The best wireless headphones in 2023 are really rather special. The tech has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, so you no longer have to choose between sound quality, features and battery power: the best wireless headphones excel in all three areas.
If you're looking for the best headphones across all forms, you'll get more bang for your buck than ever before. The technology is thriving right now!
Testing headphones is one of our favourite assignments at T3, because it means we get to spend many happy hours listening to great music (and movies) to put these headphones through their paces. But as important as sound quality is, it's not the only factor. We have to ask ourselves the big questions like: will these headphones still be comfortable before the final credits of the movie roll? Does the noise cancelling keep you focused?
In this guide, you'll find a full range of headphones: not just the most advanced or most expensive, but also the best cheap headphones and the best cheap wireless earbuds.
Those studying at school, college or university are going to want to invest in some headphones to help with their studying too - from replaying recorded lectures to wearing out and about to seminars, the best wireless headphones are essential and are likely to last you throughout your degree or remaining school years.
Before we begin, a quick note about noise cancelling: not every set here has active noise cancelling (ANC). Some don't need it, because they fit in such a way that ambient noise is effectively eliminated using sound isolation from the seal; others don't have it because leaving it out keeps the price down. So, if you need a set with ANC then we've got two guides just for you: one rating the best noise-cancelling headphones , and another covering the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
Best wireless headphones 2023: The top 3
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Currently the best three wireless headphones are all T3 Awards winners in their respective categories, so whether you're looking for the best over-ear, in-ear, or shopping on a budget, these are exceptional buys:
The best wireless headphones for most people are the excellent Sony WH-1000XM5, which deliver a very compelling mix of superb sound quality and first-class noise cancelling.
If you prefer in-ears to over-ears, the best wireless in-ear headphones are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, which sound phenomenal, have tremendous noise cancelling, and deliver superb battery life.
Both of those models are quite expensive, though, so if you'd rather spend a little less, our choice for the best cheap wireless headphones is the Sony WF-C500. There's no noise-cancelling, but the sound is super for the cash.
These Bluetooth headphones are a wonderful all-rounder, unbeaten for the suite of features and sound quality on offer. The redesign over the earlier XM4 model also looks great and feels even better to wear. As we said in our Sony WH-1000XM5 review: "Sony has managed to replace the best all-round wireless active noise-cancelling (ANC) over-ear headphones you can buy with, you guessed it, the best new all-round wireless ANC over-ear headphones you can buy."
Just like before: the sound quality is dynamic and full, offering plenty of rich bass without it being overwhelming, with bright and clear treble, and a detailed mid-range that underpins it all. The active noise cancellation, too, is at the top of its game.
Certainly the best wireless headphones on the market today. Although if you want to spend a little less and prefer the idea of folding headphones design then their predecessor, the 1000XM4, is about the only thing that can stand in their way. So if your budget doesn't quite stretch to the newest version, these are strongly worth a look.
These are, without a doubt, among the best true wireless Bluetooth headphones you can buy. Despite Bose's position at the very beginning of the noise-cancelling timeline – this was the first set of ANC earbuds the company has put out – but the noise cancelling is brilliant, more than good enough to make up for the lacking battery life (at 6 hours on a charge or 18 with the included case).
As we said in our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review: "as a combination of sound quality, comfort and particularly noise-cancellation, these earbuds take some beating. They do protrude more than many true wireless 'buds but they fit well and sound great."
If you're looking for something affordable and don't care about the lack of active noise cancelling then, well, these are the ideal in-ear Bluetooth 'buds for you. The Sony WF-C500 are seriously cheap – but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on sound.
As we said in our review: "the Sony WF-C500 are fantastic value for money. They sound superb, they're super comfortable, and you can adjust the sound to exactly how you like it." That's what makes them T3 Awards winners in the Best Value Headphones category.
These in-ears are perfect for commuters and for your workouts! Although admittedly there's no ANC so you might have to deal with a small amount of noise from the world around you. But at this price, who cares?
Best wireless headphones 2023: The best of the rest
A close contender for Sony's crown, if the 1000XM series doesn't take you then Bose's 2019 entry still remains very, very strong today. They're especially good if you want a pair of noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones for making calls and using voice assistants.
In terms of sound quality, the Bose are equally as excellent, remaining rivals to the brilliant Sony cans. As we said in our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: these headphones deliver "well-balanced sound, terrific sound imaging, and effective noise cancellation".
The Bose not to your liking? Then the Philips Fidelio T1 are among the best true wireless earbuds you can buy right now, even though their price tag might make your eyes water. They sound absolutely incredible, the battery life is brilliant and if you don't mind the somewhat bulky-looking design and very large charging case you'll be very glad you got them.
