The best wireless headphones of 2021 is a list filled with some of the most advanced audio tech we’ve ever seen. The best part? These headphones come in all shapes and sizes, from the smallest earbuds to chunky over-ear headphones.
The more choice the better in our book, but so many options can mean it’s difficult to find which wireless headphones are the best for your needs, your budget and your style. This is why we’ve created this guide to help. We’ve spent the a long time trialling the best headphones on the market, which means we know a thing or two about finding the perfect pair of wireless cans.
The best wireless headphones offer a mixture of fantastic connectivity, supreme audio quality, and slick designs – some of them even come with nifty extras, including active noise cancellation as well as built-in AI assistants that you can control with your voice.
After a lot of testing, we believe the best overall wireless headphones you can buy right now are the Sony WH-1000XM4. They’re comfortable, they offer some of the best-sounding audio of any closed-back over-ear headphones and they have a ton of features like active noise-cancellation and support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format that enables spatial audio. It’s an all-around winner.
Our latest addition to this list are the Apple AirPods Max, which we think are the best wireless headphones for Apple devotees who have a lot of cash to spare – for Android users and those on a budget, however, they’re too pricey to recommend.
Whatever your reason might be for upgrading, we’re here to help you find the best wireless headphones for you, regardless of your budget – and there are plenty of models to choose from. To help you get started we’ve divided our guide into wireless over-ear headphones, wireless earphones, and true wireless earbuds. These are the three main styles of wireless headphones – so feel free to jump to whichever style fits your needs and budget.
[Update: We’ve been hearing more and more about the rumored Sonos wireless headphones in recent weeks, with a patent filed by the company revealing what could be the final design. With Sonos confirmed to be releasing a new product in March, we’re excited to find out whether the speaker company will branch out into the world of headphones in 2021.]
The Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver excellent noise-cancellation and surprising sound quality all in a lightweight, wireless design.
While they don’t look significantly different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3, a number of new features including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor all help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best headphones overall in 2021.
By every possible metric, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are a wonderful pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones. They deliver exactly what they promise and then some thanks to their exceptional noise cancellation and cutting-edge codec support.
On top of the adjustments listed above, the Sony WH-1000XM4 support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format that enables spatial audio on stereo headphones plus the LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps. The unfortunate bit there, though, is that it no longer supports aptX or aptX HD, so your Hi-Res Audio support mileage may vary.
Read more: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones review
Bose has really outdone itself with the Headphones 700 – and a big part of these cans’ appeal, is the sophistication of the noise cancellation they offer, which is applied to your voice during phone calls, as well as your surroundings.
As an alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM4, these wireless headphones sound fantastic, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage and offer the same great noise-cancellation you’d expect from Bose.
They don’t have the same dexterity as the WH-1000XM4 and the battery life is also 10 hours less than Sony headphones despite costing more, but they’re perhaps the best wireless headphones for making calls with.
Read more: Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 review
If you’re looking for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation and you’re not put off by the $399 / £349 / AU$600 price tag, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are well worth considering.
With sophisticated noise cancellation, much-improved sound quality, and a honed aesthetic, the PX7 could give any of the headphones on this list a run for their money.
Plus, they’re packing aptX Adaptive for improved stability and latency between the headphones and your device, as well as high-quality (24-bit) streaming aptX HD brought to the table.
Offering class-leading battery life, terrific style and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h are easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier wireless headphones on the market at this price point.
When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.
If you want an alternative to Sony’s WH-1000XM4, these wireless headphones are a great choice.
Read more: Jabra Elite 85H review
Bose took the already-excellent QC35 and updated them with Google Assistant. This means you still get the class-leading noise cancellation Bose is known for, good sound quality, and incredible comfort. Said simply, these wireless headphones sound great and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.
Despite the popularity of the QC35s, Bose has shaken things up by releasing a totally new wireless noise-cancelling headphones model, with a focus on sleek design and “breakthrough” audio tech: the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. They may not have pipped Sony to the top spot of the best noise-cancelling headphones, but they’re still a fantastic pair of over-ear headphones, coming in at number two.
Read more: Bose QuietComfort 35 II review
At $199 / £160 (around AU$290) the Philips PH805 offer exceptional value for money. These are wireless headphones, using Bluetooth 5 for connectivity – so high-resolution audio playback should be achievable.
Using a single Lithium-Ion cell for up to 30 hours of playback time from a single charge, the Philips PH805 have active noise cancellation on board, administered by a couple of mics on each earcup.
Read more: Philips PH805 review
The release of the Apple AirPods Max represented the highest-profile headphones launch for some time, having been the subject of rumor and speculation for two years, and come with active noise cancellation, superb audio quality, and a design that sets them apart from most noise-cancelling headphones on the market.
