Bose is a brand most consumers keep in mind when shopping for new headphones or earbuds, and rightfully so. The company’s reputation as the king of active noise cancelation (ANC) has stood for decades. Many of their releases are even considered the best wireless headphones and best wireless earbuds that money can buy. However, not everyone is convinced that Bose makes the best audio products.
Whether for ANC or sound, call quality or voice assistance, you can find some spectacular alternatives that give Bose’s flagship models a run for their money. Some are also much more affordable and work extraordinarily well for peaceful listening in loud settings.
Our team of experts has tested every major release from the industry’s top brands and compiled this list of the best Bose headphones alternatives based on category, performance, and value. Check out what the market has to offer.
The best Bose headphones alternatives you can buy today
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The WH-10000XM5 is Sony’s greatest attempt at dethroning the Bose 700 as the best noise-cancelling headphone. Dual processors and eight microphones are utilized to reduce ambient sound at an incredibly high level. Sony tweaked their ANC technology to provide stronger wind resistance, which we couldn’t be more grateful for since it has been viewed as the Mark Series’ kryptonite. However, it is the WH-1000XM5’s remarkable sound performance that earns it critical acclaim. The combination of 3D audio, customizable sound, Hi-Res Audio compatibility, and upscaling technology to boost fidelity is unbeatable.
Sony’s redesign lacks the premium look and feels of previous models and there are still some bugs that need to be flushed out. Nonetheless, the WH-1000XM5 has the skill set to outperform any Bose headphones out there.
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.
Several models meet the criteria for best Bose earbuds alternative, but the WF-1000XM4 is the category’s absolute best. Noise cancellation is right up there with the QuietComfort Earbuds, putting a kibosh on low-, mid-, and high-frequency sounds. Modes like Wind Reduction greatly reduce the presence of aggressive winds. Sony’s mics help deliver great call quality and voice assistance. Most importantly, these buds come with audiophile-grade sound that is powered by many of the same high-end technologies featured on the WH-1000XM5 headphones. It’s also worth noting that the WF-1000XM4 gets you longer battery life than any Bose true wireless model.
Our only complaint is that Sony should have included a Find My Buds mode to easily locate the product when lost or misplaced.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
The Momentum 4 is the closest we’ve come to experiencing Bose 700-like noise cancellation. Sennheiser improved their ANC technology to automatically adjust the level of noise neutralization, depending on what’s happening around you. Our testing showed these headphones were capable of silencing nearly 95 percent of ambient noise. Features like Wind Noise Reduction up the ante by heavily minimizing gusty winds. Sound remains a brand highlight with Sennheiser’s powerful 42mm transducer system delivering excellent reproduction to enjoy the subtle nuances in complex recordings. Then comes the Momentum 4’s biggest feature, battery life, which reaches a whopping 60 hours.
As much as we harp on the downgraded design and unreliable controls, there’s no denying the Momentum 4’s overall performance, especially on the ANC and sonic fronts.
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 review.
The AirPods Pro 2 provides twice the active noise cancellation (ANC) and comes with Adaptive Transparency that dynamically increases and reduces ambient noise levels. Headlining features like Personalized Spatial Audio and Find My (AirPods) support for the new MagSafe charging case are eye-catching. Also, the new H2 processor carries over all the significant hallmarks of its predecessor, while introducing new ones that enhance the user experience through high-bandwidth connectivity via Bluetooth 5.3 and more audio processing power.
The AirPods Pro 2 improves on what are already excellent wireless earbuds. ANC is stronger and Adaptive Transparency increases your awareness of your surroundings. Apple fine-tuned the soundstage for full-frequency representation. Battery life has been given a generous boost. Personalized Spatial Audio and Precision Finding compatibility with the new MagSafe charging case are also alluring additions. Taking everything into account, it’s impossible not to consider the AirPods Pro 2 as your next wireless earbuds upgrade.
Read our full AirPods Pro 2 review.
B&W’s follow-up to the successful PX7 noise-cancelling headphones is an even greater smash, welcoming new hardware upgrades and a refined design. On the audio side, these cans carry a 40mm dynamic bio-cellulose driver sitting in each cup, aptX codec support (HD, Adaptive), bass/treble customization, and a new DSP hardware platform. This combination helps produce hi-res, detailed sound with excellent frequency range. A new six-mic array boosts ANC performance, eliminating up to 90 percent of ambient noise, while also increasing transparency when turning on Pass-Through mode. Battery life remains stable, and the aesthetics are as beautiful as ever.
The tight clamp force can be cumbersome on the skull at first and the feature set could be bigger. Luckily, neither takes away from the PX7 S2’s greatness.
Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 review.
Not everyone has the budget to splurge on Bose headphones. If you’re in the market for something less expensive with respectable ANC and nearly three times the battery life, pick up the Cleer Enduro ANC. These mid-range cans are a bargain at $119, eliminating common distractions (e.g., chatty people, loud TV) with ease and pumping out deep bass when enabling ANC mode. Contemporary music tracks sound engaging and have plenty of punch. We’re fans of the adjustable Ambient Noise feature that lets in a high amount of external sound to increase your awareness of your surroundings. And to get 60 hours of playtime per charge for that price is insane.
There are some bugs that Cleer needs to fix. The companion app could also benefit from more features. At the same time, neither of these flaws takes away from the Enduro ANC’s appeal.
See our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.
The upper echelon of true wireless ANC consists of three models: the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Sony WF-1000XM4, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. This third-gen entry has adaptive noise cancellation that automatically adjusts surroundings and reduces external sounds better than most competitors; it’s surprising how well these buds cancel out high-pitched sounds. Even more impressive is the wind resistance, as Sennheiser’s Anti-Wind Mode heavily reduces the whisking effects produced in gusty conditions. The only thing more satisfying is Sennheiser’s accurate, well-balanced soundstage that complements all music genres.
If only the call quality were up to par.
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review.
The Surface Headphones 2 is an awesome follow-up to one of 2018’s best wireless headphones, 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.
How to choose the best Bose headphones alternatives for you
Selecting the best Bose headphones and earbuds alternatives begins with looking for the brand’s greatest strength: ANC. Not every model is going to match Bose’s noise-cancelling technology and that’s completely fine. Bose, Sennheiser, and B&W have proven they can compete at the same level. Other rivals like Cleer and Microsoft are catching up as well. Essentially, you just want headphones or earbuds that can eliminate incidental sounds well enough to enjoy music peacefully.
Call quality is one Bose attribute that doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. They do make the best headphones and earbuds for voice and video calls. Any Bose alternative you choose should have mics that demonstrate solid vocal capture. ANC also goes hand in hand with voice and video calls since it limits the amount of background noise present during chats.
Bose isn’t known for their sound, which gives the field a major advantage. Nearly every model on this list outperforms Bose’s flagship offerings in audio performance. Make sure to check off the following: a customizable EQ, powerful drivers, spatial audio, and hi-res codec support (e.g., aptX, LDAC).
Ask any expert what Bose’s worst feature is, and they will say battery life. The max playtime offered on their wireless headphones is 24 hours, and 6 hours on their wireless earbuds. You’ll want somewhere between 25 to 30 hours for headphones and 6 to 10 hours for earbuds. Also, see which ones offer quick charging and wireless charging.
How we test the best Bose headphones alternatives
Several factors are evaluated when testing for the best Bose headphones alternatives, including design, comfort, sound, and value. Every selection is compared to similar products in their category in terms of features, fit, and pricing.
These models are worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours daily. During this period, our reviewers assess comfort, ease of use, noise cancellation, and audio quality. ANC is tested in numerous indoor and outdoor environments. For sound, we listen to many sample tracks across several music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, and classical, while analyzing clarity, depth, imaging, and volume. Audiobooks, games, podcasts, and videos are also accounted for.
Any models featuring the latest audio codecs (e.g., aptX, LDAC) and spatial audio are tested using compatible hi-res streaming services (e.g., Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal).
If you want to learn more about how these services can improve the sound quality on your laptops and mobile devices, refer to this expert audio codec FAQ on everything you should know about FLAC files, MP3s, and all other audio file codecs.
When testing is completed, we rate these models based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that is truly exemplary is awarded an Editor’s Choice.