Best headphones 2023: the top wireless headphones reviewed
The best headphones you can buy right now
If you’re searching for sonic satisfaction, the best headphones will give your ears a treat. From top-spec cans to excellent earbuds for exercise, we’ve listened to all of the top wireless headphones. And to help you find the right set for your lucky lugs, we’ve rounded up our favourites right here.
To assess the best headphones, our keen-eared team puts every pair through a playlist of tests. Reggae or rave, home or high street: we check the sonic chops of every set in a range of real-world listening scenarios. So if they’re featured in our list below, you know they’ve earned their spot.
Whether you’re shopping for in-ear or on-ear, we’ve highlighted a wide selection of winning wireless headphones in this guide. If you’re looking specifically for noise-cancelling cans to hush the outside world, it’s worth checking out our separate round-up of those. We’ve also reviewed and rated the top true wireless earbuds, the best cheap headphones, and our pick of wired headphones for audiophiles who prefer a cabled connection.
What are the best headphones?
- Best headphones overall: Sony WH-1000XM5
With a comfortable fit, superb sound and top-class noise cancelling, these are the best over-ear wireless headphones you can buy.
- Best in-ear headphones: Sony WF-1000XM4
Endlessly engaging and ergonomically excellent, Sony takes the true wireless crown with these outstanding earbuds.
- Best headphones for fitness: Beats Fit Pro
Competitive battery, punchy sound and a lock-tight fit put the Beats Fit Pro at the front of the fitness pack.
Our pick of the best headphones you can buy
Sony’s WH-1000XM4 were already our favourite pair of noise-cancelling wireless headphones. The WH-1000XM5 improve the recipe in all the right ways. In testing, we enjoyed enhanced clarity and beautifully precise sound reproduction, courtesy of new 30mm carbon fibre composite drivers.
Sony has also refined the noise-cancelling performance. Adaptive Sound Control automatically detects your environment and adapts ANC settings accordingly, hushing background noise with ease. It’s particularly effective at higher frequencies.
The XM5 don’t have folding arms like their predecessors, so the wedge-shaped charging case is a little bulkier. Still, while some rivals look more premium, few are quite as comfortable to wear for extended periods, and we experienced no fatigue during testing. They might cost more than before, but the WH-1000XM5 are worth every penny.
With superb sound and top-drawer noise cancelling, these are the best over-ear headphones you can buy
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
Successors to the superb PX7, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 are another pair of accomplished wireless headphones. Familiar by design, the physical setup hasn’t significantly changed. They’re still built well with premium materials, and they still feature a slightly tricky row of physical controls on the right ear cup. What’s disappeared is the 3.5mm headphone port.
At 57g heavier than the WH-1000XM5, ear fatigue can be an issue after long listens, but the PX7 S2 are otherwise very comfortable. And that’s good, because you’ll want to keep listening to their 40mm driver units: they deliver consistent, well-balanced sound, with the option to tweak the EQ through the app. ANC isn’t the absolute strongest, but it works well and, crucially, doesn’t impact the sound signature.
A premium treat in tidy packaging, these second-gen B&W headphones please the ears with great sound quality and impressive ANC
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Their styling might be slightly anonymous, but there’s nothing forgettable about how these Sennheiser headphones sound. 42mm full-range dynamic drivers deliver a listen that’s bold, detailed and enjoyable, while eight mics are deployed for noise cancelling duties. You don’t get a blanket of silence, but ramp up the ANC and background noise is significantly reduced.
Battery life is simply epic at 60 hours, and it’s not the only element that can go the distance: thanks to a robust construction and high standard of finish, the Momentum 4 feel built to last. Their cushioned headband is comfy, while the folding ear cups prove handy for packing. Add a comprehensive partner app into the equation, plus a competitive price tag, and their low profile isn’t so significant.
Generic styling aside, these Sennheisers have the build, the sound and the battery to mix it up with the best
Not content with making the best on-ear wireless headphones, Sony also makes our favourite pair of true wireless earbuds. Follow-up to the brilliant WF-1000XM3 – which still represent excellent value – the upgraded WF-1000XM4 deliver a listening experience that’s equal parts punchy and detailed. With a balanced sound signature, we found them both accurate and enjoyable in testing.
Besides their sonic talents, these Sony ‘phones offer some of the best noise cancellation we’ve experienced in a set of wireless earbuds. Touch-sensitive controls are easy to use and can be usefully customised in the partner app, along with ANC and EQ settings. Some competitors do offer a bigger battery backup in the charging case, but the benefit is an updated design that’s now much more pocket-friendly than before.
