Best Wireless Headphones

By: Tara Tuckwiller on November 07, 2017

Editor's Note:
For the very best audio quality, Sennheiser is the go-to choice among wireless headphones. For on-the-go listening, we found some Bluetooth headphones that deliver sound quality that's nearly as good. On a budget? We also spotted some wireless headphones that deliver good sound without draining your wallet. Among noise cancelling wireless headphones, Bose is best.

Sennheiser RS 185 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Range -- Up to 328 feet Frequency Response -- 17 Hz - 22 kHz Listening time -- Up to 18 hours

Best wireless headphones for music

For serious music listeners who want to cut the cord, experts recommend the Sennheiser RS 185. It's optimized for music, communicating via RF signals (no Bluetooth to compress the audio), an open-back design for a truer sound, and incredibly comfortable, non-sweaty felt-covered ear pads. This headphone is designed to pair with your home stereo/theater -- not for on-the-go listening.

Buy for Too low to display
Sennheiser RS 175 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Range -- Up to 328 feet Frequency Response -- 17 Hz - 22 kHz Listening time -- Up to 18 hours

Best wireless headphones for TV

The Sennheiser RS 175 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 supreme comfort. Sennheiser optimizes the RS 175 for TV and movies, with full-bodied sound, plus Bass and Surround modes you can turn on or off.

Buy for Too low to display
Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless II Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Range -- Up to 30 feet Frequency Response -- Not listed Listening time -- 15 hours

Best Bluetooth headphones

The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless II achieves the Bluetooth headphone trifecta: blissful comfort, robust 15-hour battery life and solid sound. Although Bluetooth compression always hurts sound quality somewhat, even picky experts say the Bose sounds clean and well balanced -- and it lets you easily take that quality anywhere you go. It's so lightweight that testers actually forget they're wearing it.

Buy for $199.00
Skullcandy Grind Wireless Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Range -- 33 feet Frequency Response -- Not listed Listening time -- 12 hours

Cheap Bluetooth headphones

Cheap Bluetooth headphones often sound crummy and look dowdy, but not the Skullcandy Grind Wireless. The brushed metal-and-faux leather Skullcandy comes in six designs, ranging from subtle solid black to sporty blue to hipster camo. It's lightweight and comfortable, with sound quality that pleasantly surprises even picky critics. It's not without some flaws, but for the price, experts say it's an incredible bargain.

Buy for $57.29
Puro BT2200 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Range -- Up to 30 feet Frequency Response -- Not listed Listening time -- 18 hours

Bluetooth headphones for kids

To protect kids' hearing, the Puro BT2200 limits volume to 85 decibels (the level the World Health Organization considers "safer"). Other kids' headphones make this claim, but testing shows than not all live up to it, while the Puro does. It's sized right for kids and sounds impressive enough even for grownups. Its sturdy aluminum frame is another plus.

Buy for $99.99
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Range -- 33 feet Frequency Response -- Not listed Listening time -- 20 hours (wireless), 40 hours (wired)

Best wireless noise-canceling headphones

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II effectively mutes the outside world, so you can hear your music in peace. The rechargeable battery runs for 20 hours in wireless mode, or 40 hours with the headphone cord plugged in. And testers say Bose's lightweight, plush, over-ear cups are so comfortable, they forget they're wearing headphones. New features include selectable noise-cancellation levels and Google Assistant.

Buy for $349.00

Types of Wireless Headphones

Wireless Headphones for Home Use

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. Most use RF signals and have good range, even receiving quality audio through walls and floors.

Bluetooth Headphones

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). Experts are often unimpressed with cheap Bluetooth headphones' sound quality, although several in the $60-and-up range sound quite good..

Wireless Noise-canceling Headphones

Some wireless headphones do a good job of simply sealing out noise -- but noise-canceling headphones take this a step further. They measure outside noise frequencies, then actively cancel it out by producing the same frequencies out of phase. You'll be able to hear your music clearly, but annoying background noise (like the drone of an airplane engine) will be erased.

Why go wireless, and what are your options?

Wireless headphones are popular for good reason. Pair them with your phone, and you can listen to music cord-free -- while shutting out outside noise better than any earbuds can. You can walk around town, work out, or play games on your phone without getting tangled in cords ... and you'll be making a fashion statement at the same time.

