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The best Bose headphones in 2021

Best Bose headphones
(Image credit: Regan Coule)

The best Bose headphones manage to stand out even among an entirely catalogue of (mostly) high-quality audio wearables, so if you want your next pair to come with a serious pedigree, you arguably don’t need to look much further.

Bose has produced numerous members of our best wireless earbuds, best over-ear headphones and best noise-cancelling headphones lists over the years, generally taking a slow and steady approach that means new products don’t come thick and fast — but are usually worth your attention when they arrive. But what are the best Bose headphones that you can buy right now? Scroll down and you’ll find out.

Bose headphones news (updated July 30)

  • The Bose QuietComfort 45, which appears to be a successor to the QuietComfort 35 II over-ear headphones, was named in an FCC filing.
  • Bose claimed multiple prizes in the Tom's Guide Awards Audio category, with the Bose 700 and Bose Sport Earbuds both earning Highly Recommended nods.
  • If you're looking for a more affordable pair of headphones or earbuds, our back to school guide features buying guides on all kind of cheap headphones. 

What are the best Bose headphones?

The Bose 700 currently stands as our top Bose option, offering best-in-class (and adjustable) noise cancellation and superior sound. 

Following close behind is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which prior to the Bose 700 set the standard for ANC performance. A much more discrete alternative comes in at number 3: the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, a pair of true wireless earbuds that are also top of their class for noise-cancelling effectiveness.

We've also ranked more affordable sets like the Bose SoundSport Wireless earbuds, so read on to discover more of the best Bose headphones.

Best Bose headphones: Bose 700

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

1. Bose 700 Headphones

The best Bose headphones overall

Specifications
Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.9 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Award-winning noise cancellation+Excellent audio quality+Lengthy battery life+Lightweight design+Works in wired mode if battery dies
Reasons to avoid
-Google Assistant needs work-Limited features

Meet the king of the noise-cancelling headphones. The Bose 700 headphones effectively take the crown from its predecessor, offering adjustable ANC that is equally effective whether you're listening to music or making or receiving phone calls. They even play nice with your digital assistants. Plus, you get a stylish new design and balanced, precise audio performance. 

Read our full Bose 700 review.

 

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

(Image credit: Future)

2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Affordable wireless noise-cancelling headphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, 8.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Award-winning noise cancellation+Excellent audio quality+Lengthy battery life+Lightweight design+Works in wired mode if battery dies
Reasons to avoid
-Google Assistant needs work-Limited features

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II might not be the king of the castle anymore, but this is still are a pair of top-notch headphones. Bose programmed these over-ears with two ANC modes – Low and High – each capable of adjusting noise-cancelling levels to optimize audio in different settings. The dynamic drivers underneath the hood produce great audio reproduction, spoiling listeners with booming lows and clear mids. A comfortable design, digital assistant support and impressive battery life (both in ANC and passive mode) make the QC35 II an ideal travel companion.  

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

(Image credit: Brian Coule/Tom's Guide)

3. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Specifications
Size: 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06 inches
Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 18 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters)
Special features: Adjustable ANC, Bluetooth 5.1, Self Voice mode for enhancing calling
Reasons to buy
+Unbeatable ANC+Excellent call quality+Dynamic sound+Strong, reliable connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is shorter than advertised

It’s even more expensive than the AirPods Pro, but the QuietComfort Earbuds make up for it with the best ANC implementation of any true wireless in-ear buds. It’s almost as good as the noise-cancelling on the Bose 700, which considering the form factor difference (and that fact that the QuietComfort Earbuds has half the microphones) is seriously impressive. Call quality is excellent as well, though battery life could be longer — be sure to keep the charging case to hand for longer listening sessions.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

Best Bose headphones: Bose Sport Earbuds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

4. Bose Sport Earbuds

The best Bose sport earbuds

Specifications
Size: 0.7 x 1 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 5 hours, 15 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Special features:: Bluetooth 5.1, in-ear detection, sweat and weather resistant
Reasons to buy
+Well-balanced audio+Stable and sturdy design+Super-compact charging case
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life-Feels uncomfortable after an hour of use

Another set of great Bose in-ears, the Bose Sport Earbuds is a more fitness-focused (and much cheaper) alternative to the QuietComfort Earbuds. The design is much more compact and even more comfortable, and while there’s no active noise cancellation, the sound quality is very close to the pricier buds as well. This sweatproof set of buds also comes with removable tips, so you can find the perfect fit for your ears and prevent the buds from falling out on the treadmill.

Read our full Bose Sport Earbuds review.

