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Best Wireless Headphones 2021: 11 great Bluetooth headphones

Introduction

Wireless headphones are an essential purchase for those who enjoy tech and audio. They provide a listening experience that doesn’t come with the tangle of wires that their wired counterparts offer, and they’ve reached a point where they sound just as good, too.

We’ve reviewed the following headphones against similarly priced efforts over extended periods of time to determine whether they’re worth the outlay.

What you see here are the best wireless headphones available, and we’ve taken into account how good they are in various factors: convenience, portability, comfort, wireless connectivity, sound and – where it’s supported – their noise cancelling performance.

If you’re somewhere who wears wireless headphones a lot, you’ll want a headphone that passes these factors with flying marks, and the headphones below do exactly that.

If you’re after a specific type of headphone, you can always have a look at our round-up of the best wireless earbuds. If you’re a fitness enthusiast our best running headphones are best suited to you. Or, if you want to know what the best headphones full stop, then head over here.

FAQs

How we test headphones

Not just anybody can review a pair of headphones. You don’t need superhuman hearing to tell what’s good, but you do need to know what to listen out for.

Our headphone tests are done by some of the best and most prolific reviewers in the industry, with years of experience listening to everything from the plasticky freebie earbuds that come with your smartphone, to five-figure beasts of glass and marble. We love music and we want your tunes to sound good, too.

So we listen every pair of headphones we can get on or in our ears. We use a variety of sources, from basic MP3s playing on a laptop to high-quality tracks on dedicated hi-res audio players.

Our test tracks are wide-ranging to give headphones a thorough challenge. They’re also familiar, so we know every track backwards, and we know which bits might trouble the lesser performers.

We listen again and again, and we do that for weeks in case the sound changes – because it usually does. Then we’ll listen to similarly priced rivals and come up with a verdict that reflects the performance and features for the money.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Smarter than your average headphone
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Pros

  • Superb audio
  • Impressive noise cancellation
  • Comfortable fit
  • Smart features are useful

Cons

  • Drops aptX/aptX-HD from the specification
  • No IP resistance

Sony’s XM4 over-ears were everything we were hoping they’d be. While they look virtually the same as the XM3, Sony has tightened things up and improved on the already great sound.

From a design perspective the small changes reap big benefits. While they’re only a gram lighter, they feel comfier with the earpads now softer and the headband structure redesigned to distribute weight better. The pressure they exert is minimal, which makes them perfect for both casual wear or long-distance travel.

The noise-cancelling is the strongest we’ve heard from a Sony headphone, keeping outside sounds at bay in an even more effective manner than before. Combined with it’s smart features, which allow you to speak to other people without taking the headphones off, as well as Adaptive Sound Control that learns the places you frequent most often and tailors the ANC performance for that location and these Sony headphones are one of the smartest cans on the market. The sound has been improved immeasurably: more refined, less noisy and as confident as ever.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM3

Great comfort and sound on-the-go
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Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Fast charge feature is great
  • Comfortable fit
  • Responsive controls

Cons

  • Could do with a touch more detail in the treble

The Sony WH-1000XM3 were one of the the best noise cancellers, but they’ve since lost that crown to their successors. Still, at the lower  price point they’re terrific value if the XM4s are out of your price range.

Noise cancelling remains terrific, shutting out most things you can think of. If you do want to hear the outside world, there’s a choice of the Quick Listen function which mutes your audio or the Ambient Sound feature which lets you hear more of what’s around you, but keeps your music going.

Sound quality is excellent with a sound that’s clear, powerful and boasting some explosive bass. Add a whopping 30 hours of battery life, a slimmer profile for a more comfortable fit and the WH-1000XM3 are excellent all-rounders. If you can’t go for the WH-1000XM4, then the WH-1000XM3 are a great alternative.

Reviewer: Ced Yuen
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM3

Bowers & Wilkins PI3

Faultless wireless performance
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Pros

  • Agile, punchy bass
  • Excellent mid-range detail and realism
  • Intricate imaging

Cons

  • Relatively short battery life

With the PI3, Bowers & Wilkins PI3 have made the perfect neckband earphones if sound quality is a priority above all else. Though they lack ANC and battery life at eight hours isn’t the longest, they’re a great pair of in-ears for the commute to work and are a fit for runs and gym sessions.

With support for aptX and aptX-HD, high-quality audio is definitely on the menu and the wireless performance proves to be nigh-on faultless.

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full Review: Bowers & Wilkins PI3

NuraLoop

Your own personalised sound
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Pros

  • Immersive, dynamic sound
  • Rock solid fit and seal
  • Gym ready
  • Reliable ANC

Cons

  • Design is a little chunky/retro

If you want solid sound quality, great ANC and a rock solid fit, the NuraLoop hit those objectives. The NuraLoop aim to offer users customised “studio-accurate” audio, which works by creating a map of your ear and adjusting the audio profile to eliminate distortions or echoes.

The tech works a treat. Factor in aptX with a reliable ANC performance, and the NuraLoops are one of the best in-ear wireless sets around £200. The only downside is that their band design can make them feel less comfortable to wear.

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full Review: NuraLoop

Apple AirPods Pro

A pricier, more feature-rich AirPod earbud
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Pros

  • Much improved design over original AirPods
  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Well integrated with the Apple ecosystem
  • So comfortable

Cons

  • ANC strength can’t be manually altered

We’ve not always been fans of Apple’s headphones, but that changed with the AirPods Pro. They are pricier than some of its competition, but wireless connectivity is strong (as usual with an AirPod); they’re very comfortable to wear – great news for those who aren’t fans of in-ear designs.

They’re not the best-sounding wireless earbuds out there, but you get much better detail, clarity and bass over the standard AirPods. If you’re an Apple user looking for ANC earbuds, these are at the top of the list.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Apple AirPods Pro

Technics EAH-F70N

Bags of style
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Pros

  • Clean, neutral performance
  • Terrific noise cancellation
  • Lots of style
  • Good comfort levels

Cons

  • Lacking some midrange fidelity
  • Ambient Sound Enhancer is inconsistent

Technics’ entry into the wireless over-ears deserves plenty of plaudits. The design is stylish, they’re comfortable to wear and the ANC performance is full-on.

Outside of the Bose and Sony, the Technics are one of the best ANC headphones around, kicking sounds like buses and cars to the kerb. While battery is a little lower than expected at 20 hours, it’s likely down to just how strong the ANC is.

Sound quality is also good with measured, calculated approach to sound. Treble reproduction is excellent and there’s plenty of detail and insight. A sequel is in the offing and we can’t wait to hear how they sound.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Technics EAH-F70N

Marshall Monitor II A.N.C

Stylish, well-designed noise-cancellers
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Pros

  • Stylish appearance
  • Entertaining delivery
  • Collapsible design
  • Impressive noise cancellation

Cons

  • Treble could be sweeter
  • Can sound lean

The Marshall Monitor II ANC are up against some firm competition and more than hold their own. They’ll appeal to those who like the headphones with some style, the noise cancellation is impressive and the sound is well-balanced and enjoyable.

Their tough outer exterior mean they should survive a few nicks and the collapsible design means they can be chucked into a bag at a moment’s notice.

On the downside is a signal strength that takes a few knocks in busy areas, but aside from that, there’s not a lot else to find disagreeable about these headphones.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Marshall Monitor II A.N.C

Razer Opus

A surprise pairing reaps benefits
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Pros

  • Reliable ANC
  • Balanced audio
  • Lengthy battery

Cons

  • Mics pick up background noise

An unexpected pairing sees gaming brand Razer and the venerable THX collaborate together. Even more unexpected is that the Razer Opus are pretty good.

They’re not the flashiest pair – they look suspiciously like the Sony WH-1000XM3 – but it helps to be inspired by the best. Battery life is 25 hours and there’s support for aptX to deliver high-quality music over Bluetooth.

Sound quality is balanced, with highs, mids and lows playing their part in the Opus’ enjoyable sound. ANC performance is effective, though not as powerful as the best pairs, but enough to drown out everyday background noise.

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full Review: Razer Opus

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Reliable wireless performance
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Pros

  • Great soundstage imaging
  • Engaging sound
  • Good wireless reliability

Cons

  • Unusual pairing style
  • Slightly thicker sound than older M50 models

The ATH-M50xBT are among the most engaging and entertaining wireless headphones at their price. Though active noise cancellation isn’t on the feature list, battery life is a long-lasting 40 hours. You can wear them comfortably for hours on end without any fatigue settling in, and wireless connectivity proves to very reliable.

They don’t quite have the low-end power of the Sony or Sennheiser, but at this price you likely won’t care too much when the sound is this good.

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full Review: Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Status BT One

A wireless bargain
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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Well-balanced sound
  • Stylish looks
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Slightly flimsy build
  • Some may not like the on-ear design

These are compact, stylish and affordable on-ears that deliver great sound on-the-go. There are some aspects that are less impressive: the buttons feel stiff and the build can feel a little flimsy at times. Some may not like on-ear designs, which can heat your ears up, but that’s not an issue we encountered with the BT One.

With 30 hour battery life, aptX/Bluetooth 5.0 and a weight of 155g which makes them very light on the head, the Status BT One one satisfying bargain.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Status BT One

Beats Solo Pro

Superb transparency mode
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Pros

  • Superb transparency mode
  • Good active noise cancellation
  • Balanced tone, particularly for Beats

Cons

  • Go over-ear and you get bigger sound, same price
  • Tight grip may be a turn-off
  • Fold to turn off? It’s not for everyone

Beats’ headphones always had an issue with excessive bass , but that’s no longer the case. The Solo Pro sound much clearer and balanced, while still delivering on the low end.

With the effective noise-cancellation turned on, you get 20-22 hours out of the Solo Pro. Run out of juice? Connect the Lightning cable and you can get three hours more playback in a jiffy.

Wireless connectivity is flawless with an iOS or Android phone, but the real star is the Transparency Mode. You can hear what’s around you and still listen to music, and it’s one of the best implementations we’ve heard yet.

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full Review: Beats Solo Pro

FAQs

What are the best wireless headphones for running?

You could go for the NuraLoop, which features a rugged designed that works well for running and fitness workouts.

What are the best over-ear wireless headphones?

Our nomination for the best wireless headphones would be the Sony WH-1000XM4. They sound great, feature excellent noise cancellation and come with plenty of useful and convenient smarts such as the Speak to Chat function that pauses music when the wearer starts talking.

What are the best wireless headphones on a budget?

If you’re happy to go for an on-ear, the Status BT One headphones are worth checking out. 30 hours of battery, compact size and an enjoyable sound for less than £100.

We also considered…

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