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17 best wireless headphones, selected by a tech expert

Ditch the wires and opt for high-quality, rich-sounding Bluetooth headphones from Bose, Sony, Beats and more

Alex Lee
Tech writer
Friday 21 June 2024 13:04 BST
Find out which top-quality cans had us singing their praises
Find out which top-quality cans had us singing their praises (The Independent )
Our Top Picks

It’s rare to see someone with anything bigger than tiny earbuds plugged into their lugholes these days but, while wireless earbuds offer compact convenience, nothing comes close to the great sound, comfort and noise cancellation you get from the best wireless headphones.

Wireless headphones have come a long way since the 2010s, when early Bluetooth technology saw our music cutting out, lagging and sounding – let’s face it – really awful. Thanks to new Bluetooth codecs such as aptX adaptive providing an overall lower-latency, lower bitrate and higher-quality audio experience, it’s no longer necessary to buy a pair of wired headphones if you want premium-sounding cans.

However, as the headphones market has become swamped with more and more wireless cans, all boasting that killer new feature, it’s becoming more and more of a struggle to figure out whether a pair of headphones are up to snuff.

We’ve been testing headphones here at The Independent for years, and are constantly reviewing the latest pairs to find the very best for all budgets.

Keep reading to find out which ones had us singing their praises.

How we tested the best wireless headphones

We put a range of different wireless headphones to the test, including Dyson’s zone
We put a range of different wireless headphones to the test, including Dyson’s zone (Alex Lee/The Independent)

To test the headphones included in our list, we listened to a wide range of audio genres – from gentle orchestral music to bouncy radio-friendly pop tunes, explosive audio dramas and a spot of Netflix – at home and in the wild. Ambient mode tests consisted of us rudely trying to have conversations with transparency toggled on, while noise-cancellation tests consisted of us attempting to drown out the sounds of the Tube when out and about.

While most of the wireless headphones below have active noise cancellation, we also have a guide dedicated solely to finding the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market. We’re constantly updating this list and putting more and more wireless headphones to the test, so, stay tuned.

The best wireless headphones for 2024 are:

  • Best wireless headphones overall – Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones: £299, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget wireless headphones – Anker Soundcore space Q45 wireless headphones: £109.89, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best noise-cancelling wireless headphones – Bose QuietComfort Ultra wireless headphones: £379, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless headphones for iPhone – AirPods Max wireless headphones: £499, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless headphones for the office – Technics EAH-A800 wireless headphones: £249.04, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless headphones for hi-res audio – Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 wireless headphones: £299, Amazon.co.uk

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones

XM5 headphones (1) copy 2.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones overall
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 250g
  • Battery life: 30 hours NC on, 40 hours NC off
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint, NFC, 3.5mm jack
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC and LDAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Alexa and Google Assistant 
  • Included removable cable: Yes, 3.5mm
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Sounds fantastic
    • Excellent noise cancellation
    • Intelligent features
  • Take note
    • Loses the no-folding design

The WH-1000XM5 are the latest and greatest headphones from Sony, and frankly, they blow the previous WH-1000XM4 (our previous best buy) out of the water in terms of sound quality, with some neat additions and refinements to boot.

These headphones look completely different to the design of their predecessor, with Sony removing all the folds and hinges in favour of a more streamlined experience. This does mean that they no longer fold up – instead, each ear cup slides out of the headband and folds flat, rather than in. It’s a controversial change that some might loathe, but the updated design really helps with wind reduction and superior active noise cancellation, plus they’re as comfy as ever.

They’re super smart, too, and are packed with features. You’ve got the quick attention feature, which lowers the volume and turns on the ambient mode when you cup the right ear. You’ve also got the speak-to-chat feature, which turns on ambient mode when you start speaking. And then there’s support for Alexa voice activation, wearer detection, quick access for Spotify Tap. Finally, there are location-based and action-based noise cancellation presets, too, which kick in when you’re walking or in certain environments.

Active noise cancellation is incredible and works brilliantly on low-frequency sounds and also higher frequencies. But, more importantly, these sound absolutely divine. Whether it’s orchestral music, rap, podcasts or your favourite pop tracks, the WH-1000XM5 handles it all with poise and gumption, and it never misses a beat.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review

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Anker Soundcore space Q45 wireless headphones

anker soundcore space q45.jpg
  • Best: Budget wireless headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 292g
  • Battery life: 50 hours with ANC on, 65 hours with ANC off
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint, 3.5mm jack, USB-C
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC and LDAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Really good active noise cancellation
    • Lively, customisable sound
    • Exceedingly good battery life
  • Take note
    • No on-ear detection sensor or fast pairing
    • Microphones could be better

Anker’s Soundcore brand is really starting to make a name for itself in the realm of audio gear. The Soundcore Q45 is a very impressive offering, delivering premium-level features and specs at a fraction of the cost.

The Q45s are strong and sturdy headphones with a nice matte black finish and plush ear cups. They didn’t press down too forcefully on our ears and were really comfortable for long periods of use. The headband did feel a little bit flimsy and bendy, but the overall construction was solid and lightweight, and we liked how smoothly the ear cups extended outward. the playback controls are in the physical buttons, including the ANC and BassUp controls.

