With Apple ditching the headphone socket from its iPhones, wireless audio is about to make the big leap from being widely used but still viewed with suspicion in certain quarters, to becoming the portable audio norm.
It's just as well, then, that manufacturers are gradually ironing out the issues that have previously dogged Bluetooth cans.
It's no longer entirely necessary to spend big money to get top-notch wireless audio action, either. Although admittedly our big recommendations are well over 200 quid, from big hitters Bose and Bowers & Wilkins, there are also some great options for £100-ish and below from AKG, Marshall and NuForce.
How to shop for Bluetooth headphones
At present we'd recommend buying more recent Bluetooth headphones.
Yes, that sound like bleedin' obvious advice, but in fact, in the wired headphone field, there are pairs that are five years old, which sound better than similarly-priced rivals released last week.
However, Bluetooth headphones are only just starting to become acceptable in terms of combining reliability, battery life and sound quality. 2016's Bowers & Wilkins P7, for instance, is far better at keeping connected to your phone than the P5, which came out only one year before.
If you want the best audio quality, that still means buying wired headphones. However at the top end, the quality gap between wired and wireless begins to come down, so we recommend paying a bit more: £100 to £300, let's say.
What is the best Bluetooth headphone?
After many long hours of testing, I decided the absolute pick of the Bluetooth bunch was the Bose QC35. This has a fantastic mix of long battery life, great sound, next-level noise-cancelling, and comfort.
Unfortunately, the in many ways uncannily similar Sony MDR-1000X then turned up in the post and turned out to be slightly better than it in several key respects.
If you want something a bit classier, with more natural sound (considering that it's been turned into zeroes and ones, compressed and beamed through the air, you'll love B&W's over-ear P7 Wireless.
For in-ears, we recommend either the Optoma NuForce Be Sport3.
Or, if you like the 'necklace' style of headphone, there's the Porsche Design Motion One. It's overpriced and over-designed, but a great-sounding pair of sci-fi headphones, nonetheless.
These, then, are our current favourite Bluetooth headphones. We have a mix of over-ear, on-ear and in-ear options. There are plenty more of the last category in our headphones-for-running article.
1. Sony MDR-1000X
The best Bluetooth headphones, with noise-cancelling to boot
I finally got around to trying these, as everyone kept saying how good they are… And it turns out they are, indeed, jolly super.
The Sony HDR-1000X has obviously been built to go head-to-head with the Bose QC35. It looks and feels a lot like it, but slightly better – more solid and yet also more comfortable, with a slightly classier look. Battery life is 20 hours.
Noise cancelling is similarly impressive and unlike the Bose there are options to allow through ambient sounds and even turn the noise cancelling off entirely. Why you'd want to do that, I don't know – it pretty much kills the audio quality, but maybe it's good for some users to have the option.
Rather than having easy-to-find buttons like the Bose, the Sony requires you to tap and swipe the right ear cup to pause, skip tracks and change volume. This is slightly crap, to be honest, but not a deal breaker.
The above are just details though. The bottom line is that this sounds notably better than the Bose QC35.
There's actually support for hi-res, wireless audio, albeit only via Sony's not-widely-supported LDAC codec, but even normal Bluetooth sounds cracking through the HDR-1000X. The sound field is more open than the Bose, bass carries more weight and the whole experience is that bit more exciting and engaging.
As I said, it looks very much like Sony deliberately set out to take influence from and then better the Bose QC35. If you come to kill the King, you better not miss. Sony hasn't missed.
2. Bose QuietComfort QC35
Easier to use, sometimes slightly cheaper, Sony alternative
So, I once wore these into a full-on rave (albeit for kids) on London's South Bank, and didn't even realise until taking them off. The noise cancelling on these cans is just great.
The audio in general, as ever with Bose, is very solid rather than world beating. In ideal listening conditions, we prefer Bowers & Wilkins' headphones.
However, allied to the noise cancelling, the overall result is very hard to fault. It's forceful when it needs to be, but the silence generated by the anti-noise tech allows room for plenty of subtlety.
