Most wireless headphones on the market are Bluetooth headphones. These pair with your Bluetooth device (phone, tablet, MP3 player, computer, TV, home theater receiver, gaming console, etc.) so you can listen wire-free. Many have a built-in microphone so you can answer phone calls, and many will let you pair with two devices at once -- so if you're listening to TV with your headphones and you get a phone call, you can answer the call and resume listening as soon as you hang up.
The drawback? Sound quality isn't quite as good as with non-Bluetooth wireless headphones (discussed in our Best Wireless Headphones section). In fact, ultra-cheap Bluetooth headphones can sound downright crummy. The good news is, we found headphones for $175 or less that satisfy even picky experts.
Of course, you can spend more -- hundreds more -- and get some really impressive wireless headphones. But you don't have to. The surprise winner in this category is the Plantronics BackBeat Pro (Est. $160), checking in at a very reasonable $150. "Meet the headphones that can do just about anything," marvels Sherri L. Smith at TomsGuide.com, where the BackBeat Pro collects one of its multiple Editors' Choice awards.
At first glance, it's not glamorous: Plantronics is best known for making phone headsets for office workers, and the plain black BackBeat Pro isn't exactly a head-turner. "The BackBeat Pros aren't pretty," TechRadar.com's Alex White says bluntly. "But what they lack in looks, they make up in pretty much everything else."
Plantronics has somehow crammed pretty much every possible feature into these headphones: Active noise cancellation (which you can turn off), NFC (Near Field Communication, so you can pair devices just by tapping them against the headphones), long-range Bluetooth (150 feet, in Smith's test), 24-hour battery life (actually 26 hours, in DigitalTrends.com's test), loud-and-clear phone calls, and a mute button -- "making it easy to place that drink order when the beverage cart comes rolling by," DigitalTrends.com's Caleb Denison points out. The BackBeat Pro will even pause your music automatically when you take the headphones off and rest them around your neck.
The BackBeat Pro can pair with two Bluetooth devices at once. The controls are super-simple, testers say: A ring on the right ear controls volume, a ring on the left ear navigates through tracks, and buttons let you pause music and answer calls.
It's heavier than the average headphone, but the BackBeat Pro's headband is comfortably padded, testers say, and so are the nice, big ear cups. The leatherette material gets sweaty after a while for some testers, but not others. "They sat comfortably on my large head, and wearing them for long periods of time wasn't a problem," says Will Greenwald at PCMag.com. The BackBeat Pro comes with a 1-year warranty.
How do they sound? Surprisingly good, experts agree -- strong and balanced. The whole package makes the Plantronics BackBeat Pro a favorite of experts and owners alike.
As Gizmodo.com's Adam Clark Estes says: "Cheap headphones often sound cheap." But experts agree that the Jabra Move Wireless (Est. $90) defies that trend. The Bluetooth headphones rack up tons of expert recommendations, emerging as Gizmodo.com's best entry-level wireless headphones, TomsGuide.com's best under $100, an Editors' Choice at PCMag.com, TechRadar.com's Great Value pick, and TheWirecutter.com's favorite Bluetooth headphones, period. "These sound about 75% as good as our luxury pick at less than 1/5 the price," TheWirecutter.com's Lauren Dragan says.
The Move Wireless is "surprisingly fashionable," says Sherri L. Smith at TomsGuide.com. Its lightweight, Beats-esque design (see below) comes in black, blue or red. Testers find the Move Wireless comfortable, with easy-to-use controls and crisp, clear phone calls. It can connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, so you can answer calls even if you're not listening on your phone.
"But the best aspect," PCMag.com's Tim Gideon says, "is audio performance." Experts agree that the Move Wireless certainly doesn't assault their ears like a cheap, bass-heavy Bluetooth headphone. In fact, Gideon says, this Bluetooth cheapie "can hang with many wired pairs in the same price range."
The Move Wireless cuts costs by cutting features. There's no active noise canceling -- just the leatherette ear pads to muffle outside noises. It doesn't fold, like the other Best Reviewed Bluetooth headphones do. Its eight-hour battery life is much shorter than pricier models', and the Move Wireless gets only the typical 30 feet of Bluetooth range.
