This article was last updated by Digital Trends staff writer Nick Woodard on 9/4/2020.
We’ve reviewed hundreds of headphones in our time, and after factoring in several aspects like comfort, audio quality, battery life, and noise cancellation, we’ve concluded that Sony’s WH-1000XM4 are simply the best wireless headphones you can buy.
Despite this unprecedented high praise, if the Sony WH-1000XM4 aren’t right for you, either because you’re looking for a set of earbuds or something a little more affordable, don’t fret. We’ve rounded up some more excellent wireless headphone picks, at a variety of price points and styles for multiple uses to make sure you can take beautiful music along no matter where you go.
The best wireless headphones at a glance
- Best wireless headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4
- Best noise-canceling earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3
- Best budget wireless headphones: Shure SE112 Wireless
- Best wireless headphones for running: JLab Epic Air Sport
- Best wireless headphones for calls: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
- Best wireless headphones for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro
- Best wireless headphones for Android: Google Pixel Buds 2
- Best wireless headphones for gaming: Astro Gaming A50
- Best wireless headphones for kids: Puro PuroQuiet
- Best for sound quality: Sennheiser Momentum 3
The Best Wireless Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4
Why you should buy them: Top-tier sound, excellent comfort, and (of course) impressive noise-canceling make Sony’s WH-1000XM4 the headphones to beat.
Who they’re for: Those who are looking for total sonic isolation and wireless convenience, but don’t want to give up high-fidelity sound to get it.
Why we picked the Sony WH-1000XM4:
Let’s get right to it. The previous leader of this list was Sony’s WH-1000XM3, and the WH-1000XM4 have everything that made those headphones amazing, plus a bit more for the exact same price. That by itself should be all you need to know to be sold on the XM4.
For the sake of thoroughness, we’ll break down these new headphones from Sony anyway. The design of the 1000XM4 remains largely the same, making for the same comfort and stability as the previous model. The battery life of these new cans is unchanged, providing 30 hours with active noise cancellation on and 38 hours without. And while Sony says its improved its software algorithms and hardware when it comes to active noise cancellation, the 1000XM4 are basically the same as theXM3 – excellent.
The few significant changes that were made with the WH-1000XM4 include the introduction of Bluetooth multipoint connection, allowing them to be connected to two different devices at the same time. Essentially, you could be watching Netflix on your laptop, field a phone call on your mobile device, then effortlessly return to your streaming enjoyment. The XM4 also got a wear sensor to automatically pause content when you remove the headphones, as well as Sony’s latest music upscaling tech, DSEE Extreme. None of these changes are major, but they don’t have to be. Sony’s headphones were already the best, and this new model only cements that position.
Best noise-canceling earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3
Why you should buy them: The convenience of no wires at all, plus active noise cancellation is a unique combo we think you’ll love.
Who they’re for: Anyone who wants noise cancellation but doesn’t want to tote around or wear a full-size set of headphones.
Why we picked the Sony WF-1000XM3:
There are now a ludicrous number of truly-wireless earbuds on the market, but at the moment, there is only one model that provides the same active noise-canceling technology found in high-end headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3. That model is the Sony WF-1000XM3, and as the name suggests, they’re the truly-wireless earbud equivalents of Sony’s incredible best-of-the-best headphones. These earbuds manage to combine superb sound quality, awesome noise cancellation, and astonishing battery life into a single, convenient package.
Sony brings all of its technical know-how to these earbuds: They feature the company’s DSEE HX sound processing, which has an uncanny ability to make almost any audio source sound deliciously Hi-Fi, and they pair it with Sony’s active noise-canceling circuitry, for whisper-quiet backgrounds on airplanes, public transit, or even noisy offices. Battery life is impressive at six hours per charge, but if you switch off noise-cancellation, that jumps to a killer eight hours. The Duracell-like charging case stores three full charges, giving you up to 32 hours of playtime — or 24 if you like your environment ultra-quiet.
