Best Beats headphones in 2023: Here are the top models we tested
Beats has evolved into an audio lifestyle brand powered by the genius of music industry legends Andre “Dr Dre” Young and Jimmy Iovine alongside current parent company Apple. The last few years have seen some interesting changes for the electronics giant, especially when it comes to the kinds of Beats audio products you can currently buy.
Leaning more into headphones and earbuds lately, Beats has continued to stand out by delivering flashier, more bass-heavy alternatives to Apple’s own audio devices while also offering compelling fitness-focused products. We’ve tested nearly all of Beats’ recent headphones and earbuds, and have picked out the best the brand has to offer.
There’s a reason we call the Beats Solo 3 our best overall on-ear headphones. With audio performance and battery life that rivals significantly more expensive devices, the Solo 3 also look fashionable in three different colorways.
Our best wireless earbuds pick for Apple users, the Beats Fit Pro are a more compact version of the Powerbeats Pro with all of the smarts of the Airpods Pro (including active noise cancellation and spatial audio).
Best Beats headphones: Beats Solo 3
199.99 114.95 at Amazon; 199.99 at Apple
The Beats Solo 3 hasn’t seen a proper refresh since 2016, but still remains our best on-ear headphones pick for good reason. It offers competitive audio quality, a thoughtful design that blends sleekness with useful functionalities and better than average battery life.
From quick pairing to the initiative controls on the left headphone cup, utilizing the Beats Solo 3 is a simple and intuitive experience. Once we got them set up, we found music to sound as good as headphones that are significantly more expensive. Most notably, extremely bass heavy music such as contemporary pop, EDM and hip-hop really showcase how far the Beats Solo 3 can be pushed. They also do a great job with more musically nuanced genres like rock and jazz by offering clarity for multi-instrumental tracks. Beyond music, the Beats Solo 3 provides exceptional call quality thanks to their beamforming microphones.
With 40 hours of playback, the Beats Solo 3 has some of the best battery life in its class. The small LEDs on the headphones do a great job of informing you how much battery life is available, as does the Beats app for either iOS or Android. If your Beats do run out of battery life, there’s a quick charge ability that gives three hours of juice from a five-minute charge.
Between outstanding audio quality, great battery life and head-turning looks, it’s not surprising that the Beats Solo 3 has been able to stand on its own without yearly refreshes.
Best Beats earbuds: Beats Fit Pro
199.99 159.95 at Amazon, Apple
The Beats Fit Pro maintains the classic Beats style while packing a feature set that’s more in line with Apple’s Airpods Pro. At 199, these earbuds’ audio quality battery life and comfort make them our pick for the best Apple earbuds, but having Spatial Audio capabilities alongside active noise cancellation is the proverbial icing on the cake.
The Beats Fit Pro are great for gym rats looking for something a bit more discreet than the Powerbeats Pro. Available in four colors, they feature a wingtip design that we found to be comfortable and secure for hours on end, complete with IPX4 water protection that’s ideal for those who frequently break a sweat.
The Beats Fit Pro’s strong audio quality is enhanced by the same Adaptive EQ feature found on the Airpods Pro, which equalizes music in real time to make sure you’re always getting a good mix. To help preserve battery life alongside sound quality, Adaptive EQ kicks in whenever ANC and Transparency are turned off. When turned on, we found that songs sounded louder and brighter. However, when ANC is turned on, we felt it suppressed outside noise just as well as the Airpods Pro.
The Beats Fit Pro lasted us nearly seven hours on a charge with ANC on, which is among the best battery life we’ve gotten from any Apple earbuds. They also charge up quickly, with Fast Fuel charging that gives you up to 1 hour of playback through a 5-minute charge via USB-C. Pairing is seamless with iOS devices thanks to the Apple H1 chip inside, but you still get access to most of the Fit Pro’s key features (including ANC and Transparency) on Android.
What you need to know about Beats headphones
Beats headphones and earbuds come in a wide range when it comes to pricing, from the 69.99 Beats Flex to the 349.95 Beats Studio 3 Wireless. All of them offer Beats’ signature aesthetic in multiple colors, and we’ve found them to deliver respectable audio quality at every price range.
Though Beats headphones are primarily built for those in the Apple ecosystem, they’re great for Android devices as well. For Apple devices, Beats headphones pair as instantly as Airpods, and feature the same Smart features like ‘Hey Siri’ support for instant voice control and Find My capabilities for tracking your lost headphones. Some models, like the Beats Fit Pro and Beats Studio 3, support Apple’s Spatial Audio standard. But regardless of your smartphone of choice, you can adjust audio settings, toggle features like active noise cancellation, monitor battery life and get firmware updates via the Beats app for both iOS and Android.
The app even supports older discontinued Beats devices like the popular Pill speakers, with the ability to link more than one for an amplified audio experience. Apple users should know that all Beats headphones support the AirPlay feature which allows users to share music from their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to anyone wearing a pair of Beats.
Cautious consumers will be happy to know that all Beats audio devices come with a one year warranty alongside eligibility for AppleCare coverage.
Other Beats headphones to consider
249.95 199.95 at Apple, Amazon
For those always on the move, the PowerBeats Pro strike the right balance between comfort and a secure fit via their unique ear hooks. Available in four colors, the sweat resistant earbuds provided us with nine hours of playback with a total 24 hours with the charging case. Through fast fuel charging, a five minute charge can provide up to 1.5 hours of playback. The PowerBeats Pro have been dethroned by the Beats Fit Pro as our top workout pick thanks to the latter’s more compact design and better feature set, but they’re still worth considering for those who want the added security of an ear hook design.
