The best wireless headphones in 2022 are really rather special. The tech has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, and you no longer have to choose between sound quality, features and battery life: the best wireless headphones excel in all three areas. If you're looking for the best Bluetooth headphones with noise cancelling, the best wireless earbuds or the best over-ear wireless headphones, you'll get more audio bang for your buck than ever before.
Are wired headphones better than wireless ones? If you're an audiophile with serious hi-fi hardware, 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 in 2021 will be indistinguishable from the best wired ones.
Testing headphones is one of our very favourite assignments, 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. Will these headphones still be comfortable before the final credits of the in-flight movie roll? Does the noise cancelling do what it claims to do? Do they switch seamlessly from device to device, or is pairing a pain? And of course, more than anything we care about value for money. That's why this guide isn't just a list of the most expensive wireless headphones money can buy.
In this guide you'll find the full range of headphones: not just the most advanced or most expensive, but also the best cheap headphones and the best cheap wireless earbuds. We're confident that no matter what you're looking for, you'll find the best headphones for you right here.
Before we begin, a quick note about noise cancelling: not every set here has active noise cancelling. Some don't need it, because they fit in such a way that ambient noise is effectively eliminated; others don't have it because leaving it out keeps the price down. So if you need a set with active noise cancellation we've got two guides just for you: one rating the best noise-cancelling headphones and another covering the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
What are the best wireless headphones?
The best wireless headphones for most people the excellent Sony WH-1000XM4s, which deliver a very compelling mix of superb sound quality and first-class noise cancelling for less money than you might expect. If you prefer in-ears to over-ears, then the Philips Fidelio T1 sound phenomenal, have tremendous noise cancelling and deliver superb battery life.
Both of those models are quite expensive, though, and if you'd rather spend a little less cash the JBL Tune 660NC is our choice. It offers high quality active noise cancellation and rich sound quality for an impressively affordable price.
If you like the look of the Sonys but would rather have in-ear versions then the Sony WF-1000XM4 offer most of the same advantages as their over-ear siblings. But if you're considering in-ears, we'd strongly recommend you consider the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+. They're very low priced for this market but they punch way above their price tag, delivering the kind of sound that you'd usually have to pay considerably more cash for.
Buying on a budget or looking for an impressive but affordable present? We recommend the Nokia BH-205 Lite for in-ears, and Sony WH-CH510 for on-ears. They're both much cheaper than the big hitters here, but they still deliver impressive audio and are excellent value.
The best wireless headphones in 2022
These headphones can be beaten on individual elements such as battery life or sound quality or noise cancellation quality – but not on the combination of all of them. They're a wonderful all rounder, and even when they are beaten, it's usually by an amount so small, it makes little difference.
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. And at the same time, you get active noise cancellation that's right at the top of the field, cutting down noise so effectively, and letting your music stand above it.
They're also light and the folding design makes them easily portable, and the soft earcups keep them comfortable for long periods while also helping well with the noise blocking. Our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review goes more into why they're so good, but overall they're our top headphones pick right now.
There is one thing to consider with them, though: their predecessor – the Sony WH-1000XM3 – is actually very nearly as good, and is now much cheaper. So if your budget doesn't quite stretch to the newest version, these are strongly worth a look. Here are the latest prices:
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 option that offers 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.
The Philips Fidelio T1 are 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. There's no manual EQ but you do have four presets as well as three different levels of noise cancelling.
These are the true wireless earbud equivalent of the Sony headphones at the top of our list… and they have pretty much all the same advantages. The audio quality is dynamic, detailed and full; the active noise cancellation is simply excellent; 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.
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 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 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.
Audiophiles looking for a pair of wireless headphones should stop scrolling and look at these. While the Audio Technica M50xBT2 may not look anything special, they are some of the best headphones you can buy for sound quality.
These were released in 2021, seven years after the launch of the Audio Technica M50xBT - and they haven’t actually changed much about them. In fact, they look almost identical. There’s no point messing with a winning formula after all.
What is different about these is the array of features, they’ve been updated with even longer battery life (now 50 hours), customisable equaliser settings, a low latency mode and more codec support. As well as the Amazon Alexa built-in.
In the Audio Technica M50xBT2 review, the only major downsides we found were that there’s no noise-cancelling technology and the new dual microphones are just okay, but I’m sure you can look past those things if it’s the audio you really care about.
Whether you mix music, produce music or just want to listen to it as it was meant to be heard, the Audio Technica M50xBT2 are studio-quality headphones that won’t disappoint.
Sony's sound expertise needs no introduction, and while the price of these headphones means you're not getting the latest and greatest audio technology, you're still getting truly remarkable quality for something so cheap. 30mm drivers deliver sound that's powerful and upfront. Too many cheap headphones will lose an area – weak bass, or underwhelming mid-range, or shy treble – but here they're all present and potent.
The 35 hours of battery life is a plus too – you'll barely have to think about charging them. And if you do ever run out, 10 minutes of charging promises 90 minutes of sound.
The cheapness comes through in the plastic material (though the build quality feels perfectly up to snuff), and the sound might not be as refined as the more expensive headphones here, but for the price, these are extremely tempting indeed. Our full Sony WH-CH510 review has more about where they excel, and where the price shows.
These are cheap and cheerful, as you'd expect, but they deliver where you need it, which is all we ask. The sound is well-balanced, and doesn't feel like you're missing out on anything major – it can get a bit harsh in songs that really hit the treble, but it's never unlistenable.
And it offers lots in other areas. As our full Nokia BH-205 Lite review says: "Using the most up to date Bluetooth connectivity, they offer solid audio performance, and not to mention their long battery life which will easily last you a few days of casual use. The fact that they're waterproof is another major benefit that not all earbuds offer as well. What more could you need from a pair of basic buds."
They can be a bit slow to connect at first, but they're solid once they're going – and the battery life is just excellent for such cheap buds. The IPX7 waterproofing means they can be used for exercise or in the rain – and they don't look half bad, actually.
The Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are, in our opinion, the best-sound 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 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 just wonderful.
The redesigned Apple AirPods 3rd Gen are a huge upgrade: 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.
These are very impressive headphones for the money, and while the ANC isn't up there with the best and most expensive noise cancelling earphones it's still quite effective. And unlike many headphones at this price point, the Final Audio UX3000s sound good: there's no artificial boosting of the low end, and the clear and uncluttered sound is particularly good for vocals. The soundstage isn't as wide as some more expensive rivals but there's nice positioning of each instrument, and the UX3000s cope well with transient sounds – the dynamics that are more subtle than quiet bit/loud bit.
Final Audio has made a decision here to keep the audio quality unaffected by the noise cancelling. That means the ANC isn't quite as good as removing external noise as some rivals, but the upside is that you don't suffer from a noticeable loss of audio quality when noise cancelling is on.
In our Final Audio UX3000 review we said they were "a mature, quite sophisticated and nicely balanced listen". They're well made and comfortable, and while they won't give you bragging rights in the airport lounge they punch well above their price tag: you'd need to spend an awful lot more money to get headphones that are noticeably better and more musical than these.
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, readers. 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?