There are more wireless headphones options than ever. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding headphones that aren’t wireless these days. Thankfully, we’re constantly testing and listening to the latest headphones to find the very best on the market.
We’re confident that the Sony WH-1000XM4 (available at Amazon for $348.00) are the best overall wireless headphones you can get. They deliver awesome sound, top-notch noise canceling, and they stay comfortable for hours. However, if you're looking for something different, worry not: we've carefully selected the top pick in every major category in our list below.
Battery life: ~30 hours
Ambient sound modes: ANC via QN1 chip, Transparency mode
Dust/water resistance: No IP rating
When it comes to wireless noise canceling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are our top choice. You're not just getting freedom from wires here, but amazing noise cancelation, sound, comfort, and features too. Multiple Reviewed staff used these over a period of months, and all of us absolutely loved them.
The WH-1000XM4 are light and comfortable enough that you might just forget they're on your head, and you can tweak their noise canceling and sound profile for elements like barometric pressure, or just to add extra bass. But even without all of the next-gen tech, the XM4 are our favorites because of their robust sound quality: they sound amazing.
As is usually the case with our Best Overall products, they’re not the cheapest on the list, but they offer the best combination of price, performance, comfort, and features. They also fold up nicely in their carrying case for frequent flyers who want to bring along a set of cans with excellent noise canceling and sound to match.
If you just want the best headphones for your money across categories, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 are the best pair we’ve tested.
Ambient sound modes: ANC via QN1 and V1 chips, Transparency mode
Dust/water resistance: No IP rating
The incredibly comfortable Sony WH-1000XM5 are the next evolution in Sony’s 1000XM series, and their most notable improvement is their top-notch noise canceling. Sony has been at the noise canceling forefront for a few years, as evidenced by the excellent performance of our Best Overall pick—the WH-1000XM4.
With dual ANC chips and eight dedicated microphones, the XM5 headphones go a step beyond by adeptly reacting to your environment and blocking out the drones of airplane engines and fans. Even surrounding conversations are filtered out to an impressive degree.
While Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II offer the best noise-canceling performance you can get, the Sony WH-1000XM5 easily outpace them in sound quality. Even right out of the box, the Sony headphones deliver a detailed soundscape with punchy bass and a crisp midrange. Well-balanced mixes shine, with instruments filling their own space and coming through clearly, to the point where details in familiar tracks might pleasantly surprise you.
If the pre-tuned EQ isn’t to your liking, the Sony Headphones app allows for custom adjustments to tweak the sound for your ears. The app has a 5-band EQ with saveable presets so you can have choices for different content. Other options include measuring your ears to use with Sony’s 3D Reality Audio system, adjusting the transparency level, and engaging multipoint pairing, just to name a few.
The XM5 have a couple downsides. Their design doesn’t allow them to fold inward, which leads to a bulkier case than their predecessor. They also don’t have any water resistance, which would have been a nice addition at their high price (although most similarly-priced ANC headphones are missing water resistance as well). Still, if you want lush-sounding headphones with incredible noise canceling, comfort, and features, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are the headphones to get.
Battery life: 6 hours with ANC (up to 7 without), up to 31 hours with the case
The original AirPods Pro have been a top recommendation since they were released, and expectations were high when Apple announced their successor, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Boy, did Apple deliver. While the exterior remains mostly the same, the updated AirPods Pro offer significant upgrades to noise canceling, sound, and battery life inside their familiar, comfy housings.
The noise canceling isn’t just better, either. In our testing, there’s only one pair on the market that beats the new AirPods Pro at the time of publication, Bose’s own upgraded QuietComfort Earbuds II. That puts those two pairs atop a very stalwart crowd, standing tall even against over-ear options like Sony’s WH-1000XM5.
Just as impressive is Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode, which is not only clearer and more natural sounding than before, but can also help block out unwanted environmental blasts by limiting incoming sounds to 85dB in real-time. Add that to the better bass response, clearer and more fine-tuned sound, fantastic call quality, and the same, barely their 5.4-gram weight, and it’s a recipe for the best buds around.
There are some minor design updates, both physical and in the app, such as a speaker on the new case so you can find it in your house and precision tracking in the Find My app. There's also a handy new volume control feature. Frankly, it’s hard to find a significant flaw, but there are some things on the wish list. The battery life could be better, and we also wish there was more control over audio such as an EQ and ANC control. There’s also no separate app or settings menu for Android users.
Otherwise, Apple’s updated AirPods Pro have once again made an easy argument as the best earbuds you can buy. If you own an iPhone, and you can invest the money, it’s upgrade time.
Thanks to their impressive water and dust resistance, nimble design, and comfortable fit, the Jabra Elite 7 Active are an excellent choice for workout earbuds. Their IP57 rating means they can stand up to even the toughest workouts (and heaviest sweaters), and keep both dust and water away from the important internal electronics.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active include all the features you could want in workout earbuds. They have solid noise canceling and transparency mode that lets you hear the environment around you (especially useful when you’re out on a run), there’s a finder function to keep you from losing them, and they even have multipoint pairing so you can easily switch from a video conference call on your computer to your phone as you head out to run.
