- Comparison Chart: Best Wireless Headphones of 2021
- 1. Best of the Best: Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Series II
- 2. An Amazing Runner-Up: Bose SoundLink Series II
- 3. When Price Isn’t an Issue: Sennheiser HD1
- 4. Good for the Money: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
- 5. Good for the Money Part II: AKG N60 NC Wireless
- 6. Best Overall Style: Sony H.ear On Wireless NC
- 7. Best Under Mid-Range: Plantronics BackBeat Sense
- 8. Another Excellent Budget Option: Sennheiser HDR 120
- 9. Great Value: Mpow 059 Wireless Headphones
- 10. Best Earbuds: Jabra Elite Active 65t
- 11. Honorable Mention: Sony WH-1000XM2
- How We Test Wireless Headphones
- Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Wireless Headphone for You
- Benefits of Using Wireless Headphones
- Do Headphones Cause Side Effects?
- Final Thoughts
Wireless headphones technology has come a long way in a short period of time.
It wasn’t that long ago that most of the wireless headphones delivered really inferior sound quality and durability and were therefore difficult to recommend. Now, the best wireless headphones on the market are outperforming most wired options and are competing with the top of the heap as well.
The challenge that consumers face is the sheer number of options available today. Do you spend lots of money on the highest quality headphones on the market or aim for the best bang for your buck? What about noise cancellation, connectivity, compatibility and all the other features that go into making this choice?
We’re here to help. Our team tested not just the most popular and well-known headphones but just about every product that could be put in a discussion about best wireless headphones. We tested them exhaustively not just with music but with blockbuster movies, sporting events and even video games.
Our goal is to help you find the very best option for your budget and tastes. To do that, we’ll review and compare these products as well as cover the most common questions that new and even experienced consumers may have when selecting wireless headphones in 2021.
Comparison Chart: Best Wireless Headphones of 2021
|Bose Quiet Comfort 35|
|Up to 20 hrs||1 year||9.7/10|
|Bose SoundLink Series II||Up to 15 hrs||1 year||9.3/10|
|Up to 22 hrs||1 year||9.2/10|
|Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2||Up to 24 hrs||1 year||8.5/10|
|AKG N60 NC Wireless||Up to 30 hrs||1 year||8.0/10|
|Sony H.ear On Wireless NC||Up to 25 hrs||1 year||7.9/10|
|Plantronics BackBeat Sense||Up to 18 hrs||1 year||7.5/10|
|Sennheiser HDR 120||Up to 24 hrs||2 years||7.3/10|
|Mpow 059 |
|Up to 20 hrs||1.5 years||7.2/10|
|Jabra Elite Active 65t|
(Best Ear Buds)
|Up to 5 hrs||2 years||7.0/10|
|Sony WH-1000XM2||Up to 30 hrs||1 year||6.9/10|
1. Best of the Best: Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Series II
- 3 levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening experience in any environment
For our dollar, nothing competes with the Quiet Comfort 35 headphones from Bose.
Bose is one of the oldest and most respected names in audio equipment. What the company has done with these headphones is nothing short of remarkable. The wires are gone and yet the amazing listening characteristics persist and give even the best wired solutions a run for their money. This product sets the standard by which all of the other Bluetooth headphones on the market are measured.
The hardware we tested is the Series II. The Series I looks identical cosmetically, delivers the same quality and fidelity and has most of the same features too. The biggest difference is that Bose Series II added Google Assistant. We’ll touch more on how much we love Google Assistant in a moment, but it’s worth mentioning that if Series II is out of your budget, then Series I may be an option if still available.
Automatic nose cancellation or ANC is one of the features that sets the Bose Quiet Comfort series apart. This isn’t isolation—where unwanted noises are blocked—but true cancellation, which means that the unwanted noises are neutralized by having inverse waves pass through the headphones. The Bose implementation is second-to-none and will transform the way you enjoy your music and podcasts.
