After testing 115 headphones and considering an additional 170, we are still confident that the Jabra Move Wireless is the best set of wireless Bluetooth headphones for most people. Thanks to its price-defying sound quality and comfortable fit, this pair beat out headphones that cost twice as much for the second year running. It’s also solidly built, easy to operate, and backed by a one-year warranty.
The Jabra Move Wireless came out on top again for several reasons. First, it sounds about 75 percent as good as many luxury Bluetooth headphones for less than one-fifth of the price, and it sounds great for phone calls, too. Second, it features easy-to-use-and-understand controls, rather than the confusing buttons and frustrating touchpads of other headphones. Third, its soft earpads, padded headband, and swivel earcups make it a comfortable fit for most people. And finally, the battery gives you eight-plus hours of talk/listen time (we measured 15 hours) and 12 days of standby time, and the headphones still function while charging. All of this may sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many Bluetooth headphones fall short in one or more of these aspects.
If our pick is sold out, or if comfort is your top priority, the Skullcandy Grind Wireless is worth a listen. You can wear this pair for hours without a hint of pain, because the pillowy earpads practically eliminate pressure points. Additionally, the Grind Wireless features intuitive control buttons, a solid chassis, and 12-plus hours of battery life (along with the ability to use these headphones while charging), which makes this set a great option for all-day use. The overall sound quality is also very good, but it has an extra bass boost that extends into the lower mid range, causing male vocals and guitar to be overpowered on bass-heavy songs. That aside, this model is a fantastic value for a sub-$100 set of headphones.
If your top concern is getting the best sound possible for the money, consider the Sony H.ear On MDR-100ABN. With a mildly forward bass that doesn’t muddy the sound, plus clear, clean highs that don’t pierce, the MDR-100ABN sounds better than headphones that retail for hundreds more. A 20-plus-hour battery life, a comfortable fit, quality active noise cancelling, and super-clear phone calls make this pair a winner for office use, as well. These headphones fold up into a smallish carrying case about the size and shape of a bread bowl and come in a variety of fun yet tasteful colors. While the ANC isn’t the absolute best possible (check out our guide to the best active noise-cancelling headphones for that), it’s still noticeably effective at reducing background noise. Our only quibble is that turning on the ANC feature initially can cause a bit of “ear suck,” or the feeling that your ears need to pop due to a change of pressure.
If you want to spend as little as possible, look for the JLab Neon Bluetooth Wireless On-Ear Headphones, which are built way better and sound way better than their competitors in the under-$40 range. We won’t mince words: Once you spend less than $70, most Bluetooth headphones are cheap looking and tinny sounding, but this JLab Neon model actually feels solid, sports a 13-plus-hour battery life, and sounds decent. However, this pair doesn’t work corded (but does work while charging), and it sounds muffled on phone calls. The earpads also don’t swivel, which can make finding a good fit and seal difficult. Overall, the JLab is good for a sub-$40 pair of headphones, but unless you absolutely need to spend the bare minimum, turn to our other picks, which offer better sound quality and features for the money.
The Sennheiser HD-1 Wireless comes the closest to being the best set of headphones in every category—other than affordability. It combines beautiful and comfortable build quality, better-than-average active noise cancellation, and the best sound quality our panelists have ever heard from a Bluetooth headphone model. It also offers a 22-hour battery life, two microphones to improve call quality, and a two-year warranty. We’d love to have the ability to turn the ANC off, as well as somewhat bigger earcups, but those are minor issues. The only major downside to the HD-1 Wireless is its high price—if you can get past that, this is the overall best-performing pair of wireless headphones we’ve tested.
Why you should trust us
Not only do I hold a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, but I also have tested literally hundreds of headphones while working for The Wirecutter.
I spent several years in terrestrial radio before moving on to become a professional voice actor in Los Angeles, a job I still do and love. In other words, I’ve been in and out of top recording studios for over a decade. I also have reviewed high-end home audio equipment for publications such as Home Entertainment, Home Theater Magazine, and Sound & Vision. My articles have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and Time, and on Good Morning America, the BBC World Service, and NBC Nightly News. In other words, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s out there and what’s worth your time and hard-earned money, and I am committed to finding gear that will make you happy.
Then there’s our panel of experts: In addition to myself, Lauren Dragan, we had Brent Butterworth, a Wirecutter AV writer with decades of experience in the audio field for publications such as About.com, Home Theater, Sound & Vision, and many others; John Higgins, a session musician, sound editor, and occasional Wirecutter writer with a music master’s degree from the University of Southern California; and Geoff Morrison, AV editor at large here at The Wirecutter and writer for CNET, Forbes, and Sound & Vision, with over a decade and a half of audio and video reviewing under his belt.
How we picked
This is the third round of testing we’ve done for this guide, but our quest for the best Bluetooth headphones always starts with research. First, we research more than 100 companies to see what they’ve released since our last update. To date, we’ve seriously considered more than 200 headphone models just for this guide. To help us narrow down the field a bit (even we can’t test everything, though this round we tested over 60 more), we read reviews, both by professionals on sites like CNET and InnerFidelity and by customers on sites such as Amazon and Crutchfield. We take note of what people like and don’t, as we look for models that meet what we think are the most important criteria for good wireless headphones.
- Fantastic sound quality and a comfortable fit are, of course, our top two priorities. If something hurts to wear, you won’t use it, and poor fit often affects sound quality. And nobody should have to pay for subpar sound quality. During our research, any headphones with several poor professional reviews or consistently low owner reviews were out.
- Easy-to-use-and-understand controls are also key, as it’s particularly frustrating to bat desperately at your headphones trying to pause a track or answer a call.
- Solid Bluetooth connection strength is also necessary. Repeated complaints of music cutting out or calls being dropped prompted a dismissal.
- Voice-call quality is also important if you expect to use the headphones all day.
- In addition to a full eight- to 10-hour workday of battery life, a good pair of Bluetooth headphones at minimum should work while charging and/or passively via a cord. Otherwise, if your battery dies in the middle of something important, you could be out of luck.
- Legitimate customer support is the kind of thing that doesn’t seem to matter until you need it. Any headphones not backed by a company that we could actually contact and receive a reply from, or one that had a large backlog of complaints, also became dismissals. A lifetime warranty means nothing if you don’t have anyone you can call or email for help.
For this round, as before, we called in every model that met these criteria (and either had positive reviews or was too new to have any feedback) for our expert panel to evaluate.
How we tested
Our expert panel considered the sound quality, fit, ease of use, and comfort of each pair and ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls. I also checked the Bluetooth signal strength by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away.