From 119.99 at Amazon; 149.99 at Apple
Those who want affordable noise cancellation technology in a smaller earbuds package can look toward the Beats Studio Buds. There’s even a transparency mode for those who want to hear outside audio, like on the Beats Fit Pro and Airpods Pro. The Studio Buds stand out amongst the Beats family with their ability to fast-pair to both Apple and Android devices, and we found their sound quality to be strong overall. These earbuds got us more than eight hours of continuous listening time, and feature Fast Fuel charging to get you back up and running quickly. If style is a concern, know that the Studio Buds come in a wide range of colors that includes red, white, black and the more recently released Ocean Blue, Sunset Pink and Moon Gray.
69.99 at Apple
The most affordable audio device in the Beats lineup, there’s a lot to appreciate about the Beats Flex. Available in four color options, they feature magnetic earbuds that lock together like a necklace and will even pause or play music depending on if they’re in your ear or not. Beyond the unique design, the Beats Flex have an estimated 12 hours of battery life, Fast Fuel charging and the same fast-pairing and Find My benefits of other Apple earbuds.
349.95 208 at Amazon
As the most expensive audio device within the Beats lineup, the Beats Studio 3 Wireless are some of the best headphones we’ve tested in terms of sheer sound quality. This is thanks in part to their real-time audio calibration tech, as well as noise cancellation for general music listening and call quality. The Beats Studio 3 has an estimated 40 hours of battery life, which is largely in line with our own testing. However, we didn’t find them to be quite as comfortable as top rivals from the likes of Sony and Bose.
Note: The above reflect the retailers’ listed price at the time of publication.
Best Buy shoppers rush to buy 350 top-brand headphones scanning at checkout for almost 50% off
BEST Buy shoppers have been rushing to buy a popular pair of headphones whose price has been slashed.
This week, Best Buy has been hosting a slew of sales on popular products and gadgets.
Typically, the wireless headphones set shoppers back 349.99 on Best Buy’s website.
But now, the price has been slashed to 179.99 – a staggering 48 percent discount.
BEATS STUDIO 3 HEADPHONES
The Studio3 Wireless headphones feature pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling technology (Pure ANC) to actively block external noise.
Read more on Best Buy deals
They can last around 22 hours on a single charge, and a fast fuel 10-minute charge offers three hours of play.
They look and feel high-end with a sleek matte appearance and hard plastic and metal frame.
The soft over-ear cushions also offer extended comfort and added noise isolation.
Other notable features include a microphone, Siri functionality, and a control panel on the side of the headphones.
The headphones have scored a 4.7 out of five-star rating on Best Buy’s website.
“Great Birthday present! Purchased for grandson’s Birthday. Needless to say, after passing it around at his party everyone was wanting a pair,” one person said.
“Impressed with the no background noise, lightweight and comfortable,” they added.
“These are excellent headphones with great sound really good noise canceling and spatial sound,” a second person said.
“These headphones are a win! Sound quality is phenomenal, they look amazing and they hold their charge for what seems like forever,” a third person remarked.
How to Connect Your Beats Headphones to Any Device
Connect your Beats to your iPhone, Android, Windows PC, or Mac, without breaking a sweat, with this comprehensive guide.
It’s easy to pair any Beats headphones with an iOS device thanks to the seamless compatibility offered by the Apple ecosystem. But, they can also work with other devices as they use the standard Bluetooth connection.
Yet, since the automatic pairing feature isn’t available for non-iOS devices, connecting to them can be difficult.
No worries – you can get around this by understanding how to manually pair your Beats headphones to any device. Keep reading as we detail the steps for connecting Beats to iPhone, Android, Mac, and Windows. Let’s dive in!
How to Put Wireless Beats Headphones into Pairing Mode
When you turn on your Beats headphones for the first time, they should automatically enter pairing mode. If not, you need to manually activate the pairing mode. The steps for this depend on the model.
Here’s how to make your Beats headphones discoverable for each model:
- Beats Flex: Press and hold the power button until the indicator light flashes.
- Powerbeats: Press and hold the button on the left earbud until the indicator light flashes.
- Powerbeats Pro,Beats Fit Pro, Beats Studio Buds: Place the earbuds in their case, leave the case open, and then press and hold the button inside the case until the light outside blinks.
Having problems with your Powerbeats Pro? Check our guides on Powerbeats Pro not playing any sound or Powerbeats Pro one side not working.
- Solo Pro: Press and hold the “mode” button on the left ear cup. This is also the button you’ll use to turn the noise-canceling on and off.
- Beats Solo 3 Wireless Beats Studio 3 Wireless: Press the power button for 1 to 5 seconds until the Fuel Gauge’s light flashes.
Make sure the Bluetooth on your audio source is turned on and ready to sync with your respective Beats headphones.
How to Connect Beats to iPhone
Since Apple owns Beats, connecting them to an iPhone is straightforward. Simply make the Beats headphones discoverable, place them near the iOS device, wait for the connection prompt, and you’re good to go!
Yet, sometimes, this automatic pairing feature fails, especially when using Beats with multiple devices. In that case, you’ll have to connect to them manually.
Here’s how you can connect your wireless Beats headphones or earbuds to an iPhone:
- Open your Settings, navigate to your Bluetooth, and make sure it’s toggled on.
- Set your Beats to pairing mode. Your Beats headphones should appear on Other Devices. Select your headphones to initiate pairing with your iPhone.
- Once your Beats are successfully paired, they will appear under My Devices with a Connected status.
After you connect your wireless Beats with your iPhone, they should pair automatically each time you want to use the devices together in the future.
How to Connect Beats to Android
Like Airpods, Beats headphones also function well with Android phones despite being an Apple product. You can expect a seamless experience with minimal hiccups, including manual pairing.
For this demonstration, we’ll be pairing with a Samsung device. But, the procedures can be similar to other Android models since they typically use the same interface.
Here’s how to connect wireless Beats headphones to your Android phone:
- Swipe down from the center of your Android home screen and select the Bluetooth logo.
- Turn on the Bluetooth toggle switch to enable the Bluetooth function.
- After setting your Beats into pairing mode, select the Scan button to search for your Beats headphones.