There are a few key omissions. It lacks on-ear detection and quick pairing via Google Fast Pair and Apple one-touch pairing. These headphones won’t stop playing music when you take them off your head or resume it when you put them back on and you have to go into the Bluetooth settings the first time you pair, including when you’re using multipoint.

In terms of sound quality, these are great headphones. Our tunes sounded expansive, with rich-sounding vocals and crisp highs. There are extensive equaliser settings in the app, so we could control how our music sounded even further, if we wanted to. BassUp really helped propel the lows in some of our favourite drum-heavy tracks. Plus, they support the lossless LDAC codec.

There are five levels of active noise cancellation. The highest of which blocked out external sounds incredibly well, though we did feel the pressure in our ears very quickly – Anker itself acknowledges that this will happen, and lower levels of ANC still provided a good amount of noise cancellation. We liked that you could set it to adaptive noise cancellation as well, and that even transparency mode had different levels. We wish the microphones were a little better, however, as call quality wasn’t perfect, and Siri had trouble hearing us.

It’s no surprise battery life on the Q45s is really good (it’s Anker, after all). You get up to 50 hours on a single charge with ANC turned on (65 hours without) – that’s huge, ranking near the top of the list, and you get another four hours with a five-minute charge. With a price tag that’s less than £150, they’re a great budget option.

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones

bose quietcomfort ultra 2.jpg
  • Best: Noise-cancelling wireless headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 250g
  • Battery life: Up to 24 hours
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.3, 3.5mm, USB-C charging
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
  • Voice control: Yes, Amazon Alexa or Siri
  • Included removable cable: Yes, 3.5mm cable included and USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • The best noise-cancelling we’ve heard
    • Audio is impeccable
    • Comfortable and ergonomic design
  • Take note
    • Battery life could be better
    • Pricey

We absolutely love the Bose NC 700 headphones (which are still included in this round-up), but fans know the former flagships were getting a little long in the tooth – since they launched in 2019, noise cancellation has come a long way.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra are the 700s all-singing all-dancing replacement. These headphones blend the best features we adored in the NC 700s with the beloved qualities of the QuietComfort 45, while also adding some unique features to the Ultras.

The leather and aluminium design is sleek, and the cans look much more premium than Bose’s previous pairs, though we did find our fingers marked the ear cups. The headphones are exceedingly comfortable, and didn’t feel too heavy on our ears after extended use. Thankfully, they fold away too, for easy transportation in the hard carry case.

The noise cancellation is the best we’ve tested in any pair of headphones to date. We could barely hear anything with these on – rumbling trains? Didn’t hear them. Chatter in the other room? Nope, didn’t hear it. Passing cars? Could not hear any. While some sounds did slide through, such as screaming children and police sirens, the escaped sound was so quiet, it felt like it just blended in with our music. There weren’t any hisses to be heard either, and the full-transparency aware mode was brilliant.

New for the QC Ultras is something called immersive audio. Your music is either placed in front of you at all times (still mode) or around you (motion mode). Plenty of headphones have this feature, and while we enjoyed that Bose developed it to work with any stereo source, we felt the implementation was a lot better on the WH-1000XM5, because it used Dolby Atmos exclusively. It’s still neat to have playback centralised, but it got confused frequently when we looked in different directions.

Spatial audio aside, the sound quality on the QC Ultras blew us away. Our tunes sounded rich and melodious, with some real precision when it was needed. It didn’t struggle with any instruments, separating them all beautifully, and vocals came across clearly. The cans are slightly bass heavy, but this can be adjusted in the three-band EQ. Sound isn’t hugely customisable, however.

While we were disappointed that Bose didn’t include a USB-C audio port for wired listening, the QC Ultras are still a knockout pair of headphones, albeit a pricey pair.

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Apple AirPods Max wireless headphones

airpods max front indybest.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones for iPhone users
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 384.8g
  • Battery life: Up to 20 hours NC on
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.0 with multipoint, fast pairing with Apple H1 chip
  • Bluetooth codecs: AAC and SBC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Siri
  • Included removable cable: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Exceptional sound
    • Spatial audio is wonderful
    • Terrific active noise cancellation
    • Well-built
  • Take note
    • May be too large for some people
    • Very expensive
    • Basically only works with Apple devices

Like everything Apple makes with this moniker, the AirPods Max are big, chunky, maximalist headphones. Despite being rather large, they’re also soft and comfy to wear, thanks to the knit mesh ear-cups and flexible headband, which didn’t make our ears too hot.   

They cover your ears so fully that you get an exceedingly good amount of passive noise cancellation without even having to turn on ANC – even better than some of the active noise-cancelling headphones we’ve tried. This just takes this set to another level.

If you’ve got a pair of the AirPods Pro, you’ll know exactly how good the transparency mode is. Plus they sound stellar – both rich and full – thanks to the Apple-designed 40mm dynamic driver.

