Skip to main content

The best wireless headphones in 2021

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

The best wireless headphones free you from the inconvenience of cabled listening. The stability and quality of a wired pair will likely leave them as the true audiophile’s choice, but improvements in Bluetooth connectivity have produced plenty of great-sound wireless headphones and earbuds that won’t fail to put a smile on your face.

The wireless headphones on this list are the best-performing, longest-lasting or best-value of all the models we’ve tested. So, if you want portable sound and the best Bluetooth speakers are too impersonal, read on to find out the best wireless headphones you can buy today.

Editor's Note: The Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for audio have been announced, and the Apple AirPods Max has won the Best headphones design award! Head to the audio awards page to see all the winners and recommended runners-up.

Best wireless headphones Black Friday deal

Hunting for top Black Friday deals? Well, so are we, and we're finding them for every single kind of product sold online. Right now, Amazon's Black Friday AirPods Pro deal has the buds at $159, matching the lowest price we've ever seen for the buds.

Bookmark our Black Friday headphones deals guide to keep track of all the big black Friday deals.

What are the best wireless headphones?

At the top of our list is the Sony WH-1000XM4, which also happens to be the top 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.

At number 2 is the Jabra Elite Active 75t, also a member of the best noise-cancelling earbuds club and a stellar set of true wireless headphones in general. Its overall sound quality surpasses more expensive models, and with the post-launch addition of ANC, it's the complete package.

Coming in 3rd 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.  

The best wireless headphones right now

The Editor's Choice Sony WH-1000XM4

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

The best wireless headphones overall

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Best sound in multiple categories+Powerful ANC and ambient listening modes+Loaded with features+Amazing wireless performance
Reasons to avoid
-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.

The Jabra Elite Active 75t on the concrete

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

2. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best wireless earbuds overall

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Special features: ANC, waterproofing, digital assistant support
Reasons to buy
+Well-balanced sound+Sleek, sturdy, and waterproof design+Longer battery life than all AirPods models+Active and passive noise cancellation
Reasons to avoid
-Can get extremely loud at max volume

If you're 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. Design-wise, they're 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.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.

The Bose 700 placed on a carpet

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

3. Bose 700

The best wireless headphones for ANC

Specifications
Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Slick, attractive design+Adjustable ANC levels+Precise, balanced audio+Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Read our full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

Apple's Ear Tip Fit Test on the Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Apple AirPods Pro

Apple's best wireless headphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 8.8 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 4.5 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Modern, functional design+Effective active noise cancellation+Expanded, easy to use controls+Seamless iOS connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-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. 

Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.

The Master & Dynamic MW08 displayed on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

5. Master & Dynamic MW08

The best wireless headphones for earbuds enthusiasts

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.8 x 1 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 10 hours (ANC on), 12 hours (ANC off), 42 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Stylish, durable design+Great sound+Active noise cancellation+Decent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

The Master & Dynamic MW08 might lack the buffet of bonus features you get with the AirPods Pro, but this is still an outstanding pair of true wireless earbuds. Their sound output is deep, rich and detailed, and even with active noise cancellation enabled these earbuds handily outperform Apple's on battery life.

It also helps that Master & Dynamic has created one of the best earbud designs ever. Each one is crafted from premium materials like ceramic and stainless steel, while the little physical buttons provide a nicely tactile alternative to touch sensors. The MW08 are water-resistant too, meeting the IPX5 standard.

Read our full Master& Dynamic MW08 review.

The Apple AirPods Max displayed on a bookshelf

(Image credit: Future)

6. Apple AirPods Max

The best over-ear wireless headphones for iOS users

Specifications
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)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Luxury design+Excellent noise cancellation+Spatial Audio sounds great
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Read our full Apple AirPods Max review.

The Cleer Enduro ANC placed on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

7. Cleer Enduro ANC

The best wireless headphones for ANC on a budget

Specifications
Size and Weight: 7 x 6.6 x 3 inches, 10.6 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 60 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very good value+Class-leading battery life+Bass-rich sound+Effective ANC
Reasons to avoid
-ANC mics pick up wind noise-Comfort wanes over time

Cleer is no stranger to high-end audio gear, like the $699 Cleer Crescent, but the Enduro ANC shows it can produce a seriously tempting pair of cheap wireless headphones as well. For starters, it's got the best battery life of any over-ear headphones we've tested: playing music at 50% volume got us over 50 hours of playtime, even with ANC.

And let's not gloss over that even having ANC at this price is an impressive feat. Filling out the rest of the the Enduro ANC's feature list are handy tools like the Ambient mode, NFC and Android Fast Pairing, aptX Adaptive support and EQ customization. That's an awful lot of toys for the price, and yes, sound quality is good too.

Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.

