11 best Bluetooth headphones 2017

The greatest wireless over-ear, in-ear and on-ear headphones

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Ever since Apple and other brands ditched the headphone socket from their phones, wireless audio took a leap from being a (quite large) niche, to the portable audio norm.

That's not the only change in the headphone market in recent years. Active noise cancelling has also gone from being a (quite small) niche to, seemingly, a must-have. ANC Bluetooth headphones now make up the biggest chunk of the market, at least in terms of value, if not units (they are pricey things).

That said, it's no longer entirely necessary to spend big money to get top-notch wireless audio action. Although admittedly my big recommendations here are largely over 200 quid, there are also some great options for £100-ish and below from AKG, Marshall and Optoma NuForce. 

What are the best Bluetooth headphones?

After many long hours of testing, I decided the absolute pick of the Bluetooth bunch was the Bowers & Wilkins PX . This has a fantastic mix of long battery life, great sound, next-level noise-cancelling, and comfort. 

Read on, or venture over to the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones list, and you'll find the PX, but also rivals from Sony, Beats and Bose that very nearly as good – it's almost a case of deciding which set you like the styling or buttons on the most, because there is very little to tell between them in terms of audio quality and noise reduction.

If you don't want noise cancelling, with a more natural sound (by Bluetooth standards – bear in mind that the music has been turned into zeroes and ones, compressed and beamed through the air before it reaches your ears), you'll love another pair from Bowers & Wilkins: the over-ear P7 Wireless. However, be quick: the P7 is being discontinued as it's been replaced by… the PX. Doh.

For in-ears, we recommend either the Optoma NuForce Be Sport3, or, if you like the 'necklace' style of headphone, the rock solid and self-explanitorily-named Sennheiser Momentum Wireless In Ear Headphones

Bluetooth headphones: what you need to know

If you want the absolute best audio quality, you'll still have to get wired headphones, but Bluetooth is now far better than it was at providing decent audio – especially those that are compatible with higher-resolution codecs such as Apt-X (found on many Android devices), Apt-X HD (found on a few more high-end Android devices and dedicated music players) and AAC (Apple's stab at a more high resolution 'codec'. Mm, how I love to say the word 'codec'). 

Bluetooth today is also generally more stable in terms of connection, and battery life has also improved.

I'd advise trying before you're buying, and bear in mind that noise cancelling headphones will never sound totally natural, because they are inherently unnatural. That doesn't mean they sound poor, though. Far from it, in fact. 

As with most things, I recommend paying a bit more – £100/$100 to £300/$300 – to get the kind of over-ear, wireless headphones that'll give pleasure for years. However, particularly if you don't require noise cancelling, you can get very solid Bluetooth headphones for under a ton, nowadays.

The best Bluetooth headphones, in order

1. Bowers & Wilkins PX

Best Bluetooth headphones with noise cancelling

Specifications
Battery life: 22 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great sound with ace ANC+Handy motion-sensing features+Stylish and comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Don't fold up
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Narrowly the pick of the Bluetooth, noise-cancelling bunch, these B&W headphones boast adjustable noise cancelling (via an app), and pause automatically when taken away from your ears.

They're also very stylish, in either rose gold or space grey, comfortable to wear and sound great. They also have simple but effective buttons for volume, pause and play and to switch the cancelling between office, street and aeroplane settings. This is in contrast to the slightly more fiddly controls on the Beats, Bose and Sony rival products.  

You can read more about the B&W PX here.

2. Flares Pro Earphones

The best in-ear Bluetooth headphones

Specifications
Battery life: 12 hours
Wired option: Weirdly, yes
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly good audio+Can be used wired
Reasons to avoid
-Eccentric appearance-Quite pricey
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My usual position with Bluetooth headphones is, yes, great for convenience but the sound is never as good as wired headphones, although they have been steadily improving in the last couple of years. Well, no longer! 

Flares Pro might look like they've been knocked up in a shed by a keen amateur electrician, but they're comfortably the best Bluetooth headphones I've heard. That's especially true with Apt-X compatible players and hi-res files, but even when used to listen to MP3 from an iPhone, audio is a revelation. 

Admittedly , that is because the comfortable, minimalist buds are attached to a Bluetooth DAC that you have to clip to your lapel (!) but if you can put up with that, I wholeheartedly recommend the Flares Pro.

