How we tested
To bring you this list of the very best under-$100 wireless headphones, we rigorously tested the following headphones over three to four weeks:
When reviewing wireless headphones, we made sure to wear each pair in the following environments for a substantial amount of time:
The latter two scenarios were particularly illuminating in terms of the devices’ ability to tune out the outside world and distracting human voices. While transporting them around from bag to table to the outdoors, it was also insightful to see how portable the headphones were.
Additional factors taken into account during testing include:
Seamless connectivity: The whole point of wireless, Bluetooth-powered headphones is that they’ll be able to connect to your devices in no time and bring quality audio straight to your ears. We tested how efficient each pair of headphones was at first pairing with a device and then remembering this connection from there on out.
Audio quality/richness: Sound quality is a pretty subjective measure but, as the adage goes, you’ll know it when you hear it. We mainly benchmarked how good the sound was based on how immersive it felt (to the point of being able to call it spatial audio), whether music sounded flat or almost three-dimensional in the headphones, and whether the sound was strong enough to tune out background noise (particularly in a busy city street environment). Since all of these headphones are on the affordable side, this was a big variable to consider. In our opinion, superb audio quality and affordability shouldn’t be mutually exclusive — so all of our recommendations ultimately achieve both.
Compatible app functions and perks: It never hurts to have a compatible app that introduces you to the “hidden features” of your new purchase and allows you to fully customize your listening experience — beyond what you can do by simply playing around with the headphones’ buttons. The Sony app, for instance, allows users to set up “360 Reality Audio,” which brings spatial audio to the next level and makes it feel as if you’re listening to a live concert in an intimate venue. The Soundcore app provides quick customer support, common FAQs and answers, the ability to choose the level of noise cancellation you prefer, access to Beta features, and more. In-app settings like these definitely increase headphones’ “bang for the buck” dimension.
Multipoint connection: For the busy bees among us, switching between two devices’ audio outputs when you have your headphones on can be a true productivity dealbreaker. Fortunately, all of the models we tested included a dual connection function (pairing with up to two devices, simultaneously). We tested out just how well this worked by switching back and forth between two audio inputs (like MacBook and iPhone) in the span of an hour at various speeds and by playing audio from different channels like YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.
Battery capacity and charging power: We charged each pair of headphones to 100% and then connected it via Bluetooth to a 24-hour meditation music video on YouTube, playing the video on a loop until the battery percentage drained to zero. For headphones with active noise cancellation, we repeated this process twice (once with ANC on and once with the function off). As far as charging power is concerned, we knew beforehand that all of these headphones have the ability to use only a few minutes of charging to provide hours of playback time. We thus tested how much battery life increased for each pair after only five minutes of being connected to power.
Comfort/durability: This variable revolved around the aesthetic feel of each tested item, how comfortable it was during wear, and how well it was able to withstand daily use. Earbuds, for obvious reasons, are perhaps the most comfortable/convenient due to their lightweight nature. For headphones, we assessed whether their features translated to unnecessary bulk (the Soundcore Space Ones were particularly bulky, in our opinion) and also whether they were travel-friendly (could fold into a tight bundle, came with a case, etc.).