Friday, December 1, 2023

These are the best wireless headphones worth listening to



At this point, Bluetooth wireless headphones have become ubiquitous, coming in various styles and feature sets to support great sound. There are many great options, and chief among them are the Sony WH-1000XM4 at the top of our best wireless headphones. Their sound quality is great. They have industry-leading active noise cancelation (ANC), long battery life, and fit comfortably for long-term use.

Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM4


There aren’t many flaws to point out with the WH-1000XM4, which was in the same spot before. One of the biggest reasons is the ANC performance, which gets an upgrade here courtesy of Sony’s QN1 processor and a dual noise sensor that does the work of blocking out the background. So commuting on a bus, train, or plane won’t be a problem while wearing these. Sony’s pedigree in this area shows itself with true wireless earbuds, too.

Sony chose not to change anything about the sound signature, preserving the same bass-heavy balance that sometimes drowns out the mids and highs, which you could remedy through the equalizer in Sony’s Connect app. Within that is a “clear bass” slider that can adjust the potency of the bass itself. It’s worth using those available tools to get a more personalized sound out of these excellent headphones.

Sony also included the ability to pair with two devices simultaneously, so you can listen to music on one device and take calls on another. Phone calls also sound better because Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup and Speak to Chat features optimize sound and volume during conversations.

The fit and finish of these headphones are almost unchanged from their predecessors. They look and should feel the same. That’s not necessarily a knock against them, but you’d think Sony could’ve managed even better comfort for something this premium. Even so, you should feel comfortable wearing them for longer periods.

The excellent battery life will let you listen for longer, too. The WH-1000XM4 doesn’t have a bigger battery, nor any sort of improved efficiency, yet maintains the same 32 hours per charge (depending on volume level and ANC use). So fast charging is convenient when you need some juice in a pinch. The only bummer is that you can’t plug in to listen and charge at the same time.


  • Class-leading ANC performance
  • Long battery life
  • Customizable sound
  • Fast charging capable
  • Great phone call quality
  • Pair with two devices at once


  • No simultaneous charging and listening
  • No difference in design
  • No improvement in overall audio quality
  • Pricey

Best overall

Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones


$248 at Amazon $248 at Best Buy $248 at B&H

More than just top-class ANC

Apart from its outstanding ANC performance, the XM4 are a total package of excellent sound quality, comfort, and battery.

Value pick: Anker Soundcore Life Q35


Most, if not all, modern over-ear headphones nowadays come with ANC in the box, especially if you’re looking for wireless over-ear headphones, but you might think that makes options more expensive. Anker already scored a nice win with the Soundcore Life Q30, only to come back soon after with another model in the Soundcore Life Q35. Less a sequel and more a variant, the Q35 is essentially a Q30 with a couple of extra features attached to make it stand apart.

That means the existing sound quality, which was already excellent, is entirely intact. The lively soundstage doesn’t skew too far one way or the other from the start. If you want bass, you can get even more of it through the great Soundcore app that includes a customizable equalizer and over 20 presets. It changes the overall sound in a variety of ways, making it more likely you’ll find a combination that better suits your ears. The ANC support is pretty good, with three distinct settings on the app as well.

Where the Q35 differs is that it supports the LDAC codec for lossless playback on devices or content supporting it. Audiophiles or more demanding listeners may find comfort if hi-res audio is of interest, especially at this price. The fact that they also auto-pause when taking the headphones off is another feature Anker should’ve included before. They’re no more or less comfortable to wear than the Q30, offering pretty effective passive noise isolation and ANC.

Then there’s the battery life, which is outstanding. They can go up to 60 hours per charge with ANC off or up to 40 hours with it turned on. That’s an impressive figure for any pair of headphones, even more so for something that isn’t premium. With USB-C, a five-minute quick charge can get them back up and playing music for four hours.


  • Superb audio quality
  • Outstanding battery life
  • ANC support
  • Great companion app
  • LDAC codec support
  • Affordable price


  • Limited touch controls
  • Bulky design
  • Unclear long-term durability

Value pick

Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Noise Cancelling Headphones


$130 at Amazon $130 at Newegg

Playing nice for everyone

Anker manages to cram in a hefty amount of battery life in the Soundcore Life Q35 but doesn’t stop there.

Best budget headphones: COWIN E7 Pro


Cowin squeezes in a lot of value in a pair of headphones that cost this much less. They are an upgrade over the E7 Pro, offering additional power that leads to more thumping bass — as if these headphones really needed any. These are definitely more bass-friendly cans, emphasizing lows and mids, while the highs are present without piercing through.

The onboard ANC is effective enough for a pair of budget headphones, blocking out low-frequency sounds than the higher frequencies that tend to break through. The thicker cups help passively isolate sound, so you don’t always rely on ANC to keep things quiet. That all makes these comfortable to wear, so long as you’re also cool with the additional weight that comes with them.

Cowin rates battery life at up to 30 hours per charge — including with ANC, but your mileage will vary based on how loud you have them. Unfortunately, they don’t have fast charging, so it does take a full four hours to go from empty to full. The main reason for that is they still use Micro-USB, which is a bummer.

If color is something you look for to get some style, the E7 Pro come in seven different variants, giving you plenty to choose from if you want a little personalization.


  • Plenty of bass
  • Good ANC performance for the price
  • Long battery life
  • Great comfort
  • Various color options


  • Treble is subdued
  • Heavier than most over-ears
  • Micro-USB for charging

Best budget headphones

COWIN E7 Pro Active Noise Canceling Headphones


$70 at Walmart $80 at Newegg

Excellent battery life at a low price

If battery life and cost savings are your primary concern, the E7 Pro from COWIN are great value for the money.

Best budget earbuds: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro


With the Liberty Air 2 Pro, Soundcore — Anker’s audio brand — has found its sweet spot. These AirPods-shaped earbuds feature excellent-sounding audio thanks to large, powerful drivers and amplifiers while also delivering on the specs that you expect from a budget earbud.

They’re comfortable, and the silicone ear tips in nine sizes make it really easy to find a good seal — plus, there’s active noise cancellation onboard, a rarity at this price point. Not only do you get excellent audio response through the entire range of frequencies, but you can customize the sound to your liking through Soundcore’s excellent app.

It also helps that Anker also addressed call quality in the Liberty Air 2 Pro over their predecessor, significantly improving it to the point where clarity is paramount in each conversation. Part of the reason is that there are six microphones instead of four, and they do a better job of picking up your voice.

Battery life does hit the right levels for the price. The buds can go up to seven hours per charge with ANC off (six hours with ANC on), and the case adds another 26 hours on top of that. It charges via USB-C and also supports wireless charging.


  • Great sound quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • USB-C and Qi wireless charging
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Custom equalizer


  • Lacks aptX codec
  • Touch controls are finicky
  • Not the best for sweaty workouts

Best budget earbuds

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro True Wireless Earbuds


$80 at Amazon
$90 at Best Buy

The Liberty Air 2 Pro have a lot to offer, starting with how good they sound and how easy it is to find the right fit.

Best over-ear: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3


Sennheiser’s heritage in great sound quality is apparent in the Momentum 3 Wireless, thanks to a rich soundstage that delivers the smooth definition the brand is known for. A slightly boosted bass meshes well with clear midrange and smooth treble for an appreciably balanced sound signature. It’s wide enough to suit almost every musical genre. Musical elements, like instruments and electronic sounds, never feel lost or muffled.

The Momentum 3 Wireless comes with ANC built-in, and it works well to block out a decent amount of low-end noise, only to struggle with higher-pitched sounds. It’s far from the only pair of ANC headphones to be like that, but it would’ve been nice to see Sennheiser push the envelope a little more there. You can mitigate that by playing music a little louder, though within reason, so you don’t damage your ears.

They are very comfortable to wear for long periods. You won’t feel much of a squeeze because the headband and ear cups feel soft enough to enjoy no matter where or when you are listening with them.

It’s just a shame that battery life isn’t up to par with similar models. The Momentum 3 Wireless can only muster up to 17 hours per charge, which is on the lower end for ANC headphones in this price range. At least you can use the USB-C port for simultaneous listening and charging when connected to an Android phone or tablet.


  • Great, slightly bass-boosted sound
  • USB-C for charging
  • Simultaneous listening & charging
  • Excellent comfort
  • Decent ANC performance


  • ANC isn’t always the best
  • Battery life should be better

Best over-ear

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones


$241 at Amazon $270 at Best Buy $270 at B&H

High-quality wireless sound

Sennheiser maintains its pedigree for superb sound with the Momentum 3 Wireless, made for any pair of ears.

Best on-ear: Beats Solo Pro


On-ear headphones aren’t for everyone, but the Beats Solo Pro are a real standout to consider for those who want a pair. True to Beats’ reputation, there’s plenty of bass to listen to here, though it’s surprisingly subdued compared to what you would typically find in anything the brand does. The mid-range and treble pipe up well for a more balanced sound. It’s still more weighted toward the bass, but not as much as expected.

The Solo Pro will manage decent ANC performance. Part of it is lacking, but simply because of the limitations of passively blocking out noise with on-ear headphones. The results aren’t bad, blocking out much of the consistent low-end noise but not as much of everything else. Overall, it gets the job done, so long as you recognize the challenges in doing it well with on-ear cans.

Comfort is going to be highly subjective. It’s equally possible that you will get accustomed to wearing them or find them too much of a squeeze. There’s a good amount of adjustment, though the ear cups have a strong clamping force that applies to your head more than other models might. It’s not conducive to longer listening periods. However, smaller heads and ears should have fewer issues.

The Solo Pro are solid on battery life, getting you up to 22 hours of playback with ANC enabled. Turn ANC off, and it almost doubles to 40 hours. Unfortunately, they use Lightning to charge rather than USB-C. Not a problem if you have an iPhone or iPad, but a little annoying if you’re using an Android device.


  • Long battery life
  • Great sound quality
  • Good ANC performance
  • On-ear design great for portability


  • Lightning for charging
  • Not the best ANC on the market
  • Comfort could be better, especially for larger heads

Best on-ear

Beats by Dr. Dre – Solo Pro


$200 at Amazon $200 at Best Buy $300 at B&H

On-ears sound good on your ears

The Solo Pro give on-ear headphones a good name with great sound, long battery life, and good ANC.

Best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 7 Pro


The Elite 7 Pro are a big win for Jabra in a number of ways. It begins and ends with the fit and comfort based on a newer design that should appeal to a broader section of users. If you felt previous models didn’t fit so well, you may want to give these a try. A snugger fit also leads to a more balanced sound signature that you can also tailor to your liking through the Sound+ app available for Android and iOS. The Elite 7 Pro are very much like the Elite 7 Active, though these earbuds hold one key advantage.

Jabra’s MultiSensor Voice Technology clears up phone calls in ways other earbuds don’t, and it’s an exclusive feature to these earbuds. Even the Elite 7 Active don’t have it. You do get solid ANC, albeit with Jabra forcing you to customize it to your ear first before you start using it. The big omission here is the lack of multipoint, where you can’t connect to two devices simultaneously. Jabra says it will amend that with a firmware update coming in January 2022.

The IP57 water and dust-resistance also makes the Elite 7 Pro rugged enough to handle rigorous runs and workouts, so don’t expect issues with sweat, rain, snow, or other water-absorbing activities. Don’t take them swimming, but otherwise, you have solid protection. They don’t have the same rubberized coating compared to the Elite 7 Active, but share the same IP57 rating, otherwise.

Battery life can get you up to eight hours per charge with ANC on, plus three extra charges for a total of about 30 hours. Charge back up via USB-C or Qi wireless charging, including a fast charging option where plugging in for five minutes can get you up to 60 minutes of playback.