Finally, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claims, by playing some music loud enough to drown out an air conditioner and timing how long each set of headphones took to finally die. Once testing was wrapped up, we made our picks based on overall performance and value to determine our winners.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
We chose the Jabra Move Wireless as the best set of wireless Bluetooth headphones for most people because it’s great sounding, comfortable, equipped with easy-to-use controls, and moderately priced. We had to look to wireless headphones that cost three times as much to find anything better. Whereas every other Bluetooth headphone model under $200 falls short on at least one of our criteria, the Move Wireless does everything you need it to do, and rather well.
In our tests the sound on the Move Wireless was balanced so that all genres, from singer/songwriter to hip-hop and jazz, sounded great. The lower end of the frequencies was defined, so electronic bass lines didn’t muddy up the sound, and kick drums avoided blurring or thudding.
The refined bass meant mids were clear and didn’t get lost. Male voices sounded smooth and rich, and the lower range on piano had depth. As for the highs, you’ll find a touch of boost in the sibilant range, so you will get a bit of extra “sss” in your consonants, but the effect is relatively minor compared with what we’ve heard from a good number of the other Bluetooth headphones in this price range. Overall, to our panel, violin, flute, and female voices sounded clear and even. While testing, Geoff said, “Considering that the Jabra sound as good as they do, some of these companies making $250-plus headphones should be ashamed of themselves.”
Tim Gideon at PCMag agrees with us, writing in a review, “Bass lovers who want their low frequencies balanced out with crisp highs will be pleased. In this price range, the Move Wireless is an excellent option whether you’re listening wirelessly or through a cable, earning it our Editors’ Choice.”
As for the fit, every one of our panelists found the Move Wireless to be comfortable. Soft earpads, a cloth-coated and padded headband, and a slight swivel to the earcups made this pair feel not only light and comfy but also sturdy and well-made, especially for under $100.
The Move Wireless’s rubberized controls are easy to find by touch when you’re wearing it. Trying to find the headphone controls while wearing was a frustratingly huge problem with many of the other designs we tested, but that wasn’t the case for the Move Wireless. The volume-up and volume-down buttons double as track-forward and track-back, and you can use the center button between them to play, pause, call up voice commands, and take calls. The set has a built-in microphone, as well, and in our experience it sounded about as good on the other end of the line as that of any other wireless headphone model we’ve tested.
Another basic but somehow lacking feature in many other wireless headphones we tested was the on/off button. We know this sounds simplistic, but in many cases we found it frustrating to figure out whether the power was truly off—when you want to be sure to save your battery life, knowing you’ve powered down is a big deal. The Jabra Move Wireless has an easy-to-understand toggle button that slides right to power off, to the center to power on, and to the left to pair. Boom. Done.
Speaking of battery life, Jabra claims that the Move Wireless has eight hours of talk/play battery life and 12 days of standby. During our tests, around 11 hours in, a voice informed us that the battery was low (and the alert reminded us of that every 30 minutes or so), but it wasn’t until 15 hours of use that the battery finally gave out and shut down. We then recharged the headphones fully, which took about three hours using a USB port on a MacBook Pro.
Left: Eight hours in, the battery life on the Move Wireless was still going strong (red arrow). Right: The use time when the Move battery finally died.
In addition, the Bluetooth reception range was good enough that it allowed us to wander into rooms three walls away and still not have interference. Your results may vary (based on the thickness and materials of your walls), but judging from our tests, the wireless range was typical for most Bluetooth headphones and should offer more than enough freedom for most people.
The Jabra Move Wireless is the complete package. These headphones deliver where it counts without charging you for stuff you don’t need. Dollar for dollar, nothing else compares.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although the Jabra Move Wireless also works wired, the included cord does not have an in-line mic or remote. You need to power the headphones on to take a call, too; if the battery runs out, and you want to get on a call, you’re out of luck. None of the headphones we tested had on-ear controls that worked when powered down, and most of them didn’t have an in-line remote on their included cables, either, so the Jabra Move Wireless isn’t an outlier on this count. But having a remote/mic on the cord is something we’d like to see, despite its being a relatively minor concern.
Speaking of listening while corded, the Move Wireless headphones sounded distinctly brighter in our tests when we listened via cable. Higher frequencies were a bit more prominent, so female voices, cymbal hits, and higher notes on piano or guitar seemed to be a bit louder than normal. It wasn’t bad sounding, but it was a different enough overall profile that we thought it worth mentioning. We also wish that the Move Wireless folded up; these headphones aren’t massive, but the ability to pack them in a smaller space would be a nice bonus.
We have had the Move Wireless as our pick for over a year, so we’ve had the opportunity not only to see how our own pair lasts over the long term but also to hear what, if any, concerns our readers may have. The only complaint that comes up occasionally is that the covering on the earpads can break down after more than a year of daily use. This isn’t true for everyone, and the problem’s occurrence usually varies by person, depending on how oily their skin is, what facial products they use (benzoyl peroxide can cause things to degrade, for example), and how hard they are on their headphones in general. From what we understand, the padding is fine, but the vinyl coating will flake a bit. We would prefer if this set had replaceable pads, but that feature is rare at this price, so its absence isn’t a dealbreaker for us.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
If our pick is sold out, or if your top priority is comfort, the Skullcandy Grind Wireless is a solid alternative to our pick. These wireless headphones are so comfortable, you’ll have no problem wearing them all day long. The earpads are the perfect combination of squishy and firm. The build is light enough to not put pressure on your head, yet sturdy enough that it doesn’t feel at risk of breakage. Our entire panel wished that all of the headphones we tested could be as comfortable as the Grind Wireless.
We also like that the Grind Wireless has easy-to-understand controls. You can adjust volume, skip tracks, and take calls by feel without too much fiddling. The pair offers 12 hours of battery life, too, and should you run out of juice, these headphones work both passively via cord and while charging.
However, while the Grind Wireless had decent overall sound quality in our tests, our panelists unanimously preferred the Jabra Move Wireless’s more balanced profile. The Grind Wireless’s boosted bass tended to blur midrange frequencies. The effect was less noticeable when we were listening to songs with a more moderate low end (say, acoustic music or alt rock), but on hip-hop songs with a hefty bassline, male vocals could be harder to make out. This was somewhat counterbalanced by an accompanying bump in the treble, however, so consonants and snare hits still came across clearly.
