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The best wireless headphones in 2021

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

The best wireless headphones are both a worthy investment and a trusty companion. Free of any bothersome cables, they’re perfect for taking out and about, and can deliver truly excellent saound quality over Bluetooth.  And, with more and more smartphones ditching the 3.5mm jack, there’s never been a better time to go wireless.

We’ve curated this list of the best wireless headphones to help you pick a pair that suits you, whether it’s to get a certain must-have feature like active noise cancellation or to find that perfectly balanced sound signature. All of these headphones have undergone rigorous testing, so you can rest assured they really are the best in the business.

What are the best wireless headphones?

At the top of our list is the all-new Sony WH-1000XM4, which also happens to be the No. 1 pick on our best noise cancelling headphones roundup. These wireless cans produce category-leading sound that can be personalized through the Sony Headphones Connect app, which also grants access to a variety of other cool features that enhance the listening experience. Active noise cancellation is top tier, and several connectivity options allow for seamless pairing between devices.

In the No. 2 spot is the Bose 700. Bose updated its adaptive mic system to deliver champion ANC that can be adjusted across 11 different levels via mobile app. The improvements in ANC circuitry also boost sound and call quality, giving these noise-cancellers phenomenal all-around performance.  

Next up is the Apple AirPods Pro, which has dominated the wireless earbuds category with surprisingly good noise cancelation. Newer features like the pinch-gesture controls and hands-free “Hey Siri” support make operating these pearly danglers a breeze, while series hallmarks such as the 24-hour charging case and instant iOS connectivity remain intact.  Similarly well-featured is the Apple AirPods Pro, Cupertino's expensive yet highly successful first attempt at a pair of over-ear, active noise-cancelling headphones.

The best wireless headphones right now

Best wireless headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

The best wireless headphones overall

Size and Weight: 9.94 x 3.03 x 7.27 inches, 8.95 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off) | Bluetooth Range: 40 feet (12 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Best sound in multiple categories
Powerful ANC and ambient listening modes
Loaded with features
Amazing wireless performance
Call quality needs work

The Sony WH-1000XM4 stands as the best wireless headphones available. Sony’s boomy and spacious soundstage is at the forefront, reproducing a full range of frequencies, so you can feel every low, mid, and high that blasts out of the 40mm drivers. You have the luxury of fine-tuning sound to your hearing by adjusting the EQ or selecting from a variety of presets in the Sony Headphones app, which has more cool features that extended functionality. If noise cancellation is what you really seek, the WH-1000XM4 is the closest you’ll get to elite ANC next to the Bose 700. Also, the connectivity options (Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, multipoint technology) and touch controls all operate smoothly.

Not much has changed regarding design, and that’s fine since the headphones still look sharp, though we wish the call quality would have been fixed.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

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

2. Bose 700

Class-leading ANC in a striking design

Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Slick, attractive design
Adjustable ANC levels
Precise, balanced audio
Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
Expensive

These aren't your daddy's Bose. The Bose 700 headphones have raised the bar for active noise cancelling headphones, effectively silencing outside noise while simultaneously allowing you to clearly be heard when talking to someone on the phone or cueing up a digital assistant. The 700s don't skimp on audio quality either, offering clean, balanced sound with some impressive, intuitive tech flourishes.

Right now, it’s the only model engineered with 11 levels of noise cancellation to keep things quiet without adding distortion to your music, and the Full Transparency mode is similarly impressive. Battery life is standard at 20 hours, though you can spend extra on the travel charging case that holds 40 extra hours of playtime and protects the cans in style. Anyone looking to upgrade their work-from-home headphones may also want to look at the Bose 700 UC, a new version that maintains the excellent mic performance of the original and is programmed to work with third-party cloud services like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet, and Zoom to enhance virtual collaborations.

See our full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

Best wireless headphones: Apple AirPods Pro

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3. Apple AirPods Pro

The best AirPods you can buy

Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 4.5 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Modern, functional design
Effective active noise cancellation
Expanded, easy to use controls
Seamless iOS connectivity
Battery life could be longer

Apple’s noise-cancelling wireless earbuds have definitely lived up to their hype. Headlining its feature set is active noise cancellation, which is surprisingly effective for hushing rowdy commuters and minimizing background noises during phone calls. The addition of ear tips makes a world of difference for both in-ear stability and sound quality; the tips produce a safe, tight seal that allows music to sound fuller. Apple also developed an adaptive EQ that automatically tunes the low and mid frequencies to your ear shape. Adding to its audio capabilities, Apple released the iOS 14 update that introduces two new features: auto-switching between Apple devices and spatial audio to create a 3D-dimension soundscape.

Hands? That's so passé. Thanks to Apple's H1 chip, the AirPods Pro are packing even more hands-free Siri integration. Plus, you get the near-instant pairing and stable connections we've come to expect from an Apple audio product. And with the new Force Sensors embedded in the redesigned stems, you may never need to touch your smartphone ever again. 