  • Excellent audio quality with solid ANC
  • Better fit and comfort
  • Outstanding call quality
  • Pretty good durability
  • Reliable button controls


  • Custom ANC shouldn’t be mandatory
  • Too few codecs
  • No multipoint… for now

Best true wireless earbuds

Jabra Elite 7 Pro


$200 at Amazon
$200 at Best Buy

Truly wireless, truly good sound

Jabra’s Elite 7 Pro are the best wireless earbuds for sound quality, durability, battery life, comfort, and portability.

Best neckbuds: Sony WI-1000XM2


Neckbuds aren’t as common as regular wireless earbuds are, but Sony made an effort to include some of the same tech that plays such a big role in its other products. That includes ANC support from the company’s QN1 chip, so these would stand out from the pack in that regard. A tighter seal with the earbuds is important to get the most out of the feature and works nicely in reverse when the mics pipe in ambient sound so you can hear announcements or people talking.

They don’t disappoint in how they sound, either. Sony gave the bass a boost for a slightly warmer sound signature, keeping things pretty balanced. It’s not going to be the same kind of sound you’d get from Sony’s over-ears, where sound isn’t as skewed to the lows, but mids and highs are still more than noticeable here. You can try using Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control mode to adjust noise reduction automatically, but this feature is still very much in the works from a practical standpoint. The Headphones Connect app has some decent tools to use, like EQ and control settings, among other things.

As for the level of comfort, it will really depend on how you feel about the neckband. It’s lighter than Sony’s previous models, so that helps the whole package feel lighter. The earbuds are nice, too, so you shouldn’t have an issue unless you feel the neckband is a bit too stiff over longer periods.

Battery life is decent for a pair of neckbuds, lasting up to 10 hours on a single charge. Fast charging them for 10 minutes will get you up to 60-80 minutes of playback.


  • Solid ANC performance
  • Superb sound quality
  • Lighter weight
  • Ambient sound mode
  • Good battery life


  • Adaptive Sound Control needs work
  • Neckband may be a bit stiff

Best neckbuds

Sony WI-1000XM2


$298 at Amazon $300 at Best Buy

Comfy fit with ANC

They rest nicely on your neck and cut off most background noise for some leisure listening at your pace.

Best noise-canceling true wireless: Sony WF-1000XM4


More true wireless earbuds now come with ANC as a feature, but the Sony WF-1000XM4 are the measuring stick for this category. Sony took the excellent ANC tech it uses in the over-ear WH-1000XM4, plus the outstanding ANC already in the previous WF-1000XM3 and applied it all to these superb earbuds. As a result, their ability to block out ambient noise isn’t held back by their size — a big reason why they are so good.

The sound quality is mostly neutral and is more reason to use the equalizer settings in the Headphones Connect app. Bass is subdued from the start, giving you an incentive to tinker with the settings, whereas the mids and highs come through with greater detail. Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control mode still needs work, but the good news is that the earbuds have ambient mode via the onboard mics to hear sounds around you without taking them off.

The fit and comfort is a big standout here because Sony addressed it in a couple of ways. The earbuds themselves are still on the bulkier side, though a bit smaller than before. They also come with foam tips for greater comfort and a tighter seal. The IPX4 rating doesn’t make them heavily water-resistant, but you could probably get away with doing a run or workout with them. Just make sure to wipe them down and clean them.

Sony did shave down the charging case considerably and added wireless charging on top of that. Battery life is quite good at up to eight hours alone and an extra 16 hours with the charging case. The USB-C port is convenient, as is the fast charging ability. A quick 15-minute charge gives you a few hours of playback in a pinch.


  • Class-leading ANC
  • Solid sound reproduction
  • Foam ear tips
  • EQ in companion app
  • Long battery life
  • USB-C for charging


  • Buds are a bit large
  • Adaptive Sound Control is just OK

Best noise-canceling true wireless

Sony WF-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbuds


$248 at Amazon
$248 at Best Buy $248 at B&H

True wireless ANC

The WF-1000XM4 are the true wireless earbuds to beat when it comes to ANC performance.

