The best wireless headphones of 2016
Although Apple's lastest iPhone 7 models may be somewhat disruptive to audiophiles, all is not lost. In addition to adapters and accessories for wired listening, there's no better time to join the wireless revolution and simplify; once you've gone Bluetooth, it's hard to look back at a cable again. We have a choice selection of the best Bluetooth wireless earphones and headphones you can get in 2016.
Earphones (runner-up): Samsung Gear IconX
The runner-up prize goes to Samsung for its recently-released, Gear IconX wireless earbuds. While the Gear IconX is slightly larger than what Erato and Earin offer, it's worth the extra features. What the Samsung Gear IconX may lack in a line-by-line comparison versus the Bragi Dash (e.g. battery life, sensors, water resistance) is made up for with better audio quality and a price point that comes well below the competition. And we can expect Samsung to improve the product's performance over time with free firmware updates.
Product page: Samsung
- Buy Samsung Gear IconX on Amazon
Earphones: Bragi Dash
Bluetooth wireless earphones have been available for years. However, the new budding (sorry, couldn't help it) trend is going truly wireless by ditching cables that connect left and right sides.
Our top pick is still the Bragi Dash, which originated as a successful Kickstarter project. The Dash earphones feature Bluetooth 4.0 LE, activity-tracking sensors with real-time voice feedback, 4 GB of internal flash storage, bone conduction microphone, touch controls, instant access to ambient environmental sounds, up to three hours of battery life, a charging case (provides approximately five full charges), and a waterproof design.
Product page: Bragi
- Buy Bragi Dash on Amazon
On-ear headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Sense
Over a year after its initial release, the Plantronics BackBeat Sense still takes the top spot for on-ear Bluetooth wireless headphones. They may not look like much, but the comfortable, travel-friendly BackBeat Sense headphones pack impressive features: up to 18 hours of music streaming, Class 1 Bluetooth with a range up to 330 ft (100 m), sensors for auto play/pause when the headphones are on/off, Open Mic to hear ambient sounds, dual microphones, voice alerts, multi-point connectivity, and clear audio/voice reproduction.
Each one comes with a micro USB charging cable, 3.5 mm audio cable (with in-line remote), and a soft-lined canvas carrying case.
Product page: Plantronics
- Buy BackBeat Sense on Amazon
On-ear headphones (luxury): Master & Dynamic MW50
If premium is your thing and money is no object, then look no further than the on-ear MW50 Bluetooth wireless headphones by Master & Dynamic.
Last year, we reviewed Master & Dynamic's over-ear MW60s and enjoyed how the exquisite styling was equally matched by the solid sonic performance. Just as with the MW60s, the Master & Dynamic MW50 on-ear headphones feature Bluetooth 4.1 (with aptX support) and a wireless range up to 330 ft (100 m). These headphones are designed tank-tough – you'll be hard-pressed to find a lick of plastic in the construction.
Product page: Master & Dynamic
Over-ear headphones: V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
In 2013 V-Moda CEO Val Kolton was quoted as saying, "I am anti-wireless today and I am analog and vintage 'til I die ... I may believe in wireless some day in the future in about 2-5 years." Well, his prediction was in the right ballpark, as V-Moda released the wireless version of its flagship M-100s just last year.
When we reviewed the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless over-ear headphones, we were impressed with the finely-tuned sound signature (both wireless and wired) and overall performance. These headphones present a luxury, audiophile experience at a price that's still hard to beat today. Love to personalize your gear? V-Moda offers 3D-printed and/or laser-engraved shields of your own custom design.
Product page: V-Moda
- Buy V-Moda Crossfade Wireless on Amazon
Over-ear headphones (luxury): Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless
British audio manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) has been gradually incorporating Bluetooth wireless into its headphone product lineup. After last year's P5 Wireless, the company followed up with a wireless version of its P7 headphones in 2016.
Save for delicate physical differences, the P7 Wireless headphones are nearly identical to their wired predecessor, complete with real leather, memory foam cushions, metal frame and folding hinges. These headphones also have Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX support and up to 17 hours of wireless playback per charge. And while they don't have active noise cancellation, their ear pads provide superb passive isolation.
Product page: Bowers & Wilkins
- Buy Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless on Amazon
Open-ear headphones: AfterShokz Trekz Titanium
Situational awareness can be an important safety aspect for those who are into sports, cycling, hiking, running, or almost any outdoor activity. Unlike most types of headphones out there, the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium uses bone conduction technology to deliver sound – ears are left completely open and unobstructed in order to also hear ambient noises. The Trekz Titanium has Bluetooth 4.0, dual microphones, integrated track/volume controls, and up to six hours of playtime per charge. Since these headphones are also dust- and sweat-resistant, they can make for an ideal workout partner.
Product page: AfterShokz
- Buy AfterShokz Trekz Titanium on Amazon
Noise cancelling (runner-up): Sennheiser PXC 550
Sennheiser was first to respond to Bose's QuietComfort QC35 with the PXC 550 Bluetooth over-ear headphones. The PXC 550 uses the same drivers found in Sennheiser's Momentum 2.0 wireless headphones, which took the edge for audio quality in our head-to-head against the QuietComfort QC35. However, when it comes down to ANC, Sennheiser's tech doesn't quite compare.
But if an audiophile-grade sound signature, better battery life, touch features, and a customized listening experience (via mobile app) are more important, the Sennheiser PXC 550 offers an impressive package.
Product page: Sennheiser
- Buy Sennheiser PXC 550 on Amazon
Noise cancelling: Sony MDR-1000X
When we checked out Sony's Bluetooth wireless MDR-1000X over-ear headphones at IFA a few months ago, we were thoroughly impressed. The final retail version holds up to those expectations, delivering a leading combination of sound quality and noise cancellation.
Not only does Sony's noise-cancellation stand toe-to-toe against Bose's, but the MDR-1000X headphones offer high-resolution audio as well as a system that upscales the quality of compressed audio files. Sony maintains the advantage thanks to its Sense Engine and Personal NC Optimizer features, which automatically calibrate sound quality and noise cancelling based on your physical characteristics and wearing style. Combine that with swiveling folding ear cups, smart controls, and up to 20 hours of playtime, and you've got yourself a trusted travel companion to provide superb silence and sound.
Product page: Sony
- Buy Sony MDR-1000X on Amazon