Yes, they are a touch expensive compared to most in-ear Bluetooth headphones but the size of the sound stage, plus the impeccable clarity and quality of the audio more than justifies what you pay. You get real stereo rather than the channel-blurring mush of most wireless cans, and bass is taut and engaging without overwhelming the middle and upper registers. From electronic dance music to delicate classical, everything sounds like what you'd expect from comparably priced, wired headphones. For Bluetooth, it's mind blowing. Connectivity seems rock solid, too.

Curiously, you can also disconnect the buds from the Bluetooth DAC and plug the ends into a supplied cable running to a 3.5mm jack, and use them as wired headphones. From a phone, they actually sound worse in this form, but use a music player or headphone DAC and results again veer back toward mind-blowing.

My only slight reservation with these is that even with the choice of approximately 9 billion silicone and memory foam tips provided, it's hard to make them stay in place during a run or cycle. So, I guess, don't wear them while running or cycling would be my advice (use some of these instead). The Flares Pros are headphones to be savoured at leisure.

3. AKG N60NC Wireless

Best on-ear noise-cancelling heapdhones

Specifications
Battery life: 15 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Great looks+Foldable and compact
Reasons to avoid
-Naturally less good noise insulation
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The audio on these new AKG noise-cancellers perhaps lags a bit behind the in-ear and over-ear options atop this chart. However, the trade-off for that is greater portability and a slightly lower price.

The N60NC Wireless is effortlessly thrilling, with very solid ANC, although again, it's perhaps a bit less like an off switch for the world than the pricier alternatives from Bowers, Bose et al.

It's also easy to fold up and chuck in a bag when you don't require musical accompaniment, and the understated styling is pretty attractive, too. If you don't require noise cancelling, AKG's stalwart Y50BT remains an excellent option.

4. Beats Studio3 Wireless

Remarkable noise-cancelling and great sound make for the best Beats ever

Specifications
Battery life: 22 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Remarkably effective ANC+Great sound+Rapid charging
Reasons to avoid
-Costly
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The killer feature here is the way the noise cancelling adapts to whatever background noise you may experience. That means, unlike the PX, you don't need to physically switch between modes. It can even deal with wind, which most ANC cans cannot.

Add excellent sound, long battery life and fast charging (10 minutes charge nets three hours playback) and you have another killer set of noise-cancelling headphones. Even if you've been distressed by Beats headphones in the past, these should be the ones to win you around. 

Again, you can find a longer and more ecstatic review here.

5. RHA MA650 Wireless

Best in-ear Bluetooth headphones around £100/$100

Specifications
Battery life: 12 hours
Wired option: No
Reasons to buy
+Great sound
Reasons to avoid
-'Necklace' style is Marmite-esque
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I've been a bit spoiled for Bluetooth in-ear headphones lately. First the Flares Pro actually caused me to get excited about a pair of wireless cans, with their pulse-quickening sonic splendour. Now, the RHA MA650 Wireless does something pretty similar, but for a lot less money.

The 'necklace' style of earphone isn't really to my taste but these sound spectacular by Bluetooth audio standards. Use the supplied Comply tips (or one of the wide choice of silicone ones, if you prefer) and you get excellent noise isolation, showcasing the MA650's epic sound. 

For some reason, my pair only allowed you to turn the volume up not down – I think that's a mechanical failure rather than a feature as there's definitely a volume down button listed in the instructions – but other than that, these are hard to fault for the price.  

6. Sony MDR-1000X

Another pair of superb Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones

Specifications
Battery life: 20 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent noise cancelling+Very good sound in general+Great comfort, decent looks
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly dubious 'smart' features-Irritating touch controls
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There really is an embarrassment of riches in the ANC Bluetooth headphone market at the moment, and this T3 Award-winning Sony is another killer option, that can often be found a bit cheaper than the Bowers & Wilkins, Bose and Beats options.

The Sony HDR-1000X came out last year and was obviously 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 you can allow through ambient sounds and even turn the noise cancelling off entirely. This reduces the audio quality, but might be useful in a near-battery-death situation.

The only downer is that rather than having easy-to-find buttons like the Bose and B&W cans, 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.

Sound quality is on a par with the B&W and Beats, and a bit better than Bose. There's even support for hi-res, wireless audio, albeit only via Sony's not-widely-supported LDAC codec. Normal Bluetooth also 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 it's currently available for a lot less than its original RRP, the Sony MDR-1000X remains a great option.