Call quality was similarly acceptable but not great in our experience. Your callers will understand you, but your voice will have a pinched, nasal quality when you’re speaking, and occasionally you might get a slight static sound from the mic. In our tests, the call-quality results were not the worst thing we’ve heard, not by a long shot, but it’s these minor details that barely kept the Grind Wireless from being our overall favorite. If comfort is your top priority, it’s easy to look past our nitpicks.
The Sony MDR-100ABN is available in several colors (including black), in case Bordeaux pink isn’t your flavor.
If your top priority is fantastic sound quality, and you don’t mind paying a few hundred dollars to get it, the Sony H.ear On MDR-100ABN is our upgrade pick. These headphones sound fantastic. In fact, to get any better, you’d need to pay a few hundred more. That’s not to say the MDR-100ABN’s ability to play music well is its only redeeming feature. It also feels comfortable, has much-better-than-average active noise cancelling, sounds great over phone calls, offers simple-to-use button controls, and has a massive 20-hour battery life. These headphones fold up into a bread-bowl-sized case for protection in transit, too. We also like that this model comes in some fun yet tasteful colors that set it apart from the sea of stagnant black, white, and gray options.
In our tests, the MDR-100ABN sounded fantastic via Bluetooth, whether active noise cancelling was on or off. The highs were clear and detailed, with no massive spike in the 3 kHz to 5 kHz consonants range that is so common in “high-end” headphones these days. We heard the consonants on lyrics, but they didn’t stab at our eardrums. The bass had a slight boost that made it more forward than was technically natural, but it was restrained enough that it didn’t muddy or overwhelm the mids. The bump was just enough to make electronic music sound exciting and vibrant without muddying up male vocals.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The active noise cancelling on the MDR-100ABN was surprisingly effective in our tests. It wasn’t good enough for us to make this model a pick in our noise-cancelling headphones guide, though, so if noise cancelling is your priority, you’ll want to pop over to that guide for better information. However, this Sony pair does a more than fair job of removing unwanted sounds—especially if you are using the noise cancelling only on an occasional basis. You will get a bit of “ear suck” when you first turn the ANC on, which can feel as though you need to have your ears pop after an air-pressure change. Most people won’t mind this effect, however, as generally users adjust to it after listening for a few minutes. That “ear suck” also can make the overall sound profile lose some of the three-dimensional depth that the MDR-100ABN offers when the ANC is off, but that problem is pretty minor unless you’re listening for it.
Weirdly enough, the MDR-100ABN’s exemplary wireless performance wasn’t matched by excellent wired sound quality when we used the included headphone cable. When we had it in passive corded listening mode, the bass lost the accuracy that it had via Bluetooth and became more muddy and forward. The highs were still great, and it didn’t lose detail in strings or women’s voices, but male vocals could get a little veiled on bass-heavy songs.
With comfortable earpads, a light build, and that 20-hour battery life, these are all-day headphones. And that’s why it’s important that they sound as good as they do over phone calls. During our tests, my caller told me that I sounded as though I were speaking directly into my iPhone as opposed to on a headset. Sadly, as with most headphones we tested in this category, the MDR-100ABN’s included cord doesn’t have a remote or mic. Additionally, this model doesn’t work while charging, so you’ll need to make sure it has enough power before dialing. But with such a long battery life, we don’t think needing to remember to charge the MDR-100ABN every other workday is a dealbreaker.
Overall, we’d say the Sony H.ear On MDR-100ABN is a better buy if you can snag it for under $300 (a price at which you can often find it) rather than the full $350 list price. That price tag is also why this model isn’t our absolute top pick. But if you aren’t concerned about investing more money for much more musical detail, the MDR-100ABN is a wonderful option.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The JLab Neon Bluetooth Wireless On-Ear Headphones aren’t all-day headphones. They aren’t music lovers’ headphones. What they are is built better than anything else for the price. They’re also easy to use, moderately comfortable, and capable of working while charging. Although they aren’t perfect, they are cheap and durable, and they get the job done.
This set sounds … fine. Not offensive, but not amazing, either. In our tests the lows and highs were rolled off, so we didn’t get deep bass notes or intense detail on consonants. But this pair does cost less than $40, so the fact that it isn’t made of brittle plastic and doesn’t sound like a toddler with a kazoo is an achievement in itself.
The earcups on the Neon Bluetooth don’t swivel, so they might slide around a bit on you, especially if you have elf ears that stick out, like Kate Hudson or Barack Obama. Even folks with face-hugging pinnas will find that the Neon Bluetooth’s design prevents them from getting a solid seal. Phone-call quality isn’t the best, either, as the cheap microphone muffles your voice.
But listen: Do you need something inexpensive so you can listen to podcasts when you’re cleaning the house? Do you want a pair of Bluetooth headphones to stash in your desk so you can check in on the game at lunch? Do you lose things all the time and get tired of being sad about it? If so, the JLab Neon Bluetooth is for you.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
Some people want the best of all worlds, no matter the cost. If that’s you (and we totally get it if so), look to the Sennheiser HD-1 Wireless. Of all the Bluetooth headphones we’ve tested, this pair is far and away the best sounding. It also offers the added benefits of excellent active noise cancelling, two dedicated microphones for extra-clear phone calls, 22 hours of battery life, and a very comfortable, stylish metal-and-leather chassis.
In our tests the sound of the HD-1 Wireless blew away everything in the category. These headphones never verged into muddy territory; guitars, piano, and strings sounded rich and full-bodied, and the highs had just enough high-frequency sparkle and clarity to keep everything in the vocal range sounding clear and crisp. Bass lovers especially will really like them. If we were looking to pick nits, we’d admit that the HD-1 Wireless was on the warmer side in our experience, with mildly emphasized lows that could ever so slightly overshadow the mids. But this is really just a quibble due to the price. Honestly, only folks who prefer a rolled-off bass could take issue with the HD-1 Wireless’s sound.
In our tests the active noise cancelling was not as good as that of our current noise-cancelling headphones pick, but it came close. Overall, you can find other headphones that may exceed the HD-1 Wireless in a single attribute, but when you compare it against other all-in-one headphones, it does a far better job than anything else available.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The HD-1 Wireless also has a well-made and fashionable retro aviator look crafted of metal and leather, rather than the ubiquitous plastic. This set feels sturdy in your hands. The on/off/pairing switch is supplemented by indicator lights that make sure you know what mode the headphones are in, and the volume/track-change/voice-activation button, which reacts to toggling or pressing, is a nice touch.
Something that you might see as a downside is the fact that you cannot turn the Momentum Wireless NC off separately from the Bluetooth. In other words, if you are using this pair in Bluetooth mode, you’re also using it with the noise cancelling activated. That’s not a big deal to some people, but if that matters to you (say, you want to have a bit more awareness of your surroundings when walking around), you might want to take that into consideration.
Unfortunately, as with every other model we recommend here, the HD-1 Wireless’s included cable has neither a remote nor a microphone—so no taking calls or toggling songs if you run out of battery power. For the price, we think a remote/mic shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially since Sennheiser sells replacement cables for its corded headphones separately on its website.
Small issues aside, the Sennheiser HD-1 Wireless headphones are fantastic. No one headphone model is perfect, but if you want something that does all the things as well as possible, the Sennheiser HD-1 Wireless is as close as you can buy.
What to look forward to
Audio-Technica announced the $300 ATH-DSR7BT and $550 ATH-DSR9BT, but those models weren’t available at the time of our review. We are on the list to receive a review sample of each, and we will update here when we have had a chance to put them through their paces.
House of Marley announced an update to its Positive Vibrations Wireless model, and we’re excited to see what the eco-friendly and sustainable company has to offer.
1More MK802: In our tests the highs on the MK802 were peaked, and as a result consonants were piercing. You can get an app that allows you to EQ the sound, but it requires loading your music into the app, and the app’s organization is confusing. This category is so competitive that the downsides were enough to knock the MK802 from our list of top picks, despite this model’s hearing-protecting controls and notably soft foam earpads.
808 Performer BT: The Performer BT has a clever earcup cable-suspension design that enables you to adjust the angle of the cups nearly infinitely, so they bend and seal to the side of your face without adding pressure or being too loose on hinges. However, our test panel’s opinion of this pair’s sound quality was a resounding “eh.” Drum hits kinda sounded as though the heads were made of plastic, and the “S” sound in words came across more like “sh.” Nobody on our panel hated this set, but nobody would spend their own money on it, either.
808 Shox BT: With earcups that don’t swivel, it’s tough to get a seal on the Shox BT. But even when we held them in place, the sound was coarse. The lows were dull and lifeless, while the highs had a shushing quality that caused words and strings to lack clarity.
AKG Y45BT: We all agreed that the Y45BT deserved an honorable mention in this group for being small and comfy and having pretty decent sound. In our tests, however, the bass was a bit boosted, and the boost extended into the lower mids, veiling, for example, guitar sounds. A slight dip in the upper mids that Brent said “makes instruments unnatural-sounding” was enough for us to bump this model from our list of picks.
August EP650: With high frequencies that lacked clarity, weirdly forward mids, and blobby lows, vocals on the EP650 sounded as if they were under a cloth. Not the right headphones for music fans.
Ausdom M04: The earcups were comfortable. That’s about the only nice thing anyone on our panel had to say about the M04. Panelists described the sound as “dull, boomy, muddy, muffled, and blurry.”
Ausdom M05: At the time we checked the Amazon reviews for this model, most of the positive ones seemed to come from Vine reviewers. I don’t know if anyone who spent their money on these headphones would be so generous with their stars. In our tests, the earcups didn’t seal well, the build felt plasticky, and the sound was just awful: a boxy, blurry bass with weird dips and peaks that made everything sound as though the music were coming through cupped hands.
Avantree Audition Pro: Sadly, the highs ruined this pair. Tinny, coarse highs on the Audition Pro made guitar sound as if it were in a tin can. The lows were forward and could have somewhat blurry edges but were okay-sounding overall. Additionally, people with smaller skulls might find that the shape of the earcup leaves a gap below the ear by the jawline. But it’s not the fit that’s the dealbreaker here, it’s the drivers.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H4: When we encounter a price tag in the several hundreds, we expect high-end sound. The H4 seemed to have quality drivers, but they were voiced all wrong. Our panel disliked the overpresent highs that caused snare hits and consonants to pierce in a fatiguing way. The bass was too forward, as well, and the boost extended too far into the mids, causing vocals to sound, as one of our panelists put it, “as though they were singing through a large cardboard tube.” We are all for a fun bump in the highs and lows, but the heavy-handed way B&O tuned the H4, plus the high cost, did not make a winning combo for our panelists.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H7: It’s easy to get caught up in the looks of B&O models, which are consistently well-built with high-end materials. However, our panel found that the H7’s overly boosted highs in the consonant range and somewhat bloated lows overshadowed the fine choices that the company made in the design. If the H7 cost $200, we’d be on board. But at nearly $400, with no bonus features other than fancy leather, we say to spend your money elsewhere.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9: We love the idea of a replaceable battery, which is unique in the Bluetooth world and would extend the life of headphones. We also found the touch controls and overall build of the H9 to be well-designed, and what we’d expect from $500 headphones. Unfortunately, the sound quality was not. While most of our panel didn’t hate the H9, we thought the sound was lacking in depth and dimension, with the highs sounding forward and lispy, and the lows occasionally muffling the mids. Middling active noise cancelling didn’t help. In the end, these headphones aren’t terrible, but they aren’t $500 headphones, either.
Beats Solo3: The Solo3 has a lot of pluses. The W1 chip makes pairing with Apple devices a breeze, and the 40-hour battery life is impressive, as well. In our tests the sound was very similar to that of the Solo2, which we also liked, consisting of really nice highs and mids with a slight bass boost that blurred the mids mildly but not terribly. So why didn’t we make the Solo3 a pick? Because for what you get, it just costs too darn much. At $150, it could be a pick.
Blue Satellite: Because the Satellite offers ANC, we’ll test and cover it more in our guide to noise-cancelling headphones. But for now, while we loved the sound, it was the fit that kept this set out of our top picks. The earcups were too large for smaller heads, and the weight was more than any of our panelists preferred to handle for a long period of time. We wanted to love this pair, but it’s just not for everyone.
Bluedio R Super HiFi Bluetooth Headphones: Our panelists were unimpressed with the muddy, sloppy guitar range, the lack of clarity in the highs, and the nonexistent bass. Add in a plasticky build and unintuitive controls, and it’s obvious why we dismissed this model.
Bose QuietComfort 35: The QC35 is our wireless pick for noise-cancelling headphones, but you pay a premium for that noise-cancellation prowess. Not only is this set expensive at over $300, but it also offers merely acceptable sound quality, whereas all our picks in this guide are at least good or great sounding. So unless you need the best noise-cancelling performance above all else, we recommend saving your money and going with one of our other picks.