Wireless headphones are also ideal for home use -- listening to music or watching TV -- 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.

Wireless headphones have their limitations, however. Though the best wireless headphones can rival the quality of wired versions, this kind of quality typically comes with a high price tag. Most wireless headphones still don't reproduce sound as faithfully as wired models, though the sonic shortfalls are usually small enough that casual listeners won't be bothered -- in fact, many will not even notice them to begin with. 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 (noticeable mainly during quiet moments) or occasional dropouts (breaks in the stream of sound).

The best wireless headphones

Experts largely agree that for the very best audio quality when listening to music or watching videos, stick with quality wireless headphones that use RF technology. Most wireless headphones use Bluetooth instead; however, that technology compresses audio, invariably losing some detail in the process. Because of that, while Bluetooth wireless headphones (discussed below) are terrific for casual listening, and are often more portable than the RF wireless headphones discussed here, they aren't the best choice if the best audio quality is your first concern.

With that in mind, reviewers say that Sennheiser makes the best wireless headphones for home theater use. For serious music listeners who don't want to be tied to a cord, reviews say the Sennheiser RS 185 (Est. $400) is the right choice.

The Sennheiser 185 shuns Bluetooth and transmits uncompressed audio directly to your ears while you walk around the house. (They come with a charging dock that doubles as a transmitter.) These are also open-back headphones -- the ear cups are open, to let you hear a truer sound with no "reflections" like you might hear bouncing around inside closed-back headphones. However, they also let sound in and out of the headphones, so they're only for listening in a relatively quiet house where your music won't bother anyone else.

Comfort is terrific, according to most reviews. You won't be jogging in these or stuffing them in your backpack, so there's no need for them to be tiny or trendy.

"The headset is full-size, encompassing your ears with very large felt-covered pads. They're all about comfort," says Andrew Williams at TrustedReviews.com. The open-back ear cups and felt material won't turn sweaty like the typical pleather ring-around-the-ears can, and the padded headband and lightweight design makes them very comfortable. "I've been wearing the Sennheiser RS185 for hours at a time with no problem," Williams says. Its batteries can last up to 18 hours, and -- in theory -- it can transmit up to 100 meters away (more than 325 feet). In real life, reviewers say, it has no trouble getting a signal anywhere in a normal-size house.

Owners give the Sennheiser RS 185 a thumbs-up. It earns 4.1 out of 5 stars at Amazon.com, with more than 250 owner reviews posted. Like the professionals, owners say it delivers great sound and comfort, and its wireless technology is mostly free from interference from the usual sources, such as Wi-Fi networks, cordless phones, baby monitors and the like. The main complaint we saw from both experts and home users is that the tightly packed controls on the earpieces make it easy to hit the wrong button by mistake. Sennheiser backs its headphones with a two-year warranty.

Wireless headphones for TV focus on privacy and clarity

If you want wireless headphones specifically to use while watching TV, your needs will be slightly different from those of a user whose main interest is listening to music. Rather than full, rich sound across the entire musical spectrum, your main need will be clarity in the low to middle range, where spoken dialogue tends to fall. You're also more likely to prefer headphones with fully enclosed ear cups, which filter out ambient noise and keep the sound of your program from leaking through to annoy others. Virtual surround sound, which simulates the feeling of being inside a scene, can be a plus.

David Carnoy and "The Audiophiliac" Steve Guttenberg at CNET name the Sennheiser RS 175 (Est. $250) the best wireless headphones for TV watching. "Yes, there are cheaper Bluetooth options for using wireless headphones while watching TV (you can connect a Bluetooth dongle to your TV and then pair it with any Bluetooth headphone model)," CNET says. "However, if you're looking for a more premium sound experience that offers a rock-steady connection, no latency issues and extended range, the Sennheiser RS 175 Wireless Headphone System is a good choice, even at its somewhat elevated price." The RS 175 uses the same radio-frequency (RF) technology as the RS 185, and its batteries can likewise last up to 18 hours.

The RS 175 is optimized for TV/movie watching, with a Bass mode and a Surround mode, which simulates surround sound within the earphones (you can turn these modes on or off). It looks just like the Sennheiser RS 185, only with a closed ear cup covered in leather-look material.

