Wireless headphones used to sound horrible. The only reason I used them at all was they were more convenient when commuting or working out. I also keep a noise-canceling model around for when I take a plane ride.
But there’s a new crop of wireless headphones that sound good enough to do critical listening at home. Almost all the models on this list are designed primarily for high-fidelity sound reproduction instead of noise-cancellation, mobility, or making a fashion statement.
Because of this, there’s only one ANC headphone on the list, and two of the others are open-back headphones. This list is for the people who want the best sound quality available and don’t want to drag around a wire. So without further ado, here are The Best Wireless Headphones For Audiophiles!
The HIFIMAN Ananda-BT Bluetooth Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone is something of a unicorn in the wireless headphone world. There aren’t too many wireless open-back audiophile headphones out there, especially full-blown Planar Magnetic models.
The Ananda BT is based on the $699 Ananda, a wired headphone that’s significant because it was one of the first high-end (ish) Planar Magnetics you could drive with a portable device. Most Planar headphones require a powerful headphone amp to get the best sound out of them.
For the wireless version, HIFIMAN put in a DAC/Amp section partially based on circuitry from their top of the line digital audio player. Now any smartphone can be a quality source.
Inside the earcups reside HIFIMAN’s NEO “supernano” Diaphragm, which is 80% thinner than their other designs, allowing for fast response and full-range sonics despite their higher sensitivity.
Those NsD drivers are paired with an amp custom-designed for this headphone, and as stated above, a DAC circuit with portions of its design taken from their $2500 R2R2000 portable music player.
That DAC supports files up to 24bit / 192khz via USB (the USB-C cable doubles as an audio cable for computers) and 24bit / 96khz via Bluetooth. The 24/96 Bluetooth rating reflects the Ananda-BT’s support for pretty much all “lossless” HD Bluetooth codecs, including APTX-HD, HWA, and LDAC.
The Ananda’s are well-balanced, not playing up any one part of the audio spectrum. I liked them with all genres, including modern ones like electronica and hip-hop. However, with audiophile genres like Jazz, they are special.
This is the ultimate wireless headphone when it comes to sound quality. It puts an authentic audiophile experience above the frills you see on other Bluetooth headphones. You may not get basic things like volume or track controls, but the musical presentation is unmatched.
beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper
The beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper isn’t a brand new design, but a striking headphone built on Beyerdynamic’s Amiron Wireless’ platform. They use a matte black finish accented with solid copper trim rings and Alcantara wrap to significant effect. It’s gorgeous to look at.
I’ve told this story a million times before, but I’ve been around long enough to remember when Bluetooth headphones were pretty much unlistenable. The music was usually a fuzzy mess and full of dropouts. Headphone enthusiasts and audiophiles, in general, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, myself included.
However, the Amiron Copper is another wireless headphone that provides actual hi-fi performance. Unlike the Ananda BT, it’s a closed-back headphone, so it offers some privacy and isolation. Besides that, the Wireless Copper has an app that sets a personalized EQ based on your hearing, which is a neat trick.
The Amiron Wireless Copper also can operate on the wire, thus bypassing the internal Amp and DAC, basically giving you two Audiophile headphones in one.
As I said in my full review, I also loved the Amiron Wireless Copper’s effective touchpad controls. It’s the only touch control setup I’ve enjoyed using since the others I’ve tried are imprecise at best.
All in all, the Amiron Wireless Copper gets high marks for its luxurious look and feel, along with its natural, spacious, flat reference tuning. They don’t try to manufacture excitement; they just take a well-recorded piece of music and envelop your ears in a cloud of refinement — all without wires.
Grado took a while to come out with their first set of wireless headphones, but they did an excellent job of translating the highly successful Grado formula to Bluetooth at the end of the day.
The GRADO GW100 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones looks a lot like my beloved SR-60e headphones, which I love for their lively immediate sound, but the housings used for the GW100 are purpose made for wireless duty.
While the wireless version keeps the open-back design of all the Grado headphones that came before it, they took measures to reduce the sound leakage inherent in the wired models. I assume this is if you happen to take them out on the town, but just like the others, the GW100 is best used in the quieter confines of home.
That’s just fine with me, because like I said in the beginning, this list is about the best-sounding wireless headphones, not the ones with the best noise isolation.
That being said, I find being able to enjoy the Grado sound without the thick, unwieldy cable is quite liberating. I hope they come out with another wireless model with more premium drivers and build quality.
That’s not to say the GW100 feels cheap, but like the lower end wired Grado headphones they are modeled after, they are a little on the plasticky side.
However, if you love a detailed, mid-centric sound with deep bass and a good amount of spaciousness, you will dig these. Pretty much any music I played on them sounded good, so they are great all-rounders.
The only complaint I have is regarding the specs. While they have aptX for enhanced sound quality with specific devices, it would be nice to have higher data rate codecs like LDAC or aptX HD. Some of the other features are also a little behind the curve, like Bluetooth 4.2, micro USB charging, and only 15 hours of playback.
That being said, they sound so good, I can’t help but feel like I’m nitpicking.
(Ed Note.-Grado now has a V2 version of the GW100, addressing a lot of the complaints I had above….aptX, BT 5.0, longer battery life)
The DALI IO-6 Premium Wireless Over-The-Ear Anc Headphones is the venerated hi-fi company’s first ANC headphone, and they did a great job from a sound quality standpoint. The ANC doesn’t match the noise canceling performance of the class leaders from Bose or Sony, but the sound quality is head and shoulders above either one of them.
That means these are best thought of as a great sounding headphone that can cut out a little background noise as a bonus.
This is a handsome set of headphones, both tasteful and luxurious. Along with their good looks, they’re also quite easy to use. I love that DALI decided to use physical buttons and switches for control. They’re also lightweight and comfortable.
Battery life is long, rated for about 30 hours playback per charge. If you run out of juice, you can use them passively with the 3.5mm cable if your device has a headphone jack.
The list of excellent specs continues with Bluetooth 5.0 and the support of aptX, aptX HD, and Apple AAC codecs. That means if your phone supports it, AptX HD can send full CD-Quality music streams from your phone to your headphones.
As far as drivers go, it should come as no surprise that a company known for using superb paper/wood fiber cone drivers in their speakers would use something similar in their headphones.
The IO-6’s custom drivers use large 50mm paper cone diaphragms designed for minimal coloration and low distortion, just like the wood fiber reinforced woofers in DALI’s speakers. They mate the drivers to a neodymium magnet system.
The clarity of the IO-6 is the best I’ve ever heard in a noise-canceling headphone design. The tonality of instruments is so natural, the soundstage amazingly wide, and the imaging is mind-blowing.
Overall tonal balance is flat; there’s no boomy bass for the masses to be had here. The bass you do get is deep and well-controlled. It has all the audiophile chops of the Beyerdynamic headphone: detail, soundstage, imaging, but with active noise canceling as the cherry on top.
These are the first (or should I say the only) ANC headphones I’ve found myself doing critical listening with.