Our favourite feature, however, has to be the spatial audio. The sound of your favourite tunes coming from all directions around your head is absolutely mind-blowing, and it will make you fall in love with your favourite songs all over again, giving you a new perspective on what you’re listening to. It’s even better when watching an action film or listening to an audio drama, such as QCode’s sci-fi epic From Now.

We love headphones that are able to detect when you’ve got them on your head – pausing music when you take them off and resuming when you put them back on. We just wish the design was a little better. The case for the AirPods Max is a little awkward and doesn’t provide a whole lot of protection. If we’re being honest, we can’t tell if they look more like a bra or a pair of butt cheeks but we love them either way.

Read our full AirPods Max review

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Technics EAH-A800 wireless headphones

Technics EAH-A800.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones for the office
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 298g
  • Battery life: Up to 60 hours 
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint and LDAC compatibility, USB-C for charging, 3.5mm cable
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Voice control: Yes, Amazon Alexa or Siri 
  • Included removable cable: Yes, 3.5mm cable included and in-flight adapter 
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Lengthy battery life
    • Compatible with LDAC
    • Balanced, neutral sound
  • Take note
    • Expensive

Technics’ latest flagship headphones are as premium as a pair of headphones come. With the EAH-A800, Bose and Sony now have some real competition on their hands.

Launched in early 2022, these over-ear cans, which come in either black or silver, are stylish and comfortable, sound great and whew, that battery life – say no more. The memory foam earpads are nice and soft, so our ears didn’t overheat and they were also fairly light in terms of weight.

As with the previous EAH-70N, these Technics headphones provide a pretty detailed, clinical sound profile, powered by the 40mm dynamic driver present inside each earcup. The bass is never exaggerated but still feels hefty, vocalists find room to sing in the mids and the highs are crisp and clear. It’s a balanced listening experience that some will really enjoy. Of course, this can all be adapted to your liking in the app’s EQ settings.

The headphones are also compatible with Sony’s hi-res LDAC codec, as well as AAC and SBC. Noise cancellation, which can be toggled on using the touch-sensitive pad on the right earcup, won’t completely remove all external sound – struggling with some of the highs, but it does remove enough background office chatter to make these a wonderful pair of ANC headphones.

You’ll get a minimum of 30 hours playback with LDAC and ANC turned on. Using AAC and with ANC turned off, you’ll get a whopping 60 hours. Not many headphones can boast this much about their battery life.

The only real negative is that they seem a little pricey when compared to other wireless headphones on the market. The older Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver a better noise-cancelling experience and they’re cheaper.

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Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 wireless headphones

bowers wilkins px7 s2.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones for hi-res audio
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 307g
  • Battery life: 30 hours playback, 7 hour with 15min charge
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.2 with AptX adaptive
  • Bluetooth codecs: aptX Adaptive; aptX HD; aptX; AAC; SBC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated voice assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes, included USB-C to USb-C cable and USB-C to 3.5mm cable
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Accurate and clinical sound
    • Supports 24-bit audio
    • Gorgeous design
  • Take note
    • ANC could be better

British audio manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins has been delivering premium sound for decades and the Px7 were one of our favourite headphones when they were released in 2019. In 2022, the company released the slightly iterative successor in the form of the Px7 S2, and while they’re largely the same as their predecessor, there are some sound, fit and under-the-hood tweaks that make them incredibly easy to love. Despite been one-upped by the PX8, the S2s provide better value while keeping the same features.

These headphones are nicer to look at than the original Px7, and that’s mainly because they’re a little slimmer and more streamlined, featuring a more slender, uniform design. The memory foam earcups are more comfortable and swivel in both directions instead of just one. Minor design updates, sure, but tweaks that make them look classier.

There are nice physical buttons – none of that touch control business – so they’re easy to use, with a button on the left ear cup solely responsible for ANC and ambient modes, while a slider and buttons on the right are responsible for pairing, volume and playback controls. In terms of ANC, it’s definitely better than the Px7 and slightly better than some of the other headphones on this list, but they don’t come anywhere close to the Sony WH-1000XM5, we did notice some low frequency sounds, such as our desk fan, were able to sneak through quite easily.  

But they sound impeccable, no doubt with a little help from the angled 40mm bio-cellulose drivers on the inside. Everything sounds more refined, crisper and more confident, pushing guitars, synths and vocals to the front. It’s a lot more methodical and neutral sounding, so if you want something less clinical, look elsewhere. These are detailed headphones and pay dividends in the highs.

If you do want something more buoyant, you’ll be pleased to hear these headphones work with B&W’s music app, meaning you can meddle with the sound settings, using the app’s equaliser. It’s a little limited, seeing as there are only two bass and treble sliders, but it’s nice that we can finally adjust the sound instead of relying on Bowers & Wilkins’ – admittedly very good – signature tuning. Plus, you can get up to 24-bit audio if you’re using an Android phone that supports AptX adaptive.

These are a solid pair of headphones, but they do cost a little more than the older model. If you spend a pinch more, you could get the Sony WH-1000XM5s, which have better ANC and a more boisterous sound profile, but you will lose out on the sonic clinical presentation afforded by the Px7 S2 and the more-refined design. 