Does it sound 'natural'? No of course it doesn't. It's digitally compressed, wirelessly-transmitted sound, which is generally going to be from music files that are compressed in the first place, that's then had digital ambient de-noising applied to it.
But the QuietComfort 35 is a suitably involving and enthralling, yet very easy listen.
Add 24 hours of battery life, easy pairing to two devices (you swap between them with the flick of a switch or via a mobile app), and pillowy ear pads, and you have the best Bluetooth headphones to date.
Even Bose's styling, which for many years was only really suitable for estate agents travelling Premium Economy, is now quite contemporary and verging on cool. It's not the most substantial-feeling pair of headphones ever, but the positive side effect of that is the QC35 is also very light.
Expensive but worth it, in short.
3. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless
Killer combination of sound, looks and panache
I've got reservations about the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless in terms of its connectivity, but there's no doubt it sounds stellar when it's playing nice. It was the first pair of Bluetooth headphones that seemed to sound as good as its wired equivalent – which in the P5's case was very good indeed.
The P7 raises the game in every area. It's an over-ear pair of headphones rather than on-ear, so almost by definition the sound is even bigger, the soundstage wider, and the comfort even greater.
The biggest leap forward from the P5 Wireless is that those Bluetooth connectivity issues seem to have been banished. I've been using this with my phone in my pocket, which used to guarantee drop-outs, but with the P7 Wireless – and the other very recent headphones listed here – there have been practically none.
It's also been fine on crowded trains, where interference can theoretically result from bandwidth being eaten up by the presence of lots of other Bluetooth headphones in a small space. Actually, I've never known that to happen ever, but supposedly it's an issue.
The 17-hour battery life is by no means shoddy, and as with most of the more expensive Bluetooth cans, you can plug in a (supplied) cable when necessary.
If you can don't mind the bulk of these over-ear headphones – they fold up neatly, and aren't heavy or huge, but they are naturally bigger than on-ears – and want a fuller yet more natural sound than Bose's noise-cancelling marvels, the Bowers & Wilkins P7 is a superb option.
4. Optoma NuForce BE Sport3
Best in-ear Bluetooth headphones
Clearly, these are designed for sport, and only have an eight-hour battery life due to being about the size and weight of a strand of spaghetti.
That doesn't stop the Optoma NuForce BE Sport3 from being a really stunning pair of Bluetooth headphones, and the best-sounding, most comfortable and well-fitting, in-ear option out there. And that includes the supposedly more audiophile NuForce be6i from the same stable.
The standard by which this type of ultra-minimalist Bluetooth headphone must be judged, these are also more than reasonably priced, by wireless standards.
5. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless on-ear
Another pricey but high quality choice
Sennheiser's wireless addition to the Momentum line keeps the classy, metal-banded look of its much-beloved, wired siblings.
As with the Bowers & Wilkins 'phones, the switch to Bluetooth also doesn't alter the sound quality, which is as crisp, detailed and punchy as ever.
There's plenty of bass, without it being overpowering and you can pump the volume up to serious levels without distortion. Although maybe don't do that, as you'll go deaf eventually.
Instead, use the excellent NoiseGuard Hybrid active noise cancelling, so you can play music at lower volumes, even when your surroundings are a crowd, or an aeroplane in flight.
Our only issue with the Momentum Wireless is that, as with most wireless headphones of their two-years-ago vintage, connectivity is not as rock solid as it should be.
Unlike the B&W P5 – an otherwise perfect pair of headphones, spoiled by overly regular drop-outs – it's not bad enough to be massively irritating… But it is enough to be a bit bloody irritating, given the price.
However, if you're not planning on primarily using the Momentum 2.0 wireless whilst walking around with your phone in your pocket, its sonic and aesthetic charms are highly alluring.
6. Marshall Mid Bluetooth
Best Bluetooth headphones for louder music
Marshall has taken a similar approach to Beats with its headphones: distinctive look, tuned sound. It's done it better, at least to my ears.