- Your Beats should appear under Available Devices. Select your Beats, and it should initiate pairing with your Android device.
- Wait for the status to turn from Connecting to Connected to indicate the successful pairing.
How to Connect Beats to Windows PC
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to connecting Beats to your Windows laptop or desktop. For this, your best bet is to pair them through the System Settings manually.
Here are four easy steps to show how you can connect your wireless Beats headphones to your Windows PC:
- Make your Beats headphones discoverable.
- Click on the Windows icon on the desktop and search for “Bluetooth” in the search field. Select Bluetooth and other device settings in the search results.
- Turn on the Bluetooth toggle and click on the Add Device option.
- Select Bluetooth. Your Windows PC should start searching for all the nearby Bluetooth discoverable devices.
- After it has loaded, select your Beats headphones. You will receive a notification on your screen when your device is connected.
If you have trouble connecting your Beats headphones to your laptop or experience audio delays, we recommend holding down the power button when turning on your Beats for up to 10 seconds. Doing this will reset your headphones and give you a clean slate to ensure they establish a strong connection with your Windows PC.
How to Connect Beats to Mac
Despite coming from the same company, there’s no shortcut to pairing your Beats headphones or earbuds with Mac. You’ll have to connect them through the Bluetooth settings manually.
Fret not. The steps are straightforward and relatively hassle-free.
Here’s how you can connect your Beats headphones to your Mac laptop.
- Click on the Bluetooth logo and select Bluetooth Preferences on your desktop.
- Turn on Bluetooth on your Mac if you haven’t. Your Beats should be discoverable under the Devices tab.
- Click on Connect beside the Beats headphones you want to pair. Your Beats should indicate “Connected” when successfully paired with Mac.
What to Do When Wireless Beats Headphones Won’t Connect
There are many factors to consider when it comes to connection issues, including your battery and settings. But some may not be as obvious.
Before you conclude that your Beats are faulty and try to repair them, try out the following suggestions:
- Make sure your Beats headphones are charged properly: Make sure your Beats headphones are charged for at least 20 minutes before attempting to pair them with your device again.
- Power cycle your Beats headphones devices: Power Cycling is the act of turning off electrical devices through the main switch and turning it back on again. While underrated, it’s proven to be an effective method for solving connectivity issues. Simply turn off each device (Beats, laptop, smartphones, etc.) and turn them on again.
- Reset your Beats headphones: Factory reset is a surefire method to remove any technical glitches. However, you’ll not only lose all the previously saved data, but you’ll also have to manually re-pair your Beats one device at a time.
As different Beats models have slightly different controls and buttons, they would require slightly different resetting methods. For example, to reset the Beats Solo Wireless 3, hold down the volume-down and power buttons. If you have the Beats Solo Wireless, press and hold the multifunction and volume-down buttons.
We guess you’re all hooked up with a seamless connection from your wireless Beats headphones to your preferred device. Now, lean back and indulge in some excellent audio quality when listening to your favorite tunes or getting acquainted with newly released tracks over the weekend.
We hope our suggestions helped you connect your Beats headphones with ease.
Tell us in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section if our solutions worked well for you. Share with us if you’ve got better suggestions.
The Best Wireless Headphones, Based On Rigorous Testing
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
If you want to tune out the noisy world around you, a pair of wireless headphones can help you FOCUS on listening to music uninterrupted. They’re also useful for making hands-free phone calls as well as listening to audio from TV shows and movies. After much testing and research, I chose the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2 as my pick for best overall wireless headphones.
I tested more than a dozen of the most popular wireless headphones—all of which ended up in the 300 to 800 price range–with the goal of discovering which truly offer the best comfort, noise cancelling, overall sound quality and features.
If the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2s aren’t to your liking, I can recommend several other fantastic headphones. For a slightly less expensive option that serves as wireless headphones and as a wireless Bluetooth speaker, there’s the V-Moda S-80s, my choice for the best value wireless headphones. I awarded three other notable winners as well—one for Apple users, one for casual listeners and a pair of premium headphones for audiophiles. After spending weeks using each of these headphones in a wide range of listening situations, here are my picks for the best wireless headphones:
- Best Wireless Headphones Overall: Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2
- Best Value Wireless Headphones: V-Moda S-80
- Best Wireless Headphones For Apple Users: Apple Airpods Max
- Best Wireless Headphones For Everyday Use: Sony WH-1000XM5
- Best Wireless Headphones For Audiophiles: Bowers Wilkins Px8
Best Wireless Headphones Overall
Audio Quality, Comfort And Style Combined
Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2
Battery life: Up to 30 hours | Drivers: 40mm | Weight: 0.8 pounds | Storage: Hardshell case
- Listening to music and hands-free phone calls
- Looking good in a professional work environment
- Extended listening sessions
The Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2 impressed me through their performance and elegant design. These headphones produced rich, clear sound across all audio types—a quality which helped these headphones best the competition, including the similarly high-end Sony WH-1000XM5 and Apple Airpods Max. The one drawback to these otherwise outstanding headphones? They lack spatial audio, which makes a huge difference when listening to audio from TV shows, movies and games. (For more details, read my full review of the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2.)
These headphones are very lightweight compared to many others; after just a few minutes, I nearly forgot I was wearing them. The earcups use memory foam padding and apply just enough pressure to block ambient sound passively, but they’re still comfortable and breathable. Even better: the active noise cancellation works whenever you turn on the headphones, so you can relish the silence even without audio playing.
The noise cancellation let me FOCUS on the audio the headphones produced. I heard no noticeable distortion, even at louder volumes. The headphones use 40mm drivers and support high-quality 24-bit sound, perfect for hearing detail in audio tracks. These Bowers Wilkins headphones seemed to always keep the audio authentic to what the musician or producers intended.
