Tired of noisy trains drowning out your music? We tested 11 of the best wireless headphones side-by-side so you could find the best way to immerse yourself in a cocoon of great sound, no matter where you are. We used all of these headphones in real-world noisy areas (open concept offices, coffee shops, etc.) and listened to every type of music imaginable to find the best pair for every price range. Whether you need to drown out the din of the outside world, or are just tired of the tiny music coming out of your old earbuds, we have you covered.
The Best Wireless Headphones of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
After searching for the next great pair of headphones we added the popular Mpow H5 to the review. While these headphones weren't quite worthy of a Best Buy Award, they still offer decent noise cancellation at quite a low price. However, if you're looking for noise cancellation on a budget, we would still recommend spending just a bit more on the TaoTronics TT-BH22US, and if you're on a tight budget, we still think the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear is a better value all around.
Best Overall Wireless Headphones
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
With superb sound, great noise cancellation, high end comfort, and the ability to connect to multiple devices at once, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is far and away the best pair of Bluetooth headphones on the market. If you want superb clarity and resonant bass that can make everything from podcasts to hip hop sound exceptional, these are the headphones for you. If you want active noise cancellation that can drown out the noisest cafes, these headphones are great. If you want a comfortable fit that won't leave your ears feeling cramped and itchy after a long flight, look no further. Plus, as an added bonus, this new iteration has a dedicated Google Assistant button for all of you Android users out there.
Read review: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Top Pick: Best Noise Cancellation
If active noise cancellation is at the absolute top of your wireless headphone checklist, we suggest you check out the Sony WH1000XM2. These headphones offered the best noise cancellation in our testing, providing just a bit more noise isolation than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. In fact, these headphones were also able to match the superb sound quality of the QuietComfort, and are often available for significantly less than what the QuietComfort costs. The one place where the Sony does fall short is in comfort. The rounder ear cups are less accommodating for larger eared folk than the more ergonomic shape of the Bose earcups. If you mostly want wireless headphones for active noise cancellation and/or have smaller ears, get the Sony WH1000XM2. However, if your ears have ever felt scrunched in a pair of headphones, get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.
Read review: Sony WH1000XM2
Best Bang for the Buck
Want all the advantages of wireless, over-ear headphones but are dissuaded by all the 3-figure price tags? Enter the TaoTronics TT-BH22US. These headphones somehow pack good sound quality and active noise cancellation into a package that costs just $70. Sure, these headphones don't sound quite as good or block out as much sound as their more expensive brethren, but they are in the same ballpark on both counts and, in some cases, sell for just ⅕ the price. If you're on a budget but don't want to sacrifice too much performance or functionality in your wireless headphones, the TaoTronics TT-BH22US is the perfect compromise.
Read review: TaoTronics TT-BH22US
Great Budget Option
Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear
You don't need to break the bank to get freedom from wires. For less than $40 the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear provides the convenience of wireless with the all-day comfort of large, cushy ear cups. The sound quality isn't spectacular, but the noise isolation of the ear cups makes them a clear step up from generic earbuds. If you're looking for an inexpensive way to dampen the din of the coffee shop whilst you work, the Mpow is a great deal.
Read review: Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear
Analysis and Test Results
A good pair of wireless headphones can cancel out the cacophonous din of modern society and let you enjoy both your work and play time in your own private bubble of rich, unadulterated music, or silence (your choice). A bad pair can make your ears itch and not offer any noticeable improvement over the sound of the free earbuds that came with your phone.
In order to make sure your experience lines up more with the former description, we tested the most popular and highly regarded wireless headphones on the market to find the best one for every application and price range. Most of our tests focused on sound quality, noise isolation ability, and comfort, the three main things you'll notice when wearing a pair of headphones. We also examined the portability and user-friendliness of all our headphones and combined the results of all these tests to arrive at the overall scores you can see above.
If you are looking for the best bang for the buck, take a look at the above chart of Price vs. Performance and you will see that the TaoTronics, which won our Best Buy Award, is a standout with relatively high performance and the lowest list price in the group (hover over the blue dot in the lower right). The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is also differentiated in value, even though it is more expensive, it offers significantly better performance than similarly priced products.
