Not only do I hold a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, but I also have tested literally hundreds of headphones while working for Wirecutter.
I spent several years in terrestrial radio before moving on to become a professional voice actor in Los Angeles, a job I still do and love. In other words, I’ve been in and out of top recording studios for over a decade. I also have reviewed high-end home audio equipment for publications such as Home Entertainment, Home Theater Magazine, and Sound & Vision. My articles have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and Time, and on Good Morning America, the BBC World Service, and NBC Nightly News. Through all of this, I’ve gained quite a bit of insight about what’s out there and what’s worth your time and hard-earned money, and I am committed to finding gear that will make you happy.
Then there’s our panel of experts: In addition to myself, Lauren Dragan, we had Brent Butterworth, a Wirecutter AV writer with decades of experience in the audio field for publications such as About.com, Home Theater, Sound & Vision, and many others; John Higgins, a session musician, sound editor, and occasional Wirecutter writer with a music master’s degree from the University of Southern California; and Geoff Morrison, AV editor at large for Wirecutter and writer for CNET, Forbes, and Sound & Vision, with over a decade and a half of audio and video reviewing under his belt.
Bluetooth wireless headphones are for people who don’t like to be tethered to their music devices and are willing to pay a little more for that freedom. They’re also for people who own phones that lack headphone jacks and who would rather not deal with dongles or headphones that won’t work with their other devices. Bluetooth audio quality has come a long way, so although you’ll pay more money to get the same fidelity as with corded headphones, you should still expect headphones in this category to sound comparable to wired headphones under 0, and generally better than similarly priced Bluetooth earbuds.
Also, if you are looking for a pair of headphones to use while working, and your tasks include a lot of video chatting, phone calls, or work with dictation software, you may want to consider an office headset with a boom mic. You can find wireless options, and even a few that sound pretty good while playing music, too. Check out our office headset guide to learn more.
Although some of the headphones in this category offer active noise cancelling, their sound quality, comfort, and ease of use were our top priorities in evaluating them. As of now, no single headphone model offers both the best sound and the best active noise cancellation. Unfortunately, that means you need to compromise a little in one area or the other. If noise cancellation is your top priority, check out our noise-cancelling headphones guide instead.
If you’re looking for our take on AirPods and similar types of totally cordless, collarless in-ear headphones (earbuds), check out our guide to true wireless headphones. Bear in mind that when it comes to these kinds of earbuds, the microphone won’t be as good, the battery won’t last as long, and you’ll likely pay a lot more money to get similar or slightly inferior performance compared with that of the picks in this review. We still think true wireless headphones are better suited for early adopters at this time, given the high prices and numerous quirks, but that situation will likely change as the quirks get ironed out and prices start falling in the coming years.
One last thing we should mention: Wireless Bluetooth headphones are great for watching movies on your computer or mobile device, but not every television is Bluetooth compatible. Unless you have a receiver that can pair with Bluetooth headphones, you’ll need a transmitter to get the sound from your TV to your headphones, and only one person can listen at a time. Also, Bluetooth can have a latency that can cause a delay between the video and the sound. Generally it’s pretty small, but some detail-oriented people might find the effect irritating. For the most reliability, and for families who want more than one person to be able to use headphones, we recommend checking out our guide to wireless home theater headphones.Photo: Lauren Dragan
This is the third round of testing we’ve done for this guide, but our quest for the best Bluetooth headphones always starts with research. First, we research more than 100 companies to see what they’ve released since our last update. To date, we’ve seriously considered more than 200 headphone models just for this guide. To help us narrow down the field a bit (even we can’t test everything, though this round we tested more than 60 more), we read reviews, both by professionals on sites like CNET and InnerFidelity and by customers on sites such as Amazon and Crutchfield. We take note of what people like and don’t, as we look for models that meet what we think are the most important criteria for good wireless headphones.
- Fantastic sound quality and a comfortable fit are, of course, our top two priorities. If something hurts to wear, you won’t use it, and poor fit often affects sound quality. And nobody should have to pay for subpar sound quality. During our research, any headphones with several poor professional reviews or consistently low owner reviews were out.
- Easy-to-use-and-understand controls are also key, as it’s particularly frustrating to bat desperately at your headphones trying to pause a track or answer a call.
- Solid Bluetooth connection strength is also necessary. Repeated complaints of music cutting out or calls being dropped prompt a dismissal.
- Voice-call quality is also important if you expect to use the headphones all day.
- In addition to a full eight- to 10-hour workday of battery life, a good pair of Bluetooth headphones at minimum should work while charging and/or passively via a cord. Otherwise, if your battery dies in the middle of something important, you could be out of luck.
- Legitimate customer support is the kind of thing that doesn’t seem to matter until you need it. Any headphones not backed by a company that we can actually contact and receive a reply from, or one that has a large backlog of complaints, also become dismissals. A lifetime warranty means nothing if you don’t have anyone you can call or email for help.
For this round, as before, we called in every model that met these criteria (and either had positive reviews or was too new to have any feedback) for our expert panel to evaluate.
Our expert panel considered the sound quality, fit, ease of use, and comfort of each pair and ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls. I also checked the Bluetooth signal strength by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away.
Finally, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claims, by playing some music loud enough to drown out an air conditioner and timing how long each set of headphones took to finally die. Once we wrapped up testing, to determine our winners we made our picks based on overall performance and value.Photo: Rozette Rago
If you want to invest in only one pair of wireless Bluetooth over-ear headphones, the Sony H.ear On WH-H900N set is our recommendation. Versatile and comfortable, the WH-H900N headphones not only sound great but also have much-better-than-average active noise cancelling, a long battery life, and a microphone that sounds clear over phone calls. Although you can find other headphones that surpass the WH-H900N in a single aspect (noise cancelling or sound quality or battery life), no other headphone model offers the same all-around quality for less money. We also like that these headphones come in some vibrant yet tasteful colors that set them apart from the seemingly endless sea of black, white, and gray options.
In our tests, whether active noise cancelling was on or off, the WH-H900N sounded great. The bass had a mild boost that made it more forward than natural, but the effect was restrained enough that it didn’t overly blur or overwhelm the mids. The bump was just enough to make hip-hop music sound vibrant without muddying up male vocals. The highs were clear and detailed, with no massive spike in the 3 kHz to 5 kHz consonants range that is common in headphones touted as “high-end.” You’ll hear consonants on lyrics, but they won’t become painful as you turn up the volume. If the tuning isn’t to your liking, the free app allows for some EQ adjustment in five frequency ranges.