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Sonos ace

sonos ace, best wireless headphones
  • Best: Wireless headphones for Sonos users
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 312g
  • Battery life: 30 hours
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.4 with multipoint
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, AptX Adaptive, lossless aptX
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes, USB-C
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Impeccable sound
    • Super comfortable
    • Works with Sonos arc soundbars
  • Take note
    • Not as smart as we’d hoped

Sonos’s “most requested product ever” is finally here, and the over-ears have flown straight into our round-up of the best wireless headphones. They look beautiful, are very comfortable and just ooze quality. We’re huge fans of the slider control system, too.

The listening experience is exceptional. Songs are crystalline; music is clear and precise, and you’ll hear both the delicate details and the tough thrum of loud songs. They essentially sound like Sonos speakers clamped to your head.

They become even better when you use them in combination with the Sonos arc soundbar, which is aimed at people who might want to continue using their home theatre when the noise might otherwise be antisocial – you can just ping the sound from your TV soundbar directly to your headphones and back again. Like flicking a light switch. It’s kind of magical.

Similarly good is what you don’t hear: these headphones have impressive active noise cancellation to block out everything else. It will cut out both the low level thrum of the city and the distracting trill of nearby conversation. When you turn it off, it is impressively discreet: it sounds like you don’t have the headphones on at all.

So, where’s the hitch? These are great headphones, but they’re great in a way that Sony’s headphones are great. There isn’t enough Sonos magic to make them really pop or integrate into the audio brand’s network, like its speakers and soundbars, and that’s because they don’t support wifi.

We dreamt about arriving home from our commute, listening to a song on these cans and flinging the tune to our Sonos speaker, or listening to the same podcast as our partner, in another part of the flat. The smart Sonos possibilities were endless. Alas, these are just another pair of very good-sounding, very expensive headphones with great ANC, sound and battery life. We’ve got plenty of those.

Read our full Sonos ace review

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Master & Dynamic MW75 wireless headphones

master dynamic mw75.jpg
  • Best: Premium wireless headphones for style
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 338g
  • Battery life: Up to 32 hours, up to 28 hours with ANC turned on
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.1, USB-C to 3.5mm cable
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
  • Voice control: Yes, Siri or Google Assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes, included USB-C to 3.5mm cable
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Attractive and premium design
    • Excellent sound quality
  • Take note
    • Pricey
    • Some ANC controls are a bit laggy

We can always trust Master & Dynamic to engineer a luxurious pair of wireless headphones that simply ooze sophistication, and the latest MW75 flagship headphones do not disappoint. They’re gorgeous, featuring an aluminium frame, polished and reflective tempered glass on the exterior of the earcups and lambskin leather lining on the headband and magnetically detachable ear pads. They’re comfortable and don’t cup your ears too hard, a big step up from the previous MW65 which, despite being significantly lighter than the new model, didn’t fit too well.

They also sound impeccable. They’re clear, balanced and accurate, with a warmth and a bit of kick in the bass, a delicacy to the mids and a bright vibrancy to the highs. It all just felt immersive, like we were being enveloped by our tunes. A faultlessly premium audio experience. Plus they support aptX adaptive and SBC codecs for those high fidelity listeners, with two USB-C adapters – one for connecting to other USB-C devices and one for connecting to 3.5mm ports

Master & Dynamic still clearly adore physical buttons because they once again make an appearance on the MW75. The controls are decent enough, allowing you to activate your native voice assistant, switch between ANC and ambient modes – with a little bit of lag – as well as increase the volume and pause, skip and play tracks.

There are three levels of active noise cancellation which can be adjusted in the M&D Control app – max, all day and adaptive. Max is the default level of noise cancellation and works the best, cutting out a good portion of the low and mid frequencies, though it did really struggle to block out highs. You’ve also got two ambient modes, but we couldn’t really distinguish much difference between either – both worked at least. 

That said, these are expensive headphones – they’re the same price as the Apple AirPods Max (£499, Apple.com), which have better active noise cancellation albeit a less appealing design, so they’re not for everyone. But the MW75s are rated to last around 32 hours with ANC turned off, that’s almost 10 hours more than the previous model. You can get them in gunmetal/black leather, silver metal/grey/leather, silver metal/brown leather and black metal/black leather.

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JBL live 770NC wireless headphones

jbl live 770nc, best wireless headphones
  • Best: JBL wireless headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 256g
  • Battery life: 65 hours
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.3, 3.5mm cable
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC and AAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated voice assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes, included 3.5mm cable
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Well-priced
    • Bass-friendly sound
  • Take note
    • Not the most comfortable
    • Sub-par active noise cancellation

You may look at this list and think you’re going to have to pay an arm and a leg for a decent-sounding pair of wireless headphones. But JBL has been providing that kind of quality for years, at relatively affordable prices.

The newest pair of headphones in JBL’s affordable line-up is the JBL live 770NC. Design and comfort-wise, they don’t look as premium as, say, the AirPods max or the Sony XM5s. With a fairly thin, plastic-y design and quite a strong clamp on the head, they’re cheaper headphones and they look it. The textured headband is nice, however, and we are fans of the lightweight design.

