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Millions of consumers who’ve picked up a new cell phone in the past few years have found themselves stranded without a headphone jack. If you don’t want to deal with USB-C or Lightning port adapters, wireless headphones are an obvious choice—but that’s just one reason to go with Bluetooth.
You can’t beat the feeling of freedom that comes from a great pair of wireless headphones, and there are models to suit almost any situation, whether you’re on a budget, you need something to keep you moving at the gym, or you’re looking for noise-canceling headphones to get some quiet on your next flight.
Using Bluetooth doesn’t mean you have to compromise on sound, either. CR’s technicians say audiophiles will still get the very best sound from the top-rated wired headphones, but our tests show that the top-performing wireless headphones have impressive audio quality as well.
If you’re a Consumer Reports member, you can find more headphone reviews in our ratings. The models featured here are the best headphones based on CR’s latest testing. We will update this article and our ratings throughout 2020.
Studio Style for Half the Price
These days Marshall puts out more than iconic British guitar amps. The company makes some impressive headphones as well, starting with the Marshall Monitor Bluetooth. The headphones sound great, but what really sets them apart is the price.
They’re among the best-performing wireless home/studio-style headphones in our ratings, and though the price fluctuates, they often cost less than half of what you’d pay for some comparable models. If you want over-ear headphones with the convenience of Bluetooth, this pair is a steal. It comes with a detachable audio cable so that you can use your headphones without draining the battery, and the ear cups fold in for easy storage and travel.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are one of the best-scoring portable Bluetooth headphones Consumer Reports has ever tested. That’s all the more impressive, given their “true wireless” design, meaning the model doesn’t have a cord connecting the left earbud to the right. That’s the same design scheme popularized by Apple’s AirPods, but our testers say the Galaxy Buds sound dramatically better.
The Galaxy Buds produce exemplary audio quality packed into a pair of unobtrusive earpieces, complete with easy-to-use touch controls for playback, volume, and skipping tracks. According to Samsung, they have a 6-hour battery life and come with a powered carrying case that will recharge the earphones for up to 7 additional hours of playback on the go. The case itself can be charged with a wireless charging mat, and it’s particularly small compared with the cases that come with many true wireless models.
Top-Notch Noise Cancellation
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are the long-awaited successor to the company’s flagship QuietComfort 35 Series II headphones, and the two models are almost identical in performance: Both deliver superb sound quality and noise cancellation.
However, the Bose 700 earphones have a much slimmer profile when folded up, and they have a few updated elements, including more integration with digital assistants, touch controls, and sensors for Bose’s “augmented reality” apps. Bose has kept some of the best-loved features from its older models as well, such as adjustable levels of noise cancellation, a monitoring mode to let in sound from your environment, and an advertised 20-hour battery life. According to Bose, call quality is improved as well, though CR doesn’t test calling on headphones.
With all that in mind, the older QuietComfort 35 Series II headphones are great, and they’re still widely available. You can pick them up for less if you don’t mind forgoing the latest features.
Great Sound on the Go
If you don’t want to compromise on sound quality—and you’re willing to pay for it—the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E6 may be for you. It doesn’t come cheap, but the Beoplay E6 is one of the best portable wireless models we’ve ever tested. In addition to sound quality, it has design perks including magnets that clip the earpieces together (and automatically turn the headphones off) for easy transport, a braided cable for added durability, and water resistance, according to the manufacturer.
There are some caveats. The proprietary charger could be expensive to replace, and the advertised battery life is only 5 hours. But for high-quality sound, critical listeners may be willing to overlook those shortcomings.
Portable Noise Cancellation
Sony continues to make waves with its popular line of noise-canceling headphones, and the WF-1000XM3 is one of the best performing models yet. The XM3 has outstanding sound quality and top-of-the-line active noise reduction to match—and it does it all with a true wireless design.
These feature-rich earphones have variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound, including a “monitor” mode that actively pipes in audio from your surroundings. Those settings can be activated using integrated touch controls, which also operate playback and skipping tracks.
According to Sony, the XM3 has a 6-hour battery life, can be recharged up to three times on the go with the earphones’ portable charging case, and includes a quick charge feature. A free app adds functionality. One caveat to keep in mind is some users may feel the XM3 doesn’t fit securely, particularly those with larger ears.
Bluetooth for the Budget-Conscious
Not all of the best wireless headphones are expensive. The JVC HA-FX9BT Gumy Wireless delivers dependable sound quality at an impulse-buy price. They retail for around $20 or even less, and they come with a carrying pouch and extra earpieces to help you find the best fit.
The E25BT didn’t score quite as high for audio quality as other models on this list, and it lacks some features you’ll find on certain other models, such as water resistance and extended battery life (JVC says this model has a 5-hour operating time). But if you want a pair of wireless headphones that provide decent sound at a fraction of the cost of its competitors, the E25BT is an appealing option.
How to Choose Headphones
With so many types of headphones, how do you know which pair is right for you? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Elias Arias explains everything you need to know.
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