Bose SoundLink: The SoundLink has the signature Bose profile, namely boosted upper bass and mids that lead to a somewhat bottom-heavy sound. In our tests the highs were delicate but had a slightly thin, metallic edge, so strings and voices could sound hollow. These headphones are compact, which we like, but here’s the main problem: They’re too expensive for what you get, especially compared with our picks. In the end, if you’re a Bose junkie, get the SoundLink—you won’t be disappointed. These aren’t bad headphones; in fact, they’re pretty great. But there’s no need to spend so much money on them.
Bose SoundLink II: Bose noise cancelling is absolutely worth the money if you need the best. The SoundLink II, however, is a standard set of headphones. In our tests the sound was … fine. With kinda muffled highs, snares in a track had an inauthentic “thwack” sound. The bass frequencies had too wide a boost, leaving the overall sound a little blurry. In a sub-$100 headphone model, those results would be forgivable, but at $200 to $250 depending on the day, we want a little more bang for our buck.
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless: The P5 offers classic B&W sound—a small spike in the lower highs and very bottom-heavy. When you’re listening to a track with already boosted bass, it’s overwhelming. If you like in-your-face bass, you might like the P5. The drivers are high quality, the build is high quality. But considering the price, our panel found the sound way too unnatural to recommend for most people.
Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless: B&W always makes luxe, beautiful gear. Unfortunately, with the P7, the sound quality just wasn’t what we’d want from something in the $400 price range. While the highs were lovely, the lows were boosted and blurry, so the mids ended up mildly veiled. It left the sound feeling 2D, and lacking the sparkle and detail we’d want from high-end headphones. With so much competition, something as simple as tuning can make the difference between recommending or dismissing a model.
Brookstone Wireless Bluetooth Cat Ear Headphones: I bet you thought we’d hate these. But nope! These are just plain fun. They’re heavy, so you can’t wear them for long periods, but they sound way better than you might expect. The cat ears light up, change colors, and function as decent-sounding mini BT speakers. Practical? No. But if you want some cat-ear headphones, that’s probably not what you’re worried about, anyway. For what they cost, these headphones do a darn good job of everything they purr-omise to do.
Coosh CBT00H1: This pair had a lot of good Amazon reviews and a low price at the time of our research, so we had to check it out. Please, save your cash. Yes, this set is inexpensive, but here are the words our panel used to describe the sound: “blurry,” “muffled,” “jagged,” “a mess,” “cardboardy,” “garbage.” You may as well throw your money away.
Creative Hitz WP380: We like that this pair is so portable, but in our tests the sound quality was really lacking. The bass was mushy sounding, and the treble was a crispy, sizzly mess. Everything sounded muddied up, and then there was a weird layer of overly boosted consonants and hi-hat hits. It was kinda bizarre, and not at all pleasant.
Creative Sound Blaster Jam: For under $50, you could do worse, sound wise. Guitars in the mids sounded pretty clear, piano had some depth, and the bass was nice and full. The highs were a little sibilant, but not terrible. When the bass boost option was on, however, hip-hop electronic basslines could overmodulate the drivers and cause a thrumming sound. And the build quality felt ’80s and breakable. We recommend our picks instead.
Creative WP-450: Nobody liked these headphones. They fit too tightly, and the sound was muffled. Geoff described it as “listening underwater.” I said it sounded like too much reverb on a mixer. It was blurry and sloppy, and not even worth the low price for Bluetooth.
Etekcity Roverbeats F1: Strident twangy highs, thudding muffled lows, uncomfortable fit. The box says “enhanced noise reduction,” which we call shenanigans on—you’ll find neither active nor passive noise cancelling with this build. About the nicest thing we can say is that it gets sound to your head.
Harman Kardon Soho Wireless: Sleek, minimalist, sturdy, really lovely to look at, and really uncomfortable to wear long term. The sound just wasn’t as good as we were hoping for, as the Soho Wireless had a lifeless quality in our tests. Unless you want to make a fashion statement, we’d say to pass.
House of Marley Buffalo Soldier BT: Though we love the sustainable design, the sound of the Buffalo Soldier didn’t impress us. The bass was boomy, and the highs were coarse. Consonants lost their pop and clarity, while acoustic guitar sounded off and inauthentic. Even the soft, squishy earpads couldn’t redeem these headphones enough for us to make them a top pick.
House of Marley Rise BT: With a forward low-frequency range that lacked restraint, as well as recessed highs, the overall sound of the Rise BT was blurry, muffled, and lacking in clarity. It’s a huge bummer, as we liked the overall chassis design.
iHome iB90: While the iB90 is lightweight, it also feels very plastic and breakable. The sound was equally disappointing in our tests: Highs were pushed and sizzly, and lows were forward, which meant a big dip in the middle. On rock songs, instruments sounded as though they lacked depth and body, and sonically dense music sounded hollow. At a list price of $50 at the time of our research, this model was not good enough to make our list of picks.
iHome iB91: This pair was tinny sounding, plastic feeling, and uncomfortable for us, but it lights up and glows in many colors. If you merely want an accessory for slumber parties, fine. But we don’t recommend the iB91 for music.
Jam Transit: The Transit’s downfall is that the bass in our tests was reverby and loud.Even acoustic guitar sounded as though someone were playing in a cement stairwell in a skyscraper. The bass blurred everything. These headphones have a solid-for-the-price build quality, but we can’t recommend them.
JBL Duet BT: We actually really like the Duet BT, and we might have made it one of our top picks if it had cost a little less at the time of our review (say, around $100). The fit was pretty comfortable, the sound was mostly even and balanced, and the build quality felt sturdy. What kept this pair out of a top slot, in addition to the price, were controls that were tough to feel and use without looking. Other competitors simply managed to cost less, sound a touch better, or feel a little more comfortable. That said, if the Duet BT’s design appeals to you, don’t be afraid to pick it up. It’s a solid option.
JBL E40BT: Our runner-up last time, the E40BT doesn’t hold up as Bluetooth headphones move forward. With a somewhat fatiguing treble boost and an annoying powering-down process that often leads to its inadvertently being in pairing mode, it simply can’t compete anymore.
JBL E45BT: We had high hopes for the E45BT; it fell just short. The hinges on the earcups didn’t quite adapt sufficiently to our panelists’ diverse head shapes for everyone to be comfortable, and the bass was a little recessed and dull. While it’s possible that the fit issues led to the low-end problems, the result was just unappealing enough for the E45BT to miss out on the top two.
