6 High-Quality Wireless Headphones For Different Budgets

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feature image via Shutterstock.

Welp, Apple’s done it again. Trying to change everything by ditching a port. That little hole you’re used to plugging your headphones into? Gone! No more 3.5 mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7 OR 7 Plus. But you’ve probably heard about that by now. That’s probably why you’re here. In case you haven’t, what Apple is steering us toward is the lightning port. That’s what their in-box headphones will be using. And for those of us with nice headphones that we like (Phil Schiller was like, for people still using THE OLD technology, and I was all, hold the fuck on, not everyone can be on the bleeding edge immediately, slow your roll), there’s gonna be an adaptor in the box too. What they really want, though, is to move headphones into a new wireless age. And they said it like no one else has ever thought of wireless headphones! Their proposal, AirPods:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdtHX15sXiU

Get ready for everyone to lose one or both of these almost instantly. But also they look pretty cool. BUT ALSO why are they pretending they’re the first to come up with wireless headphones? Here are some other wireless headphones that probably have better sound than AirPods, which are still Apple headphones even if they are really really (ugh, fine) REALLY cool.


Bowers and Wilkins P5 Wireless

My fiancée has a wired pair of these and I steal them literally whenever I can. The sound on them is excellent and I can’t hear the children playing in my hall while I’m listening to sweet, sweet podcasts while doing my dishes. I also can’t hear Madmen, which is what my fiancée is probably watching. These don’t come cheap, though—$300 brand new or $240 refurb, and they’re on-ear, meaning they sit on top of your ear. Some people don’t care for that because they feel like their ears are getting smooshed. But honestly, really comfy. When I worked for a large technology company whose name I can’t mention, I recommended B&W to everyone who ever laid their hands on Beats (no, no, what are you doing, look at your life, look at your choices). If you’re a bit more budgeted, comme moi, though, my fave budget option is—

LSTN Troubadours

I have a pair of EVEN CHEAPER wired LSTN headphones and I’m so impressed by them. They’re super comfortable, the sound quality is great and I get a lot of compliments on how great the wood looks. So it’s no surprise that I’m salivating over the over-ear, zebra wood Troubadours, which cost $179. According to one reviewer who’s tried them, they’re very light, so if you’re like me and spend an overwhelming majority of your day in headphones, these might be for you. If you’re not into things on or over your ears, but would rather things IN your ears (à la AirPods), maybe try—

JBL Everest Elite 100

The cool bit about these is that they’re noise cancelling and tiny! The other cool bit about these is the app you can use to program exactly how much noise you want cancelled. Perfect for those who want to run with headphones, or just want to wear them while standing on a subway platform during any summer month when the temperature below ground feels like Hades (headphone sweat is real).  These go for $200. Looking for a super budget option? Here’s—

Jabra Move Wireless

These on-ear headphones are $68.50! That is their main selling point, but in my experience, Jabra does pretty well with sound quality too. Perfect for those on a tighter budget who still want to get with the times because their preferred port is so OLD ugh. A word about price—I can find cheaper wireless headphones. I know they’re out there. But there comes a point where I can’t recommend them anymore because they’ll sound like a tin can attached to a string, and I like you better than that. And lastly, a pair of speciality headphones, we’ve got—

Sleepphones Wireless

Night time audiobook listeners, the future can be yours as well! These headphones are made for sleeping—they’re contained in a soft fleece headband. Wireless really is the way to go here, because once the wires on my headphones pulled tight around my face while I was sleeping and I had a dream that I had stitches in my face that were ripping out and that shit sticks with you. This is the one time where I’m like, yeah, fuck that headphone jack. If you, too, are swayed by my anecdote about dream-facial-stitches, these are $100.


You might be able to tell from my near constant sarcasm that I don’t think everyone should up and spring for wireless headphones if you don’t feel strongly about it. In fact, when I upgrade my phone, I’ll be using the adaptor and holding onto my preferred pair of headphones. But I am a person who uses my technology until the wheels fall off. I have these headphones because my last pair literally fell apart on my head. I’m upgrading my iPhone because my battery is, like, DEFINITELY consumed. And honestly? Probably the future is wireless, and progress is good and this is probably progress. These headphones are good options! But I am glad they didn’t leave people who love their current pair of headphones behind.

