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The Best Wireless Headphones of 2020

Friday May 22, 2020
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We've conducted hands-on testing of more than 30 wireless headphones. For this 2020 update, we focus on the 20 best that you can buy today. We 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.


Top 20 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 20
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Best Overall Headphones


Bose Noise Cancelling 700


Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$399.00
at Amazon
See It

92
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Noise Isolation 10
  • Comfort 9
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Portability 8
Active Noise Cancelling: Yes | Battery Life: 20 hours
Excellent sound quality
Field-leading noise cancellation
Comfortable
Expensive

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 that accompanies 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 would keep anyone from plunking the Noise Cancelling 700 on their head and never taking them off is the price. All of that premium performance comes at a very premium price. Any potential buyer should be really primed to appreciate a quality listening experience for the purchase to be worthwhile. But if you're willing to pay for performance, these headphones will make your eardrums jump for joy.

Read review: Bose Noise Cancelling 700

Best Noise Cancellation on a Budget


Soundcore Life Q20


Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$59.99
at Amazon
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Sound Quality 7
  • Noise Isolation 6
  • Comfort 8
  • User Friendliness 8
  • Portability 7
Active Noise Cancelling: Yes | Battery Life: 40 hours
Inexpensive
Impressive bass
Good active noise cancellation
Lacks some clarity in mid and higher frequencies
Headband too large for smaller heads

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 ample padding and large earcups provide all-day comfort, something we've 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 may be a bit too long for those with smaller heads.

Read review: Soundcore Life Q20

Best Shoestring Budget Option


Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear


Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$31.99
(60% off)
at Amazon
See It

56
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Sound Quality 5
  • Noise Isolation 4
  • Comfort 8
  • User Friendliness 6
  • Portability 5
Active Noise Cancelling: No | Battery Life: 13 hours
Comfortable
Inexpensive
Weak bass
Mediocre noise isolation

While active noise cancellation is great, simply covering your ears can still improve your listening experience and supply a productivity-boosting 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 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 bass power and clarity 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. But, 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, these headphones certainly fit the bill.

Read review: Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear

Best On-Ear Model


Beats Solo Pro


Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$249.95
(17% off)
at Amazon
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Sound Quality 8
  • Noise Isolation 7
  • Comfort 4
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Portability 6
Active Noise Cancelling: Yes | Battery Life: 40 hours
Great sound quality
Good active noise cancellation
Intuitive interface
Expensive
Uncomfortable to wear for long periods

When commuting by subway or bus, over-ear headphones can feel overly hefty. 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 on-ear design makes them much less intrusive than larger over-ear models, while the tight fit and effective active noise cancellation let you enjoy unfettered music without cranking the volume to drown out all the ambient noise. 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. We, therefore, 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


Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$249.98
(16% off)
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Noise Isolation 7
  • Comfort 7
  • User Friendliness 6
  • Portability 8
Great clarity
Good overall sound
Relatively portable design
Doesn't accommodate larger ears well
Noise cancellation lags behind that of other premium models

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. If you fall into the latter category, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC offers a great listening experience. 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.

Apart from earcups that may feel a bit cramped if you have larger ears, the only relatively minor complaint against the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC 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, if you're looking for a bright and clear sound and don't mind less than exceptional noise cancellation, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is a great choice.

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.

The H5 has quite thumpy bass and good clarity for a relatively inexpensive pair of headphones.
Our sound quality testing involved a lot of music listening  sometimes while staring out at the rain.
For all-day comfort  we would recommend Bose over any other manufacturer.

Analysis and Test Results


A good pair of wireless headphones can cancel out the cacophony of modern society and let you enjoy both your 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.

Value


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 noise cancelling and sound quality for a decidedly average price. For those shopping on a tighter budget, the Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear provides all-day comfort at a rock-bottom price point, but they lack any sort of active noise cancellation.

Intensely listening to the bass boosting feature of the Sony Extra Bass  which we felt degraded the overall sound  but did make the bass really thump.
Intensely listening to the bass boosting feature of the Sony Extra Bass, which we felt degraded the overall sound, but did make the bass really thump.

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 EMFs might be doing to our health. The jury is still out and no solid data points toward a direct link between exposure to the low levels of EMF created by personal electronic devices and any adverse health issues. The National Institute of Health classifies the EMFs emitted by small electronics as, "…generally perceived as harmless to humans."

That being said, we know many people still want to limit their EMF exposure. In measuring our wireless headphones we found that, on average, they produce roughly 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 and without taking advantage of the wireless capability, you can plug the headphones in and drastically reduce the EMF level.

Sound Quality


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 listened to everything from hip-hop to podcasts, and from folk music to dubstep, on every pair of headphones, paying careful attention to the clarity and bass.