7. Bose QuietComfort QC35

Easy to use, market-leading ANC cans

Specifications
Battery life: 20 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Ridiculously good noise cancelling+Excellent sonics+Great comfort
Reasons to avoid
-Dull looks belie the price-…That price being on the high side
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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 ever so solid. It now lags slightly behind the headphones above it in this list, but it's still very high class. 

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 Bluetooth headphones that have deservedly sold like wireless cakes. For your ears. 

Even Bose's styling, which for many years was only really suitable for estate agents travelling Premium Economy, is now quite contemporary, if less chic than the B&W or Beats, and less substantial than the Sony. 

Still expensive but still worth it, in short.

Bluetooth

8. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless

Best over-ear Bluetooth headphones without ANC

Specifications
Battery life: 17 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic sound quality+Luxe looks, calf-leathery comfort
Reasons to avoid
-Hefty in terms of both price and size
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I had reservations about the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless – the on-ear predecessor to these bulky over-ears – 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.

Be warned that the new Bowers & Wilkins PX is a direct replacement for the P7, so stocks of this will run out in due course. In my opinion, the PX does not sound quite as good as the P7, at least in quiet environments. However, the noise cancelling and better styling more than make up for that.

9. Optoma NuForce BE Sport3

Sporty in-ear Bluetooth headphones with an audiophile twist

Specifications
Battery life: 8 hours
Wired option: No
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Very light
Reasons to avoid
-Slow to pair via Bluetooth-Shorter battery life due to size
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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 – for the price – 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. 

At the price, these are an absolute steal.

10. Sennheiser Momentum In Ear Wireless Headphones

Another excellent 'necklace' style Bluetooth headphone

Specifications
Battery life: 10 hours
Wired option: No
Reasons to buy
+Really excellent audio+Solid connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-The 'necklace' style is a bit Marmite-y
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There's no doubt that the Sennheiser Momentum In Ear Wireless has a dull but descriptive name. It also boasts, for the purist, arguably the best audio of any of these headphones.

I really don't like the 'necklace' style that Sennheiser has adopted here, but it does seem to help give more consistent connectivity than both other in-ear Bluetooth headphones and also, better than most previous Sennheiser attempts at wireless cans.

Despite the relative bulk of the neckband part of the earphones, there doesn't appear to have been room to fit a bigger battery – it lasts a respectable but not amazing 10 hours.

However, all that seems a bit niggling when you actually listen to the Momentum In Ear; the sound quality is great: punchy bass and clear treble, but without the crushed mids that afflict most Bluetooth headphones. Comfort is also good, although I would recommend Comply eartips for a really good fit.

If you find the price a bit too much, consider the  Sennheiser CX 7.00 BT. They lose a bit of audio quality but are very similar in all other respects, and a good $30/£30-$40/£40 cheaper on average.

11. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless on-ear

Another pricey but high quality choice

Specifications
Battery life: 10 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Crisp, detailed sound+Great looks
Reasons to avoid
-Highly premium price tag
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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.

12. Marshall Mid Bluetooth

Best Bluetooth headphones for louder music

Specifications
Battery life: 30 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent, if unsubtle sound+Humungous battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Rather on the tight side
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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.

13. Sony WF-1000X

Best noise cancelling in-ear headphones

Specifications
Battery life: 3 hours (9 hours with charging from case)
Wired option: No
Reasons to buy
+Technically incredible+Great sound
Reasons to avoid
-Enfeebled battery-Unreliable connectivity
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If you're properly into music and really must have true wireless earbuds, these Sonys are the only game in town right now. They have the cable-free convenience that all such headphones share, but are the only ones that don't sound like a dog's breakfast. In fact, they sound superb. They're also more comfortable than all true wireless buds apart from Apple's Airpods.

That must be balanced against a feeble three hours of battery life, connectivity that is less reliable than any normal Bluetooth headphones of recent vintage, and the ever-present risk that they may fall out, and under a bus.

To get audio so fine out of something so tiny is a hugely impressive feat, but the WF-1000X still feels like one that's just for early adopters and people who are literally allergic to wires.

14. Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT

A great all-rounder with a winning combo of price and quality

Specifications
Battery life: 38 hours
Wired option: Yes
Reasons to buy
+HUGE battery life+Generally excellent audio
Reasons to avoid
-Build quality isn't epic
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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. 

15. B&O Play Beoplay H7

Most stylish Bluetooth headphones

Reasons to buy
+Very, very good-looking+Perky sound quality
Reasons to avoid
-Very, very high-costing-Mildly annoying buttons
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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.