Thanks to digital wireless technology, high quality audio is no longer the same costly and labor-intensive endeavor it once was. Now, you can wirelessly stream CD-quality digital content from a digital media library or streaming service directly to your headphones, and take it with you everywhere.
Sure there is still a place for wired analog audio in true hi-fi setups and music studios, but for the listener without an unlimited budget, Bluetooth audio is the smart option.
It offers major conveniences like portable listening, no microphonic wire interference, and high quality 44.1 kHz sound. Check out some of the top options below across all styles, be they over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear.
1. Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II
Because of their sterling reputation for audio quality, Bose rarely deviates from their signature sound. To put it another way, the SoundLink II has a lot in common with its predecessor, the original Bose SoundLink Headphones, but the latest pair still offers key differences that make them the easy pick between the two.
For starters, the Bose SoundLink AEW II has plentiful connection options, including integrated Bluetooth 4.1, NFC tapping, and a 2.5mm jack for wired listening (although I would have loved to see a more convenient 3.5mm jack instead).
It has a 15 hour battery life for wireless listening, and does not use battery when plugged in via its analog audio jack.
It has speakerphone capabilities and its microphone is very high quality, but unfortunately it is too sensitive. It easily captures ambient sounds with no mute feature to cover them up, which can muddle calls easily.
The around-ear design is light and comfortable, especially compared to the less comfortable Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless Headphones. These headphones also offer useful touch controls on the right earcup, which are complemented with other nice features like voice prompts.
When it comes to the audio, Bose delivers their signature sound, which is deep and immersive without being overpowering. These cans employ TriPort Technology and Active EQ to make what I thought was a very clear and balanced sound, though other reviewers thought the bass should be deeper.
I think part of this comes from the fact that the closed back makes them bass seem slightly more confined, but this design also offers some passive noise isolation and privacy for only a minor trade-off.
Unfortunately, the sound of these wired headphones does not match the high-fidelity performance of Bose’s many high quality wired headphones. Since they do not support the aptX audio codec, the headphones are limited to the so-so streaming performance of A2DP, and audio bitrate will be a tad bit lower.
All this really effects is minor dynamic elements, and is a nearly imperceptible element in digital audio, so the only person that will suffer from this is an audiophile.
If active noise-isolation is something you’re after, you could opt for the wired Bose QuietComfort 25 for just $20 more, which isn’t bad considering its reputation as the best noise-cancelling headphones.
But the SoundLink Wireless II is the more versatile of the two, with its rechargeable wireless technology and top-notch build quality. So while Bose’s SoundLink AEW IIs are not the king of wireless headphones, they are certainly a solid contender, and Bose fans are sure to be pleased.
Price: $229.00 (18 percent off MSRP)
- Light and comfortable
- Clear, balanced sound
- 15 hour battery life
- Speakerphone mic is overly sensitive
- No aptX support
- 2.5mm jack can cause wired compatibility issues
2. Jaybird X2 Sport
Another second generation product, the X2 earbuds from Jaybird, is one of the best pairs of earbuds to come out this year, and offers an improved fit along with a powerful in-ear sound.
These small and durable earbuds are excellently designed, down to their liquipel hydrophobic coating that is good enough to be backed by a lifetime sweat warranty. The buds are connected with a tangle-free flat cable with inline controls for Bluetooth pairing power, and volume. Because they are on the connecting cable, these controls end up somewhere behind your ear, but while slightly hard to reach, are still very useful.
The X2 has an adaptable fit, allowing you to choose between three sizes of either silicone or Comply Foam eartips, plus several ear fins with a new design to help lock in the perfect fit. These earbuds have an impressive 8 hour battery life, and are quickly charged through a sealed Micro USB port.
And although the X2 saw a fair amount of improvement in fit and ergonomics, the sound has remained about the same as the for original BlueBuds X. This is by no means bad news, as the BlueBuds are among the best sounding earbuds out there, with a rich and punchy sound that sounds good at any volume.
Because these in-ear headphones are powered by 6mm drivers, they will not beat the sound of an over-ear pair of cans, nor will they sound as good as full as a wired pair of headphones. But the convenience they offer is excellent, and with a proper seal, they sound great (but just short of excellent) for a pair of sport headphones.
Bass will be a weak point like with any in-ear, but still does a solid job of driving the sound. Mids and highs are balanced and show no harshness at even the highest volumes.
The combination of great form factor plus solid sound make these an easy recommendation for runners, commuters, or any music aficionado who wants wireless music on the go.
- 8 hour battery life
- Improved fit from Comply Foam and new ear fins
- Lifetime sweat warranty
- Audio quality is limited by size
- Controls can be tricky
- Only minorly improved over the cheaper BlueBuds X
3. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
Sennheiser is one of the top brands for audiophile quality headphones, and now with the Momentum 2.0, you have a taste at some of this audio in glorious sounding wireless — if you can afford it. The Momentum 2.0 has a sturdy stainless steel band and genuine leather padding.
Its plush comfortable ear pads make for a great fit that offers no discomfort, and the headset is lightweight with minimal chance for listener’s fatigue. One downside of the ear cups though is that their leather material can make your ears uncomfortably warm during prolonged listening.
The earcups slide easily on a folding metal rail, and can be articulated at an angle for maximum comfort. The Momentum 2.0 also pampers you with other nice features like the option of Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, or a 2.5mm analog connection via an included locking cable. The battery life is about 22 hours, which is phenomenal because that is measured with the Noise Gard (sic) active noise cancelling activated.
The noise cancelling is not too harsh on this headset with minimal audio hiss, and definitely helps when you want to just focus in on the music. Despite this solid noise cancelling, the speakerphone feature of this device suffers from the same issue as the Bose headphones, in that the mic is too sensitive and easily picks up background sounds.
But this grip aside, focusing in on the music reveals a rich frequency spectrum of 16Hz – 22kHz, made all the more clear by aptX support on Android devices. The audio is clean with tight bass that does not get too boomy or spill into the mid-range sounds. Highs are just right, neither too bright or too flat, and stand out fantastically for lyrical and acoustic music.
While it is unfair to compare the Momentum 2.0 with the powerful OEMs that Sennheiser is known for, it is still an amazing headset that deserves to carry the Sennheiser brand. If you are looking for a high-budget pair of headphones that will give you faith in wireless audio, the Momentum 2.0 is a great pick for you.
- High-quality aptX audio
- Active noise cancelling
- 22 hour battery life
- Very high price tag
- Memory foam ear cups can make your ears warm
- Speakerphone mic is overly sensitive
4. V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
Expanding on the success of their wired Crossfade LP, audio buffs V-Moda have released their first wireless headphones, the Crossfade Wireless, and they offered me a hands on review.
From my time using the headphones, I can tell they are solidly built. As I read further into the headphones, I found that their sturdiness is matched by V-Moda’s impressive 50% off immortal life program, that complements their 1-year warranty with a discount of half off any pair if yours is damaged beyond repair. It is unlikely I will need this offer from regular use though, as the Steelflex headband and ear cups are built to last.
Despite the name, this Steelflex headband is not particularly flexible, and the earphones don’t rotate, so wearing them around your neck can be uncomfortable as well. This doesn’t mean that wearing the headphones is uncomfortable though, as the soft soft memory foam pads felt fine after wearing them for several hours.
The rigidity does make them harder to carry around though, as the wireless version of the Crossfade lacks the useful Cliqfold mechanism of the M-100. That said, the hard exoskeleton case is a solid remedy, as it is actually good enough to make me feel safe throwing into a backpack.
