Looking to buy a new pair of Bluetooth headphones? Chris Haslam puts three of the best to the test
Which features should you look for in Bluetooth headphones?
Sound quality, comfort (a good fit is crucial) and durability are most important when choosing headphones, but these are often overlooked in favour of hi-tech gizmos including wireless connectivity, voice control and ANC. The more features you opt for, the less emphasis there will be on sound quality, so think about what’s most important.
How much do Bluetooth headphones cost?
You do get what you pay for – especially sound quality – so spend at least £50 for basic headband-style Bluetooth headphones and £70-120 if you have to have Active Noise Cancelling (ANC).
Does Bluetooth sound good?
Older headphones with Bluetooth V4.2 were convenient but often sounded poor. The latest V5 Bluetooth is twice as fast with four times the range, and can transfer eight times as much data. This means more audio data can be transferred so your music sounds better.
The best bluetooth headphones and earbuds reviewed
Final UX3000 (awarded best in test)
The price tag may appear steep for headphones, but for all the latest features – great battery, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity and decent sound quality – you’re going to have to invest a little. This pair from Japanese high-end audio brand Final ticks all the budget boxes. Final makes some fantastic top-end headphones – the £3,999 D8000 Pro had me remortgaging – and while these don’t compare, they do boast a considered performance and soundstage that could only come from a brand that puts audio first.
ANC often sullies sound quality, but Final has developed a new driver specifically tuned to cope with the added technology in our ears, and the result puts other budget headphones – and even some premium headphones – to shame. While the ANC is extremely effective at blocking unwanted noise, the Bluetooth 5.0 aptX offers the possibility of almost CD-quality streaming, and they boast a battery life of up to 35 hours. £119 doesn’t buy you all the features: there’s no auto-pausing if you remove them, on-ear controls are minimal and the buttons and casing are a little plasticky, although the soft-textured, fingerprint-proof coating is a nice touch, and they fold small for easy storage.
JLab GO Air POP (best budget headphones)
I had no high expectations for these £20 true wireless earbuds, but after a few hours’ wear I was surprised by how decent they were. They have an eight-hour battery life per tiny 3.7g earbud, with a total of 32 hours from the pocket-friendly battery pack. The whole bundle weighs 35.4g, including a built-in USB charge cable – a godsend to anyone prone to misplacing their chargers. Bluetooth 5.1 offers a stable wireless connection, and while the 6mm drivers aren’t going to offer revelatory insights into a favourite concerto, given their thoughtful design it would be churlish to overly criticise them at this price. jlab.com
Nothing Ear (1) (best Bluetooth earbuds)
If the excellent Apple AirPod Pros are beyond your budget, the Ear (1) is very passable for half the price. Available in transparent white or a more understated black, they have superb Active Noise Cancellation, five hours of continuous listening (34 hours with the battery case), wireless charging, a comfortable fit (second only to AirPod Pro), instant connectivity and a genuinely enjoyable performance, with
controlled bass and great detail.
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.