The Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

The Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

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Taryn Williford
Aug 29, 2018
(Image credit: Master & Dynamic)

Safe to say, Bluetooth headphones are pretty much standard for everyday listening right now. Whether you're commuting with a podcast, exercising with a playlist, or just trying to make a phone call, it's easy to enjoy the physical flexibility of wireless headphones. If you're an iPhone user, your device doesn't even have a headphone jack anymore (quelle horreur!), so wireless is really your only option these days.

Audiophiles lament the loss of sound quality that happens when you switch away from wired headphones, but to most untrained listeners: You probably won't notice. And the convenience is well worth the imperceptible drop in quality, in my opinion. You can walk anywhere and do anything, tangle-free, from across the room or with your phone safely secured in a pocket.

If you're concerned about air travel, you should know that the FAA allows for short-range Bluetooth to be used on flights, and your smartphone probably keeps Bluetooth connectivity activated even in airplane mode. Still, most of the bigger on-ear and over-ear headphone styles on this list also came with headphone cords that plug into the cups to make your wireless headphones wired (which extends the battery life, too). It's also worth mentioning that almost every headphone on the list—from the tiniest earbuds to the big over-ear cans—came with a protective carrying case. In fact, I found that among each type of headphone, most models have strikingly similar features across brands.

Your decision should come down mostly to comfort, style, and the all-important (if subjective) "do these sound good to me?" test. Even to an untrained ear, sound definitely gets better and more rich when you're willing to spend a little more. But each of the headphones below wins our seal of approval.

How This Works

Every week we research new product categories and bring our final picks into the office, where we haggle and decide which ones make the final list. Everything is based on quality, appearance and price. These are what we could choose for our own home.


LOW

These are a reliable buy for inexpensive workout headphones, with eight hours of playback time and a water-resistant design. You get three sets of ear tips, three sets of wing tips, and a magnetic fastening feature—all designed to keep them secure in your ears and around your neck.

If what you want from your bluetooth headphones is mostly convenient hands-free calling, this is a feature-packed budget pick. You can wear them around your neck all day, snapping the earbuds in and out of place with the "shark-like" magnet (Jaws, get it?) when you need to talk—the headphones will vibrate to alert you when you get a phone call or text.

These have a very minimalist control—everything from picking up calls to skipping tracks to adjusting volume happens via a single tiny knob. It means that once you know your way around how it works, you'll never find yourself fiddling across a row of buttons to orient yourself. With 30 hours of battery life and 10 unexpected colorways, it's the perfect pick for a style- and budget-minded shopper.

Sound-wise, these are a fantastic value for on-ear headphones. The sound is crisp and clear, and much better than the price tag would suggest. Couple that with a padded headband and soft ear cups, and you've got yourself a great pair of around-the-clock listening headphones for less than a hundred bucks.

These are the Goldilocks of fitness headphones: If you feel like you would misplace true wireless earbuds, but don't want something with a too-long cord getting in the way of your workout, go for these. Don't take the name "mini" as a sizing guide—they have a small form factor, but with three differently-sized sets of eartips and wingtips, anyone can find a comfortable fit (plus four colorways to suit any style). They feel durable—"sweatproof," as it says on the box—and the reflective cable is a great feature for nighttime runners.


MEDIUM

If you like to be able to drape your earbuds around your neck when you're not using them, these are designed with magnets in the buds so they "snap" together and stay secured. They're also the most comfortable buds I tried, with four types of eartips and two sizes of wingtips included for you to find the best fit—I forgot they were in my ears sometimes. The the integrated Apple W1 chip means setup and switching between Mac and iOS devices is a breeze. And they charge fast; five minutes plugged in will get you two hours of playback time.

It's rare to see noise-cancelling earbuds, but these really do a great job. A button on the left earbud lets you toggle between noise-cancelling mode (for drowning out gym noises when you're on the treadmill) or ambient-sound mode (which will let road noise come through the headphones a bit when you need to be alert running on the street). You can pause and play with a button on the right earbud, but you'll have to control volume from your device, in case that's a dealbreaker for you.

It's rare to find good, noise-cancelling over-ear headphones in the under-$200 range. These are a very trustworthy pick if you need good commuter or workday headphones and you're not really ready to splurge too much. Style-wise, they feel more expensive than they are with comfortable padding and a sturdy hardshell zippered case. The 24-hour battery life (with a 10-minutes-for-five-hours rapid charge) is on the level of some other more expensive picks. These also incorporate technology from Tile, the location-tracking platform, so if you misplace them, you can trace where they are from inside the Tile app without the need to attach an actual Tile tracker.

Note: These things are brand spanking new. Skullcandy Venue is available for pre-order right now, and set to be released on September 20.

These are true wireless headphones with a really comfortable fit. You could run in these feeling totally secure without any wires bouncing around your neck. If you're looking for exercise headphones, these are top of the line. The buds themselves have a four-and-a-half hour battery life, but the charging case gets you up to 13.5 hours before you have to plug in. Combine them with the Jabra Sport Life app and they become a fitness tracker and heart rate monitor, too. How's that for bang for your buck?


HIGH

These are the ultimate commuter headphone. Sturdy and comfortable, they come in a ton of colors to complete any #streetstyle look, and collapse securely into a carrying case that won't take up too much room in your everyday bag. If you're an Apple addict, you'll love how seamlessly they set up and switch with your iOS and Mac devices thanks to the integrated Apple W1 chip. They also have an impressive 40-hour battery life (and can get three hours of juice with just a five-minute charge). The on-ear controls are sleek and hidden within the design, but potentially a challenge if your fingers are looking for more tactile feedback. You'd easily get used to knowing where things are, though.

No surprise Bose knows what they're doing with sound. If you're looking for a premium noise cancelling headphone—look no further. They have a 20-hour battery life (40 hours if you use them wired), and come complete with virtual assistant integration through Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. That means you can get on-the-fly help at work (think: "Alexa, what's 14 times 24," that is if you don't mind talking to yourself) or interactive access to your home automation system when you're on headphones at home ("Alexa, turn off the desk lamp," and you can hear her reply in the headphones with "ok").

This unique model lets you trade between on-ear and over-ear headphone styles with interchangeable ear cups, so you can switch it up for comfort (or if you just want to get more into the music). Unless you're a dedicated audiophile, you'd probably consider these headphones a splurge. But they're well, well worth the price if you can swing it, thanks to a rich sound and elegant design. Everyone I showed them to agreed that these were the best-looking of the whole bunch. Rock-star-caliber design details (like the leather accents, metal mesh detail, and woven charging cable) make you feel like you're in a recording studio, even when you're just sitting at your desk. My personal favorite detail is a short synth-type sound that plays when you turn the headphones off, a sound that was customized for Master & Dynamic by a commercial sound studio. It makes me feel like I'm a badass guitarist unplugging my amp after a recording session.


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