Now that the iPhone 7 has killed the headphone jack, it’s a great time to go wireless! Killing the headphone jack may have pissed some people off, but Apple made a good decision on killing it. We need to take our technology to the next step. Who want to be tethered to my laptop and phone anyways? Here’s the line up of the best wireless headphones.
In a way, deciding on a pair of headphones is like choosing a pair of shoes. Most people obviously want their headphones to perform well, but they want them to look good, too. Some nice-looking headphones sound bad. Some nice-sounding headphones are uncomfortable. Some comfortable headphones are pretty barren in terms of features. You get the point.
Good headphones should let you hear as much as possible. Until recently, though, high-quality headphones required a physical cable. Bluetooth technology is finally good enough and cheap enough that those days are done. That said, there are so many choices! How do you find the cream of the crop?
I set out to answer one question: Which headphones are good enough to convince a discerning listener to cut the cord? There may be lots of Bluetooth headphones out there, but I found a much smaller number promising audiophile quality. From there, I looked for two things:
Exceptional sound quality. This is a no-brainer. While the quality of the hardware is paramount, I also looked for headphones that were either well tuned, easily customized, and ideally both.
Great design. This is about more than good looks—although that’s important, too! Great design also means that the features like controls and connectivity should be intuitive and dependable.
So I scoured the market for the best and most interesting wireless headphones. (I left earbuds out of the mix.) I tried out each pair of cans for countless hours in as many different scenarios as I could think of. These are the best.
The Best Overall: Parrot Zik 3.0 (or the 2.0, honestly)
The $400 Parrot Zik 3.0 wireless headphones are pricey but without a doubt, the best all around set of cans. However! You can already now buy the nearly identical Zik 2.0, our longtime favorite headset, for just $300 or less. This isn’t a huge surprise since Gizmodo gave the originals top marks a couple years ago. Both the second and third generation comes with a sleek design, the best noise-cancellation I’ve ever experienced, and a straight-up awesome app.
It’s not just the range of features that make the Ziks so good. It’s the terrific sound quality. And the ease with which you can use the app to tune them makes the whole listening experience an interactive blast. The app also allows you to tweak the noise cancellation, and the bone conduction microphone sensor eliminates wind noise well. Both generations are also the most dependable headphones I tried, in terms of staying connected. The kicker is a bone-conducting microphone that sounds crystal clear on phone calls which is a rarity with wireless headphones.
Simply put, it’s just thrilling to use both the Zik 3.0 and 2.0. While the $400 price tag for the 3.0s is steep, the now discounted 2.0s are worth every penny.
The Best Daily Driver: V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
Are you rough on your gadgets? Then you should consider the new V-Moda Crossfade Wireless. These nearly indestructible headphones meet U.S. military specifications (MIL-STD-810) not only for drops but also dust and humidity. They also sound pretty fantastic and are impressively well balanced.
Now about those gaudy orange diamonds screwed to the outside. Very ugly, right? But they’re actually one of the most unique features of this model, because V-Moda makes it easy to swap them out for different colors and even custom-made 3D-printed designs. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Gunmetal Black model, but there’s no limit to your own headphone creativity. At $300, it’s tough to decide between these and the Parrot Zik 2.0. Nevertheless, you’re going to love these as a daily driver sort of headset that can take a beating.
The Best If Money’s No Option: Sennheiser 2.0 Momentum Wireless
The updated $500 Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless cost as much as a (crappy) used car, but holy hell, they are terrific headphones. The clean design with classy leather details made these the most handsome headphones I’ve ever worn, and the memory foam cushions are downright cozy. Most important: the sound quality is truly exceptional. Did I mention they cost $500?
The most telling sign that these are the best in class is the simple fact that I can’t stop using them. The old wired Momentums are a perennial Gizmodo favorite, and when Sennheiser announced the wireless version, we were pumped. While the controls aren’t as elegant as the Parrot Zik 3 and the noise cancelation isn’t as intense, everything else about these pricey Sennheisers is superior. (Very important: The previously reported connectivity issues have been resolved, except for the very occasional drop, but that kind of thing happens on pretty much every wireless headset.) The Sennheisers also fold up, a very convenient feature that the Ziks lack.
All that said, if you’re deciding between spending $400 and $500 on a pair of headphones, the price difference might not make that much of a difference. It is a lot of money to spend on a set of headphones, though. But hey, if money’s no object…
The Best On-Ear Option: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless
I’m typically more of an over-ear headset kind of guy, but I absolutely fell in love with Bowers & Wilkins’ first foray into wireless headphones. Made with lambskin, they’re comfortable as hell, and the iconic B&W driver design means these skinny and lightweight little cans put out some huge sound.
