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Best Wireless Headphones 2017: 8 of the best Bluetooth headphones right now

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This is your complete guide to finding the best wireless headphones for you. In our guide you'll find our no.1 pick of the best Bluetooth headphones for most people, the cheaper alternatives worth considering, and the best wireless headphones for running and the gym.

Why buy a pair of wireless headphones?

The no.1 reason is convenience – wireless headphones offer unprecedented freedom from cable tangles. Active noise cancelling (ANC) is a common and very useful feature, and wireless headphones will work with any phone that has Bluetooth, so it doesn't matter if your phone doesn't have a headphone jack anymore! Thanks, Apple.

...And Why Not

Battery life ranges from around 20 hours on larger over-ear headphones, but can be as little as three hours for earbuds. Using Bluetooth will drain your phone's battery faster than a normal set of headphones, too. Sound quality is generally worse than similarly priced wired headphones, so you pay extra for the convenience. Look out for aptX support for improved wireless audio quality.

If you're not 100% sure wireless headphones are right for you, we recommend you take a look at our best headphones round-up as well.

Meet our experts

Andrew WilliamsAndrew Williams

A journalist and audiophile with over 10 years experience reviewing headphones and plenty else besides, Andrew Williams has loved and endured the best and the worst of the headphone world. Reliably snooty about Apple's 'FailPods', Andrew is so hardcore he has his ears syringed every year to ensure he can hear every detail. Yes, that is unpleasant, but you can't fault his commitment.

Richard EastonRichard Easton

Our Wearables & Fitness Editor, Richard lives in the gym. He can deadlift 200kg and notes that body fat measuring gadgets don't work on him because he "doesn't have enough fat" – #firstworldproblems. He's also a proper audio geek, not to mention the owner of many a fine waistcoat, making him the perfect man to judge the sound, style and workout credentials of any headphones.

Sony MDR-1000X
Key Features
  • aptX support
  • 22-hour battery life
  • Quick Listen mode
  • Built-in mic for calls
  • Over-ear headphones
  • Capacitive touch controls
  • Backup 3.5mm wired connection
  • Adjustable active noise cancelling

The best wireless headphones for most people

Why buy? We think the Sony MDR-1000X are the best wireless headphones for most people. They sound brilliant, are incredibly comfortable and have loads of useful features.

Quick Listen mutes your audio and plays the outside world directly through your headphones – useful for checking for train or air plane announcements. Ambient Sound does the same but lets you continue listening to your music as well, which is good for cyclists.

The black leather design is discreet and classy, though there's a beige option if you prefer. Capacitive touch controls let you change tracks, adjust volume and control playback by tapping and swiping on the right ear cup. Just covering it with your hand enables the Quick Listen feature.

And why not? They're not really durable enough for running or the gym, and the touch controls are fiddly.

Richard Says: "These won Headphones of the Year at the annual TrustedReviews Awards in 2016 and it's easy to see why. They're as close to perfect as I've ever seen in this category."

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £330 | Amazon.com from $399

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Key Features:
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Built-in mic for calls
  • Over-ear headphones
  • Active noise cancelling
  • Playback and volume buttons
  • 2.5mm to 3.5mm removable cable

Also Consider: The next best option

Why buy? The QuietComfort 35 live up to their billing – they're quiet and they're comfortable. Bose has a long history of making great headphones, especially ones with active noise cancelling, and the QC35 are the latest. They're light and very comfy and if you don't fancy the touch controls of the Sony MDR-1000X, then you'll like the traditional physical buttons of the QC35s. The noise cancelling on these headphones is outstanding.

And why not? No aptX support, no option to turn off the ANC, and they don't sound as good as the Sony MDR-1000X.

Andrew Says: "Bose are unmatched for noise cancelling. As an audiophile, however, I've always found Bose headphones sound a little flat and 'vanilla' compared to the best wired headphones. This makes them an easy, relaxing listen for long journeys, but also a little lifeless for more demanding tunes. The QC35 are still great, though."

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £330 | Amazon.com from $349

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Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless
Key Features:
  • aptX support
  • Over-ear headphones
  • Active noise cancelling
  • Up to 20 hours' battery life
  • 3.5mm backup cable included
  • Physical play/pause and volume controls
  • Available in black, blue, green, red and pink

Also Consider: This good cheaper option

Why buy? They look look great and are very comfortable. The range of colours will split opinions, but there's something for everyone. They support the AptX codec and overall sound quality is good, provided they're powered at least. You get the style of the Sony MDR-1000X, but at a fraction of the price.

And why not? Sound quality when not powered is poor, and the active noise cancelling is a step down from our top picks.

Andrew Says: "These Sonys hit a nice sweet spot between the top-of-the-range and cheaper wireless headphones. They're just as stylish and comfortable as the more expensive models in this list, and generally sound good too.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £220 | Amazon.com from $220

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Plantronics BackBeat Pro
Key Features:
  • 24-hour battery life
  • Built-in mic for calls
  • Over-ear headphones
  • Active noise cancelling
  • OpenMic feature for muting audio
  • Built-in controls for play/pause and volume
  • 3.5mm backup cable with mic and controls
  • Automatic Play/Pause when you take off headphones

Also Consider: Good wireless noise cancelling for even less

Why buy? These are the cheapest over-ear wireless headphones we'd comfortably recommend at the moment. They offer similar features to the top-of-the-range Sonys and Bose but for less than half the price. The active noise cancelling is decent and while they can sound a little bass heavy, overall they punch above their weight in the sound quality department.

Battery life is outstanding at up to 24 hours in wireless mode with ANC enabled and a mega 60 hours with ANC turned off. There's a cable for wired use without noise cancelling and it includes a mic and controls, so you don't lose any features when the battery runs out. There's also a handy OpenMic feature similar to Sony's Quick Listen, which mutes your audio and plays ambient noise through the headphones.

And why not? They're small for over-ear headphones, which can create pressure points, and the design's a bit busy.

Richard Says: "Plantronics are a brand with a long history of quality Bluetooth headsets and headphones. They're not the sexiest around, but they're a good bet if you're after value rather than street cred.

"You may also want to consider the updated Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2, which cost around £230 / $250 – still cheaper than our top picks, but less of a bargain than the original BackBeats. Also consider the Onkyo H500BT on-ear headphones if you prefer something lighter and more stylish, and don't care about noise cancelling." 

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £147  | Amazon.com from $119

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Jaybird X3 1
Key Features:
  • Sweat-proof
  • Multiple fit and wearing options
  • In-line remote and microphone
  • Pair to two devices simultaneously
  • Pair two Jaybird X3 to the same device
  • 8-hour battery life

Best wireless headphones for running and the gym

Why Buy? It took Jaybird a fair few goes to get the formula right, but with the Jaybird X3 it finally combines a super-secure fit, great sound and solid battery life into a complete package. With a sweat-proof design that won't budge no matter how vigorous your exercise or workout, these are perfect for running, the gym or any adrenaline-fuelled activities.

With a shrunken-down design compared to the X2, these are also helmet-compatible and you can wear them in a number of different ways based on your preference. You can even pair two pairs of Jaybird X3 to the same device if you want to listen to the same music as a workout buddy.

Sound quality is right up there with the best running and sports headphones we've tested and you can even configure the sound through a companion app. The changes you make are saved directly to the headphones, so you get the sound signature you like no matter what device you pair them to.

And why not? The only real annoyance is the proprietary charging clip, so you'll have to carry it with you if you need to charge on the move. Be careful not to lose it.

Richard Says: "The Jaybird X3 have launched at a much lower price than some of Jaybird's other headphones. The X3 have addressed a lot of the flaws we've identified in previous models, making these the perfect pair of wireless headphones to accompany your next workout."


Jabra Sport Elite
Key Features:
  • 'Truly wireless' in-ear earbuds
  • In-ear audio coaching
  • VO2 max calculation
  • IP67 water resistance
  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Play/pause, volume and call controls
  • Mics with noise cancelling during calls
  • HearThrough mode for allowing ambient noise
  • 3-hour battery life (plus 6 hours from charging case)

Most advanced wireless headphones for running and the gym

Why Buy? These wireless earbuds aren't called Elite Sport for nothing – they have everything. The built-in heart rate monitor is very reliable, and they measure VO2 max – your maximum aerobic capacity and a useful way to measure your progress. They have built-in mics or taking calls, and those mics have noise cancelling to filter out background noise during phone conversations. The HearThrough mode lets you hear what's going on around you – great for when you're running on the streets, or for that impromptu mid-workout conversation.

An in-ear audio coach helps motivate you and all the stats are stored in Jabra's comprehensive Sport Life app, which plays nice with third-party apps like Strava as well. Despite being small and very discreet earbuds, there's space for control and playback controls. Audio and mic quality are good and don't they don't overdo the bass like many sports headphones. The case charges the earbuds as well and has a enough stored energy for two full charges.

And why not? Three hours of battery life is enough for a couple of gym sessions, but no good for marathon runs.

Richard Says: "These truly are the ultimate in wireless fitness headphones at the moment. It's a shame the battery life isn't better, but if you can stomach the price – and don't go on really long runs – then you won't be disappointed."

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £229.99 | Amazon.co.uk from $249.99

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Bose SoundSport Pulse
Key Features:
  • 5-hour battery life
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Third-party app support
  • Sweat and weather resistant

Also Consider: Better battery life for less

Why buy? Available for around £170 at some retailers, the SoundSport Pulse's longer battery life and secure fit make them a good choice for longer distance runners. There's a heart rate monitor (HRM) as well, though Bose sticks to third-party apps rather than creating its own like Jabra. Just 15 minutes charging is enough for an hour's use, which is handy if you forget to charge them. Heart rate measurements were nice and consistent in our testing, especially compared to unreliable wrist-based HRMs.

