We've conducted hands-on testing of more than 30 wireless headphones. For this 2020 update, we focus on the 15 best that you can buy today. We've spent more than 150 hours comparing the sound quality of these headphones in a side-by-side manner, testing their noise blocking attributes in crowded cafes and airports, and having a panel of testers rate their overall comfort. To top it all off, we compared the on-headphone controls of each model, as well as any associated apps. In the end we came up with a number of solid recommendations for every budget, so read on to find your perfect pair.
The Best Wireless Headphones of 2020
Best Overall Headphones
Bose Noise Cancelling 700
Bose has managed to redefine the personal audio game once again with their Noise Cancelling 700 headphones. These cans offer the richly resonant bass and lyrically lucid clarity one would expect from Bose, but where they really shine is in their active noise cancellation. Whilst encased in the artificial cone of silence the Noise Cancelling 700 creates the world seems to drop away, with only the loudest of noises managing to make a muffled peep in your eardrums. To boot, the headphones accomplish this without creating that odd feeling of pressure inherent in most active noise canceling devices. Combine all this with some sleek new styling, responsive touch controls, and a fast charging USB-C port, and you have the best overall headphone experience on the market.
Pretty much the only thing that should keep anyone from plunking the Noise Cancelling 700 on your head and never taking them off is the price. All of that premium performance does come at a very premium price, one that requires you to really value a premium listening experience to make the purchase worthwhile. But if you're willing to pay for performance, there's a good chance these headphones will make your eardrums jump for joy.
Read review: Bose Noise Cancelling 700
Best Bang for the Buck
Even mediocre active noise cancellation can greatly enhance sound quality, and that's exactly the route the TaoTronics TT-BH060 takes. Eschewing some of the more expensive hardware of the high-end models, these headphones offer about 70% of the noise cancellation abilities for just a quarter of the price. The result is a listening experience that, while not field-leading, is well above average. The impressive sound is backed up with durable, quality construction that again belies the relatively low price of these headphones.
Our major complaint with the TaoTronics TT-BH060 are the earcups. The padding feels nice and cushy and the cups aren't particularly small, but they certainly aren't large either. If you have large ears these headphones will definitely feel constricting, but most will find them relatively comfortable. Overall, the TaoTronics TT-BH060 maximizes sound quality per dollar, presenting an excellent option for those looking for quality on a budget.
Read review: TaoTronics TT-BH060
Best Shoestring Budget Option
Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear
While active noise cancellation is great, simply covering your ears can still improve your listening experience and get you into a super productive cone of concentration. If you're looking to block out some noise on the cheap, the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear is one of the least expensive options to cover up your ears and get decent sound quality. As a bonus these headphones feature large earcups with plush padding, making them just as comfortable for all-day wear as most of the models that cost 10 times as much.
Unfortunately, shopping at this end of the price spectrum does take you out of the audiophile-approved range. While the Mpow offers a fairly well-balanced, enjoyable sound, it lacks much of the bass power and clarity of the high-end models. The lack of active noise cancellation is also noticeable in louder environments, requiring that you really crank up the music if you truly want to drown out the din. But, if you're looking for something inexpensive that will be comfortable and cut out some of the noise when you spend hours working in a coffee shop, these headphones certainly fit the bill.
Read review: Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear
Why You Should Trust Us
In order to dial in our audio testing process, we consulted with sound recordist Palmer Taylor. Palmer has been working with sound since 2005, focusing on location audio while also completing music composition and recording projects. In that time he has recorded audio for such clients as National Geographic, ESPN, and Apple. Steven Tata and Max Mutter served as the lead testers and writers for this review. Both are lifelong musicians and have been leading TechGearLab's audio product testing since 2016. In that time they've listened to well over 100 of the most highly regarded consumer audio products on the market.
In completing this review we've conducted over 200 hours of real-world testing. Tha involved using these headphones in the office, in coffee shops, and on transatlantic flights. In addition to this holistic testing, we also meticulously evaluated sound quality and comfort, listening to a wide array of music with every pair of headphones, side-by-side, one right after the other. The bevy of information we gleaned from these tests informed the scores we gave to all of our headphones, and has allowed us to find the best pair for almost every application.
Analysis and Test Results
A good pair of wireless headphones can cancel out the cacophonous din of modern society and let you enjoy both your work and play time in your own private bubble of rich, unadulterated music, or silence (your choice). A bad pair can make your ears itch and not offer any noticeable improvement over the sound of the free earbuds that came with your phone.