Thanks to six built-in microphones, these headphones do a great job monitoring and adapting to the ambient noise around you, removing unwanted sound from your ears. They also do an excellent job making audio from phone calls sound clear indoors and out, with exceptional wind reduction.
Even without tinkering with the equalizer, the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones produced audio that sounded rich and clear, with enough bass and treble to make me feel the lifelike audio in my head–not just hear it. The headphones provided full-bodied audio that was superior to most of the other headphones I tested—the exception being those that support spatial audio, like the Apple Airpods Max and Bang Olufsen Beoplay Portal headphones. However, since you don’t always need spatial audio, I found sacrificing this feature was an acceptable trade-off given the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones’ otherwise-outstanding audio, in all situations.
The one thing I wished these headphones had: touch-sensitive controls. Instead, these headphones have several tiny, hard-to-reach buttons around the edge of the earcups. But unlike many other headphones, the left and right earcups have clear labels, so there’s no confusion about how to put them on.
These headphones come with a zippered hard shell case. It includes a separate internal compartment (that stays closed with magnets) to store the supplied charging and audio cable. Because the earcups fold flat, the case is thinner than most, making it easier to stash in a backpack or briefcase.
The Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2s offer superior overall quality, with an impressive design, excellent sound quality and good noise cancellation. These headphones were my clear pick for best overall wireless headphones.
Best Value Wireless Headphones
Headphone And Bluetooth Speaker Functionality In One Device
V-Moda S-80 Wireless Headphones
Battery life: Up to 20 hours (headphones), 10 hours (speaker) | Drivers: 40mm | Mobile app: Yes | Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Using as headphones or as a Bluetooth speaker
- On-ear (not over-the-ear) comfort
- Having manual control over audio
The most interesting thing about the V-Moda S-80 headphones is that when you rotate the earcups 90-degrees—so they’re pointing outwards—the headphones transform into a wireless Bluetooth speaker you can wear around your neck (or place on any surface). These headphones uniquely handle two audio listening tasks in one device.
And I found these headphones sounded great, in either playback mode. As a Bluetooth speaker, it doesn’t output a tremendous amount of volume, but it produces true stereo audio, a feature most wireless Bluetooth speakers don’t offer. The speaker option is great for enjoying audio at your desk or sharing audio with a few people in close proximity.
The V-Moda S-80 headphones have a sleek, sophisticated design that fits well in the office or while at play. It comes in three colors: black, white and black and rose gold. The earcups, for example, use a generous amount of comfortable memory foam covered by soft PU (artificial) leather. They’re also removable and interchangeable thanks to integrated magnets; unfortunately, this flexibility means the earcups can fall off easily during transport, especially since they don’t come with a protective case.
On the right ear cup sits a power, volume up, volume down and play/pause button. While I found these easy enough to reach while wearing the headphones, the buttons’ small size meant my fingers often fumbled before finding their target.
It took about 10 minutes for me to acclimate to the feeling of the on-ear earcups. After that, the headphones felt comfortable on my head. The headphones’ design does an excellent job passively blocking out ambient sound when playing audio at over 50% volume, but it does not offer any active or adaptive noise cancellation. I could not achieve a secure fit, though. When I moved my head around—even with subtle movements—the headphones wobbled, which made them unusable during physical activity like jogging or running.
When used as traditional headphones, audio sounded exceptional, and it was both loud and vibrant across all music, soundtracks and podcasts. When I listened to Left and Right (Galantis Remix) by Charlie Puth and Jung Kook via Apple Music, the audio bounced around between the left and right audio channels, making me feel as if I were in the middle of a club’s dance floor.
Even at high volumes, I noticed no distortion. At the default settings, I heard just enough bass and treble, mixed with powerful mids and highs, to the make audio sound superior to many other headphones I tested—including those that are more expensive and that offer active or passive noise cancellation. I could make further adjustments to the equalizer using the mobile app.
These headphones’ battery life of 20 hours (when used as headphones) or 10 hours (when used as a Bluetooth speaker) is plenty adequate. The headphones come with a flat USB Type-C to USB Type-A charging cable. There’s no 3.5mm audio cable option.
Ultimately, the comfort and audio quality of the V-Moda S-80 headphones impressed me. I also loved the fact that they can also serve as a Bluetooth speaker—an extra benefit to headphones that already deliver excellent value and style.
Best Wireless Headphones For Apple Users
Spatial Audio With Dynamic Head Tracking
Apple Airpods Max
Battery life: Up to 20 hours | Drivers: 40mm | Weight: 0.9 pounds | Storage: Minimalist silicon cover just for the earcups
- Watching TV shows and movies using spatial audio
- Automatic pairing and switching between Apple devices
- Comfort during long listening sessions
There are many things to love about the Apple Airpods Max, but their high price tag is not one of them (so keep an eye out for when these go on sale). That said, if you’re a dedicated Apple user, these are the headphones for you.
The Apple Airpods Max headphones have the best spatial audio of any model I’ve tested. The spatial audio includes dynamic head tracking, which only a few of the other headphones offer. If you’re watching a movie that uses surround sound, the direction of the audio can actually change in real time as you move your head. This makes you feel as if you’re in the middle of an action sequence, as opposed to passively watching it. Spatial audio also works well for music–especially tunes that support the Apple Digital Master and lossless audio protocols available via Apple Music.
The earcups are coated with a breathable fabric that quickly molded around my ears, but not enough so to provide passive noise cancellation. With adaptive noise cancellation on, the headphones can almost fully eliminate outside noise.
Unlike most other headphones I tested, the Apple Airpods Max use a stainless steel and mesh-covered headband that’s designed to reduce clamping pressure on your head. I found this very comfortable, with the telescoping arms allowing for a perfect fit. The earcups are made from anodized aluminum, combined with memory foam and a breathable textile covering. I discovered that this allowed for airflow that kept my ears comfortably cool without compromising sound quality during longer listening sessions.
