Best Bluetooth Headphones of 2023 - Consumer Reports (2023)

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.

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Sony WF1000XM4 Earbuds Review

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.

TheWF-1000XM4is the latest in Sony’s line of noise-canceling earbuds, and it simply sounds superb. The WF-1000XM4 delivers so much musical detail that you’ll hear your favorite songs in a different way. Its active noise-canceling performance is top notch as well.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 comes packed with additional features, including an ambient sound mode to actively pipe in audio from your surroundings (useful when you want to hear what’s going on around you—for instance, if you’re out for a run); and Speak-to-Chat, which can automatically pause the music when you start talking.

According to Sony, the WF-1000XM4 has a 5.5-hour battery life, and the portable charging case holds 16 hours’ worth of power before it needs to be plugged in again. The Sonys have a unique foam eartip that enhances both sound and isolation. But our testers note that some users, particularly people with larger ears, may feel that this model doesn’t fit securely. (The Sonys can also fittoosecurely.During my evaluationan eartip got stuck in my ear, necessitating a quick trip to urgent care.)

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

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 carries a higher price tag.

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 Earbuds for Apple Fans

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro are noise-canceling earbuds that offer both solid performance and impressive convenience. Pairing the Pros with an iPhone or a MacBook is dead simple, you can switch from listening on your phone to listening on your laptop without much thought. They’re also built for effortless compatibility with Siri. And, of course, the Pros feature Apple’s iconic design that makes the AirPods almost a fashion accessory.

But unlike some previous versions of the AirPods, the Pros in their latest incarnation sound as good as they look. Our testers report that the sound quality now provides more detail, more bass, and a welcome sense of openness. The Pros deliver even noise cancellation: They’re super-silent. The new Pros also have an adaptive transparency mode that’s supposed to attenuate loud sounds. In a real-world evaluation I didn’t find that it worked as advertised, although the transparency mode worked fine at allowing in outside sounds. The new Pros also have a case that’s new and better: It’s water-resistant and has the same Find Me feature as the earbuds themselves.

A collection of small and subtle improvements have made the new Pros a better day-in and day-out musical companion. That said, there’s a bit of an Apple Tax on all AirPods, so you can find models that offer better performance than the Pros for less money. If you’re an AirPods fan on a budget, Apple’s basic earbuds—thethird-generation AirPods—also earn our recommendation, though losing the Pros’ high-performance noise cancellation feels like a legit sacrifice.

Best Earbuds 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.

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 Bargain Headphones

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 $50, 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.

How to Choose Headphones

With so many types of headphones, how do you know which pair is right for you? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Elias Arias explains everything you need to know.

Best Bluetooth Headphones of 2023 - Consumer Reports (1)

Allen St. John

I believe that technology has the power to change our lives—for better or for worse. That's why I’ve spent my life reporting and writing about it for outlets of all sorts, from newspapers (such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times) to magazines (Popular Mechanics and Rolling Stone) and even my own books ("Newton’s Football" and "Clapton’s Guitar"). For me, there's no better way to spend a day than talking to a bunch of experts about an important subject and then writing a story that'll help others be smarter and better informed.

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