The 9 Best Wireless Headphones of 2021

Taking your music on the go just got easier with these top wireless headphones

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"With the Elite 85h, Jabra offers a powerful, well-rounded pair of over-ear headphones."
Runner-Up, Best Overall:
Sony WH-1000XM4 at Amazon
"A first-class pair of wireless active noise-canceling headphones."
"Bose's QC35 headphones are best in class for their extreme comfort."
"The gold standard for sound quality, the Bose 700 are the company’s response to increased competition."
"A strong low end and rich, clear highs make them an excellent entry among mid-range wireless headphones."
Best for Excercise:
Bose SoundSport Free at Amazon
"Bose knows how to make headphones sound great, and the SoundSport Free is no exception."
Best Noise Cancelation:
Sennheiser Momentum 3 at Amazon
"They pair great audio quality with strong active noise cancelation."
"The Bluetooth version of the M50x monitor headphones, which are respected and used by audio professionals."
"These headphones work with both iOS and Android devices, plus your Mac or PC."

If you’re ready to ditch your wired earbuds, the best wireless headphones can help you make a clean and convenient break. Not only can some of the top models on the market replicate high fidelity audio quality, but they can also provide noise cancelation for improved concentration and focus on your digital music, practical voice assistance and hands-free phone calling ease, and have enough battery longevity to get you through a workout or commute—or longer.

The design, whether in-ear, true wireless buds, or over-ear cans, should complement your lifestyle and fit preferences. Style also informs the type of listening experience you’ll have since it often determines the type and size of the internal hardware. Over-ear headphones have more room for driver technology that could be better for producing high-quality audio and noise cancelation, but in-ear or buds are more portable and practical for powering through workouts. 

If you need help deciphering all the technical stats to look for, browse our headphones buying guide to help you figure out specifics like the type and number of drivers used, frequency ranges, and sensitivity (volume intensity)—to get a bigger sound picture.

Finally, since this is a wireless accessory designed for portability, it’s worth considering how long the battery life is and how quickly it recharges, ease of connectivity, and the smart/convenience features (built-in voice assistant, a great microphone, noise-canceling settings, etc.) available. Our top pick, the Jabra Elite 85t at Amazon, covers most shoppers’ needs by combining superb audio quality with strong noise cancelation, a user-friendly design, and extra-long battery life. See how it fares against our other top picks from brands including Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser.

Best Overall: Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra Elite 85h Review
What We Like
  • Excellent audio quality

  •  Impressive active noise canceling

  • Remarkable battery life

  • Easy-to-use design

What We Don't Like
  • Less comfortable for larger heads

  • Pricey

The Jabra Elite 85h performs well in all the right ways for most. They offer great sound quality, offer detailed control over ANC and music settings via the companion app, impressive battery life, and a durable build. You’ll enjoy 36 hours on a single charge (and with ANC turned on) and the option to quick-charge these cans for 15 minutes and enjoy 5 hours of playback. These wireless over-ear headphones also come with an audio cable for use in wired mode in a pinch when the battery is low or if you prefer to switch things up.

If you’re rough on your gear, the Jabra Elite 85h can roll with the punches. It’s made of a rugged nano-coating that’s resistant to dust and water and is protected by a 2-year guarantee. These headphones are also compatible with your voice assistant of choice for quick access to messages or calendar reminders. While this model may not be the most comfortable for those with larger heads and there’s no support for advanced audio codecs like aptX, these well-rounded wireless headphones earn high marks for easy and frequent daily use.

"You get great sound quality, excellent active noise canceling, a durable, attractive exterior, and design choices that make listening to music a little more effortless."Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4

What We Like
  • Sleek design

  • Amazing sound quality

  • Impressive noise cancellation

What We Don't Like
  • Unintuitive touch controls

  • Expensive

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is a worthy choice for shoppers looking for a first-class pair of wireless active noise-canceling headphones. The innovative dual noise sensor technology uses two microphones on each cup to capture ambient noise and pass it through an upgraded noise-canceling processor and Bluetooth audio chip to make real-time adjustments for superior sound and peerless ANC. The WH-1000XM4 further personalizes noise cancelation based on fit specifics like whether you wear glasses and is specially formulated to deliver great sound at flying altitudes. On the user’s end, adjusting the level of hear-through or silence is as simple as tapping a button in the companion app. And if you feel like letting the headphones make noise-canceling adjustments for you, adaptive sound control does the legwork.

