Editor's Top Value Favorite HeadphonesA complete 2015 Bluetooth headphones selection guide for Sport / Earbuds, On-Ear, Over Ear, RF Wireless headphones and Bluetooth Audio Accessories
Bluetooth technology - the great enabler.
The recent advances in Bluetooth technology enabled many practical wireless solutions that did not existed even a few short years ago. Electronic equipment manufacturers are creating a plethora of new wireless solutions that make our life simpler and more importantly wire tangle free. We are finally able to brake the shackles of wires in our offices and our homes. Listening to our favorite music had never been easier. The options for wireless Bluetooth audio equipment for our computers, smartphones and entertainment equipment are expanding nearly daily. While the Bluetooth technology creates many new devices and changes the way we use others, we would like to concentrate on one specific class of everyday gadgets that had been with us for some time now, namely headphones. Due to an emergence of a Bluetooth connectivity standards, the headphones as a class of electronic equipment is going through a mini revolution. The number of new choices for Bluetooth headphones is growing nearly every day. Most of a top manufacturers in this category either already have a portfolio of Bluetooth offerings or will soon add more wireless models, to provide their customers with a wireless option for their top products. If the trend continues, soon there will be more choices for a Bluetooth/Wireless headphones then for their wired older siblings. This shift will most likely affect the most the mid-range products due to the sound quality and price considerations.
So, how do the top Bluetooth headphones compare with their more traditional wired brethren? If you had used Bluetooth audio devices in the past, you probably remember the sound quality as "not so great". Some would even say that the headsets sounded "robotic". The audio quality on older Bluetooth devices was significantly affected by an audio compression used for digital transmission. This extreme compression was unfortunately necessary, due to the bandwidth limitations of the earlier versions of Bluetooth standard ( For more info on Bluetooth versions, please visit: What is Bluetooth - technology in plain English). Bluetooth versions 3.0 and 4.0 with their increased bandwidth, enabled manufacturers to tremendously improve the quality of the audio being transmitted over the wireless connections. While the improved Bluetooth audio quality is still cannot match the one offered by top wired headphones, it produces audio that for everyday use we could easily qualify it as just below "excellent". Notably, the best Bluetooth headphones, audio quality wise, that we have ever tested, Sennheiser Momentum Over Ear Wireless, surpassed the audio quality of most mid-range wired headphones on the market today. In our opinion, quite a few (e.g. BeoPlay H8 by Bang & Olufsen, Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless or Harman Kardon SOHO ) produce audio quality very close to high-end CD-quality (non-Bluetooth) wireless headphones like Sennheiser RS 195 RF or Sennheiser RS 185 RF (a more complete list at the bottom of this post), by many viewed as the gold standard in wireless headphones audio quality. In addition, top offerings usually come with an option for a wired connection for those times when portability is not required.
Top Bluetooth headphones - Our top choices.
When it comes to choosing a pair of headphones, our choice is often affected by the way we are going to use them. It is nearly impossible to pick one pair that would be suitable for all situations. In our review we followed the industry standard that divides all headphones into three groups:
- Top Bluetooth in-ear/earbuds headphones
- Top Bluetooth on-ear headphones
- Top Bluetooth over ear headphones
In each of the categories we picked our Top Bluetooth Headphones set, in some cases however, we also picked additional sets to make our selection more complete. The additional criteria included either price or design style or both.
To make this review more complete and helpful we included three more useful links:
- Bluetooth accessories - adapters and transmitters for legacy audio equipment.
- Compact Portable USB chargers - re-charging power sources on the go
- High capacity Portable USB chargers - re-charging power sources on the go
Top Bluetooth Headphones - In-ear / earbuds.
When running errands, going to the gym or or taking your daily jog, you need headphones that are ultra portable, unobtrusive and durable. The most practical choice for those occasions are earbuds. Among some of the most important characteristics that we looked for when choosing our top contenders were audio quality, secure fit, water/sweat resistance, durability, battery life and price. Because most of us would like to be able to answer a call without removing our earbuds, the build-in microphone and phone controls are a big plus and something that we considered in our final score. In our review we gave a special attention to the price. Most of the time those headphones are being used in less then ideal conditions and therefore, they are prone to an accidental damage, wear and tear. Repair or replacement can get expensive really fast. For this reason, the two best sounding sets, JayBird BlueBuds X Sport (see also video review on Youtube - JayBird BlueBuds X Sport - Video Review) and Powerbeats 2.0 Wireless Athletic , did not take the top spots in our ranking. Because the number of good choices in this category is so vast and growing, we included some of the contenders as a list below our top earbuds review. As new products will make it to the market we will try update that list with new info and listings.