If you're looking for the most sound per dollar, we don't think you can beat the TaoTronics TT-BH060, which provide effective active noise cancellation and good sound quality at an impressively low cost. If you can do without active noise cancellation and arent' too fussy about sound quality, we think the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear is the cheapest effective way to get wireless headphones that provide all-day comfort. For those that are willing to pay extra for top-shelf sound, we think the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 is worth the hefty price tag.
What About EMFs?
All wireless devices create an electromagnetic field (EMF). With the recent proliferation of wireless devices, there has been some concern as to what those EMF's could be doing to our health. So far the jury is still out, with no solid data pointing towards a link between exposure to the relatively low levels of EMF created by personal electronic devices and any adverse health issues. The National Institute of Health claims the EMFs emitted by small electronics to be, "…generally perceived as harmless to humans."
That being said, we know many people will want to limit their EMF exposure. In measuring our wireless headphones we found that, on average, they produce about 3 times as much EMF exposure as a cell phone being used during a call (which we measured at 2 V/m). Luckily most of these headphones offer wired connections as well, so if you're just sitting at your desk not really taking advantage of the wireless capability, you can just plug the headphones in and drastically reduce the EMF level.
Because they are able to isolate you from ambient noise, a good pair of over-ear headphones can provide a listening experience that rivals, or even surpasses, those offered by a high-end sound system. After testing multiple different audio products we've found that clarity and bass quality seem to have the biggest bearing on whether or not most people think something sounds good, therefore we focused most of our testing there. To do this we listened to everything from hip-hop to podcasts and folk music to dubstep on every pair of headphones, paying careful attention to the clarity and bass.
Sharing the top score of 9 out of 10 in our sound quality testing are the respective flagship models from Bose and Sony: the Noise Cancelling 700 and the WH1000XM3. Both of these models produce rotund yet well-defined bass balanced with crystal clear mid and high ranges that combine to create complicated and nuanced arrangements. If we were to really split hairs we'd say the Bose noise Cancelling 700's overall clarity is just a bit better, and thus slightly more flattering to things like acoustic numbers or podcasts, but both headphones provide phenomenal listening experiences that we highly doubt anyone will complain about.
Though ousted from the top of the podium by updated models, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II remains better than the vast majority of options currently on the market. The deep yet defined rumble of its signature Bose bass and acute clarity make for a fantastic listening experience. In fact, the QuietComfort 35 II sounds just as good as the top models, with slight advances in noise cancelling technology being the only thing that makes the overall experience of some newer models slightly better.
Just behind the top scorers is the Bose SoundLink Wireless II, which picked up a score of 8 out of 10. These headphones have all of the exceptional clarity you would expect from Bose, but lack just a bit of the bass power that the higher end models have. This can make tracks with a lot of low-end sounds relatively shallow, but the overall sound is still far superior to that of most headphones on the market.
Of the models that scored 7 in this metric, the Beats Solo3 and the Beats Studio3 has the best overall clarity, falling just slightly short of the Bose models in that respect. This made podcasts and acoustic numbers sound quite good. However, they also have the weakest bass of any of the models in this range, putting their low-end performance on par with that of much less expensive models like the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear. This results in a sound that is very crisp but lacks some fullness, especially for bass heavy tracks. The Mpow H5 and the TaoTronics TT-BH060 both have slightly better bass and slightly lesser clarity than the Beats models. That makes both of these models quite good values for those seeking decently powerful bass on a budget.
The Sennheiser HD 4.50, also in the 7 out of 10 club, is fairly consistent in its performance. The bass, clarity, treble, and fullness are all above average, but no specific aspect stands out. This leads to a good overall sound, but one that just lacks some of the punch and fullness of the top scoring models.
The Sony Extra Bass certainly lived up to its moniker in our testing, offering a rotund and sonorous low end. However, that bass quality does seem to bring a bit of a sacrifice in terms of overall clarity - to the point where acoustic numbers often sounded a bit flat and lifeless. However, if you just want some serious bass thump and don't mind sacrificing some clarity to get it, these phones are a great and reasonably priced option.
Also, scoring 7 out of 10, the TaoTronics TT-BH060 and the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT balance their performance attributes rather than specializing in one avenue. Both the clarity and bass of these headphones are good, but clear steps below the quality of the top scorers. This creates a more well-rounded sound than most of the other models that earned 7 out of 10, which accentuate either clarity or bass somewhat to the neglect of the other. This makes the TT-BH060 and the ATH-DSR7BT more flattering to a wider variety of genres, but they don't have a specific strength either (if anything, the TT-BH060 is maybe slightly more favorable for bass-heavy music).
Just outside the top group, the Tribit XFree Tune earned a 6 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. In our opinion this represents a step up in quality from the earbuds that probably came with your phone, but a very small step. It has a reasonable level of clarity, but some distortions are easily noticeable. The bass is powerful enough to mostly fill out the sound, but it definitely lacks some depth.