Sony’s app for iOS and Android gives you control over EQ, noise-cancellation levels, and other customizations. Our only gripes? There’s no ability to control volume levels without reaching for your phone or asking your voice assistant, and these earbuds don’t want to be anywhere near moisture. These small issues notwithstanding, Sony has officially taken the lead when it comes to what we can expect from truly wireless earbuds.
Sennheiser’s recently released Momentum True Wireless 2 make for a serious competitor to the Sony’s, with better sound quality and comparative active noise cancellation abilities. But, the WF-1000XM3 – or an identically priced alternative like the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW – can be had for $70 less, making them the better value if you’re searching for great active noise cancellation. If you’re after top-notch sound, however, Sennheiser may be worth a look.
Best budget wireless headphones: Shure SE112 Wireless
Why you should buy them: You want a simple pair of in-ear headphones that are both streamlined and more affordable than other models of similar quality.
Who’s it for: The discerning shopper looking for a pair of quality in-ears.
Why we picked the Shure SE112 Wireless:
In an age where earbuds have largely replaced over-ear and on-ear headphones as the average commuter’s listening device of choice, it’s scarily easy to find some really bad in-ear headphones. Scores of models line store shelves and cost anywhere from $10 to $20. Unfortunately, as with most material things in life, you get what you pay for. The reality is that while their price might not immediately read as “budget,” in the world of high-quality in-ears, the Shure SE112 Wireless are a steal.
When we reviewed the SE112’s wired version, we were pleased to find them to be an affordable pair of in-ears with high-performance quality — this is Shure after all, and the company has been a top name in audio for decades for a reason. We were also impressed with several other aspects of the Shure SE112, including the excellent passive sound isolation and great design and construction.
The wireless model, naturally, adds the benefit of unfettered connection via Bluetooth to the already stellar sound and build quality. But there’s more. The wired version of the Shure SE112 lacked an inline mic for phone calls, but this has been rectified with the SE112 Wireless. An inline mic and remote sit on the right-hand side, making them even more of an upgrade over their wired predecessors. Their eight hours of battery life isn’t a ton, but it’s enough for a full day of listening, and that’s good enough at this price.
While you could buy wireless in-ears for less, these are the best budget in-ears you should buy.
The best wireless headphone for running: JLab Epic Air Sport
Why you should buy them: They’re durable, and have some of the best battery life you’ll find.
Who they’re for: People who want the best water protection, battery life, and fit.
Why we picked the JLab Epic Air Sport:
There are no better workout companions than the JLab Epic Air Sport. The bulky pair of headphones isn’t winning any design awards, but you’re not in the gym looking to win beauty pageants. All their other features, however, make them perfect for sweaty sessions, and at a considerably lower price point than their closest competitors.
The ear hooks are killer, helping them stay on your ears during intense bursts of jogging or perhaps a round of CrossFit. Helping the comfortability and security, JLab throws in a glutton of eartip options, including four sizes of silicon tips, foam ones for added noise reduction, and multi-layered tips for less cooperative ear canals.
With ten hours of battery life, the Epic Air Sport last long enough for any workout session and offer some of the best battery life in wireless earbuds, period. You’ll get another 60 hours on the go thanks to the 2,600mAh battery inside the charging case, which can also charge your smartphone.
The cost of all these features is size. They’re not at all petite, but if you’re buying these primarily for workout sessions, who cares? The Epic Air Sport push the bar on durability, too, offering an IP66 rating for water and dust resistance. They’ll withstand any amount of sweat and rain you can throw at them.
An ambient audio mode keeps you safe on the street by piping in surrounding noise so you can listen out for important cues in the world around you. To top all that off, JLab took care to ensure they sound excellent. In our review, we found the Epic Air Sport to be well-balanced, and with three preset EQ modes shaping the soundstage to fit a variety of genres — easily adjustable with capacitive touch controls — they could very well serve as your daily drivers.
The best wireless headphones for calls: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Why you should buy them: The Bose Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 shine in voice performance, making them the go-to companion for frequent callers and flyers.