The Apple AirPods 3 wireless earbuds resting atop the wireless charging case

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

8. AirPods 3

The best standard AirPods for voice and FaceTime calls

Specifications
Size and Weight: 1.21 x 0.72 x 0.76 inches, 0.15 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 30 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Adaptive EQ with well-balanced sound+Spatial audio support+Improved battery life and ergonomics+H1 chip-powered features
Reasons to avoid
-No ANC or Transparency mode-Loose fit

Apple’s third-gen AirPods share similar specs with the AirPods Pro, which is quite the feat for sub-$180 wireless earbuds. On the list are high-performance features like Adaptive EQ and Spatial Audio that bring their own unique traits to the table, from adjusting frequencies to create distinctive sound to bringing 3D-like effects to music and movies. Almost everything tied to the H1 chip is present, including automatic switching, “Hey Siri” voice activation, and even new additions like Enhanced Find My to better locate misplaced AirPods. Apple even increased battery life to 6 hours, making these the longest-lasting AirPods ever. 

Sure, they lack ANC and Transparency mode, and the loose-fitting design is something that Apple has yet to perfect, but the AirPods 3’s overall performance outweighs all drawbacks. If the price seems too high, and you still want standard AirPods with premium features, look at the AirPods 2, which just dropped to $129.

Read our full AirPods 3 review.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro charging wirelessly

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

9. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

The best wireless headphones for Galaxy fans

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.8 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 18 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 28 hours (with charging case and ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Improved design+Full waterproofing+High call quality+Lots of features
Reasons to avoid
-Some features only work with Samsung Galaxy smartphones-ANC improved, but still not the best

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro partly exist to tempt you into buying a Galaxy smartphone: only recent Samsung handsets running OneUI 3.1 can access the Galaxy Buds Pro’s most interesting features, like its 360 Audio surround sound.

That said, there’s plenty to enjoy here even if you haven’t bought into the Galaxy ecosystem. Sound quality and ANC are both noticeably better than on the previous Galaxy Buds Live, and this is the first pair of Samsung earbuds to come with full, IPX7-certified waterproofing. Battery life could be better, but is no worse than that of the AirPods Pro, and these cost less unless you catch Apple’s buds on sale.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones being held aloft against a backdrop of a coastal street with palm trees

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

10. Bose QuietComfort 45

Inexpensive noise cancellation with lengthy playtime

Specifications
Size and Weight: 7.25 x 6 x 3 inches, 8.5 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 24 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Elite active noise cancellation+Refined sound signature+Increased battery life+Fantastic comfort and connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Can’t disable ANC mode-Dip in call quality

Bose’s latest model is an excellent upgrade for brand enthusiasts who want prime active noise cancellation and longer battery life. These headphones offer ANC performance very similar to the flagship 700, blocking out a significant number of ambient noises, while also boasting one of the more powerful transparency modes in the category. A total of six microphones were placed into the minimalist, cozy design, four of which are used for picking up vocals and producing clear-sounding calls. Bluetooth 5.1 ensures strong and reliable connectivity with two devices at the same time. Having 24 hours of playtime on the go is also a major improvement compared to past models.

You will need to be mindful of battery life because not being able to turn off ANC means these headphones will drain juice more quickly than expected. At least Bose gives you the opportunity to still use ANC in wired mode.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review.

The JLab Go Air Pop placed in front of a MacBook Pro screen

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

11. JLab Go Air Pop

The best cheap wireless earbuds value

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.9 x 1 x 0.9 inches, 0.1 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours, 32 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Versatile audio+Ample battery life+Compact, sleek, and durable design
Reasons to avoid
-Weak call quality-No companion app or extra features

Selling any consumer on a pair of $20 wireless earbuds can be difficult, especially when price points this low often suggest poor quality. Well, JLab proves that theory wrong, surprising us with what is currently the best wireless headphones deal in the Go Air Pop. The audio quality on these tiny buds outperforms several models in the category, including some sub-luxury options ($199 and under). Three EQs are programmed into the buds to please different listeners: you can enjoy neutral sound with Balanced, strong bass with Bass Boost, or emphasized vocals with JLAB Signature. Battery life is another area where these buds rise above the competition, generating up to 8 hours of use on a single charge, while the charging case with integrated USB cable houses 32 hours total.

If you’re not interested in using the Go Air Pop as a calling headset and don’t really desire extra features, then there’s no reason not to purchase a pair, either as a backup for your lost AirPods or a stocking stuffer come holiday season.

Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds on a yellow backdrop

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

12. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Specifications
Size and Weight: 1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches, 0.3 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 18 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Category-leading ANC+Well-balanced sound+Excellent call quality
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better-Bulky and heavy

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. The latest software update introduces features, including new ANC profiles designed for specific activities and Aware Mode, which automatically reduces “loud distractions as they happen,” returning to full transparency mode when they pass.

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 the AirPods Pro’s case.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

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.

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.