The Best On-Ear and Over-Ear Wireless Headphones of 2018By Julia MacDougall
If you've been shopping for wireless headphones, you've probably noticed there are a lot of options out there, with price points ranging from absurdly expensive to suspiciously cheap. (And yes, you should be suspicious.)
Fortunately, there are some great wireless headphones out there as well. We have a whole roundups for small wireless earbuds, even smaller truly wireless earbuds, and even wireless headphones for the gym. But here we're talking about over-ear and on-ear options, which you might want for the comfort, quality, or noise cancelling that earbuds don't not offer.
Our top pick is the Bose QuietComfort 35 (available at Amazon), but we also have great options that cost less than half as much. Here are the best wireless headphones, in order:
- Bose QuietComfort 35
- JLab Audio Flex ANC
- Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2
- Master & Dynamic MW50
- 1More MK802
- Beats Studio3 Wireless
- Focal Listen Wireless
- Blue Satellite
- Jabra Move
- Audeara A-01
- Panasonic RP-HTX80B
Updated May 10, 2018
Bose QuietComfort 35
Bose QuietComfort 35Best Overall
Bose has a devoted following, and with a pair of headphones like the QuietComfort 35, that's not surprising. The active noise cancellation (ANC), for which Bose is well-renowned, cuts out a wide range of noises from deep train rumbling to higher-pitched A/C humming. The headphones are light and comfortable enough that they can be worn for hours at a time, although you may notice some heat or sweat build up from where the cushy leather pads meet the sides of your head. The 20-hour battery life is also a huge selling point.
The sound profile is relatively well-rounded and tends to emphasize the bass and higher pitched tones.
As noted in our full review, one tricky point is that, should you decide you don't want to use the ANC (for safety reasons or otherwise), you'll have to plug in and use them as wired headphones, since the Bluetooth switch doubles as the ANC on/off switch.
The price is steep—between $300 and $350. If you have a little bit more disposable income and want an outstanding pair of headphones, this is the pair for you.
JLab Audio Flex ANC
JLab Audio Flex ANCBest Value
JLab Audio is a relatively new player in the headphones game, but they really impressed me with the JLab Audio Flex ANC Wireless. The flat sound profile will please audiophiles who want true music fidelity. Like the Bose QC35, the active noise cancellation on these headphones is unreal. When turned on, it sounds like all of the noise has been sucked out of the room. If I hadn't had my eyes open, I wouldn't have known that a train had arrived at my local train station. Walking on a quiet street with the ANC on feels like floating in outer space, for the amount of ambient noise that reaches your ears. A 30-hour battery life is great for both long days of travel and shorter, more casual use throughout the week.
The headphones themselves are very comfortable, but are a bit heavier than the Bose QC35, and have an angled cushion at the top of the headband that tends to dig into the top of your skull after a few hours. Additionally, there have been reports of design flaws in the ear pads, which tear and break off easily. When they unfold, the cups snap out crisply, so be sure to watch your fingers so they don't get pinched.
The Flex ANC Wireless is priced at $150, which is a relatively low price for wireless headphones; at that price, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.
How We Test
Hi! I'm Julia, the Senior Scientist here at Reviewed. I've been testing headphones for about three years. In that time, I've tried all types of headphones at a variety of price points. I also wear my own headphones nearly every day, so I've very familiar with the things that people love and hate about their headphones.
I put these headphones through our usual battery of headphone tests: frequency response, distortion, tracking, leakage, and isolation. I also wore the headphones around town to get a sense for their features (like extra amps or noise cancellation) and comfort.
Headphone manufacturers are typically aiming for either a flat or a curved sound profile. A curved profile is most common, and most curved profiles are trying to replicate the Equal Loudness Curve (ELC). The human ear hears higher tones more easily than it hears the bass tones, so for a human to perceive highs and lows at a similar volume, the headphones boost the volume of the lows, and moderate the volume of the highs.
A flat profile is usually found in "studio" headphones; the highs, mids, and bass tones have the same volume. However, as I just mentioned, we don't hear all tones at the same volume, so the bass notes sound softer, and the highs sound louder. Some people prefer studio headphones because of their audio fidelity—they are hearing the music exactly as the producers intended them to hear it. Also, as implied by the name, studio headphones are used in studio recordings to help mixers figure out what, if any frequencies, they should boost or reduce.