Best noise-canceling: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700


Bose has a solid over-ear headphone lineup, and the NCH 700 are among the best you can find if you want effective ANC performance. These are the veritable successors to the highly-acclaimed QC35 II, improving upon them in ways that count. They sound great, and Bose fixed the sharper pitches from high treble notes and balanced the rest of the signature to make one of the best headphones for general consumers.

The ANC serves to help drive that point further, doing a solid job of blocking out most persistent noises, like engines, and some mid-range sounds like people talking. Higher-pitched sounds still pose a challenge, however, and it’s when they break through that you experience one of the few hindrances in these cans. The good news is Bose was thoughtful enough to include 11 steps of ANC for some real customization.

Bose also made the NCH 700 comfortable to wear, despite being bigger than the QC35 II. There’s a softness to the headband and ear cups that aren’t constricting, so you may not even notice how long you’ve been wearing them. Unfortunately, the larger size also means they don’t fold, taking up more space in your bag whenever you’re on the move.

At up to 20 hours per charge, battery life is above average. A quick 15-minute fast charge through USB-C will deliver up to two hours of playback, ensuring you can listen to some tunes in a pinch.


  • Superb ANC performance
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Very comfortable
  • Great battery life
  • Fast charging


  • Non-foldable, bulky design
  • Competitors beat battery life
  • More expensive than top pick

Best noise-canceling

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 — Over Ear


$379 at Amazon $379 at Best Buy $379 at Walmart

Escape the outside world

Bose covers a lot of good ground with the NCH 700, including excellent ANC performance, sound quality, and comfort.

Best for sport: Jaybird Vista 2


The Jaybird Vista 2 are the best option for working out. Well-made with a design that should fit most ears, they have a tight seal that gives you excellent passive noise isolation. If you need some bass to go with your workout or run, you won’t be disappointed with the audible thump these are capable of.

They sound good out of the box, but it’s the companion app that takes the cake. It hosts an active community that creates EQ presets to apply to the earbuds and alters how they sound. Browse through it, and you’ll find something catering to every genre of music. Use the EQ to modify or create your own. Save the ones you like most and switch between what works while working out or what’s best.

Jaybird added ANC and an ambient mode to improve the audio feature set. An IP68 rating makes them even more ruggedized for water and sweat resistance. They’re not exactly made for swimming, but you can get away with using them in water in short sessions. Make sure to clean and wipe them after exposure, and they should feel good as new each time.

Battery life is decent at up to six hours with ANC on (eight hours when off), and the louder default volume helps keep it closer to that ceiling. While small and highly pocketable, the case only adds an extra 16 hours (12 hours with ANC on), which is pretty standard at this point. At least you can charge them pretty quickly via USB-C.


  • Good audio quality
  • Tons of customization
  • Comfortable fit and rugged design
  • Decent ANC and ambient modes
  • Improved battery life
  • Case is trackable


  • Bulkier buds may not fit everyone
  • No aptX support

Best for sport

Jaybird Vista 2 Premium Headphones


$200 at Amazon
$200 at Best Buy
$200 at B&H

Made for working out

Jaybird gives the Vista 2 powerful sound and enough durability to be an asset whenever you want to be active.

Bottom line

Good headphones aren’t hard to come by. You just have to know where to look. This best wireless headphones list is made up of several great options, some of which are especially good at a particular aspect. If you’re looking to get the best, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are an outstanding place to start your search. Equipped with an excellent combination of industry-best noise-canceling technology, great sound, long battery life, handy controls, and a comfortable fit, it’s hard to top them. There are great true wireless earbuds in the list, too, showing that great things can come in small packages.

While the XM4 don’t look or sound dramatically different from their predecessors, the improved ANC and phone call quality make them even more well-rounded than the previous model already was. As a result, you can’t go wrong listening to whatever you like most wearing them.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.

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