Top Bluetooth in-ear headphones - Freedom Sprint Earbuds by Jaybird
The Freedom Sprint Earbuds by Jaybird (best bluetooth headphones for running) are a perfect example of a very sensible compromise between sound quality, functionality, durability and price (watch the Youtube's Freedom Sprint Video Review). While they provide excellent sound quality, they cost about 30% less than the Jaybird's top model, BlueBuds X .
For under $100 you get about four hours of playback or phone time, with a comfortable and secure fit in your ears. The flat, tangle free wire connecting earbuds goes on the back of your neck and provides freedom of movement for most of everyday activities.
All controls are integrated into the earbuds and provide music control buttons for: Play/Pause, Next/Back and volume control. In addition, if you are using the set with your smartphone, you can answer your phone calls with a build-in microphone. To manage your calls the headphones provide: Answer, End and Reject Call control buttons.
While in our opinion, the phone call quality left something to be desired, the audio playback quality more than compensated for that particular shortcoming.
As with most ultra-portable Bluetooth devices, the size limits the space for power storage. In most situations 4 - 4 1/2 hours of playback between charges is enough. If you wish to extend that time, especially if your are traveling, you might consider using one of the Top 10 compact portable chargers that can provide extra power for your headphones as well as your smartphone.
The set includes three sizes of ear-tips, optional ear hooks and a USB charging cable. When traveling, you can use the complimentary carrying case to protect your headphones from accidental damage or loosing your ear-tips.
More top Bluetooth earbuds - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
As a part of our review we created a list of finalists that we considered for the review. Below are just three samples of those that did not make the final cut as our winners yet could be a great choice as a wireless earbuds. In this group is also editors' and readers' favorite Photive PH-BTE70 (pictured on the top of this page). Below the samples you will find a link to the full list of our review finalists.
Follow the link below for a complete list of Top Bluetooth Earbuds
- Bluetooth accessories - adapters and transmitters
- Portable USB chargers - recharging your devices on the go
Top value (under $50) Bluetooth in-ear headphones - Mpow Swift Sport Headphones
For our best value pick in the category we looked for a set that would provide a good sound quality at an affordable price. Our choice is Mpow Swift Sport Headphones . For under $30 you get a good sounding set of earbuds that are relatively well made and can withstand harsh conditions of a workout.
Like most of the new compact Bluetooth earbuds the Mpow Swift promises about five hours of playback and phone time with 185 hours of standby time. In our test we got almost seven hours of playback time, which is more than the manufacturer promised. Recharging takes about two hours, using a USB cable, included with the set.
The package contains three sets of ear-tips and six sets of stabilizers to provide optimal fit. In our tests the headphones stayed securely in our ears without a need for frequent re-adjustment. They felt comfortable and well fitted even during some intensive running.
The set provides all standard controls for both music playback and phone operations. All operations are controlled with just two, multi-function and volume buttons build into the right earbud (this could feel a bit awkward for a left-handed person). The USB charging port, located on the left earbud, is well protected from elements with a rubber plug, on our set it was so snug that at times we found it hard to remove it for charging.
A two nice features that we were really impressed to find were Bluetooth multipoint technology and noise/echo reduction for microphone operations. The multipoint feature enabled the headphones to be paired with two devices at the same time (e.g. mp3 player and a smartphone). The noise/echo reduction improved our phone conversations and our callers reported no echo or background noise while we used the build-in microphone. Both features were a nice surprise, considering the unit price.
Overall, the Mpow Swift Sport is an excellent choice as a workout headphones. The manufacturer's 18-month warranty and the Free Lifetime Support makes that choice even more attractive.
More top value wireless earbuds - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three sample earbuds members of our top finalist list for the top value wireless earbuds category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of top value (<$50) wireless earbuds finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of top value wireless earbuds finalists
- Bluetooth accessories - adapters and transmitters
- Portable USB chargers - re-charging power sources on the go
Top Bluetooth flex-band and other styles wireless earbuds - Mpow Cheetah Sport Headphones
One of the most important aspect of a good pair of in-ear headphones is their fit. From experience we know that not everybody can wear the standard earbuds, regardless of the manufacturers' efforts to keep them securely in place. That is why we decided to include one more type of earbuds that features a flexible band that keeps the headphones in place. The added benefit of this design is that the rechargeable battery can be slightly bigger and provide longer playback time.
