Ready to cut the cord? Here’s our guide to the best Bluetooth wireless headphones of 2016
Apple’s decision to ditch the traditional headphone socket from the new iPhone 7 has really caused a stir. But whatever type of smartphone you own, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by opting for a set of Bluetooth wireless headphones. As well as providing the convenience of a tangle-free wireless connection, Bluetooth headphones are compatible with most types of smartphones and mobile devices, so you never have to worry if they’ll work with the latest models.
Bluetooth headphones come in all shapes and sizes, too. There are compact in-ear headphones for sport and exercise, as well as larger on-ear and over-ear headphones that provide additional features such as noise cancellation and longer battery life. So read our buyer’s guide to find out which are the best wireless Bluetooth headphones for you.
The best wireless headphones you can buy
£289.95 Buy now
Bose is synonymous with active noise-cancelling headphones, and for good reason. The company's noise-cancelling technology is some of the best out there, making your daily commute ever-so-slightly more bearable. However, until the release of the QC35, you still had to deal with the inconvenience of cabled headphones. The QC35, thankfully, embraces Bluetooth to cut the cord. The resulting headphones are just as great as the earlier QC25, so they're terrifically comfortable with great noise cancellation and excellent sound quality. Battery life on the QC35 is good too, lasting 20 hours with Bluetooth or 40 hours when using the optional audio cable. Pricey, but they’re the best.
SPECS - Headphone type: Over-ear headset, Plug type: 2.5mm headset jack plug (optional), Weight: 310g, Cable length: 1.2m
The best wireless headphones under £100
£79.00 Buy now
The BackBeat Sense headphones are a bit of a bargain, as a recent price cut means that you can now pick them up for less than £100. The sound quality might not satisfy audiophiles – the mid-range in particular could use a little more emphasis – but it’s perfectly respectable for headphones in this price range. They’re neatly designed, too, with a weight of just 140g ensuring that the padded earpieces rest comfortably on your ears for hours at a time. Battery life is very good, lasting close to the claimed 18 hours, and there are some high-tech goodies too, such as a motion sensor that can pause your music when you remove the headphones.
SPECS - Headphone type: On-ear Bluetooth, Plug type: 3.5mm headset jack plug, Weight: 140g, Cable length: 1.2m
Sudio VASA BLA Bluetooh Wireless In-Ear Earphones with Charger for iPhone 6/6s/7/7 Plus - White with Rose Gold Metal
£69.99 Buy now
The name’s a bit of a head-scratcher, but the Vasa Bla is a stylish set of in-ear Bluetooth headphones that provides a great sound at a competitive price. The rose gold finish and sturdy flat cables look nice and smart, and the headphones come with a classy little leather carrying case to help keep them safe when you’re on the move.
The sound signature has plenty of detail, and the bass isn't too overbearing, allowing the treble to shine through clearly. Battery life is around eight hours, and our only real complaint is that you don’t get much warning when the battery is running low.
SPECS - Headphone type: In-ear Bluetooth, Plug type: N/A, Weight: 14g, Cable length: N/A
3. Lindy BNX-60
£62.90 Buy now
The sound of silence often comes with a premium price, but Lindy’s BNX-60 is one of the most affordable sets of noise-cancelling headphones we’ve come across. Throw in Bluetooth connectivity as well, and they’re a bit of a bargain at around £80.
The large, padded ear cups are nice and comfortable for long journeys, and battery life is rated at 15 hours with Bluetooth, or 30 hours if you decide to use the included audio cable instead. Sound quality is very good when using the noise-cancellation feature – the bass is a little boomy, rather than tight and focused, but the mid- and higher frequencies ring out nice and clear, and work well with a variety of musical genres.
SPECS - Headphone type: Over-ear headset, Plug type: 3.5mm jack plug, Weight: 998g, Cable length: 1.5m
The best wireless headphones under £200
£199.95 Buy now
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II are incredibly comfortable, thanks to their large, padded earpieces and contoured headband. Their sturdy design is ideal for outdoor use, and also includes a noise-cancelling microphone for voice calls when you’re out and about. The headphones fold flat for easy storage, and you get a convenient carry case too, which makes the SoundLink a great choice for commuters. Sound quality is great, with excellent battery life – up to 15 hours with Bluetooth, and you can carry on listening to music once the battery dies thanks to its 3.5mm audio cable.
SPECS - Headphone type: Over-ear headset, Plug type: 3.5mm jack plug, Weight: 196g, Cable length: 1.2m
£185.58 Buy now
The original Fidelio M1BT was one of our favourite sets of closed, Bluetooth wireless headphones and the M2BT continue to improve on that formula. Those big padded earpieces are supremely comfortable, and they sound fantastic too, with an attractive bass sound that is firm but not overpowering. Integrated controls in the earpieces make changing volume and tracks really convenient, and there's also a built-in microphone for hands-free voice calls. Battery life is around ten hours when using Bluetooth for wireless music, but you can still use them with the included audio cable when the battery runs flat. There’s a cheaper, wired version available and a more expensive version that has Apple’s Lightning connector, so make sure you choose the right version before buying.
SPECS - Headphone type: On-ear Bluetooth, Plug type: 3.5mm headset jack plug, Weight: 190g, Cable length: 1.2m
Trainer by Gibson TI100 Wireless Sport In-Ear Headphones designed with Usain Bolt ( Aeroflex rail, Bluetooth, LED light), black
£148.74 Buy now
These in-ear phones are endorsed by the mighty Usain Bolt himself, so you won’t be surprised that they're geared specifically towards running. They have some particularly runner-friendly features, such as a flashing LED light that makes it easier to be seen at night, and a special SafeSound mode that lowers the volume and bass so that you can hear traffic and other nearby sounds. Sound quality is very good, with plenty of deep bass presence, so they’re a great choice if you like thumping dance tracks for your workout routine. Battery life is relatively modest at around 6.5 hours, but that should be more than plenty for a quick jog around the park.
SPECS - Headphone type: In-ear Bluetooth, Plug type: N/A, Weight: 100g, Cable length: N/A
Should I buy a pair of in-ear headphones?
Wireless headphones are all about convenience, as the Bluetooth wireless tech allows you to ditch those annoying, tangled cables and just start listening to your music with a quick tap of a button. If convenience is your number-one priority, then a set of compact in-ear headphones might well be your best option. They’re ideal for running and other forms of exercise, as well as general day-to-day use. You can simply slip them into your pocket when you’re finished, or just leave them dangling around your neck like a high-tech fashion accessory.
How much should I spend?
We’ve seen in-ear Bluetooth headphones for as little as £30, and these can provide surprisingly good sound quality. We’ve even seen some at this price that include the high-quality AptX version of Bluetooth, which is well worth having if your smartphone or other devices also support AptX. However, some of these cheaper headphones may lack a built-in microphone, or have only limited battery life, so keep an eye out for those features before making a decision.
Above the £50 level you’ll get better audio quality, of course, as well as additional features such as water- and sweat-resistant headphones for sporty people, and a wider selection of tips for the earpieces, in order to provide a good, firm fit. However, you’ll probably need to step up to £100 or more to get really top-quality sound from in-ear headphones, including the powerful bass that many people seem to prefer for dance tracks, or getting motivated at the gym. Few in-ear headphones provide noise-cancellation features, though, and that’s something that tends to be reserved for top-tier models costing £200 or more.
Are on-ear headphones better for sound quality?
On-ear headphones – or ‘cans’ – have made something of a comeback in recent years, and many people prefer them as the larger earpieces can provide a richer, more powerful sound.
Again, you can get some very respectable on-ear Bluetooth headphones for less than £50, and the larger size of the headphones allows them to include bigger batteries for longer-lasting music. The build quality won’t be great at this price, so it’s worth paying £50 - £100 for a set of headphones that provide better audio quality and a good, sturdy design.
The £100 mark is also where other features, such as noise-cancellation start to appear as well (although the best noise-cancelling headphones can still cost £250 or more). Many on-ear headphones at this price level will also include additional accessories, such as a carrying case, or audio cables that will allow you to use them as ordinary wired headphones if the battery runs flat.
Around £150-£200, you’ll get really good sound quality and powerful bass, while beyond this price range the serious audiophile end of the market often opts for larger ‘over-ear’ headphones that cover your entire ear. This helps them to block out background noise so that they can bathe your ears in the most luxurious sound possible.