Although they can never fully match up to the sound quality offered by full-size headphones, true wireless sets have come a long way in the last couple of years and now offer similar features to their larger brothers, including dedicated apps and sometimes even noise cancellation. There is a huge array available but here is our choice from the best.
The Best Wireless Headphones Under £200
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
- INCREDIBLE BATTERY LIFE: wireless earphones with up to 9 hours' playback – double that of most wireless earbuds – with an extra 36 hours in the charging case.
- STUNNING SOUND QUALITY: a superior listening experience designed by our Hi-Fi engineers in London.
- IPX5 WATER RESISTANT: easily able to handle rain and sweat, tough enough to survive a sudden rain shower, or a trip to the gym.
- SUPERIOR CONNECTION: the very latest true wireless Bluetooth 5.0 technology to ensure no drops in signal, and connectivity at up to 30 meters.
- SIMPLE VOICE CONTROL: Works with voice assistants including Google Assistant and Siri to control volume, track, skip, play/pause.
Cambridge Audio is a British company renowned for its premium sound equipment which has only recently entered the headphone arena and seems to have produced a quality pair of true-wireless headphones with exceptional battery life and sound quality.
The Melomania 1 earphones are water resistant to IPX5 meaning they can survive rain and sweat making them ideal for use at the gym. Featuring the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology they can maintain a connection up to 30 meters away from the source equipment without dropped signals. They are compatible with voice assistants including Google Assistant and Siri with functionality including changes to volume levels and pausing or skipping tracks.
When charged, each earpiece will play for up to 9 hours which is significantly more than most units available at the moment – and not only do they achieve such a decent longevity, the supplied charging case is capable of re-charging the earphones 5 times using its built in battery, giving a total maximum running time away from a charger of up to 45 hours which is among the highest battery life available in any set of true-wireless earphones. The charging case is compact with a secure lid and the front of the case has a series of LED’s that indicate remaining charge levels.
One might assume that with such an incredible battery life that sound quality may suffer, and volume levels may be low – this is not the case, and the Melomania’s perform incredibly well with a range of music styles. Volume levels are excellent, as it the frequency separation. The sound is veering towards a neutral profile with a slight bass enhancement. They use enhanced Graphene drivers with a 5.8mm diameter and are compatible with aptX, AAC and SBC codecs. This combination makes them low latency, so they are suitable for listening to the sound in videos without experiencing the annoying sound shift that occurs with many headphones with lower specification.
In the minimalist and environmentally friendly packaging there is a range of ear tips supplied in various sizes, together with a pair of memory foam ear tips in a standard medium size that may not be suitable for all users. Memory foam ear tips provide a better seal when used correctly and enhance low frequencies so bass should improve, however, all memory foam tips suffer from poor durability and will need frequent replacement. Unfortunately, these are not cheap to replace. Unfortunately, these headphones do not have an app for customisation, although they do seem to respond to in-device equaliser changes.
Nearly all users have commended the sound quality – there seem to be few complaints in this regard. Some users have commented that they have not found any ear tips among those that are included that fit them correctly, however it needs to be pointed out that not everyone’s ears are suitable for use with in-ear headphones as for some people they simply do not stay in place. Some customers have mentioned that these tend to fall out due to their shape and some have had connectivity issues, although this may be down to their devices rather than the earphones themselves.
Apple Airpods Pro
- Active Noise Cancellation for immersive sound
- Transparency mode for hearing and connecting with the world around you
- Three sizes of soft, tapered silicone tips for a customizable fit
- Sweat and water resistant
- Adaptive EQ automatically tunes music to the shape of your ear
If you are subscribed to the Apple eco-system, then you may find that the Airpods Pro are the only set that utilises all the features that an Apple iPhone can offer is a seamless manner. These are specifically designed for iPhones and, unlike the sets provided by other manufacturers, should only be considered by iPhone owners as they will not offer any benefits to other users. Pairing with an iPhone is an extremely quick and straightforward experience, and once paired they will work without needing to make any further adjustments or the need to re-pair probably for their lifetime. A soon as they are removed from their case they connect, every time.