For under $30 Mpow Cheetah is a very good buy when we consider the sound quality and other features of the unit. The elastic band connecting earbuds provides good fit and support for the headphones and we didn't have any trouble keeping them in place while working out at the gym or during our runs.
In the box you get two extra sizes of ear-tips, in case the primary ones don't fit your ears and a USB cable for recharging your Cheetah's batteries. Sadly no carrying case to prevent accidental damage or losing your ear-tips.
The headphone's construction can accommodate a slightly bigger battery and the manufacturer's manual lists 8 hours of playback time. During our tests we played them for more than 9 hours between charges, this possibly can vary depending on the playback volume and the Bluetooth connection quality.
All controls for both music playback and phone operations plus microphone and the USB charging port are located on the right earbud. All operations are controlled with a multi-function and a volume buttons (this could feel a bit awkward for a left-handed person).
Overall Mpow® Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 has an excellent value as a sport/running headphone set, the new 2015 version improved the ear-tips fit and construction quality without raising the unit price. Works great as a playback headset and a good option to answer an occasional phone call during your workout.
For improved water protection you can also consider a little more expensive, new Mpow Cheetah 4.1 with Nano-coating
More flex-band and other style earbuds - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three sample earbuds members of our top finalist list for the top flex-band wireless earbuds category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of top flex-band and other styles wireless earbuds finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of flex-band and other styles wireless earbuds
Top Bluetooth headphones - On-ear for travel and around the house.
When looking for a pair of on-ear top Bluetooth headphones, the main criteria when evaluating our test units was audio quality and compactness. They should provide a good audio quality and be small enough to carry them, without the bulkiness of the full-size over ear headphones.
Because the audio quality unfortunately doesn't come cheap, our top pick is expensive. Therefore we decided to also select a pair of headphones that would provide a great sound at a more reasonable price.
We also looked for an on-ear Bluetooth headphones that would be suitable for running and workouts as an alternative for earbuds. For the last on-ear top set we selected a pair of headphones that offer portability and fit of sport headphones for people that cannot wear earbuds.
Our top on-ear two finalists were Jabra REVO Wireless and Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear Wireless . The final decision had been extremely difficult due to the price difference between the two sets. In the end we selected the Sennheiser's headphones for the slightly better sound quality, regardless of being more than three times as expensive as the Revo headphones.
Most notably, the new Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones are missing from our finalist list, due to its low frequency sound profile bias (watch MKBHD's The Truth About Beats By Dre!). However, if you are a bass lover, consider the Beats Solo 2 Wireless , as they are a great set of headphones, just not for everybody or all kinds of music.
The second iteration of the Sennheiser's Momentum headset offers a great listening experience and plenty of comfort. The sound is well balanced and quite natural with a wide sound spectrum (best in class frequency response range: 16–22,000 Hz). Momentum 2.0 also features active noise cancelation capability. In our test Sennheiser's proprietary NoiseGard technology provided an adequate noise isolation for most everyday listening (if you often use your headphones in a noisy environment, consider the best noise cancelling headphones Bose QuietComfort 25 ).
We really liked Momentum's simple yet elegant design that provided a solid, comfortable fit. Good quality materials on the headband matched with a soft touch of the ear cups, covered with a plush synthetic, suede-like Alcantara fabric that created an overall pleasant and comfortable fit. The solid grip, good enough for an occasional jog, can however create a problem for people wearing glasses, prolonged wear can cause some pressure around ears.
As most of the headphones in this category Momentum 2.0 features passive mode (they sound even better) with a provided audio cable, the shipping box also includes an in-flight adapter for airplane travel, a USB charging cable and a carrying case.
For smartphone integration the Momentum headphones provide control buttons and two microphones with noise and echo cancelation technology. The build-in control buttons are designed to manage both, phone and playback operations.
A 600mAh Lithium-ion Polymer rechargeable battery allows for up to 22 hours of playback/talk time and can be recharged from any compatible USB power source in about 3 hours.
All our testers had been truly impressed with this relatively compact on-ear headphone set and gave it an overall excellent rating. The only complaint was the lack of NoiseGard off switch, it could only be turned off in a passive mode with the Bluetooth turned off.