The digital crown dial on top of the right earcup is a clever feature that let me control volume precisely, skip tracks, answer incoming calls and activate Siri. Another button enabled the noise canceling feature, even when audio wasn’t playing. I found these controls easier to use than on other headphones I tested. I also liked that the headphones let me adjust the volume directly, as opposed to via an app.
If you’re already an Apple user, the Apple Airpods Max are an ideal companion: They pair automatically with your Apple devices and automatically adapt the audio and noise cancellation to your environment. They work seamlessly with an iPhone for phone calls, with six outward-facing and two beamforming microphones that virtually eliminate ambient sounds–even when you’re outside on a windy day. My hands-free calls had crystal clear audio, and I found calls easy to manage from the headphones or the iPhone.
Unlike other wireless headphones, the Apple Airpods Max lacks a power button, mobile app and manual equalizer adjustment. Uniquely, the headphones instead automatically power on when you place them on your ears, and power off when you take them off. Siri can announce some of your notifications automatically via the headphones. And if you misplace the headphones, you can locate them using the Find My app. These points all contribute to why the Apple Airpods Max provides a premium experience for Apple users over the competition.
Finer design points aside, I love the Apple Airpods Max for its audio and aesthetics. Yes, you’re paying an “Apple tax,” but it’s worth it: I’ve had a fantastic experience using these headphones with my Apple devices. The sound quality and comfort, not to mention the extra features, make them well worth the investment–but only if you’re an Apple user.
Best Wireless Headphones For Everyday Use
Cutting-Edge Noise Cancellation
Battery life: Up to 30 hours (40 hours with ANC turned off) | Drivers: 30mm | Weight: 0.7 pounds | Mobile app: Yes | Storage: Hardshell case
- Listening to just about any type of audio
- Eliminating ambient sound using superior noise cancellation
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones delivered the best overall audio quality out of the collection of sub-600 “mainstream” headphones tested. So why aren’t they the best overall winner? While these headphones can generate spatial audio, it only does so if you pay for a subscription to 360 by Deezer, Artist Connection, nugs.net, PeerTracks or Tidal. A subscription sets you back around 10 per month just to hear spatial audio with the Sony headphones.
That said, when using the Sony WH-1000XM5 with a Tidal subscription, the music quality improved dramatically compared to the same tracks on Apple Music or Spotify. I could hear every nuance with incredible clarity and fullness–it felt like the music surrounded me.
When I streamed music without spatial audio on other services, the music still sounded good, competitive with other headphones I tested. These headphones also support hi-resolution audio files, a boon if you play songs encoded that way. Spatial audio doesn’t work at all when watching TV shows or movies, which is extremely disappointing for a pair of 400 headphones. The only way to enjoy spatial audio with entertainment is to pair the headphones with a Sony Bravia XR television, which allows the headphones to play Dolby Atmos audio.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones feature a simple design, with adjustable telescoping arms and earcups that can rotate 90-degrees to lie flat. The left earcup has two small buttons (one for power), but otherwise you can control these headphones via the touch sensitive areas on the outer side of the earcups. I liked the soft coating on the earcups’ memory foam padding, but since the coating isn’t a breathable material, after an extended listening period, my ears felt warm.
These headphones stand out for their excellent noise cancellation. Sony combines its hi-res audio with two separate processors and eight microphones to remove unwanted ambient noise in a better way than the competition. The result is near silence with noise cancellation on, and exceptional call quality, where my voice had unmatched clarity and the audio volume stayed stable regardless of the noise around you. Although I’ve reviewed plenty of other headphones with extremely impressive noise cancellation, Sony’s implementation stands out from the crowd.
When listening to music, these headphones use Sony’s LDAC audio coding to transmit three times more data than conventional Bluetooth headphones. The result, especially when listening to music from a supported service with spatial audio, is impressive high-resolution audio that uses artificial intelligence to upscale compressed digital music files in real time. This approach restores the high audio range that’s otherwise lost in compression. I found this technology works very well to enhance the overall listening experience.
When I was out and about, Sony’s unique Speak-to-Chat feature proved especially convenient. While wearing the headphones, when I started speaking, the headphones automatically paused the audio I was listening to and let in ambient sound so I could carry on a conversation. Meanwhile, if you remove the headphones from one or both ears, the audio automatically pauses and resumes when you put your headphones back on your head.
With the mobile app, I liked the complete control I had over the audio equalizer, although I found it much easier to select one of the presets, like Bass Boost (which I found ideal for pop music) than it was to make manual adjustments.
These are superb general-purpose headphones with excellent noise cancellation. But to truly experience what they’re capable of, you need to shell out some additional cash and subscribe to Tidal or another supported streaming music service.
Best Wireless Headphones For Audiophiles
Great Sound, If You’re Willing To Pay The Price
Bowers Wilkins Px8
Battery life: Up to 30 hours | Drivers: 40mm | Weight: 0.7 pounds | Mobile app: Yes | Storage: Hardshell case
- Hearing high-fidelity audio from TV shows and movies
- Enjoying the fine nuances of music
- Feeling extra comfort around your ears
- You’re on a budget
- You use your headphones in harsh conditions
- 360-degree or spatial audio matters
The Bowers Wilkins Px8 headphones exude elegance and scream premium design. Everything about these headphones is a step better than their sibling, the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2. These are not a next-generation replacement for the Px7 S2, but rather a higher-grade tier that targets audiophiles.
These headphones have a single die-cast aluminum arm that adjusts to fit your head size, a notable upgrade over the polymer design of our best headphones overall pick, Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2. These headphones provided me with a snug fit around my ears and over my head. They have comfortably cushioned earcups, and a headband finished with ultra-soft Nappa leather.
I found the controls convenient to use. On the right earcup are the volume up and down buttons, with a programmable multi-function button in between and a power slider (which also depresses to toggle Bluetooth on and off) at the top of the stack. On the left is the Quick Action button, which you can set to handle several actions, including toggling noise-cancellation and pass-through so you can talk to someone and activating your phone’s voice assistant.