Best Bose headphones: Bose SoundSport Wireless

(Image credit: Bose)

5. Bose SoundSport Wireless

The best Bose wireless sports earbuds

Specifications
Size and Weight: 1.2 x 1 x 1.2 inches, 0.8 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours
Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great bass+Snug, secure fit+Water-resistant protection+Tile tracking technology
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life-Bulky design

If you want signature Bose sound in a durable, sporty design, and don't mind having the buds connected by a band, consider the SoundSport Wireless instead of the "true" wireless buds listed above.

Its soft silicone rubber hooks latch onto ears to optimize fit when engaged in sports activities, while IPX4 certification ensures it survive a sweat bath or splashes near the pool area. Bose even integrated cool mobile features like Tile tracking to locate misplaced buds, and NFC, which instantly pairs the buds to compatible Android phones. Battery life isn't anything to rave about, but it's suitable for weekly workouts.

Read our full Bose SoundSport Wireless review.

 

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort 20i

(Image credit: Bose)

6. Bose QuietComfort 20i

Comfortable, noise-cancelling earbuds

Specifications
Size and Weight: 7.8 x 5 x 2.4 inches, 1.6 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 16 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth Range: None
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Strong noise-cancelling+Ambient listening mode+Plays audio when battery dies+Very comfortable 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best-sounding Bose earphones-Bulky in-line mic and battery module

A classic from the Bose collection, the wired QC20i is for mobile listeners who are prefer to stick with a headphone jack and want to silence the world around them. It does a phenomenal job of blocking out environmental sounds by forming a tight seal to isolate noise. Another major selling point is its ability to play audio without battery power, retaining the same detail and volume as in ANC mode. Music won't sound as great as on other Bose headphones, but it's still crisp. The battery module and in-line mic might also be considered obtrusive for modern standards.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 20I review.

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietControl 30

(Image credit: Bose)

7. Bose QuietControl 30

In-ear noise-cancelling with strong sound

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 6.5 x 6 inches, 2.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 10 hours
Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Impressive sound+Flexible design+Effective noise cancellation+Ambient listening modes
Reasons to avoid
-Still too pricey-Finicky connectivity

Another higher-end option for in-ear noise cancellation, the QC30 filters out high-frequency rumblings while producing clean, full sound. Users can adjust the ANC levels through the free Bose Connect app to completely silence or listen to their surroundings. The soundstage offers lots of depth, so you'll pick up on the slightest details in your favorite recordings. Bluetooth range is lower than advertised with music lasting past the 20-foot mark. The price , however, is pretty steep.

Best Bose headphones: Bose SoundSport In-Ear

(Image credit: Bose)

8. Bose SoundSport In-Ear

Best budget Bose earphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 4.9 x 1.9 x 8.8 inches; 0.6 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): N/A
Bluetooth Range: N/A
Digital Assistant Support: None
Reasons to buy
+Superlight and comfy+Sounds great across all music genres+Sweat- and water-resistant+Very affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Mediocre noise isolation-No modern features-Mediocre noise isolation-No modern features

For fitness or leisure, the SoundSport In-Ear is a bargain that music lovers shouldn't pass on. Bose's Stay Hear tips provide a stable, relaxed fit for joggers and speedy commuters. Its weather-resistant design protects from perspiration and water. We're fans of the midrange and treble delivery, but it's worth noting that the poor seal these buds create can affect sound quality. The lack of modern features, such as digital assistant support, also restricts its capabilities. 

Read our full Bose SoundSport In-Ear review.

Best Bose headphones: Bose SoundSport Free

(Image credit: Bose)

9. Bose SoundSport Free

Truly wireless buds with sporty features

Specifications
Size and Weight: 1.3 x 1 x 1.2 inches, 0.3 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours, 10 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10.5 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Rich sound+Fast charging+Sleek, secure design+Find My Buds feature
Reasons to avoid
-Uncomfortable to wear for long stretches-Poor bud-to-bud connection

Bose's first truly wireless earbuds offer the premium design and sound one would expect from the audio giant. Powerful bass combined with detailed mids creates an energetic soundscape to fuel intense workouts. Portable power is always a huge bonus, and the bundled charging case offers just enough to get through a week’s worth of gym sessions: 10 hours. Quick charging is also available to give the buds 45 minutes of listening time on a 15-minute charge. However, its bulky design is not suited for leisurely listening, making the buds painful to wear after an hour of use. Unreliable connectivity means you'll experience some dropout on the left earbud from time to time as well.

  • TGO
    Bose are a ripoff. Dreads are nasty.
    Reply
  • tomfann
    SHORT VERSION: In real-world use, QC35II is BETTER the 700's. If pretty is your primary motivator, then 700's win but functionally, QC35II wipes the floor with the 700s in all categories but looks and ANC flexibility.

