wireless: what’s the difference?
The difference between wireless and “true wireless” headphones is a mere technicality that has little to do with their Bluetooth device connection and instead involves the presence of physical wiring connecting the two earphones. “True wireless” headphones like the Apple AirPods Pro lack a physical connection between the earpieces. A pair of wireless headphones that includes a wired connection between the left and right ear—as is the case with many traditional over-ear designs like the Sony WH-1000XM4 — is simply a “wireless” system.
Q: Which brand is best for headphones?
The best brand for headphones depends largely on the listening material and context of use. Longstanding headphone brands like Sony, Bose, and Jabra are some of the best options on the market for reliability thanks to their time-tested sound and design features, while lifestyle-focused brands like Apple and their subsidiary Beats by Dre will offer a more future-facing and customizable user experience.
Q: Which wireless headphones are the most durable?
Wireless headphones aren’t typically known for being a rugged piece of electronic equipment, but the JBL UA Streak True Wireless Headphones might be some of the most durable wireless headphones available. They’re small enough to fit securely in your ear during your most strenuous workouts, and they offer an extremely high IPX7 waterproof rating, which means that they can survive submersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Q: Can I recycle my old Bluetooth headphones??
You can recycle your old Bluetooth headphones, but determining where will depend on the availability of governmental or community programs near you or whether the company you purchased it from has an in-house recycling program. Here’s more about how to recycle electronics.
The best wireless headphones offer easy connection to your audio device of choice and offer a hassle-free way to communicate on the go. For a well-balanced pair of wireless headphones that will excel in nearly every situation thanks to features like extended battery life and multi-device pairing, check out the Sony WH-1000XM4. If you require something water-resistant and workout-friendly, the Apple AirPods Pro get the job done and take up very little space. Users who require robust noise-cancelling will appreciate the customizable sound isolation of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, while gamers will be better suited by the comfortable passive noise-cancelling design of the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro. Finally, if you’re shopping for wireless headphones on a budget and don’t require noise cancellation features, the reliable Jabra Elite 45h performs surprisingly well thanks to their jaw-dropping 50-hour battery life.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.