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The best wireless headphones for 2024, tested and reviewed

Sony and Soundcore topped our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones.

The best wireless headphones for 2024, tested and reviewed

Headphones or earbuds? If you can't decide how best to pipe audio into your ear holes, allow me to make the case for cans: the best wireless headphones crush earbuds when it comes to battery life, and they're typically better at ANC (active noise-cancelling) as well. Many users also prefer the comfort of cushy ear-cups, aka "cans," to the screwed-into-your-ear-canals feel of earbuds.

Quick Overview

Sound good? Yes, sound very good: headphones have much larger drivers (the actual speakers inside) than earbuds, meaning they produce a larger soundstage: Music feels more like a concert than a club. If there's a downside, it's physical size: Headphones don't exactly fit in your pocket. But in nearly all other respects, they're a great choice for listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks and watching movies, TV and videos.

Drawing on years of consumer-tech expertise and a gazillion hours testing these things, I've rounded up some of the best wireless headphones you can buy right now. Whether you're looking for a great budget pick, world-class ANC or a TV-friendly option, you'll find it here. Still think you'd prefer earbuds? Here's my roundup of the best AirPods Pro alternatives.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones were widely regarded as one of the best on the planet, so was there really room for improvement? Turns out yes: The Sony XM5s are even better — not by leaps and bounds, but enough to cement their position at the top of the pack. Although rivals like the Bose 700 and Apple AirPods Max come close, Sony edges out the former with increased usability and the latter with a lower price.

Available in black, blue or silver, the XM5 weighs a bit less than its predecessor but also dispenses with a folding design, meaning they won't be quite as compact in your carry-on. That's really my only complaint with the XM5's design.

It probably goes without saying that sound quality should please even the pickiest audiophiles, in part thanks to Sony's exclusive LDAC Bluetooth codec, which supports Hi-Res Audio content — at least for Android users. (iPhone users will still enjoy premium sound, just not Sony-optimized.)

As for noise-cancelling, it's also excellent — though I would argue that the XM4 did a little better blocking out lower sounds like airplane engines.

I especially like Sony's speak-to-chat feature: If you start talking to someone, the music cuts out while the microphones cut in — the better to allow clear conversation. Touch controls make it simple to adjust volume, skip tracks, access your voice assistant and so on. And Sony promises up to 30 hours of listening on a charge — only about average, but still a good long time. A mere three minutes of charging nets you three extra hours of playtime.

The only real downside here is sticker shock: The XM5 has a list price of $400. Fortunately, stores like Amazon and Best Buy often run sales; I've seen this drop as low as $328 around the holidays and other events.

So if you own a pair of ears, consider owning Sony's headphones. They're a splurge, yes, but worth it for anyone who prizes a premium audio experience.

Pros
  • Premium sound
  • Superb noise-cancelling that automatically adapts to your environment
  • Wear detection
  • Lots of useful tools in Sony's companion app
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Non-folding design
  • Bass-heavy sound profile
$316 at Groupon
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$328 at Adorama$328 at Amazon

If you're wondering whether an $80 product can possibly rival one costing three or four times as much, get ready for a surprise: It can. Soundcore's Q30 offers sweet sound and robust ANC. On those merits alone, I'd have no qualms about recommending it. But to quote the old commercial: Wait, there's more.

Available in black, blue or pink, these 'phones can play for a whopping 60 hours on a charge, or 40 if you use ANC. Just five minutes of USB-C quick-charging nets you up to four additional hours. (That's for wireless play, by the way; Soundcore also supplies a stereo cord for wired listening, which requires no battery at all. But you do lose out on ANC, which is disappointing.)

I'm also bummed the Q30 doesn't auto-pause when you take it off (upgrade to the Soundcore Q35 if you want that capability), but there is one feature normally reserved for higher-end headphones: If you want to have a quick chat with someone, just cup your hand over the right earcup and the headphones will immediately enable Transparency Mode (which disables ANC so you can converse more comfortably). Very cool.