The premium fit-and-finish only addresses the outside upgrades. Inside, the Bowers Wilkins Px8 headphones have a 40mm driver, same size as on the Px7 S2. However, the Px8 has a carbon fiber tweeter that helps lower distortion and improve the high end.
When I listened to Left and Right (Galantis Remix) by Charlie Puth, it sounded the best out of all the headphones I tested (with no spatial audio). The vocals and instrumentals bounced between the left and right channels in a way that sounded immersive—as if being in a dance club. And the virtual soundstage was satisfying and vast. I found audio exceptionally clear and vibrant, noticeably better than the already-great Px7 S2. It was easy for my ears to discern between the vocal and instrumental tracks. I noticed, however, that without manually adjusting the bass level in the mobile app, certain pop songs sounded slightly distorted with the volume turned was up. The app also allowed me to adjust treble and bass using sliders, but I usually found my music tracks didn’t require any adjustments at all.
Conveniently, these headphones can detect when you remove them from your head. Audio paused automatically when I took them off and resumed play when I placed them back on my head. The noise cancellation uses six microphones to effectively reduce or eliminate unwanted ambient sounds. This worked well when I engaged in hands-free phone calls. However, in my experience, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones’ noise cancellation performed a little better.
When I needed to interact with someone else or hear what was happening around me, I simply pushed the multi-function button to switch to Ambient mode (its default setting). I could program the button to do something else via the Bowers Wilkins app, which also handles adjusting the audio equalizer manually.
I liked how the noise cancellation worked to mitigate ambient noise, even in the absence of audio. However, they weren’t quite as good as some other models: I could still hear the muffled noise from my keyboard while typing.
For everyday headphones, I was hard pressed to notice a tremendous difference between the Bowers Wilkins Px8 and Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones (that are less expensive). However, for me, the Bowers Wilkins Px8 headphones’ outstanding audio output, comfort and luxurious design make them stand out among the competition.
Other Wireless Headphones I Tested
While these five winners easily stood out as the best of the best, I weeded out more than a dozen other wireless headphones that simply didn’t make the cut. However, I chose nine other models that are worth consideration if one of my top picks doesn’t meet your needs. These are the runners-up for the best wireless headphones:
- Bose QuietComfort 45 (278 at Best Buy): You can’t get on a plane or train without seeing dozens of Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. They’re relatively affordable, offer excellent battery life (up to 24 hours) and they’re very comfortable. What sets them apart, though, is their superior noise cancellation and easy-to-transport folding design. The reason they aren’t a top pick is because they use older technology that isn’t as advanced. Nonetheless, the QuietComfort 45 are an excellent choice for frequent travelers and commuters.
- Master Dynamic MW65 (299 at Amazon): These headphones deliver superior audio, two excellent noise cancellation modes, up to 24 hours of listening time and 40mm Beryllium drivers. But what really sets these headphones apart is their distinctive design. They have a very elegant but retro appearance that’s created using anodized aluminum and premium leather, with ultra-soft lambskin around the earpads. These headphones also offer a Bluetooth range up to 65 feet (double the usual). Their regular price (499) is steep compared with the competition, especially since it only includes a cloth travel pouch which offers no protection. That said, I really love the design and quality of the Master Dynamic MW65 headphones—and if you can grab them on sale, they’re a great deal.
- Bang Olufsen Beoplay Portal (358 at Amazon): These headphones target gamers as a gaming headset, but they’re so much more. I love the large, touch-sensitive controls on both earcups. The design features a lot of plastic, which keeps them lightweight, but that makes them less durable and elegant. Another thing that sets these normally pricey (MSRP: 500) headphones apart is their high-fidelity, three-dimensional sound. The audio surrounds you, especially when playing Dolby Atmos content. The 40mm drivers can run for 19 hours on a single charge and you get a wide range of EQ presets. There’s no case, but the earcups fold flat for transport and you get a cloth pouch for storage. These are amazing headphones, but they didn’t get a nod as a top choice mainly because of its price and lack of a carrying case. This is another model that makes a strong choice when on sale.
- Beats Studio 3 (234 at Amazon): Apple and Dr. Dre teamed up to create a pair of well-designed, foldable headphones that are easily transportable and offer outstanding sound. If you can’t afford the Apple Airpods Max, but want its close cousin, the Beats Studio 3 headphones are a terrific alternative—especially when on sale (MSRP: 350). My chief complaint is that they don’t offer the high-quality feel or appearance you get from other headphones. The padding is thin, and the earcups are coated with a rubber-like substance and lack memory foam. These headphones have been around for a few years now (since September 2017), so they lack the latest audio and wireless technologies.
- Sennheiser Momentum 4 (289 at Amazon): While the audio sounds great, these headphones use a lot of plastic and what appears to be only the most basic of padding. But the moment you pick them up, they turn on and pair with the device you typically use them with. Even without playing audio, the adaptive noise cancellation kicks in, so you can use the headphones to tune out the world around you and simply enjoy the silence. You don’t get spatial audio, but you do get high-quality stereo sound, which Sennheiser refers to as its “signature sound” (forward mids, relaxed treble and an overall warm sound).
- BeyerDynamic Amiron Wireless (549 at BeyerDynamic): My first impression was that these headphones are simply too large and bulky. They also don’t fold flat for transport, so the hardshell case is large and thick. But as I used the headphones, I appreciated their extreme comfort—they have thick padding that covers the underside of the headband, and thick memory foam that surrounds the earcups. While they lack spatial audio, they have large 45mm drivers that produce deep bass and rich, full-bodied sound. The noise cancellation works very well, too. The headphones lack physical buttons, with controls handled instead by convenient touch-sensitive earcups. At their regular price (MSRP of 799), they’re priced higher than most competitors, even when on sale.