Experts like the sound quality: "Film dialogue was crisp through the RS 175, and with Bass mode on or off, the headphones pumped out plenty of rumble when watching modern TV and movies," says Tim Gideon at PCMag.com, who awards it an Excellent rating. "It's easy to forget you're listening to wireless headphones."

Owners love the Sennheiser RS 175, too: It's a favorite at both Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, earning an overall rating of 4.4 stars or better among more than 1,100 owners posting to those two sites. The biggest downside of the RS 175 is that it has the same crowded button arrangement found on the RS 185. Users at Amazon.com agree that it can be hard to find the right button by feel, but most think these headphones are worth it for their overall comfort, long range and quality sound. The RS 175 carries Sennheiser's two-year warranty.

Bluetooth headphones offer freedom of movement

As noted above, most of the 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. In fact, ultra-cheap Bluetooth headphones can sound downright crummy. The good news is, we did find Bluetooth headphones that satisfy even picky experts.

The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless II (Est. $230) isn't exactly cheap -- but it's "one the best sounding Bluetooth headphones currently available," says CNET's Carnoy. Equally important: Its battery soldiers on for 15 hours (it includes a cord, too, so you can plug it into your headphone jack and keep listening if your battery gives out), and testers find it blessedly feather-light and comfy. "At times, you barely notice you're wearing the headphones," Carnoy says.

Style-wise, the SoundLink II looks pretty much exactly like the Bose noise-canceling headphones that you see on every airplane and subway train. "The neutral design means it goes with banker and ballerina alike," says Ced Yuen at TrustedReviews.com. Available in matte black or white, the sturdy-feeling headphones fold flat to stow in the included zip-up case.

Although this isn't an active noise-canceling headphone, "the around-ear design does a good job passively sealing out a lot of that same ambient noise to begin with," Carnoy says. Music sounds "clean and well balanced with ample but not overpowering bass." Buttons on the right earcup let you control your music and answer calls without fiddling with your phone.

Owners love it. The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless II earns 4.4 out of 5 stars at Amazon.com, with more than 1,075 reviews posted. Bose backs its headphones with a one-year warranty.

Beats headphones deliver style and substance, at a price

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 the Beats b logo 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 Solo3 Wireless (Est. $215 and up). With its "insane" range (120 feet, in Wired's test) and "staggering" battery life (40 hours, and the New York Daily News' tester says that's no joke), the latest Beats take wireless headphones to a whole new level -- in some ways.

But what about sound? Well, that depends on what you like. Basically, these sound the same its predecessor model, the Beats Solo2 Wireless headphones -- which themselves were a big improvement over earlier Beats, experts agreed, but still pretty heavy on the bass.

"Pop, hip hop and dance tracks sound pretty good," What Hi-Fi? says. But "for all they give us in full-bodied sound and enthusiasm, they miss out in subtlety and refinement."

CNET's David Carnoy agrees that for quiet-room classical listening, this isn't your best bet. But he points out that the boosted bass actually sounds more balanced when he tests the Solo3 Wireless in its natural habitat: the noisy streets and subways of New York.

The main problem with Beats, experts say, is that you're paying a lot more and getting a lot less. ConsumerReports.org recommends the Beats by dre Solo3 Wireless based on performance, but doesn't name it a Best Buy. "The long and short of it is that the Beats Solo3 Wireless is a likable on-ear wireless headphone with great battery life, but $300 is a lot to pay for it," Carnoy says. (Note that Amazon is selling the Beats Solo3 Wireless in some colors -- including black, white and red -- for $215 to $220, but other colors still cost $300.) Beats come with a one-year warranty.

Cheap Bluetooth headphones cut some corners, but perform well

As Gizmodo.com's Estes says: "Cheap headphones often sound cheap." But the Skullcandy Grind Wireless (Est. $60) defies that trend. It wins an Editors' Choice at PCMag.com and makes CNET's list of the best wireless on-ear headphones. "Stellar sound without shredding your wallet," says Nick Pino at TechRadar.com, awarding the Skullcandy Grind Wireless 4 out of 5 stars.