JBL E50BT: This pair had big, floppy earcups that didn’t seal properly, and a sound that was—well, there’s no way around it—pretty terrible. A piano sounded like an old, cheap, ’80s electronic keyboard. Hi-hat hits went “SNAP!” and were generally piercing. Voices sounded weirdly peaked and compressed. Here is a direct quote from Brent: “Who voiced these?! The audio engineers at JBL know better. I liken it to a pharmaceutical company hiring the world’s best medical researchers and then deciding to just sell bee pollen. Why did these end up this bad?”
JBL E55BT: Fit issues with the headband meant that our panelists had wildly varying experiences. Some said the E55BT had too much bloat to the upper bass frequencies, while others commented on tizzy, harsh highs. Nobody on the panel found a good fit. Even if the E55BT sounds amazing in a certain position, we don’t want to have to hold our headphones to get that.
JLab Omni: This set is relatively light on the head, and very comfortable. Unfortunately, the design makes you control the volume and the track with the same turning movement, in different durations. As a result, I kept accidentally changing tracks when I wanted to slightly adjust the volume. Additionally, the Omni had a sloppy boosted range that extended from the low bass to the mids, so guitars sounded blurry and smeared, and everything from the mids down sounded muffled. Violin, and the upper half of the piano, were lovely, clean and clear sounding—until the upright bass or lower keys of the piano entered the song. The Omni just can’t compete in such a packed field.
JVC HA-S190BT: None of our panelists liked this set. Why? A cheap-feeling, stiff, uncomfortable fit mixed with an unfocused, blurry bass. Maybe if this model didn’t feel so breakable, we could have considered it as a budget pick.
Kicker HP402BTB Tabor: Kicker specializes in car subwoofers, and you can tell—the bass on the Tabor is obviously boosted. In our tests the mids and highs were great, and everything that didn’t fall in that low-boosted range sounded natural, full, and fantastic. But the design is large (okay, huge), and we thought the controls were a little tricky to use by feel.
Kinivo BTH260: Though the BTH260 headphones are water resistant and marketed as sport headphones, in our tests they didn’t feel sturdy enough or stable enough to last through a workout. We couldn’t get a good fit, and the sound was boxy. Sadly, the best thing about this pair was the carrying case.
Kinivo Urbn: Harsh, jagged highs. Boomy lows. In our tests, mids got lost, too, and piano sounded twangy, as though a Bösendorfer had been traded out for a honky-tonk upright. The controls were hard to use by feel. But this pair was comfortable enough. Maybe if it cost under $40, we’d consider it. For $100? We’d pass.
Klipsch Reference On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones: The tuning on this pair was all over the place. We heard peaks and valleys in various frequency ranges that would be somewhat excusable in $100 headphones, but are a dealbreaker at over $200. The drivers sounded high quality; it’s just that this pair didn’t sound accurate or fun enough to be worth the money.
Klipsch Reference Over-Ear Bluetooth Headphones: One of the only headphones in this category to have too little bass, the Reference Over-Ear suffered from tuning problems in our tests. The bass that we could hear sounded really well-formed, but there wasn’t enough power behind the low notes to balance the highs. As such, cello lacked resonance, and amplified music such as rock and hip-hop felt like it was missing a foundation.
Koss BT540i: These headphones are fine. In our tests the lower frequencies were a bit bloated and the highs were somewhat harsh, so bass guitar tended to sound blobby and unrefined, while words were sibilant. The fit was comfortable enough, but it felt plastic and inexpensive. For the price, we want remarkable, good, or even great. Unfortunately, the BT540i is none of those things. For our money (and yours), we think “fine” doesn’t cut it.
Koss BT540i Second Edition: For a few hundred dollars, we have high expectations. So although the audio quality on the BT540i SE wasn’t bad, it was the details—the highs lacked sparkle and the lower mids and lows lacked depth, so cellos had no resonance—that led us to pass on the BT540i SE.
Libratone Q Adapt: The Q Adapt is Libratone’s first headphones set, and in many ways Libratone seems to be on the right path. The touch controls are intuitive, the active noise cancelling is decent, and the overall look of the headphones is attractive. But we saw room for improvement. The Q Adapt has a few sound settings, and none are without problems, as in our tests they all had a lifeless quality that may have been due to recessed mids. The included app wasn’t particularly easy for us to navigate, and the clamping force on the headband was very tight, which could get uncomfortable after a while. At the Q Adapt’s recommended $250 price, there is too much competition for us to ignore this model’s downsides.
Marshall Major II: The Major II had a lot of bass, and it sounded a touch reverby. Unfortunately, it didn’t have quite enough high frequency in the mix to balance out that bass. As a result, music had a dull quality that we didn’t love, despite our being impressed with the Major II’s design and build quality.
Marshall Mid Bluetooth: The Mid had a bump in the lows and a spike in the highs that our panelists didn’t love or hate. Strings and cymbals sounded brighter and splashier than was neutral, but not so much that we’d have dismissed the Mid if it had cost closer to $120. Unfortunately, Marshall is asking for almost $200 currently, and with so many competitors that are better balanced and/or better priced, it’s hard for us to justify the cost.
Marshall Monitor Bluetooth: The Monitor had a fun tuning that was well-suited to rock music. We also detected a little extra treble and bass that added presence to hi-hat and bass guitar. The result was not neutral sounding, but our panel enjoyed it. What kept the Monitor from our list of picks was a tight clamping headband, as well as earcups that didn’t swivel much; half of our panel either failed to get the earcups to seal properly or ended up feeling pinched. If you can get the Monitor to fit you properly, it’s a nice set of headphones. But we aren’t willing to gamble for you, especially at $250.
Master & Dynamic MW50: Master & Dynamic makes gorgeous-looking headphones, and the MW50 is no exception. But we found some small issues: The headband was a little too tight, the lower midrange was a bit forward, and the lows could sound mildly muddy. We’d forgive all those transgressions if the price weren’t so high, since the MW50 is a nice set of headphones. But if it were our money, we’d want fantastic.
Master & Dynamic MW60: Beautiful but heavy, the MW60 is a luxury headphone model in looks and price. The sound was great, but ever so slightly flawed: The boost on the lows extended slightly into the lower mids, so the sound had a subtly veiled quality that took some of the vitality out of live music. That’s an exceptionally minor quibble, but when you’re paying $550, and you don’t get any bonus features like active noise cancelling, we insist upon the best sound quality. If you love the aesthetic and have the cash to throw around, the MW60 is somewhat more form than function, but it’s still a lovely pair of headphones.