- Yamaha YH-L700A (400 at Amazon): These headphones have a plastic and cloth design, which makes them feel lighter and more inexpensive than they look. While they’re adjustable, I was unable to acquire a snug fit, so any slight movement of my head caused them to wobble and made them feel uncomfortable compared with other headphones. I liked the 3D spatial audio with head tracking; it worked well with compatible devices. The Yamaha YH-L700A produced crisp, immersive sound, and they had effective noise cancellation during use. The audio automatically adjusted to my surroundings, so once I set the volume I liked, it remained constant regardless of the ambient audio in the area where I was using them. This was also handy during phone calls. The mobile app has tons of settings to choose among, and when enabled, these settings dramatically improved sound quality across all audio types.
- Shure Aonic 50 (299 at Amazon): My first impression of these bulky headphones was that their plastic outer design made them feel cheaply made. However, when I placed them on my head, I quickly achieved a comfortable and fairly snug fit, but the headphones wobbled with sudden and strong head movements. The headphones have small button controls on the earcups, for controlling key functions like volume control. The mobile app makes it easy to adjust the headphones’ noise cancellation level, select among seven audio presets and manually adjust the audio equalizer. Overall, I liked the balanced audio from the Shure Aonic 50 headphones, but I noticed that even with the Bass Boost preset enabled, highly produced pop music sounded a little tinny (albeit not annoyingly so). Rated for 20-hours, the battery life is typical. While I’d expect more features from headphones at this price, the Shure Aonic 50 can produce satisfying audio that won’t disappoint.
- Bose Noise Cancelling 700 (379 at Amazon): These headphones have a simple, modern-looking design that tilts the earcups by 15 degrees to mirror the shape of a human head. The earcups are coated with a soft artificial leather, with buttons on each as well as a touch sensitive area on the right earcup for onboard controls. They stayed firmly in place during testing, without applying too much clamping pressure on my head. The Bose Noise Cancelling 700s offer 11 levels of noise cancellation you can adjust manually. I could switch from noise cancellation to Conversation Mode with a tap; this automatically paused the audio so I could converse with someone nearby. These headphones use eight microphones (compared to six in the QuietComfort 45) to manage its adaptive and adjustable noise cancellation. I found Bose’s implementation ensured hands-free phone calls sounded crisp and clear, even when outdoors in the wind. The mobile app made it easy to adjust the audio equalizer settings to match my tastes. In my opinion, the Bose Noise Cancelling 700s performed as well as headphones that cost significantly more. Read my full review, and watch for sales; when the price dropped, these headphones were my pick for best value wireless headphones.
- Cleer Alpha (200 at Amazon): At first glance, the Cleer Alphas look and feel like headphones that should cost 350 or more. They sound like it, too: At the default settings, these headphones’ sound impressed me. I heard plenty of bass when listening to music or audio from TV shows and movies, and I appreciated how audio sounded extra immersive with spatial audio enabled. Its integrated noise cancellation was highly effective, too, and it has with wind reduction to allow clear hands-free phone calls. The headphones’ design includes touch controls on the outside of the earcups that made it simple to adjust volume, play/pause audio or skip tracks. As for comfort, the earcups are covered in soft leather, with a generous amount of memory foam padding. I found it easy to create a snug fit, without putting too much pressure over my ears. From the Cleer mobile app, I found it easy to pair the headphones with two devices, turn on spatial audio and adjust the noise cancellation level or audio equalizer manually. While the terrific audio is a draw, I also liked these headphones’ convenient 35-hour battery life. For the price, these headphones are an excellent value. They provide great performance as general purpose, everyday use headphones.
- Treblab Z7 Pro (127 at Amazon): These headphones were among the few that felt light on my head; its chassis is plastic, with memory foam earcups and soft leather coverings. The right earcup has touch-sensitive and responsive controls that were easy to use. Unlike most other headphones I tested, the Treblab Z7 Pro have an IPX4 water resistance rating, so sweat and a bit of rain won’t damage them. Another distinction: These headphones last up to 45-hours on battery power. The sound quality of the Treblab Z7 Pro is merely average, even though it has 40mm drivers. It has four microphones to assist with noise cancellation and make hands-free phone calls sound clear. But this model lacks a mobile app, so you can’t adjust any settings or the audio equalizer. From the headphones, though, it’s easy to switching between noise cancellation and transparency mode. Their folding design and hardshell case make the headphones easy to transport. But in the end, I found the Treblab Z7s’ sound quality was not as robust or immersive as I wanted. For not much more, you can get better sounding headphones.
I rigorously tested more than a dozen popular and best-selling wireless headphones, from a variety of manufacturers and in a wide range of settings and situations. I’m not new to testing audio gear: I’ve been covering consumer technology for over 25 years, for publications like AARP the Magazine. Recently, for Forbes Vetted, I also tested dozens of the best wireless earbuds and best Bluetooth speakers. I have seen firsthand the dramatic evolution of wireless headphones technology.
During my testing, I consulted with three experienced music producers, including Michael Orland, (Associate Musical Director for American Idol); Drew Ryan Scott (singer, songwriter and multi-platinum music producer); and Gabe Lopes (singer, songwriter and producer for dozens of well-known artists). We discussed what key features they look for when choosing headphones. These three experts provided guidance about what functionality is most important to hearing music the way it was meant to be heard using wireless headphones designed for everyday use.
How I Tested The Best Wireless Headphones
To test the listening experience for each of the headphones, I paired them with an Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and evaluated music from Apple Music, Tidal and Spotify–particularly tunes from Katy Perry and Harry Styles. These are pop artists who release sonically complex music. I also spent some time listening to Left and Right by Charlie Puth and Jung Kook, a song that purposely bounces between the left and right audio channels. When you’re listening on any of the best wireless headphones, the music should sound like it’s literally moving around in your head.