Because they are able to isolate you from ambient noise, a good pair of over-ear headphones can provide a listening experience that rivals, or even surpasses, that offered by a high-end sound system. After testing multiple different audio products we've found that clarity and bass quality seem to have the biggest bearing on whether or not most people think something sounds good, therefore we focused most of our testing there. To do this we listened to everything from hip-hop to podcasts and folk music to dubstep on every pair of headphones, paying careful attention to the clarity and bass.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 and the Sony WH1000XM2 shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. Both of these headphones produce exceptional clarity and great bass combined with good noise isolation, resulting in a near-operatic listening experience. If we're really splitting hairs the bass of the Sony is just a bit more powerful and the Bose sounds just a tad crisper, but in practice, both of these models sound phenomenal and it's really a coin toss as to which one is better.
Just behind the top scorers was the Bose SoundLink Wireless II, which picked up a score of 8 out of 10. These headphones have all of the exceptional clarity you would expect from Bose, but lack just a bit of the bass power that the higher end models have. This can make tracks with a lot of low-end sounds relatively shallow, but the overall sound is still far superior to that of most headphones on the market.
A slew of models earned a score of 7 out of 10. There were some slight differences between these models, but overall they all represent a significant step up in quality from the standard earbuds that come with many smartphones, yet fall short of the clarity and richness the top end models can produce.
Of the models that scored 7 in this metric, the Beats Solo3 and the Beats Studio3 had the best overall clarity, falling just slightly short of the Bose models in that respect. This made podcasts and acoustic numbers sound quite good. However, they also had the weakest bass of any of the models in this range, putting their low-end performance on par with that of much less expensive models like the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear. This results in a sound that is very crisp but lacks some fullness, especially for bass heavy tracks. The Mpow H5 and the TaoTronics TT-BH22US both had slightly better bass and slightly lesser clarity than the Beats models. That makes both of these models quite good values for those seeking decently powerful bass on a budget.
The Sony Extra Bass did live up to its name, providing a deep and resonant low end that was bested only by the highest priced models that we tested. Scoring a 7 out of 10 in this metric, the Extra Bass is great for those that like their bass on the thumpy side, but don't want to spend top dollar. However, you do sacrifice a bit of clarity, and we would recommend steering clear of the extra bass effect, it tended to make the music sound hollow and echoey.
The TaoTronics TT-BH22US and the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT were the two models that scored a 7 that balanced their sound quality attributes, with both their clarity and bass power representing a slight step down from that of the top models. This makes these headphones a bit more versatile and able to make any genre of music sound fairly good (when compared to the Extra Bass), though they also don't have a particular genre in which they excel.
No pair of headphones that we tested sounded bad, at worst they sounded akin to the cheap earbuds that come with smartphones and that you can pick up at Best Buy for $20. That's the category where the 2 models that earned scores of 5 out of 10 in our sound quality testing fall. Of these models, the Skullcandy Crusher by far has the most powerful bass, maybe even too powerful when it's turned all the way up (these headphones literally shake on your head). However, that bass comes at the expense of clarity, with their overall sound being quite muddled.
The Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear falls into the average range both in terms of clarity and bass quality. Overal, these headphones sound very similar to the inexpensive earbuds you can find in most convenience stores, with a small boost provided by the better noise isolation. If you're satisfied with how generic earbuds sound, you'll be pleased with these headphones. If you're looking for an upgrade from that listening experience, these aren't the headphones for you.
The noise isolation provided by over-ear headphones not only blocks out ambient noise, it can make your music sound richer and more immersive. We tested noise isolation by using our headphones in crowded offices and cafes. We also did a more controlled test using a fan that created exactly 70 dB of noise and trying each pair of headphones on in the same location one right after the other. This allowed us to make accurate comparisons in performance. Overall we found that models with active noise cancellation blocked out much more sound than those without that technology, but there was still ranges of performance within each subcategory.
The Sony WH1000XM2 provided the best noise isolation in our testing, picking up a score of 9 out of 10. These headphones block out all but the loudest noises. Even without music playing, someone speaking right next to you is barely noticeable. With music playing, you'll have people waving their hands in front of you to get your attention because you most likely won't hear them.
Just behind the Sony WH1000XM2 was the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which scored 8 out of 10. The Bose was comparable to the Sony with music playing, creating a near impenetrable barrier between your ears and ambient noise. Without music playing it let in slightly quieter conversational tones than the Sony did, but still provided enough serenity to get work done or daydream.
