Ask LH: What Bluetooth Headphones Should I Buy?

Ask LH: What Bluetooth Headphones Should I Buy?

Dear Lifehacker, My mother wants some Bluetooth headphones. She doesn’t like ones that go in her ears, but also plans on using them on walks. She also doesn’t want to splash out mega bucks for the Parrot or the Bose SoundLinks. What are some good Bluetooth headphones that fit all these criteria? Cheers, Freestyler

Bluetooth headphones image via Shutterstock

Dear Freestyler,

The great thing with Bluetooth headphones — and headphones in general, really — is that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to get a pair that is more than good enough for the average pair of music-listening ears. Headphones are relatively straightforward electronic devices — it’s just the amount of refinement that goes into them that makes certain models cost more.

I’d say the point at which diminishing returns start to take over with headphones is around the $200 point; above that, you’re paying just as much for the brand, for design, or for extra (superfluous) features like dual device pairing, active noise cancelling and so on. That means that if you just want a half-decent pair of headphones that have integrated Bluetooth, you don’t have to break open the piggy bank. They’ll never sound as good as wired models, but the difference is minimal at best.

Just about the only problem that you’re going to run into is the fact that adding Bluetooth is a ticket for headphone manufacturers to jack up the price significantly. Those Bose Soundlink II headphones you mentioned before? They’re largely based on the beautiful $249 SoundTrue II, but the battery and short-range Bluetooth drives the price up to a painful $379. So be prepared to spend more than $100 to get something your mum will be happy with.

With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re searching for a pair of Bluetooth headphones. You want something that has an internal rechargeable battery, ideally with a standardised connector like microUSB. You want something with as modern a version of Bluetooth as possible, with the minimum in my mind being v3.0 (v4.0 is for always-on Low Energy applications).

It sounds like your mother isn’t a fan of in-ear headphones, but also doesn’t like excessively large ones. My gold standard at this size would be the Plantronics BackBeat Sense. My gold standard in Bluetooth headphones in general? The amazing, gorgeous Parrot Zik 3.0.

Sony’s big ZX770BN headphones have a good rap for around the $150 street price point, as do the similarly priced Jabra Move (as recommended by The Wirecutter). Sony’s ZX330BT are smaller on-ear models for a similar price, as are the ~$150 JBL E40BT. Like I said before, I’m a huge fan of the Plantronics BackBeat Sense, but at $250 they might be out of your price range.


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  • Or if you want something closer to the budget end of the scale, I’ve been using a pair of Philips SHB5500 I picked up from Big W ($60 – $80) a few months back and haven’t found a flaw, quite good sound considering the price.
    Prior to that I was using Motorola MOTOROKR S305 for years very happily (behind the head style), although their bass isn’t as good as the Philips. These can be found on amazon these days for a low as $30

  • I’ve got a wonderful set of Bluetooth headphones from Geek (both a website and a app, at least on iPhone) and they only cost $15 while the same type of headphones cost $130 or more at any of the local electronics store. Might take a week or two to arrive but you get plenty of update of where your order is up to eg letting you know when they’ve let the shop, arrived in customs, left customs etc

  • Just got myself a pair from Target online for $20. Do the job for me, are easy to use and pretty red. Maybe the local stores have them too.

  • I’ve bought these Sony DR-BTN200M ones from for my wife. They’ve got pretty good reviews and are currently $48.00 (apparently 70% off). Haven’t got them yet – I guess we’ll see!

  • Mee Audio Air Fi Matrix 2 are brilliant for the price. Cannot recommend them enough – cost me about AU$120 a while ago (so probably more now) shipped from the states. I use them a few hours each day listening to music at work and the battery lasts 1wk+. Good enough sound for the price too.

  • My prime use is with the entertainment systems on international flights. Since these all use 3.5mm jacks, I could care less about Bluetooth – but active noise cancelling is a must.

    The longest flight I can think of is Sydney to London, clocking in at about 23 hours. With that in mind, which noise cancelling phones would you suggest? Do I need to swap out batteries in air, or are there models I can plug into the aircraft in-seat USB charge port?

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