A small slider on the left earcup of Bose Quiet Comfort 35 lets you switch between ANC and Google Assistant. This Google Assistant implementation is a game changer as well and has received a lot of positive press in other wireless headphone reviews. It takes the wireless listening experience to the next level by making it mostly hands-free as well. Voice commands let you dictate exactly what you listen to as well as discover music by asking questions about various genres, artists and so forth.
The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Series II (QC35 ii) features Bluetooth version 4.1, and we found that it works up to about 60 feet on a consistent basis. You can get further in areas without a lot of obstructions. Bose claims 20 hours of battery life, but most people can get a lot more than that if their volume is about 50 percent or so. Charging is reasonably fast, and if you forgot to charge your headphones, a quick charge mode lets you get about 2.5 hours of playback time with about only 15 minutes of charging time!
2. An Amazing Runner-Up: Bose SoundLink Series II
- Deep, immersive sound, improved EQ best in class performance for wireless headphones. Connectivity technology: Wired/Wireless
The QC35 ii are a bit on the pricey side, and the Bose SoundLink slots in at a hundred less or more.
They’re also no slouch in the performance department. The sound quality, bass, midrange and highs are comparable to if not quite at the QC35 ii level, and it’s impressive at this price point.
Build construction also puts these among the top wireless over-ear headphones around. The materials are premium throughout. The build quality and durability are superb, and many even find them more stylish than the QC35 ii, which are a bit straight-laced.
Something that really impressed us during this wireless headphones review was the connectivity options. These are among the most user-friendly headphones we tried. Upon turning them on, a voice prompt even indicates battery life as well as pairing status. The Bluetooth implementation is 4.1, and they also support NFC, so pairing is often as easy as touching them to your mobile.
Battery life is quite good at around 15 hours of playback on a full charge. Charge time is about three hours, but since no charger is included—just a USB cable—your mileage may vary. Quick charge mode lets you get about two hours of playback after 15 minutes, and we did notice a similar increase in battery life as with the QC35 ii when we kept the volume closer to halfway.
With the Quiet Comfort 35, we recommended the Series I as a perhaps more affordable alternative to the Series II. We don’t make that same recommendation in this case. This is for a number of reasons but main among them is that Bluetooth isn’t integrated with the Series I product but rather provided via a dongle, which we didn’t like.
3. When Price Isn’t an Issue: Sennheiser HD1
No products found.
We can make a strong argument for the Sennheiser HD1 for the top spot!
If price isn’t a consideration for you and you want the best wireless over-ear headphones money can buy, then we’d strongly recommend these. In fact, some audiophiles would argue we’re crazy for knocking these down a peg or two over what may just amount to fifty bucks or so, and maybe we are, but you have to draw a line somewhere in these evaluations.
All this talk of price aside, these really are among the high-end wireless handsets.
From a design standpoint, they are probably unparalleled on our comparison chart. These headphones feature an all-leather headband with attractive threaded trim. The earcups are sculpted and elegant, and they’re attached via sleek rails that are adjustable and made from stainless steel.
Like the Bose QC35 II, these feature active noise cancellation, and Sennheiser’s proprietary NoiseGard technology is comparable but not quite as silent. These also feature aptX Bluetooth, which can increase sound quality tremendously if your transmitting device also supports aptX.
Sennheiser promises 22 hours of playback on a full charge, but you’ll get significantly more at a modest volume level. If you’re ever out of charge, you can connect an included cable to listen in passive mode. Controls are sleek and located on the right earcup. Charging time is a bit slower than the Bose at about four hours, and there’s no particular quick charge mode when charging from empty.
Connectivity is superb. Not only does it support NFC, but it can remember up to eight unique devices. This really eases the process of going back and forth between your phone, laptop and home theater equipment, for instance, and is really one of the features that set this model apart.
Note: Astute readers may notice that Sennheiser HD1 and Momentum 2.0 look a lot alike, and that’s because they are similar. Sennheiser lost the rights to the Momentum branding and changed to the HD1 branding. Some wireless headphone reviews have noted a sound difference between the two, but we didn’t in either subjective or objective testing. We’d stick with the HD1s if possible, but if the Momentum 2.0s are on sale, hey, why not?
