For most people, wireless headphones are an everyday essential, whether you use them to listen to music at the gym or block out distractions at work. In the US, Apple AirPods have become the most popular option (and one of the most purchased tech products on our site). However, they are not the only option that exists.
SKIP AHEAD The best wireless headphones in 2023 | How to buy wireless headphones
To help guide your search and find the best wireless headphones for you, we tested more than a dozen wireless headphones, including some of the biggest brands on the market.
How we choose the best wireless headphones
We test dozens of new, premium wireless earbuds and consider each product based on the following features:
Comfort: We selected headphones that were comfortable to wear for several hours.
Usability: We highlighted headphones that were versatile: good for the office, gym, on the go, and home.
Battery duration: We choose headphones that last all day and charge quickly.
Price: We think all of our picks are good value for what they offer.
To get varied perspectives, several members of the Select team tested each headset.
Best wireless headphones of October 2023
After testing dozens of different headphones, our top picks largely came from top-selling brands like Apple, Sony, and Jabra.
Best for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Advantages: Extremely versatile, ideal for almost any task
Cons: Not for Android users, expensive
The Select team loves Apple’s latest AirPods Pro, which won the Select Wellness award. Several team members chose them as their favorite headphones and continue to use them every day, in and out of the office. Our team noticed that they are very versatile: we found them comfortable for traveling, working, going to the gym, exercising outdoors, sleeping, and just about everything.
In our experience, Apple’s AirPods Pro are some of the best-sounding, noise-cancelling headphones on the market. Office conversations and airplane noise disappear with noise cancellation activated. New features like swipe to control volume, a lanyard on the case, and multiple ear tips in the box are really just a bonus.
Noise Cancellation: Yeah | Transparency: Yeah | Battery duration: Rated up to 6 hours (ANC on) | wireless charging: Yeah | Waterproof: IPX4 | multipoint Bluetooth: No | Works best with: iOS, Mac OS | ear tips: Silicone (XS, S, M, L included)
Best Overall: Sony Linkbuds S
Advantages: Jack of all trades, great app from Sony
Cons: Bland design
The Sony Linkbuds S were another Select favorite and won the Wellness Award. While they weren’t the best at any task, they were above average at everything we threw at them: voice calls, noise cancellation, fitness, you name it. One area where the Linkbuds S edged out the competition was size: They’re small, lightweight earbuds that you can easily forget you’re wearing.
While they launched with an MSRP of $200, we’ve often seen them priced at $150, a great price for the features they offer.
Noise Cancellation: Yeah | Transparency: Yeah | Battery duration: Rated up to 6 hours (ANC on) | wireless charging: No | Waterproof: IPX4 | multipoint Bluetooth: Yeah | Works best with: Android, iOS | ear tips: Silicone (XS, S, M, L included)
Best Budget: Jabra Elite 3
Advantages: Good price, very waterproof
Cons: Without automatic noise cancellation
For less than $100, you can get a great, if basic, pair of wireless earbuds in the Jabra Elite 3. While they don’t have automatic noise cancellation, we found that they get all the basics right: a comfortable fit, easy to use, and easy to use. -In-ear controls, good sound quality, great battery life and compatibility with iOS and Android.
Noise Cancellation: No | Transparency: Yeah | Battery duration: Rated up to 7 hours | wireless charging: No | Waterproof: IP55 | multipoint Bluetooth: No | Works best with: Android, iOS | ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Best Splurge: Sony WF-1000XM4
Advantages: Excellent sound quality and noise cancellation.
Cons: Large and heavy design
The Sony WF-1000XM4 may have a terrible name, but they are some of the best-sounding headphones we tested. Music and mids sounded rich and more detailed compared to the competition. These headphones are larger than most, which can be a little uncomfortable for physical activity, but that size allows for a long battery life of eight hours.
Noise Cancellation: Yeah | Transparency: Yeah | Battery duration: Rated up to 8 hours (ANC on) | wireless charging: Yeah | Waterproof: IPX4 | multipoint Bluetooth: Yeah | Works best with: Android or iOS via app | ear tips: Foam (S, M, L)
Best for exercising: Beats Fit Pro
Advantages: Excellent fit, simple button controls
Cons: The case could be improved
The Beats Fit Pro have been my go-to fitness headphones for years and are still my favorites after comparing them to other fitness-oriented options. The wingtip design creates a secure fit that never fails during runs, bike rides or gym activity. Unlike ear-hook headphones, the Beats Fit Pro case is small enough to fit comfortably in most pockets.
Noise Cancellation: Yeah | Transparency: Yeah | Battery duration: Rated up to 6 hours (ANC on) | wireless charging: No | Waterproof: IPX4 | multipoint Bluetooth: No | Works best with: Android, iOS | Ear pads: Silicone (S, M, L)
Cheap headphones for every day: Skullcandy Dimes 2
Advantages: Very accessible
Cons: Some quality control issues
Consumer Reports senior technology editor Allen St. John recommends the Skullcandy Dimes 2 as “an absolute bargain.” They cost less than $30, much less than the other options on our list. You get what you paid for: They don’t sound as good and don’t have as many features as our other recommendations. But as a budget-friendly option, they have John’s recommendation, “especially for someone who tends to lose things,” he said.
Noise Cancellation: No | Transparency: No | Battery duration: Rated up to 3.5 hours | wireless charging: No | Waterproof: IPX4 | multipoint Bluetooth: No | Works best with: Android, iOS | Ear pads: Silicone (S, M, L)
How to buy wireless headphones
There are hundreds of wireless headphones on the market. Although many look the same, they can vary greatly in features and price (so you may want to use a credit card to purchase them). Below are some factors to consider when purchasing a new pair.
Operating system (iOS and Android)
Not all wireless headphones work well with iOS and Android devices. If you use Apple AirPods on an Android device, for example, most of their features will be difficult or impossible to use. Headphones that work well on both platforms tend to have useful standalone apps that can help control noise cancellation, audio equalization, and more.
Automated noise cancellation and transparency
Noise cancellation and transparency modes are incredibly useful features that add versatility to wireless headphones. Noise cancellation blocks outside sound, while transparency mode lets sound in so you can better hear the noise around you, a useful safety feature for activities like running outdoors. However, both features tend to increase the price. If you don’t need either feature, consider a more affordable pair of headphones that do without one or both.
Water and dust resistance
Water and dust resistance is indicated by the headphones’ IP (ingress protection) rating. IP ratings are indicated by two numbers, for example IP55. The first digit represents intrusion protection against dust and debris. The second digit indicates protection against moisture.
If you want to use your headphones in wet and rainy conditions, get a pair with a higher IP rating; they are less likely to malfunction under such conditions. We recommend a moisture protection index of at least four.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
Why trust Select?
Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter for Select and has covered consumer technology for more than three years. For this article, he tested more than a dozen premium wireless earbuds. He spoke to other tech journalists like Allen St. John to understand an outside perspective. He also spoke to other members of the Select team about his experience with the same headphones from Apple, Sony, Jabra and more.
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