The best Bluetooth headphones of 2021 is a list filled with some of the most advanced audio techs 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 Best Bluetooth Headphones 2021
1. Sony WH-1000XM4
The best noise-canceling headphones have a new winner
The Sony WH-1000XM4 delivers 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 is a wonderful pair of wireless noise-canceling 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 supports 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.
2. Apple AirPods Max
Yes, they’re expensive (prohibitively so for many). Yes, they come with an ugly, arguably pointless case. And yes, their packaging omits an audio cable and wall charger. Yet they sit near the top of this highly competitive Best Buy page as the best-sounding wireless headphones on the market (even if the Sony’s above are better value).
Why? Because for keen Apple users they’re quite simply the best performing wireless headphones you can buy – and not by a small margin. In fact, their authenticity, detail, crispness, and spaciousness elevate their audio quality so far above the previous best in the wireless noise-canceling class (the Sony WH-1000XM4 below) that the comparison starts to become a little redundant, and you instead begin to consider them alongside proper hi-fi products.
Unsurprisingly, you do need an iPhone or iPad in order to get the most out of the AirPods Max. They will work with non-Apple products using standard Bluetooth 5.0, but you’ll miss out on many of their unique features, such as spatial audio and Siri voice control.
There’s no denying that they cost a lot more than typical products in this class but, if sound quality is king, there’s equally no denying that they’re worth it.
3. Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200: Razer Opus Wireless
The best Bluetooth headphones under $200 that we’ve tested are the Razer Opus. These wireless over-ears are impressively well-built and comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time. They’re stable enough to stay in place during light workouts and have a comprehensive control scheme that’s easy to use. They supply over 32 hours of continuous playback time, so you shouldn’t need to worry about charging them too often either.
Out-of-the-box, they have a very well-balanced sound profile that should suit most types of audio content. That said, if you’re the type who likes to fine-tune your listening experience, the companion app gives you access to audio presets and a graphic EQ. These over-ears also have a highly effective ANC system that allows them to filter out a remarkable amount of background noise, from the low-rumble of bus and plane engines to the chatter of nearby coworkers.
Unfortunately, they don’t support multi-device pairing, which can be annoying if you want to remain connected to two audio sources at the same time. They’re also somewhat bulky, though they do have a sturdy-feeling case to carry them around when not in use. Overall, thanks to their rich feature-set and comfortable, sturdy design, they’re also among the best over-ear headphones we’ve tested.
4. Best true-wireless noise canceling: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
In many ways, Bose’s new $279 noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and to their noise canceling, which is arguably the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. In performance, they clearly have a leg up on Apple’s best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling buds. However, the AirPods Pro’s smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit, and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.
5. Jabra Elite 75t Earbuds
Jabra’s Elite 75t earbuds offer pleasing bass-heavy sound, reliable performance, and can connect with two devices — like a phone and laptop — at the same time.
Jabra is pretty much the only company making true wireless earbuds that support “multipoint” for two simultaneous Bluetooth connections. So you can pair them up with a phone and your laptop or tablet at the same time. Jabra’s mobile app offers a ton of customization over the controls, EQ, and even includes bonuses like white noise or nature sounds if you’ve got situations where they’d be handy.
The newer Elite 85t earbuds add more effective noise cancellation to the mix, but the 75ts are on sale so frequently that they’re still the go-to pick if multitasking is important to you. They pack a wallop when it comes to bass — but not to the point where it overwhelms the rest of the mix.
Jabra backs them with a two-year warranty in the event you experience any hardware issues. (I’ve had a 75t bud stop taking a charge out of nowhere, so it can happen.)
6. V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex is subject to military-level MIL-STD-810G standards, ensuring durability throughout their lifetime. Aside from being some of the toughest headphones on the market, the Crossfade 2 Codex is versatile. AAC and aptX codec support in tandem with hi-res certified wired listening make these the most durable best wireless headphones for general consumers and audio enthusiasts alike.
