Updated April 2014
Wireless headphones let you enjoy music, TV shows and movies, and games without being tethered by a cable. For listening on the go, Bluetooth technology has its limits, but the best Bluetooth headphones wring every ounce of sound performance out of your favorite mobile device. Headsets for gaming add microphones and other game-friendly features. Editors consult reviews from experts and users, then name the best-sounding and most comfortable picks for every use.
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Sennheiser RS 180
Sennheiser RS 180

Best wireless headphones

The Sennheiser RS 180 consistently impresses listeners with its phenomenal sound quality and comfort. Sound performance is well balanced across the bass, mid-range and treble frequencies. Its Automatic Level Control (ALC), which keeps sound levels consistent, is also a plus. Its one weakness: The controls can be tricky to use.
See our full review

Sennheiser RS 170
Sennheiser RS 170

Best wireless headphones for TV

The Sennheiser RS 170 features a closed-back design that sacrifices the ultimate in audio fidelity in exchange for a more private listening experience. Reviewers say it provides exceptional sound quality nonetheless, coupled with long battery life and a range of up to 260 feet.
See our full review

Bose AE2W
Bose AE2W

Best Bluetooth headphones

The Bose AE2W offers much clearer sound than most Bluetooth headsets, and reviewers find it very comfortable. It also offers a longer-than-average (for Bluetooth) wireless range and easy-to-use controls. Features include the ability to pair with two Bluetooth devices at once, letting you pause your movie automatically for a phone call, for example.
See our full review

MEElectronics Air-Fi Runaway AF32
MEElectronics Air-Fi Runaway AF32

Cheap Bluetooth headphones

The MEElectronics Air-Fi Runaway AF32 is well liked by experts and adored by users. For a low price, it offers decent sound, excellent comfort, a healthy lineup of features and near incredible battery life. This stereo Bluetooth headphone can also double as wired headphones via an included cable.
See our full review

Astro Gaming A50
Astro Gaming A50

Best wireless gaming headphones

The Astro Gaming A50 offers just about everything you could ask for in a gaming headset. Sound quality is great, both for in-game effects and microphone communication. It's compatible with most current and legacy video-game consoles as well as PCs, fits comfortably and has excellent battery life.
See our full review

See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Best Wireless Headphone Reviews: Runners Up

Sennheiser RS 220 Est. $380

5 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Harman Kardon BT Est. $175

3 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Sony MDR-1RBT Est. $245

3 picks including: Amazon.com, Wired…

Logitech G930 Est. $105

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Engadget.com…

Swage by Rokit Boost Est. $50

2 picks including: Amazon.com, TheWirecutter.com…

Why go wireless, and what are your options?

Wireless headphones are ideal for home theater, a home stereo system or even video games when you don't want a cord to get in the way. They give you the freedom to listen in privacy but still be able to get up to open a window or get a snack. Owners who are hard of hearing often use wireless headphones to watch television without having to crank up the volume to levels that will annoy others in the house. Wireless headphones are also popular for workouts, where a dangling headphone wire could get snagged.

Wireless headphones have their limitations, however. In general, they don't reproduce sound as faithfully as wired models. Because wireless headphones have to transmit audio signals through the air, there's no way to avoid a little bit of sound degradation. There may be a background hiss or occasional dropouts (breaks in the stream of sound). The best wireless headphones can rival the quality of wired versions, but this kind of quality typically comes with a high price tag. Also, very few wireless models are available with active noise-canceling technology, which creates interference to cancel ambient noise. However, some wireless models do a good job of sealing out noise passively.

In general, the best-sounding wireless headphones are designed for home theater use, such as watching movies and listening to music. They tend to be bulky and aren't ideal for those on the go, but they're often more comfortable than portable models. Many home theater headphones transmit sound via radio frequency (RF). RF signals offer a broad coverage range and can pass through walls and floors but, depending on the frequencies used, can be subject to interference from other devices, such as cordless phones, Wi-Fi networks, baby monitors and microwave ovens.

Better wireless headphones use different technologies to overcome that issue. We saw some of the best reviews for headphones that use Kleer wireless technology. Kleer has a shorter transmission range than standard RF, but it offers CD-quality audio and uses a frequency range that is less susceptible to interference. Another technology, DSSS (direct-sequence spread spectrum), produces audio with even higher audio fidelity. It's also theoretically less susceptible to interference, though real-world issues crop up in reviews.

The most common method of wireless transmission, for headphones as well as most other devices, is Bluetooth. Bluetooth headphones can connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a cell phone, MP3 player or tablet. Bluetooth headphones have a limited range (about 30 feet), and experts are often unimpressed with their sound quality. Many Bluetooth headphones can also be used as corded headphones, which can improve their fidelity. However, professional tests show that the best Bluetooth headphones sound just as good without the wire.

Some Bluetooth headphones and some newer mobile devices use aptX audio compression technology to boost their sound quality. However, unless you have an aptX-enabled device, paying a premium for this technology won't improve your headphones' performance. Moreover, we found that many Bluetooth models, such as our Best Reviewed Bose AE2W, sound very good (for Bluetooth) even without aptX.

For playing video games on computers or gaming consoles, most users prefer dedicated gaming headphones designed specifically for this purpose. Wireless gaming headphones may not have great range, but they offer excellent clarity and performance. Most gaming headsets include a microphone for communicating with others in multiplayer games. Many also have simulated surround sound that does a great job of placing you in the heart of the action, though it won't be as completely realistic as a surround-sound setup made up of separate speakers placed around the room.

We consider several factors when looking for the best wireless headphones for use at home, on the go and for gaming. Sound quality is paramount, of course, but even the best-sounding wireless headphones won't be appreciated if they're uncomfortable to wear. Ditto for headphones with poorly placed controls or other usability issues. Finally, we consider value: how well the headphones' performance, features and durability justify its price tag. Expert reviewers at sites such as CNET, PCMag.com and ConsumerReports.org provide detailed feedback on performance. Reviews from retail sites such as Amazon.com help us evaluate how comfort and durability stack up for the majority of users.

Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
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from Amazon.com
New: $249.95 $238.99   
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