And why not? With prices tipping towards £200 depending on when and where you look, these aren't cheap.

Richard Says: "These are another solid option for the serious gym goer or runner. Good wireless in-ear headphones are few and far between, which is why it's tough to find good cheaper ones. If you don't need an HRM, the standard Bose SoundSport are a good bet at an easier to stomach £150 on Amazon.co.uk and $150 on Amazon.com. Some owners note they're quite heavy and stick out a bit, though they fit well once people find the right size tip for them." 

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £200 | Amazon.com from $200


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Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless
Key Features:
  • 4.5-hour battery life
  • Wireless in-ear earbuds
  • In-ear audio coaching
  • IP55 water resistance
  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Play/pause, volume and call controls
  • Mics with noise cancelling during calls

Also Consider: Budget-friendly pick for runners

Why Buy? The Jabra Sport Pulse were one of the first wireless headphones to pack in an in-ear heart rate monitor, making these not only great wireless headphones but a fantastic fitness wearable, too. We loved both the sound quality and fitness features when we first reviewed them, but the great news is that they've dropped massively in price since then. That means they're a great alternative to the newer Jabra Elite Sport, so if you're not looking to spend as much money they're worth considering for many of the same features.

They work with Jabra's excellent Sport Life app, which provides in-ear coaching and plenty of ways to measure your progress. The heart rate monitor is accurate, which isn't something you can always say about wrist-worn alternatives. As Jabra has a heritage in Bluetooth hands-free earpieces, the microphone quality in these are fantastic and you get media controls from an inline remote control.

And why not? Four and a half hours of battery life isn't amazing, but it should get you through a marathon. There have also been questions about durability, but our test pair is still going strong two years on with regular use.

Richard Says: "While they've since been replaced by the more convenient form factor of the Elite Sport, these were my go-to pair for a long time. Great sound quality, a comfortable fit and great heart rate tracking make these a fantastic all-rounder for the fitness inclined. They're much cheaper now, too."

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £78 | Amazon.com from $106






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Summary

Over-Ear: These are headphones that cover your ears entirely.

On-Ear: Headphones that rest on the outside of your ears. They're normally smaller and lighter.

Earbuds / In-Ear: Either old school buds that rest in your ears, or ones you insert into your ear canal for improved passive noise cancelling and sound quality.

Passive Noise Cancelling: Where noise is blocked simply by isolating your ears from the outside world.

ANC: Short for Active Noise Cancelling, where microphones detect and cancel out ambient noise.

HRM: Short for Heart Rate Monitor, which is built into some headphones designed for runners and the gym.

aptX: A wireless audio codec that offers superior wireless audio quality on supported devices. Many phones support it, but iPhones don't.

While we endeavour to review all the best wireless headphones possible, we can't cover them all. If you own a pair you think are worthy of consideration, please reply to the "Featured Comment" with your nomination and why you think we should consider them. We can't guarantee we'll look at all of them, but we'll do our best.

There are, however, some headphones – good and bad – we omitted for specific reasons because while we could make this list 20 products long, that would help no one. Here are a few of them and why they're not here:

Apple AirPods: Innovative they may be, but the AirPods need a little work before they get on our list. Fitting issues are numerous – some, but not all, people find they just fall out and there's no silicon tip options to help. Sound quality is middling, though we'd probably excuse that if they fitted more reliably. A black option would be nice, too.

Beats Solo3 Wireless: Like the AirPods, the Solo3 Wireless feature the W1 wireless chip, which takes all the pain out of pairing with the iPhone 7. At 50 hours, battery life is outstanding, but as ever sound quality is bass heavy and lacking subtlety. Build quality is poor for such expensive headphones, too. Better than the AirPods if you insist on perfect Apple integration, but not a patch on the Sonys or Bose at the same price.

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless: Tough one this. Great sounding headphones, but they're a few years old now and cost about the same as our top picks. Good noise cancelling, but not as good as the Bose, and they're not as refined or clever as the Sonys. Still, if you find them at a good price then don't hesitate.

Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless: They look the business and sound great, but can't match our top picks at the same price. It's a similar story for the P5 Wireless.

Sennheiser PXC 550: Another not quite good enough story. These are Sennheiser's best ANC wireless headphones yet, but it's a tough game out there and someone has to lose, even if it is on penalties in extra time. PS: That's an overtime field goal for our American cousins. Love you guys.

Parrot Zik 3.0: Look lovely, but just six hours battery life means they don't belong in this company.

Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2: As noted earlier, these very good wireless headphones aren't quite cheap enough to be great value or good enough for price to be no object. Try hard to look more stylish than the originals and don't really succeed.

Onkyo H500BT: Worth an honourable mention if you'd like on-ear headphones that won't break the bank, though we had problems with spotty Bluetooth.
 

andyvan

February 17, 2017, 9:19 am

Think a pair of headphones should be considering for our list, or have a question for our experts? Reply to this comment.

Carina Pops

February 23, 2017, 2:55 pm

Optoma NuForce BE Sport3!

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