Best Wireless Headphones of 2020
Best Overall Wireless Headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the latest iteration of a long line of great headphones and, in our opinion, completely lives up to that pedigree. To start, we found the sound quality to be superb, providing crystal clear expression through the low, mid, and treble frequencies, and offering a fine-tuned EQ that can balance that sound in any way you'd like. A possibly more notable feature of these headphones is the active noise cancellation, which provided us with a near silent listening environment throughout our testing, regardless of the amount of ambient noise. Sony also added a bit of extra padding around the ears in this version, making for a slightly more comfortable fit. Finally, some user-friendly touches like the ability to connect to two Bluetooth devices at once and a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take the headphones off make these our favorite headphones to wear on a daily basis.
The only real complaint we can lodge against these headphones is their price. However, they're still not the most expensive on the market, and given their level of performance it would be hard to expect a better price point. If you have particularly large ears you may find that their tips rub against the sides of the earcups, but even the large-eared amongst our testers didn't find this sensation overly annoying. Bottom line, if you want a pair of top notch headphones and are willing to pay accordingly, we highly doubt you'll be disappointed with the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Read review: Sony WH-1000XM4
Most Comfortable Wireless Headphones
Bose Noise Cancelling 700
Investing in a pair of top-tier headphones only to find that they aren't perfectly comfortable can be a massive bummer. If you have particularly large ears, or just have trouble finding comfortable headphones in general, we think the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 are your best bet. Of all the premium models we've tested, these have been the most universally beloved in terms of comfort. This is largely thanks to large and ergonomic earcups and deep, plush padding. In addition, these headphones offer top-tier, if slightly short of field-leading, sound quality and active noise cancellation.
The clear drawback to the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 is the price. These are some of the most expensive headphones we've tested, and they actually cost slightly more than many comparable models. However, if you're in the market for premium cans and have had trouble finding a comfortable fit in the past, they will likely be worth every penny.
Read review: Bose Noise Cancelling 700
Best Noise Cancellation on a Budget
Soundcore Life Q20
Continuing a trend of supplying high-performing audio products at a competitive price, the Soundcore Life Q20 offers one of the best values currently on the market. Resonant yet controlled bass sets a solid foundation for a warm overall sound that we found to work great with pretty much any genre of music. That sound is backed up by active noise cancellation that, while not the best we've heard, does enough to turn crowded plane cabins and noisy airports into more favorable listening environments. Perhaps most importantly, the large ear cups and ample padding provide all-day comfort, something rarely found in budget headphones.
We do have some nitpicks about the Soundcore Life Q20's sound, namely that its level of clarity isn't always flattering for vocals. All things considered, however, we think these headphones sound great. A more important consideration for potential buyers is the headband, which, even in its smallest configuration, maybe a bit too long for those with smaller heads.
Read review: Soundcore Life Q20
Best Shoestring Budget Option
Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear
While active noise cancellation is great, simply covering your ears can supply a productivity-boosting cone of concentration and still improve your listening experience. 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 provide decent sound quality. As a bonus, these headphones feature large earcups with plush padding, making them just as comfortable for all-day wear as many of the models that cost 10 times as much.
Unfortunately, shopping at this end of the price spectrum does leave you out of the audiophile-approved range. While the Mpow offers a fairly well-balanced, enjoyable sound, it lacks much of the clarity and bass power of the high-end models. The lack of active noise cancellation is also noticeable in louder environments, requiring you to crank up the music if you truly want to drown out the din. However, these headphones certainly fit the bill if you're looking for something inexpensive and comfortable that will cut down on the noise when you spend hours working in a coffee shop.
Read review: Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear
Best On-Ear Model
Beats Solo Pro
Over-ear headphones can feel overly hefty when commuting by subway or bus. At the same time, earbuds generally don't provide enough noise isolation to fully enjoy your music. In that case, the Beats Solo Pro hits the perfect Goldilocks zone. The tight fit and effective active noise cancellation let you enjoy unfettered music without cranking the volume to drown out all the ambient noise. At the same time, the on-ear design makes them much less intrusive than larger over-ear models. Plus, they take up a lot less room in your daily bag than a full over-ear pair would.
