Admit it: you need to get some wireless headphones. With the technology getting so good and with headphone jacks disappearing, it just makes sense to invest in a future without wires if like listening to music or watching videos or just making the outside world less loud. How you use your headphones ought to inform which ones you get, of course. And that’s what this guide is for.
Whether you’re an aspiring audiophile, a long distance runner, or just someone with a sense of style, there’s a set of wireless headphones for you. If you’re looking for earbuds, ear muffs, or something in between, we’ve got you covered.
Buying forecast for Summer/Fall 2019: Most of the big brands have already released their latest models of headphones, so now is a fairly good time to buy without feeling like you’re missing out on a big update. That said, there’s a chance we’ll see some new products at IFA Berlin in early September. Any headphones that show up at that show will likely hit the market in time for the holiday buying season.
The best not-quite-wireless wireless headphones
Who are you?
Even though truly wireless earbuds are all the rage, you might be worried about losing one of the buds or you could just want better battery life. You might also like the idea of dangling earbuds around your neck.
These necklace-style wireless earbuds aren’t exactly wireless, but they’re remarkably well designed. You won’t even notice the necklace bit, beyond the fact that you’ll enjoy great battery life and better call quality thanks to the inline mic. They’re also durable and tight-fitting enough to wear during workouts. You can buy them directly from Apple for $120 or take your chances with a refurbished set which cost as little as $45.
If you’re thinking about getting wireless earbuds that are connected by a wire, your options are virtually limitless. Jaybird makes some great buds that are tailored to runners, and the $100 Tarah model is the best budget option. Jabra offers a similar set called the Sport Coach for $120 and a bulkier model called the Sport Pace for just $60.
The best budget headband
Who are you?
You like the idea of better-sounding and sort of cool-looking headband-style headphones. But you also don’t want to spend a ton of money, and you’re not terribly worried about getting tons of features.
Our pick: Jabra Move Wireless ($50)
The Jabra Move Wireless are the best cheap way to get into the wireless headphones game. They connect seamlessly with any device. They sound pretty dang good. They’re comfortable and lightweight without feeling flimsy. Although they normally retail for $100, Jabra is now selling the Moves for just $50. That might be a sign that a new model is on the way, but $50 is still a steal.
That $50 price tag on the Jabra is pretty exceptional. Other good quality wireless headphones for folks on a budget will cost between $100 and $200. The $150 Sony Extra Bass Wireless headphones are a solid option, even if you’re not a bass lover. (You can turn off the bass boost.) V-Moda’s $200 Crossfade Wireless are extremely durable, dependable, and they sound great too! The JBL Everest line is also fantastic. The JBL Everest 700 model retails for $200, but you can find refurbished models for as little as $45.
The best noise-canceling headphones
Who are you?
You spend time on airplanes or in coffee shops or on the subway or in an open-plan office or literally anywhere that’s too noisy.
Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM3 ($350)
This is the third generation of some Sony noise-canceling headphones we’ve loved for years. The latest model is extra comfortable and lightweight. And since you’re looking for noise-canceling headphones, you’ll be pleased to know that they cancel more noise as well. Great performance doesn’t come cheap. These bad boys retail for $350, but that may be a small price to pay for your sanity.
Everybody loves the $350 Bose QuietComfort II for good reason. They’re great—just not as good as the new Sony headphones. Meanwhile, the $400 Bowers & Wilkins PX don’t offer the very best noise-canceling, but the terrific sound quality will appeal to the audiophile set. They’re also gorgeous. If you’re looking to spend slightly less, check out the $300 JBL Everest Elite 750NC. They’re less gorgeous but work just fine.
The best truly wireless earbuds
Who are you?
You want in on this tiny wireless earbud craze, but you don’t want to have to charge them every ten minutes. Also, you want something that’s just as dependable as much larger wireless headphones.
Our pick: Jabra Elite 65t ($170)
These earbuds blow everything else out of the water. With five-hours of battery life, rock solid Bluetooth connectivity, and a decent microphone for making phone calls, the Jabra Elite 65t earbuds tick off all the right boxes. On top of that, the snug fit means you won’t worry about these things flying out of year ears, which is a concern for some other wireless earbuds, namely AirPods. The Jabra Elite 65t’s also on the more affordable end of the spectrum at $170.
The $300 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are the best-sounding earbuds we’ve tried so far. (More on that in a second.) And the $300 Master & Dynamic MW07 earbuds are comparable, although slightly less mind-blowing. If you’re just after decent sound and good connectivity, the $160 Apple AirPods are a popular option. And the $130 Samsung Galaxy Buds are a great budget choice for people with Samsung devices as well as iOS fans.
The best athletic earbuds
Who are you?
You like going to the gym, where you tend to sweat—and sweat tends not to agree with electronics. What to do?
Our pick: Jaybird Vista ($180)
Jaybird’s latest version of truly wireless earbuds are an absolute joy. They’re almost as light as AirPods, but unlike Apple’s popular earbuds, the Vistas are virtually bombproof with an IPX7 rating, which means they’re dustproof and sweat proof. They also feature a much snugger fit, so they’re not going to go flying out of your head when you’re crushing your fitness goals at the gym. If they do fall out, their rugged construction means they can take a beating, too.
Although you’ll find a lot of sport-focused Bluetooth earbuds with a wire between them, you should strongly consider going truly wireless for your activities. (Nothing worse than getting a wire snagged on a dumbbell.) The Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds are an excellent choice. They’re just like the Jabra Elite 65t earbuds, except with better waterproofing. The Bose SoundSport Free earbuds are also remarkably comfortable, if a little pricey at $250.
The most superb sound
Who are you?
Audiophile might be a strong word, but you want the best sound quality out of your wireless headphones. Full stop.
Our pick: Sennheiser Momentum ($300-$400)
Let’s make this easy for you. If you’re after the best sound quality and you’re not sure if you want the bigger over-ear headphones or the ultra minimal truly wireless headphones or something in between, look no further than the Sennheiser Momentum family. The $400 HD1 Wireless headphones are some of the best ear muffs we’ve tested, and the new $300 Momentum True Wireless earbuds sound simply phenomenal. Yes, both options are expensive, but you said you wanted the best so…
If you’re looking for pure sound, the $400 Bowers and Wilkins P7 models are delightful options that don’t have noise canceling or any other fancy features—just great sound. The $500 Beoplay H9i are also a luxurious treat, especially if you like that Bang & Olufsen signature design. And since we’re feeling speedy, also consider the $550 Master & Dynamic MW60. It’s also safe to say that you don’t need to spend any more than that on a pair of wireless headphones, because remember: you can also just spend $50.
How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:
3/15/19: Added the Samsung Galaxy buds to “Also Consider” for truly wireless earbuds.
8/20/19: Added the Jaybird Vista wireless earbuds as “Best Athletic Earbuds” and added “Buying Forecast for Summer/Fall 2019.