A pair of bass heavy cans, they sound fairly good for their price. There’s a dedicated button on the earcup for all the playback settings, volume rocker and a button for ANC and ambient modes. If you’re a bass hunter, you’ll absolutely love the tone, with punchy lows and expressive-sounding pop tracks. While it’s nice that these include adaptive ANC, it’s not the best active noise cancellation we’ve tested. They tune out a fair amount of the low frequencies, but a lot of external sound slips through.

On-ear detection works really well, pausing whenever we took our headphones off our ears and resuming tracks when we put the headphones back on. Meanwhile, the battery life is just astonishing. These cans won’t run out of juice for 65 hours, making them some of the longest-lasting headphones we’ve ever tested. Plus, they have multipoint connectivity, so you can switch between devices when a call comes through on your phone.

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Sennheiser accentum plus wireless headphones

sennheiser accentum plus, best wireless headphones
  • Best: Wireless headphones for commuting
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 350g
  • Battery life: 50 hours
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint, 3.5mm cable
  • Bluetooth codecs: AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive, and SBC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated voice assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes, included 3.5mm cable
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Good sound quality
    • Customisable ANC
    • Good on-ear detection

Sennheiser might be more recognisable for its Momentum line of headphones but when the company debuted a new line of more affordable Accentum headphones last year, we were instantly sold. Earlier this year, the sound manufacturer released the Accentum Plus headphones – a no-frills pair of active noise-cancelling cans.

While they’ve got a plastic construction, they’re beautiful, really light and super comfortable to wear. They never snagged on our skin or our hair, and were a joy to place on our head. We were glad to note they had on-ear detection with gesture support for all the usual playback controls.

The adaptive active noise cancellation is also really decent. While you can find better background sound cancelling for twice the price, these cans do a fine job for headphones at this price point. The transparency mode is also pretty good, although, we didn’t quite like that the slider for controlling both transparency and ANC were shared, so we couldn’t control the level of sound leakage as precisely as we would have liked.

In terms of sound quality, these are very good headphones. There is a strong sense of bass, but it’s never overwhelming like on a pair of Beats headphones, making it more controlled, while higher frequency sounds are still there in the mix without getting fuzzy. The Accentum Plus also connect to Sennheiser’s app, so you can better personalise the sound to your liking. We particularly liked the sound zones setting, which let us customise when maximum ANC kicked in (on loud trains, for example). Plus, they lasted us a good 50 hours on a moderate volume. A great affordable pair of headphones.

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Bose noise cancelling headphones 700 wireless headphones

Bose NC 700 Headphones.jpeg
  • Best: Wireless headphones for Bose fans
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 254g
  • Battery life: Up to 20 hours
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.0 with multipoint, 3.5mm cable
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC and AAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Google Assistant and Alexa
  • Included removable cable: Yes, 3.5mm cable included
  • Waterproof: Water-resistant IPx4
  • Why we love it
    • Decent active noise cancellation
    • Bouncy and vibrant sound
    • A lot cheaper than the Bose QuietComfort Ultra
  • Take note
    • A little hot on the ears
    • Average battery life

Bose’s NC 700 have been superseded by the Bose QuietComfort Ultra in the active noise cancellation department, but the 700 still deserves a place on this list. The headphones say it as it is – noise cancelling is front and centre.

They were excellent at cutting out the higher registers of the Jubilee Tube line’s squeaky tracks, and we loved being able to adjust the level of the noise cancellation in the Bose app.

The ambient mode was also pretty impressive. When set to zero, we could have an entire conversation across the room, thanks to the new eight-microphone system, although there was a noticeable hiss in the background.

Sound wise, the 700s are great. They deliver heart-pumping bass and twinkly trebles. We can’t fault them, plus you can always adjust the settings to your liking with the Bose Music equaliser app.

The design is more intuitive than the 700’s predecessors, with the cups sliding in and out rather than clicking into place. That said, the padding inside the ear cups is rather firm and thick, and our ears became a little hot after an hour’s use – not great in a heatwave. They also clamp pretty tightly around your ears, so you may feel the pressure after some time.

The controls are extremely simple, too, with swipes and double taps increasing and decreasing the volume, skipping tracks and activating the voice assistant. Unfortunately, you only get around 20 hours of battery life while using ANC.

Read our full Bose NC 700 review

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Bang & Olufsen beoplay H95 wireless headphones

beoplay h95.jpg
  • Best: Luxury wireless headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 323g
  • Battery life: Up to 38 hours with NC on, up to 50 hours with NC turned off
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.1 with multipoint, 3.5mm cable
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated voice assistant button
  • Included removable cable: Yes, included 3.5mm
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Crafted, premium design
    • Very comfortable
    • Clean and clinical sound
  • Take note
    • Out of most people’s budgets

If you’re a true audiophile, you’ll be extremely familiar with premium audio company Bang & Olufsen. And the brand’s H95 wireless headphones are the most premium, most luxurious pair of wireless headphones we’ve ever tried (and probably will ever try).