More top on-ear headphones - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three samples of our top finalists in the on-ear headphones category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of our top on-ear finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of top on-ear headphones
Our next on-ear top Bluetooth headphone set is the best value set, Jabra MOVE Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset. For about $70 you get a great sounding set of headphones in a well designed compact and light (5.59 oz) package. The set also provides a 3.5 mm audio cable for passive operation. As most of new Bluetooth headphones, the MOVE also allows you to operate it as a wireless headset for your smartphone.
In our review we especially liked the sound quality produced by the headphones. The sound profile works great for almost every type of music that we tested. From techno to jazz and some hip-hop, the sound was crisp and natural in all tone ranges.
The headphones are well designed with quality materials and provide a comfortable yet solid fit, adequate for most activities, including a moderate workout. The ear cups slide up and down the steel headband with enough resistance to keep them in place. The only missing feature is a hinge that would provide a more compact size for travel.
Somewhat minimalistic approach to the build-in controls, features a multi-function button and two volume control buttons. The MOVE provides also a Bluetooth on/off switch, to either save a battery power or to operate the headset in the passive mode.
In the box you will receive a headset, 3.5 mm audio cable for passive mode operation and a USB to Micro USB charging cable. The build-in Lithium battery is good for about eight hours of talk/playback and it takes about two hours to recharge.
If you are looking for an affordable set of a Bluetooth headphones, the Jabra MOVE is a great choice with the best price/performance value that we could find.
More value (under $100) on-ear headphones - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three top samples of our finalists in the value on-ear headphones category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of our value on-ear finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of value on-ear headphones
For our last set in the on-ear Bluetooth headphones category, we were looking for a pair of headphones that could be an alternative for a sport/activity earbuds for people that cannot wear an in-ear version. Our finalists had to be light, comfortable and inexpensive as headphones in this category are prone to accidental damage.
Our top choice is Mediabridge Cadence Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, a neck-band style, on-ear sport headphones. At about $30 they are a great value for your everyday listening companion, they can also be used as a hands-free headset for your smartphone.
The Cadence features a Bluetooth 4.0 with an A2DP profile support. They produce a really good sound quality, one of the best in this price range (most ~$30 headphones are using Bluetooth version 2.0, with a much lower sound quality).
We liked the somewhat unique ear pad design, made with a synthetic leather. It made it very easy to clean the headphones after a workout. Overall a nice light and comfortable design and construction, with some nice sweat proof features.
All remote control buttons (Skip, Back, Play/Pause, Call Control and Volume) are located on the right earcup. It took us only a few tries to learn the buttons location and operate the remote controls by touch.
In the box you will receive headphones, a USB charging cable and even a hard carrying case to protect the headphones in your gym bag. The Lithium battery is good for about nine hours of playback/talk time and it takes about two hours to recharge.
If you don't expect a concert hall experience from your $30 headphones, Mediabridge Cadence will prove to be a great wire-free companion for your workouts or other sport activities. with an ability to answer your phone without a pause.
More sport on-ear headphones - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three top samples of our finalists in the sport on-ear headphones category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of our sport on-ear finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of sport on-ear headphones
Top Bluetooth over ear headphones
In this category we concentrated on selecting a pair of headphones for their sound quality and comfort as the primary criteria. The price considerations took somewhat a "back seat" as this group of headphones, in general, is considered a premium group and an over ear headphones are usually selected for their sound quality and sound isolation. Notably, in the active noise cancellation category our top choice was Bose Quiet Comfort 25 (wired) for their nearly flawless noise cancellation implementation. Our winner in this category is Sennheiser Momentum Over ear Wireless with Active Noise Cancelation , a truly exceptional set of headphones in both sound quality and comfort. The choice was not an easy one because our runner ups: MDR1ABT/S Hi-Resolution headphones from Sony, Parrot Zik 2.0 , and Sony MDR10RBT just to name a few (see the full list of the finalists below this review) are all exceptional headphones with just minute differences separating them from the winner.
As a bonus feature, we also included some of the best "budget" over ear headphones, see the list at the bottom of this section.
Top over ear Bluetooth headphones - Sennheiser Momentum Over ear Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over ear Wireless' sound so good that they blow away most of the mid-range wired headphones on the market today. While they are expensive, even compared to the wired-only version, for people that are willing to pay the premium for the exceptional sound quality they are the best choice for multi-genre music listeners.
The Momentum's Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX and one of the best in the class frequency response range of 16 Hz – 22000 Hz, delivered a crisp and balanced CD-quality sound, as long as the music source was also a high quality track. For even better sound you can always use wired, passive mode. Our only complaint was the lack a control for active noise cancelling aka. NoiseGard. The only way to disable the NoiseGard is to use the headphones in a passive mode with the audio cable connected and the Bluetooth turned off.
