Whether you’re rushing through airport security or just sitting at your desk, wireless headphones add a level of convenience that their wired counterparts can’t keep up with. After all, who hasn’t forgotten they were plugged in when they got out of their chair to go to the bathroom, only to drag their phone off the side of the desk? (Just us? Okay). Either way, going wireless frees you from tangles and snags, making for a seamless listening experience. But ironically, there are more strings attached when it comes time to actually buy wireless headphones.
Simply put, there are more considerations you have to make before pulling the trigger, especially when you factor in the elevated price of wireless headphones. What’s the battery life like, for example? And will the battery hold a charge after hundreds of charges? Do the headphones use the latest Bluetooth technology? And can you use them wired if you forgot to charge them the night before a long flight? All of these factors can have a big impact on the quality of the wireless headphones, and that’s before you even get to the sound quality.
That’s why we’ve rounded up the best wireless headphones you can buy right, including the latest and greatest from Sony and dependable models from Bose and JBL. Plus, most of these models have active noise cancellation (ANC), making them great options for long flights or loud offices. It’s worth noting that we’ve decided to focus on the best on and around-ear headphones.
1. Sony WH-1000XM4 Headphones
The XM4 is the latest offering from Sony, and it makes subtle but substantial improvements over the XM3. After testing these, it’s clear the XM4 has improved noise-canceling and Bluetooth pairing that allows you to toggle between two devices. Sony also improved the call quality over the XM3s. The headphones boast a solid 30-hour battery life and quick-charging; you can get up to five hours of playback in 10 minutes of charging. The headphones are packed with smart features as well, including automatic pausing when you remove the headphones. In short, these are the best wireless and noise-canceling headphones we’ve ever seen.
Pros: Smart features including automatic pausing when the headphones are removed, touch sensor controls and built-in Alexa. Multi-device pairing.
Cons: One of the more expensive options on this list. XM3s offer similar features at lower price point.
2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II
If powerful ANC is your first consideration, then Bose is still the brand to beat. While the 700 model features a stylish design, we’re partial to the flagship QuietComfort line for offering a more modest price without sacrificing functionality. You can connect to Alexa with the touch of a button, and if you don’t use Alexa, you can use the multi-function button to connect to your phone’s virtual assistant. And since Bose’s noise-canceling is pretty intense, you can toggle between three different levels to allow in some sound.
Pros: Powerful ANC with three different levels to control how much noise-canceling you want. Pairs with Alexa or your phone’s assistant.
Cons: 20-hour battery life, while good, is only half to two-thirds of the other offerings on this list.
3. JBL LIVE 650BTNC
JBL has a rich history, and these headphones have a modern look with a few throwback features that nod to that history. The earcup shape and fabric headband make these headphones look like something Paul McCartney might have worn in the studio in the 70s, but the matte monochrome color offerings keep it from veering too retro. As for performance, these headphones have up to 20 hours of battery life with ANC or 30 without. And if you’re in a hurry, you can get up to two hours of battery life with only 15 minutes of charging. Plus, you can easily connect using your phone’s smart assistant and make hands-free calls. As for audio, the 40mm drivers offer robust sound and the reliable ANC allows you to focus on the music.
Pros: Stylish design. Good battery life with quick-charging for up to two hours of listening in only 15 minutes. Connects to your phone’s voice assistant.
Cons: Padding on earcups could be more durable.
4. Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Headphones
Anker’s Soundcore line is a new player compared with heavy-hitters like Bose and Sony, but the powerful battery, solid sound quality, sturdy build and affordable price make these a worthwhile option. As you’d expect from a brand that’s best known for batteries, these headphones have a jaw-dropping 40-hour battery life with ANC or 60 hours without. Plus, the hybrid noise-canceling technology detects outside noises for better sound suppression. The earcups fold inward and the frame folds as well, making these easy to store. And if you love loud bass, a dedicated button boosts the bass performance.
Pros: Plenty of features for the price. Seriously impressive battery life. Decent noise cancelation for the price. Rotating earcups and frame for easy storage.
Cons: Bulky size, and can feel warm on the ears. Only comes with soft carrying pouch which is not protective for travel.
5. Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones
Whether you’re walking on a busy street or listening for gate changes at the airport, there are situations where you might want to still be able to hear what’s going on. For a well-priced set of on-ear wireless headphones, the Beats Solo3 are a good option. They have an impressive 40 hours of battery life, and five minutes of charging nets three hours of playback. The compact size, foldable frame and convenient carrying case make these the perfect on-the-go headphones. Plus, Beats offers colors beyond the bland black and white offerings of their competitors, including this eye-catching red.
Pros: 40-hour battery life and quick-charging. Available in eye-catching colors. Built-in mic for making phone calls.
Cons: Not active noise-canceling, unlike other options on this list.