Released late 2020, these over-ear headphones were launched to celebrate 95 years of sleek, sophisticated Danish sound and design. With a hard aluminium casing, lambskin leather earcups filled with memory foam and a leather headband and titanium 40mm drivers, they certainly look and feel the part, but, most of all, they sound it, too.

The sound is full, broad and forward-facing, with a thick bass, luscious, twinkling highs and distinctive mids. Vocals come out crystal clear, orchestral music is glorious and the app provides you with seven presets for the ideal listening experience. Plus, all the major codecs like aptX adaptive, SBC and AAC are all supported, so you’ll be able to play all your high-fidelity tracks.

Instead of controlling the volume and the level of active noise cancellation and transparency with a series of swipes or buttons (as on most modern headphones), you use a camera-like dial on either side of the cans to adjust both instead. The ANC also adapts automatically to your environment, made possible thanks to its eight microphones – two on the outside and two in each of the ear cups.

Battery life is absolutely astonishing, with the headphones lasting a whopping 38 hours with the ANC turned up to the max. The brand also says that you should be able to get 50 hours out of these headphones with ANC turned off.

The only downside? If you thought the AirPods Max (£499, Apple.com) were expensive, you’ll gawk at the £700 price tag on these. But once you look at that gorgeous hardshell case and listen to that stellar sound – it might be forgiven.

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Dyson zone wireless headphones

dyson zone on my face.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones with built-in air purification
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 595g (670g with visor)
  • Battery life: Up to 50 hours (headphones), up to 4 hours (air purification)
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC and LHDC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Siri or Google Assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Air purification is unique and innovative
    • Active noise-cancellation is class-leading
  • Take note
    • Weird design
    • Expensive
    • The balanced sound profile isn’t for everyone

Hang on a second... Dyson? The vacuum manufacturer? You read that right. Dyson’s made a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that double up as a personal air purifier for your nose and mouth. For a first-generation product, the Dyson zone is a surprisingly effective first attempt.

They look a little bit weird, featuring a removable visor that clips onto the ear cups, so you’ll have to get around that design quirk before even considering making the purchase, but they’re good at what they do. We love how the touch controls were implemented into the cans, and it’s really easy to replace the filters inside.

As a pair of headphones, they’re neutral and balanced-sounding and made our tunes sound the way the artist intended. Yes, the sound is a little bit boring, but they sounded much more epic when we dived into the equaliser settings in the Dyson app and adjusted the sound to either ‘bass boost’ or ‘enhanced’ mode. You can’t customise the sound massively, but it does make a world of difference if you want more spark in your music.

We were super impressed with the active noise cancellation and transparency modes, however. It’s some of the best implementation of the tech we’ve seen, blocking out a significant amount of sound, and letting the world swim in with the ambient mode. But the real star of the show is how it purifies the air.

With the visor on, Dyson says it removes 99 per cent of airborne particles as small as 0.1 microns, including pollen, dust, bacteria and viruses, though not Covid-19. It produces one of three pure jet streams to your nose and mouth, increasing when it detects a high level of NO2 combustion gases, but you can always ratchet up the airflow speed yourself. It was nice just having a cool stream of purified air – just mind the strange looks.

In terms of battery life, you’ll only get up to four hours when using the air purifier, but you do get a lengthy 50 hours if you’re just using the headphones. It’s a niche product, but as the smoke in New York due to wildfires showed us, it works brilliantly in the right circumstances.

Read our full Dyson zone review

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1More Sonoflow wireless headphones

1more sono flow.jpg
  • Best: Entry-level wireless headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 250g
  • Battery life: 50 hours with ANC on, 70 hours with ANC off
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.0 with multipoint, 3.5mm jack
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC and LDAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Siri and Google Assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Incredible 70-hour battery life
    • Supports LDAC
    • Budget price tag
  • Take note
    • Plasticky design
    • Average sound quality
    • Dreadful controls that can’t be changed

1More is starting to make a name for itself in the realm of budget audio, and these are the company’s first pair of over-ear wireless headphones. While they have a relatively tiny £89.99 price tag, they actually boast premium features that headphones four times more expensive include, though they miss out some of the basics, such as on-ear sensors.  

While they don’t look super premium in terms of design – the headphones have a plasticky headband and exterior – they’re light and extremely comfortable to wear, and the red inner trim on the earcups is a nice touch.

The controls are a little odd and don’t line up with the standard we’ve all gotten used to. Instead of pressing the play button three times to skip back a track, you have to hold down the volume-down button or volume-up button to go to the previous track. But 1More isn’t averse to using double clicks, because you have to double click the power button (which is also the play button) to activate your voice assistant. It’s all a little confusing, and sadly there’s no way of reprogramming the buttons in the app.   

But once you get past those niggles, the headphones become a bit more enjoyable to use. Extraordinarily, these support Sony’s LDAC hi-res codec, meaning you can listen to lossless audio if you have a device that supports it and you’re listening on a hi-res streaming service, such as Tidal or Amazon Music HD. LDAC support is complemented by the headphones’ surprisingly good, balanced tuning. Our music sounded rich and full and very enjoyable, plus there are 12 EQ presets inside the app, if you want something a bit more personalised.