4. Good for the Money: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
- Audio Quality: Immersive, high res sound, and powerful speaker drivers deliver the right balance of rich bass, crisp highs, and natural mid tones for your music
A number of other reviews have coined the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 as the value alternative to the Bose QC35 II, and we agree with that assessment in almost every way.
Where this product comes up the shortest is in noise cancellation. It’s a strong implementation, but you when put it up directly against the Bose and Sennheiser implementations, you can definitely hear the difference, such as subtle white noise.
The original BackBeat Pro provided great value as well. The downside there was that the product was large, bulky and not stylish at all. The reason why the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 is such a success is that Plantronics overcame those issues. These are relatively lightweight and comfortable to wear over long periods, and you can walk down the street or ride the bus with these without getting a bunch of odd looks.
The controls are sleekly integrated into the face of the earcup, which has a wood grain design. A flush switch lets you activate an open microphone mode that lets you take phone calls and allow in ambient noise. A sleek carrying case lets you protect your wireless headphones when not in use, and if you upgrade to the Special Edition, you’ll get a hard case instead of a cloth one.
Battery life is solid at about 24 hours when played at 50-percent volume or so. The Bluetooth implementation is 4.0 rather than 4.1, however, and NFC is supported for easy pairing. It also has memory for up to two devices so that you can switch back and forth between them with ease.
5. Good for the Money Part II: AKG N60 NC Wireless
An excellent option of noise cancelling headset is the AKG N60 NC.
These are designed to be portable, lightweight and ultra-comfortable over long periods. They’re really aimed at people who want to use headphones when they’re out and about town, and we loved wearing them when just walking around and doing whatever.
These are the successor to the AKG K 495 NC, and they are sleeker and have more high-end design in almost every way. We were impressed with how much less bulky these were compared to the Bose and Sennheiser options. Cosmetic features include a leather-covered headband, black metal covers for the earcups and aluminum metal trim.
Another nice touch is how compact these wireless headphones are when folded up. The product even includes a sleek case. The bag holds the charging cable, the detachable cable with built-in mic and a flight adapter, and the total package is about the size of a small bottle of water, which is really cool.
Sound quality is full-bodied. The emphasis is on bass, and you’ll enjoy the mid bass a lot. Smooth treble ensures that the vocals are never drowned out, and the headphones offer crystal clear clarity at all times. The soundstage is a pleasant surprise at this size as well, and that characteristic makes the AKG N60 NC one of the good wireless headphones for the iPhone as well.
Noise cancellation is impressive at this price point. Battery life is about 30 hours with NC turned off and 15 hours with it turned on. Charging time was also reasonably fast at this price level and a bit faster than the BackBeat Pro 2 overall.
6. Best Overall Style: Sony H.ear On Wireless NC
- Hear music at its best with Hi-Res Audio compatibility, Connect and stream music easily with Bluetooth, Focus on the music with Digital Noise Cancelling. Connectivity...
Our vote for the most stylish goes to the Sony H.ear wireless headphones.
Well, we’d actually pick the HD1 and Momentum 2.0 from Sennheiser, but since we already put those at the number three spot, let’s go in a different direction. Let’s say that the HD1 have adult sensibilities. But we understand why so many younger people would gravitate to the H.ear headphones. They’re even available in a slew of designer colors so that you can pick the best shade for your style.
Before we get too carried away talking about style, let us point out that these are no slouch in the performance department. They wouldn’t have made our list on looks alone.
These offer an active noise cancellation implementation that’s excellent at this price point. The Bluetooth implementation features both aptX and LDAC, which, as we mentioned earlier, can improve performance when your transmitting devices support them as well.
NFC is also supported, which simplifies pairing with Android and Window devices. The battery life is modest at about 20 hours, but you’ll get less if you like to turn up the volume. Charging is reasonably fast as it can charge to full in just several hours or less in our experience.
Perhaps, a big reason that these wireless headphones didn’t make it higher on our top rated comparison chart is passive listening. Most headphones will let you listen in a passive mode when out of a charge. All of the other options on our list so far preserve their quality quite well. This isn’t the case with the H.ear headphones, and we found quality and reliability low enough in these situations that we didn’t want to use them at all.