No pair of headphones that we tested sounded bad, at worst they sounded akin to the cheap earbuds that come with smartphones and that you can pick up at Best Buy for cheap. That's the category where the 2 models that earned scores of 5 out of 10 in our sound quality testing fall. Of these models, the Skullcandy Crusher by far has the most powerful bass, maybe even too powerful when it's turned all the way up (these headphones literally shake on your head). However, that bass comes at the expense of clarity, with their overall sound being quite muddled.
No aspect of the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear's sound quality is particularly impressive, but they don't' sound terrible either. Overall we would say the sound drivers sound about as good as the standard earbuds that come with a smartphone, or that you'll find on convenience store shelves. The Mpow ends up sounding a bit better than these earbuds because of the noise isolation provided by the over ear design. If you've always been satisfied with the sound of standard earbuds, the Mpow is a great way to add some noise isolation at a low cost. If you're looking for a more refined listening experience, these aren't the headphones for you.
Also scoring 5 out of 10, the Cowin E7 Pro has the weakest bass of all the models we tested, resulting in quite a thin sound. IT does have slightly better clarity than other models in this range, but it's not enough to make up for the lack of bass.
One of the main reasons to opt for over-ear headphones rather than earbuds is their ability to block out ambient noise, which both elevates the quality of your music and makes it easier to concentrate when the world is full of distractions. Some models even have active noise cancellation, which listens to the surrounding environment and then plays the opposite sound waves into your ears, effectively canceling out that ambient noise. We began our noise isolation testing by wearing each pair of headphones, one after another, right next to a fan that created exactly 70 dB of noise, noting how much noise each was able to block. We rounded things out by conducting hours of real-world testing with each pair as well, using them in crowded coffee shops, our bustling office, and in train stations and airports, to find which effectively blocked out the world and which left us annoyed by the din of modern life.
The clear winner in our noise isolation testing was the Bose Noise Cancelling 700, earning a rare perfect score of 10 out of 10. Even without music playing, these headphones created near silence in most situations (bustling coffee shop, office full of chatty co-workers, et cetera) with only louder, sudden noises being even slightly noticeable. Most notably, these phones manage to provide this level of cancellation with barely a hint of the dd pressure you usually feel in your ears with full-blown active noise cancellation. There is even an automatic "self voice" setting that kicks in when you're on a phone call that blocks out all noise except for your own voice, allowing you to sound a bit more natural and not like you're screaming because you can't hear yourself.
Falling just behind the leader with a score of 9 out of 10, the Sony WH1000XM3 offers similar noise-canceling performance, turning most ambient noise into a calming silence. However, they let in just a bit more of higher-pitched staccato noise than the Bose 700, and create more of that vacuum-like pressure that often accompanies active noise cancellation.
The Bose Quietcomfort 35 II, long the standard bearer of consumer noise cancelling headphones, earned a respectable 8 out of 10 in our nose isolation testing. The noise cancelling technology in these phones manages to easily dampen predictable noise, like the background hum of an airplane or murmur of conversation, but lets in a bit more of sharper booms and bangs than the top scoring models do. They also create a slight feeling of pressure when active noise cancellation is turned on. While most people barely notice this, some find it annoying.
All the models that scored 7 out of 10 in our noise cancellation testing offer active noise cancellation, but don't provide top end performance in that regard. These models include the TaoTronics TT-BH060, the Beats Studio3, the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass, and the Sennheiser HD 4.50. Overall these models block out more noise than models without active noise cancellation, but let at least some muffled version of most conversations that occur in their direct vicinity. This level of performance is likely plenty for people who will also be listening to music with their headphones, as conversational tones will be quiet enough that you likely won't notice them. However, if you plan to use the noise cancellation feature without musical accompaniment, you may want to consider the high end Sony and Bose models.
The worst scoring model that offers active noise cancellation is the Mpow H5, which earned a 6 out of 10. Considering the low price, we were surprised that it offered active noise cancellation at all. In our testing, it was much more adept at drowning out some of the background noise than models without active noise cancellation but was clearly inferior to the other models that offer the same features.
Simply by the merits of their design over-ear headphones can offer a good degree of noise isolation, even if they don't offer active noise cancellation. The best of this category, in our opinion, are the Bose SoundLink Wireless II and the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT. Both feature deep earpieces and fluffy cushioning that create a tight seal around your ear, blocking out quite a bit of ambient noise. Sure, you'll still be able to hear things, but most noise will become muffled, indistinguishable, and even unnoticeable. Overall, these headphones are about equal to wearing some of those orange ear protectors you might wear while mowing the lawn, but they can play some tunes as well.
