Bluetooth headsets and earphones Quality Assurance
How we pick & test
Our audio experts test for detailed, lifelike sound and clear microphone quality for phone and video calls.
A good design should fit most head sizes, and controls should be easy to use– so we have a variety of people try out our top contenders.
Batteries should last at least eight to 10 hours and ideally have an analog cable for situations when you need to listen wired.
We pair contenders to several different devices and test wireless reliability indoors, outdoors, and at a distance.
Why you should trust us
Not only do I hold a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, but I also have tested more than a thousand pairs of headphones while working for DDKUD.
How we tested
When selecting the top wireless headphones, our expert panelists consider the sound quality, fit, ease of use, and comfort of each pair we receive. Those pairs that perform well qualify for further testing by me. This includes testing the microphones over phone calls, with background noise and wind noise. I check the Bluetooth signal strength by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. I tinker with the included apps and any bonus features (like location services, voice activation, dual-device connection, and control customization). If applicable, I mist the headphones with water to see how moisture might impact the touch controls. I try each pair on with glasses, too. And if the headphones have active noise cancellation that sounds subjectively effective, I pass them on to Brent for measurement.
Finally, I test battery life by playing music loud enough to drown out an air conditioner (for most, this is around 60% maximum volume) and timing how long it takes for the battery to die.
If a pair of headphones is stellar enough to be considered as a pick, I spend around a week using that pair in an effort to suss out long-term listening comfort, as well as any potential flaws that we may have missed in the initial testing.
How we picked
An individual working on a laptop, surrounded by headphones, while testing the best wireless bluetooth headphones.
Panelist John Higgins evaluates a variety of headphones. Photo: Lauren Dragan
Our quest to find the top Bluetooth headphones always starts with research. First, we research more than 100 companies to see what they’ve released since our last update. To date, we’ve seriously considered more than 200 headphone models just for this guide. To help us narrow down the field a bit (even we can’t test everything), we read reviews by professionals (on sites like CNET and InnerFidelity) as well as by customers (on retailer sites such as Amazon and Crutchfield). We take note of what people like and don’t like as we look for models that meet what we think are the most important criteria for good wireless headphones:
Fantastic sound quality and a comfortable fit: These are, of course, our top two priorities. If something hurts to wear, you won’t use it, and poor fit often affects sound quality. And nobody should have to pay for subpar sound quality. During our research, we eliminate any headphones with several poor professional reviews or consistently low owner reviews.
Easy-to-use-and-understand controls: Batting desperately at your headphones when you are trying to pause a track or answer a call is frustrating. We dismiss any headphones that are confusing to use or too easy to trigger accidentally.
Solid Bluetooth connection strength: Repeated complaints of music cutting out or calls being dropped prompt a dismissal.
Good voice-call quality: This is very important if you expect to use the headphones all day.
A minimum eight to 10 hours of battery life, plus the ability to work when they’re charging or connected via a cord: The top Bluetooth headphones should last a full workday at minimum, and you should still be able to use them while they’re charging or connected with a cord. Otherwise, if your battery dies in the middle of something important, you could be out of luck.
Legitimate customer support: This is the kind of thing that doesn’t seem to matter until you need it. We dismiss any headphones not backed by companies that we can actually contact and receive a reply from, as well as those from companies that have a large backlog of complaints. A lifetime warranty means nothing if there’s no one you can call or email for help.
Readers often ask if we demand the inclusion of specific Bluetooth formats, or codecs, in our headphone picks. We do not, and Brent Butterworth explains why in this article. The gist? The differences in sound quality between Bluetooth codecs are subtle at best, and they don’t matter as much as the quality of the headphones themselves. If you wonder whether or not you can hear those differences, Brent made a blind test that you can take yourself, comparing the sound quality of MP3,