The Airpod Pro’s have active noise cancellation which works well but is not up to the standard of either Bose or Sony models in a similar price range. Microphones are present both outside and inside the ear that detect noise and counter it with equal anti-noise before it can be heard. These earphones feature a transparency mode which allows ambient environmental noise through while music is playing and at varying levels. This system listens to the ambient noise using the microphones and interposes it over the sound being played. An adaptive equaliser feature tunes music to the shape of your ears (a system Sony also employ). This system is activated by a built-in force sensor which activates when pressed and held. Silicone ear tips are provided in three sizes – small, medium, and large, however these are not supplied with any foam tips, nor do any currently on sale seem to be fully compatible.
The sound quality is an improvement over standard AirPods, although these are still not up to the standard offered by the competition, however they are an acceptable listen for most users. Smart features include Siri compatibility which, among other features, allows you to share a song to another AirPod user and can announce any received messages. Each earpiece can last for up to 4.5 hours on a single charge, and the charging case can charge them 6 times. This gives a total of up to 24 hours away from a charging point. The charging case is compatible with wireless charging via QI enabled chargers. Apple has used a new processor, the H1, which offers a faster connection time and improved range when compared to the processor fitted in older units.
Users have reported that these are suitable for use in the gym, are comfortable to wear, are compact and light weight, and offer reasonable sound quality, although these are possibly not suitable for sound purists. Some customers have mentioned that there is a lack of onboard controls and that they are not as good as the original AirPods for phone calls.
Master and Dynamic MW07
- Premium look: These durable yet lightweight wireless earbuds are handcrafted from eye-catching acetate and stainless steel, the handcrafted quality ensures no two earphones look identical
- Exceptional acoustics: High-performance 10 mm beryllium drivers deliver a rich, crisp sound experience every time, enjoy the powerful quality of an on-ear headphone with the ease of a wireless earbud
- Natural fit: Five sets of ear tips mean you can customise your fit and comfort based on ear size, two pairs of silicone fit wings add an extra level of security and stability in-ear
- Superior connectivity: With advanced antenna technology, quick pairing, bluetooth 4.2, a 20+ m range and optical sensors, these true wireless earbuds offer incredible, reliable connectivity
- Elegant and practical: Carry the earphones in a polished stainless-steel charging case that produces three additional charges for 14 hours of listening time, a canvas pouch offers style on the go
With products designed in New York, relative newcomers Master and Dynamic have built up a reputation for the quality of their gear. With a very unique appearance, the MW07 are a premium set of true wireless earphones that are available in a range of colours including marble, terrazzo and tortoiseshell effects which are achieved through the use of hand-crafted acetate inserts. The premium features don’t stop there – the charging case is made of polished stainless steel. Packaging is also up-market and you can tell this is a quality item during the unpacking process. This luxury model is also one of the best sounding earphone sets around, and when first launched a couple of years ago they retailed for nearly three times their current price which has only been reduced because they have been superseded by a newer model. Prices vary between the different colours, however technically they are all identical. Acoustically, these are fitted with 10mm beryllium drivers, so the output is dynamic with plenty of volume and a decent level of bass with out it becoming too overwhelming.
Five sets of ear tips are supplied so you can customise your fit and comfort based on ear size. Two pairs of silicone fit wings are included which add an extra level of security and stability in-ear. As well as the stainless-steel case, these are also supplied with a carrying pouch for the case to prevent it getting damaged although the highly polished design means that it is still a fingerprint magnet. Despite their unusual shape and size, these are very comfortable earphones that stay securely in place and are suitable for use in a gym. These earphones have conveniently placed volume, skip and multifunction buttons, voice control with an omnidirectional microphone and splash proof protection. A USB adaptor and USB-C charging cable are also included with the wireless earbud set.
The stainless-steel charging case has three multi-colour LED’s on the lid. When they are all green it signifies that both earphones and the case are fully charged. For each of these, an orange LED indicates a part-charged status and if any are red it means they are either depleted or close to depletion. A very intuitive and simple to understand system. The charging case capacity is sufficient to charge each earphone four times, however, and this is the caveat with this model, the earphones will only last a maximum of 3.5 hours before needing a recharge, and this can be even less for users that like a high volume level.