Whatever you’re listening to is guaranteed to sound faithful, thanks to Sony’s high-resolution audio coding (LDAC), which the brand says is just about as good as a wired connection. Along with great ANC and sound quality, the WH-1000XM4 offers a ton of convenience. The proximity sensor knows when you’ve taken these headphones off and pauses playback, there’s smart switching between two devices, and the WH-1000XM4 is ready to work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa with a quick firmware update. All of this technology comes at a premium price, but it’s hard to beat if you’re looking for the best ANC, quality build, and long-lasting battery of up to 30 hours.

“These headphones combine technology, comfort, and conveniences that put them at the top of their class.” Yoona Wagener, Tech Writer/Reviewer

Best for Long Sessions: Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review
What We Like
  • Extremely comfortable

  • Amazing audio quality

  • Great noise-cancelation

  • Come with a carrying case

What We Don't Like
  • Not as stylish as some other models

  • Short charging cable

The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) excels at noise cancelation, which is an unsurprising feat from the Bose brand. These over-ear wireless headphones come with three levels of acoustic noise-canceling, which works to counter ambient noise by delivering an opposing signal to cancel it out. You can control the level of outside noise you want to let in from a button on the earcup or from the Bose Connect app. You’ll also enjoy great audio quality at any volume, thanks to the volume-optimized EQ in the drivers for long hours (up to 20 hours on a single charge) of enjoyable listening at work or at home.

Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice-assistant support are ready right out of the box—no setup necessary—for quick access to your playlists, the weather forecast, or setting an alarm for the next day. And while these headphones are on the pricier end of the spectrum, they’re designed to last and provide comfortable, prolonged use—thanks to the rugged drop- and corrosion-resistant stainless steel and a cushy Alcantra headband (which is the same material you’ll find in high-end cars and boats), and plush synthetic leather on the earcups.

"Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II headphones are jam-packed with technology that’s designed to block out ambient noise and offer the best audio quality possible. We think they definitely delivered on both." Don Reisinger, Product Tester

Best Sound Quality: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
What We Like
  • Excellent audio quality

  • Impressive noise cancelling

  • Very comfortable for extended listening

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Touch controls are easily triggered

  • Battery life needs work

If you’re ready to make an investment in a pair of premium wireless headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are a worthy pick. They house eight microphones, six of which control ANC while four work to deliver crystal-clear voice quality. Bose is no stranger to the noise-canceling game, and these over-ear headphones deliver next-level control with 11 settings ranging from complete transparency to full noise cancelation.

Adjusting ANC as well as other specifics, such as volume, answering a phone call, or navigating a playlist, is all just a tap or press away, thanks to touch sensors on the right earcup and a couple of easy-to-access buttons. It’s worth noting that our product tester noted that the touch sensors can be a bit sensitive, though. One aspect that many users love is the minimalist and comfortable design. If you’re a fan of a little less weight in your headphones, this model comes with a slimmer, low profile steel headband and the well-padded earcups offer 15-degree tilting for a more natural fit on the ears. 

"As soon as we unboxed the Bose 700 we could tell these headphones are built to a high standard." Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Design: Marshall Mid ANC

Marshall Mid ANC
What We Like
  • Distinct black-and-gold design

  • Collapsible and portable

  • Very solid sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Better audio and noise canceling can be found

  • Not as comfortable for some

The Marshall Mid ANC on-ear headphones earn points for style and substance. Those who don’t like the encapsulated, tight feel of over-the-ear cans might have better luck with these earcups that hover on—but not around—the ears. But comfort takes a back seat to the rock-and-roll aesthetic of the Marshall brand, reflected in premium, textured vegan leather, anodized metal hinges, and brass finishings. The sole multipurpose button is a retro joystick-style knob that looks great but won’t be the friendliest to use if you prefer straightforward taps.