Also cool: Soundcore's app, which lets you choose from a ton of preset equalizer modes or create your own, plus toggle between the three noise-cancelling modes and adjust various settings. It has a selection of white-noise sounds as well.

Speaking of sounds, I agree with the over 60,000 (!) customer reviews that average out to 4.5 stars: The Q30 produces seriously good audio for the price and better-than-expected ANC.

All this for around $80 — and if you time it right, you're likely to get the Q30 for even less, as it goes on sale often.

Pros
  • Impressive battery life
  • Well-balanced sound
  • Good ANC
  • Low price
Cons
  • No wear detection
  • ANC doesn't work with wired connections
$80 at Amazon
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$86 at Newegg

It may look like an ordinary noise-cancelling headphone, but the Zvox AV52 has an extra trick up its sleeve: dialogue enhancement. That's great for anyone who struggles with hearing loss.

Indeed, if you like to binge movies and TV shows while logging your miles on the treadmill (or sitting on the couch — no judgment), you may have discovered that headphones aren't always good for that. All too often, the dialogue gets lost in the mix, an especially common problem for users with older ears. (I know; I'm one of them.)

That's why Zvox's AV52s are the no-brainer pick for TV watchers. Equipped with the company's AccuVoice technology (also found in Zvox soundbars), these headphones were designed specifically to give voices a boost. At the same time, they offer ANC functionality, the better to reduce the background noise made by your workout machine, neighbor's lawn mower and the like.

Available in a nice array of colors — black, blue, white or rose gold — these folding 'phones come in a zippered carrying case and include an audio cord if you want to switch to wired listening (like on an airplane). Zvox promises up to 24 hours of battery life on a charge (with ANC enabled), which is respectable but a bit below average.

These aren't the top-quality noise-cancellers in the group, not by a longshot, but they can definitely help those with hearing challenges better enjoy video.

Pros
  • AccuVoice tech boosts dialogue
  • Low price
Cons
  • So-so noise-cancelling
  • Battery life a bit below average
$60 at Amazon

You may not recognize the 1More brand, but the company has built a loyal following over the years with solid audio products at surprisingly low prices. Witness the 1More Aero wireless earbuds with spatial audio for just $80. Now, witness the SonoFlow over-the-ear headphone, which sounds superb and can last a whopping 70 hours on a charge.

Granted, that battery life can be achieved only with ANC turned off, but if it's on, you still get a virtually unrivaled 50 hours on a single charge. That's great for commuters and road-trippers, as you could literally through days of long listening sessions without having to recharge.

The headphones look fancier and more substantial than their midrange price would suggest — Sony's $150 WH-CH720N feels downright flimsy by comparison — and fold for easy storage and transport. To that end, 1More supplies a zippered hard case.

In my tests I found the SonoFlow to have a fairly comfortable fit overall, with perhaps a bit more pressure from the headband than I'd like. The volume control buttons are large and perfectly placed (at the rear of the right earcup), with the ANC toggle button just above them. Pressing that button produces one of three different tones that indicate which mode is selected (ANC, Transparent or Off), but a verbal cue would have been preferable. Thankfully, you can also use the 1More app to choose your preferred mode, and to access equalizer settings as well. There are a dozen presets and a custom-EQ option.

Having just come off testing the aforementioned Sony headphones, I was pleased to discover the SonoFlow sounded nearly as good — richly detailed and nicely balanced, with commendable ANC (but not quite as robust). Worth noting: There's LDAC hi-res audio support included here, though not AptX. If you don't know what any of the means, don't sweat it; those are codecs that matter only to audiophiles. Everything I listened to — using Spotify on my iPhone — made my ears very happy.

I'm less happy about having to hold the power button for a full five seconds to turn off the headset, and I wish the SonoFlow had a head sensor to auto-pause/auto-resume audio. Another gripe: ANC isn't available in wired mode, like when you jack in on an airplane (which is arguably where you need it most). Novice users should also be aware that 1More's printed instructions are incomplete at best, and there's little additional help to be found online.

