There’s more choice than ever with wireless headphones this holiday season, from the latest noise-cancelling truly wireless headphones to great budget pairs and everything in between.
Wireless headphones make for a great gift, but it can be hard to decide with so many different styles and brands on the market.
Plus there’s also noise cancelling to consider if you or your lucky recipient wants to shut off while travelling or in noisy environments. Our lab pushes this technology to its limits by testing noise-cancelling headphones against the sounds of places like the London Underground, so you can be sure that our top-rated pairs won’t disappoint.
Read on to find out about some of the latest pairs we’ve put through our lab. Or skip straight to all the best headphones we’ve tested.
What are the different types of wireless headphones?
There’s the traditional larger over-ear headphones you’re probably used to seeing, plus smaller on-ear pairs that sit on your ears rather than covering them.
Then there’s the two types of in-ear wireless headphones: ones with a neckband or cord, and truly wireless pairs like the Apple AirPods that often come at a premium.
Six pairs to add to your Christmas (short)list
Sony WF-1000XM3, £199
Sony’s flagship truly wireless headphones have made their mark so strongly they’ve arguably even outdone Apple’s AirPods Pro. Available at a significant saving compared with their rival, and with a considerably longer claimed battery life, plus additional features like an equaliser with treble and bass controls, it certainly looks like the real deal.
But how does the all-important sound quality compare? We give you the definitive verdict in our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.
Apple AirPods Pro, £249
Stylish and even more compact than the standard Apple AirPods (2019), the Apple AirPods Pro in-ear headphones aim to be the dream for those looking for magical headphones that ‘just work’ for noise cancelling on the go.
Unlike the original AirPods, these have different sizes of flexible eartips, which give an acoustic seal to your surroundings – both letting less sound in and stopping sound leaking out. This also means you can listen at lower volumes, which is better for your hearing.
But are they worth the price? Our comprehensive lab tests leave no stone unturned – find out in our expert Apple AirPods Pro review.
JBL T450BT, £30
There’s no doubt about it: headphones are getting expensive. But you do have a choice – our lab experts have found many pairs that punch well above their weight, and can even beat pairs many times their price.
The JBL T450BT are lightweight, portable on-ear headphones that offer all the features you’d expect. They have controls and a mic on the cable for music and calls, and a decent claimed 11-hour battery life that should last most through a day.
However, it’s risky business in this price range. There are many poor-sounding models with weak bass or harsh sound that’s tiring to listen to over time. Many pairs are also so uncomfortable they make your ears sore.
See whether this pair is one of the exceptions in our thorough JBL T450BT review.
Beats BeatsX, £80
Corded wireless in-ear headphones are a great lightweight option. They avoid the risk with truly wireless headphones that it’s all too easy to lose an earpiece. Beats claims the BeatsX last for eight hours between charges – good for slimline headphones like these – and they have the depth of bass Beats is famous for.
But is the bass too much, or do they deliver overall well-rounded sound? We’ve found great Best Buy Beats headphones, and dreaded Don’t Buys as well.
Find out whether this is one of the success stories in our Beats BeatsX review.
Sony WH-1000XM3, £270
Next to the stalwart Bose QuietComfort 35 II, this is one of the most popular pairs of noise-cancelling over-ear headphones for regular travellers. Sony promises ‘industry-leading’ noise cancelling that means you can listen in ‘silence’ – a bold claim indeed.
It also claims ‘exceptional sound quality’, all wrapped up in a lightweight, comfortable design.
We put them to the test in our full Sony WH-1000XM3 review.
Sony WH-H900N h.ear on 2 Wireless NC, £149
Noise-cancelling headphones are expensive, but if you’re looking for a bargain, Sony vies for the ideal offering alongside the rival – and even cheaper – JBL Live 650BTNC (£119).
Sony’s pair stands out for its stylish, high-end looks that belie its competitive price – offering many of the same features as the flagship Sony WH-1000XM3 above. Sony claims a remarkably strong 28-hour battery life, saving yourself from daily charging, and there’s even a convenient 3.5mm detachable cable so you can continue listening if you forget to charge them.
They also come with the powerful Sony Headphones Connect app, which allows you to tweak a wide range of settings, including adjusting the levels of treble and bass to your personal preferences.
So does the noise-cancelling technology and sound quality live up to the promise? Our lab professionals put them through their paces in our exclusive Sony WH-H900N h.ear on 2 Wireless NC review.