For more info on this topic, check out my blog post.
On- vs. Over-ear headphones
You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your every day life, but what you may not realize is that headphones, while they have a number of different selling points, are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.
Other headphones we tested
Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2
Where To Buy$129.99 Walmart Buy
Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2
We really liked the previous Plantronics Backbeat Pro, so it's probably not surprising that the next edition gets a big thumbs up as well. Like the QC35 and the Flex ANC, the Backbeat Pro 2 also has ANC, but it's less robust than the ANC on those headphones. It minimizes lower-pitched train rumbling, but other sounds are still audible. To some extent, this effect is intentional, since the Backbeat Pro 2 boasts an open-back setting that allows you to easily hear ambient noise, in addition to your tunes.
Another unusual feature is sensors that detect when the headphones are being worn, and when they've been taken off. In the latter case, the headphones "auto-pause", and turn back on once the headphones have been returned to your head. I noticed this myself; every time I put the headphones back on, I could hear the ANC turn back on. Some users were unlucky, however, and had defective units that would auto-pause when the headphones were still on their heads.
The sound profile is pretty flat, making it possible to hear your tunes without an extra emphasis on certain tones. I thought the call quality was great, but other users had trouble with the mute button (which would never un-mute).
The Backbeat Pro 2 are ridiculously comfortable; I had no issues with them after hours of use. If you like comfy headphones, a 24-hour battery life, tech-y features, and have $200, then these are the cans for you.
Master & Dynamic MW50
Master & Dynamic MW50
Another relative newcomer, Master & Dynamic has jumped into the headphone market with the MW50 Wireless on-ear headphones. These headphones are just gorgeous; the leather-and-metal design definitely attracts a lot of attention. Despite being on-ear headphones, which are often more uncomfortable due to their position on your ears, I was able to wear these headphones for hours without taking a break. They exert enough pressure to stay on your head without giving you ear pain.
The sound profile tends to emphasize the higher tones which ring clearly, but the bass notes sound a bit hollow.
The MW50 comes with a braided wire neatly coiled and stored in the included cable container; if the 16-hour battery dies, you can just plug in and continue listening.
The major downside? These headphones come in at a whopping $450. The MW50 are ideal for those in a higher tax bracket who want to listen to music wirelessly, and look good doing it.
Do you love a good, thumping bass? Then you should definitely check out the 1More MK802. These stylish over-ear headphones, which have a relatively flat sound profile, have an adjustable bass slider that really gives your music a deep, full sound.
The 1More app can be used with these headphones to facilitate burn-in (you can even choose the type of noise to use: white noise, a square wave, etc.), and can also act at as a music library to store all of your songs.
I found that the headphones clamped tightly onto my head, and caused ear and head pain in a relatively short amount of time. While many people actually returned the MK802 for this very reason, those that held onto them reported that the clamping was greatly reduced after repeated use (or, in one person's case, stretched over a period of hours using a stiff pillow).
For around $130, though, these headphones are a no-brainer if your music sounds its best when the bass is dominating.
Beats Studio 3 Wireless
Beats Studio 3 Wireless
Beats is perhaps one of the most (in)famous headphone brands around. The Studio 3 Wireless tries (and largely succeeds) in bridging the gap between a flat, studio-like audio profile (with a slight emphasis on bass) and a portable pair of headphones you can wear around town. The active noise cancellation makes a significant dent in both train rumbling and A/C hums alike. The W1 chip also makes pairing nearly instantaneous with any Apple or iOS device.
The Studio 3 Wireless headphones are very comfortable in the short term but can squeeze your head and cause immense heat/sweat build-up in the long run.
Between the 22-hour battery life, solid noise cancellation, and sleek aesthetic, it's understandable why some people are willing to drop $350 for these headphones, which serve a dual purpose as a pair of headphones and a fashion statement.
Focal Listen Wireless
Where To BuyClick for price Amazon Buy
Focal Listen Wireless
Focal is a brand favored by audiophiles the world over. Their latest move brings them into the wireless over-ear headphone market with the Listen Wireless. The extremely flat sound profile will please those who favor studio-quality audio. However, while the bass is audible, it lacks the full depth of sound that exists in the 1More MK802 wireless headphones. On the other hand, while streaming reruns of my favorite TV show, I was able to hear both music and dialogue that I didn't know existed, which is a credit to the Listen Wireless's over-ear isolation and sound sensitivity.