Multiple models earned a 4 out of 10 in this metric, mostly due to a lack of active noise cancellation. Overall, we don't think these models offer enough noise isolation to really elevate a music-listening experience, but they provide enough ear protection to adequately muffle the conversations and tinking of cups in your favorite cafe. Models in this category include the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear, the Skullcandy Crusher, and the Tribit XFree Tune. Notably, the Cowin E7 Pro is the only active noise-canceling model that earned this low of a score.
Not surprisingly, as they are the only on-ear rather than over-ear cans we tested, the Beats Solo 3 earned the worst score in this metric. That on-ear style lets in much more ambient noise than even the most porous over-ear models. However, these phones still sound significantly better and are much more comfortable for extended wear than earbuds, so if you'd prefer to be more aware of your surrounds at all times the Solo 3 could be a good choice.
Wireless headphones will likely be worn for extended periods of time, either while you're working at your desk or sitting on a long flight. Therefore, comfort is paramount. Any slight crunching of the ears or small hotspot is going to turn into a huge annoyance come hour 3 of wearing the headphones. To test comfort we had everyone in the office, with their various sizes and shapes of heads and ears, wear each pair for a full 8-hour day of work. After that day we interrogated everyone to get their thoughts on each pair.
Bose makes far and away the most comfortable headphones we've ever worn with the flagship Noise Canceling 700, the ever classic Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and the more basic SoundLink Wireless II sharing the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. The elongated, more anatomical shape of their ear cups provide the most universal fit we've found (it's surprising how many companies seem to think that ears are perfectly circular). The ear cups are also relatively large and deep, making them friendly to those with ears on the bigger end of the spectrum.
The Sony WH1000XM3 fell just behind the Bose, earning an 8 out of 10. These headphones opt for an ergonomic shape but the earcups are still slightlysmaller than those of the Bose models. The difference is minor, and many users won't notice a difference. However, if you have larger ears or tend not to like to wear headphones for longer periods, Bose is likely a better choice.
The surprisingly inexpensive Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear earned an impressive score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. These headphones have deep padding and well-shaped ear cups that sit comfortably on your head. The ear cups are just slightly smaller than those on the Bose headphones, so if your ears are in the 90th percentile in terms of size, you may feel a bit of pinching.
The Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric as they offer a little less room for larger ears than the top scoring models. Though the earcups are quite large, they are perfectly circular, so there is still less room for earlobes.
Earning a score of 6 out of 10, the TaoTronics TT-BH060 will likely be comfortable for most people, but doesn't accommodate those with larger ears. The ear cups are fairly deep, have nice, plush padding, and feature a nice ergonomic shape. However, Some of our testers with larger ears did complain of hotspots, so if you have larger ears you shouldn't expect all-day comfort from these headphones.
The Skullcandy Crusher also earned a 6 out of 10 in our comfort testing. The earcups on these phones have decent padding, but they lack the depth and size to accommodate larger ears.
We generally weren't particularly impressed with the comfort level of the Beats models we tested, with both of them earning a 5 out of 10 in this metric. The Studio 3's earcups sport an oval shape, somewhat small size, and have about a medium amount of padding. This results in a fit that easily accommodates smaller ears, but even those with average sized ears may start to feel some hotspots after a couple of hours. The Solo3 forgoes full over-ear cups, instead of going with an on-ear design. This makes them fairly equal opportunity when it comes to accommodating ear shapes and sizes. However, we feel that having something actually pressed against your ear, while not unpleasant, just doesn't lend itself to long-term comfort.
Both scoring 5 out of 10 in this metric, the Mpow H5 and the Tribute XFree Tune have smaller than average earcups. This results in fits that feel fairly comfortable if you have smaller than average ears. However, if you have average-sized ears you'll probably notice some discomfort after a a few hours of wearing them, and those of us with larger ears most likely will notice discomfort right off the bat.
Earning the worst score of 4 out of 10 in this metric, the Sennheiser HD 4.50's fit failed to please anyone in our testing. Its earcups are small enough and have stiff enough padding that even our small-eared testers reported uncomfortable hot spots within an hour of wearing them.
The feeling of liberation that comes with eliminating the dangling wire between headphones and smartphone is disappointingly diminished if you have to dig your phone out every time you want to pause your music or adjust the volume. Thus to fully take advantage of that magical thing we call Bluetooth you'll want headphones that have intuitive and reliable controls built right in. In assessing user-friendliness we had multiple testers use each pair for extended periods of time, making sure they tried to play/pause, skip tracks, adjust volume, and, where applicable, summon virtual assistants with each. We then aggregated those carefully documented experiences into our overall user friendliness scores.