But what the V-Moda lacks in form factor, it makes up for in sound, as the Crossfade Wireless offers an improvement on their signature M-Class “Modern Audiophile” sound in a wireless package. Its 50mm drivers with dual diaphragm offer fine-tuned frequency response balance across an impressive spectrum of 5Hz – 30kHz. This translates to precise and deep bass, tight mids, and a crystal clear ultra wide highs.
Music sounds naturally balanced and vivid through the wireless connections, and the device’s sound stage was wide and complex. The spec sheet for the product does not mention apt-X support, which would suggest it is using a lower quality codec, but I would certainly not have guessed so based on the sound.
V-Moda also claims that the Crossfade Wireless boasts Analog Noise Isolation, but I think that is their way of saying the headphones are closed-ear and made of metal, as you will certainly not confuse this with full noise cancellation.
The speaker uses a multi-use button for speakerphone options, and it works quite well for phone calls. It can connect via Bluetooth to two devices at once, and has a signal powerful enough to stay connected to notoriously spotty Bluetooth devices like smartwatches.
Range is also quite good, and these cans have an average 12 hour battery life, so they can follow you most places, but wouldn’t last several days of heavy use. Despite the somewhat high price tag, these headphones are solid and comfortable enough that I would wear them out of my house, they’re just that good sounding.
- Round and rich signature sound
- Stylish and comfortable design
- Immortal Life Program backs a sturdy build
- Lacks V-Moda’s Cliqfold design
- 12 hour battery life could be better
- Noise isolation not up to par with true noise cancellation
5. Plantronics BackBeat PRO
The Plantronics BackBeat PRO wireless headphones offer a lot of unique features, and for under $200, are fantastic pair of noise cancelling wireless headphones. One of the nicest things about these headphones is how easy they are to use. They connect quickly and easily through Bluetooth, and offer an intuitive and in depth control system that even novices can figure out.
The BackBeat PROs have one full-size dial for volume on one ear cup and one for tracking on the other. It also offers handy controls like a mute button, play/pause, a dedicated button to answer phone calls (also an NFC surface), and a built-in feature that pauses when you pull the headphones off your ears.
There is also a button to enable the active noise cancellation, which works quite well at silencing loud environments. One downside to the ANC is that it requires the headphones to be powered on, even when they are plugged in via a 3.5mm cable for analog mode.
This is not an issue though, as these headphones have around a 24 hour battery life, meaning they will easily last through several days of use. The headphones are comfortable to wear for long periods as well, but they are somewhat heavy and bulky, so you’ll definitely still remember you’re wearing them.
The BackBeat PRO keeps pace in terms of sound too, with a clear and rounded presence. The mids and highs are clear, bringing forward vocal subtleties and vivid percussion hits. The low end is powerful too, but somewhat muddled by a boomy mid-low frequency. It is a small hump in the waveform though, and the low sub otherwise packs a tight thump.
The Bluetooth boasts an incredibly long range as well, so this pair of headphones really has a lot going for it. Altogether, it does have some flaws, but it is also graced with a smart design and solid sound, making it a great choice for the smart spender.
Price: $159.99 (36 percent off MSRP)
- Intuitive control system
- Active noise cancelling
- 24 hour battery life
- Boomy low-end sounds
- ANC requires power even for analog mode
- Bulky design
6. NuForce BE6
The BE6 Bluetooth earbuds from NuForce are a simply designed pair of earbuds that offer a versatile portable sound to fit your needs. It is easy to find a perfect seal between the three different ear tips and wings, which allows the powerful sound of these headphones to come through clearly.
The ones I preferred to use with the sample product I was given are the Comply Foam tips, which work awesome while on the move. But in spite of this solid selection, some reviewers still reported fit problems. I’ll leave it at this: every ear canal is different, so yours may require a more custom fit, but most don’t.
On the outside, you have the earbuds’ full aluminum casing, which despite not being IP-rated, can easily withstand sweat as well as drops or rough backpack interiors. The included carrying case certainly helps, but is not even really needed. The backs of each bud have a magnetic clip to help keep the cord from getting tangled or yanked, making them super easy to carry around.