I honestly can’t say enough good things about these headphones. I can say one bad thing: the connectivity was sometimes a chore, but maybe that’s just me. Oh, and they’re $400 a pair—which is worth it, in my opinion.
The Best Beats Alternative: Sony Extra Bass Bluetooth Headset
Sony is known for making high quality, affordably priced headphones, and the Extra Bass Bluetooth Headset (Model: MDR-XB950BT) is no exception. But honestly, when Sony sent me a set of headphones with a throwback “Bass Boost” button, I thought it was a silly gimmick. Then I put on a Diplo song and pushed the button.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I love bass. This is a consequence of my struggle with deafness. I could never hear treble very well, but I could feel bass. Sony’s Bass Boost opened up a range of deep, deep bass that I wasn’t able to hear on other headphones. Sure, you can buy wired headphones with massive drivers that might do a better job, but then you have to deal with the wire—not to mention looking like a goofball with huge cans strapped to your head. These slick-looking Sony wireless headphones are great for bass lovers, but they’re also just excellent all around. And at $150, the price is right.
Just don’t buy Beats. Seriously, don’t even think about it.
The Best-Looking Budget Option: LSTN Troubadours Wireless
If you’re in the market for a slick-looking, reasonably priced set of wireless headphones, consider Lstn’s new Wireless Troubadours. They sport the same gorgeous design as the wired version—including real wood earcups—for only $170. The build quality does feel a bit cheap, but the sound is well balanced. It’s also worth pointing out that the comparatively lightweight chassis will feel nice on your noggin, when you wear them a lot.
Master & Dynamic MW60 (added 9/7/2016)
Hey fancy pants, do you like your headphones to come wrapped in premium cowhide? Then you’ll love the MW60. They cost $550. At that price, you’d better just love the classic M&D design, because the MW60’s sound quality isn’t quite as brilliant as the Sennheiser’s $500 Momentum Wireless. They are gorgeous, though.
Bose QuietComfort 35 (added 9/7/2016)
Noise-cancelling enthusiasts will love these surprisingly handsome Bose headphones. The QC35s aren’t cheap at $350 a pair, but they do a fantastic job of shutting out sound from the outside world. You’ll also appreciate the 20-hour battery life if you’re bad at charging stuff.
Sennheiser Momentum Wireless – On Ear (added 12/18/15)
Like the around-ear Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, these slightly smaller headphones are incredible. The sound quality is similarly terrific, but they’re not quite as comfortable as their bigger sibling, in my opinion.
B&O Play H7 (added 12/18/15)
I love love love the look of these surprisingly light headphones by Bang and Olufsen. The design is so Danish and nice that I don’t even mind the weird skin-colored details. (They also come in beautiful black.) However, with no noise cancellation, I have a hard time recommending anyone spend $450 on these things.
B&O Play H8 (added 12/18/15)
Very similar story to the H7. The even more expensive $500 on-ear B&O Play H8 comes with noise cancellation and a very gold finish. But the noise cancellation seemed to pick up weird feedback, and the headset didn’t feel as comfortable as the cheaper H8s.
Samsung Level Over (added 12/18/15)
These over-designed ear muffs are comfortable as hell. However, they are ginormous, not very loud, and generally underwhelming. Oh, and they cost $350. I didn’t hate them, but I also wouldn’t wear them in public.
Samsung Level On (added 12/18/15)
Similar story as Sennheiser. The Level On is slightly different than the Level Over in terms of design. However, the sound actually seems better, and the slimmer, foldable form factor makes them a lot more portable. They’re a little steep at $250.
With a springy little leather headband, these ultra light headphones look kind of goofy but in a good way. You get a fantastic 18-hours of battery life and surprisingly bit sound for the weight. These are definitely a good option if you want the features of the bulkier Backbeat Pro without the bulk.
So you don’t want to drop four or five Benjamins on a pair of headphones? Go with the $250 Plantronics Backbeat Pro. They’re moderately priced and promise 24-hour battery life for continuous wireless use. It’s worth mentioning that the Backbeat Pros are on the bulkier side of the headphones designs, and the build quality is a little bit questionable.
Definitive Technology Symphony 1 (added 12/18/15)
Don’t get me wrong: the Symphony 1 headset sounds great. But at $400, they’re way too expensive for the build quality and awkward design that will surely drive you crazy. I’m also not crazy about the ultra large ear cups.