Who they’re for: Those who need excellent and reliable call quality without sacrificing musical fidelity
Why we picked the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700:
While the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our favorite pair of full-sized wireless cans for music, Bose steps in for calls with its Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 — which we’ll just call the Bose 700 from here on out. These are ideal for the individual who switches between tunes and talk often. In testing, we found that the microphone on Bose 700 consistently matched, and sometimes outclassed, the one built into the phone. Get ready for productive calls as those on the other end won’t have to devote precious brainpower deciphering garbled dialog.
Perfect for business users, the Bose 700 boast excellent noise cancellation, which helps those noisy rides in a car or airplane. They don’t measure up to the aforementioned Sony pair in that regard, but they come very close, and the rich audio performance helps drown out anything that might otherwise penetrate the soundstage. Although its overall design offers less ergonomic flexibility compared to the company’s highly refined QuietComfort II model, Bose’s signature comfort is in full force here thanks to soft padding for the cups and headband and good weight distribution.
The Bose 700’s controls are convenient, with three tactile buttons combining with a touch interface to give you one-touch access to volume and playback functions. One of those buttons allows you to adjust the noise-canceling intensity on a scale from zero to ten, or outright disable the feature altogether. There’s also a button dedicated to calling up your favorite virtual assistant.
You’ll be able to go as long as 20 hours when noise cancelation is engaged, and that runtime doubles to 40 hours with it off. Even if you’re an unusually heavy listener, a 15-minute charge with the included USB-C cable can get you two extra hours, so you should never feel the need to stay tethered.
The best wireless headphones for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro
Why you should buy them: They’re a huge step-up from Apple’s AirPods, with better sound, better fit, and excellent noise cancellation.
Who they’re for: Apple users who want the best true wireless earbud experience.
Why we picked the Apple AirPods Pro:
Apple’s AirPods have managed to become the most popular true wireless earbuds on the planet despite lacking some features we’ve started to expect, like great sound quality, a secure fit, and IPX4 sweat-proofing.
Given that the new AirPods Pro address all of these concerns, and then add superb noise cancellation on top, it’s easy to see why they are now the best option in a set of true wireless earbuds for Apple users.
Granted, at $250 the AirPods Pro aren’t going to help much in the affordability department, but at only $50 more than the AirPods with a wireless charging case, they offer a ton of value for their higher price.
The in-ear design of the AirPods Pro provide a stable and secure fit, thanks to the three sizes of silicone ear tips that come in the box, and this noise-isolating shape is a big reason why they sound so much better than the regular AirPods. However, Apple’s adaptive EQ likely plays a role too: It adjusts to each person’s ear shape.
Battery life is unchanged at just 5 hours of playtime and 24 hours total with the wireless charging case, but the first time you try the AirPods Pro’s noise-canceling feature we suspect you’ll be too amazed to worry much about the battery.
The best wireless headphones for Android: Google Pixel Buds 2
Why you should buy them: It’s hard to beat the combination of features, comfort, and quality that the Google Pixel Buds 2 bring to the table.
Who they’re for: Those who are already invested in the Android ecosystem and looking for earbuds designed to fit right in.
Why we picked the Google Pixel Buds 2:
There’s been plenty of earbuds vying to be what can best be described as the “AirPods of the Android world.” Some, like the Amazon Echo Buds and Samsung Galaxy Buds+, have done well. But no product has brought it down to a science quite like the Google Pixel Buds 2.
Google’s second generation Pixel Buds come equipped with an array of Android-specific features, starting with a Fast Pair on Android feature that streamlines pairing the buds with your Pixel or Android smartphone. They’re also the first Google Assistant hot word enabled earbuds, meaning you can make voice commands just by saying “hey Google” or “OK Google” out loud. Toss in other stellar features, like the return of Google Translate, and these Pixel Buds certainly seem like the real deal for Android owners.
While they only have average battery life, the Pixel Buds 2 have exceptional sound quality and a retooled design that fits near-flush in your ear. Add in those rock solid features, and it’s evident that Google has created the best buds for Android users yet.
The best headphones for gaming: Astro A50 headset
Why you should buy them: The Astro A50 headset lives up to its audiophile-grade promise, and then some.
Who they’re for: Gamers after the best wireless headset available.
Why we picked the Astro A50:
We take our gaming recommendations seriously around here, and we’re happy to confirm that the A50 nails all the feature points you’d expect from a high-quality headset: Powerful audio performance, excellent battery life, and a great mic with clear voice capture. Plus, it’s stocked with a handful of other features that complement its powerful specs and help it stand out from its numerous competitors.
Starting with the audio quality, the Astro A50 is a wireless upgrade from A40, but with all the audiophile-grade sound of its corded sibling preserved thanks to 5.8GHz wireless connectivity for low-latency sonic delivery.
The A50 makes every game we’ve played with this headset on our ears more engrossing and entertaining. Not only does it live up to Astro’s claims of audiophile-grade sound, but the A50 is also a powerful headset that pushes some seriously big sound. The only aspect of the sound quality that we didn’t like was a bit too much brightness in the high-end. Theoretically, the included EQ switcher should have helped this, but we found the feature lacking. Still, even with that minor complaint, there is no doubt the A50 is one of the best-sounding wireless headsets out there.
Other features — auto-shutoff, hassle-free wireless connection, and long battery life — make this headset excellent for long hours of play time, while the A50’s mic will outperform whatever flimsy pack-in mic your console came with. We had a blast testing the Astro A50, and we have no reservations in saying this headset should be the go-to option for both serious gamers and audiophiles alike.
The best headphones for kids: Puro PuroQuiet
Why you should buy them: The PuroQuiet are designed to keep children’s ears happy and safe.
Who they’re for: Parents who want the peace of mind knowing their children’s hearing is protected.
Why we picked the PuroQuiet:
When we say “best wireless headphones for kids,” we aren’t talking about the cutest or most colorful — though we could see a case being made for the PuroQuiet being referred to as such. Instead what we mean is the safest headphones for kids. As reviewers of audio equipment, hearing damage and loss ranks pretty high on our list of fears, so we can empathize with parents looking for the safest pair for their kids (we’re actually turning down our headphones as we write these words.) In this department, the PuroQuiet can’t be beaten.
The PuroQuiet are noise-canceling headphones designed for kids that come with a hard volume limit to prevent your child’s tiny ears from getting damaged.
Despite children’s products being stereotyped as low-quality junk (rightfully so, in many cases), Puro hasn’t cut corners on the PuroQuiet, which punch well above their weight when it comes to looks and build quality. The headphones feature rectangular-shaped earcups that are made out of robust metal and come in vibrant colors like electric blue or bright pink. They’re blocky and colorful, as kid stuff often is, but don’t look or feel “childish,” if that makes sense.
They also strike a balance between comfort and design, with a plush, round headband coated in soft imitation leather. Even the adjustment section of the headband, which is also metal, feels solid and strong. Parents can feel comfortable letting their kids wear these, and the headphones are durable enough to take a beating, too.
However, the standout feature here is the PuroQuiet headphones’ custom, built-in software limiter. It’s designed to keep music below 85 decibels, while maintaining a balanced sound signature. This means that your budding audiophile can crank them all the way up, and you’ll still never have to worry about them blasting their ears out. And thanks to 16 hours of battery life, your kids can listen for as long as they (by which we mean you) want.
The best wireless headphones for sound quality: Sennheiser Momentum 3
Why you should buy them: For the money, there are no better-sounding wireless headphones out there.
Who they’re for: Avid audiophiles who want to go wireless.