Owners at Amazon.com generally like the Move Wireless, except for one common complaint: The ear pads fall apart. Multiple owners say theirs split at the seams within weeks or months. Jabra does back the Move Wireless with a one-year warranty -- but it specifically excludes the ear cushions. Jabra sells replacement ear pads, but every color was on backorder (with no price listed) at the time of this review.
Bluetooth headphones aren't just a listening device, they're a fashion statement. And for many shoppers, only Beats will do. Beats, founded by rapper Dr. Dre, single-handedly launched the rebirth of the headphone in 2008. After years of cheap earbud domination, Dre argued that actual ear-covering headphones would make for a better listening experience. His shiny plastic headphones attracted celebrities like LeBron James and Lady Gaga -- and now, about two out of every three over-$100 headphones sold in North America have a bright-red b on the side.
That said, critics have never been crazy about Beats Bluetooth headphones. They argue that they're over-bassed, over-hyped and overpriced, and few recommend them. But they're by far the best-selling, most beloved headphones of customers at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.
So if you want a pair of wireless Beats headphones, which ones should you get? Your best bet: Beats by dre Solo2 Wireless (Est. $210). It improves so much upon earlier wireless Beats that it wins over testers at TechRadar.com. "You're still paying a lot for a logo, but the Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones show that Beats is quickly closing the gap between style and sound," says Hugh Langley. An independent consumer testing organization also gives these Beats headphones top marks (although it doesn't name them as a Best Buy).
In his review, Langley says that the overwhelming bass that are a characteristic of other Beats headphones has been toned down, although the Solo2 Wireless is "still primarily tuned for hip hop and electronic." It includes a few necessary features -- built-in mic, noise canceling and a mute button -- but not nearly the wealth of extras you'll find on the Best Reviewed Plantronics BackBeat Pro (Est. $160). The Solo2 Wireless has a much shorter Bluetooth range (about 30 feet), only half the battery life (12 hours), and it can only pair with one device at a time (so you won't be able to take calls unless you're listening on your phone).
In short, experts say, you're paying a lot more for Beats and getting a lot less.
"Sure, you can get better-sounding cans for this price," Langley says. "But with Beats you're ultimately paying for fashion." Beats come with a 1-year warranty.
If money is no object, you can buy Bluetooth headphones that experts say sound even better than the Plantronics BackBeat Pro -- plus swanky, leather-and-metal construction, a two-year warranty and an upscale brand label.
The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (Est. $500) "blow everything else away," says Lauren Dragan at TheWirecutter.com. "A glee-inducing experience," TechRadar.com calls the Momentum Wireless's sound. "Nearly perfect," says TomsGuide.com's Sherri L. Smith. It's the top luxury pick at What Hi-Fi? and DigitalTrends.com, too.
For $100 less, the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless (Est. $400) enjoys its own fan club. "Worth every penny," says PCMag.com's Tim Gideon. "Great sound and gorgeous design," What Hi-Fi? says. True, the sound is "not quite as open" as the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, CNET's David Carnoy says -- but he also finds the P5 Wireless "more pleasant, better balanced-sounding" and more comfortable, and he recommends it over the Sennheiser. Owners at Amazon.com lavish praise on both models, except for some low ratings for a Sennheiser Bluetooth glitch that the company has since solved.
Neither of these Bluetooth headphones boasts as many features as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro, but both the Sennheiser and B&W can pair with two Bluetooth devices at once, and they handle phone calls well. Neither's battery lasts quite as long (22 and 17 hours, respectively, versus 24 for the BackBeat Pro), and neither can match Plantronics' incredible, 330-foot Bluetooth range (both max out at about the normal 30 feet). Like the Plantronics, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless offers active noise cancelling and NFC (Near Field Communication), but the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless does not.
Bottom line: If you really want the very best sound you can possibly get from a Bluetooth headphone, experts and owners say either the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless or Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless is a great choice.