7. Best Under Mid-Range: Plantronics BackBeat Sense
- Consumer Alert: Most users do not need a license to operate this wireless microphone system. Nevertheless, operating this microphone system without a license is subject...
Plantronics BackBeat Sense are among the best budget Bluetooth headphones available, and if your budget is in the ballpark, you owe it to yourself to check these out. It’s also worth mentioning that the Sense ooze style. Often, as you start to creep down into budget town, aesthetics take a bit of a hit, but that is not the case here. In fact, they’re among the most stylish wireless headphones on our top list and rank among the HD1 and H.ear headphones.
The Sense are also ultra-portable. These are headphones that you can use on the go. They’re lightweight, and they’re also very comfortable, which means that you can enjoy them over long sessions. An integrated lithium-ion battery provides about 18 hours of playtime, and you can charge these to full in under three hours. Onboard controls let you play, pause, adjust volume, make track choices, take calls and even activate a voice assistant if your smartphone or other gadget supports it.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the BackBeat Sense is the sound quality and comfort. While these won’t be up there with the prominent wireless headphones on our list, they compare quite favourably to a lot of headphone options that cost four times as much or more.
It even has features generally reserved for higher-end headphone models. A sensor, for instance, knows when your headphones are on and will automatically pause your music when you take them off. This is really a total package at this price point, and we can’t recommend them enough for music lovers.
8. Another Excellent Budget Option: Sennheiser HDR 120
- Sennheiser HDR 120 Headphones, Extra Wireless Headphones for RS110 and 120 Systems (charger not included)
The Sennheiser HDR120 has been on the market a while, but there’s still a lot to love.
One of the features we really enjoy about this product is the cradle. This is something that a lot of similar products have foregone, but it gives you a convenient way to store your headphones when not in use and also make charging a lot tidier as well.
It is worth noting that HDR120 tend to be a bit more computer-oriented than many of the other products on our comparison chart, but that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. These wireless headphones are still stylish, lightweight and comfortable, and you can use them on the go as easily as at your desk.
These aren’t that far off the much pricier RS65 option from Sennheiser. They’re super-comfy too, and we have no problem connecting them to our home theater and enjoying the latest Avengers blockbuster, which clocked in close to three hours long.
Another aspect we like is that these use AAA nickel-metal-hydride batteries. That means that you can buy yourself some Sony Eneloops or whatnot and a charger and have charged batteries ready to go at all times, which is particularly nice when gaming or watching a movie.
These can be prone to a bit of interference. We found this to be worse indoors than outdoors. This isn’t a deal-breaker but it is the reason that this product didn’t make it higher up on our top rated list.
9. Great Value: Mpow 059 Wireless Headphones
- Impressive Sound Quality is The Ultimate Goal: The High Fidelity stereo sound benefits from the 40mm driver, CSR chip, and the around-ear cushion design which provide a...
These are really stylish headphones that are available in a selection of colors ranging from black to hot pink. These Mpow headphones are also portable for use on the go, and they’re lightweight and comfortable when you first put them on and hours later.
We didn’t expect wireless headphones that can be purchased for around thirty bucks or so to impress us in terms of sound, but these definitely did. A 40mm tuned neodymium driver and CSR chip allows for robustness, balance and detail that we just didn’t expect at this price level.
The biggest downside to the Mpow 059 headphones is the noise isolation. These don’t offer active noise cancellation but rather passive noise isolation, and to be frank, the implementation is subpar enough that it’s probably only included so that Mpow can put it on the box.
If that’s not a deal-breaker, then there’s a lot to like, including a design that’s not only stylish but durable. These wireless headphones are a bit plastic-y to the touch, but they don’t look cheap from afar and a metal frame is used to provide these headphones both flexibility and durability.
Battery life is another area where these shine. We were able to get more than 25 hours with the volume at around 50 percent. You can use them while charging, which is good since charging is a bit slow at four to five hours. There’s no power saving feature, so it helps to be aware of that, but they also support passive playback if you ever find yourself without a charge.
