The best wireless headphones right now

With the Bright Stuff buying guide, we are happy to help you find the best product of the moment. In this overview: the best wireless headphones, with a suitable match for everyone.

You like to buy the best product, logical. “Best” is of course an opinion, in this case ours. With Bright Stuff, base that opinion on a few things. In addition to good sound, you also want your headphones to be comfortable, have a long battery life and be easy to use. And if it has noise reduction, it must be effective. Based on those requirements, we recommend four headphones: three in the ‘money no problem’ category and one labeled ‘sustainable’.

Sony WH-1000XM5

The perfect all-rounder. Sony has been convincing for years with its WH-1000X line, both in terms of active noise reduction and sound quality. Those two key functions are somewhat stronger with this model than with its four predecessors, but for the first time the appearance has also been renewed. The earcups have roughly the same characteristic shape, but the headband is a bit slimmer. The disadvantage of the new design is a lack of hinges. Unfortunately, folding is no longer possible, but a fairly large carrying case is included.

The sound: very spacious and, as we are used to from Sony, on the bass side. A bit less than before: the standard setting of the headphones is better suited for all types of music. Every genre sounds clear, with tight mids and without annoying outliers. The active noise cancellation has also improved slightly, although that is difficult to notice because the predecessors were already so good. So: echoing train stations and airports, whooshing trains and planes, the buzz of an office: away with the push of a button.

Then Sony has a number of unique functions, the most important being the Quick Attention Mode. If you hear or especially see someone talking to you, you put your hand on the right earcup. As long as you do that, the music will be greatly muted, the noise cancellation will be disabled and the transparent mode will be enabled. There is also support for special spatial audio via 360 Reality Audio, supported by Deezer and Tidal, among others. The headphones also support High-Resolution Audio via LDAC.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is available in black and silver-grey. The introductory price is 420 euros, but the headphones can also be found for less than 325 euros.

Apple AirPods Max

Of AirPods Max is Apple’s first pair of headphones, aiming for first place right away. And the headphones also deserve that place, although that is also largely up to the user himself. This highlight is not for everyone. It is easily the most beautifully finished headphone in its class, whatever you think of the rectangular ear cups. They are made of beautiful aluminum and merge into solid bending, shiny chrome hinges. The headband is quite wide and clamps less than any competitor. The fabric ear cushions feel high-quality and are also magnetically attached, so you can easily replace them after a few years.

In terms of operation, the AirPods Max has been copied from the Apple Watch. On the right shell are a rotary wheel and a push button. The wheel controls almost everything: turn for volume, press for play/pause, forward and backward. The other button only toggles between active noise cancellation and transparency mode. It’s a wonder no one came up with this control before, because it works great.

The noise cancellation is excellent and can easily compete with the best competitors. Turn it on and most of the noise, hiss, rumble and buzz around you disappears like snow in the sun. Apple also gets credit for its transparency mode, which does not suppress ambient noise, but lets it through. Every headphone with active noise cancellation has that, but only with Apple does it sound just right. The outside world is let through at the right volume and mixed with the music. That balance is invariably wrong with competitors, as a result of which the environment usually comes in artificially hard.

Then the sound: it is balanced and sounds wide. The distribution between high notes, bass and mid tones is just right. It also never sounds like you’re listening with stereo headphones, but rather like there are speakers a little further away. It is not possible to adjust the sound manually, but it is done automatically. This ensures well-adjusted sound, although you can also experience that approach as clinical.

Now for the “not for everyone” part. Like most Apple products, the AirPods Max are especially nice if you already use one or more Apple products or services. Spotify sounds great from the AirPods Max, but Apple Music sounds just a bit better. Then you automatically hear the Dolby Atmos mix of many songs, which adds an extra spatial layer. Turn your head and it looks like you’re in the concert hall.

Downside: The current AirPods Max don’t support lossless music, even though Apple does offer it. In any case, you can easily jump from iPhone to iPad to MacBook to Apple TV and just as easily back again without having to set anything yourself. But is there an Android device among them, or a Windows computer? Then it becomes old-fashioned manual work.

The Apple AirPods Max is available in black, white, pink, green and blue. The introductory price of the AirPods Max is 629 euros, but it can now be found regularly for just over 400 euros.

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2

Bowers & Wilkins can compete with the best headphones with the Px7 S2, but distinguishes itself with a full, warm sound, premium finish and solid build quality. The audio sounds well balanced, with a standard but not predominant bass, clear highs and, above all, a present midrange.

This ensures a reasonably wide sound, also thanks to the placement of the speakers in the ear cups. They are at a greater angle to the ear than with previous B&Ws, which indeed provides a more spacious sound. According to Bowers & Wilkins, the active noise reduction reduces ambient noise by about 30 decibels. In a busy train or a noisy coffee shop, that is more than enough to shut you off completely.

The B&W Px7 S2 are headphones for the connoisseur, both in terms of sound and design. It sounds strong in all cases, feels high-quality and is comfortable to wear. It also has all the functions in house, but not too much. In terms of adjusting settings and equalizer, the B&W is somewhat limited and there is no touch control or a fast speaking function as with the Sonys. Those are choices: the Px7 S2 puts good sound first, followed by a beautiful design and there is no room for empty frills.

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 is available in black, gray and blue. The introduction price of the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 is 429 euros, it can now be found for under 300 euros.

Sustainable choice: Fairbuds XL

The Dutch Fairphone has been making smartphones for a number of years that are easier to repair, and now there is also sustainable headphones. As far as we’re concerned, a golden opportunity, because you generally exchange your smartphone for a new one faster than your headphones. You can expect it to last about six years, but then some things wear out.

Fairphone has made these headphones in such a way that you can replace every part yourself. No glue: at most a few screws have been used, so everyone can get started with one screwdriver. And so you can easily replace the ear cushions, the headband or the hinges: parts that often wear out.

But you can also easily replace the battery, if the capacity decreases after a while. In total, the headphones consist of 11 modular parts. They are not yet for sale, but to give an indication: new ear cushions will soon cost 14.95 euros per pair, a new battery will cost 19.95 euros.

In the meantime, we think the sound fits well with the price of the Fairbuds XL. Beautiful, full yet neutral. And if you don’t like it, an equalizer is available in the app. The active noise cancellation leaves something to be desired: we found it really lacking compared to other headphones and even earplugs in this price range. Hopefully firmware updates will change that.

The operation is very pleasant: a button and a kind of small joystick. It works logically, simply and by touch. The presence of multipoint is also nice: the headphones then switch quickly and often independently from, for example, your laptop to your smartphone, if you do that too. In our opinion, the biggest lack is the sensor for automatic pause and play: these headphones continue to play when you take them off.

The Fairbuds XL is available in black and green. The introductory price of the Fairbuds XL is 249 euros.

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