The MW07 have an excellent range of up to 20m from the source due to the use of advanced antennas. The built-in optical sensors are used to pause music playback whenever one of the earphones is removed, and it automatically resumes when re-inserted.
If sound quality and style are your primary considerations, and you are willing to forego the longer running time offered by most other current devices, this may be an option worth considering. Users are complimentary about most features; however, some have mentioned that the case lid is a little loose and does not magnetically hold shut like most models do.
- Industry-leading noise cancellation* to block out unnecessary ambient noise (*As of June 1st 2019. According to research by Sony Corporation, measured using JEITA-compliant guidelines in Truly Wireless style noise cancelling headphones market)
- Up to 8H battery life per single charge + additional 3 charges from carrying case
- Stable Bluetooth connection
- Ergonomic Tri-hold Structure for secure fitting
- Alexa built-in devices let you instantly connect to Alexa to play music, control your smart home, get information, news, weather, and more using just your voice.
With Sony’s renowned noise cancelling technology, this model is widely regarded as one of the best true wireless earphones around, and for very good reason – they excel in almost every area, from the sound quality to the battery life, the huge range of features, the excellent app, and their versatility for a range of uses and activities. They have touch-sensitive media controls, provide quick access to your choice of virtual assistant, and have proximity sensors that detect and pause music when they’re taken out of the ears.
The WF-1000XM3 are available in just two colours – black and silver. The shape and design of the buds themselves creates rather a large footprint, which could be a problem for those with smaller ear canals, and they are not as universally comfortable as say the Apple AirPods. A rubberised nozzle keeps the buds firmly in place, but without over-the-ear hooks or in-ear fins these won’t be suitable for the most strenuous workouts and they do tend to allow wind noise in if not fitted correctly.
Both left and right buds have circular-shaped touch-sensitive pads, which can be used to access Google Assistant, control playback, and toggle through the ambient sound modes which allow a varying amount of ambient noise through by utilising the built in microphones to interpose the ambient noise onto the soundtrack being played. They’ve also got proximity sensors built-in that automatically pauses your media when the buds are removed from your ears and restarts it when they are re-inserted.
The supplied charging case is larger and heavier than most but has both magnetic slots to hold the earbuds in place and a magnetic lid. The case has an NFC feature for quick pairing and charging is via USB-C with a fast charge feature that allows 1.5 hours of playback from a 10 minute charge. The earbuds will play for up to 6 hours on a charge with the case holding an additional 3 charges, giving a total of up to 24 hours away from a charging point if required. If the active noise cancellation is turned off this is extended to 32 hours.
These are easy to pair and remain connected even in environments with lots of signals such as airports or train stations. They maintain a stable wireless connection between left and right earbuds, however, the WF-1000XM3 only support the AAC and SBC codecs, which is surprising given that Sony have their own LDAC high quality codec which is used in their over-ear models. Sony includes a Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE HX) support on the WF-1000XM3. This aims to upscale MP3 or AAC tracks to near-lossless quality – making them, theoretically, sound more detailed and refined.
A fully featured app is included which has a full suite of customisations including adaptive sound control, which detects the environment you’re in and automatically adjusts the level you hear from your surroundings using one of the four options – staying, walking, running and transport.
The ANC performance lives up to Sony’s claims of being class-leading. With no audible hiss in quiet environments, there’s simply no competition from any other earphones or earbuds at present, including those made by Bose. The WF-1000XM3 excel at cancelling sound throughout the frequency range with exceptional refinement. The only drawback is that these don’t passively block out as much noise as over-ear headphones because they do not cover the entire ear so there will always be some leakage. The sound quality is dynamic and they excel throughout the frequency range with a slight emphasis on the bass and slightly recessed vocals. The app allows for full equaliser control and a range of other sound customisations.
Users are mostly impressed, although some do not like the touch control features and others have mentioned that they have had issues with fitment and the maximum volume levels are a bit low.