In our measurements, the active noise cancelling on the WH-H900N wasn’t good enough for us to make this pair the top pick in our noise-cancelling headphones guide, so if noise cancellation is your priority, pop over to that guide for better information. However, this Sony pair measured far above average in this regard, and it will do a great job if you need noise cancelling only on occasion. You may get a bit of “ear suck” when you first turn the ANC on; most people don’t mind this effect, however, as they adjust to it after listening for a few minutes. That “ear suck” also can make the overall sound profile lose some of the spatial depth you might notice when the ANC is off, but that problem is pretty minor unless you’re listening for it.
Along with noise cancelling, the WH-H900N has an “ambient awareness mode” that uses the headphones’ microphones to mix in the sounds around you with your music. This feature is helpful if you commute by walking, or if you need to hear when someone in the office is speaking to you. Additionally, if you have the ANC on and music playing, holding a palm to the right earcup triggers the “quick attention” feature, which lowers your music and amplifies your surroundings through the headphones. After your conversation, just release the earcup, and the sound returns to normal.
The comfortable earpads, the light build, and the long, 28-hour-plus battery life mean you can wear the WH-H900N all day. That’s why it’s of consequence that these headphones also sound good over phone calls. During our tests, my caller told me that I sounded as though I were speaking directly into my iPhone as opposed to on a headset. When I was watching video or video chatting, the latency was minor enough not to matter.
The Sony H.ear On WH-H900N sits at the sweet spot where features, sound quality, and price meet. Although these headphones aren’t perfect, you’d need to spend at least a hundred dollars more to get appreciable improvement.
Sadly, as with most wireless headphones we tested in this category, the WH-H900N’s included cord doesn’t have a remote or mic. The sound quality when corded wasn’t our favorite, with a bit too much bass that could blur into male vocals. Additionally, this model doesn’t work while charging, so you’ll need to make sure it has enough power before dialing. But with such a long battery life on this pair, we don’t think needing to remember to charge the WH-H900N every third workday is a dealbreaker.
Despite its active noise cancelling, we’d prefer to have a bit better isolation on these headphones. In our tests in a busy coffee shop, the ANC dramatically reduced the espresso machine noises, but we could still hear a good bit of the female vocals in the store’s piped-in music. The effect wasn’t enough to be distracting, but a little better isolation would make these headphones stellar.Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
We like the Jabra Move Wireless as the best set of budget wireless Bluetooth headphones for most people because it’s great sounding, comfortable, equipped with easy-to-use controls, and affordably priced. We had to look to wireless headphones that cost three times as much to find anything better. Whereas every other Bluetooth headphone model under 0 falls short on at least one of our criteria, the Move Wireless covers the basics you need, and rather well.
In our tests the sound on the Move Wireless was balanced such that all genres, from singer/songwriter to hip-hop and jazz, sounded great. The lower end of the frequencies was defined, so electronic basslines didn’t muddy up the sound, and kick drums avoided blurring or thudding.
The refined bass meant mids were clear and didn’t get lost. Male voices sounded smooth and rich, and the lower range on piano had depth. As for the highs, you’ll find a touch of boost in the sibilant range, so you will get a bit of extra “sss” in your consonants, but the effect is relatively minor compared with what we’ve heard from a good number of the other Bluetooth headphones in this price range. Overall, to our testing panel, violin, flute, and female voices sounded clear and even. While testing, Geoff said, “Considering that the Jabra sound as good as they do, some of these companies making 0-plus headphones should be ashamed of themselves.”
Tim Gideon at PCMag comes to the same conclusion, writing in a review, “Bass lovers who want their low frequencies balanced out with crisp highs will be pleased. In this price range, the Move Wireless is an excellent option whether you’re listening wirelessly or through a cable, earning it our Editors’ Choice.”
As for the fit, every one of our panelists found the Move Wireless to be comfortable. Soft earpads, a cloth-coated and padded headband, and a slight swivel to the earcups made this pair feel not only light and comfy but also sturdy and well-made, especially for under 0.
When you’re wearing the Move Wireless headphones, their rubberized controls are easy to find by touch. Trying to find the controls on many of the other designs during testing was a frustratingly huge problem. The volume-up and volume-down buttons on the Move Wireless double as track-forward and track-back, and you can use the center button between them to play, pause, call up voice commands, and take calls. The set has a built-in microphone, as well, and in our experience it sounded about as good on the other end of the line as that of any other wireless headphone model we’ve tested.
Another basic but somehow lacking feature in many other wireless headphones we’ve tested is the on/off button. We know this sounds simplistic, but in many cases we’ve found it frustrating to figure out whether the power is truly off—when you want to be sure to save your battery life, knowing you’ve powered down is a big deal. The Jabra Move Wireless has an easy-to-understand toggle button that slides right to power off, to the center to power on, and to the left to pair. Boom. Done.Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
Some people want the best of all worlds, no matter the cost. If that’s you (and we totally get it if so), look to the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless. Of all the Bluetooth headphones we’ve tested, this pair is far and away the best sounding. It also offers the added benefits of excellent active noise cancelling, two dedicated microphones for extra-clear phone calls, 22 hours of battery life, and a very comfortable, stylish metal-and-leather chassis.
In our tests the sound of the HD1 Wireless blew away everything else in the category. These headphones never verged into muddy territory; guitars, piano, and strings sounded rich and full-bodied, and the highs had just enough high-frequency sparkle and clarity to keep everything in the vocal range sounding clear and crisp. Bass lovers especially will really like these headphones. If we were looking to pick nits, we’d admit that the HD1 Wireless was on the warmer side in our experience, with mildly emphasized lows that could ever so slightly overshadow the mids. But this is really just a quibble due to the price—0 at the time when they were first released, though you can usually find them for less than 0 these days. Honestly, only folks who prefer a rolled-off bass could take issue with the HD1 Wireless’s sound.
In our tests the active noise cancelling was not as good as that of our current noise-cancelling headphones pick, but it came close. Overall, you can find other headphones that may exceed the HD1 Wireless in a single attribute, but when you compare it against other all-in-one headphones, it does a far better job than anything else available.Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
The HD1 Wireless also has a well-made and fashionable retro aviator look crafted of metal and leather, rather than the ubiquitous plastic. This set feels sturdy in your hands. Supplementing the on/off/pairing switch are indicator lights that tell you what mode the headphones are in. The volume/track-change/voice-activation button, which reacts to toggling or pressing, is another nice touch.
