14 of the best wireless headphones and earbuds
The Mixmag guide to the best wireless headphones and earbuds in 2021
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or just someone looking to test out new tunes on a quality device, it’s always nice to have a helping hand when it comes to choosing what headphones to go for. In recent years, tech companies have been experimenting with new ways to enhance their user’s listening experience by improving everything from the noise cancellation to where the pause button lies.
Read this next: The 7 best studio headphones
In 2021, pioneers of progressive audio technology have firmly set their sights on headphones with wireless connection, giving the user a chance to be more dynamic and on the go with where they enjoy their music. This has presented new challenges, with issues surrounding battery life and bluetooth connection determining what product users should go for.
We’ve put together a list of some wireless headphones and earbuds that will give you the best bang for your buck. From tech behemoths to audio manipulation visionaries to new companies on the block, here are 14 of the best.
Widely considered the best wireless headphones you can buy due to their excellent noise-cancellation, sound quality and lightweight design, the XM4 has a number of new features compared to its predecessor. Multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play using a built-in sensor means they are at the very height of cutting-edge wireless technology. With a clear sound signature, the headphones perfectly deliver bassy, energetic frequencies without overwhelming the other components, rendering them perfect for any music fan!
Bose noise-cancelling headphones 700
Bose’s best model yet, these cans offer class-leading noise cancellation and sound quality. At the forefront of noise-cancelling design since 2014, Bose’s latest model uses an eight-microphone system to help reject environmental noise. The mics also isolate your voice when using them so you sound clearer to the person on the other end of the line. This makes them the best in the market for calls while their clear, lively and well-balanced sound performance offers great vibrancy and clarity for music listening. These make for a great alternative to Sony, despite a shorter battery life.
Jabra Elite 85h
These are Jabra’s first over-ear headphones following their successes with wireless in-ear products. Sleek, sophisticated and beautifully designed, the 85h has a variety of modes that let the user choose from four different levels of noise cancelation: commute, in private, in public and no noise-cancellation. The most useful mod – in public – lets in just enough noise to hear announcements and other usual information, while still ensuring a high level of audio quality. With a great battery life and lots of personalisation these are a mighty fine wireless option; however, sound enthusiasts may feel they lack a certain punch when it comes to deeper, bassier sonics.
The Airpods Pro have really upped Apple’s game when it comes to bluetooth earbuds. Gone are the tapping UI, the lack of secure fit and the lack of noise cancellation. Every one of the issues have now been addressed, with a new design allowing for better comfort and more control of audio while the addition of active noise cancellation means the Pods are on par with renowned competition Sony and their WF-1000XM3 buds. The sound is clearly discernible between a range of frequencies, delivering perfectly balanced audio whatever your selection. Slightly shorter battery is one negative, but with the addition of the charging case you’ll rarely be found wanting.
Although a lot more expensive than anything Sony or Bose have done, these new wireless headphones from Apple certainly deliver when it comes to audio quality. A full-object surround sound delivers a superb soundstage with a rich, deep bass, perfect for any music lover. With a quirky, pushable wheel that sits on the top of the right can next to an adjustable noise cancellation button, they are simple to operate. There is a lower battery life than many of its competitors and a surprising feature which means they can never actually be turned off (supposedly to make for quicker pairing). However, when it comes to clarity and fullness of sound, they certainly rival the best on the market.
If you want quality assurance but don’t want to break the bank like you would with Apple’s products, the AU-Stream is a light earbud perfect for music creators and audio enthusiasts. The unique three-layer composite film speaker is tuned to perfection, delivering clarity and soundstage that you wouldn’t believe coming from a bud this size. With a range of ear tips that perfectly mould to each individual user’s ear, the design is also water resistant to sweat and low sustained water spray. Unlike the renowned AU-Stream ANC earbud, this lighter version does not have noise cancellation; however, for the price tag you’ll be hard pressed to find a more cost efficient option on the market.
