While the number and combinations of special features are mind-boggling, the best wireless headphones for you will match your lifestyle and listening habits. We’ve searched through the endless options and the Cowin E7 stood out as the best all-purpose wireless headphones for most of us.
If you want to enjoy music, podcasts, and audiobooks without being tethered down, then it might be time to upgrade to a pair of wireless headphones. Bluetooth audio quality has surged ahead over the past several years, so you don’t have to sacrifice listening experience for the convenience of wireless anymore.
Overall, the Cowin E7 does everything that the average user needs a pair of wireless headphones to do, including calling, Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), quick charging, long playtime, and comfortable fit.
Top 5 Wireless Headphones
|Cowin E7 ANC||Best Overall||ANC, Microphone, 30H Playtime, 40mm Speaker, Drivers||Check Price|
|SoundPEATS Magnetic||Best Workout Wireless||Waterproof, Noise Isolating, Adjustable Fit, Portable, Microphone||Check Price|
|Sendheiser HD1||Best High-End||Stainless Steel Body, Collapsible, Multiple Microphones, Superior Sound Quality||Check Price|
|Bose QuietComfort 35||Best ANC Wireless||Powerful ANC, Multi-Device Pairing, Long Battery Life||Check Price|
|Sony WH1000XM2||Best Intuitive Wireless||Touch Controls, Voice Assistant, Good ANC, Quick Charge||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Wireless Headphones
Cowin E7 ANC Wireless Headphones
For a durable, multipurpose pair of wireless headphones that do pretty much everything you’d ever need them to do, we liked the Cowin E7. While the sound quality is not at the top of the headphones we reviewed, it delivers crisp audio, especially at the bass end of the range.
If you want a versatile pair of headphones that you can use travelling, at work, and while watching TV at home, the Cowin E7 might be a good choice. It has a microphone, so you can accept calls, though the controls on the headset are a bit small.
We liked that the battery life, in playback or speaking mode, was 30 hours with a backup battery so you won’t get cutoff if you’re low on charge. It takes 4 hours to charge these, though, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
The foam earcups are comfortable for extensive wear, though you’ll want to give your ears a break every couple hours, especially if it’s really hot and humid. The carrying case, 18-month warranty, and five color option are nice bonuses.
The Cowin E7 is a good competitor to the more expensive, high-end brands. It isn’t the front runner for best sound quality ever invented, but it will do the job if you’re looking for something to drown out your neighbor’s yard work or your coworkers’ conversations. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced pair that check all of the boxes but without any showy extras, these are a good pick.
Pros and Cons
- 30H Playback Time
- Microphone Included
- Solid Audio Quality, Especially Bass
- Active Noise Cancelling
- 18 Month Warranty
- 4H Charge Time
- Small Controls on Headset
- On-Ear Design Can Get Sweaty Over Time
2. Best Wireless Headphones for Working Out
On-ear models are great if you’re sitting at a desk or watching a movie, but if you’re running outside or training at the gym, you need something with a tighter, smaller fit. The SoundPEATS Magnetic Wireless earbuds are nice if you’re looking for something small and portable that still has a decent sound quality.
We liked all of the accessories that came with the SoundPEATS. You get extra ear fins, ear tips, line clamps, and side buckles so you can get the earbuds really secure.
These are waterproof, which is nice if your sweating or running in light rain. We wish it had a slightly stronger bass, but its fine for general use.
They earbuds are magnetic and are attached with a short cord so you can hang them around your neck with the earbuds snapped together when you’re not using them. It also makes them easier to store in very small compartments like a pocket.
These are noise isolating headphones, not ANC. This is common with workout headphones since you need to be aware of your surroundings for safety’s sake.
You can make calls with the SoundPEATS microphone, it charges in under an hour, and it has in-line controls. The playback time is only 8 hours, but that’s probably longer than the average workout.
Pros and Cons
- Noise Isolating
- Comfortable In-Ear Fit
- Extremely Compact
- Quick Charge Time
- Only 8 Hours of Playback Time
- Bass can be weak
3. Best High-End Wireless Headphones
Sennheiser HD1 Wireless Headphones
If you’re a true audiophile only the best will do. At the higher price range of wireless headphones, personal preferences tend to be strong since you’re shelling out a bit more money for a premium experience.
But, we still found that high-quality headphones can be accessible to the average user, so if you have a massive music collection that deserves real active listening, you might want to try out the Sendheiser HD1.
Senheiser is famous for producing DJing and recording studio equipment. While the HD1 is designed for music consumption, they’ve borrowed some of their signature features, like stainless steel construction and suede-feel ear cups from their pro models.
While the Senheiser HD1 does fold up, it’s not nearly as compact as some of the other models we reviewed. The 22-hour battery life is impressive, though 3 hours of charge time felt long to us.
It’s real strength is in the audio quality itself. The bass, mid-range, and highs are well balanced with no forced feeling. The Senheiser HD1 are active noise cancelling and you can also use them in wired mode.
Pros and Cons
- Smooth, organic sound quality
- Dual Microphones
- Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation
- Connect 2 Devices Simultaneously; Up to 8 on Pairing List
- ANC Not Main Emphasis
- Not Super-Compact for Travel
4. Best ANC Wireless Headphones
Bose QuietComfort 35
If you’re someone who needs the noise of a jet cancelled out, the Bose QuietComfort 35 might be just for you. Bose uses a special algorithm to create a blank sound backdrop so music can stand out clearly, which makes it great both for audiophiles and for anyone who truly wants to block out the world.
While the Active Noise Cancelling is the superstar of pretty much the entire Bose family, we also liked that the QC35 upgraded the comfort of the headphones along with introducing 2-device pairing. If you’re listening to music on your tablet and get a call, you don’t have to fumble with controls to switch devices.
The controls can take some fiddling to master, and if you already have a more recent iteration of the Quiet Comfort line, like the QC25, the new features might not be a big enough deal for you to make the upgrade.
The Bluetooth range is impressive – at least 33 feet, and a decent battery life too.
Overall, if a fantastic soundstage experience and/or the best ANC on the market are what you’re looking for, then Bose is a great choice.
Pros and Cons
- Super-tough ANC
- 20 Hour Battery Life
- Connect Two Devices Simultaneously
- Controls Not Super Intuitive
- Similar to the QC25
5. Best Intuitive Wireless Headphones
Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM2
If you hate trying to figure out what all the flashing lights mean on your headphones, you might really like the digital assistant feature on the Sony WH1000XM2. It will talk you through the settings and you can give it commands too, which is nice.
The touch controls were another big appeal of the WH1000XM2. You don’t have to deal with a separate app, just touch the earcups to adjust.
If Active Noise Cancelling is important to you, the WH1000XM2 brings a solid game there too. It automatically detects the noise levels around you and will adjust the amount of ANC you need, since you presumably don’t want the same amount of noise cancelling when on the phone with your mom as when you’re piloting a Boeing jet.
The plastic headset isn’t a favorite of everyone, so we would recommend trying this one on to make sure you get a comfortable fit. For ease of use with good sound quality though, Sony is a good pick.
Pros and Cons
- Controls Easy to Use
- 30 Hour Battery
- ANC Toggles On/Off
- Voice Prompts/Digital Assistant
- No Multiple Device Pairing
- Rigid Plastic Headset
Do I Need Wireless Headphones?
Wireless headphones are growing in popularity among people working in noisy offices, students in dorms or libraries, and commuters. With various levels of noise blocking to choose from, wireless headphones are a downright necessity for those of us surrounded by chatter and distractions all day.
If you’re like me, you tend to either agonize over new purchases or make a spur-of-the-moment choice that you later regret. Wireless headphones represent a bit of an investment, so it’s worth taking some time to research and find the best fit for you.
There are a few main reasons why you might want to switch to wireless headphones.
- You’re ready for an upgrade from your $5 earbuds
- You travel
- You commute
- Your workplace, dorm, or home is noisy
- You work in a loud profession
- You dislike wired headphones
Obviously, the main feature is that wireless headphones….don’t have wires. You’ll be able to move around freely within a certain range of the paired device.
So, trips to the coffeemaker, cleaning the house, working out, or any time you don’t want to get tangled in wires are all good situations to use a set of wireless headphones.
If you’re in the market for wireless headphones as part of a general upgrade, then the audio quality can be surprisingly superior to the earbuds that come free with your phone.
Wireless headphones tend to be sturdier than wired models, since they’re designed to be carried around, and they can be worn longer without discomfort because of additional padding.
Wireless headphones have lots of different features, so it’s relatively easy to find a pair that fit your particular needs, whether that’s a tight-fitting in-ear pair for athletes or a comfy, affordable pair for listening to playlists at the office.
What Should I Look for In Wireless Headphones?
If you’re buying a new car, I’s a good idea to understand the basic components of one. Brakes? Super important. Back-up camera? Nice, but not essential.
It’s the same with wireless headphones. Understanding the parts of your headphones makes it easier to evaluate which features are crucial to you and which ones are helpful, but not indispensable.
All wireless headphones are basically portable receivers and have some key parts you should care about:
- A Receiver
- Volume Controls/Remote
These are the features that are going to matter the most to you in your day-to-day use of wireless headphones.
Not all of these features will matter equally to everyone. Not every wireless headphone set comes with a microphone, for example, but if you don’t plan to make any calls using the headphones it’s not really a problem.
An important distinction to keep in mind is that noise cancelling headphones are not the same thing as noise isolating headphones.
There’s a lot of technical details behind the difference, but basically noise isolating headphones muffle the noise around you – usually called ambient noise — while noise cancelling headphones actually cover up the ambient noise with sounds produced by your headphones.
You might also see tech blogs and websites talking about ANC. This means Active Noise Control or Cancellation. This is the specific technology that noise cancelling headphones use to cover up the ambient noise.