While their exceptional audio performance and class-leading ANC impresses, they’re let down by their eye-watering price, baffling carrying case, and lack of support for Hi-Res Audio codecs.
Despite their high price, the AirPods Max aren’t exactly aimed at the audiophile crowd, owing to their lack of 3.5mm audio port; instead, these cans are squarely targeted at card-carrying members of the Apple ecosystem, with nifty features for iOS users and an unmistakably ‘Apple’ design.
For Android users, the AirPods Max are simply a high-performance pair of noise-cancelling headphones with an unusual design, as fantastic as they may sound – and for these users, we can’t see how the high price is justified.
But, if you’ve already bought into the Apple ecosystem, you have a lot of money to burn, and you don’t care about Hi-Res Audio, you won’t find headphones that sound better or are easier to use than the AirPods Max.
Read more: Apple AirPods Max review
These Sennheiser over-ear wireless headphones sound fantastic, with high levels of detail, warm bass, and natural-sounding highs.
Customizable noise cancellation is a great touch, though it doesn’t quite reach the class-leading standards set by Sony and Bose. Battery life also doesn’t compete with the Sony WH-1000XM4s, and they’re more expensive to boot.
So, why buy the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless? Well, if built-in Tile tracking appeals to you, and you like the industrial design and premium materials of the Momentum Wireless, that could be reason enough – and if you do opt for them over the Sony model, you won’t be missing out on any audio quality. In that respect, they’re truly matched.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019) review
The AKG N60NC Wireless sound like a pair of headphones that should be much more expensive than they are.
At their mid-range price point these wireless headphones offer fantastic value for money, with great sound quality and a level of noise-cancellation performance that’s on a level with the much more premium entries on this list.
Our biggest issue with these headphones is the fact that they’re on-ear rather than over-ear, meaning that we found that they got uncomfortable over longer periods.
Regardless, the benefit of this is that this is a fantastically compact pair of headphones, and if you’re willing to make the trade-off then these are great for the price.
Read more: AKG N60NC Wireless review
JBL is a popular name in the world of wireless headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price.
That’s what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC’s as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.
Read more: JBL Tune 750BTNC review
The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 are the tech giant’s second pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and they offer a ton of great improvements over the original Surface Headphones, while retaining some of their best qualities.
In spite of those improvements – which includes a longer battery life and a more comfortable design – the Surface Headphones 2 are considerably cheaper than their predecessors, making them the obvious choice if you’re trying to choose between the two.
That lower price also makes them a great alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM4 especially as they’ve retained the winning design features of the original Surface Headphones, with built-in dials on each earcup to control your music and the active noise cancellation.
Read more: Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review
There are some gaps in specification compared to their most obvious rivals like the Sony WH-1000XM4, but where it really counts – sound quality – the Shure AONIC 50 need no excuses made for them.
The Shure AONIC 50 sport a wireless, active noise-cancelling over-ear design, selling at a premium price to compete with the likes of the Sony headphones and the Bose NC 700 Headphones.
Ultimately, while you won’t find every feature under the sun here, the Shure AONIC 50 are laser-focused on delivering the best sound quality of almost any noise-cancelling headphones we’ve tested – so if you’re after audiophile sound, these could be the best wireless headphones for you.
Read more: Shure AONIC 50 review
For just $79 / £69/ AU$99, Jabra has wrapped Bluetooth 5 connectivity, 40mm full-range dynamic drivers and a smattering of physical push-button controls in a wireless on-ear frame – unlike the over-ear Jabra Elite 85h in this list. Faux leather and memory foam, combined with winningly un-creaky plastic, make for a comfortable fit (even if the earpads themselves absorb ear-heat quite quickly and then give it straight back).
There’s voice control available from Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Jabra’s Sound+ control app even walks you through a brief hearing test to establish exactly how the EQs should be set to best suit your ears. By the standards of overtly affordable headphones, the Elite 45h are feature-packed.
Read more: Jabra Elite 45h review
Wireless headphones are traditional over-ear or on-ear headphones without the wire – the two earcups are connected by a headband.
Wireless earbuds have existed for a while now, basically since Bluetooth was invented. Though battery-powered and not physically connected to your phone, they have a cord connecting both buds – and sometimes a band around the neck too. Check out the best wireless earbuds for more.
True wireless earbuds have no cord whatsoever. While wireless allows us to wear headphones a few feet away from our music players, True Wireless cuts the cord between the earbuds, giving us true freedom. If you’re looking to go full wireless, we also have a round-up of the best true wireless headphones.
Need a specific brand? We have guides to the best Sony headphones, the best Bose headphones, and the best Apple headphones. For those on a budget, you can eschew the expensive brands in favor of the best cheap headphones and best budget wireless earbuds.