I tested the hands-free phone call capabilities of each pair of headphones and listened for clarity, volume consistency and how well the noise cancellation feature eliminated ambient noise. When outside, I tested the wind reduction and noise cancellation features too.
Paired with an Apple iPad Pro, I also tested each headphone by watching the first 15 minutes of the same episode of two popular TV series—Star Trek: Discovery and Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. These high-budget series are a perfect storm of dialogue mixed with sound effects and swelling background music. I paid attention to clarity and whether the end result sounded muddled or flat, as opposed to immersive (as if sitting in a movie theater with a state-of-the-art surround sound system).
It was also important to evaluate comfort and craftsmanship, as well as portability, customization and other special features. For example, I found spatial audio made a huge difference in creating a truly immersive listening experience, especially when listening to audio from a TV show or movie. And there’s a significant difference between passive noise cancellation, active noise cancellation and adaptive noise cancellation in how well these headphones reduced or eliminated ambient sounds.
Along with sound quality and comfort, overall design is also an important consideration. I took all this into consideration when making my picks. In fact, all of these tests helped narrow the field down to 10 models. Here are the winners.
How To Pick Wireless Headphones
Many modern wireless headphones include audio-enhancing features, like noise cancellation, wind reduction, transparency modes and spatial audio. But you don’t have to become an audio engineer to choose the right pair of headphones as long as you know what to look for.
Michael Orland has been the pianist, arranger, vocal coach and associate musical director for the TV show American Idol for 16 seasons. Plus, for their live and televised performances, he regularly plays and conducts for music superstars like Kristen Bell, Erich Bergen, Sabrina Carpenter, Lynda Carter, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana Grande, Tony-Winner Debbie Gravitte, Jennifer Holliday, Roslyn Kind, Barry Manilow, Maureen McGovern, Katharine McPhee and Idina Menzel.
According to Orland, “The number one priority when choosing wireless headphones is physical comfort. Even if a wireless headphone sounds fantastic, it won’t matter if they aren’t comfortable after an extended listening period. Other features, such as price, support for spatial audio/Dolby Atmos and noise cancellation, are entirely personal decisions. Not all streaming services support spatial audio or Dolby Atmos, not everyone needs or wants noise cancellation, and the importance of price is different for everyone.”
Drew Ryan Scott is a successful recording artist, songwriter and music producer who has worked with more than a dozen U.S. based pop artists. He’s also responsible for writing and producing more than 100 chart-topping K-Pop and J-Pop hits. He provides the singing voice to many Disney and Nickelodeon animated characters, was a vocalist on the TV show Glee, and is the singing voice of Cat Noir in the upcoming Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug Cat Noir animated movie.
“I am someone who focuses on sound quality as well as comfort, since I typically wear headphones for 10 to 15 hours each day when I’m working. I also like it when I’m able to manually control the sound using a mobile app, as opposed to relying on pre-sets,” says Scott.
As for equalization, just because headphones let you manually adjust bass, treble and mid-tones, that doesn’t mean you should. Scott explained, “It all depends on what you’re listening to and your personal preferences. Some people really like extra bass when listening to pop or rock music, for example. A headphone’s presets are designed to appeal to the average listener and are typically more than adequate if you’re streaming your favorite songs or albums.”
If you’re wondering if headphones are better than earbuds, Scott added, “I have been equally impressed by the audio quality of many higher-end earbuds and headphones, so which you choose is a matter of personal preference.”
Gabe Lopez is a chart-topping music producer, singer and songwriter working in Hollywood. He produces music for RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queen of the Universe and has written and produced music for Belinda Carlisle, New Kids On The Block, The Go Gos and other pop and rock artists.
He stated, “I think sound quality is the most important feature to look for in headphones. Ideally, the headphones should be true to the recording that was intended, with present and clear frequencies. Comfort for long-duration listening is ideal, as well. A true reflection of the recording is the most important to me. Most wireless headphones have apps that allow you to choose from a handful of presets. I like to go through presets like pop, rock, and so on, because I know that listeners often opt to use those settings. I think this is a personal preference. I know some people really love to feel the bass so they turn it up. Some like to hear more high-end.”
When asked how he can tell if a pair of headphones is any good, Lopez explained, “I simply play a few of my favorite songs. If the songs sound as good or better than I’ve heard with other equipment, then it’s a good set of headphones. If the songs sound thin or tinny, I’d look for another pair.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Wireless Headphones Okay For Gaming?
While you can use wireless headphones for gaming, the wireless headphones on our list are more suited for listening to music. You may not get much-needed gaming features like spatial audio, extra isolation and more. Our recommendation for gamers is to invest in a dedicated gaming headset so you can enjoy audio that will give you an improved gaming experience.
Do All Wireless Headphones Have Noise Canceling?
Not all wireless headphones opt to include noise canceling features. The wireless headphones that come with noise canceling will say under product features or specs descriptions. If you want this feature, you’ll want to check the fine print to make sure your choice comes with it.
Are Wireless Headphones Better Than Earbuds?
When it comes to comfort, whether you choose wireless headphones or earbuds really comes down to a matter of personal choice. But for your ear health, headphones typically offer better overall ear health. After all, when you’re using headphones, you’re not sticking something into your ear.
That being said, watch the volume. No matter whether you’re wearing wireless headphones or earbuds, you can damage your ears by listening to music too loudly. You’ll want to keep your volume levels low.
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
The Forbes Vetted tech team strives to offer accurate and trustworthy product assessments that are the result of intensive research and hands-on testing. Our writers and editors have years of experience writing about a broad range of consumer electronics and have the background and expertise to help you make the best buying decisions possible.
Other Articles You Might Like
Forbes Vetted regularly covers all types of consumer electronics and then reviews and recommends the best products in specific categories. Here are some other articles you might enjoy reading:
Sign up for the Forbes Shopping newsletter for the best fashion, home, wellness and tech product advice.