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The best wireless headphones to buy right now

(Source: theverge.com)

One of the ironies of headphones is that we often end up owning multiple pairs while busily pursuing a single idealized set of cans that will suit all our needs and circumstances. Never mind that the perfect headphones don’t exist; we still want them. The closest thing to that do-everything pair of headphones can be found when looking at wireless over-ear models. This is the sweet spot where portability, high-fidelity sound, and lasting comfort mingle to create universally appealing products. There isn’t a human on Earth that doesn’t want convenient, comfortable, and classy cans to keep the music going while they’re on the move.

The key requirements for each variety of headphones are discussed in more detail in our broader headphone-buying guide, but here we’ll focus on the things that set the best Bluetooth over-ear models apart from the rest. Noise canceling, week-long battery life, and built-in voice assistants have become the baseline expectation over this past year, and the standard for quality has never been higher. We’re also including a couple of on-ear alternatives from AKG and Beats because of the awesome performance of one (the AKG N60 NC) and abiding popularity of the other (the Beats Solo 3). The overall champ, however, simply has to be an over-ear pair: that size strikes just the right balance between being big enough to produce awesome sound and small enough to be useful every day.

This article was updated on December 7th, 2018.

The best wireless headphones right now: Sony 1000X M3

In 2017, Sony’s 1000X M2s were a whisker away from claiming this prize, but they were beaten to it by the more musical Bowers & Wilkins PX. This year’s 1000X M3s resolve that previously close contest with an emphatic win for Sony. Though the model name has only subtly changed, this third generation of Sony’s 1000Xs is a substantially redesigned, improved, and upgraded pair that now stands as the best example of what wireless noise-canceling headphones can and should be.

The 1000X series have always been light and comfortable, and the M3s elevate both those qualities to the absolute top tier. As soft and gentle on the head as a feather, these headphones provide enduring comfort in all circumstances. Sony has also added a dedicated chip to handle noise canceling, which makes a real difference, and USB-C charging, which is an increasingly essential feature. With impressively long battery life thrown in, the 1000X M3s get practically everything right and more than justify their price.

If there’s any quibble to be offered, it might be that the M3s still have a more fun and commercial sound than some purer alternatives on the market. The bass is higher in quantity than quality with these headphones, and so they lend music and even podcasts a boomy and grandiose air. Then again, even this critique is arguably a positive: a lot of people will find Sony’s bass excesses enjoyable, and the wireless noise-canceling category is mostly populated by bass-loving headphones, anyway.

The best-sounding alternative: Bowers & Wilkins PX

In the wireless realm, there aren’t many headphones that convey as much of the emotion and excitement of music as the Bowers & Wilkins PX. Audio-Technica’s DSR9BTs come close, but even they have a more clinical precision to them, whereas this B&W pair isn’t shy about boosting the bass and treble for a more beautiful and engaging rendition. What’s most impressive about the PX is just how many utilitarian boxes they check off while sounding so good. They’re as functional as they are fun.

With excellent noise-canceling, wireless convenience, USB-C charging, and a reliably long battery life, these headphones aren’t a million miles away from Sony’s now class-leading 1000X M3s. Heck, even the prices of these Bowers & Wilkins and Sony competitors are now the same. The difference is that the PX model sounds better than the M3s, while the M3s are substantially lighter and more comfortable.

The only potential deal-breaker with the PX is their level of comfort and fit. Bowers & Wilkins has a history of crafting beautiful headphones with sometimes dubious ergonomics, and the PX is no exception. This pair of cans has a redesigned headband, and it has a softer, friendlier fit than previous models, however it, too, can cause discomfort after more than an hour of use. You’ll have to make sure you’re entirely comfortable with the PX — which also don’t fold down the way Sony’s M3s do — before deciding they’re the ones for you.

Other headphones are more comfortable, some offer superior noise cancellation, and many fold down into more compact cases, but the Bowers & Wilkins PX retain the trump card of having the best sound in the wireless noise-canceling class of headphones. And they look pretty lovely, too, let’s be fair.

The other contenders

To say that there’s a wide choice in wireless headphones these days would be a massive understatement. Many of them are decent, however the ones that stand out share one or more strengths in common with the Sony and Bowers & Wilkins examples above. Bose’s QC35 IIs, for instance, are every bit as comfortable as our top pick and offer a leaner, less bassy sound, but they use the older Micro USB charging and can’t match Sony’s epic battery life and superb noise canceling. Microsoft’s Surface Headphones stand out with their peerless wireless performance, but, being a first-generation product, aren’t refined enough yet. And then there’s the Dolby Dimension and Audio-Technica DSR9BT, both of which are more suited for use at home than on the move.