All the models that scored 7 out of 10 in our noise cancellation testing offer active noise cancellation, but don't provide top end performance in that regard. These models include the TaoTronics TT-BH22US, the Beats Studio3, and the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass. Overall these models block out more noise than models without active noise cancellation, but let at least some muffled version of most conversations that occur in their direct vicinity. This level of performance is likely plenty for people who will also be listening to music with their headphones, as conversational tones will be quiet enough that you likely won't notice them. However, if you plan to use the noise cancellation feature without musical accompaniment, you may want to consider the high end Sony and Bose models.
The worst scoring model that offers active noise cancellation was the Mpow H5, which earned a 6 out of 10. Considering the low price, we were surprised that it offered active noise cancellation at all. In our testing, it was much more adept at drowning out some of the background noise than models without active noise cancellation but was clearly inferior to the other models that offer the same feature.
All of the following models do not have active noise cancellation. The best of these passive sound mufflers were the Bose SoundLink Wireless II and the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT, both of which scored 5 out of 10. While these models are a significant step down from the active noise cancellers, they have deep ear cups that offer a decent degree of protection for outside sound. You'll definitely hear everything that happens around you when wearing these headphones, but it will likely be muffled enough that your brain can ignore. Overall they're about even to wearing some of those orange earmuffs you might use when mowing the lawn.
A number of models earned a score of 4 out of 10 in this metric, including the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear, the Beats Solo3, and the Skullcandy Crusher. These models have slight thinner ear cups that still muffle sound, but don't provide quite as much sound dampening as non-noise canceling models that have deeper ear cups. We wouldn't want to mow the lawn in these headphones, but they're good enough to at least muffle some of the sounds of your favorite cafe.
The worst performer in this metric was the Beats Solo3, which earned a 3 out of 10. These headphones were the only on-ear ones that we tested, thus they don't offer the same kind of sound blocking that all of the full over-ear headphones do. They still block more outside noise than earbuds do, but you'll be able to hear most of what is going on around you unless you really crank up the volume of your music.
Wireless headphones will likely be worn for extended periods of time, either while you're working at your desk or sitting on a long flight. Therefore, comfort is paramount. Any slight crunching of the ears or small hotspot is going to turn into a huge annoyance come hour 3 of wearing the headphones. To test comfort we had everyone in the office, with their various sizes and shapes of heads and ears, wear each pair for a full 8-hour day of work. After that day we interrogated everyone to get their thoughts on each pair.
Bose makes far and away the most comfortable headphones we've ever worn with both the QuietComfort 35 II and the SoundLink Wireless II sharing the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. The elongated, more anatomical shape of their ear cups provide the most universal fit we've found (it's surprising how many companies seem to think that ears are perfectly circular). The ear cups are also relatively large and deep, making them friendly to those with ears on the bigger end of the spectrum.
The surprisingly inexpensive Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear earned an impressive score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. These headphones have deep padding and well-shaped ear cups that sit comfortably on your head. The ear cups are just slightly smaller than those on the Bose headphones, so if your ears are in the 90th percentile in terms of size, you may feel a bit of pinching.
The Sony WH1000XM2 and the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. Both of these models offer a little less room for larger ears than the top scoring models. The WH1000XM2 opts for an ergonomic shape but is still smaller than the Bose models. The XB950N1 Extra Bass has larger ear cups, but they are perfectly circular, so there is still less room for earlobes.
Earning scores of 6 out of 10, the ear cups of both the Skullcandy Crusher and the TaoTronics TT-BH22US are somewhat on the medium side. These models were comfy for our testers that had average to small ears, but for those that had larger ears there were complaints of some hot spots.
Both Beats models we tested scored 5 out of 10 in our comfort testing. The Studio3 has ear cups with a slightly oval shape and a medium size, and a medium amount of padding. This results in a fit that is ok for smaller ears but quickly feels restricting once ear size starts pushing against the upper end of average. The Solo3 is the only pair of on-ear headphones we tested. Actually having something push against your ears, in our opinion, reduces long-term comfort, though they are fine for wearing for an hour or two.
The Mpow H5 also earned a 5 out of 10 in our comfort testing. Again, these headphones have small earcups. They felt perfectly comfortable to our smaller-eared testers, but produced lots of uncomfortable hotspots after our larger-eared testers wore them for a couple of hours.