MEE Audio Air-Fi Touch: The on-ear design was comfortable, and the sound, while boosted in the highs and lows, was pretty good for the price. But the mids on a piano tended to have a “hard” feeling, as if the strings were made of a twangy metal, versus sounding rich and lush with spatial placement. The build felt brittle and breakable.
MEE Audio Matrix2: These headphones had fatiguing highs, a lack of depth to the sonic field, tiny controls, and a non-universally appealing fit. The Matrix2 isn’t bad for the price, but all of our panelists agreed that we’d be happier with our picks.
MEE Audio Matrix3: The headband on the Matrix3 is on the bigger side, and anyone with a smaller head may find that the earcups hang too low. If I put the earcups where they were supposed to sit, I could fit a full two fingers in the gap under the headband. As for the sound, we had a 50/50 split for and against. With so much variation in opinion on the fit and the sound, we couldn’t make the Matrix3 one of our top picks.
MEE Audio Rumble: The issue with the Rumble isn’t the bass, as you might expect; it’s the harsh, sibilant treble. Snare hits are piercing, and every consonant “STandSss ouT” in an unpleasant way.
MEE Audio Runaway: This was another pair that I was rooting for during our previous panel testing. These headphones were inexpensive and light, and I was hoping they would be a good budget option, since they also worked corded. However, we were all disappointed with the sound. Geoff, John, and I all remarked on the nonexistent bass. If the sound were good, we could forgive the cheap construction, but without a better sonic response, we have to say pass.
Monoprice Bluetooth Wireless Headphones 13893: Comfortable fit, terrible sound. Harsh, coarse highs. Boomy lows. In our tests, vocals sounded boxy, and low notes were blurry and bloated. Unless you want only comfy headphones to listen to podcasts, pass.
Monster ClarityHD: The bass was so bloated and loud, everything sounded as if we were standing too close to the subwoofer. Seemingly to compensate, this pair had a sharp peak in the consonant range, so vocals sounded odd. Not our favorite listening experience.
Monster Elements Wireless On-Ear Headphones: Nobody on our panel thought these headphones were worth the $250 asking price. The plastic felt creaky and cheap, while the earcups didn’t swivel enough to seat properly on our ears. The sound was middling: too much bass, sibilant highs. This pair would be decent enough if it cost $100 to $150 less than the original price.
Noontec Zoro II: While the build was relatively lightweight and comfortable, it felt brittle and plasticky. The high-frequency range was lispy, so “somebody” became “shomebody.” We also heard some bloat in the lower mids that made details like quick notes sound blurry. Overall, the Zoro II is, at best, a middle-of-the-pack model.
Onkyo ES-BT1: Disappointing. This model had an unstable on-ear fit that slipped forward easily, felt uncomfortable, and produced blah sound quality that failed to live up to the $100 price tag.
Outdoor Technology Privates: The earcups didn’t pivot or swivel at all, so for everyone on our panel these headphones kept sliding off our ears; these things just wouldn’t stay put. It’s a big problem that Outdoor Tech could so easily solve with a hinge. Regardless, the bass was a little boomy, so everything up to male vocals was a little muddied.
Outdoor Technology Tuis: These headphones were mostly comfortable and had intuitive controls—and they were completely divisive for our panel. Brent and I didn’t care for the broad bass boost that ran way up into the mid frequencies. To us, kick drums sounded flabby and undefined, like “buh.” The treble bestowed a snapping sharp edge on snare hits, and we found the Tuis to be unnatural sounding as a result. John was more generous, saying the sound was “middle of the pack” for him. And our last panelist liked the sound but didn’t like the fit. So where did that leave us? It meant that these headphones weren’t suitable for most people, so we had to keep them out of our group of top picks.
Parrot Zik: A source of some controversy. I want to like the Zik, and the design is undeniably beautiful. It has a bone-conductor sensor and five mics to help with calls, and in our tests it sounded pretty darn good over Bluetooth. But the Parrot Zik and Zik 2.0 are, in my opinion, a great idea that the makers didn’t fully test before release. Both models are completely dependent on their app. Yup, you read that right: Without the app, if you just plug these headphones into a source with the cord, the sound has a bizarre reverb thing that renders them unlistenable. It sounds as though you broke the headphones or got a bad cord. And I’m not the only one who noticed this problem.
On top of that, to use the app, you need an Internet connection. You can’t adjust the EQ, NC, or anything without signing in to the app, which requires a data connection. Did you turn your phone off or sign out of the app and forget to turn the NC on before you got on the plane? Too bad. You can’t sign in again without Wi-Fi. Basically, the Parrot Zik is useless if you try to use it with anything that can’t run the app. Geoff and I have put our full thoughts on the Parrot Zik line of headphones on Forbes and Sound & Vision, respectively.
Pendulumic Stance S1+ : Perhaps it’s what Pendulumic describes as the “concert-hall environment” that the S1+ features, but in our tests delicate and precise sounds like acoustic guitar or violin pizzicato tended to sound blurry, as if they had added reverb. The bass was forward and a little formless at the same time, which made the low end feel a little blobby. Nonetheless, we mostly liked the Bluetooth sound, but once we added a cord, the S1+ became a complete mess, muffled and unlistenable. Ultimately, its sounding so terrible when corded was a dealbreaker for us in this price range.
Phiaton BT 330 NC: The sound quality was decent so long as we left the active noise cancelling on, but the active noise cancelling was minimal and added a high-pitched hiss. Turn the ANC off, and the sound becomes terrible, like a speaker in a barrel. Too many flaws for a several-hundred-dollar model.
Plantronics BackBeat 500: Sold at an affordable price, the BackBeat 500 is solidly built, designed with easy-to-use controls, and comfortable. This set came close to being a pick, but we passed it over due to somewhat shushing highs (where “s” sounds had a “sh” quality) and some uneven bumps and dips in the male vocal range. This pair isn’t bad at all, just not quite as even-sounding or comfortable as our picks. But if you are drawn to the BackBeat 500, it’s a good choice.
Plantronics BackBeat Sense: The features on the BackBeat Sense are so cool, we really want to like this pair. It automatically plays and pauses your music when you put it on your head or take it off. You can tap a button to hear your surroundings. And the headphones are lightweight and comfortable. But in our tests the sound via Bluetooth had a masked quality in the electric guitar range, almost sounding as though we didn’t have the headphones on our ears all the way. The “s” sounds in words were so sibilant, they almost whistled. It’s just unpleasant, and a pity. Corded, the Sense sounded a lot better to us, but you don’t buy wireless headphones to listen to them wired.
