Up your sound quality with these wireless headphones

At this point, Bluetooth wireless headphones have become ubiquitous, coming in a variety of 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 why is the ANC performance, which gets an upgrade here courtesy of Sony's QN1 processor and a dual noise sensor that do the work of blocking out the background. 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 of Sony's Precise Voice Pickup and Speak to Chat features that 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). 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

$348 at Amazon $350 at Best Buy $350 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 Q30

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. The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are serious value for what you get out of the box. As a sequel to the decent Q20, Anker ups the ante here in the right ways to put this over-ear pair onto a different level.

The sound quality is excellent, with a lively soundstage out of the box that doesn't skew too far one way or the other. 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.

These are also more comfortable to wear, owing to larger ear cups that do a better job sealing ears from outside sound. Passive noise isolation is one reason why the ANC is as effective as it is. Anker also used sturdier materials to add some improved rigidity from the previous design.

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 when you have it turned on. That's an impressive figure for any pair of headphones, even more so for something that isn't premium. And with USB-C, a five-minute quick charge can get them back up and playing for four hours.

Pros:

  • Superb audio quality
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Better build this time
  • Great companion app
  • ANC support
  • Affordable price

Cons:

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

Value Pick

Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Noise Cancelling Headphones

$68 at Amazon $68 at Newegg

Playing nice for everyone

Anker manages to cram in a hefty amount of battery life in the Soundcore Life Q30 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 have to 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 on, but your mileage will vary based on how loud you have them. 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Best Budget Headphones

COWIN E7 Pro Active Noise Canceling Headphones

From $70 at Amazon $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: Creative Outlier Air V2

Budget earbuds are not super hard to find, but the true gems don't always reveal themselves. The Creative Outlier Air V2 stand out as that kind of pair. The fit and comfort are ideal for sealing in more of the bass to preserve as much of the soundstage as possible. Codec support is fabulous in that it includes both aptX and AAC, only adding to how good these sound on any given day. The downside is you don't get active noise cancelation (ANC) or a Transparency mode here. The IPX5 rating is decent for water and sweat resistance, so you could work out with them on.

And while Creative did throw in its excellent Super X-Fi technology, you won't get much mileage out of it, unfortunately. It only works with music and video files stored on your device rather than streaming media content. The earbuds' touch controls that replaced the physical buttons are OK, but not great.

Creative does make up for that in stamina, thanks to up to 12 hours of audio playback per charge at default volume. With another (almost) two charges in the charging case, there are over 30 hours of total listening time. If only the company could've added wireless charging to the mix.

If only the Outlier Air V2 had a companion app with an equalizer, that would truly put the sound onto a different plateau. Despite that, there's a lot to like about these budget earbuds, and that's why they're on this list.

Pros:

  • Great audio quality
  • Awesome bud battery life
  • Comfortable fit
  • Improved onboard control
  • Affordable price

Cons:

  • Touch controls aren't all great
  • No ANC or transparency modes
  • No wireless charging
  • Bulky case

Best Budget Earbuds

Creative Outlier Air V2

$70 at Amazon

Well rounded

Creative makes key improvements to the Outlier Air V2, and that's why they're fantastic for those who want to save money.

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 a bit 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Best Over-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

$370 at Amazon $400 at Best Buy $400 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 do have a strong clamping force that applies itself onto 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

$300 at Apple $170 at Best Buy

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: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung took the best it had from previous wireless earbuds and applied them to the Galaxy Buds Pro, and the move paid off with a pair that puts them at the top. They are different from the Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds+, though retain some similarities.

These earbuds are small and nimble yet pack in ANC and new sensors to do more. The ANC has two settings (high and low) and four Ambient mode settings. Both can work together with Voice Detect, a feature that lowers the audio volume and raises Ambient mode once you start talking. After five, 10, or 15 seconds of no talking, the audio volume goes back up again, letting you listen to your content without having to pause it.

The larger drivers inside do deliver clearer sound, with good balance across the spectrum. The Galaxy Wearable app offers six equalizer presets to adjust it further if you want to try customizing the sound a little more. The new 360 Audio features uses Dolby Head Tracking technology, letting you watch content coded in 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, basically creating a virtual audio effect to make a show or movie sound more spatial.

Helping all this in any setting is the IPX7 rating, giving the Galaxy Buds Pro the kind of water and sweat resistance that lets them continue to play during a rigorous run or workout. The one downside is that the touch controls are a bit too sensitive, which could lead to accidental taps when adjusting them to your ears.

Battery life also won't be exceptional at up to five hours per charge when ANC is on. You can stretch that to eight hours when keeping it off, so you will need to lean on the included case and its three extra charges, which charges either wirelessly or via USB-C. A quick five-minute charge through USB can get you up to an hour of playback.

Pros:

  • Excellent sound
  • Effective ANC
  • Rugged water and sweat resistance
  • Comfortable design
  • Spatial 360 Audio
  • Reliable microphone quality

Cons

  • Lower battery life than before
  • Finicky touch controls
  • Needs custom EQ

Best True Wireless Earbuds

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

$190 at Amazon $190 at Best Buy $190 at B&H

Truly wireless, truly good sound

Samsung did a lot for the Galaxy Buds Pro, especially when it comes to the extra features that make them so easy to listen to.

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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-1000XM3

More true wireless earbuds are now coming with ANC as a feature, but the Sony WF-1000XM3 are the measuring stick for this category. Sony took the excellent ANC tech it uses in the over-ear WH-1000XM3 and applied it to these superb earbuds. 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 you can tailor it more to your liking by using 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. One strike against Sony in this area is the Adaptive Sound Control mode, which just isn't very effective. On the bright side, the WF-1000XM3 does have an ambient mode to bring in ambient sound via the onboard mics to hear sounds around you without taking them off.

How well they fit is another story. The bulkier size has them protruding a little outside the ear, which may not feel the sturdiest, depending on the size of your ears. There's no official water or sweat resistance, so using them for workouts or near water is somewhat risky. If you are to do that, make sure to wipe them down and clean them.

Battery life is quite good at up to six hours alone and an extra 18 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Buds are a bit large
  • Lacks wireless charging case
  • Adaptive Sound Control is just OK
  • No official water resistance rating

Best Noise-Canceling True Wireless

Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbuds

$178 at Amazon $178 at Best Buy $178 at B&H

True wireless ANC

The WF-1000XM3 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. 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Best Noise-Canceling

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 — Over Ear

From $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

When it comes to working out, the Jaybird Vista are the best option. Well-made with a design that should fit most ears, they have a tight seal capable of giving 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 while working out.

The IPX7 rating gives you enough water- and sweat resistance to do most active things. You can't take them swimming, but you can certainly run in the rain and not worry about a little splashing. 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, and the louder default volume helps keep it closer to that ceiling. While small and highly pocketable, the case only adds an extra 10 hours, which isn't very high, but at least you can charge them pretty quickly via USB-C. No wireless charging, unfortunately.

Pros:

  • Bass-heavy sound
  • Comfortable fit
  • App-based EQ options
  • Rugged design with IPX7 resistance rating
  • Quick charge via USB-C

Cons

  • No auto-pause feature
  • No ambient sound mode
  • No wireless charging
  • Short battery life for case

Best Sport

Jaybird Vista Premium Headphones

From $144 at Amazon $145 at Best Buy $144 at B&H

Made for working out

Jaybird gives the Vista 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. 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.



Source: androidcentral

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