ANC detects the noises around you and generates a balancing noise to directly cancel out the first noise. If you see a product touting it’s ANC capabilities, it’s basically talking about its noise cancelling capabilities.
How Do Wireless Headphones Work?
Wireless headphones are not hard to use. You might have to go through an initial setup process to pair your new headphones with your smartphone, but then they should reconnect automatically.
There are a couple of different ways that wireless headphones can connect to your phone:
- Some wireless headphones come with a passcode that you have to enter during setup
- Your headphones might use Near Field Communication (NFC), so proximity will pair the phone and headphones
Don’t panic about NFC – it’s just the same technology that instant payment technologies use, so you might already be using it.
One of the barriers that holds people back from upgrading to noise-cancelling headphones is the fear that they’ll be difficult to set up and use frequently. Thankfully, that’s not really a concern with recent models.
Pairing your wireless headphones with your smartphone is the most common option, since you’re probably using your headphones on the go. Because your phone is usually on you too, you don’t have to worry about the headphones getting out of range.
You can also pair some wireless headphones with your PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, or smart TV. It’s a good idea to check compatibility with any devices that you might want to pair before you settle on which wireless headphones you want to buy.
Identify Where, When, and How You Use Them
Are you a serious audiophile with thousands of songs in your library? Then listening experience and sound quality are probably the most important to you.
Do you just like some background noise at work or while you’re riding the bus? Or do you mostly listen to spoken-word audio like podcasts or audiobooks? Then portability, versatility, and charge time are probably key for you.
If you like to spend a quiet evening with no distractions streaming your favorite music, then noise cancelling headphones that eliminate all outside sound might be your best choice for ideal listening experience.
You also may want to spring for some of the most advanced features, too, since you’ll notice the difference in sound quality.
Those of us who have headphones on while we’re walking or riding to work or school need to maintain some connection with what’s going on around us – at least for safety’s sake. Noise isolating headphones are probably a good pick for those who need to keep semi-aware while listening.
Noise cancelling headphones are also popular among people who work in unusually loud environments, like farming, construction, or honestly even really noisy dorm rooms.
Other important features to consider:
- Charging time – this varies from one to several hours
- Playback Time – how long can your headphones play before they need charged again?
- Adjustable Eartips – You might want these to ensure a perfect fit
- Charging Ports – Most include a Micro USB charger, but you might want a wall outlet adapter, too
- Waterproofing – Will you be sweating at the gym or running in drizzle?
- Automatic Power Off Functions – For the chronically forgetful
- Standby Time – This is the time that your headphones remain charged if just lying around in your bag
- Bendable Headphones – If you want a personalized fit
- Flat Folding – If you need bulky over-ear headphones to fold flat for travel
- Accessories – Cable clips, carrying cases, interchangeable ear pads, extra chargers, or aux cables.
- Personalization – If getting wireless headphones in a particular color is important
The configurations of features on wireless headphones are almost endless. To prevent overwhelm, just focus on the attributes that matter the most for your life.
For the average user, durability, portability, and comfort are usually primary.
Earbuds or Headphones?
In some ways, this is a stylistic choice. Huge, over-ear headphones have become something of a fashion statement, but other people like an in-ear design that won’t mess up their hair or interfere with winter gear like hats and scarves.
Comfort is one of the first things to think about. If you hate the feeling of something stuck in your ear, then earbuds might not be the perfect fit for you.
On the other hand, if you don’t like carrying a bunch of stuff around with you in your bag, then the bulkiness of headphones might not be great for you.
There can be some confusion of jargon here, since earbuds are more accurately wired.
Just to clarify the terminology, there are three fits for noise cancelling headphones:
If you have a strong preference, make sure that the products you view have the fit specifically labeled.
What About Audio Quality?
Since we’re talking about Bluetooth here, the question comes up: will my music sound awful?
Keep in mind that unless all you listen to are vinyl records, your music is probably digital. That means that the sound has been compressed into a file, which does inevitably change the sound somewhat.
This is true whether you’re listing on a pricey laptop, speaker, or wired headphones, too. Chances are you won’t even notice a difference, especially if you bought an album digitally or are listening to podcasts or audiobooks with your wireless speakers instead of music.
Audio quality has improved tremendously over the past few years, and tech developers have figured out how to compress the audio a little more effectively, so you don’t get robot-like music.
Today, Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 offer much better sound quality than old-fashioned 1.0 or 2.0. If audio quality is super important to you, keep an eye out for models running aptX or A2DP, which provide for overall better sound.
With thousands of wireless headphones to chose from out there, you almost want to test drive a few for yourself to find out which features you can’t live without. So much about fit, comfort, sound balance, and price point is a personal preference, so it’s important to understand what the different components of your wireless headphones do so you can make the best choice for you.
Everything in our roundup did well on the areas that matter the most – sound quality, portability, connectivity, comfort – so you know they’re a good all-around pair of headphones for the average user. While we thought the Cowin E7 was a great pick for well-rounded wireless listening, any of the ones listed here will seriously upgrade your audio game.