Puro BT5200: Like a few other headphones in this category, the BT5200 is a good set of headphones that our picks bested by only small degrees. The minor issue that kept this model from winning was an unevenness in the high frequencies that made vocals mildly unnatural sounding and overemphasized tape hiss and crackle in older recordings. We adore Puro’s idea of including safe-volume-level indicators, but we wish it had a beep or something so you didn’t have to look at the lights to know if you’re in the safe zone. In a category this competitive, even minor flaws can make the difference, and good headphones like the Puro BT5200 can get edged out.
RBH HP-1B: We weren’t fans of the intense bass on the HP-1B. It wasn’t muddy or blurry, but we struggled to hear the detail in the electric-guitar range of music. The large headband and earcups will pose a challenge for those with smaller heads, too. In the end, this set didn’t meet our expectations for a model priced over $200.
Samson RTE 2: Everyone disliked this pair. Brent said, “Horrible. Do not buy.” Grating, fatiguing treble made cymbals piercing and guitars sound like they were in a metal box. Formless, lackluster bass made kick drums sound as though they were being played through a speaker that had a piece of cloth in front of it. Hard pass.
Samsung Level On Wireless: While the active noise cancelling was better than average (which is why we made this pair a wireless runner-up in our noise-cancelling headphones review), especially for the price, the sound quality was middle-of-the-road in our tests. Mildly bloated and blurry lows caused the Level On Wireless to lose some clarity and definition. While it wasn’t bad, our pick sounded better, so you should save your money unless you need the noise cancelling.
Sennheiser HD 4.40 BT: We had high hopes for these affordable Sennheiser headphones. But this pair had so many peaks and valleys in the frequency ranges, our panel struggled to effectively describe the sound problems. “Missing presence,” “male voices sound weird,” “lacking definition,” and “it’s as though the foundation is lacking” are some of the phrases we came up with. The overall consensus may best be summed up by John’s remark: “Meh. The earpads are the best part.”
Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless: The Urbanite XL isn’t for musical purists or audiophiles, and we’re pretty sure that it wasn’t meant to be. But we found the bass to be too undefined and rounded, and with rock music, the bass guitar overpowered the lead. With classical music, piano sounded lopsided. We don’t hate boosted bass, but it has to be refined, and the Urbanite XL’s wasn’t. Considering its several-hundred-dollar price tag, even its stellar build quality couldn’t bring us to justify the cost.
Sony MDR-XB950B1: Sony. Guys. The MDR-XB950BT was all blurry, reverby bass that muddied everything else up. Even acoustic guitar. It’s not forward, it’s insane. Stop it.
Sony MDR-XB950BT: Nobody on the panel liked this set. The bass was boomy and messy, leaving every kind of music sounding, as Brent put it, “as though there is a quilt draped over a speaker.” Even on hip-hop (which headphones sold as “extra bass” should excel in), everyone agreed that the MDR-XB950BT was an absolute mess. You can find many better options out there, and none of us knows how Sony could have dropped the ball so terribly on this pair or why it has so many good Amazon reviews. The only positive comment our panel made was “Well, they’re comfy on your head.”
Sony MDR-XB950N1: The nicest thing I can say about the MDR-XB950N1 is that at least the sound was consistent whether we had the ANC on or off. Sadly, that sound consisted of crazy, muddy, blurry, terrible bass. The “extra bass” wasn’t just so much louder, it was reverby, too. It was like listening to a subwoofer in a cathedral.
Sony MDR-ZX330BT: The very tight headband on the ZX330BT can make your ears ache. Additionally, we detected a coloration to the highs that made snare drums sound unnatural, like a toy drum with a plastic head, lacking resonance. There wasn’t much soundstage, and this pair doesn’t work corded if the battery dies.
Urbanears Plattan ADV Wireless: Great design, with a washable headband. In our tests the bass was a little too forward and slightly lacking definition, but not terrible enough to be a dealbreaker. What kept these headphones from being a pick was a very tight headband and insufficient padding on the earcups, which made this pair uncomfortable after around 30 minutes of listening, even on smaller heads. We want to love these, but we can’t when our outer ears ache.
V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless: Balanced, vivid, and exciting sounding, the Crossfade 2 Wireless boosts only the lowest bass notes and specific high frequencies to amp up music in a fun, energizing way. The chassis is sturdy, edgy looking, and customizable, and it folds up into a surprisingly small case. We struggled, however, with making this model an upgrade pick due to the price, weight, and lack of isolation. For the $330-plus price tag (features like aptX, a removable boom mic, and extra shields add to the cost), we would have liked active noise cancelling, or some of those aforementioned add-ons included. We also questioned whether the weight of the Crossfade 2 would become uncomfortable for most people to wear over a long day. Knowing all of these quibbles, if you still want the Crossfade 2, get it; you won’t be disappointed. But in a saturated category, even minimal downsides are enough to pull a headphone model out of contention as one of our picks.
Wearhaus Arc: The Arc has fun color-changing lights and the ability to pair to another Arc wirelessly so that two people can cordlessly listen to one device simultaneously. We found the earpads to be comfortable and soft, and the touch-sensitive controls to be intuitive. Sadly, the Arc suffered from blurry lows and veiled highs, making everything sound as though it were under a thin blanket. Plus, while the sharing feature is neat, it didn’t work as well when we were watching video, as one Arc had a significant latency delay between picture and sound. Although Wearhaus did a lot right with the Arc, enough went wrong that this model fell short of other headphones in this group.
Xqisit LZ380: The LZ380 has some of the squishiest earpads we’ve felt. Man, they’re comfy, especially for something with a $70 price tag. Sadly, the sound did not make us nearly as happy as the earpads. The bass boost extended way into the mids, making everything sound as though it had reverb. Every panelist mentioned the word “muddy.” The vocal range was okay, but unless you plan to listen only to spoken-word audio, we think you can do better. It’s a shame, though, since those earcups sure are nice.
Zagg iFrogz Impulse Wireless: If you were to take a speaker, yank out the highest tweeter, put a sheet over it, place that inside a hallway, and play music through it, you would get the sound quality of the iFrogz Impulse. Even pink noise sounded like brown noise in our tests. These headphones were comfortable to wear, at least.
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- Jabra Move Wireless, PCMag, October 30, 2014,
- Jabra Move Wireless review, What Hi-Fi, March 1, 2017
- Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless review, Trusted Reviews, June 5, 2016,
- Sony H.ear On Wireless NC review: Sony’s best wireless headphone yet, CNET, August 4, 2016,
- Skullcandy Grind Wireless, PCMag, February 25, 2016,
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