See our full Apple AirPods Pro review.

Best wireless headphones: Apple AirPods MaxTop Pick

(Image credit: Future)

4. Apple AirPods Max

The best over-ear wireless headphones for iOS users

Size and weight: 7.4 x 6.6 x 3.3 inches, 13.6 ounces | Battery life (rated): 20 hours (ANC on) | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Special features: ANC, Spatial Audio, audio sharing, Siri

Luxury design
Excellent noise cancellation
Spatial Audio sounds great
Expensive

The dinky AirPods Pro are a much more cost-effective route into Apple headphones, considering the AirPods Max cost a widowmaking $549. Still, you get what you pay for, and on a purely technical level, Apple’s first over-ear cans are absolute fantastic.

There’s active noise cancelling, which works about as well as the best on the market. There’s Spatial Audio, which creates a striking surround sound effect as you move your head. There’s a impeccable build quality, the comfy memory foam earcup padding, the healthy battery life – the list goes on. It’s worth noting that if you ever want to switch to wired listening you’ll need to buy a separate $35 Lightning cable, but on Bluetooth alone these headphones are an excellent iOS companion.

See our full Apple AirPods Max review.

Best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite Active 75t

Jabra Elite Active 75t (Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

5. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best wireless earbuds overall

Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches, 0.19 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Well-balanced sound
Sleek, sturdy, and waterproof design
Longer battery life than all AirPods models
Active and passive noise cancellation
Can get extremely loud at max volume

If you are looking for a pair of truly wireless earbuds that offers the right balance of personalized comfort, sound, and sporty features, then add the Jabra Elite Active 75t to your shopping cart. These buds earned a perfect score (5 stars) and our coveted Editor’s Choice badge for their amazing overall performance. Design-wise, they are 22% smaller than their predecessor, the critically acclaimed Elite Active 65t, and more rugged. Jabra also added IP57 certification to make them fully waterproof in up to 1 meter of water. 

Audio is another hallmark of the Elite Active 75t, delivering detailed and vibrant sound that gives music a lively presence. With the buds operating on Bluetooth 5.0 technology, they consume less power, so that you get more use out of them when fully charged. Users can also pair to two devices simultaneously and hear music wirelessly from a lengthy distance (est. 35 feet). And just when you thought it wasn’t possible, Jabra released an over-the-air ANC update for free that brings active noise cancellation to both the Elite Active 75t and Elite 75t. The results are silently impressive.

See our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.

Best wireless headphones: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

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

6. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Size and Weight: 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06 inches, 0.3 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 18 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Category-leading ANC
Well-balanced sound
Excellent call quality
Bluetooth 5.1
Battery life could be better

A new true wireless ANC king has emerged in the form of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. The brand’s latest flagship earbuds boast the best noise cancellation in the category, nearly matching the performance of its over-ear counterpart, the Bose 700, and minimizing ambient sound at an extremely high level. You can adjust ANC on the Bose Connect app, as well as enable the Transparency mode, which blends with noise cancellation to offer the best of both worlds, while keeping music on in the background. Sound is dynamic and rich, giving listeners a full sonic taste of recordings. The only thing more impressive than the noise cancellation is the call quality, as the buds produce loud and crisp conversations, even in the loudest settings.

If only battery life was better managed, as there is no way to disable both ANC and transparency modes at the same time, which strongly affects the QuietComfort Earbuds’ middling playtime. The charging case also doesn’t get you much compared to AirPods Pro’s case.

Best wireless headphones: Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

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

7. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The best productivity headphones

Size: 8.03 x 7.68 x 1.89 inches | Weight: 10.22 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet (243 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Adjustable ANC levels
Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously
Smart controls
Lower battery life than competitors
Surface Audio app needs more features

At a time when working from home now seems conventional, the Surface Headphones 2 proves its worth, backed by intelligible controls and features that make listening to music and working from home equally pleasant. Despite ditching Cortana, the headphones offer plenty of digital assistant support in Siri and Google Assistant to carry out practical tasks, along with Microsoft 365 integration to use voice dictation in real-time with popular Office programs (e.g. Word, Outlook). Another compelling feature that improves ease of use is the dial control found on both earcups, which allow you to seamlessly adjust the volume and noise-cancelling levels.

Speaking of which, ANC is impressive and blocks out about 75% of ambient noise. Music also sounds great on the Surface Headphones 2, feeding your ears with strong bass response and clean vocals. Our only issues with the sequel are its lack of lengthy battery life and extended features via companion app.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review.

Best wireless headphones: Beats Powerbeats Pro

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

8. Beats Powerbeats Pro

The best sports earbuds

Size and Weight: 1.1 x 1 x 0.9 inches, 0.7 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours; 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Lengthy battery life
Well-balanced sound
Comfortable, stable fit for running
Bulky charging case
Wind resistance on calls isn't great

For the iPhone fanboy who desires a sporty AirPods alternative without having to give up all of its performance perks, the $249 Powerbeats Pro was specifically designed for you. These wrap-around-the-ear cordless buds don a sweat- and water-resistant shell that protects both the interior and exterior from moisture. Beats’ signature sleek low-profile design is on full display with the embossed B logo sitting pretty in the front. 