8.5

Verge Score

Bose QC35 II

Good Stuff

  • Extremely light and comfortable
  • Clean, well-balanced sound with wide soundstage
  • Compact, foldable design

Bad Stuff

  • MicroUSB charging
  • Sony’s M3s are better and cost the same
  • Probably due for a refresh soon

Buy for $349.95

from Bose

8

Verge Score

NAD VISO HP70

Good Stuff

  • Impressively detailed sound with plenty of low-end rumble
  • Expansive soundstage and realistic presentation
  • Quirky, but intuitive physical controls

Bad Stuff

  • MicroUSB charging
  • Noise canceling is good, but Sony and others do better
  • Can become uncomfortable over long periods of use

Buy for $399.00

from NAD

8

Verge Score

Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless

Good Stuff

  • Lovely to listen to
  • Lovely to wear
  • Appealing retro design

Bad Stuff

  • Don’t have the noise canceling of nearest rivals
  • Don’t fold down for ease of portability
  • Don’t include a hard carry case

Buy for $318.00

from Amazon

Buy for $449.00

from Beyerdynamic

8

Verge Score

Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT

Good Stuff

  • Emotion-stirring sound and clarity
  • Outperform many wired headphones that cost more
  • Light construction and comfortable over-ear fit

Bad Stuff

  • External noise degrades the sound dramatically
  • Battery life could be better
  • The only wired playback option is via USB

Buy for $549.00

from Amazon

8

Verge Score

AKG N60 NC (Wireless)

Good Stuff

  • Featherlight, effortless to wear for hours
  • Noise canceling doesn’t diminish sound fidelity
  • Folding design makes them small enough to fit into a jacket pocket

Bad Stuff

  • You pay a premium for the smaller on-ear design
  • No hard carry case provided
  • Construction materials could be better

Buy for $179.99

from Samsung

Buy for $164.99

from Amazon

7.5

Verge Score

Beats Solo 3

Good Stuff

  • Rock-solid wireless performance
  • Entertaining sound, especially with modern electronic music
  • Light and comfortable

Bad Stuff

  • Flimsy, plastic-rich construction
  • Not great at handling acoustic music
  • You won’t get the most out of these without an iOS device

Buy for $299.95

from Apple

Buy for $299.95

from Best Buy

7.5

Verge Score

Microsoft Surface Headphones

Good Stuff

  • Ingenious control dials
  • Stylish look and premium feel
  • Shockingly good wireless performance
  • Excellent noise canceling

Bad Stuff

  • Some comfort issues
  • Uncompetitive battery life
  • Lacking support for AptX, AAC, or LDAC for higher-quality sound
  • Sound lacks refinement and treble energy

Buy for $349.99

from Microsoft

7.5

Verge Score

Audio-Technica m50xBT

Good Stuff

  • Crisp and punchy sound
  • Collapsible and hardy design
  • Excellent wireless range and stability
  • Good battery life

Bad Stuff

  • Questionable comfort
  • Touch activation for voice assistant is finicky and slow
  • Lack of noise canceling
  • Lack of USB-C charging

Buy for $199.00

from Amazon

Buy for $199.00

from B&H

7.5

Verge Score

V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless

Good Stuff

  • Built to be abused
  • Can shrink down to a very compact shape and include a nice case
  • Balanced sound, which improves when going wired
  • New earpads are the most comfortable from V-Moda yet

Bad Stuff

  • MicroUSB charging
  • Still not the best fit and comfort among portable headphones
  • Styling won’t be to everyone’s taste

Buy for $279.99

from Amazon

Buy for $279.99

from Best Buy

7

Verge Score

Dolby Dimension

Good Stuff

  • Easily switch between multiple devices
  • Comfortable headband and well-padded ear cups
  • Expansive soundstage that’s ideal for movies and cinema

Bad Stuff

  • Difficult to use on the go
  • Cannot be connected to two devices at the same time
  • LifeMix features don’t completely alleviate the fact that you’re wearing headphones

Buy for $599.00

from Dolby

7

Verge Score

Beats Studio 3

Good Stuff

  • Satisfying bass thump
  • Collapsible design
  • Comfortable, cozy pads
  • Flawless operation with Apple devices

Bad Stuff

  • Battery life and Bluetooth suffer when not connected to Apple devices
  • Sound lacks refinement, vocals lack fullness
  • Competitors in same price bracket have more premium build
  • MicroUSB is an anachronism, especially in Apple ecosystem

Buy for $349.95

from Apple

Buy for $349.99

from Best Buy

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More Info: theverge.com

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