10. Best Earbuds: Jabra Elite Active 65t
- True wireless earbuds for an active lifestyle – Wherever your day takes you, whatever your activity, it won’t get in the way of enjoying sports, music and calls. The...
The Jabra Active 65t are an almost perfect example of wireless earbuds.
The Apple AirPods are probably the most well-known wireless earbuds, but they’re really only ideal for Apple users. This product, on the other hand, can pair with almost any device, and they really just beat out the AirPods in almost every comparison you can possibly make.
The balance between sound quality, usability and feature set are truly remarkable, and you can easily use these earbuds while walking around town, and you’ll actually want to use them while doing housework too.
Perhaps the biggest issue with these is that the range is only about 30 feet or so. We couldn’t get much further, and this means it’s definitely meant to be used with your smartphone in your pocket or hand. Connecting it with your home theater and roaming around your house probably isn’t going to work. These have both a mature and understated design. They’re discreet. Most people won’t even notice you wearing them, and when they do, they’re going to look stylish rather than obnoxious.
The Elite 65t are a fine pick for the money. These are newer, sleeker and more refined, and in our experience, didn’t cost so much more that we’d bother consider a budgeted option. The added sweat resistance is a nice touch as well, but whether you can use these working out will vary from one person to the next.
11. Honorable Mention: Sony WH-1000XM2
- DIGITAL NOISE CANCELATION: Industry leading noise canceling eliminates distracting background noises
The Sony WH-1000XM2 would take the top spot on a lot of other lists!
We’re not delusional. These are exceptional and among the high-end wireless headphones around. Of course, this list isn’t simply about stacking the best headphones out of context from one to 10. Price and other factors are a big consideration for us as we try to provide valuable information to various types of readers.
Once we decided that we preferred the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Series II and the Sennheiser HD1 to these Sony headphones, it became difficult to find a spot for them. So, here we are at an honorable mention.
It’s worth noting that these are among the most popular wireless headphones around. The active noise-cancelling is superb and right up there with the outstanding options on our list. The audio is also excellent and at least comparable to the finest wireless headphones if not quite there.
Our biggest issues with these are the hinges. We find that no matter how careful you are, your headphone hinges are going to have to take some abuse as some point. These don’t feel like they can, and a lot of personal reviews online kind of confirm our suspicions. Our team just felt that at this price point, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether durability was up to snuff.
How We Test Wireless Headphones
Our testing procedures for wireless headphones are broken down into five steps. These include:
- Fit and Design: Our assessment of fit and design concerns practicality, comfort and style. There’s a certainly an unavoidable subjective element to this. However, we take into account popular tastes and that certain designs are prevalent even if not our personal favorite. We’re also much more concerned with the materials used, the build quality and any discomfort experienced due to extended wear.
- Objective Assessment: The objective aspect of our testing focuses on assessing sound quality and reliability in a demonstrable manner. We cover aspects such as frequency response, distortion, tracking, attenuation and leakage, and our teams pays particular attention when the tests are saying one thing but our ears sense another. Why is that? What are we missing?
- Subjective Assessment: The subjective component of our testing deals with how the top bluetooth headphones make us feel and how our assessments correlate with other headphones reviews. Our personal assessments won’t be relevant to every reader or even most of them, but we have a lot of experience with these products, and it gives you a personal, professional lens to view each item.
- Head and Torso Simulation: Head and torso simulation enables us to determine how a real person responds to a pair of headphones in a scientific manner. We can also calibrate the ideal position of the equipment and determine if that’s optimal or not ideal for real-world usage.
- Connectivity and Compatibility: Finally, we assess the wireless technologies and codecs used. We want to determine any compatibility issues that may exist. It’s also necessary to determine if connections are made with ease or difficulties and whether or not there are drop-outs or other issues once the connection has been established.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Wireless Headphone for You
The first thing you need to do is to determine your budget. Know up front that you don’t have to spend a small fortune in order to get a product that lasts and performs well. That said, the top wireless headphones on the market can be a bit pricey. By knowing your range as you start selection process, you can eliminate products that do not fit as well as focus on important features that really matter to you.