Something that you might see as a downside is the fact that you cannot turn the noise cancelling off separately from the Bluetooth. In other words, if you are using this pair in Bluetooth mode, you’re also using it with the noise cancelling activated. That’s not a big deal to some people, but if that matters to you (say, you want to have a bit more awareness of your surroundings when walking around), you might take that into consideration.
You can find other headphones that may exceed the HD1 Wireless in a single attribute, but when you compare it against other all-in-one headphones, it does a far better job than anything else available.
Unfortunately, as with every other model we recommend here, the HD1 Wireless’s included cable has neither a remote nor a microphone—so no taking calls or toggling songs if you run out of battery power. For the price, we think a remote and mic shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially since Sennheiser sells replacement cables for its corded headphones separately on its website.
Small issues aside, the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless headphones are fantastic. No single headphone model is flawless, but if you want a set that does all the things as well as possible, the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless is the closest you can buy.
- Sennheiser HD1 Wireless
- Sony H.ear On WH-H900N
- Jabra Move Wireless
Our panel unanimously agreed that the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless was the best sounding of the bunch. In our tests it had more clarity in the highs and was more balanced and refined than the Sony WH-H900N; the Sennheiser pair also sounded consistent whether it was connected via Bluetooth or corded. That said, the WH-H900N sounded great over Bluetooth and had far more dimension, deeper lows, and more articulation in the highs than the Jabra Move Wireless. The Jabra pair sounded amazing for its price, however.
- Tie: Sony H.ear On WH-H900N, Sennheiser HD1 Wireless
- Jabra Move Wireless
Although individual head and ear shapes may cause results to vary, for our panel the Sony and Sennheiser models were very close in comfort. However, the Jabra Move Wireless is an on-ear style, so people who wear glasses may prefer it.
- Tie: Sennheiser HD1 Wireless, Sony H.ear On WH-H900N
- Jabra Move Wireless
In our tests, over calls the Sennheiser and Sony headphones both sounded similar to holding the phone to one’s head, whereas the Jabra set came across as an easy-to-understand but obvious headset sound to our callers.
Bang for the buck:
- Jabra Move Wireless
- Sony H.ear On WH-H900N
- Sennheiser HD1 Wireless
Dollar for dollar, the Jabra Move Wireless delivers across the board, as its combination of sound quality, build quality, and call quality allows it to best anything else under 0. The Sony H.ear On WH-H900N sounds better and has more features than the Jabra pair, but it also averages at least 0 more. And finally, although you get what you pay for with the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless, you sure do pay a lot—we recommend that model only if you have the money to burn.
Readers often ask whether the Bluetooth headphones we pick support aptX. If you’re unfamiliar with aptX, it’s a method of encoding and compressing audio that, enthusiasts claim, offers better sound via Bluetooth. For aptX to work, both the device sending the audio and the headphones receiving the audio have to support it, and that’s often hit or miss: For example, a MacBook Pro supports aptX, but zero iPhones do. So before you consider whether aptX in headphones is a factor worth exploring, find out if your playback device even supports it.
But there is some skepticism as to whether aptX encoding is even worth the effort. Panelist and Wirecutter contributing writer Brent Butterworth wrote an entire article on the subject for Lifewire. The verdict? It depends on the person. Brent made a blind test that you can take yourself, comparing the sound quality of MP3, WAV, MP3 through SBC, and WAV through aptX. Generally speaking, most of us who took the test found that the biggest difference depended on the quality of the original file, not on the software that compressed it. This isn’t to say that things might not change as technology does, but for now you’ll need to see if your ears require the extra expenditure for an aptX headphone model.
1More MK802: In our tests the highs on the MK802 were peaked, and as a result consonants were piercing. You can get an app that allows you to EQ the sound, but it requires loading your music into the app, and the app’s organization is confusing. This category is so competitive that the downsides were enough to knock the MK802 from our list of top picks, despite this model’s hearing-protecting controls and notably soft foam earpads.
AKG N60 NC: Although we all appreciated the portability of these small headphones, the sound quality wasn’t equal to the price tag. Music sounded uneven, with female vocals and strings overpowering notes from the middle of a piano keyboard down. Electric guitar wailed on high notes, but rhythm and bass notes were lost in the mix. The active noise cancellation was middling in effectiveness. These headphones didn’t sound terrible, but they didn’t sound great either.
AKG Y45BT: We all agreed that the Y45BT deserved an honorable mention in this group for being small and comfy and having pretty decent sound. In our tests, however, the bass was a bit boosted, and the boost extended into the lower mids, veiling, for example, guitar sounds. A slight dip in the upper mids that Brent said “makes instruments unnatural-sounding” was enough for us to bump this model from our list of picks.
Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT: The design of the controls on this pair is bizarre. A recessed touchpad the size of a kernel of corn serves as the play/pause button; it’s hard to find, and it responds slowly, so I ended up retriggering playback when I wanted music to pause. This set produced an icy sibilance on the highs, so harpsichord and piano sounded as if they had metal strings, and any recording hiss in tracks was amplified. Despite this model’s solid-feeling and comfortable construction, we saw less-expensive headphones that we liked better.
Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT: The same controls issues that affect the DSR7BT also affect the DSR9BT. Additionally, we could tell that the drivers in these headphones were good but tuned badly. The highs were so loud that every little consonant, click, or high-hat tap was loud. It made everything sound unnatural. For example, a Bösendorfer piano, known for a rich, deep sound, lacked its distinctive resonance, sounding more like an electric piano. If these headphones were 0, such a shortcoming wouldn’t matter, but at this pair’s 0 original price, we couldn’t forgive the flaws.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H4: When we encounter a price tag in the several hundreds, we expect high-end sound. The H4 seemed to have quality drivers, but they were voiced all wrong. Our panel disliked the overpresent highs that caused snare hits and consonants to pierce in a fatiguing way. The bass was too forward as well, and the boost extended too far into the mids, causing vocals to sound, as one of our panelists put it, “as though they were singing through a large cardboard tube.” We are all for a fun bump in the highs and lows, but the heavy-handed way B&O tuned the H4, plus the high cost, did not make a winning combo for our panelists.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H7: It’s easy to get caught up in the looks of B&O models, which are consistently well-built with high-end materials. However, our panel found that the H7’s overly boosted highs in the consonant range and somewhat bloated lows overshadowed the fine choices that the company made in the design. If the H7 had cost 0 at the time of our tests, we would have been on board. But considering its nearly 0 price at the time, with no bonus features other than fancy leather, we concluded that you should spend your money elsewhere.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i: In our tests, we found that the biggest flaw of the H8i was the very intense and fatiguing peak in the high frequency range. Both “s” sounds and cymbals were piercing and could become uncomfortable at moderate volumes. Unfortunately, the EQ settings on the included app didn’t address the problem without negatively impacting the overall sound quality. Although the active noise cancelling was a little better than average, and the H8i is beautifully built, at the initial 0 price we’d like a more balanced and accurate sound profile.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i: On the H9i, the touch controls are finicky, which can be annoying especially when you’re trying to turn down the volume on a too-loud track and the headphones won’t respond. In our tests, the active noise cancelling was decent but not the most effective we’ve encountered. As for sound quality, we found a dip in the lower mid frequencies that made for an unnatural sound quality, and bass guitars got lost. The sound wasn’t bad, but this pair wasn’t as clear and accurate as we’d like 0 headphones to be. We could overlook such flaws in less-expensive headphones, but for this price we expect more.