The biggest thing to be wary of with the Beats Solo Pro is comfort. The noise cancellation on these on-ear headphones is made effective largely because the tight fit ensures a good seal against the ears. While that tightness is fine for short periods, most of our testers found it annoying after the one hour mark. Therefore, we wouldn't recommend them for all-day wear. For a morning subway or bus commutes, however, the Beats Solo Pro offers fantastic noise isolation and sound quality in a fairly slim package.
Read review: Beats Solo Pro
Best Clarity and Brightness
beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC
Sound quality is a subjective thing — some like the warm, bass-forward sound presented by many headphones, while others prefer the sharp clarity that makes vocals and other instruments in the mid and treble frequencies sound more bright and lively. The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC offers a great listening experience if you fall into the latter category. Its exceptional clarity can make it feel like you're in the same room with the singer or guitarist you're listening to. All this reverie for these headphones' clarity isn't to say the bass is lacking --the low end is plenty powerful enough to round out most compositions — but the exceptional clarity is certainly the selling point.
The only relatively minor complaint against the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC apart from earcups that may feel a bit cramped if you have larger ears, is the active noise cancellation. Although it works quite well overall, it is clearly inferior compared to the leaders in this category, and considering the premium price tag, it is reasonable to expect premium performance. However, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is an excellent choice if you're looking for a bright and clear sound and don't mind less than exceptional noise cancellation.
Read review: Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC
Why You Should Trust Us
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 more than 100 of the most highly regarded consumer audio products on the market.
In completing this review, we conducted over 200 hours of real-world testing. That 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 identify the best pair for almost every application.
Analysis and Test Results
A good pair of wireless headphones can cancel out the dissonance of modern society and let you enjoy work and playtime in your own private bubble of rich, unadulterated music or silence — it's your choice. A bad pair can make your ears itch and offer little improvement over the sound of the free earbuds that came with your phone.
If you're looking to maximize sound quality per dollar, you can't do much better than the Soundcore Life Q20. These cans offer above-average sound quality and noise-canceling for a decidedly average price. The Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear provides all-day comfort at a rock-bottom price point for those shopping on a tighter budget, but they lack any sort of active noise cancellation. For those shopping in a premium price range, we think the Sony WH-1000XM4 offers the best overall value.
What About EMFs?
All wireless devices create an electromagnetic field (EMF). With the recent increase of wireless devices, there has been some concern as to what those EMFs may be doing to our health. The National Institute of Health classifies the EMFs emitted by small electronics as, "…generally perceived as harmless to humans.", with no solid data pointing toward a direct link between exposure to the low levels of EMF created by personal electronic devices and any adverse health issues.
That being said, we know many people still want to limit their EMF exposure. In measuring our wireless headphones, we found that they produce roughly three times as much EMF exposure as a cell phone being used during a call on average (which we measured at 2 V/m). Luckily most of these headphones offer wired connections as well, so you can plug the headphones in and drastically reduce the EMF level while you're just sitting at your desk.
Because they can isolate you from ambient noise, a good pair of over-ear headphones provides a listening experience that rivals, or even surpasses, what a high-end sound system can offer. 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 on these attributes. To do this, we paid careful attention to the clarity and bass while listening to everything from folk music to dubstep, and from hip-hop to podcasts, on every pair of headphones.
Our favorite sounding pair of headphones is the Sony WH-1000XM4. These cans are able to pull detail and nuance out of the low, mid, and high frequencies, making for an incredibly sharp and immersive listening experience. That breadth of detail also lets you better customize the sound. Prefer, a warmer, bass forward tone? A few adjustments of the EQ (via the associated app) and you're there. Prefer things on the brighter side? Same deal. No matter how we adjusted the sound we were borderline blown away by the quality, and it only gets better when you engage the impressive active noise cancellation.
Just a small step down from the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the Bose Noise Cancelling 700. If pressed we'd have to give the Sony WH-1000XM4 a slight edge in both overall clarity and bass power, but for all intents and purposes the headphones are about even. We ranked the Bose headphones slightly lower because they lean into the warmer, more bass-forward sound that has largely made Bose beloved by many people, whereas the flatter frequency response of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is more amenable to broader customization.
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC offers incredible clarity, definition, and separation in the mid and high ranges, which in many cases is even better than that of the top Bose and Sony models, earning them a 9 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. Its bass power, while still quite respectable, lags a bit behind what Bose and Sony's flagships can produce, making these cans slightly less adept with music that emphasizes the low end.