These headphones deliver an iconic look matched by stellar, balanced sound quality from 40-millimeter dynamic drivers, Bluetooth aptX connectivity, 32-ohm impedance that’s well suited for mobile devices and plugging into an amplifier at home, and effective ANC for dampening background noise. And the included 3.5-millimeter cable with an inline remote will come in handy for plugging in if you feel like it or if the battery is low, which shouldn’t be an issue. While the upscale look and quality design come at a higher cost, these headphones offer plenty of battery stamina for the asking price: 20+ hours when using both Bluetooth and ANC and 30+ hours when using just one or the other.

"With their eye-catching looks and top-notch build quality, they manage to live up to the high expectations attached to the Marshall brand and their steep price tag." —Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best for Excercise: Bose SoundSport Free

Bose Soundsport Free
What We Like
  • Excellent sound quality

  • Comfortable fit

  • Sweat-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Connection drops sometimes

If you don’t want the clutter of wires or the inconvenience of added bulk interfering with your workouts, the Bose SoundSport Free removes both performance barriers with a completely wire-free build. These earbuds aren’t just wireless, though: they’re also built for durability with an IPX4 rating against sweat and water. Each bud is also topped with what Bose calls their StayHear+ Sport tips (in three size options) for a secure fit and an even nozzle that’s meant to stay in place comfortably.

While the SoundSport Free earbuds aren’t at any risk of falling out of your ears mid-run or lift, they’re not built to last longer than 5 hours on a single charge. The good news is that the carrying case also serves as the charger and holds a potent 10 hours of battery life. A brief 15-minute recharge will give you enough time to complete your next workout (45 minutes) and 2 hours will get you to 100%. And whether you crank the sound up at the peak of your sweat session or lower it as you wind down, the volume-optimized equalizer will keep your tunes sounding great no matter the volume.

"The Bose SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds are great for those who want no-nonsense, comfortable workout buds." —Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Noise Cancelation: Sennheiser Momentum 3

What We Like
  • Advanced wireless codecs

  • Broad sound signature

  • Great ANC

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Not the best battery life for price

Music lovers that also want solid ANC will find a happy medium in the Sennheiser Momentum 3. These over-ear headphones support more advanced audio Bluetooth codecs than you’ll find in competing models, including aptX, aptX low latency, and AAC. The Momentum 3 also features a fairly wide frequency of 6Hz to 22kHz, which is more generous than the typical 20Hz to 20kHz. As a result, these are satisfyingly punchier with bass lines and cover highs masterfully, too. They pair great audio quality with strong active noise cancelation, which comes with three settings. You can also opt for hear-through to stay alert to outside noises.

The companion app is the place to control ANC settings as well as EQ adjustments and even locate your headphones if you misplace them. The Momentum 3 also comes with the option of wired use, voice assistant integration with a firmware upgrade, and a smart playback feature that senses if you’ve removed them. While these headphones come with a premium price tag, you won’t see the same maximum battery life as similarly priced models, but 17 hours should still be sufficient for daily listening enjoyment.

Best Reference: Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT

What We Like
  • Top-notch sound quality

  • Wired and wireless modes

  • 40-hour battery life

What We Don't Like
  • No noise-canceling

  • Comfort not guaranteed

  • Slow to charge

If you’re after a studio listening experience, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT delivers. These are the Bluetooth version of the M50x monitor headphones, which are respected and used by audio professionals. The same audio prowess transfers to this wireless variation that houses 45-millimeter drivers, a notable frequency response of 15Hz to 28,000Hz, and an impedance of 38 ohms. The ATH-M50xBT also supports Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and advanced audio codecs including aptX and AAC and comes with a stereo connecting cable for wired use as well.

