Bid farewell to pesky audio cables with the best Bluetooth headphones you can buy in 2023
The best Bluetooth headphones have surged in popularity over the past few years. People are ditching wired headphones in favour of their wireless counterparts and you’ll be hard-pushed to find a manufacturer that doesn’t include at least one pair of wireless headphones in its product lineup.
There’s a pair out there for everyone no matter their style preference, but with so many features and factors to consider, selecting the best Bluetooth headphones for your needs isn’t always straightforward. To help you find the perfect pair, we’ve tested a huge range of options and compiled a roundup of our favourites across every form factor and price bracket.
You’ll find our picks grouped into five categories: true wireless earbuds, over-ear, on-ear, in-ear and bone conduction, along with some honourable mentions that are also worth considering. Below the list, you’ll find a comprehensive buying guide explaining the pros and cons of each style of headphones and the key things to look out for when deciding which pair is right for you.
Best Bluetooth headphones: At a glance
- Best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000X4 | Buy now from Amazon (£199)
- Best over-ear headphones: Sony WH-1000XM5 | Buy now from Amazon (£320)
- Best on-ear headphones: Marshall Major IV | Buy now from Amazon (£130)
- Best earphones: Beats Flex Buy now from Amazon (£150)
- Best bone-conduction headphones: Shokz OpenRun Pro | Buy now from Amazon (£160)
JUMP TO: Best over-ear Bluetooth headphones
JUMP TO: Best on-ear Bluetooth headphones
JUMP TO: Best Bluetooth earphones
JUMP TO: Best bone-conduction headphones
How we test the best Bluetooth headphones
Wireless connectivity is integral to Bluetooth headphones so we begin testing by evaluating how easy it is to connect the headphones to your audio source and assess the stability of the connection in a variety of environments.
These environments include home offices, parks, gyms and while commuting, and if there are any audio dropouts in busy places like train stations, this is duly noted. A similar range of environments is used to test other areas of performance, including audio and microphone quality and noise cancellation.
When testing sound quality, we listen to audio across a range of content types (music, TV shows, audiobooks and films) and multiple genres to ensure we gain an appreciation of how the headphones handle sound across the frequency spectrum. Whichever Bluetooth codecs are supported will be tested extensively, as will support for other audio formats such as Spatial Audio or Dolby Atmos and any audio options like EQ presets or a customisable equaliser.
Noise-cancellation tests are conducted both at home and further afield. Basic tests include using appliances such as boiling kettles and washing machines to assess how well headphones attenuate more mundane external distractions, while we also put them through their paces in more demanding environments such as at airports or on the London rail network.
We’ll test the full suite of features and functionality in as many different locales as possible, making and receiving calls in high-traffic areas to assess mic quality, fully exploring any companion app options if they’re available, using the full range of touch or physical controls, all the while assessing the comfort of the headphones and whether their battery life tallies with what the manufacturer claims.
The best Bluetooth headphones to buy (true wireless earbuds)
1. Sony WF-1000XM4: Best wireless earbuds overall
Price when reviewed: £250 | Check price at Amazon
As a true wireless package, the Sony WF-1000XM4 simply can’t be beaten. Their noise-cancellation is smart and effective, sound quality is excellent and the buds are smaller and more aesthetically appealing than their predecessor the WF-1000XM3.
They also come with an all-important IPX4 rating for water resistance, so are a solid choice for exercise both at the gym and outdoors, while the range of customisation options with the Sony Headphones Connect app is extensive. You can personalise touch controls, create custom EQs and have the earbuds switch sound and noise-cancelling profiles on your location and what you’re doing.
Other earbuds may do certain things better than the WF-1000XM4 – the Bose QC Earbuds are more effective at reducing the impact of external sound, for instance – but no earbuds get quite as much right as Sony’s most recent in-ear offering.
Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: N/A; Weight: 6g per earbud, 41g charging case; Cable length: N/A; Stated battery life: ANC on – 8 hours (earbuds), 24 hours (including charging case)
2. 1MORE PistonBuds: Best cheap wireless earbuds
Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at Amazon
With responsive touch controls, IPX4 water resistance and a comfortable, secure fit, the PistonBuds are our pick of the huge number of affordable earbuds on the market. They sit extremely snuggly in your ears and offer decent passive noise cancellation, while sound quality is solid, with the 7mm dynamic drivers delivering plenty of bass and reasonable vocal clarity given the price.
Battery life is roughly 20 hours at moderate volume, which is respectable, while the four built-in microphones do an effective job of picking up and communicating your voice while on phone calls. If you’re looking for an entry point into the world of true wireless earbuds, the PistonBuds are our recommended place to start.
Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: N/A; Weight: 4.2g per earbud, 36g charging case; Cable length: N/A; Stated battery life: 4 hours (earbuds), 20 hours (including charging case)
The best Bluetooth headphones (over-ear)
3. Sony WH-1000XM5: Best Bluetooth headphones, bar none
Price when reviewed: £349 | Check price at John Lewis
The latest iteration of Sony’s flagship over-ear headphones is its best yet, with improved sound quality, more effective noise cancellation, and a new “noiseless” design. That design may not be for everyone, but we love the XM5’s minimalist aesthetic and they’re ridiculously comfortable, too.
All the great features found on their predecessors are present and correct, including Speak-to-Chat, Quick Attention mode, Multipoint pairing, Adaptive Sound Control and wear detection, while Headphones Connect remains one of the best companion apps around.
Sony still hasn’t made the XM5 water-resistant, so they’re not gym-ready, but this is one of just a couple of criticisms we have of them. The other pertains to price – the XM5 are £30 more expensive than their predecessors were at launch.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: 3.5mm jack (optional); Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m; Stated battery life: ANC on – 30 hours, ANC off – 40 hours
4. Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Best over-ear Bluetooth headphones under £100
Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Amazon
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are an affordable pair of over-ear headphones brimming with features. Chief among those features is active noise cancellation, which is very effective for the money and a match for many more expensive alternatives. There are three levels of ANC available and they’re easily switched between via the Anker Soundcore app.
The app also provides access to a range of customisation options, including 22 EQ presets and the ability to create your own sound profile using an eight-band graphic equaliser. Bass is dominant in the default tuning so there’s a good chance you’ll want to dial it back a bit but over-emphasised lows are one of only two real weaknesses, the other being a lack of aesthetic appeal. But awesome ANC, a comfortable fit and above-average battery life more than make up for any shortcomings and make the Life Q30 our favourite budget Bluetooth over-ear headphones.
Read our Anker Soundcore Life Q30 review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: 3.5mm jack (optional); Weight: 265g; Cable length: 1.2m; Stated battery life: ANC on – 40 hours, ANC off – 60 hours
The best Bluetooth headphones to buy in 2023 (on-ear)
5. Marshall Major IV: Best on-ear Bluetooth headphones overall
Price when reviewed: £130 | Check price at Argos
The Marshall Major IV offer unrivalled battery life in their class, with 80 hours of audio playback on a single charge. They’re no one-trick pony though, and deliver mids and treble wonderfully well, which makes listening to guitar-dominated genres such as rock and indie especially engaging.
They look striking, too, with a textured black vinyl headband and Marshall’s instantly recognisable logo embossed on the outside of each earpad. Though their bass reproduction can’t match that of the Beats Solo Pro above, this ultra-portable pair of headphones are the ideal choice for those seeking both stamina and style.
Read our Marshall Major IV review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: On-ear; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: N/A; Weight: 165g; Cable length: 1.5m; Stated battery life: 80 hours
6. Jabra Elite 45h: Best on-ear Bluetooth headphones under £100
Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at Amazon
The packaging of the Jabra Elite 45h states they’re engineered to be the best-in-class on-ear wireless headphones, which is a pretty bold claim. They are up there though, particularly when it comes to battery life. The Elite 45h can be used for up to 50 hours without needing a charge: more than double that of many of the other headphones on this list. They’re comfortable too, with soft memory foam ear cushions sitting unobtrusively on your ears and a lightweight frame that feels almost non-existent on your head.