Why we picked the Sennheiser Momentum 3:
Followers of this round up will no doubt wonder why the Sennheiser Momentum 3 have taken the place of our previous pick for this category, the Master and Dynamic MW65. The answer comes down to price. We still adore the MW65 for their incredible wireless sound quality, which we still believe is the best you’ll find. But the Sennheiser Momentum 3 come so close — yet they cost around $100 less — it makes them the better overall value.
When our reviewers spent time with the Momentum 3, it was clear that Sennheiser hadn’t wavered one bit from its commitment to top-notch sound. The wireless cans manage to “achieve both energy and accuracy in a way that we’ve rarely experienced from wireless headphones before,” with modern rock music being an especially strong genre. Female vocals, in particular, stand out from the mix and are given just the right amount of precision and crispness, without suffering from any harshness.
Noise-cancellation, though not quite as good as the Bose or Sonys, will still satisfy most listeners in typical environments like coffee shops and public transit. Call quality is also excellent thanks to Sennheiser’s judicious placement of mics on the earcups.
Of course, there’s more to the Momentum 3 than just sound quality. In our opinion, they’re some of the best looking headphones on the market. The clean, bare-bones design has a slightly retro vibe, yet the choice of materials make it clear these are state of the art. Their physical buttons instead of touch controls make them a snap to figure out and use, and Sennheiser’s companion app for iOS and Android let you tweak things like EQ to your heart’s content.
Integrated Tile tracking is a bonus: No more where-the-heck-did-I-leave-my-headphones as you try to get out the door in the morning.
Are they perfect? No — we have some minor quibbles when it comes to battery life, which at just 17 hours is only just OK, and we wish the headband had just a bit more padding. The lack of a hard case and the Momentum 3’s one-way folding design means that they’re not going to be as good for frequent travelers as some of our other picks.
That said, if you’re looking for sublime sound in a set of wireless headphones, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 check all of the right boxes and even save you some money over pricier models.
Research and buying tips
- Are Airpods the best wireless headphones?
- Do wireless headphones work well for TV?
- Can I make calls with wireless headphones?
- Are any wireless headphones sweatproof?
- How durable are wireless headphones?
- How long do wireless headphone batteries last?
- Are wireless or wired headphones better?
Are Airpods the best wireless headphones?
While this is obviously subjective, our answer is no. The latest AirPods have middling battery life, mediocre sound, and are missing features we expect to see in top wireless earbuds, including waterproofing and features like ambient awareness mode. That said, Apple’s new AirPods Pro are a revelation and address every single critique of the AirPods except battery life. We’re not ready to say the AirPods Pro are the best either, but they make a very strong argument for that title.
Do wireless headphones work well for TV?
Generally, only with TVs that output Bluetooth audio, many of which do not. Otherwise, you’ll usually need an adapter or select soundbars with Bluetooth transmission.
Can I make calls with wireless headphones?
As long as they have a built-in microphone, which the vast majority do, you can make calls with your wireless headphones.
Are any wireless headphones sweatproof?
Yes, if they have an IPX rating for water or sweat resistance.
How durable are wireless headphones?
This depends heavily upon the make and model.
How long do wireless headphone batteries last?
This depends on many factors, but batteries last anywhere from 3 to 36 hours or more per charge. Expect battery life on the lower end of that scale for wireless earbuds, while full-sized over-ear headphones typically last much longer. A bigger question is, how long will those rechargeable batteries continue to hold a full charge? As we’ve seen with Apple’s AirPods, the answer isn’t always great.
Are wireless or wired headphones better?
Wired headphones will almost always offer better fidelity, longevity, and durability. For most use cases, though, wireless headphones offer significantly more convenience.
How we test
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair of headphones through a rigorous process over several days. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios — be it on a bus, in the listening room, or at the office — and playing back from a wide array of sources. We know most people use their headphones with a smartphone, often with lower quality MP3 resolution tracks, so we do, too.
However, we also move up to high-resolution audio files, as well as a wide variety of sources, including plugging in directly to a PC or Mac, using USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters), and employing high-quality dedicated portable players and amplifiers. Finally, we compare the headphones to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight.