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opinion 5 min read 5 comments

There's no such thing as the best Bluetooth headphones

Regardless of what audiophiles may think, Bluetooth headphones are beloved among average music listeners. More and more smartphones have done away with the good old headphone jack, so a Bluetooth headset is often the first choice of alternative. But, after months of searching for just the right headphones for myself, one thing has become clear: the perfect Bluetooth headphones simply don't exist yet.

If you are looking for new headphones, the first crucial question is: in-ear, on-ear or over-ear? After years with my on-ear Bose QC3, I decided early on to bet on an over-ear this time. The advantages of passive noise cancelling and comfort were decisive for me. There's a broad range of options in this category, if you go into the somewhat more expensive range, but there are only a few worth really looking into.

Sound or design: what is more important?

There are headphones on the market that focus on one thing: design. The B&W PX and B&O models, in particular, come to mind. Who doesn't like things to look good and feel high-quality? So at the end of last year, I first chose the B&O Play H8, which just happened to be on sale.

I had been keeping an eye on the headphones for quite some time and was very excited. My enthusiasm for the new headphones continued even after the first unpacking. The design of my old Bose headphones had always bothered me a little, with the many plastic parts...

AndroidPIT Bose QC35 II 3229
Sounds good, but the appearance is not really convincing. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

B&O is clearly better at this. Here, metal and, of course, leather dominate. The headphones just feel great. So I was all the more disillusioned when I heard him for the first time. The sound sounds thin, and while bass is there, but it doesn't really capture you. All in all, I simply expected a lot more from a company that has been dealing with sound for so long. Yes, I should have been warned, B&O is sometimes known for placing more emphasis on design. But I couldn't imagine the headphones sounding the way they did.

The B&W PX is similar. The design is grandiose, and the build quality is outstanding. You have to get a little used to the feel, because the earphone shells are quite big and the leather is very firm. But I didn't find it uncomfortable. What really impresses me about the PX are the many features.

For example, you never have to use the power button, as the headphones automatically stop the music when you put them down and also automatically switch to standby mode if they haven't been used for a few minutes. Switching on also happens completely automatically when you put the headphones back on. 

That's all well and good, but the sound quality cannot keep up at all. What surprised me the most was how much the quality decreased when the NC (noise cancellation) was amplified. With 100 percent noise cancellation, the PX sounds like much cheaper headphones, even worse in some cases.

Three plastic headphones win the race

In the end, there were only three headphones left to consider: the Sony WH-1000XM2, the Sennheiser PXC 550 or the Bose QC35 II. All three sound really good, of course with quite different strengths and weaknesses. The Bose headphones are typically very precise. But it didn't really blow me away.

The Sennheiser has interesting features, for example: it also stops the music automatically when you take it off. The sound is balanced and very pleasant. In any case, nothing is done wrong here. The Sony is the most ambitious in terms of sound for me, and they're the headphones which evoke the most emotion, which is important when you listen to music.

AndroidPIT b o h8 bluetooth headphones 9456
Looks great, but doesn't sound good. / © AndroidPIT

But all three have one thing in common: they all come in plastic. That's not bad in itself, not all plastics are the same. But for all three of them, I just don't want to like it 100 percent. Once you have headphones with high-quality metal in your hand, you don't really want to go back.

But what good is a gorgeous pair of headphones that doesn't sound good to me? No good at all. That's why I chose the Sony headphones, they have simply convinced me the most so far. But it still annoys me that there is no such thing as perfect Bluetooth headphones: beautifully crafted, high-quality, good-looking and great-sounding.

The V-Moda Crossfade Wireless 2 has just arrived in the office. The first impression is good, but it doesn't offer any noise cancelling. The final review will determine whether I will part with the Sony headphones for these.

Have you found the right pair of headphones yet? Do you have any recommendations to share? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Totally agree, I keep buying and returning..I had a good feeling about the Fender line of puresonics until I read the reviews..and the Bose seem to fail the day the warranty ends..lately I've tried a few from China, passive noise cancelling, all less than $50...decent sound but not very comfortable...the problem with in ear is fit to keep them in..on the ear gets hot..standing buy for recommendations...


  • There is a fourth option, it's not just In/on/over-ear: bone conducting, aka "doesn't use the ear, uses the jawbone instead".

    The advantage of these is that they are the exact opposite of "noise canceling" for active people like joggers, and especially for anyone who is blind. While you are out walking down the street and listening to music or a video, or GPS navigation instructions you can still hear a car coming before it kills you. If you are blind and in class listening to an audio textbook on your kindle you can still hear the teacher exactly like a sighted student can read the physical textbook and hear the teacher. And parents can give them to kids so the kid can watch a movie but won't ignore the call to come to dinner. Well, ok they will but they'll be faking the not hearing part, heh. Some deaf and hard of hearing people can hear with bone conduction (if the problem is with the front of the ear, such as a collapsed ear canal or busted drum) too.

    They are a great option for many circumstances. But I do like my Bose noise cancelling when I want to listen to highest quality music (and I agree with Rusty H. on the definition of high quality).


  • If you want rich fidelity, you'll have to go old school. Sennheiser or Bose WIRED headphones, plugged into a TUBE (valve for those in England) amplifier, playing a VINYL recording on a turntable. But, considering most music today (I'm almost 60) is digital, lip sync and pitch tweaked, MP3's and the like are "good enough" to be listened to on a good set of BT headphones. Even a zillion times oversampling isn't going to really bring out the warmth and depth of a good old fashioned tube analog amplifier, coupled with a pair of Klipsch speakers or a good wired headset. :)
    But, I grew up in that era, and not in the pure digital era.

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