Testers love the design. It's lightweight, comfy and "chic," the New York Daily News says, with a brushed-metal band, subtle skull logo and faux-leather padding. It comes in six colors, ranging from subdued solid black to a particolored plaid-and-camo set "that basically screams hipster audiophile or technophile lumberjack," Pino notes.

It doesn't fold, there's no carrying case, and phone call quality isn't great; at both CNET and the New York Daily News, testers could hear callers clearly, but not vice versa. Still, owners award the Grind Wireless 4.3 out of 5 stars or better at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, although we did see a few complaints of dropped Bluetooth connections.

Sound quality is "surprising," Pino says. The Skullcandy Grind Wireless handles bass "better than a pair of Beats ever could," with crisp, clear highs to match. CNET's David Carnoy says it competes well with some $200 Bluetooth headphones he's tested. The Skullcandy carries a two-year warranty.

Running a close second is the Jabra Move Wireless (Est. $65), TechRadar.com's Great Value pick, and Wirecutter.com's favorite Bluetooth headphones, period. The Jabras sound "about 75 percent as good as many luxury Bluetooth headphones for less than one-fifth of the price," Wirecutter.com's Lauren Dragan says.

The Move Wireless is "surprisingly fashionable," says Sherri L. Smith at TomsGuide.com. Its lightweight, Beats-esque design 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 the 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."

Like the Skullcandy, the Move Wireless cuts costs by cutting features. It doesn't fold, 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 for $10 per pair.

Still not cheap enough? Check out the JLab Neon Bluetooth Wireless On-Ear Headphones (Est. $30), Wirecutter.com's favorite ultra-cheapie and a hit with most of its buyers at Amazon.com, earning 4.1 out of 5 stars with more than 85 reviews posted.

"We won't mince words: Once you spend less than $70, most Bluetooth headphones are cheap looking and tinny sounding, but this JLab Neon model actually feels solid, sports a 13-plus-hour battery life, and sounds decent," Wirecutter.com's Lauren Dragan says.

The JLab comes in gray plastic with bright trim (blue, purple or lime green) or solid black. Dragan calls it "bare bone" -- the ear pads don't swivel, and it doesn't work as a corded headphone -- but it does work while charging, and it does take phone calls (although they sound muffled, Dragan says).

"But listen: Do you need something inexpensive so you can listen to podcasts when you're cleaning the house? Do you want a pair of Bluetooth headphones to stash in your desk so you can check in on the game at lunch? Do you lose things all the time and get tired of being sad about it?" Dragan asks. "If so, the JLab Neon Bluetooth is for you." It carries a one-year warranty.

Bluetooth headphones for kids: Puro headphones protect kids' hearing

When Wirecutter.com tested 30 kids' headphones -- designed to limit volume to 85 decibels, the level that the World Health Organization considers "safer" -- nearly half of them flunked the test, allowing music to blare louder than the 85-decibel limit that contributes to hearing loss. And kid-testers hated the way some of the "safe" headphones fit.

But the Puro BT2200 (Est. $100) won on both counts. "The Puro headphones not only met our volume-limiting test standards but also were the only pair liked by both the toddlers and the big kids who helped us test," Wirecutter.com's Dragan writes. "They support Bluetooth (which can provide more effective volume limiting than traditional headphone tech), but they also work corded (so you can use them with lots of devices), and they sound good enough for adults to use, too."

Unlike other kids' headphones, which are made of cheap plastic, the Puro boasts a sturdy aluminum frame. Dragan stepped on them in boots, flexed the headband and let her toddler chew on them -- and they survived just fine. Kids liked the feel of the padded headband and earpieces. Simple buttons on the side control volume, play/pause, and answer phone calls.

As for battery life, "the Puro surpassed its super-long claimed battery life of 18 active hours," Dragan says. "We heard a warning beep at 22 hours, 16 minutes, and the BT2200 finally died at 22 hours, 25 minutes." If the battery does run out of juice, you can simply plug the included cable into your headphone jack and keep listening. A hard travel case is also included.

The Puro was the best sounding kids' headphones in the test, too. Unlike most of the muddy-sounding competitors, "we'd be happy listening to these headphones for a trip ourselves, if our heads were a bit smaller," Dragan says.