Sharing the top score with a 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, respectively. Both of these models produce rotund yet well-defined bass, balanced with crystal clear mid and high ranges that combine to create complicated yet nuanced arrangements. If we were to really split hairs we'd say the overall clarity of the Bose noise Cancelling 700 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 doubt anyone will complain about.

Also earning a 9 out of 10 in our sound quality testing, 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. 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.

It's hard to beat the rich sound of the Bose Noise Cancelling 700  as evidenced by our smiling tester.
It's hard to beat the rich sound of the Bose Noise Cancelling 700, as evidenced by our smiling tester.

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. It's the slight advances in noise cancelling technology that is the only thing that makes the overall experience of some newer models a little 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.

The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is exceptionally crisp and clear in the mid and treble ranges  but pulls back on the bass a bit when compared to other high-end models.
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is exceptionally crisp and clear in the mid and treble ranges, but pulls back on the bass a bit when compared to other high-end models.

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.

Rounding out the 8 out of 10 group, 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.

Though no longer the brand's flagship model  the Bose QuietComfort 35 still provides a great and warm listening experience.
Though no longer the brand's flagship model, the Bose QuietComfort 35 still provides a great and warm listening experience.

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, 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 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 Sony WH1000XM2 is one of the few models we've tested that can rival the sound quality of the Bose models.
The Sony WH1000XM2 is one of the few models we've tested that can rival the sound quality of the Bose models.

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 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. That bass quality, however, 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. 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 they are clear steps below the quality of the top scorers. 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. This makes the TT-BH060 and the ATH-DSR7BT 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).

While the Beats Studio3 sounds good  we don't really feel it lives up to the hype.
While the Beats Studio3 sounds good, we don't really feel it lives up to the hype.

Just outside the top group, the Tribit XFree Tune earned a 6 out of 10 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. They have a reasonable level of clarity, but some distortions are easy to notice. The bass is powerful enough to mostly fill out the sound, but it lacks some depth.

None of the headphones that we tested sounded bad, at worst they sounded akin to the cheap earbuds that come with most smartphones, or that you find on the discount at Best Buy. 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 has 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). That bass comes at the expense of clarity, however, 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 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 supplied by the over-ear design. If you've never complained about 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 an overall sound that feels quite thin. 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.

The Sony WH-1000xM2 delivers great noise cancellation  drowning out most distracting ambient noise.
The Sony WH-1000xM2 delivers great noise cancellation, drowning out most distracting ambient noise.

Noise Isolation


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 noise and noted how much noise each was able to block. We rounded things out by conducting hours of real-world testing with each pair, 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, which earned a rare perfect score of 10 out of 10. Even without music playing, these headphones created near silence in most situations (bustling coffee shop, an office full of chatty co-workers, etc.). Only the loudest, sudden noises became 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 Boise 700 offers incredibly effective active noise cancellation with barely a trace of the odd feeling of pressure that often comes with the technology.
The Boise 700 offers incredibly effective active noise cancellation with barely a trace of the odd feeling of pressure that often comes with the technology.

Falling just behind the leader with a score of 9 out of 10, the Sony WH1000XM3 offers similar noise-canceling performance that turns 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 the 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 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 Bose QuietComfort 35 II was long the standard-bearer for active noise isolation and is still comparable to many of the newer models in that regard.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II was long the standard-bearer for active noise isolation and is still comparable to many of the newer models in that regard.

The Jabra Elite 85H, also in the 8 out of 10 category, was one of the best noise cancelling performers in our tests when it came to staccato noises like typing or other tapping sounds. However, it occasionally let in a bit more of low engine hums than the top scorers.

While not quite as good as the Bose and Sony models  the Jabra Elite 85h is quite effective when it comes to blocking out ambient noise.
While not quite as good as the Bose and Sony models, the Jabra Elite 85h is quite effective when it comes to blocking out ambient noise.

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 likely won't notice them. However, if you hope to use the noise cancellation feature without musical accompaniment, you may want to consider the high end Sony and Bose models.

The Anker Soundcore Life Q20, which earned a 6 out of 10 in our noise isolation testing, provides a good degree of active noise cancellation given its low pricetag. 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.

Thanks to ample padding and decent active noise cancellation  the Soundcore Life Q20 provides good noise isolation on a budget.
Thanks to ample padding and decent active noise cancellation, the Soundcore Life Q20 provides good noise isolation on a budget.

The TaoTronics TT-BH060 is another budget option that offers decent sound isolation. 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. 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 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 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 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 noise 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.

Considering the low price  the active noise cancellation of the TaoTronics TT-BH060 is quite impressive.
Considering the low price, the active noise cancellation of the TaoTronics TT-BH060 is quite impressive.