While these aren’t wildly expensive, they’re pricey enough to notice the lack of any noise-canceling tech. That’s not necessarily surprising given the focus on music quality and audiophile customers. But some users have reported comfort issues with prolonged use, whether that’s the feeling of very hot ears or like the earcups don’t truly surround the ears. Achieving the right fit could pay off for up to 40 hours of continuous use, but you’ll need to dedicate 7 hours to replenish the battery.

Best In-Ear: Jabra Elite 65t

Jabra 65t
What We Like
  • Very durable

  • Great sound

  • Clear phone calls

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Very snug fit won't please everyone

Apple might have much of the public's attention when it comes to in-ear wireless headphones, but this pair from Jabra is equally deserving of it. They’re truly wireless and have noise cancelation circuitry (they also feature an adjustable slider to let some ambient noise through, if you prefer). Plus, they're sweatproof and dustproof: “These will withstand workouts and outdoor adventures longer than much of the competition,” raved our reviewer. They also come with different-sized ear covers, but the overall fit was very snug: "If you don’t like the feel of eartips pressed very closely into your ears," our tester noted, "this could be uncomfortable." These headphones work with both iOS and Android devices, plus your Mac or PC. Our tester did, however, wish that their battery life were slightly longer.

"The one thing most people won’t argue with is that the sound quality on the Elite 65t is great." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Final Verdict

The Jabra Elite 85h earns first place on our list of the best wireless headphones because of its well-rounded feature list. For most users, the durable build, excellent 36-hour battery life, and robust ANC control and audio quality will provide low-effort yet enjoyable daily use for music and voice calls. Our runner-up, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II falls closely behind our top pick for its exceptional audio quality and acoustic noise-canceling tech along with the impressive combination of comfort and durability in the design.

About Our Trusted Experts

Yoona Wagener is a technology and commerce writer. She writes about tech and tests peripherals, smartwatches, and wired and wireless headphones for Lifewire.

Jason Schneider has been writing about tech and audio products for nearly a decade. Previously published on Thrillist, Greatist, and more, he has a degree in Music Technology and his own band. He's reviewed just about all the audio products on Lifewire, and most of the headphones on this list. He liked the Sony WH-100XM3 for its excellent noise cancellation and the Jabra Elite 65t for its great audio quality and secure fit.

Andy Zahn has written for Lifewire since 2019. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoys using tech on the road. He particularly liked Bose's new noise-canceling 700 headphones for their high-quality build and comfortable fit.

Don Reisinger has been covering tech for more than 12 years. He's previously been published on PCMag, CNET, and other sites. He liked the Bose QuietComfort 35 II for its excellent noise cancellation, the added support for voice commands, and the solid overall sound quality.

The Ultimate Wireless Headphones Buying Guide

A great pair of wireless headphones can transform anyone’s listening experience. However, because there are so many different options out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. Read on for our guide to finding the best pair of wireless headphones for you.

Why Go Wireless?

Although wired headphones tend to offer better sound quality, if you’re not an audiophile with a love of high-fidelity music, the best wireless options on the market should more than satisfy you. Plus, going wireless is infinitely more convenient and portable—especially if you love to listen to music while you travel or exercise.

Wireless headphones generally have a listening distance of around 10 meters, or 33 feet, but that’s likely to change as Bluetooth 5.0, which supports a distance of up to 800 feet, continues to roll out.

Samsung Galaxy Buds
Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Form Factor: What's Your Style?

The first thing to think about when buying a new pair of wireless headphones is the form factor. In general, there are three major form factors to consider: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.

In-Ear Headphones Are Very Portable

In-ear headphones can get a bad rep, but they're also the most portable headphones on the market. Some in-ear headphones rest in your ear, while others rest on a section of your outer ear called the antitragus. Other models are pushed slightly deeper into the ear canal, which helps them stay in place.

Comfort is less of a given. Some pairs can even do damage to your ear cartilage, though those instances are very rare. Most people get used to the feel of in-ear headphones, but if you buy a new pair of wireless earbuds, it may take a few days of use for that to happen.