Beats Solo3: The Solo3 has a lot of pluses. For starters, the W1 chip makes pairing with Apple devices a breeze, and the 40-hour battery life is impressive as well. In our tests the sound was very similar to that of the Solo2, which we also liked, consisting of really nice highs and mids with a slight bass boost that blurred the mids mildly but not terribly. So why didn’t we make the Solo3 a pick? Because for what you get, it just costs too darn much. At 0, it could be a pick.
Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless: The Aventho pair sounded really good right out of the box; the bass was a smidgen bloated, so low notes or kick drums could lack definition on attack and decay. The chassis is made of high-quality materials that are a little heavy but balanced, with not too much clamping force. Like many on-ear headphones, this set can make your outer ears ache somewhat after a long period of listening. The controls are swipe-touch style and work intuitively.
But what sets the Aventho apart is the built-in hearing test, designed by Mimi. I took the test a few times over the span of several weeks and received consistent results: It determined that I had 100 percent hearing in each ear. As such, I can’t say definitively what kind of improvement the sound-profile alterations might make for someone with mild hearing loss. However, as these kinds of headphones aren’t regulated by the FDA, if you think you have hearing damage, we recommend checking with an audiologist before using any hearing-augmentation headphones.
Blue Satellite: Because the Satellite pair offers ANC, we’ll test and cover it more in our guide to noise-cancelling headphones. For now, although we loved the sound, it was the fit that kept this set out of our top picks. The earcups were too large for smaller heads, and the weight was more than any of our panelists preferred to handle for a long period of time. We wanted to love this pair, but it’s just not for everyone.
Bose QuietComfort 35: The QC35 was a previous wireless pick for noise-cancelling headphones, but you pay a premium for that noise-cancellation prowess. Not only is this set expensive at over 0, but it also offers merely acceptable sound quality, whereas all our picks in this guide are at least good or great sounding. So unless you need the best noise-cancelling performance above all else, we recommend saving your money and going with one of our other picks here. The same goes for the QuietComfort 35 Series II, our current wireless noise-cancellation pick. The Series II adds the ability to call up Google Assistant quickly, which is great for Pixel owners, but not necessary.
Bose SoundLink II: Bose noise cancelling is absolutely worth the money if you need the best. The SoundLink II, however, is a standard set of headphones. In our tests the sound was, well, fine. With kinda muffled highs, snares in a track had an inauthentic “thwack” sound. The bass frequencies had too wide a boost, leaving the overall sound a little blurry. In a sub-0 headphone model, those results would be forgivable, but at 0 to 0 depending on the day, we want a little more bang for our buck.
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless: The P5 offers classic B&W sound—with a small spike in the lower highs and very bottom-heavy. When you’re listening to a track with already boosted bass, it’s overwhelming. If you like in-your-face bass, you might like the P5. The drivers are high quality, the build is high quality. But considering the price, our panel found the sound way too unnatural to recommend for most people.
Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless: B&W always makes luxe, beautiful gear. Unfortunately, with the P7, the sound quality just wasn’t what we’d want from something in the realm of 0. While the highs were lovely, the lows were boosted and blurry, so the mids ended up mildly veiled. It left the sound feeling 2D and lacking the sparkle and detail we’d want from high-end headphones. With so much competition, something as simple as tuning can make the difference between our recommending or dismissing a model.
Bowers & Wilkins PX: These headphones are beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, they have so many problems. In our tests, with the ANC activated, the sound was bizarrely tuned. Acoustic guitar sounded boxy and hollow, as though someone had tried to add ambient room EQ to a mix. Bass notes had a reverby quality that muffled male vocals. Brent agreed, saying the PX had “a coloration that made singers sound as if they were singing with their hands cupped around their mouths, as well as a lack of ambience and an unnatural, uneven reproduction of the midrange that made voices sound heavily equalized.” With the ANC off, the sound was tinny and even worse. In addition, the PX set is made to auto-pause when you remove it from your head, but unfortunately the feature is too sensitive: While I was typing my notes and looking down at my laptop, the PX kept pausing my music.
Brookstone Wireless Bluetooth Cat Ear Headphones: I bet you thought we’d hate these. But nope—these are just plain fun. They’re heavy, so you can’t wear them for long periods, but they sound way better than you might expect. The cat ears light up, change colors, and function as decent-sounding mini BT speakers. Practical? No. But if you want some cat-ear headphones, that’s probably not what you’re worried about, anyway. For what they cost, these headphones do a darn good job of everything they purr-omise to do.
Focal Listen Wireless: In a review, CNET says the Listen Wireless sounds bright. Digital Trends agrees. We do too—in our tests, the highs were uncomfortably intense. These headphones aren’t prone to hissing or badly made, just badly tuned. The control buttons are also tricky to push, with the functional button being far smaller than the rubberized coating. We’re bummed out because the Listen Wireless was very comfortable, and aside from the highs its sound was quite good. If Focal could take the highs down a notch and revamp the buttons, it would have a great pair of headphones.
Harman Kardon Soho Wireless: Sleek, minimalist, sturdy, lovely to look at—and uncomfortable to wear long term. On top of that, the sound wasn’t as good as we were hoping for, as the Soho Wireless had a lifeless quality in our tests. Unless you want to make a fashion statement, we’d say to pass.
House of Marley Buffalo Soldier BT: Although we loved the sustainable design, the sound of the Buffalo Soldier didn’t impress us. The bass was boomy, and the highs were coarse. Consonants lost their pop and clarity, while acoustic guitar sounded off and inauthentic. Even the soft, squishy earpads couldn’t redeem these headphones enough for us to make them a top pick.
House of Marley Rise BT: With a forward low-frequency range that lacked restraint, as well as recessed highs, the overall sound of the Rise BT was blurry, muffled, and lacking in clarity. It’s a huge bummer, as we liked the overall chassis design.
iFrogz Resound (Over Ear): Non-pivoting earcups make these Resound headphones less comfortable than they could be. In our tests the bass was muddy and left music sounding muffled. This set isn’t the worst we’ve heard, but we like our budget pick better.
iFrogz Toxix: The name says it all. Uncomfortable fit, terrible, boxy, cheap sound. You have so many other, better options.
iHome iB90: Although the iB90 is lightweight, it also feels plastic and breakable. The sound was equally disappointing in our tests: Highs were pushed and sizzly, and lows were forward, which meant a big dip in the middle. On rock songs, instruments sounded as though they lacked depth and body, and sonically dense music sounded hollow. At a list price of at the time of our research, this model was not good enough to make our list of picks.
iHome iB91: This pair was tinny sounding, plastic feeling, and uncomfortable for us, but it lights up and glows in many colors. If you merely want an accessory for slumber parties, fine. But we don’t recommend the iB91 for music.
Jam SilentPro: If you took a small Bluetooth speaker and put a pillow over it, you would know what these headphones sound like, and the pillow would probably cancel more noise. No.
Jam Transit: The Transit’s downfall is that the bass in our tests was reverby and especially loud. Even acoustic guitar sounded as though someone were playing in a cement stairwell in a skyscraper. The bass blurred everything. These headphones have a solid-for-the-price build quality, but we can’t recommend them.
JBL Duet BT: We actually really like the Duet BT, and we might have made it one of our top picks if it had cost a little less at the time of our review (say, around 0). The fit was pretty comfortable, the sound was mostly even and balanced, and the build quality felt sturdy. What kept this pair out of a top slot, in addition to the price, were controls that were tough to feel and use without looking. Other competitors simply managed to cost less, sound a touch better, or feel a little more comfortable. That said, if the Duet BT’s design appeals to you, don’t be afraid to pick it up. It’s a solid option.
JBL E40BT: Our runner-up last time, the E40BT doesn’t hold up as Bluetooth headphones move forward. With a somewhat fatiguing treble boost and an annoying powering-down process that often leads to its inadvertently being in pairing mode, it simply can’t compete anymore.
JBL E45BT: We had high hopes for the E45BT; it fell just short. The hinges on the earcups didn’t quite adapt sufficiently to our panelists’ diverse head shapes for everyone to be comfortable, and the bass was a little recessed and dull. Although it’s possible that the fit issues led to the low-end problems, the result was just unappealing enough for the E45BT to miss out on our top two.
JBL E50BT: This pair had big, floppy earcups that didn’t seal properly, and a sound that was—well, there’s no way around it—pretty terrible. A piano sounded like an old, cheap, ’80s electronic keyboard. Hi-hat hits went “snap!” and were generally piercing. Voices sounded weirdly peaked and compressed. Here’s a direct quote from Brent: “Who voiced these?! The audio engineers at JBL know better. I liken it to a pharmaceutical company hiring the world’s best medical researchers and then deciding to just sell bee pollen. Why did these end up this bad?”
JBL E55BT: Fit issues with the headband meant that our panelists had wildly varying experiences. Some said the E55BT had too much bloat in the upper bass frequencies, while others commented on tizzy, harsh highs. Nobody on the panel found a good fit. Even if the E55BT sounds amazing in a certain position, we don’t want to have to hold our headphones to get that.
JBL Everest 310: The Everest 310 is comfortable, and though the chassis and buttons seem plasticky, these headphones are lightweight, and the earpads are soft. In our tests, however, the sound wasn’t quite up to par. We heard a lot of low-end and top-end boost that made lead vocals on rock, hip-hop, and other polyphonic music sound recessed. Plus, we detected a slightly icy sound to the highs and coarseness to the male vocal range. This set wouldn’t be too bad-sounding if it cost around 0. But the current asking price, which tends to be about 0, is too much for this model.
JBL Everest Elite 750NC: Minimal noise cancellation, and—wow—too much bass. Hip-hop tracks sounded as if we were sitting next to a subwoofer. Comfortable design, though.
JLab Neon Bluetooth Wireless On-Ear Headphones: If you want to spend as little as possible, the JLab Neon headphones are built way better and sound way better than their competitors in the under- range. Once you enter the less-than- range, most Bluetooth headphones are cheap looking and tinny sounding, but the JLab Neon actually feels solid, sports a 13-plus-hour battery life, and sounds decent enough. However, this pair doesn’t work corded (though it does work while charging), and in our tests it sounded muffled on phone calls. The earpads also don’t swivel, which can make finding a good fit and seal difficult.
JLab Omni: This set is relatively light on the head, and very comfortable. Unfortunately, the design makes you control the volume and the track with the same turning movement, in different durations. As a result, I kept accidentally changing tracks when I wanted to slightly adjust the volume. Additionally, in our tests the Omni had a sloppy boosted range that extended from the low bass to the mids, so guitars sounded blurry and smeared, and everything from the mids down sounded muffled. The Omni just can’t compete in such a packed field.
JLab Rewind Wireless: If you miss the Walkman headphones of the ’80s, or if you want to cosplay as Star-Lord, the Rewind Wireless will make you happy. These headphones are particularly lightweight, the Bluetooth connection is stable, and you can play, pause, skip, and call up your digital assistant from the single button on the right earpad. They sound pretty great for Bluetooth headphones. The highs sounded a little coarse to us, and any mic hiss in a recording will be amplified, but the bass is pretty good for an inexpensive set of headphones. If you’re feeling nostalgic, these are fun.
JVC HA-S190BT: None of our panelists liked this set. Why? A cheap-feeling, stiff, uncomfortable fit mixed with an unfocused, blurry bass. Maybe if this model didn’t feel so breakable, we could have considered it as a budget pick.
Kicker HP402BTB Tabor: Kicker specializes in car subwoofers, and we could tell—the bass on the Tabor was obviously boosted. In our tests the mids and highs were great, and everything that didn’t fall in that low-boosted range sounded natural, full, and fantastic. But the design is large (okay, huge), and we thought the controls were a little tricky to use by feel.
Klipsch Reference On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones: The tuning on this pair was all over the place. We heard peaks and valleys in various frequency ranges that would be somewhat excusable in 0 headphones but are a dealbreaker at over 0. The drivers sounded high quality; it’s just that this pair didn’t sound accurate or fun enough to be worth the money.