So what about you—are you upgrading? Switching? Staying the hell away from Apple? What are your Apple announcement feelings? Let’s do talk about it in the comments!

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A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 543 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. I’m ashamed to admit that I really like the (free with my MacBook, I swear!) wireless Beats. Though I feel like I was being primed by the Apple overlords for a chord free life. Fine by me. Chords are basically medieval.

    They are gold and I feel like they unlocked some latent aesthetic preferences.

    My only complaint (that I have with EVERY pair of over-ear headphones) is that they squish my head too much in the glasses area. Usually that gives me a headache but with these they just push my glasses off my face. It’s getting better as they adjust to my gigantic head.

    • I am in the same position. I once returned 3 headphones on one week mostly due to sitting too tight on my head(I don’t wear glasses). Have you tried out some of the wireless or even wired Monster(they use to be the OEM that made the Beats when they first came out) or Sennheisers(had one over 10 years)? I found both brands to be wider/more comfortable than Beats. Worth a try?

        • Same exact thing happened to mines, and tried to glue it back on with hobby glue, but no go. Still, really liked the comfort, and balanced sound I got out of it. My other choice was something with similar sound, but really tighter fit(and a more industrial look).

  2. Mpow makes cheap decent Bluetooth in ear headphones that you can get on amazon. I found out about them via kinja deals and will pick up a pair when they are on sale, as gifts since I love mine so much.

    For expensive Bluetooth over ear headphones I’ve been salivating over V-Moda’s new wireless headphones. I really love my older wired v-moda crossfades. They are comfortable and have the best sound quality of any headphones I’ve ever owned. I like that the wireless ones can go wired as well so it’s like best of both worlds and they’re not useless when the battery dies

  3. I had some stereo Jabra Bluetooth headphones almost a decade ago. They were pretty good, but their build could have been better(at least for the part that hooks on to your ear). I still have them, but lost the charger, and hopefully they aren’t using a proprietary port any more, or having treble that after hours can cause some fatigue.

    I did also a few years back try at the Sony store their IEM that plugs into a BT attachment that was really cool(cause really it was just a battery with BT and 3.5mm jack that allowed really any 3.5mm headphones become BT). It sounded great for BT, but it started around $90 with what I think was their $35 IEM which sounds, but not $90 good. I wonder if they still make something like that?

  4. Well, thank you for reading my mind. I’ve been wanting wireless headphones but didn’t know where to start. Your’s is the second recommendation I’ve seen for the SleepPhones so I think I’ll start there.

  5. Thanks! I’m actually in the market for a new pair of headphones, because the band on my (wired) Monsters has cracked twice and even Sugru putty and Superglue can’t repair it. Would you be willing to do a version of this for wired headphones for those of us who have no intention of buying an iPhone 7?

  6. IT’S LIKE YOU READ MY MIND.

    I have a pair of wired headphones that I almost never use (over the ear), mainly because I have no use for them, but have been thinking more recently that I’d like to try another pair of over the ear phones for traveling and such, because I really like my inner ear kind for running or just walking around, they really start to hurt my ears after an hour or so.

    BUT, it is so hard to tell which over the ear headphones are not bulky, or don’t smoosh your ears and cause a whole ‘nother kind of ear pain…especially on a small person with small ears.

    Halp?

  7. This is a dangerous article because now I’ve moved from sort-of-thinking-about wireless headphones to really wanting a pair! I’ve been thinking about getting some for a while, but I’m super hesitant to drop serious money on them because I have the worst luck with headphones breaking. Having said that, the first thing that breaks on my headphones always seems to have something to do with the cord? So maybe wireless headphones would solve that issue…

  8. Slightly surprised no one has mentioned the Bose quiet comfort 35’s. Easily the best headphones I have ever owned. I’ve tried the sony h.ear and the latest Beats, but still prefer my QC35s! The sound quality is amazing (although be prepared to miss the bass if you’re used to Beats). Plus they’re very comfortable (even with glasses) and the noise cancelling is the best I’ve tried.

  9. I have a pair of bluetooth earbuds that i got for under £50 and i ADORE them. They say they last 7 hours off of a single charge but i’ve had mine last a good couple of days. They’re the skullcandy smokin’ buds 2 and i’d 100% recommend them! (Honestly as someone who’s been harping on about wireless headphones for years i’m really excited for them to become a Thing.)

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