Top-notch across the board, these Sony ‘buds set a new bar for in-ear listening
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
With some sensible tweaks, Sennheiser’s third-gen Momentum True Wireless earbuds secure their place among the best wireless headphones. Build quality is every bit as robust as before, while a meaningful reduction in dimensions means they look and feel less chunky.
Put the 7mm drivers to work and your ears will enjoy a poised recital. Rather than overwhelming with bass, the MTW3 prefer balance and fidelity, demonstrating remarkable sonic control. Detail is also engrossing across the entirety of the spacious, tonal soundstage.
Each earbud’s touch interface can be customised in the feature-filled app. Enable ANC and you’ll find the sonic attitude shifts a little, but they still retain that likeable balance while cancelling external sounds almost entirely. Battery life is above average at seven hours, too.
More compact than before, Sennheiser’s third-gen wireless earbuds have poise, fidelity and features to spare
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Not the newest cans in this list, Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 remain the benchmark if call quality and ANC are high on your list. As you’d expect from the pioneer of noise-cancelling cans, their muting abilities are remarkable when dialled up to 11. Six mics assist with ANC, while two more enhance vocal pick-up for amazing call clarity.
Forged from a single piece of stainless steel, there are no visible hinges on the headband. Helpfully, the earcups can rotate to flat for carrying. Foam in all the right places keeps things comfy, even if they squeeze more than the QC35 II.
While they won’t knock Sony off its perch, they’re no sonic slouches. There’s range, subtlety and balance here, with just enough punch to the playback. 20-hour battery life is below average in 2023, but there’s plenty of value here at their current price.
Others are sonically superior, but exceptional noise cancelling makes the Bose all-rounders hard to beat
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen)
A compelling upgrade to Apple’s excellent wireless earphones, the seecond-gen AirPods Pro deliver a leap in sound quality and features. Already the smartest earbuds for Apple users, the second edition harnesses a H2 chip to enhance ANC performance. This is so effective at blocking background noise that we found ourselves using the improved Transparency mode more often.
Overall audio is beefier than before, while a software update means Spatial Audio can be personalised through analysis of your ears. Swipe volume controls on the stem aren’t the most accurate way to make adjustments, but the addition of a speaker to the charging case means you get sonic assistance when searching for it with FindMy. Battery life has also been boosted, although the increase isn’t immediately noticeable.
Even more feature-packed than previously, a meaningful update reaffirms the position of Apple’s top-spec AirPods among the best wireless earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Already five-star wireless earphones, the second-gen QuietComfort Earbuds make the best bits even better. Smaller and lighter, the QCE II are easier on the ear and the eye, with swappable tips and stability bands ensuring a snug fit. Each compact stems features a touch surface that’s responsive and customisable.
In the ear, 9.3mm full-range drivers produce a soundstage that’s expansive yet packed with detail, paired with bass that’s bold but controlled. Others do more with dynamic variations, but the Bose ’buds don’t want for nuance. They also excel when it comes to ANC. Eight mics help them deal convincingly with ambient noise, and we experience no sense of in-ear pressure. You’ll find better battery life elsewhere, but these are easily Bose’s best earphones to date.
With exemplary ANC, engaging sound and easier dimensions, Bose’s second-gen earbuds are a compelling package
Beats Fit Pro
Pairing the intelligence of AirPods with a sporty shell, the Beats Fit Pro are the best fitness earphones you can buy. A flexible wingtip setup creates a secure and comfortable fit, which stays put throughout a workout. There’s no off button, but wear-detect sensors stop PB playlists getting away from you. Battery life won’t set any records, but it’s good enough at six hours.
With Apple’s H1 chip sending signals to 9.5mm drivers, sound quality is fantastic. You get the same ANC and Transparency modes as the first-gen AirPods Pro, as well as an adaptive EQ which adjusts the sound profile to your environment. Competitors can go louder, but the Fit Pro benefit from punchy bass and crisp detail. There’s support for spatial audio, too.
Putting AirPods tech in active packaging, the Beats Fit Pro score highly for their fit, features and outright sound quality
Apple AirPods Max
With anodised aluminium earcups, a stainless steel headband and a knit mesh canopy, the AirPods Max bear all the hallmarks of Apple design. The trade-off is that they’re noticeably heavier than plastic rivals, which can cause them to pinch the temples after lengthy sessions. Still, their performance credentials match the premium build.
Combined with 40mm drivers, Apple’s H1 chip powers an adaptive EQ which automatically adjusts audio based on the fit. The result is a rich, spacious and enveloping soundstage. There’s detail to spare, plus they offer low-end oomph without sacrificing clarity. They also cancel noise as well as anything out there. There’s better value to be found higher in this list, but for Apple fans who can handle the heft, the Max don’t disappoint.
Heavyweight headphones with a matching price tag, rich audio and superb ANC means the AirPods Max impress in high-end style