Klipsch Reference Over-Ear Bluetooth Headphones: One of the only headphone models in this category to have too little bass, the Reference Over-Ear suffered from tuning problems in our tests. The bass that we could hear sounded well-formed, but there wasn’t enough power behind the low notes to balance the highs. As such, cello lacked resonance, and amplified music such as rock and hip-hop felt like it was missing a foundation.
Koss BT540i: These headphones are fine. In our tests the lower frequencies were a bit bloated and the highs were somewhat harsh, so bass guitar tended to sound blobby and unrefined, while words were sibilant. The fit was comfortable enough, but it felt plastic and inexpensive. For the price, we want remarkable, good, or even great. Unfortunately, the BT540i is none of those things. For our money (and yours), we think “fine” doesn’t cut it.
Koss BT540i Second Edition: For a few hundred dollars, we have high expectations. So although the audio quality on the BT540i SE wasn’t bad, it was the details—the highs lacked sparkle and the lower mids and lows lacked depth, so cellos had no resonance—that led us to pass on the BT540i SE.
Libratone Q Adapt: The Q Adapt is Libratone’s first headphones set, and in many ways Libratone seems to be on the right path—the touch controls are intuitive, the active noise cancelling is decent, and the overall look of the headphones is attractive. But we saw room for improvement. The Q Adapt has a few sound settings, and none are without problems, as in our tests they all had a lifeless quality that may have been due to recessed mids. The included app wasn’t particularly easy for us to navigate, and the clamping force on the headband was very tight, which could get uncomfortable after a while. At the Q Adapt’s recommended 0 price, there is too much competition for us to ignore this model’s downsides.
Marshall Major II: The Major II had a lot of bass, and it sounded a touch reverby. Unfortunately, it didn’t have quite enough high frequency in the mix to balance out that bass. As a result, music had a dull quality that we didn’t love, despite our being impressed with the Major II’s design and build quality.
Marshall Mid Bluetooth: The Mid had a bump in the lows and a spike in the highs that our panelists didn’t love or hate. Strings and cymbals sounded brighter and splashier than was neutral, but not so much that we’d have dismissed the Mid if it had cost closer to 0. Unfortunately, Marshall was asking for almost 0 at the time of our review, and with so many competitors that were better balanced or better priced, it was hard for us to justify the cost.
Marshall Monitor Bluetooth: The Monitor had a fun tuning that was well-suited to rock music. We also detected a little extra treble and bass that added presence to hi-hat and bass guitar. The result was not neutral sounding, but our panel enjoyed it. What kept the Monitor from our list of picks was a tight-clamping headband, as well as earcups that didn’t swivel much; half of our panel either failed to get the earcups to seal properly or ended up feeling pinched. If you can get the Monitor to fit you properly, it’s a nice set of headphones. But we aren’t willing to gamble for you, especially not at 0.
Master & Dynamic MW50: Master & Dynamic makes gorgeous-looking headphones, and the MW50 is no exception. But we found some small issues: The headband was a little too tight, the lower midrange was a bit forward, and the lows could sound mildly muddy. We’d forgive all those transgressions if the price weren’t so high, since the MW50 is a nice set of headphones. But if it were our money, we’d want fantastic.
Master & Dynamic MW60: Beautiful but heavy, the MW60 is a luxury headphone model in looks and price. In our tests, the sound was great but ever so slightly flawed: The boost on the lows extended slightly into the lower mids, so the sound had a subtly veiled quality that took some of the vitality out of live music. That’s an exceptionally minor quibble, but when you’re paying 0 and you don’t get any bonus features like active noise cancelling, we insist upon the best sound quality. If you love the aesthetic and have the cash to throw around, the MW60 is somewhat more form than function, but it’s still a lovely pair of headphones.
MEE Audio Air-Fi Touch: The on-ear design was comfortable, and the sound, although boosted in the highs and lows, was pretty good for the price. But the mids on a piano tended to have a “hard” feeling, as if the strings were made of a twangy metal.
MEE Audio Matrix3: The headband on the Matrix3 is on the bigger side, and anyone with a smaller head may find that the earcups hang too low; if I put the earcups where they were supposed to sit, I could fit a full two fingers in the gap under the headband. As for the sound, on our panel we had a 50-50 split for and against. With so much variation in opinion on the fit and the sound, we couldn’t make the Matrix3 one of our top picks.
MEE Audio Rumble AF80: The issue with the Rumble isn’t the bass, as you might expect; it’s the harsh, sibilant treble. Snare hits are piercing, and every consonant “STandSss ouT” in an unpleasant way.
MEE Audio Runaway: This was another pair that I was rooting for during our previous panel testing. These headphones were inexpensive and light, and I was hoping they would be a good budget option, since they also worked corded. However, we were all disappointed with the sound: Geoff, John, and I all remarked on the nonexistent bass. If the sound were good, we could forgive the cheap construction, but without a better sonic response, we have to say pass.
Monoprice Bluetooth Wireless Headphones 13893: Comfortable fit, terrible sound. Harsh, coarse highs. Boomy lows. In our tests, vocals sounded boxy, and low notes were blurry and bloated. Unless you want only a set of comfy headphones to listen to podcasts, pass.
Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones: The bass was so bloated and loud, everything sounded as if we were standing too close to the subwoofer. Seemingly to compensate, this pair had a sharp peak in the consonant range, so vocals sounded odd. Not our favorite listening experience.
Monster Elements Wireless On-Ear Headphones: Nobody on our panel thought these headphones were worth the 0 asking price. The plastic felt creaky and cheap, while the earcups failed to swivel enough to seat properly on our ears. The sound was middling: too much bass, sibilant highs. This pair would be decent enough if it cost 0 to 0 less than the original price.
Nura Nuraphone: The Nuraphone set tests your hearing and then adjusts its sound to accommodate for your personal amount of hearing loss. It’s a passive test, so you just sit still while tones play. I took the test several times and found that my results were skewed when I was recovering from a sinus infection. I know this because the adjusted sound it gave me when I was sick sounded totally bizarre. Once I was healthy, my custom sound was pretty good and normal, though because I don’t have premature hearing loss, I didn’t hear anything new or amazing in my music. For someone who is experiencing mild hearing damage, the experience could be very different.
However, even if the Nuraphone does help you hear your music better, the design will take some getting used to. Within the over-ear design are little in-ear probes, so if you dislike the feel of earbuds, you won’t like this set. The Nuraphone also lacks any kind of volume, track, or digital-assistant controls, so you’ll need to keep your phone handy if you want to adjust anything. And as these kinds of headphones aren’t regulated by the FDA, if you think you have hearing damage, we recommend checking with an audiologist before using any hearing-augmentation headphones.
