Advances in wireless connectivity, battery and driver technologies mean wireless headphones come in a multitude of sizes and fits, from the affordable to the more premium priced pairs.
The main reason for purchasing a wireless headphone is convenience – wireless headphones offer freedom from tangled cables, not to mention headphone jacks. Active noise cancelling is a common and useful feature for blocking out noisy environments too, and is well worth considering if you travel frequently.
The best wireless headphones are ones that offer plenty of portability, able to be folded up and placed in a bag at a moment’s notice. They’re also lightweight and comfortable to wear and have a strong wireless connection so you won’t be plagued (too often) by dreaded dropouts everytime you leave the house.
Our current favourite is the Sony WH-1000XM3, which is still going strong nearly two years after release. But there are plenty of other options that offer wireless convenience in spades.
Below is a quick bullet-point list of our favourites, but if you want more info, scroll down to see our summary of the best below:
- Best noise cancellation: Sony WH-1000XM3
- Best true wireless: Sony WF-1000XM3
- Best battery life: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
- Best sound: Bowers & Wilkins PX
- Best in-ear: Bowers & Wilkins PI3
- Best design: Marshall Monitor II ANC
- Best for iOS devices: Apple AirPod Pro
- Best wireless performance: Cleer Audio FLOW II
- Best for enjoyment: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
- Best value: Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT
- Best budget on-ear: Status BT One
- Best for fitness: Jaybird Vista
- Best ambient mode: Beats Solo pro
- The best noise cancellation ever
- Excellent sound quality
- Fast charge feature is great
- Comfortable fit
- Responsive controls
- Could do with a touch more detail in the treble
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are currently the best noise cancellation performers available. They shut out, well, 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.
- Great musical sound quality
- Super noise cancellation
- Snug, comfortable fit
- Rock solid wireless connection
- Great with all types of music
- Adaptive sound can be intrusive
- No aptX
With an emphasis on sound quality, the WF-1000XM3 have borrowed tech from the full-sized WH-1000XM3 over-ears and crammed them into a tiny nugget small enough to sit in your ear.
They sound fantastic, with a great, musical quality to the sound and wireless stability is rock-solid. With active noise cancellation included, they’re great at blocking out sounds that could interrupt your listening session.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
- Great battery life
- Comfortable fit
- Poised, energetic sound
- Grey finish is a bit austere
- Touch controls take some getting used to
The Melomania 1 have nine hours of battery life (45 in total), Bluetooth 5 and voice assistant control in the form of Google Assistant. They don’t immediately jump out with their design, but at 4.6g they’re comfortable to wear.
With the higher-quality aptX HD supported they sound great; an accomplished performance that’s full of precision, detail and character. They’re a bargain for the price.
Bowers & Wilkins PX
- Fantastic sound
- Handy smart sensors
- Auto power/connect/play
- Attractive design
- Noise-cancellation could be stronger
The PX were B&W’s first crack at wireless, noise-cancelling headphones, focusing on its core strengths of luxury design and audiophile sound quality. But it has some impressive tricks up its sleeve too. Those include adaptable ANC and a wear sensor that can detect when the headphones are on your head (or not) and pausing playback accordingly. They’re smart enough to know when you lift an earcup for a chat.
Their audio performance remains phenomenal, offering a great amount of detail and a presentation that’s spacious, too. They support aptX-HD for high-quality tunes on the go and if you’re someone who isn’t fond of touch controls, you’ll appreciate the tactile physical controls on the PX.
Bowers & Wilkins PI3
- Agile, punchy bass
- Excellent mid-range detail and realism
- Intricate imaging
- 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.
Marshall Monitor II A.N.C
- Great style
- Entertaining delivery
- Collapsible design
- Impressive noise cancellation
- 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 knicks 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.
Apple AirPods Pro
- Much improved design over original AirPods
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Well-integrated with the Apple ecosystem
- So comfortable
- 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 than you would from the standard AirPods. If you’re an Apple user looking for ANC earbuds, these would be at the top of the list.
Cleer FLOW II
- Clean, articulate sound
- Ironless drivers sound great
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Strong wireless connection
- Comprehensive set of features
- Bulky design
- Build quality could be better
- Mild discomfort during long extended listening sessions
The Cleer Audio FLOW II over-ears are a surprise package. Noise cancellation is reliable and thorough; the sound is as clean as you can get, with Cleer’s Ironless drivers generating little ear fatigue over long periods. The wireless connection is one of the strongest we’ve tested, batting off busy areas such as Waterloo, Victoria and Kings Cross train terminals with barely a connection drop.
What hold them back is that aren’t the most comfortable to wear for long sessions, and the bulk makes them a little less portable than some efforts on this list. Still, the FLOW II are impressive mid-range wireless cans.
Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
- Gorgeous looks and build quality
- Good battery life
- Effective noise cancellation
- Excellent, entertaining sound
- Newer rivals have a lot more features
The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless aren’t the fanciest headphones on the market, but there’s a reason they’re still selling: they’re excellent.
They offer Sennheiser’s signature full-bodied sound, plenty of dynamism and sharp timing for a hugely entertaining listen. The noise cancellation is among the most effective, and the wireless performance is solid.
Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT
- Great soundstage imaging
- Engaging sound
- Good wireless reliability
- 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 Sennhesier, but at this price you likely won’t care too much when the sound is this good.
Status BT One
- Well-balanced sound
- Long battery life
- Slightly flimsy build in places
- Some may not like on-ear design
These are compact, stylish and affordable (£80!) 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 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 are a bargain.
- Great seal
- Solid build quality
- Super stable connection
- No ambient sound mode or aptX
- Charging case only has 10 hours battery
The Jaybird Vista are an ideal fit for those who like to listen to music while being active. They’re wireless in-ears with an excellent fit, build quality and an IPX7 rating that should withstand plenty of abuse.
Battery life is 6 hours, with ten hours in the charging case and the connection is super-stable connection. Audio quality is better than many other running sets, so for gym users these a fine pair of buds.
- Good value
- Smart design
- Great sound
- No NFC or aptX
Like most headphones in this class, the Seattle have 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.
While there are headphones out there with better features, including a longer battery life, most will prefer using these headphones day to day. The Urbanista sound good and are both flexible and comfortable. For less than £100 there’s little to grumble about.
Beats Solo Pro
- Superb transparency mode
- Good active noise cancellation
- Balanced tone, particularly for Beats
- 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 always had an issue with excessive bass in its headphones, but that’s no longer the case. The Solo Pro sound much clearer and balanced, while still being big on bass.
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.
How do we select the best wireless 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.