Those complaints aside, these are amazing headphones for the price. Nice look, excellent sound quality, bonkers battery life — pretty hard to beat!

Pros
  • Very good sound
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Folding design
  • Travel-friendly carrying case
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • Incomplete printed instructions
  • ANC doesn't work with wired connections
  • No wear detection
$75 at Amazon

Want the noise-cancelling acumen of Sony's XM5 headphones without the sky-high price? You can have it: Sony's WH-CH720N offer the same core tech for a very reasonable $128. So what exactly do you sacrifice by choosing the cheaper product? Not that much.

The mandatory Sony app runs you through a gauntlet of setup steps and options, some of which may seem confusing to novice users who just want to play some music already. As with pretty much every Sony product I've ever tested, printed instructions are minimal and terrible.

The WH-CH720N (hereafter just "720N") feels quite cushy on the head thanks to the soft padding of both the earcups and headband. These are also exceptionally light 'phones, weighing just under 7 ounces; the XM5s weigh closer to 9. It may not sound like much, but something that's going to sit on your head for potentially hours at a time? The lighter, the better.

Another design difference: The 720N earcups swivel, but they don't fold. Thus, these headphones are a little tougher to travel with, especially considering you don't get a carrying case. Sony also opted for tactile buttons instead of touch controls, something I actually prefer. Here you won't accidentally graze an earcup and wind up raising the volume or skipping a track.

The Sony app affords access to a wide range of features and settings, including an equalizer, adaptive sound control (which can automatically adjust noise-cancelling based on your actions).

Although it's lacking amenities like a head sensor (for auto-playing/pausing), the 720N delivers what matters, and that's superb noise-cancelling. That's because it incorporates the same ANC technology (Sony's V1 chip) as the much pricier XM5. While I wasn't able to compare the two directly, I can tell you that the cheaper headphones block sound like a champ.

They also sound — to my ears, anyway — outstanding. In the WH-CH720N, Sony has crafted a lightweight, versatile, comfortable headphone that sounds superb and cancels noise with the best of them — all for a reasonable price.

Pros
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Superb sound and noise-cancelling
  • Much less expensive than Sony's flagship 'phones
  • Multipoint connectivity
  • Tactile control buttons
Cons
  • Poor printed instructions
  • Non-folding design
  • No carrying case
$98 at Adorama
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$98 at Macy's$98 at Walmart

With dozens of over-ear headphone models to choose from, how did I decide which made the cut? Audio is a highly subjective thing; the best sound to one set of ears might sound less so to another. For example, if you're not a fan of heavy bass, you might dislike 'phones designed to boost that thump. And if you're older, maybe you care more about dialogue enhancement (for movies, podcasts and such) than anything else.

There's also the question of fit: Not every headphone sits comfortably atop every head. A tight headband or mushy earpads can make for an uncomfortable experience.

Finally, when evaluating headphone sound, there's always the source to consider: If you use a music streaming service like Apple Music or Spotify, data compression can result in a slight loss of fidelity. Will the average listener care about that, or even notice it? Probably not, but it's still a piece of the puzzle.

All this is to say that different people have different ears, heads, needs and preferences. Budgets too. Therefore, my picks for this roundup are based on a combination of personal experience, product reputation, professional reviews, specs, user ratings and, finally, price tag. You won't find only high-end, super-expensive headphones here, nor will you find cheap off-brand junk. Every product I've selected deserves its "best" designation for one reason or another.

The hot headphone feature of the 21st century is active noise-cancelling, otherwise known as ANC. Flip a switch (or press a button) and the earpieces magically reduce a certain range of ambient sounds. Jet engines, for example, or backyard lawnmowers. The result is that you're able to fly, work or exercise in relative peace.

Some headphones perform this trick better than others, but the good news is it's now a staple feature: Even the most affordable ones have it. Take note, however, that activating ANC will cost you a bit of battery life and possibly some audio fidelity as well. But it's optional, so you can always turn it off if it's not necessary or if you decide you don't like it.