Nobody likes wires. Especially if you’re out and about. Nobody ever wants to get stuck in a train platform turnstile.
So wireless headphones came along – but they’ve shot up in popularity ever since Apple started the trend for ditching the good old 3.5mm physical cable connection. Now wirelessness is a must.
Finding the best wireless headphones for your needs isn’t exactly straightforward. With hundreds of pairs competing for your cash, knowing what’s bad and what’s good can be something of a minefield. That’s where we come in. In our guide, we’ve done the hard work for you. You’ll find our pick of the best Bluetooth headphones available, the cheaper alternatives worth considering, and the best wireless headphones for running and the gym.
Our current favourites are the Sony WH-1000XM2, but we’ll be constantly updating this page with the latest and best.
Related: Amazon Prime Day
Best overall wireless headphones
These are our favourite wireless headphones. Not only do they sound fantastic, but they also have excellent active noise-cancelling with gesture controls and other clever tech.
How we test wireless headphones
As with all our headphones, the key thing is about listening. So we listen to headphones until our ears go numb, and then we listen some more. But with wireless headphones, the quality of the connection is just as important as the quality of the audio performance. So we factor in connectivity – we care about how quickly a pair of Bluetooth headphones pairs with various devices.
We also fixate on things people usually forget about, such as connection range and stability. We’ll walk around the house or office to see how far we can take things before the music drops off. We’ll walk through the busiest, most signal-polluted parts of town to see how robust the connection is. All that’s left is for you to pick something we’ve recommended and get on with enjoying your music.
What follows is a list of our favourite wireless headphones – scroll right to the bottom if you need more advice on making a choice.
Related: What is aptX?
Sony WH-1000XM2 – the best wireless headphones
- Excellent sound
- Touch controls work well
- Effective and adaptive noise cancellation
- aptX HD support
- B&W PX has slightly better audio quality
- Bose QC35 II has slightly more effective NC
We think the Sony WH-1000XM2 are the greatest all-round wireless headphones. They sound brilliant, are incredibly comfortable and have superb noise-cancelling.
They’re also stacked with features. Quick Listen mutes your audio and plays the outside world directly through your headphones – useful for checking for train or plane announcements.
Ambient Sound does the same but lets you continue listening to your music as well, which is good for cyclists, while capacitive touch controls let you control playback by tapping and swiping on the right earcup.
There’s a whopping 30 hours of battery for wireless playback (and up to 40 hours wired), plus more noise-cancellation customisation via the Sony Headphones app. These are excellent all-rounders that put up a strong fight against impressive competition.
B&O Beoplay H9i
- Gorgeous looks
- Excellent build quality
- Sound great
- Proximity sensors work
- Removable battery
- Touch controls can be fiddly
- Optional app is buggy
If you have a taste for the finer things in life, and sound quality alone won’t do it for you, then you need to check out the B&O Beoplay H9i. They’re some of the most beautiful and luxurious wireless headphones on the market, made from a mixture of anodised aluminium, toughened cowhide and super-soft lambskin leather.
They’re not just pretty, they’re full of features too. They have Bluetooth, active noise-cancellation, a battery life of around 18 hours, touch controls, and a ‘Transparency’ mode for hearing without removing the headphones. There are also proximity sensors for auto-playing and auto-pausing when you remove or put on the headphones. All that, and they sound lovely.
These aren’t cheap, but they’re worth every penny.
Bowers & Wilkins PX
- Fantastic sound
- Handy smart sensors
- Auto power/connect/play
- Attractive design
- Noise-cancellation could be stronger
The Bowers & Wilkins PX are B&W’s first crack at a set of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones, entering a challenging market to take on the likes of the Bose QC35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM2.
To differentiate itself, B&W focuses on its core strengths of luxury design and audiophile sound quality – but with some impressive tricks up its sleeve too.
Those tricks include adaptable noise-cancellation and a clever wear sensor, which will detect when the headphones are on your head and when they’re off, pausing playback accordingly. They’re even smart enough to know when you lift an earcup for a quick chat.
Their noise-cancellation can’t compete with the likes of Bose or Sony, but that’s more than made up for by their audio performance. If you want the best-sounding, most musically proficient pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones available right now, these are it.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Superb noise cancelling
- Excellent mic for calls
- Light and comfortable
- Long battery life
- No aptX
- Rivals sound better
Bose has a long history of making great headphones, especially ones with active noise-cancelling, and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the latest.
Like their predecessors before them, they’re light and comfortable, so perfect for travelling, not to mention they provide the best noise-cancelling on the market.
There haven’t been many changes this time around, but there wasn’t a lot to improve on. There’s still no aptX support (or aptX HD for that matter), but they still sound great, if not quite up to audio standard of the B&W PX or Sony WH-1000XM2.
So what’s new? The level of noise-cancelling is now adjustable and Google Assistant is on board for feeding back notification information from your phone. Other than that, it’s business as usual for these hugely capably cans, including a battery life that remains a respectable 20 hours wireless or 40 hours wired.
- Good value
- Smart design
- Great sound
- No NFC or aptX
If you want an all-purpose pair of wireless headphones for less than £100 then the Urbanista Seattle are hard to beat.
While there are headphones out there with better features, including a longer battery life, most will prefer using these headphones day to day. They sound better and are flexible, staying on your head during exercise without worry.
Like most headphones in this class, there’s a crowd-pleasing bass boost. The rest of the sound is smooth without sounding soft, and displays decent detail. Overall there’s very little to dislike.
Spend a bit more and you might get a bit more bite in the treble, but at this price there’s very little to grumble about.
Audio-Technica SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT
- Great sound
- Strong wireless performance
- Reasonably priced
- No carry case
- Slightly fiddly controls
Joining the Urbanista Seattle in the sub-£100 category are the Audio-Technica SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT, a superb pair of inexpensive wireless headphones that sound great. They don’t have the flashiest features, but their audio performance more than makes up for it.
Their lightweight, on-ear design is comfy, stylish and solidly built, despite being mostly made from plastic. You’ll get some slightly fiddly on-ear controls on the left earcup, where you’ll also find NFC for quick pairing.
With a full charge, they’ll offer up to 30 hours of wireless charging, which is hugely impressive at twice the price. Their performance is equally excellent, jumping all the hurdles of cheap headphones with ease.
This means they offer a clean hiss-free sound, solid connection and a neutral EQ that’ll work well with lots of genres. You’ll get a touch more dynamism from a pricier pair, but there’s plenty to love here – particularly their price tag.
AKG N60 NC Wireless
- Excellent sound
- Collapsible design
- Good noise cancellation
- Could have more padding on the headband
- No NFC
The AKG N60 NC Wireless are a petite pair of on-ear noise-cancelling headphones aimed at travellers and commuters alike.
Their lightweight, collapsible design makes them much more portable than their larger over-ear competition, and their 15-hour wireless battery life is more than acceptable for their size – plus they’ll work passively too.
As far as noise-cancelling, the N60 NC Wireless can’t quite compete with Bose levels of quiet, but they do enough to dull the outside world to little more than a murmur.
They sound great too, offering a punchy, detailed and well organised performance that’s both fun and expressive. A formidable little package that’s certainly worth considering.
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Adaptive noise cancelling totally works
- Comfortable, stable fit
- Great sound
Charging case is a little chunky
If you want a pair of in-ears that cut the cord, the Sony WF-1000X are the first truly wireless earbuds we can heartily recommend.
Putting sound quality first, they’ve taken a few elements from last year’s excellent (over-ear, wireless, noise-cancelling) Sony MDR-1000X and crammed them into a tiny nugget small enough to sit in your ear.
Not only are they head and shoulders above any wireless earbud headphones we’ve heard to date – they’re good enough to replace a lot of wired rivals – but they are also the first of their kind to feature noise-cancellation.
This means that not only do you get excellent sound and total freedom of movement, but also the ability to shut out other people’s racket. If this is the future of wireless earbuds, count us in.
- Good sound quality
- Useful companion app for adjusting EQ
- Great build quality
- Solid battery life
- Initially fiddly to get the right fit
- Proprietary charging clip
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 fitness headphones 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.
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.
House of Marley Positive Vibration 2 Wireless
- Solid sound
- Relatively tasteful but distinct look
- The best sub-£100 pairs sound more dynamic
Good looking headphones with Bluetooth and a price tag of £50. There must be catch, right? Surprisingly, no. House of Marley has really nailed this one. In the past we’ve had some pretty mediocre models with gaudy colours but these have a subtle design and good performance. For this money, you can’t go wrong.
They’re comfortable and not too large considering their over-ear design. The aluminium cups are nice design touches we’d expect from more high-end alternatives. The 12-hour battery is reasonable at this price range, there are basic controls, and the sound is solid too. These headphones won’t outshine more expensive models, but they’re a very good deal.
That’s it for our list of the best wireless headphones – read on for a brief buying guide to help you choose your purchase.
Why buy a pair of wireless headphones?
The main reason is convenience – wireless headphones offer unprecedented freedom from tangled cables, not to mention headphone jacks. Active noise cancelling (ANC) is a common and useful feature for blocking out noisy environments too, and is well worth considering if you travel frequently.
What do I need in a pair of wireless headphones?
Your first question when buying a pair of wireless headphones is what you need them for and what your budget is. Bigger budgets often (but not always) open to door to better performances and better finishes, while what you use them for will have a big say on the design you should opt for.
In-ear Bluetooth headphones are a great pick for sports, and are often waterproof for outside training (not to mention, you know, sweat). There are more and more that are ‘truly wireless’ too, but keep an eye out for those with plenty of eartips to ensure a snug fit.
Over-ear and on-ear styles are the most popular for day-to-day usage. On-ear are usually a little smaller and cheaper, but by design, they’re not always the comfiest – especially for glasses wearers. Over-ear are better in this respect, but can make your ears hot over long listens. Be sure to read our reviews to see how they fare.
Battery life is another consideration, and will range from over 20 hours on larger over-ear headphones to as little as three hours on completely wireless earbuds. Fine for most commutes, but not as convenient for longer haul journeys. If you’re forgetful when it comes to charging, consider an on- or over-ear style that allows wired playback when the battery runs out. Not all do.
As for getting the best sound quality, look out for aptX or aptX HD support (Sony offers its own solution called LDAC). You’ll need a source device that supports it as well as your headphones, which counts iPhones out, but most Android devices are on board.
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.