The BE6 headphones also include inline controls with a microphone for speakerphone calling. This control has a rubbery feel and is easy to use while running or working out. It makes pairing through Bluetooth easy, and allows you to switch devices as well as cycle between calls and audio plentifully throughout the headphones’ decent 6 hour battery life.
Looking now to audio, the BE6s deliver clear, balanced sound, only made more detailed thanks to their support of aptX audio on Android devices. The sharp highs and present mids bring music to life, while the low end rounds out the sound, even though it is not strong enough to drive the song.
The particularly large 10mm drivers found in these earbuds do give the bass more presence than other earbuds though. They won’t, however, beat out the drive of a solid over-ear pair of headphones, but then again that’s not a fair comparison, as these compact earbuds are far more portable.
Plus, they still offer solid stereo separation and volume for their size. These cans get as loud as I want them to go, which is another win for the larger drivers as well.
If your active lifestyle makes you better suited for in-ear earbuds, the BE6s will deliver quality audio in a durable package, which is just what most people want out of a pair of Bluetooth buds.
- Durable splash-proof design
- aptX and AAC support
- 10mm drivers deliver large, full sound
- 6 hour battery life could be better
- Fairly weak low end
- Some may not get a full seal from included tips
7. Harman Kardon SOHO
Harman Kardon’s SOHO is a sophisticated looking pair of on-ear headphones, that offers style and a signature sound at a reasonable price. These headphones are thankfully stylish and foldable. This is nice considering that their carrying case is awkward and difficult, and that you are better off leaving them around your neck.
The headphones are also moderately comfortable, though many think that the stitched leather design does not offer as much padding as it should. Over ears do tend to tend to offer comfort issues, but these can be partially forgiven because of the clever touch screen controls.
Being able to just swipe or tap on the right ear cup is a delightful way to control your music, and add to the sleek design and ease of use. Even something like Bluetooth pairing can be intimidating for a newbie, so it is good that H/K is working towards making this a more intuitive process.
Moving on to sound, the SOHO is a great sounding pair of cans that has its quirks. The 30mm drivers deliver more volume than one might expect, and offer a solid frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz. These headphones support aptX audio, but seem to offer a bit of a flatter frequency response than other wireless headphones. Highs are still mostly crisp, and bass is somewhat boosted to help drive the music, but the music is left muddy in the midrange, which hurts clarity.
For the amazing price of these headphones, they are still a great option for portable audio. Limited audio performance and a somewhat stunted 6 hour battery life might tempt you to upgrade, but even with its shortcomings, the H/K SOHOs are still one of the best wireless headphones for under $200.
Price: $199.95 (33 percent off MSRP)
- Stylish and durable design
- aptX codec support
- Simple touch controls
- Not the most comfortable
- Awkward carrying case
- 6 hour battery life could be better
8. Parrot Zik 2.0
Although at first glance these headphones look like a sci-fi movie prop, the bold and stylish Zik 2.0 headphones are actually the latest audio innovation from Drone company Parrot.
Clearly, this company’s talents far exceeds drone manufacture, as these headphones offer an eye catching modern design with solid audio to boot. These headphones are surprisingly lightweight and comfortable, but their design makes it apparent that these won’t fold up for travel easily. One issue that several reviewers have reported is that the ear cups are too small for some people’s heads, making them uncomfortable.
The Zik 2.0 has several other advanced features like NFC tapping (to supplement Bluetooth 3.0), several different modes of active and passive noise isolation, and a touch-based control system that allows you to adjust volume, change tracks, and more. These headphones will even automatically pause the music when you take the headphones off, a highly appreciated feature that all headphones should utilize.
The immersive Parrot Audio Suite app from Parrot adds extra functionality for the active noise cancelling, plus other features like a strange EQ blender, battery updates, and track information. Less impressive, unfortunately, is the battery life of these headphones, which sits at around 6 hours.