Some in-ear headphones have a small wire that wraps around the back of your head. Recently, however, “true wireless” headphones, like Apple’s AirPods, have become more popular. These earbuds connect wirelessly to your listening device and often come with a charging case when not in use. This technology is still in its infancy but has improved immensely over the past few years—and will definitely continue to do so.

On-Ear Headphones: Compact Yet Comfortable

On-ear headphones offer a happy medium between in-ear and over-ear models. While they keep the same general shape as over-ear headphones, they tend to be a little smaller. The trade-off is that most people find on-ear headphones to be more comfortable than in-ears, and they often have better sound quality.

When it comes to comfort, on-ear headphones offer a compromise between the two other types, with padding that rests on the outer ear. Their comfort level is more defined by how hard the clamp is. If it's too hard, the headphones can’t be worn for long without getting uncomfortable; if it's too soft, they'll fall off.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H4 Wireless Headphones
 Lifewire / Claire Cohen

Over-Ear Headphones Offer The Best Sound Quality

Over-ear headphones are the ultimate in comfort and sound quality but are by far the least portable. As the name suggests, these headphones often don’t touch your ears at all. Instead, they have padding that clamps around your ears, which is how they’re able to stay comfortable for so long. Part of the reason over-ear headphones sound better is that they have more room for larger drivers, or different types of drivers, that require more space to work properly.

Design: Closed or Open Back?

While the look of the headphones may be important to you, their design refers to whether they’re closed-back or open-back. The vast majority of consumer headphones are closed-back, but some audiophile-focused headphones are open-back. The difference in sound quality can be enormous.

Closed-Back Headphones Keep Outside Noise Out

Most headphones you see in a store will be closed-back. What that means is that the outside of the headphones is designed to keep your music inside while rebuffing outside sounds. There are some advantages and some disadvantages to this. Closed-back headphones are better for those who want to take their headphones on the go or listen to music with others in the room. The main drawback is sound quality—most audiophiles argue that open-back headphones sound more natural. Read on to find out why.

Open-Back Headphones: The Choice for a More Natural Sound

While closed-back headphones are designed to keep your music at least somewhat isolated, open-back headphones are designed to do the opposite. Here's why: if sound can escape your headphones, it won't reverberate inside them. While largely imperceivable, those echoes do create a tighter soundstage. Open-back headphones sound a little wider and more open.

There are some cons, though. Just as sound inside the headphones can get out, outside sound can also creep in. Also, because there's a lack of a physical barrier between the outside world and the electronics inside your headphones, they're more easily damaged by the elements.

If you plan on listening in a quiet environment and simply want the best listening experience, then open-back headphones could well be the way to go.

Semi-Open-Back Headphones: Should You Consider A Pair?

There are also semi-open-back headphones. These cover most of the outside of your ear but leave a little space. These headphones have a slightly more natural sound but with all of the disadvantages of open-back headphones. We really only recommend semi-open-back headphones to users who plan on listening at home and are willing to compromise on some of that openness for a slightly more isolated listening experience.

Microsoft Surface Headphones
Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Audio Quality: What Should Be Your Biggest Considerations?

When purchasing new wireless headphones, there are a number of other audio-related qualities to evaluate. Many are only worth considering if you're looking for the best possible sound quality, but even if you’re not, it can be helpful to know a little more about how your headphones work.

Frequency Range: Low or High Frequency?

Frequency response refers to the different frequencies that headphones are able to reproduce, ultimately resulting in a full sound.

Instruments like bass guitars, bass synths, and kick drums largely live in the lower frequencies, while the sizzle of cymbals and sibilance on a vocal lives in the higher frequencies. Guitars, other drums, the body of a vocal, and so on, all live in between.

The frequency range of human hearing is 20Hz to 20kHz, though most adults can’t hear much past 17kHz. Most headphones have an advertised frequency range of 20Hz - 20kHz—so, while you shouldn’t consider headphones that have a frequency response of less than this, don’t simply assume that this range means they’ll sound good.

