Nine best wireless headphones for 2020
By Oliver Trebilcock
Sound quality and battery drain are no longer a concern with wireless headphones. We’ve rounded up some excellent models to suit you.
Most wireless headphones work using Bluetooth. The best Bluetooth headphones are comfortable and have enough battery to see you through several long-haul flights. Most importantly, they don’t sacrifice sound quality for wireless convenience.
We’ve found great wireless headphones that sit over, in or on your ear – our experts select some of the very best in the tables below.
These over-ear headphones are a landmark launch, becoming the highest-ever scoring wireless headphones at our expert lab. The industry-leading active noise cancelling is the best we’ve yet seen, they’re superbly comfortable, and the 27-plus hour battery life goes the distance. They’re foldable and there’s even a detachable cord if you forget to charge them, plus a whole host of optional settings in the accompanying smartphone app.
These stylish noise-cancelling Bluetooth over-ear headphones offer fantastic sound, which is enjoyable and natural to listen to. You can even adjust the sound to your taste with the accompanying smartphone app. The battery lasts for an astonishing 30 hours before you have to recharge them and you can activate your smartphone’s voice assistant (such as Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant) for hands-free control of your device. They’re among the best we’ve ever tested.
For those who don't want the bulk of over-ear headphones, these on-ear headphones are an excellent choice. They have fantastic sound and good build quality, and they fold into a compact shape to store in their carrying case. NFC support means you can connect them to your smartphone simply by touching your smartphone to the NFC symbol on the headphones.
These on headphones are ideal for your commute, with excellent active noise cancelling to block out unwanted background noise. They sound excellent and are comfortable as well - plus conveniently fold up into their provided carry case for easy storage. The safety issue only applies to very early batches and relates to the carry pouch.
If you love listening through headphones at home and want to do away with wires, these could be the perfect pair. They make for very immersive listening and have nice retro looks. They have a lovely warm, natural tone with a wide range of sound frequencies produced and plenty of detail.
Best wireless in-ear headphones
The most compact and lightweight type, in-ear headphones form an acoustic seal around your ear canal, while earbud headphones rest on your outer ear. Earbud headphones are usually very cheap pairs – they can be easier to fit, but tend to leak more sound to your surroundings. One exception is the Apple Airpods, which are wireless earbud headphones.
These in-ear wireless headphones have one aim: to make your music sound amazing – and they certainly deliver. Sound is well balanced, punchy and entertaining. They’re lightweight and comfortable too. Plus, the neckband brings added stability and longer battery life. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding pair at this price.
These headphones are some of the best-sounding our lab has tested. They're designed to pair perfectly with iPhones, and even allow you to control Siri without having to get your phone out of your pocket. They’re light and comfortable, so are easy to take out and about with you.
If you want to save yourself from the daily chore of untangling wires, truly wireless headphones could be ideal. These big-brand headphones come with a charging case that provides two full charges. They are suitable for exercise and are sweat and weather-resistant, plus the sound quality is strong. Find out how our expert panel rated the comfort of these headphones, and whether there’s anything you should watch out for.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.
And here are three cheap wireless headphones to avoid
The convenience of wireless headphones won't count for much if you get a pair that can't produce great audio. The worst models we see at our test lab are bad enough to induce headaches, with harsh sound and uncomfortable fits. Make sure you check the table below so you can avoid some of the worst offenders.
Wireless headphones to avoid
These budget over-ear wireless Bluetooth headphones are a shining example of ‘too good to be true’. At a rock-bottom price, they’re barely more expensive that some of the cheapest in-ear wired headphones. They seem to have all the useful features, including a mic and controls to answer and control calls, as well as volume and music controls, and the earcups swivel flat for easy storage. However, sound quality is appalling. Bass is boomy, but also thick and dull; sound is muffled and lifeless, lacking articulation and excitement, and highs are tinny and harsh.
These affordable headphones may have barely passable noise cancelling technology, but the headphones themselves are heavy, hot and uncomfortable to war. Sound is muffled, dull and lacking in detail. Battery life is also well below the manufacturer's claims. Avoid.
You'll want to steer well clear of these headphones. They're actually meant for use in the home, so you can listen to your hi-fi or TV late at night without disturbing others. Unfortunately though, you're the one that will end up being disturbed if you buy these headphones. The sound is rotten - a distracting hiss swamps everything you listen to.
More on wireless headphones
Will wireless headphones work with any smartphone?
Pretty much, yes. The vast majority of wireless headphones – and all the models featured in the tables above – use Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to your phone. Bluetooth is a universal standard, so you'll be able to transmit music from any Bluetooth-enabled phone, laptop or tablet to any pair of Bluetooth headphones.
Things do get slightly more complicated, as there have been different Bluetooth standards released over the years. The later versions allow music to be transmitted in higher quality and use less battery power. Don't worry though: if the headphones and the music source are both compatible they'll automatically use the higher-quality version.
How to charge wireless headphones
Most wireless headphones now have a built-in rechargeable battery, and typically come with a charging cable ending with a standard USB socket. To charge such headphones from the mains, you usually need to purchase a USB plug adapter (like the one pictured below) with a power output (watts) suitable for your device, as these aren't typically provided in the box. Most headphones will charge from a standard 5W charger like those from Apple or Amazon - many will already have one at home from other devices they've bought previously. For example, if you already have an Apple 5W USB power adapter for charging your iPhone, you can also use it to charge your Apple AirPods headphones. Choose any reputable brand for the adapter - it rarely needs to match the brand of your headphones. Some headphones will support higher power adapters for faster charging.
Can wireless headphones sound as good as wired?
The reasons are complicated but, in short, yes, wireless headphones can sound just as good as a wired pair for most people's purposes. The thing that matters most for sound quality is the physical design of the headphones. The best wireless headphones are capable of playing music in CD quality and above, and it's a matter of scientific debate whether we can even hear differences in quality above this.
How we test wireless headphones
We use a panel of five experts to judge every pair of headphones on their sound quality, comfort, durability and how much sound they leak. We also look at how stable the wireless connection is between the headphones and smartphone or MP3 player, to make sure you get uninterrupted music.