This pair takes the rockin' sound of the Major II Wireless and adds better audio – Apt-X is supported this time – better padding on the ear cups, and notably less ropey build quality. It also tones down the novelty of the design, although the faux leather look is still clearly not going to appeal to everyone.
What makes the Mid such a winner – for me, at any rate; I know these things are subjective – is that the audio is bloody great… if you play it loud like a mother. WOAH YEAAH!
The Mid has power, but it also has a decent dollop of precision. There's plenty of bass, but not to an obnoxious degree. With rock, anything electronic and hip-hop/R&B, it does a cracking job. Same with pop and heavier classical.
I wouldn't buy a Mid to listen solely to light jazz – or anything quiet in fact. However, unlike the Major II, the Mid does at least make a half decent fist of playing more subtle sounds.
The battery life is a little shorter than the Major II, presumably due to larger drivers and introducing the Apt-X connection… But it's still 20+ hours, so hardly to be sniffed at.
The one criticism I have is that they are on the tight side, to the extent that wearing them with glasses verges on painful. Presumably they will loosen over time, but people who wear specs or have large heads should probably look elsewhere.
7. Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT
A great all-rounder with a winning combo of price and quality
If you feel that paying over 200 quid for a pair of Bluetooth headphones is pushing it a bit, but don't want to have two Marshall amps stuck to the sides of your head, you may find this Audio-Techica pair a perfect compromise.
The headline stat here is the 38-hour battery life, but you can pair compatible NFC devices with just a tap, and audio, comfort, connectivity and convenience are all really strong. Build quality and noise isolation admittedly pale in comparison to the B&W cans, but given the sizeable price difference, that is not exactly shocking.
As you'd expect from Audio-Technica, sound quality is top notch, being very involving and easy to listen to across a wide range of styles.
It's not as good overall as the Bose QC35 or B&W P7 Wireless, but then the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT is more natural than the former, less bulky than the latter, and about half the price of either.
8. B&O Play Beoplay H7
Most stylish Bluetooth headphones
Are these the most stylish cans on this list? We're rather partial to B&W's pillowy, leatherette, oval-topped rectangles but these are arguably more moderne and au courant.
That would count for nothing if the audio was no good, but it's excellent. The lambs leather over-ear cups give solid sound isolation and audio is perky but not overly coloured.
The battery lasts a very reasonable 20 hours, and while the touch controls are probably less easy to find and use than B&W's chunky buttons, they are also undeniably more chic.
9. AKG Y50BT
Bluetooth's urban champ now going cheaper
AKG's YT50BT takes on Beats at its own 'urban looks 'n' thumping sonics' game and wins on both fronts, in my view.
The sharp styling is matched with suitably powerful, exciting sonics, and there's 20 hours of battery life to play with. Comfort is also good.
For the price, you're getting a lot of headphone with the YT50BT, but I did find it suffered from a bit of Bluetooth drop-out when perambulating.
10. Porsche Design Motion One
Best Bluetooth headphones for executive travellers
Although it is a good way to prevent wire tangling, I'm not at all sold on the 'necklace' headphone concept…
But this one from Kef (audio portion) and Porsche Design (style and marketing) does sound superb and look not bad. Considering it's a weird semi-necklace thing made of slightly rubbery plastic, with earphones coming out of it.
Although marketed as a fitness headphone, the Motion One actually bounces about far more during exercise than is ideal. However for day-to-day wear it's got one huge thing going for it.
The audio is up there with any Bluetooth headphones I've heard. Better than the Optoma NuForce sitting pretty at #3 in this list, in fact.
There's also a (perhaps overly) clever bit of design: you can use these as wired headphones by unscrewing the earphone wires from the rubbery necklace thing and screwing them into a supplied, standard headphone cable. That's fiddly as hell but it's undeniably novel and clever.
Also fiddly, but not at all clever, are the rotating ear pieces, which serve no discernible purpose.
The control buttons are also kind of crap, battery life is only 10 hours and the Motion One seems eminently breakable. That's why it's not higher up this list, but audio-wise, it's very, very good.