Their sound is a bit on the bright side and could use some EQ tweaking in the app, but overall the audio performance is solid. There’s also an audio personalization sound test in the app to help tune them to your ears.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds offer a great overall user experience, superb protection from the elements, and great sound, making them the best workout headphones you can buy.
For years, headphones under $100 have come with the caveat of being great for the price, but not really able to compete with more expensive options. Anker has changed the game. Thanks to high-performing noise canceling, nice app customizability, and full touch controls, the Space A40 punches above their price point.
The adaptive active noise canceling ably handles low drones, such as airplane cabin noise or HVAC units. It even takes the edge off of midrange conversation at the local coffee shop. It doesn’t completely remove it, but if you’re listening to music at a low level it’s enough to keep you focused in your own world. Within the Soundcore app, you can choose between two Transparency modes, one full range and one that puts the focus on letting voices through if you need to have a quick conversation.
The A40 have a nice sound profile, although their treble can be a tad piercing (especially for cymbals) and the midrange is a little covered by the low end. Thankfully, the app includes an 8-band EQ to address these issues. There’s also HearID Sound, which profiles your hearing perception in each ear and creates an EQ curve customized to your ears. It works pretty well and delivers a nice improvement over the default profile. Hi-res audio and LDAC are both supported.
Touch controls—single tap, double tap, and hold for two seconds—can be turned on and off per control, and they’re also fully customizable, assignable to volume, track controls, and for the two-second hold the added options of Ambient Sound Mode select, Voice Assistant activation, and Game Mode toggle.
Throw wireless case charging on top of the features pile and the Anker Space A40 set a new standard for earbuds performance at their low price point.
When testing wireless headphones, we focus on simulating how you might use them every day. We use a mix of real-world and lab testing, including A/B testing of noise cancelation and sound quality. We listen to a variety of test tracks we are intimately familiar with—from classical to jazz, rock, hip-hop, musicals, and more.
For noise canceling performance, we test headphones against one another while using tracks of airplane noise, crowd chatter, and pink noise. All headphones are then put into a scoring rubric to determine an overall ranking that’s as close to objective as possible.
The headphones’ features—such as battery life, app usability, microphone quality, and Bluetooth connectivity—are tested in real-world situations. We listen to them as we work, we take them for our workouts, and we use them during our online work meetings.
We also test the headphones over the long term, updating their firmware as new versions become available and testing out new features. Then we update articles based on our findings.
What You Should Know About Headphones
You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your everyday life, but what you may not realize is that headphones, while they have a number of different selling points, are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.
Knowing the basic terminology of modern headphones is the best way to estimate what you need (or want) in a pair of headphones, which will guide you toward deciding how much to spend. Usually, if you have an idea of what style you're looking for, what features you want or need, and how you'll be using your new headphones, you can start to estimate how much you want to spend. It's all about finding which pair is right for you.
How To Choose The Best Wireless Headphones
There are a lot of headphones released each year and parsing through that information can be a difficult and daunting process. Believe us, we know. But there are certain factors we suggest you always look at when determining which pair of headphones is right for you.
Having to charge your headphones before every use, or worse yet, before you’re done using them is not ideal. Battery life on earbuds tends to be shorter than over-ear headphones since the batteries need to be smaller, although earbuds can usually be easily recharged in their case. We find that, on a single charge, earbuds tend to last between 7 and 8 hours on average, while headphones can last upwards of 35 hours. The most important thing is that they last longer than you intend to use them during one listening period.
Many headphones (including a few in this guide) feature dust and water resistance indicated by their IP rating, such as IP67. The first number in the IP rating is for dust and the second is for water (if there’s an X in place of a number, the headphones do not have protection against that element). While having a rating of 6 or 7 is great for workout headphones to keep them safe from dust and sweat, a rating of 4 is more than enough for regular day-to-day activities.
In a busy and chaotic world, noise-canceling headphones have become a near necessity. Whether it’s for traveling across the country on planes or across the city on the subway, staying focused while at the gym, or keeping distractions at bay while working in the office or at home, the quality of noise canceling offered can be a prime consideration. As noise-canceling technology has improved, we’re seeing it available on more and more headphones.
Before beginning the process of looking for a new pair of headphones, you should decide on your budget. The headphones with the most bells and whistles will certainly be the more expensive options (usually $300 or more), but there are still plenty of possibilities between $100-200. Or if you’re looking for other wireless options on a budget, you can also check out our guide on the best true wireless headphones under $100.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
John is the A/V Editor for Reviewed. He is an ISF Level III-certified calibrator with bylines at ProjectorCentral, Wirecutter, IGN, Home Theater Review, T3, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater Magazine. When away from the Reviewed office, he is a sound editor for film and musician, and loves to play games with his son.
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2012. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.