The Momentum's design, materials and construction are top notch. Compared to the previous version the ear cups got slightly bigger to avoid ear pressure. The pads are lined with a thick memory foam, covered by a soft leather and provide a very comfortable fit around ears. The stainless steel spring headband keeps the headphones safely in place. The headband construction now features a hinge that makes the headphones easier to take with us on the road.
All remote control operations are done with a three-way multi-function button located on the right ear cup, the only other control is the power button also located on the right ear cup. The multi-function button provides enough feedback to make the control easy to operate with just the feel of our fingers.
In the box along the headphones we received two carrying cases (a soft pouch and a hard case), a 3.5 mm audio cable plus an in-flight plug adapter, also included is a USB to micro USB cable for charging the headphone's battery. The 600mAh Lithium-ion Polymer battery provides an impressive 22 hours of playback/talk time, with only 3 hours required for a full re-charge.
In our opinion the quality of sound produced by the new Momentum Wireless headphones as well as the modern yet somewhat nostalgic retro design, perfectly executed by Sennheiser, almost justifies the price that you have to pay for this exceptional pair of a wireless headphones.
As of 10/21/2015 the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headsets are back in stock.
More top over-ear headphones - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three top samples of our finalists in the best over-ear headphones category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of our top over-ear finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of top over-ear headphones
Value (under $100), Over Ear headphones - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
This is a realy solid set of headphones at any price, but when we consider that it comes with a sticker price of about $90 it is a great value for what you are getting.
Its sound performance got our reviewers score of 9 out of 10 with extra points for a very well balanced sound profile, both lows and highs sounding strong but not overpowering and the mids are smooth and crisp. This makes the Matrix 2 a great headphones for any music genere from classical to rock. If you are looking for that extra bass, you might look into Skullcandy Hesh as an alternative in this price range.
As you might expect from a full sized Bluetooth headphone set, Matrix 2 features a build-in microphone and phone controls for hands-free call functions. The controls also support media playback functions. Its Bluetooth 4.0 comes with NFC and support for aptX and AAC audio codecs for HD-quality audio playback.
Its rechargeable battery provides 22 hours of either media playback or talk time and up to 350 hours of standby time. If you run out of the battery power you can continue to listen while the battery is recharging from either a wall charger or a power bank.
In the box you get the headphones, a USB charging cable and a stereo audio cable for passive listning. The set also includes a matching premium protective case for travel.
More value (under $100) over-ear headphones - Top Bluetooth Headphones Review.
See below three top samples of our finalists in the value (under $100) over-ear headphones category. Use the link below them to access the complete list of our value over-ear finalists created by our editors.
Follow the link below for a complete list of value (under $100) over-ear headphones
RF wireless headphones.
RF wireless headphones use a 2.4 GHz radio frequency band for audio transmission. They usually come as a set of a base that connects to an audio port of your equipment (TV set, amplifier etc.) and a wireless headphone set(s). Their common characteristic is a very good (near CD quality) audio and ability to output audio to multiple headphone sets. Even with the recent proliferation of inexpensive Bluetooth headphones, the RF wireless headphones sill are an attractive option for multi-user TV/Home Theater audio setup.
Developments in a Bluetooth technology not only created a new breed of devices but also enabled some of our legacy equipment to work in some new, unexpected ways. In our Bluetooth Accessories section we collected some of useful products that allow a non Bluetooth-enabled equipment to communicate with the new Bluetooth devices. The communication enablers are: Bluetooth transmitters (TX), Bluetooth receivers (RX). Devices that can work as both had been marked as TX/RX. The Bluetooth transmitters and receivers can interface with either an audio or a standard USB port and complete the link between our devices. The last section of our Accessories collection, lists some Bluetooth and/or audio related products that our editors found either useful or interesting enough to include in the Bluetooth headphones review.
Note: For dual headphones/speakers streaming from a single source use:
MEE audio Connect Universal Dual Headphone Bluetooth Transmitter by MEE audio,
Avantree Priva II - LOW LATENCY Bluetooth Transmitter/Splitter by Avantree,
NewRice High-Fidelity Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Stereo Music Transmitter by NewRice,
Miccus Mini-jack TX4: Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Music Transmitter by Miccus or
KOKKIA A10M Multi-Stream 3.5 mm Universal EDR Bluetooth Stereo Transmitter by KOKKIA.
All multi-streaming transmitters shown below.