Driver Type: What You Should Know

Just like speakers, headphones have drivers—at least one on each side. The driver is what vibrates the air, creating sound. There are a few main kinds of drivers.

Dynamic drivers are found on the vast majority of consumer-level headphones. They're the cheapest to produce, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they sound bad. Generally, they're great at creating a solid bass response without much power. The trade-off is that they can distort more easily at higher volumes.

Balanced armature drivers are only used in in-ear headphones, and work slightly differently in that they can be tuned to specific frequencies. Many in-ear headphones feature two sets of balanced armature drivers, tuned to different frequencies, or are also coupled with dynamic drivers for an evener frequency response.

Planar magnetic headphones are usually only found on higher end over-ear headphones because of their larger size, but they’re often able to produce a much better sound. However, they require a headphone amp to run properly, as they need a little more power than dynamic headphones.

Last but not least is the electrostatic driver, which is able to produce a largely undistorted sound and a wide, natural soundstage. They also have a very natural frequency response. However, they’re larger, much more expensive to make, and require a headphone amplifier.

Jaybird X4 Wireless Sport Headphones
 Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Impedance: How Many ohms Should Your Headphones Have?

Impedance refers to the opposition your headphones give to the flow of current from your headphone amplifier. Impedance generally varies from 8Ω (ohms) to the hundreds of ohms on high-end models.

Most consumer headphones are low-impedance and can be powered easily by a smartphone or computer. High-impedance headphones require a dedicated headphone amplifier to output enough sound.

If you plan on using your headphones with a phone or computer, any headphones with an impedance of under 25Ω should be fine. If you have a headphone amplifier, however, you could get higher-impedance headphones—though just how high depends on the amplifier.

Sensitivity: What Kind of Volume Do You Want?

Sensitivity refers to how loud headphones can get. This volume is measured in decibels. Generally, sensitivity is measured per 1mW (milliwatt). So, if headphones have a sensitivity of 90 dB / mW, that means they can produce 90 dB of volume using 1 milliwatt of power. Usually, a sensitivity of between 90dB and 120dB / 1mW will be perfectly fine for use.

Noise Cancelation Helps to Block Out Exterior Sound

In recent years, noise cancelation tech has improved greatly. Active noise cancelation uses a microphone to detect outside sounds, then plays back an opposite version, effectively canceling it out to your ears. Generally, Bose and Audio Technica are known for their excellent noise cancelation.

There is a downside to this technology: it usually affects audio quality in small ways. For example, noise-canceling headphones can sometimes produce a faint hiss, and the frequency response might be slightly different depending on the frequencies being filtered out.

There are also noise-isolating headphones, which are also known as passive noise-canceling headphones. These models physically cut out any outside noise by creating a seal around your ears with sound-proof materials. This is both lower-tech and less effective, but can still help prevent unwanted sound from distracting you.

Samsung Galaxy Buds
Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Battery Life: What's Considered Good?

There’s one more thing to keep in mind when it comes to buying wireless headphones, and that’s battery life. Battery life varies widely depending on the type of headphones you have. A good battery life for true wireless headphones is anything more than four hours of continuous playback—though the charging case will extend that if you don’t listen for four hours straight. Non-true wireless earbuds should have at least 8-10 hours of playback on a charge. On-ear headphones should be able to offer 15 hours or more, and over-ear headphones should offer at least 16 or 17 hours—though it can range up to around 25 hours.

Other Features and Considerations When Buying Headphones

Wireless headphones are often full of extra features. Many have controls built right into the ear cup. Certain pairs also offer support for a digital assistant like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, while others go even further, with sensors that can track your heart rate through a workout. Some have features to limit the volume, preventing you from doing too much damage to your ears (which are especially great for kids).

Conclusion: Here's the Gist

No two pairs of wireless headphones are the same. But for the average consumer, the most important things to consider are form factor, design, general sound quality, and battery life. Ultimately, the perfect pair of headphones doesn’t exist—it'll depend on your needs, budget, and taste. Hopefully, armed with this new information, you'll have a better idea of what to look for.

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