The beauty of wireless headphones is the fact that you can bury your phone in your bag and forget about it. To really take advantage of this you'll need some sleek and easy to use controls on the headphones themselves. Some manufacturers do a better job of designing these controls than others. To score user friendliness we again used consensus by committee, having multiple people in the office use each pair of headphones and their associated controls and then jotting down notes about their likes and dislikes. We did not include connectivity in our ease of use scores, as we found that all of our headphones were equally easy to pair with Bluetooth enabled devices.
All of the headphones we tested were relatively easy to use, thus all of our scores sat in the very tight range of 6 to 8 out of 10. At the top of that range was the Bose QuietComfort 35. These headphones have nice, tactile play/pause and volume buttons. There is also a multifunction button that can be pressed multiple times to skip the track forward and back. There is also a dedicated noise-canceling switch. These headphones also got a score bump for their dedicated Google Assistant button. There is also an app that lets you fine-tune EQ and noise cancellation settings.
A slew of different models fell just behind the QuietComfort 35 II with scores of 7 out of 10. The Bose SoundLink Wireless II has mostly the same interface as its sibling, but lacks the Google Assistant button. The TaoTronics TT-BH22US interface is very similar to that of the QuietComfort, but it does not have an app that can adjust noise cancellation settings. The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT also lacks an app, but it uses a sliding volume control that we like. You can also hold the volume control up or down to switch tracks. The Mpow H5 is very similar with a switch to turn noise cancellation on and off and multi-function volume/track control buttons.
The vast majority of headphones that we tested fell into the 6 out of 10 range. Generally, these models lacked any sort of app with which to make fine-tuned adjustments, and don't have any particular special features that we liked. They just have the bare bones play/pause, volume, and track skipping functions. The one notably different model in this range was the Sony WH1000XM2, which uses touch-sensitive controls that are very intuitive. However, it can be a bit difficult to get used to using what is essentially a touchpad that you can't see (since it's on your head), hence the slightly lower score.
Wireless headphones are the perfect companions for long flights, long walks, and long train rides. Therefore, you're going to want headphones that can easily be toted along with you. We assessed portability by weighing each pair of headphones, measuring how small they could fold up, and judging the quality of any sort of carrying cases that were included.
The Beats Solo3 is the most portable pair of headphones we tested, mostly due to their relatively small size (they are the only on-ear headphones we tested). With a weight of just 7.5 ounces and padded carrying case, you won't mind tossing the Solo3 in whatever bag is accompanying you on your adventures.
A few different models scored 8 out of 10 in this metric, all of which fold down to slightly larger packages than the Solo3. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is slightly heavy at 10.9 ounces, but comes with a very nice carrying case and folds down fairly small. The Sony WH1000XM2 is similar at 9.5 ounces and also comes with a quality carrying case. The Beats Studio3 is slightly lighter at 9.1 ounces and has a semi-hard carrying case. The TaoTronics TT-BH22US is very light at 7.5 ounces and has a semi-hard carrying case. The Mpow H5 don't fold down very small, but they come with a semi-hard carrying case and are incredibly light at just 8 ounces.
The Bose SoundLink Wireless II has a similar carrying case to its sibling, but doesn't fold up quite as small. The lack of active noise canceling does make it a bit lighter at 7 ounces. All added up this earned it a score of 7 out of 10. The 10.1 ounce Skullcandy Crusher also earned a 7, losing points because it only comes with a drawstring pouch.
The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT doesn't fold up quite as small as other models, is slightly heavy at 10.5 ounces, and comes with only a drawstring pouch carrying case. It is still portable, but not quite as much as other models, earning it a 6 out of 10.
The bottom scorers in our portability testing both earned a 5 out of 10. The Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear using a drawstring pouch carrying case and doesn't fold up much. The Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass similarly doesn't fold very small and uses a drawstring pouch. Both of these models weigh around 10 ounces.
In this age of ubiquitous electronic accessories, one less wire to worry about can be surprisingly freeing, especially when that wire would be dangling from your head. We hope our testing results have helped you find the perfect pair of wireless headphones for your needs and budget. If you're still hemming and hawing about whether you need noise cancellation, or if its worth spending extra to get better sound quality, check out our buying advice article. It lays out a few more tips and pointers for figuring out exactly what will work best for you.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.