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 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, 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 simply 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 aware of your surroundings at all times, the Solo 3 could be a good choice.

So far no manufacturer has matched the supreme comfort that Bose provides  as shown by another happy tester.
So far no manufacturer has matched the supreme comfort that Bose provides, as shown by another happy tester.

Comfort


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 pressure on 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. 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 ear cups provides 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.

Bose has a penchant for large earcups  fluffy padding  and supple faux-leather upholstery. This makes them  in our opinion  the most comfortable headphones for the widest range of people.
Bose has a penchant for large earcups, fluffy padding, and supple faux-leather upholstery. This makes them, in our opinion, the most comfortable headphones for the widest range of people.

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 Jabra Elite 85h, which also scored 8 out of 10 for comfort, employs cushy padding and an 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 Jabra Elite 85H doesn't provide quite as much clearance for larger ears as the Bose models  but otherwise is on par in terms of comfort.
The Jabra Elite 85H doesn't provide quite as much clearance for larger ears as the Bose models, but otherwise is on par in terms of comfort.

The Soundcore Life Q20's ample padding and large earcups earned it an 8 out of 10 in our comfort metric. They're a great choice for anyone seeking all day-comfort on a budget.

The Soundcore Life Q20 sports large earcups and ample padding for all-day comfort  but the headband doesn't adjust small enough for those with smaller heads.
The Soundcore Life Q20 sports large earcups and ample padding for all-day comfort, but the headband doesn't adjust small enough for those with smaller heads.

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 little of pinching.

The Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear provides all-day level comfort at a very low price.
The Mpow Bluetooth Over Ear provides all-day level comfort at a very low price.

The Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric because they offer a little less room for larger ears than the top-scoring models. Although the earcups are quite large, they are perfectly circular, so there is less overall room for your non-ciruclar human ears.

Also scoring a 7 out of 10 in this metric, 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.

The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC may feel a bit cramped if you have larger ears  but otherwise is quite comfortable for a variety of pursuits.
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC may feel a bit cramped if you have larger ears, but otherwise is quite comfortable for a variety of pursuits.

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 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. 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 or size to accommodate larger ears.

The JBL Live 650BTNC, also in the 6 out of 10 comfort club, sports padding that feels stiff yet not unyielding. The earcups are somewhat small, however, so most of our testers reported some annoying hotspots on their ears within a few hours of wearing them.

The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT was one of the most comfortable models we tested.
The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT was one of the most comfortable models we tested.

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-sized ears or larger 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 pretty equal opportunity when it comes to accommodating 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.

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. If you have average-sized ears, however, you'll probably notice some discomfort after a few hours of wearing them. Meanwhile, 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.

Earning the low 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.

Intuitive controls  like those on the Bose 700  can make a world of difference.
Intuitive controls, like those on the Bose 700, can make a world of difference.

User Friendliness


The feeling of liberation that comes from 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-in. In assessing user-friendliness we had multiple testers use each pair for extended periods of time, making sure they tried to 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, largely 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.

You can allow the Jabra Elite 85h to dynamically adjust the noise cancellation settings based on the ambient noise the headphones detect. This works well in quiet situations (ie. turning the noise cancellation off)  but it can sometimes get confused when out in the real world.
You can allow the Jabra Elite 85h to dynamically adjust the noise cancellation settings based on the ambient noise the headphones detect. This works well in quiet situations (ie. turning the noise cancellation off), but it can sometimes get confused when out in the real world.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II falls just behind the company's flagship model in terms of user-friendliness. While it lacks the intuitive touch-sensitive controls of its sibling, a few well designed and ergonomic buttons on the right earcup make adjusting volume and skipping tracks on the go quite simple. It also works with all of the major voice assistants. The JBL Live 650BTNC offers a similar experience, keeping things simple with intuitive button controls and a simple app that allows you to adjust the EQ if you'd like.

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.

Also earning 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 touch gestures, however, still feel a bit less natural or intuitive than those of the Bose Noise Cancelling 700. 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 Sony Extra Bass is one of the few models that has a dedicated button for all the standard music-related commands  as opposed to other models that force you to push a button multiple times to access a different function.
The Sony Extra Bass is one of the few models that has a dedicated button for all the standard music-related commands, as opposed to other models that force you to push a button multiple times to access a different function.

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.

The Beats Solo3 packs up the smallest of any of our models.
The Beats Solo3 packs up the smallest of any of our models.

Portability


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 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 Mpow still has a fairly large profile  even when folded up.
The Mpow still has a fairly large profile, even when folded up.

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 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.

Bose provides a very nice carrying case.
Bose provides a very nice carrying case.

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.

Conclusion


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