Sonically, the Elite 45h’s 40mm drivers are capable of delivering some serious sound: maximum volume is ear-splittingly loud so you’ll want to be careful on public transport as there’s significant sound leakage as a result of the on-ear design. Overall audio quality is impressive with vocals and trebles especially well-articulated and there are a range of customisation options in the Jabra Sound+ app. These include the ability to create your own EQ, choose from six presets or have Jabra create a personalised sound profile for you. The latter option, which Jabra calls MySound, didn’t sound that different to the default profile during our testing but both proved thoroughly enjoyable listens.
Key specs – Headphone type: On-ear; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: N/A; Weight: 160g; Cable length: N/A; Stated battery life: 50 hours
7. Beats Flex: Best cheap Bluetooth earphones
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at Amazon
The Beats Flex have seen a minor price increase since we reviewed them but they remain the best value-for-money earphones on the market thanks to excellent sound quality, solid battery life and a smart neckband design incorporating an in-line remote.
The buds clip together magnetically when not in use and this automatically pauses audio – a rather neat feature – while pairing with Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones is seamless. The Flex is also able to take advantage of Apple’s audio-sharing feature and their in-built microphone enables them to double up as a Bluetooth headset for calls and voice assistant commands.
A lack of any form of waterproofing means they’re a poor choice for exercise but the Flex do a marvellous job in just about every other situation.
Read our Beats Flex review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: Wireless earphones; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: USB-C (charging only); Weight: 19g; Cable length: N/A; Stated battery life: 12 hours
The best Bluetooth headphones to buy (bone-conduction)
8. Shokz OpenRun Pro: Best bone-conduction headphones
Price when reviewed: £159 | Check price at Selfridges
If you’re after the best bone-conduction headphones money can buy, look no further than the Shokz OpenRun Pro. They’re the only headphones in Shokz’s lineup to use its ninth-generation technology and deliver the best audio quality of any bone-conduction options we’ve tested. They also boast class-leading battery life, a comfortable and stable fit and vibrate less on your cheekbones than their predecessors.
Their IP55 rating for dust and water resistance is inferior to the original OpenRun, which are IP67-rated and cost £30 less, but otherwise, the Pro version surpasses its stablemate in every way.
Read our full Shokz OpenRun Pro review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: Bone conduction; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Plug type: N/A; Weight: 29g; Cable length: N/A; Stated battery life: 10 hours
9. Shokz OpenMove: Best entry-level bone-conduction headphones
Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Amazon
We’ve not reviewed the Shokz OpenMove but are happy to recommend them as they’re essentially the same as their AfterShokz namesakes.
They’re Shokz’s most affordable bone-conduction headphones, costing £50 less than the OpenRun, and make some concessions to reach that lower price point. Their earhooks are crafted from polycarbonate rather than rubber-coated titanium and are slightly less flexible as a result, which affects their fit somewhat, while their IP rating and battery life are inferior too, too.
Their IP55 rating is still more than good enough for most situations but you’ll want to avoid submerging them in water as they’re not completely waterproof like their more expensive stablemates. Battery life clocks in at up to six hours of audio playback and there are three EQ modes available.
If you’ve got the budget for the OpenRun Pro we recommend going for them, but the OpenMove are a solid entry point into the world of bone-conduction audio if you’re wanting to see whether the technology is right for you.
Read our AfterShokz OpenMove review for more details
Key specs – Headphone type: Bone conduction; Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Weight: 29g; Cable length: N/A; Stated battery life: 6 hours
How to choose the best Bluetooth headphones for you
Video of How to choose the best wireless headphones
There are a lot of things to consider when buying a pair of Bluetooth headphones. To help you decide which pair are right for you, we’ve put together a handy buying guide arming you with all the information you need to make an informed purchase.
What are the advantages of Bluetooth headphones?
There are a couple of practical benefits to removing the wired connection from headphones. You’ll never have to untangle a knotted cable, which can be a real nuisance, and there’s nothing to catch or snag on your clothes while you’re enjoying your audio.
It also means you don’t have to be in the same room as your output device – as long as you’re within Bluetooth range, you’ll be able to continue listening at your leisure. These factors make for a far more user-friendly experience, particularly if you’re using your Bluetooth headphones while out and about or exercising.
Are there any disadvantages to Bluetooth headphones?
Unlike wired headphones, Bluetooth headphones are battery-powered and therefore require charging. The battery life of Bluetooth headphones varies depending on the style – on- and over-ear headphones typically have longer battery life than in-ear headphones as they are larger and can accommodate bigger batteries. True wireless earbuds boost their battery life with the inclusion of a portable charging case they’re stored in while not in use.
The other disadvantages of wireless headphones relate to Bluetooth connectivity. In busy areas such as train stations, you may find experience audio dropouts or stuttering. This is becoming less of an issue with every new Bluetooth version though, so isn’t something you should worry about too much. Similarly, wired headphones can deliver superior audio quality via their cabling, but improvements to Bluetooth technology and the advent of advanced Bluetooth codecs are helping close the gap.
What type of Bluetooth headphones should I buy?
If convenience is your number-one priority, a set of in-ear Bluetooth headphones is your best option. There are two main forms of in-ear headphones – earphones, which have earpieces connected by thin wiring or a thicker neckband, and true wireless earbuds, which are completely wire-free.
Given their lightweight design, in-ear headphones are typically the best choice for running and other forms of exercise. They’re also very easily transported, which makes them a great choice for general day-to-day use. The downsides are that they’re generally less comfortable to wear for longer periods of time and they have less battery life than on- and over-ear headphones.
For many, on-ear and over-ear headphones are preferable both in terms of comfort and sound. These headphones feature earcups that create a seal over your ears or rest on top of them. The larger size of the headphones allows them to contain bigger speaker drivers for increased sonic output and more substantial batteries meaning you can listen for longer without having to charge them.
Finally, bone-conduction headphones create sound in a different way, using vibrations on your cheekbones to trigger nerve impulses that are sent to the brain and converted into sounds we’re able to hear. If you find other styles of headphones uncomfortable these may work best, and they allow you to be more aware of your surroundings too, which is very handy. Sound quality suffers as a result but that’s a tradeoff worth making for some.
READ NEXT: The best bone-conduction headphones to buy
How much should I spend on Bluetooth headphones?
Unsurprisingly, the more you pay, the more features you’ll get and the better quality your Bluetooth headphones will be. That’s not to say you should necessarily avoid cheaper pairs – you can surprisingly good Bluetooth headphones for as little as £30 if you just want a basic, decent-sounding option.
A mid-range pair of Bluetooth headphones will set you back somewhere in the region of £100 to £150, and it’s in that price bracket that you’ll find a more extensive range of features, which we’ll go into more detail about below.
Anything over £200 and you can expect top-notch audio and build quality in addition to a full suite of features. Headphones in this price bracket tend to be made by the industry’s big hitters such as Sony, Apple and Sennheiser.
What features should I look out for when buying Bluetooth headphones?
Active noise cancellation: ANC helps reduce the impact of external sound on your audio using clever microphone technology. We’re starting to see its inclusion in cheaper Bluetooth headphones but if you’re after the best noise-cancelling headphones around, prepare to pay upwards of £100.
Waterproofing: Headphones’ water resistance is reflected by their IP rating. Look for an IPX4 rating or above if you plan to use your headphones while exercising or want peace of mind while using them outside.
Multipoint pairing: This allows simultaneous Bluetooth connection to multiple devices, which is useful in numerous situations. Not all that many Bluetooth headphones support it, though.
Voice assistant support: If you like to use Siri, Google or Alexa a lot then you’ll want Bluetooth headphones that support the use of voice assistants. Some wireless headphones only support a specific assistant so make sure you check the headphone you like work with your assistant of choice.