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Ever since smartphone manufacturers started ditching headphone jacks, Bluetooth headphones have been an essential item for millions of people. There are options for almost any situation, whether your priority is finding a low price, earbuds for the gym, or a great pair of noise-canceling headphones for some peace and quiet.
CR’s technicians say audiophiles will still get the very best sound from the top-rated wired headphones. But going wireless doesn’t mean giving up on sound quality. Our tests show that the best Bluetooth headphones have impressive audio, too.
We combed our ratings for the best Bluetooth headphones based on a variety of factors, including style, their best uses, and price. We also factored in ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction based on our latest survey of thousands of CR members.
Consumer Reports members can find full test results and reviews on more than 150 models in our headphone ratings.
The Sennheiser HD 250BT makes a mark for great sound at a bargain price. The HD 250BT is an on-ear model with a sleek appearance and a price that sometimes dips below $70, making this one of the best values among Bluetooth headphones in our ratings.
It has controls for volume, calls, and playback, a smartphone app for equalizer adjustments, and an advertised 25-hour battery life. It also charges over USB-C, the same cable that powers newer Mac laptops and tons of other devices.
Best Sound Quality
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are some of the best-scoring portable Bluetooth headphones Consumer Reports has ever tested. That’s all the more impressive given their true wireless design and mid-tier price. Apple’s AirPods may be more popular, but we think this pair sounds much better.
The Galaxy Buds produce exemplary audio quality packed into a pair of unobtrusive earbuds, complete with touch controls for playback, volume, and skipping tracks. According to Samsung, they have a 6-hour battery life and come with a powered carrying case that will recharge the earphones for up to 7 additional hours of playback on the go. The case itself can be charged with a wireless charging mat, and it’s small compared with the cases that come with many true wireless models.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II is one of the highest-scoring headphones in our ratings, with outstanding sound quality and noise cancellation to match. It’s significantly cheaper than many competitors. But in our tests, it outperforms flagship models from companies such as Sony and Beats, and it gets almost the same score as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, one of our other top picks, which is priced at almost $400.
The PXC 550-II has appealing features, such as adjustable levels of noise cancellation and an ambient sound-monitoring mode that lets you hear your surroundings when necessary. It has touch-sensitive controls and an automatic pause feature that stops your audio when you take the headphones off.
Sennheiser says this model will run for up to 20 hours with Bluetooth and noise cancellation turned on, and it can be used with a detachable USB or audio cable.
Best Cheap Earbuds
The Skullcandy Dime 2 is an absolute steal. The sound quality isn’t outstanding, but it’s above average—and very impressive considering the price. They have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life and a carrying/charging case good for an additional 8.5 hours of power.
This is an update to the previous Skullcandy Dime, which also did great in CR’s tests. The two products are very similar, but the new model comes with some updates, including a newer version of Bluetooth that’s more energy-efficient on compatible devices, and compatibility with the Tile app, which will help locate the headphones if you misplace them. The price difference is only $5 to $10, and either way, you’re getting great earbuds for the money.
One caveat: Skullcandy received a dismal rating for owner satisfaction in our latest headphones member survey on headphones. That doesn’t necessarily mean every product is a dud, though, and the Dime 2 may be worth a gamble at this price.
Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds
The WF-1000XM4 are the latest in Sony’s line of noise-canceling earbuds, and our tests show they have outstanding sound quality and sound-blocking performance. Apple’s AirPods Pro are the best-selling model in this category, but we think Sony makes a better product, though they’re a bit more expensive. (If you’re looking for a bargain, the previous model, the XM3, is cheaper than the AirPods and still outperforms them.)
Sony’s latest comes packed with additional features, including variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound, a monitoring mode to actively pipe in audio from your surroundings, and Speak-to-Chat, which can automatically pause the music when you start talking.
According to Sony, the XM4 has a 5.5-hour battery life and comes with a portable charging case that holds 16 hours’ worth of power before it needs to be plugged in again. But our testers noted that some users, particularly people with larger ears, may feel that this model doesn’t fit securely.
Best for Exercise
The Sony LinkBuds have an unusual design. They’re made with a big hole in the sides so they don’t seal off your ears, which lets you listen to your music while still hearing everything that’s going on around you. That’s useful for runners concerned with traffic or anyone who wants to use their headphones where it’s important to keep an ear on the surroundings.
They also have a novel feature that lets you control the headphones by tapping on the side of your head (though you can just tap the earbuds themselves if you prefer).
The Sony LinkBuds deliver great sound quality, our testing shows. And according to Sony, they have a 5.5-hour battery life, with the carrying case charger adding an extra 12 hours’ worth of battery life.
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