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.
From the undeniably brilliant Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless, to the budget friendly AKG Y45BTs we've put together a list of the best of the best wireless headphones, so that no matter what you want from them we've got a set for you.
- Check out our favouritest in-ear and over-ear headphones
- Like all your music wire-free? Check out the finest Bluetooth speakers
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. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless
Killer combination of sound, looks and panache
Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless
We had our reservations about the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless in terms of its connectivity and price. We had none about its sound, though, because that was the first pair of Bluetooth headphones that didn't seem to sound any worse than its wired equivalent.
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 usually guarantees drop-outs - I don't know if I have particularly dense bones or what - but with the P7 Wireless there have been practically none. Ditto on crowded tubes, where interference can result from bandwidth being eaten up by the presence of lots of other Bluetooth headphones in a small space.
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.
As long as you can live with the bulk of over-ear headphones - these fold up neatly, and aren't heavy or huge, but they are naturally bigger than on-ears - these are the Bluetooth cans we'd currently recommend you get, for the killer combination of sound, looks and sheer panache.
2. Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT
The perfect combination of price and quality
If you feel like paying over £300 for a pair of Bluetooth headphones is pushing it a bit, 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, audio quality is really excellent. It's more neutral than the B&W P7 Wireless, less bassy - that's not to say that bass is lacking, mind - and very involving and easy to listen to across a wide range of styles.
3. Sony H.ear MDR100ABN
Not the best name but don't let that put you off
Sony H.ear MDR100ABN
Yes, these are called "H.ear". Yes, that is a terrible name, and looks like a typo. What can one do? They also come in a range of nasty primary colours and look horribly cheap and plasticky as a result.
BUT - and it's a big, all-caps but - the MDR100ABN is a great sounding pair of headphones, with noise cancelling on board to boot.
They also support LDAC wireless transmission, which offers supposedly 'lossless' audio quality without wires, from compatible devices (although these are currently limited to recent Sony Walkmans).
However, even via Apt-X Bluetooth, these give excellent audio, with seriously tight bass. They're also very comfortable, and the 20-hour battery life is not bad at all.
4. Marshall Major II
Headphones with a distinctive, Marshall amp look
Marshall Major II
Sometimes a great product comes out of leftfield, and this is a prime example. The look (a mini facsimile of two of Marshall's famed concert amps, strapped to your ears), is not inspiring on first view, and they feel a little flimsy as well, although not dangerously so.
However, put the Marshall Major 2 Bluetooth headphones on and you rapidly see (or hear) their good side. Marshall has done a really good job of recreating the warm but forceful, rockin' sound it's renowned for, using presumably nothing more than inexpensive headphone components and some cunning tuning. It's rather like the approach taken by Beats - distinctive look, tuned sound - but done far better, at least to our ears.
With rock music, they sound truly great for the money, but they do a stand-up job with dance, hiphop, pop and even the more forceful end of classical, and don't disgrace themselves entirely with accoustic sounds, either.
They also look much more subtle and less stupd when worn than the photo above might suggest, and feel more comfortable, too. Offering an epic 30 hours plus of battery life, after which they can be plugged in with a supplied cable.
They don't feel like the most solidly constructed things ever but if you look after them, the Marshall Major II headphones are an absolute steal at the price.
5. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless on-ear
Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless on-ear
Sennheiser’s latest addition to the Momentum line ditches the wires, adds Bluetooth, but keeps the classy, metal banded look from the previous models we raved about so much. The switch to wireless 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 setting in. Instead of being on the now non-existent cord, the media control buttons have been moved to the ear cup while NoiseGard Hybrid active noise cancelling tones down unwanted chit chat.
Our only issue with these is that you do have to pay a rather enormous premium over the wired version, leavng them looking overpriced compared to B&W's even better sounding and looking cans.
6. B&O Play Beoplay H7
Potentially the most stylish cans aroudn
B&O Play Beoplay H7
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 even more debonaire. Clearly £329 buys a lot of design.
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.
That would count for nothing if the audio was no good, but it's actually excellent. The lambs leather over-ear cups give solid sound isolation and audio is perky but not overly coloured.
The Beoplay H7 does feel a little more overpriced than the B&W P7, but hey, don't hate it for being beautiful.
7. Optoma NuForce BE6i
Headphones that were born to run
Optoma NuForce BE6i
The first pair of in-ear headphones on this list, these were presumably designed with running in mind, given that they're very very light (just 19g), and IPX5 resistant to water. However, they are also good enough to use as everyday headphones, thanks to sterling audio, with Apt-X and AAC compatibility.
The business ends of the BE6i are rather long and heavy looking, but thanks to the excellent and extensive selection of different sizes and types of tip supplied, they do stay anchored in your ears. This gives a rather peculiar look, but means that once you've found the right tips for you, you'll get exemplary noise isolation and very good sonics.
The audio perhaps isn't going to win prizes, but it is surprisingly good. There's enough bass and clarity to keep most listeners more than happy, especially given the compact size, light weight and reasonable (for Bluetooth earphones) price.
The battery life is only eight hours, but again, given how physically tiny that battery must be, that seems fair enough to us.
8. Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless
Like the B&W P5 but without wires
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless
Take the excellent-sounding B&W P5. Add Apt-X/AAC Bluetooth. Et voila! Like Sennheiser's Momentum and Beats by Dre's Studio, you now have much the same thing but more expensive, in need of charging, and free from wires - although there is the option to plug in a standard 3.5mm-to-3.5mm headphone cable, if the battery runs out.
When they were released 18 months back, these were arguably the best-sounding Bluetooth cans to date, and priced accordingly. They've got plenty of bass, but not at the expense of musicality. They also look very plush indeed, but without giving out "Oi appear to be considerably richer than yow" vibes. They're classy.
We have to say, though, that we suffered a lot of drop-outs with these, especially outdoors. We have never got to the bottom of why, but Team T3 had three pairs of P5s between us and they all suffered from the signal cutting out, frequently enough to be annoying. There are plenty of reviewers who appear to have had no such problems, so perhaps we give off interference, or have very dense bones that block Bluetooth signals. Who knows?
You can also make calls via the P5, if you so desire - there's a mic, and background noise-cancelling for your voice. There's no noise-cancelling for music; you'll be wanting one of these, for that.
The best news here is that the price has now been slashed by 100 quid, from its original RRP, taking it from "ridiculous" to merely "kinda pricey".
B&W also assures us that newer units of the device don't suffer as badly from dropouts. Although we've not yet been able to verify this, it's certainly true that the newer P7 Wireless (sitting pretty at #1 on this list) has comparatively rock-steady connectivity.
9. Beats Studio Wireless
A sporty look with a decent amount of bass
Beats Studio Wireless
These are similar in price to Bowers & Wilkins' P7 Wireless, which currently sits atop this guide. In most other respects, the top-end Beats wireless over-ear headphones are, er, not so similar.
That's not to say they're bad. If you like a decent amount of bass, an urgent, rocking sound, and you prefer a more street/sporty kind of look to the suave, leather-encased, country club vibe of the B&Ws, the Beats Studio Wireless, in umpteen colour combinations, could be right up your alley.
10. AKG Y45BT
A more affordable option that's worth considering
A gently maturing pair of slightly older Bluetooth cans, these now sit on the lower end of the wireless headphone pricing spectrum.
Despite that, they boast simple connectivity through NFC and a simple, well thought out, folding design that’s convenient, seems durable and is certainly comfy.
The 40mm driver units and a closed back design give powerful sound for the price, but you only get around eight hours of playback from a charge. More recent wireless headphones generally have much improved stamina compared to that. Even so, worth considering.