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What I Tell Friends Who Ask Me What Bluetooth Headphones to Buy

If a friend asks me about the best Bluetooth headphones, I like to make some chitchat first. I’ll say, “Hey, how’s it going? I haven’t seen you since the [popular music group] show at [popular music venue] that time!” And then I like to get down to business. The simple answer to the Bluetooth headphone question is … well, it depends.

I’m not the leading expert in wireless technology. I wasn’t deconstructing radios at age 3 or reading up on near-field communication during recess. What I have done in recent years, though, is tested out a lot of wireless headphones across several categories, including those designed for athletes, those made for kids, and a few pairs created with the genuine audiophile in mind. I’ve been testing and writing about gear since 2011, and in that time I’ve used so many dozens of headphones (plus speakers, battery packs, and electric toothbrushes) that I’ve become the go-to guy for gadget recommendations around my circle of friends.

So while I’m not the very tip-top expert in wireless sonic whatnot, I am a guy who has tried a lot of such whatnot firsthand, and I’m a man who knows what he likes. Below, the best Bluetooth headphones for most people — these are the ones I recommend when people ask me what to buy.

Best Bluetooth headphones for under $30

SoundPEATS Magnetic Wireless Earbuds
$29 at Amazon

A lot of people flap their gums about the best Bluetooth headphones for under $100, but the fact is, you can get good Bluetooth headphones for less than $30. A pair of SoundPEATS Magnetic Earphones sells for less than $30, and these compact, little in-ear devices are well worth their tiny price tag. The audio quality is quite good for the earbud category, and the eight-hour battery life is nothing to scoff at, considering the compact size of the hardware (many top out at six hours). Also, they connect to one another via magnet to make a necklace you can wear when you’re not using them, which is handy for not losing your earphones. (You can always put them in your pocket.)

Best Bluetooth headphones for under $50

Creative Sound Blaster Jam Ultra-Light Bluetooth Headset
$38 at Amazon

What you won’t get with the Creative Sound Blaster Jam Ultra-Light headphones is perfect noise-canceling or the best headphones for workouts or 78 hours of battery life, but what you will get with these $40 headphones is rich bass, clear calls (in both directions), and a lightweight design paired with soft ear pads that allows for hours of comfort. These are not my primary Bluetooth headphones, but they are my favorite backups, and that’s only because I’m a bit spoiled. You’d do just fine to make these your No. 1 stunners.

Best Bluetooth headphones for working out

BluePhonic Bluetooth Wireless Headphones
$30 at Amazon

Working out involves a lot of sweat. Believe me. I run four to five times a week, and for a while I used headphones that had fabric ear pads. By the time I tossed them out, their odor was … potent. But here was the other thing: Electronics and liquids don’t get along. I know about this as well because it wasn’t the odor that ended my use of the old earphones, it was hardware failure. Fortunately, I found the BluePhonic BZ-200 headphones, which have a waterproof rating of IXP7, so you (and I) can wear them while sweating profusely or running in a rainstorm, or both, and they’ll come through just fine. You can also wear them while doing jumping jacks or using a pogo stick because the ear buds will stay securely in place thanks to over-ear loops. Also, they only cost $40, which is pretty damn good given their quality. And the foam tips don’t soak in scents. [Editor’s note: For something a bit pricier, we like the Bose SoundSports.]

Best noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones

Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 Special Edition
$200 at Amazon

If your No. 1 demand from your Bluetooth headphones is that they shut out all the background sound, from voices to vehicles to everything in between, though, then the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 headphones should be your go-to choice. Yeah, part of the way they block sound is thanks to their super large size, and no, they won’t win any fashion contests. But they also use Active Noise Canceling, which, coupled with their size and insulation, leaves you free to enjoy your chosen audio in a virtual cave of peace. Don’t just take my word — several smart reviewers have all ranked the BackBeat Pro 2 headphones as even better than the largely uncontested “best” noise-canceling headphones (cough, Bose).

Best Bluetooth headphones for media

Trond Wireless Bluetooth V4.2 Over-Ear Headphones
$60 at Amazon

A great pair of media headphones has to make you feel totally immersed in the environment of the movie you’re watching or the game you’re playing. The Trond TD-BH01 headphones do that mostly because they, you know, create great audio quality. But almost as important, these low-lag headphones mean there’s no perceptible delay between the visuals and the audio of your movie, show, or game. Which is important because nothing breaks down that fourth wall like someone’s lips and words not lining up. Also, you can use these headphones with a Bluetooth connection or hardwired, so when you’re gaming or watching TV at home, no need to worry about battery life. And speaking of life, you haven’t lived until immersed in the aural universe of old-school Nintendo Mario being piped to your ears via Trond TD-BH01 headphones.

Best Bluetooth headphones for kids

Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Premium Kids Headphones
$75 at Amazon

Why do I know Puro Sound Labs BT2200 headphones are great for kids? Because I have a kid, and he has these headphones, and he loves them. And he does not love all headphones, by a long shot. (“Daddy, these are too tight,” “Mommy, these are too loud,” and so on.) The BT2200 40 mm dynamic drivers create excellent sound quality (I’ve slipped them on more than once), and the headphones block out 82 percent of the ambient noise, which together means an excellent acoustic experience for the youngster. They’re also limited to a maximum volume output of 85 decibels, which gives parents (like me) some comfort knowing those little eardrums aren’t going to be damaged.

Best Bluetooth headphones to give as gifts

B&O Play by Bang & Olufsen Over-Ear Beoplay H4 Wireless Headphones
$233 at Amazon

Be it music, the audio from a movie or show, a phone call, whatever, the prime directive of a set of headphones is to deliver high-quality audio to your ears. And the B&O Play H4s bring you heckin’-good sound quality. The bass is rich, but not overbearing, thanks to excellent equalization. The treble and midrange are clear and never sharp. They’re pricey, they’re kind of big, but they sound great. Importantly for gift-giving, they also look fantastic (something the Danish brand is known for) and are pricey enough to feel like a substantial present. I get a fair amount of free stuff to test out, but I’ve found nothing to top the B&O Play H4s in terms of sound quality, comfort, and design. This is my go-to pair.

If you’re looking for a different style of Bluetooth headphone, here are some highly reviewed options from Amazon, according to hyperenthusiastic listeners.

Best foldable over-ear headphones

Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones
$38 at Amazon

“Go ahead and buy two pairs. Maybe three. I have to share mine with my wife. These are awesome! I bought these and a pair of Mpow Thor. These are much better. I wear them at work in my office job to drown out the distractions, as well as at my side job — my lawn-care business. They work very well to block out the loud engine noise and create a wonderful listening experience. I often listen to audiobooks, which are very easy to hear in a loud environment. These headphones have a rich and deep sound for music. As good as Beats, to me. A very long battery cycle is nice. I charge mine maybe once a week, if even that. And that’s listening for a couple hours at work, then two to four hours in the evenings. They adjust well and fit nicely. They don’t feel cheap.”

Best noise-canceling earbuds

LBell Wireless Headphones
$20 at Amazon

“Wow, these headphones are high-quality! They fit securely in the ears and don’t fall out. The cord doesn’t get tangled. They are Bluetooth and are super easy to pair with your wireless device. On the cord, there are buttons that control the volume as well as changing between tracks. There is also a button for answering calls. You can also just say yes or no to choose to answer a phone call. I love that you can pair two devices at once with these headphones. The sound is amazing. It has a nice, crisp sound that can be adjusted as you wish. They do get pretty loud if you raise the volume up to the highest level. They are perfect for listening to while walking or exercising.”

Best noise-canceling over-ear headphones

COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
$70 at Amazon

“Above and beyond, probably one of the best pair of headphones I have ever purchased. Not only well worth the money, but I’ve been converted from Beats to these. Absolutely would recommend these. The sound quality is crisp and enjoyable, trust me when I say the noise-canceling version is worth the extra money. If you’re a fan of softer music like scores or jazz and hate that you can’t listen to it well in public, that mode helps quite well with it. The design is comfortable and fits snugly on the head. The ear padding is fairly well-set and actually feels like it breathes a little, so not a lot of worry for sweat from that area. Headband is snug, and the entire structure of it feels sturdy.”

Best $30 workout headphones

Senso Bluetooth Headphones
$30 at Amazon

“I have yet to find a pair of earbuds that got it right, especially when exercising, UNTIL NOW!!! Yesterday, I ran my first 5K wearing these WITH sunglasses, and they were super comfortable and did not fall out. I have already recommended these to a couple friends. The sound is so good, too. It drowns out everything around you. The controls are easy to use on the move, changing tracks or adjusting volume. And pairing these to a phone is idiotproof. Five stars all around. Well done!!!”

Best over-hear Bluetooth headphones with microphone

Avantree 40 hr Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones with Mic
$45 at Amazon

“Love these headphones! They are very comfortable. The Bluetooth has been pretty easy to pair with my phone every time I’ve used them. The included carrying case is huge, but well made for protecting these things. The sound quality is spot on as well, with good clarity and range in highs and lows. I used them while mowing the grass two days ago, and they were awesome! The music drowned out the mower engine and gave me my zone to work. They were so good, I was worried that I wouldn’t know what was around me if someone were to come up behind me.”

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What I Tell Friends Who Ask What Bluetooth Headphones to Buy