Top five best iPhone headphones for 2020
By Oliver Trebilcock
Our testing tells you which iPhone-compatible headphones are the most comfortable and offer the best sound, and which aren’t worth your money.
When you’re choosing headphones to pair with your iPhone, there are a few things to consider. First of all, how good are the ones that came with it in the box and should you replace them?
If you do choose to upgrade, you’ll need to think about compatibility (especially for control buttons on the headphones), how portable you want them to be and, of course, the sound quality they’ll give you. Durability is important, too - if you’re carrying your headphones around with you all day, you’ll need a pair that won’t fall apart too quickly. Finally, you’ll probably also want a pair with a built-in microphone so you can take calls while using your headphones.
From the iPhone 7 onwards, iPhones no longer have a headphone socket, which means you can only use wired headphones with a Lightning cable connector or wireless headphones. You can also use an adaptor to use headphones with a traditional headphone jack. Our top selections, below, include a variety of types to suit your preferences and needs.
The table, also below, rounds up our top recommended headphones for using with an iPhone. Pick one of these pairs and you’ll enjoy crystal-clear sound quality from your iPhone, whether you’re listening to music or talking with friends and family.
Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Best headphones for iPhones
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.
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.
This lightweight Bluetooth corded in-ear pair has plenty of detail in the treble frequencies, and sound is natural and punchy with a lovely strong bass. They have a cord which you wear round the back of your neck and are generally comfortable to wear, with a good snug fit in your ears. The earphones have small magnets on them, to minimise tangling, with them tidily clipping them together around your neck when not in use.
These are certainly worth a look even though they don’t quite get a Best Buy. If you’re not a fan of the bulk, fit or short battery lives of most truly wireless headphones, this corded wireless in-ear pair could be the ideal one for you. The earpieces are small and light, and they have a lovely premium well-made build quality well above the norm that should help them to last. They last almost nine hours per charge, and the sound is pleasant, natural and clear.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at May 2020.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.
And here are three models to avoid
Pick the wrong headphones to pair with your iPhone and you could be regretting your decision every day. Simply spending more money isn't a guarantee of quality either. We've tested expensive pairs from leading brands that sound terrible - see the table below. Not all headphones connect conveniently to iPhones either - some lack the most basic controls, so you'll be taking your phone out of your pocket every time you want to adjust the volume.
iPhone 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.
A choice of three different ear tips means that you can adjust the sound from these in-ear headphones to your liking. Unfortunately, though, the choice is between bad, worse and all over the place. Like the vast majority of headphones, they have in-line remote controls built in to the cable, but these controls are more basic than most.
Don’t be tempted by these copycat headphones that look eerily similar to those of a leading brand – they don’t even come close to the real deal. In fact, they’re so truly awful Don't Buy headphones they’ve got the lowest-ever score in our lab tests. The sound quality is utterly dreadful and that’s just the start.
What to consider when choosing iPhone headphones
Not all headphones are compatible with iPhones. Wired models that feature controls on the cable will need to have the right headphone plug to work with iPhones, as there is a different design for Android phones. Headphone manufacturers will often make separate versions of their headphones for Apple and Android, so it’s wise to double-check before you buy.
Most wireless headphones will be compatible with iPhones, but it's important to check whether every feature the headphones you're looking at is compatible if it's something you need. For example, some headphones with voice-assistant support might not work with Apple's Siri.
In-ear headphones tend to be much more portable than on-ear and over-ear headphones, so you may wish to choose one of the in-ear pairs from the table, above, if you don't want the bulk of storing a large pair of headphones, although many on-ear and over-ear headphones fold for more convenient storage.
On the flipside, some people simply don't get on with in-ear headphones and don't find them comfortable, so choosing a compact pair of on-ear headphones might be a good compromise. On-ear headphones rest on your ears, while over-ear headphones surround them completely. Over-ear headphones tend to be more comfortable if listening continuously for hours on end, as they don't put pressure on your ears.
Of course, when you’re taking your headphones around with you all day, you want a pair that isn’t going to break easily. Over-ear headphones tend to be the best in this respect, but that’s because they demand it - their bulky size means you can’t throw them around as easily. If you look after your in-ear headphones well by keeping them in a pouch and away from the bottom of your bag, they should last a long time. Generally speaking, if you go for a very cheap pair of in-ear headphones, you shouldn't expect them to last for many years of consistent use.