In our Philips Fidelio T1 Review, we praised the sound, the comfort and the noise cancelling, noting that "they sound phenomenal and the noise cancelling is about as good as it gets in a pair of true wireless earbuds."
With ANC enabled you'll get an impressive 9 hours of music, and the charging case gives you a further 25 hours. Without ANC you'll get 13 hours of music and a further 35 hours from the case. A 15-minute USB charge will give you an hour of listening if you've forgotten to recharge the buds when the battery is used up. Bluetooth earbuds worth considering!
Winners of a T3 Award in 2021, these Bluetooth in-ears still remain incredibly strong. You may prefer them as an option over Bose or Philips, given how good the noise cancelling is here; the audio quality is also dynamic, detailed and full; and they're comfortable to wear for long periods.
Their advanced features mean they're a bit larger than the average wireless earbud, and the design is kind of bulbous – they look fine, but not super-slick. You won't care once they're in, though: they give so much care to your music, and provide so much texture and definition, that you'll just enjoy the sound.
The battery life is pretty good too, though some similar headphones provide more, and there's some great customisation options through Sony's app. And the noise cancellation is one of the most effective for in-ear headphones. As our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review says, they're the complete package.
JBL does great work at bringing big sound to affordable packages, and these manage to throw impressive active noise cancellation into the deal too. If you're looking for a comfortable pair of Bluetooth headphones that offer great detail in your music, they're ideal. Well, probably – they're relatively heavy on the bass, in a way that's absolutely fine (desirable, even) for lots of music genres, but probably won't make purists happy.
That didn't put us off, though. As our full JBL Tune 660NC review says: "Their punchy sound performance paired with a simple, smart design, excellent noise cancelling capabilities and hours upon hours of battery life make these some of the best budget headphones you can buy. All in all, I think you’ll be hard pushed to find a better pair of noise-cancelling headphones for this low of a price."
Their light weight (just 166g) makes them good to wear for long periods, and they don't look cheap either – though the finish did seem to pick scratches easily. Just a warning.
These were once the best wireless headphones with noise cancelling that money could buy. So why aren't they now? Because Sony released the XM5 model, which redesigned the series and upped the ante in every department.
That doesn't rule out the Sony WH-1000XM4 entirely, though, as these folding headphones (the XM5 can't fold by comparison) deliver much the same sound quality and great battery life in a package that is genuinely superb - still some of the best Bluetooth headphones money can buy.
It'll cost you a little less given the newer product is now on the market, too, which will make them a great option on balance if you're looking for over-ears, noise cancelling, and a fair price.
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ are our go-to in-ear buds for under £100/$100. The hi-fi heritage of the company really comes through here, and these Bluetooth headphones eschew fancy features for a focus on sheer sound quality.
As our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ review says, they offer "incredibly well-tuned sound. A punchy low-end paired with a crisp treble and wide soundstage made for energetic, rich audio. You can hear every detail in music with instruments while electronic beats sounded undistorted and dramatic. Across all genres, the music was balanced, coming across as the artist intended."
You've got aptX support for hi-res music, and a huge battery life. And that all fits into really small buds, with a pocket-friendly slim case. The only real downside to them is that pressing the control button on the end pushes them into your ears, which isn't the most pleasant way to go about things, but it doesn't mar how great these headphones are overall.
To cut the world out and keep your music in, the Bose QuietComfort 45 are the best Bluetooth headphones you can buy. The active noise-cancelling manages to cut out everything from road traffic to office chatter, helping you stay in your own private bubble with your favourite tracks.
They have two noise-cancelling modes, Quiet mode to block out as much sound as possible and the brand new Aware mode which is similar to the transparency modes you find on other headphones - it lets in some outside noise but balances it with your music so it doesn’t distract you.
Elsewhere, these headphones keep things relatively simple. There aren’t loads of extra features like manual EQ settings and you can’t just take them off to pause the music, another downside is that you can’t turn off the noise-cancelling completely, you’ll have to choose one of the two modes. Those are the only real downsides, and actually, that might not bother you anyway.
Overall, these are an excellent pair of headphones that are comfortable and sound great. You can find out more about what makes these so good in the Bose QuietComfort 45 review.
The Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are among the best-sounding wireless earbuds on the planet. And they do while also offering some unique features that make them more flexible than other true wireless earbuds – these are the only set here that you can connect to a wired source too.
But let's start with the sound quality, about which our full Bowers & Wilkins PI7 review says: "The PI7 don't just sound good, they sound phenomenal. The thing that becomes immediately apparent is that there are no compromises here. Everything from its timing to its balance are exactly what I want from a pair of headphones I'll love to wear day in, day out."
