Wireless Headphones Buyers Guide and Pre-Purchase Advice
Each headphone listed here has its own distinct advantages. We have tried to include a wide range of options with different features and price points but remember there is no universally perfect headphone.
What is best for you might not be the best headphone for someone else, so before getting into the list, we want to give you some points to consider before your next purchase. Similarly, just because someone likes a headphone and recommends it to you, it might not necessarily be the best option for your lifestyle.
This list is designed to give you options, but you will still need to decide which one is best for your needs.
Wireless Headphones vs. Wireless Earbuds
The big question for a lot of people is whether to buy headphones or earphones. Again it simply comes down to how you intend to listen to music. I can only imagine running or working out with a set of earphones due to increased mobility. Conversely, for long listening sessions at my office, I much prefer the comfort of a set of full-size headphones with nice soft earpads.
There are obviously going to be scenarios where one works better than the other, but the biggest factor for me in this category is battery life. Due to headphones being physically larger, they are usually able to accommodate bigger batteries. In wired earphones and headphones, this will be the determining factor as to how long you can listen for between charges.
This is one of the reasons I use the Sony-WH1000XM3 for long-haul flights. I want the headphones to be working for the duration of the flight. If I was using earphones, I could be looking at as little as 8 hours of playback.
For commuters, this could also be a factor when buying headphones. Most people commuting will spend 1-2 hours on public transport a day, so in theory, you could get away with using earphones, but you may have to charge them more than once a week where some headphones could go as long as 2 weeks without requiring charging.
Other factor factors such as mobility, storage, and style are worth weighing up before you make a decision.
For those who would prefer to buy earphones, you can check our recommendations for the best true wireless earbuds for 2023.
Wireless vs. Wired – Are No Cables Better
When choosing between these two types of headphones, I think the biggest difference is pretty obvious. One will have a cable, and the other will not. The advantage of going wireless comes from the freedom of not being directly tethered to your device. You can leave your phone on a desk or in a bag and listen to your music without getting in a tangled mess.
However, it would help if you considered how this affects the sound quality. Wired headphones generally, dollar for dollar, sound far better than wireless headphones.
This is because the complication of the design opens up different weaknesses in Fidelity. Think about it, in a wired headphone; the setup is usually just a cable to a driver. In a wireless headphone, you are introducing DACs, Amplifiers, and Bluetooth chipsets inside the headphone. If all of these are not optimized, you will have a sound quality degradation.
The good news, though, is that we have seen a shift away from standard wireless technology in recent years, and headphone companies are introducing better Bluetooth (5.0) and APTX lossless codec, which goes a long way to making your music sound better.
If you are looking to buy a set of wireless headphones, make sure you look out for those features.
Battery Life and Wireless Headphones
Of course, going wireless is going to mean that you have to charge your headphones. It’s an added hassle for sure, but just like the codec improvements mentioned above, there has been a great advancement in battery technology, meaning that Bluetooth headphones last longer than ever before.
Nowadays, it is not unreasonable to expect over 20 hours of playback from a single charge, and the amount of run time you get from each set should certainly be considered when making a purchase.
In addition to the battery life, maybe you want to consider headphones with a quick charge feature as well. Many headphones can give a substantial battery percentage in charges lasting just 10-30 minutes. This is extremely handy if you are traveling and top them up if they run out of juice.
Types of Wireless Headphones
Like traditional wired headphones, you will find wireless models in different styles and sizes. So again, think about how you are going to use them.
If you use them at home or in an office or a desk, you might be best with a set of over-the-ear large, comfy, well-paced headphones. If you will use them for travel or commuting, you will probably want to consider smaller over-ear headphones or even on ears.
There are noise-canceling wireless headphones, headphones with touch controls, headphones with inbuilt microphones for taking calls. Really the industry is getting crowded with options, and as a consumer, there is surely something on the market that will meet your needs or at least come close to some compromises.
If ultimate portability is of primary concern, then you might want to look into wireless earbuds, of which we have listed our favorites below. There really is something for every scenario.