We were also shocked at how good active noise cancellation was, with a good amount of the lows being drowned out, though the ambient mode could use some work, and the highs were able to sneak through when ANC was turned on. The sonoflow also supports multipoint connectivity, allowing us to switch seamlessly between two devices, but it’s a feature buried in the experimental area on the 1More app.

And finally, that battery life. It lasts a whole 70 hours with ANC turned off, and 50 hours with it turned on. That’s market-leading, and a real differentiator at this price point. You can get five hours of battery with just a five-minute charge.

Some of the design and control elements leave us wanting more (pun not intended) and we’re sad there aren’t any on-ear sensors, but they sound decent, support LDAC and multipoint, and they have that incredible battery life. These headphones are currently out of stock but are set to come back in sometime soon.

  1. £89 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Urbanista Los Angeles wireless headphones

urbanista los angeles indybest.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones for battery life
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Weight: 320g
  • Battery life: Limitless, or up to 80 hours without light
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, solar charging
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC and AAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated voice assistant
  • Included removable cable: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Game-changing near-infinite battery life
    • Fairly cheap
  • Take note
    • ANC could be better

Urbanista has done it. The Swedish audio brand is the first company to design a pair of wireless headphones powered by light. And we’re not just talking about the sun either. We mean literally any light source – outdoor or in, meaning they will theoretically last forever without needing to be plugged into the wall.

Thankfully, solar charging isn’t just a gimmick. The Los Angeles headphones are a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones in their own right and they look stylish too. They’re not the most comfortable pair of headphones to start with, but they do soften up over time. There’s a large strip of photovoltaic material right across the headband, developed by Exeger. It’s noticeable, but not ugly. This is where the magic happens.

It basically uses light to top up the charge every time it falls below 90 per cent. If you don’t solar charge them (you’ll literally need to be in a darkened cave), the headphones will still last incredibly long – 80 hours in fact, or 50 hours with active noise cancellation turned on. The ANC isn’t the best, with a large amount of sound still filtering through from most frequencies. The ambient mode was a lot better – we were still able to hold a conversation while Lorde was playing at 50 per cent volume, for example.

In terms of sound, they’re pretty great for a fairly cheap pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They are a little bass-heavy and sound best when listening to pop anthems, but they’re solid nonetheless. They feature a fairly wide sound stage and the bass was good. Our tunes sounded particularly weighty. Vocals also came across crisp and clear. The highs could be a little richer, but overall we were impressed. And a pair of headphones with a limitless charge is nothing to sniff at.

Read our full Urbanista Los Angeles review

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Beats studio pro wireless headphones

beats studio pro and case.jpg
  • Best: Beats wireless headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Noise cancellation: Yes, adaptive
  • Weight: 260g
  • Battery life: 24 hours NC on, 40 hours NC off
  • Connection type: Class 1 Bluetooth (Bluetooth 5.3), USB-C audio, 3.5mm jack,
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated Siri and Google Assistant
  • Included removable cable: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Why we love it
    • Works great with Android
    • Active noise cancellation is good
    • Features lossless audio over USB-C
  • Take note
    • No equaliser over Bluetooth
    • Clunky, outdated controls

It’s been a long while since Beats launched a new pair of over-ear wireless headphones, but they’re finally here. Unabashedly Beats in design, the studio pros level up on sound quality, active noise cancellation and spatial audio.

This pair looks almost exactly the same as the Beats studio3, down to its weight, physical button controls and ‘B’ button. While there are certainly better-looking headphones in this list, some people love the Beats look, and these are classic Beats on the outside, but with new colourways. They’re not hugely comfortable, with a fairly hard clamping force on the head, but the ear cups are pretty cosy.

Frustratingly, there’s no on-ear detection sensor, so they won’t pause or resume automatically when you take them off or put them back on your head. It’s a big omission, given practically every other headphone at this price point includes the feature, which helps preserve battery.

But what do we like? Head-tracked spatial audio is a really fantastic feature, which we loved on the AirPods Max, and love just as much on the Beats studio pro. They make you feel like you’re in your own little three-dimensional soundscape, with music enveloping you.

Active noise cancellation and the transparency modes are both very good, too. It killed a good amount of external sound, and it was adaptive, so when a train passed by, it cranked up that noise-cancellation. Transparency mode could be improved – it didn’t let in too much sound, and that’s probably due to having fewer microphones than some other models.

Sound was also enjoyable. Vocals on Lorde’s Mood Ring were crisp and clear, while the guitar plucks were detailed in the mix. Although the bass didn’t jolt us like it used to on older Beats headphones, it’s more controlled and you still feel the heavy pulse in your bones on tracks such as DVRST’s Dream Space. There are sound profiles, too, but, weirdly, you can only use them when you’re plugged in and listening wired. Overall, these are decent headphones, but there are better, cheaper options in this list, if you’re not chained to the Beats brand.