With support for active noise cancellation and aptX Adaptive hi-res support you'll always be able to hear the music clearly. And the really clever part is that the case is able to be connected to 3.5mm or USB sources, and will transmit audio to the earbuds, so they can effectively be used 'wired'.
It's a shame the battery life is short, and the earbuds are very large (though don't look bad in the ears)… and they're also massively expensive. But we don't mind any of that, because the sound is just wonderful and makes these some of the best Bluetooth headphones out there.
The redesigned Apple AirPods 3rd Gen are a huge upgrade on the Bluetooth headphones that came before them: as we say in our Apple AirPods 3 review, "they're exactly what you'd hope for (as long as you don't prefer in-ear tips." It's the first redesign of the ordinary AirPods since they were launched five years ago, and it's a definite improvement – especially in terms of sound quality, which is noticeably better.
If you have and love your AirPods, this is an easy sell: they're better in almost every way. Everything you like is present and correct, but this time you also get Spatial Audio 3D sound, the same Adaptive EQ as the AirPods Pro, better battery life and much more dynamic sound.
The downsides? Not everybody enjoys the odd way they sit in your ears, and because they don't seal your ears there's audio leakage both in and out. There's no noise cancelling, either. Personally we prefer the AirPods Pro with their in-ear tips and active noise cancellation, but the AirPods 3rd Gen are a good and cheaper alternative if those two things aren't on your must-have list.
How to buy the best wireless headphones
If you want the absolute best audio quality, you'll still have to get wired cans, but Bluetooth cans are now far better than they were at providing great sound.
What are aptX and AAC?
Without getting mired in too much technical detail, these 'codecs' allow for higher-quality music playback than standard Bluetooth (sometimes referred to as SBC, although seldom by members of the general public). Apple iOS products support AAC and many Android mobile devices support Qualcomm's aptX.
The most important thing to remember is this: Do you use an iPhone or iPad for music? Then aptX is useless to you, no matter how big the logo is on the headphones box. You want AAC compatibility. Mystifyingly, despite many iPhone owners being music fans with lots of disposable income, an awful lot of quite premium audio brands seem to have absolutely no idea what AAC even is.
If you have an Android phone, most likely it supports aptX, so dive right in. There's also aptX HD, which claims to offer better than CD quality sound but is not very widely supported as yet. And aptX Low Latency, which is for watching films wirelessly (Bluetooth can otherwise introduce lag that makes for lip-synch issues akin to watching a 1970s, dubbed kung-fu movie). Although they won't usually support it out of the box, you can force both Windows and Apple laptops to support aptX. I have no idea why this is as unnecessarily hard as it is, but there we go. Trust me, it can be done.
Apple laptops can also be made to support AAC, although again this is way less straightforward than you'd expect. You need to pretend to be a developer and download the Bluetooth Explorer app from Apple's dev site (or cheat and get it from 'elsewhere on the web'.)
In general, on most headphones, audio sent via either aptX or AAC sounds better than when sent without. It's not totally cut and dried: I've heard certain headphones (and Bluetooth speakers) that just use the standard SBC Bluetooth format, that sound better than certain other ones with AptX and AAC. They're not a magic formula for great audio on their own, but on average, headphones with support for AAC and aptX tend to sound better when paired with a device that also does.
Although aptX and AAC offer sound quality roughly the same as CD, obviously that only applies if your source is putting out CD quality (or better) audio in the first place. Bluetooth cans today are generally far more stable in terms of connection than they were just a few years ago, and battery life has improved, too. As well as a norm of 4-5 hours for true wireless, 8-10 hours for in-ear buds and easily 20+ on over-ears and on-ears, a lot of newer headphones also charge rapidly, giving you several hours of playback for 15-30 minutes of charge.
If you keep your phone in your hip pocket, and especially if you then contort your body by looking around you, you may find the signal still cuts out as your bones and guts are very adept at blocking radio signals.
However, from your hand, a breast pocket, placed on a desk or in one of those weird arm holster things for runners, you should rarely get any interference from these headphones. You can usually walk between 20-30 metres away from wherever the sound is coming from, although you generally can't leave the building and expect to still receive audio. Why would you do that anyway?
Are wired headphones better than wireless?
If you're an audiophile with serious hi-fi hardware, the answer is yes.
Wireless headphones transmit compressed music so while it's still very high quality it's not up there with the joys of hi-res audio on a pair of high-quality wired headphones. But you can't take your Linn or Naim system on a plane or a train, and Bluetooth audio is much, much better than it was even a few years ago.
We think that for the vast majority of people, the best wireless headphones will be indistinguishable from the best wired ones.