However, with solid isolation comes noticeable head pain. In my experience, the ear cups and headband of the headphones tend to clamp down and can be uncomfortable to wear after a few hours. Other user reviews claimed that these headphones were easy to wear all day, so try a pair out in a store before you buy them to see if they are a good fit for your head.
The controls on the headband are large and easy to use by touch, and the 20-hour battery life is nothing to sneeze at. With a price of about $300, though, the Listen Wireless are in a price bracket where customers might expect additional features, namely active noise cancellation. With an ability to breathe new life into old favorite tunes and shows, though, the Focal Listen Wireless might be worth the steep price.
These over-ear headphones are huge. If you're looking to reproduce the studio headphone experience with no wires, look no further. The Blue Satellite have both the heft and the flat audio profile (with a slight emphasis on the highs) of your favorite studio headphones. In addition to active noise cancellation (which blocks some train rumble, but not all of it), the Satellite also has an AMP setting which instantly boosts the volume and presence of your music.
The Satellite is built with high-quality materials, cushy ear pads, and a 24-hour battery life, so what's not to like? The three major issues are the long-term comfort, the controls, and the price. The headphones are so heavy and so rigid that I had a headache a few hours in, and from the looks of the Amazon reviews, I'm not alone. The controls also do not give you audio feedback, so it's tough to tell when the headphones are actively pairing. Lastly, these cans are priced at around $400, which is going to hurt most peoples' wallets, even if the price is somewhat understandable based on the build quality.
If you're looking for a pair of wireless on-ear headphones that suit your more active lifestyle, take a look at the Jabra Move. These lightweight headphones are extremely flexible and portable. While they have a relatively flat audio profile, the bass is slightly de-emphasized.
These headphones are pretty bare bones and are priced accordingly, at about $100. Some reviewers say that they're best used for light exercise, and may slip off due to sweat or motion during more extreme workouts. There have also been reports of the ear pads splitting open, and of the 8-hour battery life decreasing over time.
I found these headphones to be surprisingly comfortable over both short and long time periods. However, the headphones are noticeably smaller than the other ones I tried, and might not fit a person with a larger head.
For the no-frills option that you can wear on the go, the Jabra Move is a solid pick.
The Audeara A-01 is a fascinating new take on headphones. While they work as just regular over-ear wireless headphones, they can also be customized to your exact specifications; the A-01 is the first set of headphones with a built-in hearing test.
The hearing tests, located on the Audeara app (iOS/Android) consists of beeps at certain frequencies; you adjust the volume until you can just barely hear the tones. Once you've done this for a range of frequencies, you can then choose to apply your signature sound to your headphones in 25 percent increments, where 0 percent is not applied at all, 50 percent is half applied, and 100 percent is fully applied.
My whole family tried these headphones, and we all found the same thing: that the volume algorithm was more effective at 50 percent than it was at 100 percent. At 50 percent, we all could hear everything beautifully, and the sound was full and lively. At 100 percent, the bass was noticeably tinny and distracting.
As a regular pair of headsets, without any sound profile applied, the sound is relatively flat, with a slight emphasis on the bass tones. The A-01 has a pretty solid active noise cancellation system, and are very comfortable for the first hour or so. However, much longer than that, and the cushion at the top of the headband starts to dig into your skull.
Whether you have hearing problems or not, these headphones may rock your world, but be sure to explore the sound profiles and its application before you commit to them long-term. The Audeara A-01 will be released in the U.S. shortly and will be priced at around $400. You can pre-order now on Kickstarter.
Where To BuyClick for price Amazon Buy
The Panasonic RP-HTX80B is a basic pair of wireless over-ear headphones. The pairing process is straightforward, the sound is a bit unbalanced (usually favoring the high tones), and the battery life is among the highest I've seen, coming in at 22 hours.
The RP-HTX80B are pretty comfortable in the short run, but like most over-ear headphones, tend to press down on the top of your head after a few hours. The major feature that helps the RP-HTX80B stand out from a crowd is the really neat retro styling, which comes in a range of eye-catching colors.
The RP-HTX80B is priced at about $100, which is at the lower end of prices in the wireless on/over-ear headphone market. However, without an extra wired cord and the ability to continue listening after the battery dies, it still feels like a bit too much money to spend. At this price point, try the Jabra Move instead.