AU-Flex Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Earphones
Another product from AUSOUNDS, these in-ear, neckband headphones deliver some of the best battery life available, clocking in a mightily impressive 22 hours. With a 10mm band driver, these headphones are best for those who like their music with the subs down low, delivering a clear and encompassing deep bass sound and a wide soundstage. With built-in controls that allow you to play and pause, skip tracks and talk to Siri or Google Assistant, these are perfect for anyone who is constantly on the go and likes to leave their phone in their pocket. The earbuds themselves don’t detach, but for those who prioritise audio quality over anything else, these work very nicely.
The Nuraloop is the world’s smartest earphone with award-winning sound technology that gives each user a completely personalised experience. The NuraLoop automatically learns how you hear in just a minute, before adapting the sound to the user’s individual hearing profile. The result is a depth and detail like you’ve never heard before, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the genres of your preference. Touch dial controls, voice calling, noise cancellation; it has all the other gizmos you come to expect from a bluetooth audio device, just with the extra bonus of tailoring the sonic experience to your own needs. With an accompanying app that explains the science behind the sound delivery, these are perfect for all day listening.
Just like their in-ear counterparts, the Nuraphone headphones deliver an experience that completely revolutionises personalised sound engineering. With two speakers on either side, the user will experience full sonic immersion with whatever beats they prefer. The over-ear drivers create the feeling of witnessing a live performance, giving the option to adjust your levels of optimisation to mirror standing at the back of the room to being front left in front of the speakers. This clever sound customisation means audio is loud without sacrificing detail and bassy without being oppressive. Priced at a smidge under £350, they offer another superb alternative to the likes of Sony’s WH-1000XM4.
If you’re a producer who likes to keep things wireless in the studio, this model from Japanese tech gear company Audio Technica is known for its durability and superb audio. Effectively just a wireless version of the previous ATH-M50 design, these cans provide a distinguished bass-heavy sound and an overall quality that makes them ideal for anyone who works in music or film. Without many of the additional features that most wireless headphones deploy, like all of their products Audio-Technica has always followed the ethos that sound quality comes before any other concerns. However, with a battery life in excess of 30 hours, few cans will be able to support your studio sesh as much as these.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
It’s rare to find buds that fit well, sound great and can hold up to a lifestyle on the go, but these are all qualities that see the Buds Pro outweigh the more established Airpods. Sleek, shiny and brilliantly manufactured, they have one of the smallest charging cases making them easily transportable, while the buds themselves fit perfectly in ear due to the optional tips that Samsung provide. The sound delivers both deep bass and super-detailed highs due to the dual driver array. This range ensures that whatever the selection, from the highest to lowest frequency, gets delivered with definitive lucidity.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7
Although far exceeding all other in-ear headphones in terms of their price, the PI7 from Bowers & Wilkins deliver incredible sound due to their adaptive noise-cancelling and dual hybrid drive units. These have individual built-in amplifiers which dynamically adjust sound while the six microphones give crystal-clear call clarity. 24-bit True Wireless design with Qualcomm aptX™ Adaptive gives connection reliability and a smart charging case means you can pick up and go wherever you are. Certainly pricey, but the PI7’s features deliver a strong audio performance.
When it comes to any headphone gear for DJing, it’s hard to look past Pioneer. Bulky, strong and with large earmuffs, they certainly look the part. That’s certainly not all however; as well as the durable build (which looks awesome as well), the HDJ-X5BT provides formidable audio quality powered by its 40mm drivers. You get the best out of the bass without it being overwhelming, clear mids that don’t get lost and highs that cut through delivering crisp snares and hats. Offering the same functionality as the original wired model, the X5BT’s allow the user to monitor music in any situation with easy Bluetooth connection. Whether you're a bedroom DJ or set to fly to Ibiza to play this summer, you’ll find these would fit the bill.
AIAIAI TMA-2 HD Wireless
AIAIAI takes its TMA-2 wireless offering to the next level with its HD version of the popular DJ/studio headphone. These cans feature HD 24-bit sound, an insanely comfy earpad and all of the high spec tech that you've come to expect from AIAIAI. Plus they look amazing.
Paddy Edrich is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter