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Best wireless headphones in 2021

best wireless headphones 2021
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

The best wireless headphones package great sound, special features, and lengthy battery life into a convenient, cord-free design. On top of being the perfect companion for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, they also work well for laptop users, especially business travelers, remote workers, students, and anyone who loves using their portable PC as their main audio source.

Laptops were designed to be taken anywhere and can be excellent productivity tools or entertainment consoles when hitting the road. Pairing your machine with some high-quality wireless headphones only enhances the listening experience.

Sure, you can spend money on an elite gaming mouse. Maybe even a portable charger that’s powerful enough to juice up the laptop when an outlet isn’t available. But wireless headphones remain the wiser and more practical investment.

The market is flooded with options and styles, from noise-cancellers to truly wireless buds. To make the decision easier for you, we have compiled this list of the best wireless headphones, based on our extensive testing, research, and comparisons. Here is a look at some of our top picks in the category.

What are the best wireless headphones and earbuds?

Currently listed as the best wireless headphones overall is the Bose 700. A svelte, futuristic design combined with intelligible features, precise sound, and unbeatable active noise cancellation, the company’s latest flagship model has set the standard for what wireless headphones should look and sound like moving forward. Scroll further down to see our official ranking of the best wireless headphones in 2020 (so far).

In the No. 2 slot for best wireless headphones is the Sony WH-1000xM4, which is considered by many critics (including us) to be the best-sounding ANC headphones available. Audio quality is outstanding, with the headphones delivering boomy sonics and crisp mids and highs. Amazing noise cancellation that nearly rivals Bose, customizable features via companion app, and plenty of playtime (30 hours with ANC on) help solidify their placement on this list. Plus, Sony has cleared up that nasty call quality problem so feel free to make all the calls your heart desires. 

Our top pick for the best wireless earbuds overall is the Apple AirPods Pro. This upgraded version welcomes innovative features like an adaptive EQ, effective noise cancelling, and even an Ear Tip Fit Test to determine the best ear tip size for maximum sound quality. Not too far behind are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, noise-cancelling wireless earbuds that combine great sound quality with the very best ANC in the true wireless category.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, Laptop Magazine will continue to scope out the best Black Friday headphones deals. We’ll also be keeping tabs on highly anticipated models set for release next year, including three heavily rumored Apple products: the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2, and the company’s first-ever over-ear headphones, the AirPods Studio.

Scroll further down to see our official ranking of the best wireless headphones in 2020 (so far). 

The best wireless headphones and earbuds right now

best wireless headphones: Bose 700

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1. Bose 700

The best noise-cancelling headphones overall

Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on); 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable active noise cancellation and transparency modes, customizable EQ, charging case (optional)

Svelte, attractive design
Unbeatable noise cancellation on calls and music
Clean, precise audio
Intuitive buttons and touch controls
Pricey

If you’re someone who wants to feel completely immersed in their Spotify playlists without any distractions, look no further than the current king of active noise cancellation. The Bose 700 is the best wireless headphones for the money, taking ANC to the next level with six microphones that filter out ambient sound across the entire frequency spectrum. You won’t notice the crying babies in coach when watching films in flight. Bose also programmed the headphones with 10 adjustable ANC levels, three of which can be assigned as presets to control the amount of noise you want to hear.

Even more impressive is the call quality, as the mics amplify your vocals, while filtering out background fracas. You’ll also get clean sound in a beautiful package that complements any MacBook model. Battery life isn’t anything to brag about, but it’s stable. If you have the money, then it’s worth investing in the 700’s charging case to get 40 additional hours of playtime. Bose also just released a new version of the headphones called the 700 UC that is designed specifically for video conferencing (e.g. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams) and includes a USB Link Bluetooth model for reliable connectivity to answer calls in a jiffy and easily switch between audio sources.

See our full Bose 700 review. 

best wireless headphones: Sony WH-1000xM4

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2. Sony WH-1000xM4

The smartest wireless headphones on the market

Size and Weight: 9.94 x 3.03 x 7.27 inches, 8.9 ounces | Battery Life (rated): 30 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 800 feet (theoretical) | Special Features: Adjustable active noise cancellation and transparency modes, customizable EQ, multipoint technology

Excellent audio quality
Powerful active noise cancelling
Plethora of sound customization options
Compatible with hi-res streaming services
Finicky touch controls

The Sony WH-1000xM4 headphones offer excellent audio quality, 30 hours of battery life and a host of audio customization features that make the headphones some of the smartest on the market. And you get active noise cancelling that, dare I say, is a serious contender to Bose’s crown. And thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, the 1000xM4 can connect with two devices simultaneously.

In addition you can program the cans  to pause whatever you’re listening to the second you speak, adjust the noise cancelling depending on your activity or location, and create a 3D audio experience. And this is all before we get to the excellent active noise cancelling that’s nearly equal to Bose, the incredibly rich audio experience, the 30 hours of battery life and the MIF (Most Improved Feature), the crystal clear call quality.

Read our full Sony WH-1000xM4 review.

best wireless headphones: Apple AirPods Pro

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3. Apple AirPods Pro

The best wireless earbuds overall

Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 4.5 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special Features: Active noise cancellation, "Hey Siri" voice activation, spatial audio

 Ergonomic, comfy design
 Seamless iOS and MacOS integration
 Surprisingly effective noise cancellation
 Superb call quality
Short battery life

The AirPods Pro isn’t the ideal audio solution for any high-powered laptop, but what Apple’s third-gen buds afford you is sheer portable convenience. They’re considered one of the best wireless headphones for many reasons. Comfort is excellent, thanks to a new design that now features integrated tips for a secure fit. Strong connectivity and instantaneous pairing are givens for all Apple devices. The charging case is easy to carry around and supports wireless charging, so you can place it atop the Qi-compatible wireless charger on your desk when crunching numbers on your iMac. Apple also gives you effective noise cancellation to hush annoying co-workers and commuters.

Sound wasn’t much to brag about previously, but that has changed with the latest iOS 14 update bringing spatial audio into the mix, a feature that brings theater-quality 3D audio to the buds. Sadly, there are no updates for battery life, which is something that definitely needs to be addressed considering the AirPods Pro has a shorter playtime than the AirPods 2.

See our full AirPods Pro review

best wireless headphones: Bose QuieComfort Earbuds

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4. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Size and Weight: 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06 inches, 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 12 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special Features: Adjustable ANC, hybrid ambient listening, Self Voice mode

Class-leading ANC
Warm, neutral sound
Top-notch call quality
Bluetooth 5.1
Battery life could be better
Huge charging case

What if we told you Bose made wireless earbuds that feature the same active noise cancellation as the critically acclaimed 700 headphones? Well, they did. Introducing the QuietComfort Earbuds, an in-ear marvel that nearly replicates the 700’s ANC capabilities, and with half the mics. You still get 10 adjustable levels and the Bose Connect app lets you set three “favorited” ANC settings that can be cycled through on the left earbud. Bose even enhanced its Transparency Mode, blending it with noise cancellation to make ambient noises sound clearer. The company’s Active EQ technology and proprietary drives were stuffed into these buds to give listeners warm, pleasant audio. Connectivity is also spot-on, as Bluetooth 5.1 operates smoothly, and the Bluetooth button programmed into the charging case makes manual pairing a breeze.

Speaking of the charging case, it’s a big, hefty sucker that doesn’t hold much portable power. The standard playtime on the buds isn’t anything to brag about either; it’s just barely higher than the regular AirPods.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition Headphones

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5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition

Strikingly attractive with sonic appeal

Size and Weight: 3.1 x 6.9 x 8.7 inches, 10.9 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours (ANC on), 33 hours (ANC off) | Bluetooth Range: 37 feet (12 meters) | Special Features: Three-level active noise cancellation, adjustable ambient listening mode, Soundscapes mode

Wide soundstage
Multi-level ANC and ambient listening modes
Beautiful craftsmanship
Strong battery life
Lack of equalizer
Finicky connectivity

This updated version of B&W’s popular noise-cancelling model flaunts a carbon fiber exterior, while maintaining the excellent performance of the original. The soundstage is enthralling and spacious, offering up impactful bass, lively mids, crystal-clear highs. Some may take issue with the lack of EQ or music presets, but in reality, B&W did a stellar job engineering the soundstage to enjoy all types of content (e.g., music, movies, podcasts, ebooks). B&W’s mic array can silence plenty of city noises, allowing you to indulge in Spotify playlists distraction-free. It won’t completely block out everything, but not many of the best noise-cancelling headphones do either. Battery life is another enticing attribute, giving users 30 hours of playtime with ANC on, which is 10 hours more than the Bose 700. 

The extra use of carbon fiber does add extra weight. Also, you might notice some stuttering when streaming music or using the Soundscapes mode, which is related to connection issues.

Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition review.

best wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 45h

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6. Jabra Elite 45h

An industrialized design with detailed sound

Size and Weight: 8.82 x 7.2 x 1.97 inches, 6 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 50 hours | Bluetooth Range: 40 feet (12.2 meters) | Special Features: Customizable EQ, Call Experience mode, Multi-Connect technology up to 8 devices

Superior battery life
Personalized sound
Reliable comfort
Strong connectivity
Zero isolation
Plastic design

While we love the Elite 85h, its on-ear counterpart is just as impressive with a sleeker design, better battery life, premium sound, and a handful of features for an unbeatable price. At full charge, the Elite 45h grants you 50 hours of continuous playtime to enjoy solid audio performance, which can be fine-tuned in the Jabra Sound+ app. Fast charging is also some of the best in the category, generating 10 hours of use on a 15-minute charge. Light, slim, and cushiony, you’ll experience little to no discomfort when sporting these cans for several hours.

Just remember that with an on-ear design comes zero noise isolation. In other words, expect lots of sound leakage, which doesn’t allow for much private listening unless you’re tuning out to music at low- or mid-level volume. The plastic construction is a complete 180 from the tank-like build quality of the Elite 85h, but for the price, it could be much worse.

 See our full Jabra Elite 45h review.

Best wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

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7. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Premium sound for a premium price

Size and Weight: 3.02 x 1.72 x 1.3 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 7 hours, 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 800 feet (243 meters) | Special Features: Active noise cancellation, ambient listening mode, customizable EQ

Category-leading sound
Longer battery life than the AirPods Pro
Strong active noise cancelling
More expensive than the AirPods Pro
Don’t provide the best fit

A notable upgrade of Sennheiser’s previous true wireless earbuds, this sequel boasts some of the best sound we’ve heard in the category, along with adequate playtime and impressive noise cancellation. Underneath the minimalist design are 7mm custom drivers that produce refined, loud sound, allowing you to hear the slightest nuances in songs; this is a treat when indulging in orchestral-heavy recordings. The low end is also well controlled, blending precisely with mids and highs for full, sumptuous audio. ANC won’t match that of the Sony WF-1000xM3, but it’s great for filtering out chatty neighbors and door buzzers. The buds come with double the battery life of its predecessor as well.

For $300, it should offer more features and a better fit, though keep in mind you’re essentially paying for Sennheiser sound in the tiniest form possible. 

See our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

best wireless headphones: Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

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8. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Super-smart headphones with adjustable ANC

Size and Weight: 8.03 x 7.68 x 1.89 inches, 10.22 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 800 feet (243 meters) | Special Features: Adjustable active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, multipoint connectivity up to 10 devices

Adjustable active noise cancellation
Warm, rich sound
Microsoft 365 compatible
Can connect to 10 devices simultaneously
Battery life could be better

The Surface Headphones 2 is an awesome follow-up to one of 2018’s most underrated releases, the Surface Headphones. This updated version retains many of the hallmarks that made the original a hit, including the aesthetically appealing design, smart (and easy to use) controls), and dynamic sound. There are 13 levels of active noise cancellation that can be cycled through via dial controls, a feature that works well to block out nearly 75% of ambient sound; the best results come with ANC at max level.

Underrated features like multipoint technology and Microsoft 365 integration are where these headphones showcase their distinctiveness, letting you connect to 10 devices simultaneously and use voice dictation on Office 365 apps (e.g. Word, PowerPoint) to verbally jot down notes. However, Microsoft should consider making improvements for the third-gen Surface Headphones, in particular, battery life and extra features.

See our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review.

best wireless headphones: HiFiMan Deva

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9. HiFiMan Deva

Audiophile-approved sound at an attainable price

Size and Weight: 4.7 x 4.1 x 2.8-inch, 12.7 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 10 hours | Bluetooth Range: 50 feet (15 meters) | Special Features: Bluetooth module, companion app, firmware updates

Planar magnetic drivers
Elegant, comfy design
Enclosed Bluetooth module
Not a lot of controls on the module
Companion app lacks features

Premium open-back headphones often carry a steep price, but not these headphones. The HiFiMan Deva grants users high-end sound for almost a third of what the competition charges. All the little nuances in complex recordings are audible, thanks to the company’s powerful planar magnetic drivers, which produce excellent-sounding highs, mids, and lows. Essentially, the Deva is a wired pair of headphones that can go wireless via attachable Bluetooth accessory, and though this adds to the overall weight, it makes up for the heft with some of the widest range (50 feet) available in the category.

Certain drawbacks like minimal controls and no extra features means you’ll have to accept the Deva as is. At the same time, those are minor compromises to live with for remarkable audio. The $299 price tag also makes this splurge incredibly rewarding.

Read our full HiFiMan Deva review.

best wireless headphones: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

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10. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

A great AirPods Pro alternative at a generous price

Size and Weight: 1.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches, 0.4 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours (with ANC on), 6.5 hours (with Transparency Mode on), 7 hours (all modes off), 26 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special Features:: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, wireless charging

Rich, customizable sound
Adequate ANC and ambient listening modes
Stable battery life
Finicky controls
High end doesn’t shine

The original Liberty Air 2 was considered a Laptop Magazine favorite for its great audio quality, excellent connectivity, and serviceable listening modes. Anker upped the ante with its successor, the Liberty Air 2 Pro, adding new features (e.g., Tip Fit Test, LÜM music service) into the mix, along with adaptive noise cancellation that is not only engineered to block out ambient noise in different environments, but can also be adjusted at the user’s discretion. Battery life on the buds and the redesigned wireless charging case are both rated higher than the AirPods Pro.

Sound is rich and punchy, though audiophiles might take issue with the lacking highs these buds produce. Luckily, there’s the EQ with 22 presets and a custom profile to tweak sound to your hearing. Besides the high end, the only real issue these buds have are the touch controls, which have limited gesture input and operate on a delay.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review.

best wireless headphones: Marshall Major IV

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11. Marshall Major IV

Old-school looking headphones with new-school flair

Size and Weight: 6.3 x 6.3 x 3.4 inches, 5.82 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 80 hours | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special Features:: 80-hour battery life, daisy-chain music sharing, wireless charging

80 hours of playtime
Bright audio
User-friendly controls
Low end could use a boost
Mediocre noise isolation

The Major IV is a notable upgrade that maintains the hallmarks of its predecessor, while nearly tripling its battery life. A full charge gets you 80 hours (no, that’s not a typo), which should get you a good 2 to 3 months of playtime when using the headphones in moderation. You can also charge the headphones wirelessly via wireless charging pad. Marshall’s retro audio equipment design is still attractive and features innovative physical controls like the multi-directional control knob that makes pairing, playback, volume, and call management simple to execute. The 40mm dynamic drivers pump out excellent mid-range too.

As with most on-ear headphones, the Major IV does let in more noise than it blocks out, which can affect audio quality. Also, while we like the rich bass these cans deliver, we also felt the low end could have delivered punchier results. Other than that, the Major IV is another solid addition to the company’s long line of high-performing headphones.

12. Klipsch T5 II

Retro-styled wireless earbuds with modern sound

Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.7 inches, 0.18 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours, 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 300 feet (91 meters) | Special Features: Customizable EQ, Transparency Mode, water resistance

The most attractive charging case in its class
Clear, detailed sound
Strong battery life
Lack of modern features
Occasional lag with digital assistant

best wireless headphones: Klipsch T5 II

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

They say looks can only get you so far, but in the case of the Klipsch T5 II, it’s just one of many hallmarks that make these wireless earbuds an underrated gem. Klipsch’s audio is exceptional, giving you the perfect blend of bright and warm sound. You can tweak the soundstage via mobile app, though the default is perfect as is. A full charge gets you about 7.5 hours more or less, which is highly sufficient. Then there is the star of the show, the Zippo lighter-inspired charging case, a durable aluminum block that beautifully displays and stores the buds and holds an additional 24 hours of playtime.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgic beauty that is the T5 II, you’re quickly reminded of the model’s limited feature set, which could have benefited from more modern functionality. This includes active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and, yes, a Find My Buds mode.

Read our full Klipsch T5 II review.

How to choose the best wireless headphones and earbuds for you

The keyword here is wireless, so, realistically, you’ll want to select the best wireless headphones with the best connectivity. Look at the spec sheet to see what Bluetooth protocol these cans operate on; the majority of today’s headphones and earbuds have Bluetooth 5.0, whereas older models run Bluetooth 4.2. Just know the higher the protocol, the better the pairing capabilities and wireless range you’ll get.

Next on the checklist is sound. It goes without saying that these headphones or earbuds should sound great. Brand recognition goes a long way, so researching models from companies with strong audio backgrounds might help narrow down your selections. Otherwise, hunt for models with powerful drivers that can deliver well-balanced sound, no matter the media format (e.g. music, movies, podcasts, video games). We also advise looking at those with either programmed EQs or mobile apps with personalized sound settings.

The move from wired headphones, which require zero power, to wireless headphones can be a big change for some, as usability is based primarily on battery life. Simply put, you want headphones with long playing times, that way you won’t have to worry about carrying around a charging cable or portable charger. Most wireless earbuds are rated at 5 to 8 hours, though newer releases (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus) offer as much as 11 hours on a single charge. Bluetooth headphones should last 20 hours or more.

Design is just as important. Why wouldn’t you want headphones or earbuds that look as good as they sound, and are easy to carry around? See what’s out there that is comfy, flexible, lightweight, and built to last. A travel case is vital as well, so don’t overlook this when browsing through the product’s list of bundled accessories.

How we test the best wireless headphones and earbuds

Several factors are taken into account when finalizing our list of the best wireless headphones. Our reviewers evaluate the following criteria: audio, battery life, connectivity, design, and value. Any models with app-enabled features are thoroughly tested as well.

Every pair is worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours at a time. Throughout the testing period, our staff evaluates Bluetooth performance, comfort, ease of use, and sound quality. We listen to tracks across several genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and R&B, just to name a few. We evaluate clarity, fullness, and volume levels too.

With more streaming services offering high-resolution audio, we advise reading this audio codec FAQ to learn more about FLAC files, MP3s and everything in between.

Once testing is completed, our reviewers rate each pair of wireless headphones based on Laptop Magazine’s five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that shows it is truly exemplary is awarded an Editor’s Choice badge.