Our favorite overall headphones to use are the Boise Noise Cancellation 700, largely thanks to their effective execution of touch controls. We founding swiping and tapping on the earcup to skip tracks, play/pause, and adjust the volume to be responsive and intuitive, and notably more so than competitors that opt for the same style of controls. The dedicated buttons for shuffling through noise cancellation presets and summoning virtual assistants (the Bose 700 works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri) are nice touches.
A slew of different models fell just behind Bose's main offerings with scores of 7 out of 10. The Bose SoundLink Wireless II has mostly the same interface as its sibling, but lacks the Google Assistant button. The TaoTronics TT-BH060 interface is very similar to that of the QuietComfort, but it does not have an app that can adjust noise cancellation settings. The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT also lacks an app, but it uses a sliding volume control that we like. You can also hold the volume control up or down to switch tracks. The Mpow H5 is very similar with a switch to turn noise cancellation on and off and multi-function volume/track control buttons.
with a 7 out of 10, the Sony WH100XM3 represents a small improvement in user friendliness over its predecessor. The touch controls on the right earcup still take a bit of getting used to, but the new surface feels better and allows for more natural gestures.
The majority of the models we tested scored in the 5-6 out of 10 range in our user friendliness testing. In general, these headphones keep things barebones, with only play/pause, volume, and skip track functions. They do not have associated apps that let you fine tune noise canceling and EQ settings. Basically, these models provide what you'd expect, and nothing more.
Wireless headphones are the perfect companions for long flights, long walks, and long train rides. Therefore, you're going to want headphones that can easily be toted along with you. We assessed portability by weighing each pair of headphones, measuring how small they could fold up, and judging the quality of any sort of carrying cases that are included.
The Beats Solo3 is the most portable pair of headphones we tested, mostly due to their relatively small size (they are the only on-ear headphones we tested). With a weight of just 7.5 ounces and padded carrying case, you won't mind tossing the Solo3 in whatever bag is accompanying you on your adventures.
A few different models scored 8 out of 10 in this metric, all of which fold down to slightly larger packages than the Solo3. The Bose Noise Cancelling 700 weighs in at a reasonable 9.2 ounces, and folds into a case that is fairly long and wide but quite slim, meaning it easily slides into a backpack. The QuietComfort 35 II is a bit heavier at 10.9 ounces, but comes with a similar carrying case. The Sony WH1000XM3 is similar at 9 ounces and also comes with a quality carrying case. The Beats Studio3 is slightly lighter at 9.1 ounces and has a semi-hard carrying case. The TaoTronics TT-BH060 is very light at 7.6 ounces and has a semi-hard carrying case. The Mpow H5 don't fold down very small, but they come with a semi-hard carrying case and are incredibly light at just 8 ounces.
Also in the 8 out of 10 club, the Tribit XFree Tune tips the scales at 10.3 ounces and come with a semi-rigid carrying case. The Cowin E7 Pro is slightly heavier at 10.6 ounces, but still folds down quite small and includes a nice travel case.
The Bose SoundLink Wireless II has a similar carrying case to its sibling, but doesn't fold up quite as small. The lack of active noise canceling does make it a bit lighter at 7 ounces. All added up this earned it a score of 7 out of 10. The 10.1 ounce Skullcandy Crusher also earned a 7, losing points because it only comes with a drawstring pouch.
Also in the 7 out of 10 club, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 comes with a soft, non-padded carrying case. This doesn't feel like a huge drawback, but we would have preferred a sturdier case to protect the investment these headphones represent. They are quite light at 8.45 ounces and offer an impressive battery life of 25 hours.
The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT is the only model that earned a 6 out of 10 in our portability testing. It doesn't fold up quite as small as all of the models listed above, and its carrying case is simply a drawstring pouch. It is also a bit heavier than most at 10.5 ounces. However, outside of the lack of a protective case, we didn't really have any qualms when traveling with these headphones.
None of the headphones we tested felt like a burden to tass in a backpack on the way to the coffee shop or airport. However, some are a bit bulkier than most, and don't come with any sort of protective carrying case that would lend peace of mind when stuffing them into a bursting-at-the-seams carry on. Both the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear and the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass fit into this category. We'd have no issue bringing these models from the home to the office, but they may present a bit more of an inconvenience than other models on long, multi-layover travel days.
In this age of ubiquitous electronic accessories, one less wire to worry about can be surprisingly freeing, especially when that wire would be dangling from your head. We hope our testing results have helped you find the perfect pair of wireless headphones for your needs and budget.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, and Steven Tata