Sunday, February 25, 2024

Alexa, which headphones do you work best with?



Smart assistants like Amazon Alexa are becoming more popular than ever, and headphone makers are jumping on board to offer it as a built-in signature feature. They’re growing in number and variance, but the Sony WH-1000XM4 stand out because of the combination of comfort, sound quality, and versatility in bringing Alexa into the fold. We have plenty of options for all ranges, so here are our picks for the best headphones with Alexa.

Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM4


It’s a challenge for any company to follow up on a great product with something better, but in this case, Sony has fixed some key pieces to make the WH-1000XM4 one of the best pairs of headphones available. There was no need to reinvent the wheel when so much of the previous model worked so well, though good changes are always welcome.

Whether the WH-1000XM4 sound any better is highly subjective. There is aptX HD and LDAC codec support, plus 360 Reality Audio for those who can hear it on Tidal. Sony also tinkered around with the sound. For starters, Sony finally addressed the more inferior phone call quality of previous models by upgrading the onboard microphones. And with clearer calls also comes smarter features, like how it pauses music and kicks in ambient sound when it senses you’re talking to someone.

More efficient and intuitive active noise-canceling (ANC) should better drown out the more difficult pitches and noises that often still pierce through. Plus, you still get the equalizer and customization afforded by Sony’s Connect app. The battery inside probably won’t last any longer than the previous WH-1000XM3, but it’s still a respectable 30 hours per charge. USB-C fast charging is also the same, with a 10-minute charge giving you five hours of listening.

Meanwhile, talking to Alexa is easy enough and arguably easier than before because of the improved mics. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stretch much further than it did on the previous model regarding commands. You can get tunes from Amazon Music, but not Spotify, when you need to have Google Assistant or Siri step in to take over.


  • Comfortable fit
  • Improved ANC and ambient modes
  • Maintains excellent sound
  • Much better for phone calls
  • Excellent battery life


  • No new design treatment
  • Alexa still doesn’t work with Spotify
  • Expensive

Best overall

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones


From $348 at Amazon $350 at Best Buy $348 at BH Photo

When great gets greater

Sony addresses some shortcomings from previous models for a stellar follow-up to one of its best pairs of headphones.

Runner-up: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700


Bose has been a top contender in audio circles for some time, even if the mere mention of the brand raises the ire of audiophiles. Still, that it can make a good pair of headphones isn’t surprising, considering Bose’s pedigree for sound, but their efficacy can go beyond that.

The excellent ANC performance is augmented further by a certain level of customization through Bose’s mobile app. But for the most part, you will have to rely on what comes out of the box once you wear these headphones. They aren’t a one-size-fits-all from a sonic perspective, even if their lightweight frame and comfy earpads make wearing them feel like they are. While ANC performance doesn’t quite hit Sony’s level, they’re a solid alternative that do a solid job of blocking out most persistent noises, like engines, and some mid-range sounds like people talking. You get up to 11 steps of ANC, making this one of the most versatile ANC experiences available.

Bose also gives you a direct line to Alexa, and the integration should feel seamless. It’s easy to make general inquiries, request tunes from Amazon Music, or control smart home devices. However, it does have its limits — for example, it won’t play music on Spotify through voice commands. You can resume Spotify playback through a shortcut you enable on the app, but voice integration would’ve been even better.

Despite all the good things, battery life is average at 20 hours per charge. 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. They also don’t fold, which could be an issue when traveling or commuting, taking up more space in your bag.


  • 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


Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 – Wireless Bluetooth Headphones


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

Sounding off in all the right tones

These feature-packed headphones are equipped with an array of sound options that get a boost with noise cancelation.

Best over-ear value: Jabra Elite 85h


Spec sheets often lack context with any product, but the features Jabra put into these headphones make them a compelling option, especially for the price. For a company that has staked a claim as one of the industry’s best for true wireless earbuds, it’s impressive how that transfers over to over-ear headphones.

The Jabra Elite 85h aren’t so much a crossover from the company’s true wireless earbuds, but the consistency is certainly there. These sound great with most music genres, and it always helps that the Jabra Sound+ app offers some customization through an onboard EQ. However, the little things help the cause, whether minimal water resistance, connecting to two devices at once and adequate physical controls. Take the headphones off and audio the pauses. Put them back on, and it resumes. Again, these little things add up.

A voice assistant is only as good as how well it hears what you want it to do, and the Elite 85h excel in that regard. With eight microphones onboard, the headphones have the kind of redundancy that can keep commands coming in loud and clear. This is crucial for Alexa, which can interpret commands in more varied settings. Of course, you won’t be able to tell Spotify what to play, but that seems to be a problem no matter who makes headphones.

All that said, the ANC quality isn’t as effective as it is on other models, especially compared to Sony and Bose. SmartSound, which is supposed to adapt the sound based on your environment, does OK, and HearThrough, the ambient mode, is suitable. One important detail to offset any flaws is that the headphones last over 30 hours per charge, with USB-C for faster charging.


  • Comfortable design
  • Solid for music and phone calls
  • EQ and settings in Sound+ app
  • Auto-pause and resume
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good price


  • ANC could be better
  • SmartSound isn’t always smart
  • Heavier than competing models
  • Can’t use Spotify with Alexa

Best over-ear value

Jabra Elite 85h Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones


$229 at Amazon From $190 at Best Buy

Comfort and convenience in a solid package

When many smaller features come together with key primary ones, the result is headphones like this.

Best in-ear: Sony WF-1000XM4

If there were a true wireless earbud iteration of Sony’s over-ear WH-1000XM4, these would be it. Much of what makes those headphones so effective finds its way over here. While smaller real estate limits how much of a boom the low-end of the sound spectrum will have, audio performance is excellent despite it. ANC makes its way over, too, which works splendidly in most environments, especially when they’re tightly nestled into your ears.

Alexa is in the mix here, and the popular voice assistant should work as if it’s been there the whole time. It’s not going to be radically different from Sony’s over-ear model or competing brands, but it’s nice to have. You can control smart home devices, ask general queries, set reminders, play songs from Amazon Music, and more. As for Spotify, well, you already know the answer to that by this point.

There are some caveats to all this tech. The earbuds have a slimmer profile than their predecessors did, but you may find you need to make adjustments when out for a jog or run. The IPX4 rating is also a modest upgrade from before and doesn’t exactly put these earbuds in rugged territory. You can still do a run or workout with them, only you will need to be vigilant about keeping them clean afterward, so sweat and salt don’t ruin them.

Sony also trimmed down the charging case, which is excellent for portability. The earbuds could last up to eight hours per charge, plus an extra three charges coming from the case. Wireless charging support gives you another convenient way to charge, though USB-C is the faster route. In a pinch, plug in for 10 minutes, and the earbuds can play for up to 90 minutes.


  • Outstanding ANC performance
  • Stellar sound quality
  • Amazing battery life
  • Wireless charging case with USB-C
  • LDAC and 360 Audio support
  • Solid app support


  • Touch controls need work
  • Smaller ears may not feel comfy
  • Single-bud mode only in right buds
  • No Spotify integration with Alexa

Best in-ear

Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones


$278 at Amazon
$280 at Best Buy
$280 at B&H

Small, yet still packs an audio punch for your ears

The WF-1000XM4 feature superb ANC performance with Alexa available to take care of things as you need them.

Best In-ear value: Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)


Amazon’s cupboard of hardware products continues to grow, and in this second attempt at true wireless earbuds, the tech giant managed to improve in a couple of key areas. The Alexa app still figures prominently in both the setup and functionality for the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), as the lack of a dedicated operating system leaves Amazon with no other option to make things feel seamless.

You can wake Alexa at any time by just talking, making it a hands-free experience that sets it apart from other earbuds. This way, you can control smart home devices or get notifications read to you as they come in. While Spotify integration continues its absence, we hope that feature comes sooner or later.

One hardware change on the inside involved using cleaner drivers to amp up the overall audio quality, though some of that result is also because of the improved fit. Plus, there’s ANC on board here, helping drown out ambient sounds to help audio quality come through a little clearer. If you want the opposite, Passthrough mode lets in ambient sound for greater awareness.

Battery life isn’t any better at a max of five hours per charge (usually less), though you get up to 6.5 hours if you leave ANC off. The case offers an extra three charges. Quick charging via USB-C for 15 minutes can get you two hours of playback.


  • Alexa is baked in
  • Smaller and better fit
  • Improved ANC performance
  • Maintains EQ support
  • Great support on both iOS and Android
  • Faster charging


  • No real difference in battery life from predecessor
  • No multipoint Bluetooth
  • Finicky touch controls

Best in-ear value

Amazon Echo Buds True Wireless In-Ear Earphones


$85 at Amazon $105 at Best Buy

Alexa sits in shotgun

Amazon’s encore in crafting true wireless earbuds with built-in Alexa comes through with notable improvements.

Best sport: Jabra Elite 7 Pro


The Jabra Elite 7 Pro are a great example of earbuds that do right by the fundamentals. Starting with their comfort level, you’re not only able to wear them for more extended periods, but also benefit from better sound because of how well they fit. That passive isolation serves the ANC well, though you do have to run through the mandatory sound customization in the Sound+ app to personalize the feature for your ears.

Expect balanced sound that you can also skew how you want via the Sound+ app. That’s also where you set up Alexa (you can also choose Google Assistant instead) for quick access by just pressing the right button on the earbuds themselves. Even better that they’re physical buttons and not touch-sensitive ones for a more consistent experience every time, you need Alexa to do something for you.

It’s also great for calling people, further enhanced by Jabra’s MultiSensor Voice Technology for an extra layer of clarity. Note that while you can use either earbud in mono mode, Jabra still has to upgrade the firmware to include multipoint support to let you connect to two devices at once.

In case that includes getting active, the Elite 7 Pro come with an IP57 rating for solid water and dust resistance. Plus, battery life holds up well at up to eight hours per charge with ANC on, stretching it to 10 hours when leaving it off. The case gives you an extra three charges for about 30 hours. Charge it up via USB-C or Qi wireless charging, plus fast charging, where a quick five-minute charge can get you up to 60 minutes of playback.


  • Easy Google Assistant access
  • Excellent audio quality, including ANC
  • Great fit and comfort
  • Outstanding call quality
  • Reliable button controls
  • Great value for the price


  • ANC shouldn’t be mandatory
  • More codecs would’ve been nice
  • No multipoint right now

Best in-ear assistant

Jabra Elite 7 Pro


$200 at Amazon
$200 at Best Buy

An Elite performer

The Elite 7 Pro are Jabra’s best combination of all the features and functions that make wireless earbuds great.

Best for audiophiles: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3


Sennheiser holds a steady reputation for producing quality headphones with great sound, often competing with top brands through impressive audio fidelity. That remains the case with the Momentum Wireless 3, which aren’t engineered for self-respecting audiophiles who are sticklers, but rather consumers who care about listening to headphones that offer better overall sound.

These skew more heavily toward the low-end for bigger bass, but Sennheiser’s Sound Control app can moderate that through its EQ settings. The beauty of these headphones is that they can sound more to your liking by using that kind of tool. The built-in ANC offers three settings to block out ambient noise, while Transparent mode does the opposite by piping in that noise for greater spatial awareness.

Auto-play and pause when putting on or removing the headphones is convenient, as is connecting to two devices at once via Bluetooth. Fold the earcups in, and the headphones turn off. They also come with a carrying case, including pouches for the USB-C and 3.5mm line-in cables.

Alexa is available as a voice assistant option, and as you might expect, the integration is much like it is in other headphones. Unfortunately, battery life won’t match what other brands can do, hitting a max of 17 hours per charge. There is no fast charging option, either, forcing you to wait longer to get them back up and playing again.


  • Excellent sound quality
  • Comfortable and stylish design
  • Customization through Sound Control app
  • ANC support
  • Portable with foldable design and case


  • May be too much bass for some
  • Battery life could be better
  • Expensive
  • No Spotify

Best for audiophiles

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones


$241 at Amazon $200 at Best Buy $200 at B&H

Tweak the sound the way you like most

Sennheiser shows its chops for audio engineering with a crowd-pleasing pair of headphones open for plenty of customization.

Bottom line

Alexa is a ubiquitous voice assistant that people have parked in almost every corner of their home. Taking it with you offers a good measure of the same experience outdoors, even if some key integrations are missing. More headphones will be joining the group listed here — you can count on that. However, right now, you’ll have to pay a premium to get it built-in. As more headphones hit the market with Alexa onboard, the price should go down. But, for now, you’ll be paying three figures for the privilege. To be honest, you’ll be paying that much for some of the best wireless headphones on the market.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 delivers the best combination of what you would expect a feature-laden pair of headphones to have. It’s up against stiff competition, yet they cover the right bases by improving upon previous models and pushing other brands to raise their game. Overall, these are the best headphones with Alexa, and you won’t be disappointed with the rest of what they can do.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, whether 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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