Our audio test lab has discovered its first budget truly wireless headphones that can compete with the best pairs on the market, so read our reviews below to find out which one it is.
Truly wireless headphones, which are in-ear pairs that do away with wires even between the two earpieces, have been a challenge for manufacturers for years. Even many of the biggest audio brands have struggled – we’ve given Don’t Buys to surprisingly dreadful pairs costing more than £200.
But it seems that things are changing, with budget pairs rapidly narrowing the gap to the big-brand competition. And we’ve now found our first sub-£50 pair that can really hold its own against top models on the market.
Best headphones – see our headphones buying guide with recommendations for styles
Truly wireless headphones and performance in Which? tests
Many truly wireless headphones have had a torrid time in our testing. A quarter of all models we’ve tested have performed so badly that our lab and listening panel have made them Don’t Buys.
Common problems include a thin and weak sound quality that’s lacking in bass, exceptionally poor battery life, and such an awful fit that you won’t want to keep using them for long. At the budget end, many pairs also have build quality so poor they’re unlikely to last long.
Almost 50% of truly wireless headphones are poor scorers
The latest truly wireless headphones on test
The Apple AirPods and Sony WF-1000XM3 may be available at a discounted price at the moment, but many people will still balk at the price regardless of whether they’re worth it or not. Fortunately, if you’re not willing to consider spending top whack, there are plenty of brands offering compelling-looking alternatives for well under half the price.
Read our full reviews below to find out which are worth buying and those you should avoid at all costs.
Anker Soundcore Life P2, £50
It would be quite easy to bet your money that whenever Anker release a product, it will be incredibly popular on Amazon, but often with a lower profile elsewhere. The affordably priced Anker Soundcore Life P2 has a score of 4.5 out of 5 from more than a whopping 9,000 ratings on Amazon.
But are they really far and away the best truly wireless headphones around, or are buyers just jumping on the bandwagon?
Our experts provide the definitive answer in our exclusive Anker Soundcore Life P2 review.
JVC HA-A10T, £40
JVC is one of the better-known budget headphone brands and are even more keenly priced than Anker’s pair. Nevertheless, they’re not short of features, offering both flexible plastic and memory foam eartips so you can find the ideal fit, they claim a long battery life and the earpieces are water resistant as well.
Does the experience of long-established brands make a difference? We reveal all in our JVC HA-A10T review.
Skullcandy Sesh, £50
Skullcandy may seem like a youthful brand, but it’s built up a name over the years for compelling offerings at prices that undercut the biggest brands.
The Skullcandy Sesh is the entry-level model in its truly wireless range – the manufacturer claims a 10-hour battery life, they support your smartphone’s voice assistant, and they’re both water and dust resistant, so can handle a sandy beach.
But what about the all-important sound quality? Our listening panel put them through their paces in our Skullcandy Sesh review.
Jam Live Loud (HX-EP410), £40
The Jam Live Loud take compact truly wireless headphones to the next level, claiming they’re ‘mini but mighty’ with tiny earpieces and even a charging case to boot. The marketing says they’re the perfect fit for the coin pocket of your skinny jeans, while delivering ‘big, superior’ sound.
Jam claims its ultimate lightweight design gives you the freedom you need for ‘your hardest workout’, with a ‘special ergonomic design’ to avoid the need for complex-shaped earpieces.
Could these be the ideal pair for you? Our tests reveal whether they’re worth the money in our Jam Live Loud (HX-EP410) review.
Other headphones we’ve just tested
Truly wireless headphones won’t suit everyone. For one, all models have charging cases, since our tests show that no current pairs will last a day of continuous listening without them. And if you’d like to enjoy the lockdown with your tunes, many would prefer the added comfort of an over-ear pair.
If you’re looking for something more affordable or lightweight, we’ve tested Senneheiser’s latest corded wireless headphones – ideal for those looking for longer battery life or avoiding the fear of losing a separate earpiece.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7, £350
Lockdown means many of us struggle to get away from distracting noises during the day – and the best noise cancelling headphones can help. The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 compete right at the top of the market against rivals such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
And they certainly mean business, with a carbon fibre and build, a whopping 30-hour battery life and many more features besides.
Are these one of the best-sounding and well-featured headphones we’ve ever tested? Our experts couldn’t wait to see what they’re made of in our Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review.
Marshall Monitor II ANC, £269
For many, the Marshall brand is an intrinsic part of the music industry and its iconic designs have proved a hit with headphone buyers. The Marshall Monitor II ANC are their top-of-the-range pair, promising ‘superior signature sound like you’ve never heard before’.
They’re fully foldable, with a travel-friendly design, and are feature-packed with lots of customisation options in the accompanying Marshall Bluetooth app, where you can tweak the sound to your personal tastes.
Could these be the stylish headphones you’ve been waiting for? See what we thought in our Marshall Monitor II ANC review.
Sennheiser CX 350BT, £90
One of the biggest brands in headphones, Sennheiser certainly know its stuff, with a vast range of pairs with different prices and designs. So how do you know which to go for?
The Sennheiser CX 350BT are the high-spec alternative to the Sennheiser CX 150BT, adding AptX and AptX low latency for superior sound quality, plus avoiding delays between picture and sound in videos and gaming, respectively.
Seem like a superb fit for you? We see if the sound quality, comfort and more deliver in our Sennheiser CX 350BT review.
Looking for more options? We’ve tested hundreds of truly wireless headphones on the market, so you can sort the aces from the duds and avoid a costly mistake. See all our headphone reviews.