Outdoor Technology Privates: The earcups didn’t pivot or swivel at all, so for everyone on our panel these headphones kept sliding off our ears; these things just wouldn’t stay put. It’s a big problem that Outdoor Tech could so easily solve with a hinge. Regardless, the bass was a little boomy, so everything up to male vocals was a little muddied.
Outdoor Technology Tuis: These headphones were mostly comfortable and had intuitive controls—and they were completely divisive for our panel. Brent and I didn’t care for the broad bass boost that ran way up into the mid frequencies. To us, kick drums sounded flabby and undefined, like “buh.” The treble bestowed a snapping sharp edge on snare hits, and we found the Tuis to be unnatural sounding as a result. John was more generous, saying the sound was “middle of the pack” for him. And our last panelist liked the sound but didn’t like the fit. So where did that leave us? It meant that these headphones weren’t suitable for most people, so we had to keep them out of our group of top picks.
Parrot Zik: A source of some controversy. I want to like the Zik, and the design is undeniably beautiful. It has a bone-conductor sensor and five mics to help with calls, and in our tests it sounded pretty darn good over Bluetooth. But the Parrot Zik and Zik 2.0 are, in my opinion, a great idea that the makers didn’t fully test before release. Both models are completely dependent on their app: Without the app, if you just plug these headphones into a source with the cord, the sound has a bizarre reverb thing that renders them unlistenable. It sounds as though you broke the headphones or got a bad cord. And I’m not the only one who noticed this problem.
On top of that, to use the app, you need an Internet connection. You can’t adjust the EQ, NC, or anything without signing in to the app, which requires a data connection. Did you turn your phone off or sign out of the app and forget to turn the NC on before you got on the plane? Too bad. You can’t sign in again without Wi-Fi. Basically, the Parrot Zik is useless if you try to use it with anything that can’t run the app. Geoff and I have put our full thoughts on the Parrot Zik line of headphones on Forbes and Sound & Vision, respectively.
Pendulumic Stance S1+ : Perhaps it’s what Pendulumic describes as the “concert-hall environment” that the S1+ features, but in our tests delicate and precise sounds like acoustic guitar or violin pizzicato tended to sound blurry, as if they had added reverb. The bass was forward and a little formless at the same time, which made the low end feel a little blobby. Nonetheless, we mostly liked the Bluetooth sound, but once we added a cord, the S1+ became a complete mess, muffled and unlistenable. Ultimately, its sounding so terrible when corded was a dealbreaker for us in this price range.
Phiaton BT 330 NC: The sound quality was decent so long as we left the active noise cancelling on, but the active noise cancelling was minimal and added a high-pitched hiss. Turn the ANC off, and the sound becomes terrible, like a speaker in a barrel. Too many flaws for a model that was several hundred dollars at the time.
Phiaton BT 390: This model suffered from a blurry bass that wasn’t balanced by the highs, which had a sizzling quality. A pity.
Plantronics BackBeat 500: Sold at an affordable price, the BackBeat 500 is solidly built, designed with easy-to-use controls, and comfortable. This set came close to being a pick, but we passed it over due to somewhat shushing highs (where “s” sounds had a “sh” quality) and some uneven bumps and dips in the male vocal range. This pair isn’t bad at all, just not quite as even-sounding or comfortable as our picks. But if you are drawn to the BackBeat 500, it’s a good choice.
Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC: The 8200 UC is intended as a work/home blend of a computer headset and Bluetooth headphones. It’s mostly successful. The design is comfortable to wear long term, the controls are easy to use, the Bluetooth connection is stable, and the active noise cancelling is decent, with two levels of intensity. In our tests these headphones sounded pretty good, though not amazing. The low bass was blurry and lacking in definition, and the mids were a bit too forward, which created an artificial quality to the sound. Plus, the bass got louder in accordance with the noise cancelling; the more noise we cancelled, the boomier the bass got.
The included USB Bluetooth transmitter is nice for PC owners who don’t have Bluetooth on their computers. Although the 8200 UC doesn’t have a boom mic, it does include four internal microphones that make your voice very clear, especially over phone calls. However, over video chat, we noticed that the sound was very compressed; although you won’t be misunderstood, on videoconferences your voice will sound as if you’re on an old-school landline. This may not be a dealbreaker if you don’t video-chat frequently, but to us it was enough to keep this pair off our list of recommendations.
PSB M4U 8: If you love bass, you might like these headphones. In our tests, the M4U 8 had a lot of bass, and it was very forward in the mix. Though kick drum and electronic beats were loud, they were clear, and they avoided getting boomy or muddy. We like that the headband feels reinforced and more sturdy than that of the original M4U 2, but it also makes the M4U 8 feel a little heavy, and the headband can start to press uncomfortably on the top of your head during long listening sessions. Overall, we concur with InnerFidelity’s review: The M4U 8 is a good set of headphones, but we happen to like others a little better.
Samson RTE 2: Everyone disliked this pair. Brent said, “Horrible. Do not buy.” Grating, fatiguing treble made cymbals piercing and guitars sound as if they were in a metal box. Formless, lackluster bass made kick drums sound as though they were being played through a speaker that had a piece of cloth in front of it. Hard pass.
Samsung Level On Wireless: Although the active noise cancelling was better than average (which is why we made this pair a wireless also-great pick in our noise-cancelling headphones review), especially for the price, the sound quality was middle-of-the-road in our tests. Mildly bloated and blurry lows caused the Level On Wireless to lose some clarity and definition. It wasn’t bad, but our pick sounded better, so you should save your money unless you need the noise cancelling.
Sennheiser HD 4.40 BT: We had high hopes for these affordable Sennheiser headphones. But this pair had so many peaks and valleys in the frequency ranges, our panel struggled to describe the sound problems effectively. “Missing presence,” “male voices sound weird,” “lacking definition,” and “it’s as though the foundation is lacking” are some of the phrases we came up with. The overall consensus may be summed up best by John’s remark: “Meh. The earpads are the best part.”
Sennheiser HD 4.50BTNC Wireless: Very comfortable. In our tests, the HD 4.50BTNC had the Sennheiser sound, producing an extra peak in the high-highs that was unnatural but not terrible or piercing, paired with clear, very deep bass. We liked these headphones a lot, but other options sounded a little better or had better noise cancellation for the same price. That said, if you want lightweight, comfortable headphones that sound quite good if a bit artificial, these are a fine alternative to our picks.
Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless: The Urbanite XL isn’t for musical purists or audiophiles, and we’re pretty sure that it isn’t meant to be. But we found the bass too undefined and rounded, and with rock music, the bass guitar overpowered the lead. With classical music, piano sounded lopsided. We don’t hate boosted bass, but it has to be refined, and the Urbanite XL’s wasn’t. Considering its several-hundred-dollar price tag at the time, even its stellar build quality couldn’t bring us to justify the cost.
Skullcandy Grind Wireless: If all-day comfort is your top priority, this pair is the way to go. You can wear this pair for hours because the pillowy earpads practically eliminate pressure points. Additionally, the Grind Wireless features intuitive control buttons, a solid chassis, and 12-plus hours of battery life (along with the ability to use these headphones while charging), which makes this set a great option for all-day use. The overall sound quality was very good in our tests, but it had an extra bass boost that extended into the lower mid range, overpowering male vocals and guitar on bass-heavy songs. That aside, this model is a fantastic value for a sub-0 set of headphones.
Sony H.ear On 2 Mini WH-H800: We adore Sony’s H.ear On MDR-100ABN, which has been an upgrade pick in the past, so we were excited for the Mini, a smaller, more portable version. Sadly, although the looks and fit were similar, the Mini pair had way too much blurry bass and smeared everything else. We wanted to love these headphones, but the sound let us down.
Sony H.ear On MDR-100ABN: We really liked this pair, which is very similar to the WH-H900N but with physical buttons rather than touchpad controls. In our tests the sound had mildly forward but not muddy bass and clear highs. The fit was comfortable, noise cancelling was above average, and the set offered great clarity on phone calls, too. Our only quibble was that turning on the ANC feature initially could cause a bit of “ear suck,” or the feeling that your ears need to pop due to a change of pressure. However, Sony is phasing these headphones out, so we had to retire them to the competition list. If you see a good deal on the MDR-100ABN, don’t be afraid to pick up this set.
Sony MDR-XB950B1: Sony. Guys. The MDR-XB950B1 was all blurry, reverby bass that muddied everything else up. Even acoustic guitar. It’s not forward, it’s insane. Stop it.
Sony MDR-XB950BT: Nobody on the panel liked this set. The bass was boomy and messy, leaving every kind of music sounding, as Brent put it, “as though there is a quilt draped over a speaker.” Even on hip-hop (which headphones sold as “extra bass” should excel in), everyone agreed that the MDR-XB950BT was an absolute mess. You can find many better options out there, and none of us knows how Sony could have dropped the ball so terribly on this pair or why it has so many good Amazon reviews. The only positive comment our panel made was “Well, they’re comfy on your head.”
Sony MDR-XB950N1: The nicest thing I can say about the MDR-XB950N1 is that at least the sound was consistent whether we had the ANC on or off. Sadly, that sound consisted of crazy, muddy, blurry, terrible bass. The “extra bass” wasn’t just so much louder, it was reverby, too. It was like listening to a subwoofer in a cathedral.
Sony WH-1000XM2: Some reviewers loved these headphones. And we probably would have too, if the H.ear On WH-H900N or MDR-100ABN didn’t exist. In our tests, the WH-1000XM2 had decent ANC and sounded quite good, but the H.ear On pairs were better at both. On top of that, although the WH-1000XM2 is sturdily built and looks luxe, it’s also heavy.
Plus, you end up paying for a lot of extras that don’t work very well. For example, the “ambient control” requires you to download and keep open an app on your phone, which means that those features (such as EQ, adaptive ANC, and the bizarre sonic positioning) won’t work with laptops or smartwatches. The app itself has a tendency to crash, too; in my tests, even when it worked, I found that more often than not it was “detecting” and attempting to register my movement rather than actually working. The palm-to-earcup ambient-awareness feature of the touch controls is neat, but it doesn’t pause your music, so you end up hearing a cacophony of your surroundings mixed with slightly muted music. And the controls themselves can be a bit fussy. All these little things add up to make the WH-1000XM2 not quite worth the regular 0 asking price, especially when you have less-expensive options that work better and more seamlessly.
Urbanears Plattan ADV Wireless: Great design, with a washable headband. In our tests the bass was a little too forward and slightly lacking definition but not terrible enough to be a dealbreaker. What kept these headphones from being a pick was a very tight headband and insufficient padding on the earcups, which made this pair uncomfortable after around 30 minutes of listening, even on smaller heads. We want to love these, but we can’t when our outer ears ache.
Urbanears Plattan 2 Bluetooth: We loved the single-button control on the Plattan 2, as well as the ability to daisy-chain several headphones. The Plattan 2 pair is comfortable, and Urbanears has upgraded the foam in the earpads, really adding to a nice, cushy fit. So you might be able to understand our disappointment when we heard the muddy lows and mids that tended to distort on hip-hop when we put the volume on my phone above halfway. If these headphones had sounded better, they would have had a shot at being one of our picks.
V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless: Balanced, vivid, and exciting sounding, the Crossfade 2 Wireless boosted only the lowest bass notes and specific high frequencies to amp up music in a fun, energizing way. The chassis is sturdy, edgy looking, and customizable, and it folds up into a surprisingly small case. We struggled, however, with making this model an upgrade pick due to the price, weight, and lack of isolation. For the current 0-plus price tag (features such as aptX, a removable boom mic, and extra shields add to the cost), we would have liked active noise cancelling, or some of those aforementioned add-ons included. We also questioned whether the weight of the Crossfade 2 would become uncomfortable for most people to wear over a long day. Knowing all of these quibbles, if you still want the Crossfade 2, get it; you won’t be disappointed. But in a saturated category, even minimal downsides are enough to pull a headphone model out of contention as one of our picks.
Wearhaus Arc: We found the earpads to be comfortable and soft, and the touch-sensitive controls to be intuitive. Sadly, the Arc suffered from blurry lows and veiled highs, making everything sound as though it were under a thin blanket. Plus, although the sharing feature was neat, it didn’t work as well when we were watching video, as one Arc pair had a significant latency delay between picture and sound.
Zagg iFrogz Impulse Wireless: If you were to take a speaker, yank out the highest tweeter, put a sheet over it, place that inside a hallway, and play music through it, you would get the sound quality of the iFrogz Impulse. Even pink noise sounded like brown noise in our tests. These headphones were comfortable to wear, at least.
Marshall recently introduced the Mid A.N.C., wireless, over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation and up to 20 hours of playback time for 0. We plan to test this pair soon.