Owners overwhelmingly like the Puro BT2200: It earns 4.4 out of 5 stars, with more than 300 reviews posted at Amazon.com. Parents echo the experts, saying that the Puro headphones sound wonderful and feel comfortable for their kids. The Puro BT2200 comes with a one-year warranty and is available in black, white, blue and purple.

Wireless noise-canceling headphones: Mute the outside world

"Hell is other people, and nobody shuts them up more effectively than Bose," begins TrustedReviews.com's ode to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Est. $350). Other experts agree: Bose created the magic of noise-canceling headphones, and other brands simply cannot match it. PCMag's Tim Gideon sums it up: "This is the best noise cancellation on the market."

The QuietComfort 35 II takes last year's model -- the critically beloved Bose QuietComfort 35 -- and adds two upgrades. First -- and most obvious -- a new button on the left earcup allows you to summon Google Assistant (the Amazon Alexa-like artificial intelligence you summon with "OK, Google"). You'll be able to get notifications, reply to texts, control your music, etc. without lifting a finger to your phone.

Second -- and equally welcome -- the QuietComfort 35 II lets you set noise cancellation to "High," "Low" or "Off." (On the QuietComfort 35, it was just "On" or "Off.) The new "Low" setting is useful if you need a little contact with the outside world (if you're listening for your flight announcement, for example), or if you feel a sensation of pressure on your ears with Bose's noise canceling set to "High" (some people do).

"Frankly, the inclusion of this functionality almost feels like a humblebrag -- the QC35 II's Low mode is probably as effective as most competitors' best attempts at noise cancellation," Gideon says. "And High mode is a thing to behold -- in-room chatter is dampened significantly, and loud whirs from an AC unit are almost eliminated completely."

Comfort is class leading -- "the padding is wonderfully soft," TrustedReviews.com's Ced Yuen writes -- and battery life is outstanding. Bose says the QuietComfort 35 will run for 20 hours wirelessly (40 hours in wired mode), and testers say it delivers. Phone calls sound clear. The sound quality more than satisfies testers, with none of the dreaded noise-canceling hiss. "Audiophiles like to poo-poo Bose's sound quality, but the QC35 pours clean, crisp audio into your ears," says Wired's David Pierce. "Sure, it's a little over-warm and rich, but it still sounds good." The Bose QuietComfort 35 II has a one-year warranty.

One caveat: That sensation of pressure some people feel with Bose's noise-canceling technology doesn't happen with some other noise-canceling headphones, What Hi-Fi? editors point out -- including the 5-star-rated Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless (Est. $400). The Sennheiser costs more than the Bose, but it also comes with an elegant stainless-and-stitched leather design and two-year warranty. It muffles outside noise quite well, testers say, but you won't get that almost supernatural Bose silence.

On the other hand, music sounds better on the Sennheiser, CNET's Carnoy says. In his review of the Bose headphones, Carnoy notes that "The Sennheiser's bass is a bit tighter, it's got slightly better clarity and just sounds a little more natural. It's currently our favorite Bluetooth headphone for sound quality. But the QC35's noise-canceling is more effective and clearly superior if that's what you're looking for."

If you're on a budget, experts say the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 (Est. $250) is the best value in this class. In tests at CNET, PCMag.com and TomsGuide.com, it lags just a bit behind the Bose in almost every way -- the Bose is just a little lighter, a little better-sounding, a little better at noise canceling. "The long and short of it is I'd rather have the QC35, but the BackBeat Pro 2 is the better value," Carnoy says. The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 has a one-year warranty.

Expert & User Review Sources

We consider several factors when looking for the best wireless headphones for use at home and on the go. 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 CNET and PCMag.com evaluate all of these factors in detail -- and they test just about every major wireless headphone on the market, maintaining up-to-date lists of the best headphones. Almost as prolific are the testers at ConsumerReports.org, What Hi-Fi?, DigitalTrends.com, TechRadar.com, TomsGuide.com, Gizmodo.com and TrustedReviews.com. Wirecutter.com rounds up dozens of wireless headphones for head-to-head shootouts in the noise canceling, home theater, Bluetooth and kids' headphone categories. We also found helpful reviews (although not as many) at NYMag.com, Wired, New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal. Reviews from retail sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com help us evaluate how comfort and durability stack up for the majority of users.

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