Read our full Beats studio pro review

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Adidas RPT-01 wireless headphones

adidas rpt-01.jpg
  • Best: Wireless headphones for running and exercise
  • Type: On-ear
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Weight: 209g
  • Battery life: 40 hours
  • Connection type: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC
  • Voice control: Yes, integrated voice assistant 
  • Included removable cable: No
  • Waterproof: IPX4 sweat-proof and water resistant
  • Why we love it
    • Sweat and water resistant design
    • Excellent controls
  • Take note
    • Not very comfortable for long-term wear
    • Bass-heavy

It’s rare to find a pair of on or over-ear wireless headphones designed for sport and exercise. Most brands these days developing workout-friendly headphones are opting for the in-ear variety, of which there are many excellent running earbuds to choose from. It makes sense, considering sweat’s canny ability to get into the mesh of your headphones.

It’s why we were pleased to find Adidas’s RPT-01 on-ear wireless headphones, a pair that have literally been designed for working out. While these aren’t the most stylish bits of audio gear in the world, being completely covered in a sweat-wicking fabric that would match your Adidas trainers, they work great for their intended purpose, with a small price tag to boot.

These have a pretty bass-heavy sound signature, so you’ll get nice high frequency kicks when you up the tempo in the gym. That doesn’t mean the higher and mid frequencies are bad, but you’ll notice that tracks with hard-hitting drumming tends to dominate the mix. That said, you can always play around with the equaliser in the Adidas app.

Despite being fairly lightweight, we did notice that the RPT-01s clamped pretty hard around our skull. That’s good when you’re working out and thrashing dumbbells around, but not so much when you’re sat at your desk. We did like that the earcup sleeves were machine-washable, however, and don’t like the thought of your headphones being soaked for weeks in sweat.

The controls are surprisingly intuitive for such a cheap pair of cans. The headphones feature a dial system similar to the luxury Bang & Olufsen headphones above, as well as programmable shortcuts in the Adidas app to launch specific Spotify playlists or activate the voice assistant. Overall, an admirable pair of headphones. It’s just a shame they only support SBC and not the AAC Bluetooth codec.

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Wireless headphones FAQs

How do wireless headphones work?

Wireless headphones are usually battery operated and work by pairing with a device via a radio or infrared signal. Many devices are equipped with Bluetooth technology, meaning connection is easy and the audio is high quality.

Wireless vs true wireless: What’s the difference?

There are two types of wireless headphones: wireless and true wireless.

The latter means there is a complete lack of connector between the earphones – such as with the AirPods pro or Marshall mode II. Whereas, where ordinary wireless headphones are concerned, the earphones are still connected via a headband, like those we have reviewed here.

How to connect wireless headphones

Connecting wireless headphones differs depending on the device you’re using. For example, connecting to a TV will be different from a mobile phone. But, for the latter, make sure your Bluetooth and headphones are on and discoverable, then open your Bluetooth settings on your mobile phone and your headphones should appear there.

What are the disadvantages of wireless headphones?

Pretty much all consumer headphones are wireless these days, thanks to the departure of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Rest in peace – we miss you, old friend. But while we love being wire-free, there are a few minor disadvantages to wireless headphones.

First of all, there’s latency. Connecting via wireless modes like Bluetooth will always mean that there is a tiny delay between the audio playing on your device and the audio being transmitted to your headphones. This normally isn’t much of a concern unless you’re a gamer – and gaming headsets are the only part of the audio market where wires are still a prominent option.

The second disadvantage is battery life. With wired headphones, your music can run and run, but with wireless headphones, you might get a day’s use out of them. That said, wireless headphones are always being improved and the above issues are slowly becoming less of a problem.

Can you use wireless headphones on a plane?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can use wireless headphones on a plane. Because Bluetooth headphones are short-range, there should be very minimal interference between your headphones and the plane’s signals. That said, some airlines restrict the use of headphones on their flights – whether that’s during the entire journey or just during take-off and landing, so just be aware of the rules if you bring them onboard.

The other question is: can you use your own wireless headphones with in-flight entertainment systems? If the airline’s entertainment system is set up with Bluetooth access, then you should be able to connect your headphones fairly easily. If they aren’t, you need to buy a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver, which acts as a conduit between your headphones and the in-flight system, letting you watch movies with your wireless ANC cans. Some of the headphones on this list come with Bluetooth transmitter/receiver in the box, so you won’t need to buy one for your flight.

The verdict: Wireless headphones

The top all-round wireless headphones are Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones. They might be a mouthful to say out loud, but they offer up a whole host of neat features, absolute comfort, divine sound quality and exceedingly good noise cancellation. If you want the very best active noise cancellation, look no further than the Bose QuietComfort ultra headphones.

Nipping at Sony’s heels are Apple’s all-dancing, all-singing AirPods max, which have some impressive spatial audio, making your music sound like it’s on another plane of existence.

For a decent budget pair, you can’t go wrong with JBL’s headphones or the Sennheiser headphones, which are great for the daily commute.

More headphone recommendations:

If you still prefer the freedom a pair of earbuds give you, check out our round-up of the best wireless earbuds for quality sound and noise cancellation

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