Since it is technically an Apple product, that means you can expect Apple-y integration as well, which includes access to several iOS-friendly features and quick pairing to all iOS/MacOS devices. It’s also said that the Powerbeats Pro will have automatic switching as well when iOS 14 officially launches. 

In addition, the Powerbeats Pro offers solid audio and a secure, comfortable fit. The best part? You get 9 hours of battery life, which is 4 hours longer than the AirPods.  Just keep in mind that these earbuds are also bigger than the AirPods. Those who’ve been waiting for Beats to drop some new colors will be happy to hear the brand has four new attractive shades set for launch this month: Glacier Blue, Cloud Pink, Lava Red, and Spring Yellow.

See our full Powerbeats Pro Review.

Best wireless headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Image credit: Future)

9. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Terrific active noise cancelation for less

Size and Weight: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, 8.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on), 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Amazing noise cancellation
Clear, dynamic audio
Comfy and lightweight
Google Assistant integration needs work
Design remains unchanged

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bose QC35 II was considered the king of noise cancellation. The 700s may have rightfully taken over its spot atop the ANC throne, but these headphones remain a hot seller that can be had for a low price and are well worth the investment.

In terms of noise neutralization, the QC35 II is only second to the 700s, which speaks loudly to its sound-silencing capabilities. The headphones also feature a liberating and comfy wireless design and a dedicated button to summon Google's AI. There is a volume-optimized EQ that makes your tunes sound great even when you crank your phone to 11, and with the 20 hours of battery life, you'll have plenty of power for a couple of cross-country flights.

See our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.  

 

Best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 45h

(Image credit: Jabra)

10. Jabra Elite 45h

The best on-ear wireless headphones

Size and Weight: 8.82 x 7.2 x 1.97 inches, 6 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 50 hours | Bluetooth Range: 40 feet (12.2 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Unbeatable battery life
Customizable sound via companion app
Excellent connectivity
Lots of leakage
No headphone port

On-ear headphones are an acquired taste, primarily because they bleed out sound at such a high level. Despite the Elite 45h falling into that category, Jabra’s newest on-ear headphones are still an amazing product (and value) when factoring in the amount of sound, wireless performance, and battery life they provide. No model in this price range is beating the Elite 45h’s 50 hours of playtime, which is sufficient for about a month’s worth of listening when using the headphones in moderation. 

Audio is already well balanced on the default EQ setting, though you can tailor it to your hearing by either tweaking the built-in EQ or selecting from any of the available presets in the Jabra Sound+ app. Wireless range is high as well, allowing listeners to stream music 40 feet away from their audio source. The biggest feature is arguably Multi-Connect, Jabra’s own multipoint technology that lets you pair these cans to up to 8 devices and connect to 2 of those at the same.

How to choose the best wireless headphones for you

The most important thing to look for in the best wireless headphones is battery life. Most devices have an expected battery life, or the number of hours the company says the device can last on a charge. Most wireless earbuds are rated for 5 to 8 hours, while Bluetooth headphones can last about 25 hours or higher.

Another important factor is design — depending on how you like to wear them, you may want to go with on-ear, over-ear or in-ear wireless headphones.

Let’s not forget accessories. Should you want to purchase wireless headphones, look at the bundled accessories listed on the packaging. On your radar should be an aux cable, carry case, charging cable, and a user guide.

If you're interested in a pair of truly wireless buds, make sure you receive a handful of extra ear tips, charging cable, user guide, and most importantly, a charging case. Since earbuds have shorter battery life than over-the-ear headphones, there's a great likelihood you'll have to charge them on the go. 

How we test the best wireless headphones and earbuds

To help you separate the wheat from the chaff when shopping for headphones, Tom's Guide evaluates the following criteria: design, comfort, features, performance and value. We employ a rigorous review process, comparing products with similar fit, features and pricing.

Each pair is worn over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. During this testing period, the staff is evaluating comfort, ease of use and, of course, audio quality. We listen to several predetermined sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, and we evaluate the volume, clarity and fullness.

In terms of features, we test the effectiveness of active noise cancelling, Bluetooth range and battery life. For the fitness-focused models, we test to see how they stand up to vigorous workouts, evaluating both how securely they fit while we exercise and how well they handle ambient noise from things like falling weights and gym machines. We test every feature for app-enabled headphones along with ease of setup.

Once we complete our testing, we rate headphones based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product is truly exemplary, it's awarded an Editors' Choice.

And now that more streaming music services are offering high-resolution resolution audio, be sure to read our audio codec FAQ for everything you need to know about FLAC files, MP3s and everything in between.

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