    LONG VERSION: As an avid TomsGuide reader and an owner and user of both the Bose 700 and the QC35II, I'd like to call out some things in this article that I disagree with. The QC35II is not a draw in certain categories as this and many other articles would have you believe. The classic QC design evolved over time and reached it's pinnacle with the QC35II until it was replaced rather than further iterated...so the 700's don't get any of the time-tested refinement that the QC series has earned...and seemingly only to make a prettier headset.

    Light Weight Design: Tom calls this a draw but I disagree. QC35II wins over the 700 here as the QC35II's are not only technically lighter-overall but they are better balanced to sit on one's head while the head is at different angles. QC35II is weighted more heavily in the ear cups whereas the 700's have a lot of weight in the over-the-head band. When weighted at the earcup, leaning forward to pick something up or laying back in your first-class-cabin airline pod seat, doesn't cause the headset to pivot over your head and fall off. With the 700's however, with the extra bulk and weight in the over-head-band, this happens alot.

    Portable Design: The QC35II's easily fold up like a transformer and fit into a compact rectangle-ish carrying case, that with a caribeaner can easily hang from a backpack or even on the seatback pocket of your economy cabin airline seat. The loop for the case is located on the top of the case with the zipper opening the case to the left like a door would open and even has a thin pocket that could hold a passport or a ticket or something of the like...great for travelling. The 700's on the other hand are huge, non-folding, and unwieldy to carry around. The ear cups swivel in and out to allow it to fit into the case but that's it. The case itself it nearly double the size of the case that comes with the QC35II's and for some odd reason has the attachment loop, not at the top as one would expect, but on the side, with the zipper unzipping around the opposite side of the case! When holding the case as you naturally would, in the same orientation as the headset would be on your head, that zipper causes the case to open like a door. With the loop on the side though, while hanging, your headset is aligned sideways and you are unzipping around the bottom of the case. Hanging this case on a backpack distributes the weight on the loop in such a bizar way that the act of walking alone causes it to flop around to the point where it gets annoying. On top of that, if one unzips the case while it's hanging from the loop, there's a good chance that the headsets will simply fall on the floor. This also means one needs to be careful to make sure the zipper is always closed when hooking it to a backpack via the loop because the weight of the case will keep the lid close while unzipped and not moving, but as soon as the aforementioned flopping around begins, an unzipped case can easily lead to a lost headset.

    Easy to Use: The QC35II's have a true tactile on/off sliding switch for on/off control, true tactile volume up and volume down buttons, and an auxilliary button (again a REAL button that one can feel without looking at) for track and assistant control. The 700's have a true tactile but not-quite-real "toggle" button for on/off control, an true tactile auxiliary button for voice assistant control, and a single ear-cup-mounted, touch-sensitive, multi-use, pad for volume and track control. The QC35II blows the 700 out of the water in terms of functionality here. The only thing the 700 gets here is bragging rights on a cleaner looking design. When using these headsets though, the 700's semi-toggle button makes the simple task of turning the headset on and off difficult. You'll see post after post out there about how people can't figure out how to turn on or turn off their 700's without pressing that button 2 or 3 times to get it to register. (Master Class Note here...just get into the habit of pressing that button HARD every time.) The QC35's have a sliding switch that you just can't mess up. It's either slid to the right and on, or to the left and off. This sliding switch also has a green dot visible when the headset is on and a red dot visible when the headset is off so one can always tell just by looking at the headset if it is still on or not. With the 700's you actually have to put them on to double check that your on or off button press really registered. I can't tell you how many times my 700's batteries have died because i thought I turned them off but I didn't. The volume control buttons on the QC35II are also intuitive, easy to find in the dark, and are always in the same place regardless of how tilted forward or tilted back you like to wear your headset. The 700's on the other hand use a touch sensitive surface that interprets up/down swipes as volume control and forward/back swipes as track control...the problem here being that if you tend to wear your headset with the band over the front of your head or the back of your head, which you HAVE TO DO in some reclining or forward leaning positions to counteract that extra over-the-head-band weight which will cause them to fall off of your head...what is up and down to your head may be interpreted as forward and back by the tilted headset. There are no tactile clues on the headset to let you know where that diagonal limit line is between what the headset considers up/down vs forward/back.

    Had I known all of this before purchasing the 700s I would not have. Because I spent the money on them though, I leave them on a purchased headset stand on my desk and use them for Zoom calls. My older QC35II's are the go-to for anything travel related or away-from-my-desk related.

    One more thing that the 700's seem to have an issue with, that I assume will eventually get fixed in software, is multistreaming. The QC35IIs, using the older Bose Connect app would easily allow 2 seperate Bose QC35's listen to the same bluetooth stream. This is really nice for couples who travel together. The 700's, with the new Bose Music App, don't seem to be able to do this. Why, Bose? WHY????
    Reply