Though ousted from the top of the podium by updated models, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II remains better than the vast majority of the 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. The only thing that makes the overall experience of some newer models a little better is the slight advances in noise-canceling technology.
Picking up a score of 8 out of 10 is the Bose SoundLink Wireless II. 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. Its overall sound is still far superior to that of most headphones on the market even though some tracks with a lot of low-end sounds relatively shallow.
The Jabra Elite 85h also picked up a score of 8 out of 10 for sound quality. These phones produce fantastic articulation and power in the low end but fall just behind the top scorers when it comes to clarity in the mid and high ranges.
The Beats Solo Pro is the best sounding on-ear model in our review. With these phones, the low end comes to the forefront with an impressive rotundness. Clarity is generally good but can start to degrade in some instances, especially when music is played at higher volumes.
Of the models that received a 7 in this metric, the Beats Solo3 and the Beats Studio3 have the best overall clarity, falling just slightly short of the Bose models in that respect. This means podcasts and acoustic numbers should sound quite good. However, they have the weakest bass of any of the models in this range, resulting in a sound that is very crisp but lacks some fullness, especially for bass-heavy tracks, putting their low-end performance on par with that of much less expensive models like the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear. The Mpow H5 and the Soundcore Life Q20 both have slightly better bass, but slightly lower clarity, than the Beats models. That makes both of these models good values for those seeking decently powerful bass on a budget.
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 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, though lacking some of the punch and fullness of the top-scoring models.
Certainly living up to its moniker in our testing, the Sony Extra Bass offers a rotund and sonorous low end. However, that bass quality seems 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. Nonetheless, these phones are a great and reasonably priced option if you just want some serious bass thump and don't mind sacrificing some clarity to get it.
The TaoTronics TT-BH060 and the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT balance their performance attributes rather than specializing in one avenue. Though they are clear steps below the quality of the top scorers, both the clarity and bass of these headphones are good. This creates a more well-rounded sound than many of the other models that earned 7 out of 10, which did so by accentuating either clarity or bass to the detriment of the other. Thus the TT-BH060 and the ATH-DSR7BT tend to be more flattering to a wider variety of genres. However, it leaves them without a specific strength for us to point to (if anything, the TT-BH060 is maybe slightly more favorable for bass-heavy music).
Earning a 6 out of 10, the Tribit XFree Tune sits just outside the top group in our sound quality testing. In our opinion, these represent a step up in quality from the earbuds that probably came with your phone, but a very small step. While some distortions are easy to notice, they still maintain a reasonable level of clarity. The bass is powerful enough to mostly fill out the sound, but it lacks some depth.
None of the headphones that we tested sounded that bad. At worst, they sounded akin to the cheap earbuds that come with most smartphones. That's the category where the two models that earned scores of 5 out of 10 in our sound quality testing fall. Of these models, the Skullcandy Crusher has by far the most powerful bass, maybe even too powerful when 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 especially impressive, but they don't sound terrible either. Overall, we think the sound drivers seem about as good as the standard earbuds that come with a smartphone, or that you'll find on convenience store shelves. However, because of the noise isolation supplied by the over-ear design, the Mpow ends up sounding a bit better. If you're looking for a more refined listening experience, these aren't the headphones for you. But, if you've never complained about the sound of standard earbuds, then the Mpow is a great way to add some noise isolation at a low cost.
With the weakest bass of all the models we tested, the Cowin E7 Pro produces an overall sound that feels quite thin. It has slightly better clarity than other models in this range, but 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 elevates the quality of your music and makes it easier to concentrate when the world is full of distractions. Some models even provide active noise cancellation, which listens to the surrounding environment and plays mirror opposite sound waves into your ears to effectively cancel out that ambient noise. We began our noise isolation testing by wearing each pair of headphones, one after another, next to a fan that created exactly 70 dB of sound and noted how much noise each was able to block. We rounded things out by conducting hours of real-world testing with each pair to find which effectively blocked out the world and which left us annoyed by the din of modern life, using them in crowded coffee shops, our bustling office, and in airports and train stations.