Give some thought on how you intend to use your headphones. If you’re going to use them for a very specific purpose, then you can focus on that key point rather than considering all-rounder solutions. For examples, the best wireless headphones for the gym aren’t necessarily the best all-around. Likewise, the highly rated wireless headphones for TV aren’t necessarily the best choice for listening to music.
How healthy are your ears? How important is treble and bass balance, for instance? Each person is different, and this is a personal choice. An audiophile can reap a lot of enjoyment out of the right investment, but if you don’t have the ears of an audiophile, you probably shouldn’t spend a lot. The average listener, particularly as you get older, can spend far less and still enjoy an amazing listening experience.
Other factors to consider are style, branding and comfort. What style do you find most comfortable? How long do you intend to use your headphones per session? Longer sessions require greater comfort. Style matters to all of us. But be aware that you’ll often pay a pretty penny for the latest styles, and be mindful that some big brands demand more money for their name alone rather than performance.
Lastly, pay attention to battery life and charging times. How long the product can last before it needs to be charged? Eight hours is usual among the highly rated wireless headphones for working out and running. However, when it comes to the best wireless headphones in general, 20 hours or more is common as well as quick charging modes so that you don’t have to wait longer.
Read more: 5 Best Workout Headphones
Benefits of Using Wireless Headphones
The wireless headphones offer various benefits that include:
Let’s be honest: the good wireless Bluetooth headphones on the market just look better than the wired versions. Looking stylish just becomes a lot harder to pull off with cables running down from your head. The exception to this perhaps is when you’re in workout gear and have a short cable running to an armband or whatnot, but even then…
Wireless headphones are also extremely comfortable. Sure, you might note that often the wired and wireless versions are quite similar in design. But just being free of that wire enables you to get more comfort. Just ask our co-worker who stood up and pulled her laptop onto the floor as she walked from her desk in a hurry.
Versatility is also a big benefit because when you’re dealing with physical connections, you have a lot less options. If a device lacks support, you’re just out of luck unless you find an adapter. Almost all mobile devices, on the other hand, support Bluetooth, and many of them support NFC as well.
The wireless products are just much more portable. You can easily take them with you without having to worry about tangled wires and compatibility with equipment at your destination. Many of these headphones include mics, and you can use them with all manner of televisions, gaming systems and laptops as well as smartphones, tablets and MP3 players.
Read more: 8 Top Gaming Headsets on the Market
Do Headphones Cause Side Effects?
Yes! Bluetooth and other wireless headphones are completely safe to use.
Consider that Bluetooth is just radio waves. You may also note the radio waves are what cell phones emit, and there are some concerns among certain groups that cell phone usage can lead to brain cancer. Many respected agencies, however, have come forward and stated a lack of evidence towards such claims. In the United States, this includes the CDC, FDA and FCC.
The American Cancer Society has stated that while it cannot dismiss this possibility outright, it also can’t consider radiofrequency radiation causal. It also recommends that people concerned with the radiation can actually block it with an earpiece, and most of the products on our comparison chart have so much material between the ear, transmitter and receiver that there’s little to no chance of tissues absorbing the radiation.
There are some health concerns to be aware of that apply to all headphones. You have to be particularly careful with sound levels. Music that is too loud and in particular over an extended period can damage your ear and reduce your hearing. As a general rule of thumb, you should not set your volume louder than 80 db. There are also resources available online that will help you determine an optimal level based on your equipment, environment and other factors.
Everything should be used in moderation. If you experience ears discomfort or at the top of the head, you should stop using headphones and let your body relax. If this occurs sooner than you’d like, then you should consider buying headphones that are more comfortable.
Take special care with children. We did not focus on children for this particular list. These products are meant to be used by adults only. Loud music is pleasurable for all of us. Children are less likely to control their impulses and therefore turn it up. Headphones designed specifically for children often have safeguards in place that prevent volume to increase beyond a healthy range.