If you’re something of a tech fanatic, the chances are you’ve been keeping a close eye on the wireless headphone market for the last, what, ten or so years? It’s been, I’m sure you’ll agree, painfully—often irritatingly—slow progress. But things are finally looking up.
With the recent release of Apple’s AirPods (which, like them or loathe them, signal a major swing in the market towards wireless tech), it’s never been a better time to shop for wireless headphones with companies the world over responding to this newfound gap in the market. But you know that already. You’ve done the research, you were ahead of the curve, and that’s why we love you.
Top 3 Best Wireless Earbuds
Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear Headphones
Sennheiser has previously been criticized for failing to modernize their approach to design to fall-in with the consumer desire for good-looking products which also perform at a serious level. That criticism could not be less relevant now that the HD1s are on the scene. A strong aesthetic with more than enough sound quality to match it.
Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones
Bose’s QuiteControl 30s are a strong choice if you can get over the slightly strange, bulky design, and if your main priorities lie more towards noise cancellation and extra features rather than the most accurate, high fidelity listening experience. The audio is by no means bad, but it’s not going to win any awards amongst audiophiles.
B&O Beoplay H5 Wireless Earphones
Bang & Olufsen have often been accused of dressing up sub-par internals in a premium design and marketing them for more than they’re worth. Sadly, this accusation seems to be mostly true in the case of the underwhelming Beoplay H5s. The battery life is poor, and the audio just isn’t worth the price you’re paying for it.
The benefits of wireless earbuds don’t take much imagination to understand. In essence: they’re earbuds, but they don’t have any wires. And who likes wires, right? Cumbersome, clumsy, and a single snag will pull the whole thing out of your ear. Horrid.
Seriously, though, wireless earbuds are clearly as much of an important part of the future as wireless internet, wireless charging, and wireless anything else. As a society, we’re gradually moving in that general direction for the sheer convenience that it affords.
Wireless earphones are also a particular favorite amongst sporty types. Their lightweight form factor makes them an obvious, convenient choice across a wide variety of activities, and many of the best reviewed headphones designed for running feature wireless technology in some form.
As with anything wireless, there’re always trade-offs which you will have to account for before purchasing. As long as you’re aware of what they are, and as long as your decision is as informed as possible before purchase, you’ll be fine.
The main one, of course, is audio quality. Just as wired internet has been, is currently, and will for some time be faster than its wireless counterpart, so too is the upper threshold on audio quality lower in wireless earphones than it is in wired ones. This is, however, a fairly relative, subjective metric. Unless you’re an ardent audiophile, chances are you won’t be able to hear (or, at least, won’t be terribly interested in) the differences between a similarly priced wireless and wired offerings. It exists, but it’s often not a huge deal.
Another consideration which many overlook is the fairly obvious matter of battery life. Unless you’re dealing with some kind of active noise cancellation technology, wired headphones do not, for the most part, require any kind of charging, battery changes, or other messing around. Wired units, by contrast, absolutely do. You should be aware that hearing the foreboding ‘low battery’ prompts from your device is going to be part and parcel of owning a pair of wireless earbuds, at least until you get properly used to managing the charging cycle to fit your own requirements.
What to Look For
This is very much a personal decision, of course, but the two main concerns which we’ve found are shared amongst most reviewers are battery life and audio quality. Feature sets tend to be fairly minimal, design can vary a great deal (and is even more subjective than sound quality, so we’ll leave it to you), but dead headphones are dead headphones.
Interestingly, price does not always correlate positively with the duration you can expect from a single charge. Some of the more expensive models we’ve looked at underperform in terms of battery life but overperform elsewhere. As with most things in life, it’s a game of compromise. As long as you know which priorities are your main ones, and as long as you commit to reading as much as possible before you purchase, you’re going to be absolutely fine. We promise.
Don’t let people put you off the idea of buying your own pair of wireless headphones. A lot of audio purists will warn you against them, but the likelihood is that they haven’t bothered to check out many of the massive improvements to sound quality which have come about in just a few short years. Sure, you aren’t going to get the same listening experience as you would with a $1000 pair of over-ear monitors, but most people don’t want or need it in the first place.
Stick to your guns.