The top scorer in our noise isolation testing was the Sony WH-1000XM4. These headphones offer some of the best active noise cancellation we've ever experienced, easily cutting out the bustle of a crowded train station or the din of an overly noisy home office.
Again just a scotch behind the Sony WH-1000XM4 in our noise isolation testing was the Bose Noise Cancelling 700. Even without music playing, these headphones created near silence in most situations (bustling coffee shop, an office full of chatty co-workers, etc.) with only the loudest, most sudden noises becoming only slightly noticeable. Also significant, these phones provide this level of cancellation without a hint of the odd 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 your own voice. This ensures that you sound more natural rather than screaming into the phone because you can't hear yourself.
The Bose Quietcomfort 35 II, long the standard-bearer of consumer noise-canceling headphones, earned a respectable 8 out of 10 in our nose isolation testing. The noise-canceling technology in these phones manages to easily dampen predictable noise, like the background hum of an airplane or murmur of conversation. Still, they let 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. Most people will barely notice this, but some may find it annoying.
The Jabra Elite 85H, also in the 8 out of 10 category, was one of the best noise-canceling performers in our tests when it came to staccato noises, such as typing or other tapping sounds. However, it occasionally let in a bit more low engine hums than the top scorers.
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 Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC, Beats Solo Pro, JBL Live 650BTNC, Beats Studio3, and the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass. Overall, these models block out more noise than models without active noise cancellation, but they transmit at least a 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 probably won't notice them. However, you may want to consider the high end Sony and Bose models if you hope to use the noise cancellation feature without musical accompaniment.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q20, which earned a 6 out of 10 in our noise isolation testing, provides a decent degree of active noise cancellation given its low price tag. Although things like voices tend to be more noticeable than they are with the higher-scoring models, they are quieted enough that listening to music on a moderate volume can generally drown them out.
Another budget option that offers decent sound isolation is the TaoTronics TT-BH060. While the smaller earcups don't provide as much passive noise blocking as those of the Anker Soundcore Life Q20, their active noise cancellation almost makes up for it. Voices, however, tend to be a bit more noticeable.
The worst scoring model that offers active noise cancellation is the Mpow H5, which earned a 6 out of 10. We were surprised that it offered active noise cancellation at all, considering the low price. In our testing, it was much more adept at drowning out background noise than models without active noise cancellation, but it 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 reasonable 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 creates a tight seal around your ear, blocking out a considerable level of ambient noise. Sure, you'll still be able to hear things, but most sound will become muffled, indistinguishable, or even unnoticeable. Overall, the noise isolation of these headphones is about equal to wearing some of those orange ear protectors you might wear while mowing the lawn, but they also allow you to play some tunes.
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 elevate a music-listening experience. However, they may 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, the Beats Solo 3 earned the worst score in this metric as they are the only on-ear rather than over-ear cans we tested. That on-ear style simply lets in much more ambient noise than even the most porous over-ear models. However, these phones are much more comfortable for extended wear and still sound significantly better than earbuds. So if you'd prefer to be aware of your surroundings at all times, the Solo 3 could be a good choice.
Wireless headphones will likely be worn for extended periods, either while you're working at your desk or sitting on a long flight. Therefore, comfort is paramount. Any slight pressure on the ears or small hotspot is going to turn into a considerable 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 by far the most comfortable headphones we've ever worn. The flagship Noise Canceling 700, the ever classic Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and the more basic SoundLink Wireless II all share the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. The elongated, more anatomical shape of their earcups provides the best universal fit we've found (it's surprising how many companies seem to think that ears are perfectly circular). The earcups are also relatively large and deep, making them friendly to those with ears on the bigger end of the spectrum.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 fell just behind the Bose in terms of comfort. These headphones opt for an ergonomic shape, but the earcups are still slightly smaller than those of the Bose models. The difference is minor, and many users won't notice a difference. However, Bose is likely a better choice if you have larger ears or tend not to like to wear headphones for long periods.
The Jabra Elite 85h, which also scored 8 out of 10 for comfort, employs cushy padding and ergonomic design. The earcups, however, are just slightly smaller than those of the top-scoring models, meaning those with particularly large ears may still feel a bit constrained.
The Soundcore Life Q20's ample padding and large earcups earned it an 8 out of 10 in our comfort metric. They're an excellent choice for anyone seeking all day-comfort on a budget.