Considering that the manufacturer specializes in wireless connectivity over audio, the full and pleasant sound of the Zik 2.0 comes off a surprise at first listen. The headphones really deliver on the low end, with tight, deep bass frequencies.
Crisp highs compliment this low end sound, but the mids do sound a little frail in comparison. Its sound stage is decent too, but one rule you should definitely follow if you want to enjoy your Zik 2.0s is to avoid the Concert Hall effect, as the extra reverb almost never adds any value to the sound.
Coming from a company whose main focus is drones, these are a pretty phenomenal pair of headphones. The Philippe Starck design is striking and beautiful, but does it live up to claims of being the most advanced headphones on the planet? Not quite, but still very cool.
Price: $298.96 (25 percent off MSRP)
- Adaptive noise cancelling
- Integrated app provides extra functionality
- Quality audio
- Design is not portable
- 6 hour battery life could be better
- Ear cups can be too small for some
9. LG Tone Infinim
LG’s Tone Infinim is an entirely different form factor from other ear bud options, but it is one that still certainly has its benefits. And while many will find the retractable cord design cumbersome, some will appreciate the around the neck style, and the novelty of the retractable earbuds.
The somewhat flexible band stays snugly around your neck, and you can simply retract the buds back into the unit when not in use, which allows you to turn them on and off quickly. One downside to this is that the earpiece wire is very thin, and can be damaged easily. It is also worth noting that previous LG Tone models like the LG Tone Ultra have a more flexible design that some might prefer.
The Tone Infinim is definitely the best sounding of the LG Tone series, offering both aptX codec support and a Harman Kardon branded Signature Sound. The audio is well-rounded with a solid bass sound, but all in all does lack the clarity of high-end headphones.
For average listening, it will be just fine, as content still sounds clear and balanced and there are EQ settings to help dial in the ideal sound. Because the headphones only include two sets of ear tips, it can be a bit harder to get the proper seal for a good sound.
The controls are well-spaced and easy to access, and some have extra uses that can be quite handy. For instance, the speakerphone call button allows you to use services like Siri, Google Now, or Cortana to make a call without getting your phone out. The Tone & Talk Android app can even read you text messages, making this a useful device in the office.
Combine all of this with a 14 hour battery life and you have a truly versatile pair of headphones. They would certainly be a better value if they were more waterproof, but considering that you can get them for under $100, these earbuds are definitely a viable option for portable audio.
Price: $86.43 (42 percent off MSRP)
- aptX codec support and Harman Kardon Signature Sound
- 14 hour battery life
- Tone & Talk app can make phone calls and messages
- Earphone wire is dangerously thin
- Only 2 ear tips included
- Not waterproof
10. Bowers & Wilkins P5
Like all the other major audio gear companies, Bowers & Wilkins offers their take on wireless audio with the P5 Wireless. This comfortable on-ear with a premium style comes at an equally premium price, but with sound that has an upward limit for quality. For $100 less, the wired P5 Series 2 will be a strong temptation to Bowers & Wilkins fans, but good wireless audio is sometimes too good pass up.
In the case of the P5 wireless, audio is a big plus, with aptX streaming on Android devices producing a more clear sound thanks to an improved streaming bitrate. The sound spectrum is mostly solid, save for an extra bump in the mid bass. Treble is clear but lacks that extra warmth that you get from top wired headphones.
It is fair to say that these headphones don’t sound $400 good, but for premium brands you are often just paying for the name. The headphones themselves sound clear all the same.
Controls are functional even though the buttons are somewhat clustered together, and the 17 hour battery life is very impressive. Overall, these are an excellent pair of headphones, and if the price tag isn’t an option, these are a great choice for anyone looking for a premium product.
- Stylish and durable
- aptX audio
- 17 hour battery life
- High price tag
- Could be more comfortable
- Slight bump in mid bass range
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