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 earcups that sit comfortably on your head. The earcups are just slightly smaller than those on the Bose headphones, so you may feel a little of pinching if your ears are in the 90th percentile in terms of size.
Offering a little less room for larger ears than the top-scoring models, the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. Although the earcups are quite large, they are perfectly circular, so there is less overall room for your non-circular human ears.
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC feels light on the head and offers stiff but cozy padding on the earcups. However, even average-sized ears tend to touch the edges of the earcups. While this isn't uncomfortable per se, some of our testers found it annoying after multiple hours of wear.
Earning a score of 6 out of 10, the TaoTronics TT-BH060 will likely be comfortable for most people, but they can't accommodate those with larger ears. The earcups are relatively deep, have nice, plush padding, and feature a nice ergonomic shape. However, some of our testers with larger ears did complain of hotspots. 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 lack the size or depth to accommodate larger ears.
The JBL Live 650BTNC sports padding that feels stiff yet not unyielding. However, the earcups are somewhat small, so most of our testers reported some annoying hotspots on their ears within a few hours of wearing them.
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 are on the small side, with an oval shape, and a medium level of padding. This results in a fit that easily accommodates smaller ears, but those with average or larger-sized ears may start to feel some hotspots after a couple of hours. The Solo3 forgoes full over-earcups, instead of going with an on-ear design. This makes them accommodating of ear shapes and sizes. However, we believe that having something pressed against your ear, while not unpleasant, just doesn't lend itself to long-term comfort.
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. If you have average-sized ears, however, you'll probably notice some discomfort after a few hours of wearing them. Whereas, those of us with larger ears will probably notice discomfort right off the bat.
With an unimpressive score of 4 out of 10, the Beats Solo Pro elicited many complaints from our comfort testers, the most common being an overzealous clamping pressure exerted by the earcups onto their ears. Although this certainly makes these headphones uncomfortable for all-day wear, most people found them unobtrusive when worn for an hour or less, which is why we still love these headphones for city commutes.
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 from eliminating the dangling wire between headphones and smartphones 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-in. In assessing user-friendliness, we had multiple testers use each pair for extended periods of time, making sure they tried all the features, such as play/pause, skipping tracks, adjusting volume, and even summoning virtual assistants on some models. 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, mostly thanks to their effective execution of touch controls. We found 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 are nice touches (the Bose 700 works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri).
We also found the Beats Solo Pro to offer an impressively intuitive user experience, particularly for Apple users. The headphones turn on automatically when you unfold them, and any unlocked iOS devices will recognize them automatically as well. They have intuitive buttons on the earcup. However, because these buttons are positioned on the face, you have to push the earcup somewhat uncomfortably into your head when you press them.
The Jabra Elite 85H offers a similar interface to the other top models in this metric and adds some unique features. For example, songs automatically pause and calls automatically mute when you take the headphones off, and automatically resume when you put them back on. The "moments" feature can also analyze outside noise and automatically adjust the noise cancellation accordingly. We love the former feature. The latter doesn't always work perfectly, but it is very useful for certain situations and can be customized when it's not.
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.
The Sony WH-100XM4 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 touch gestures, however, still feel a bit less natural or intuitive than those of the Bose Noise Cancelling 700. This new version can connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, and automatically pauses music when you take the headphones off, the latter being some the Bose models can't do.
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC also earned a 7 out of 10 in this metric. It uses touch-sensitive controls that offer a very similar experience.
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 WH-1000XM4 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.
The Tribit XFree Tune tips the scales at 10.3 ounces and comes 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 Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC provides a stiff and uniquely triangular case, but it takes a second to figure out exactly how the phones fold into it. The Jabra Elite 85h offers a protective and more intuitive case, but it lacks any internal organization for cables or adapters.
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. The 10.1 ounce Skullcandy Crusher also earned a 7, losing points because it only comes with a drawstring pouch.
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 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 have any qualms when traveling with these headphones.
Earning a 6 out of 10 in this metric, the Beats Solo Pro actually folds up much smaller than most of the headphones in this review. However, the included case is fairly flimsy cloth. It's more than adequate for throwing the phones into the top of your daily commuting bag, but not protective enough for travel further afield.
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