Beneath the exoskeleton case and steel exterior, the headphones are quite comfortable. Much of the comfort is attributed to excellent headband architecture and supple ear cushions. Be aware, though, you will feel the weight of these after listening for about an hour or so.
Superb audio quality and durability aside, the layout of the controls is worth appreciating. Seeing as most circumaural headphones feature buttons that rest on the lateral edge of one of the ear cups, the V-Moda Codex house the playback and volume control so that they’re aligned with the removable shield, thus forming an upside-down V-shape. Aside from looking good, the placement makes the buttons easy to differentiate and find on the ear cup.
7. Anker Soundcore Life Q30
Soundcore, a subsidiary of tech accessory maker Anker, has become a big deal in the world of audio by releasing headphones that sound great at a very reasonable price. Its Q30 headphones are a great example of that.
The headphones are one of two pairs that support Bluetooth 5.0, the latest version of the wireless standard that’s more energy-efficient. Soundcore says the headphones can get up to 40 hours of battery life on a single charge. In terms of weight, the Q30s come in at 0.58 pounds, which is around the average for this style of headphone.
Soundcore says the headphones’ 40mm audio drivers deliver excellent sound. These headphones support the company’s custom BassUp technology, which uses an algorithm to automatically adjust the number of low-end frequencies you hear. Soundcore says the hardware it uses allows you to listen to high-resolution audio with no loss of quality.
The Soundcore Q30s support hybrid active noise cancellation, with special modes for indoor, outdoor, and travel. These modes will focus on filtering out sounds from a particular frequency range (like the constant buzzing of a plane engine) for the best experience.
The Q30s are Bluetooth headphones, but they have a 3.5mm audio out if they run out of battery. If you’re new to wireless headphones, this fully featured pair is the perfect place to start.
8. Apple AirPods Pro
It’s pretty amazing how Apple continues to enhance the performance of its noise-canceling earbuds through software updates, and if it keeps up the good work, then the AirPods Pro could climb its way back to the top of our best wireless earbuds list. Spatial audio is an incredible addition that creates a 3D-like soundscape to enjoy movies and video games a whole lot better. Even simple, but practical, inclusions like auto-switching make a noticeable difference with functionality, allowing users to easily switch between iDevices that are connected to the same iCloud account.
The great news is that without the latest iOS 14 updates, the AirPods Pro still operates at a top-tier level, thanks to the improved sound, strong ANC, a more ergonomic design for better comfort and fit, and all of the perks that come with the H1 chip. If there is any complaint to be made, it’s the same one every Apple fan has voiced since the first-gen AirPods hit the market, that being the subpar battery life.
9. 1More ColorBuds
The 1More ColorBuds are some of the most universally comfortable headphones you can buy. Three sizes of silicone ear tips and small ear fins help them stay secure, and a slightly slimmed down design from the previous 1More Stylish model helps them fit well even in smaller ears. The ColorBuds are IPX5 water-resistant, and they sound great. They’re AptX-enabled and have punchy bass that’s impressive for headphones this size, but never get too boomy. Such comfort, sound quality, and AirPods-beating six hours of battery life at a price tag that’s $60 less make them the best wire-free earbuds you can buy right now.
10. Samsung Galaxy Buds+
Samsung’s fourth-generation true wireless earbuds may not look all that different from 2019’s Galaxy Buds, but the Buds+ have a few meaningful changes that keep them at the top of the pile for regular, everyday earbuds in 2021.
Physically nothing has changed, meaning they still small, light and super-comfortable. If you have issues with bits of other earbuds pressing uncomfortably on parts of your ears, try these. You have to like the feel of a traditional silicone earbud tip in your ear canal, but they have the added advantage of staying put and blocking out background noise.
They do not protrude far from your ear, fit under hats just fine, and come with a series of soft stabilizing wings if you need them.
A touchpad on the outside takes care of controls. Tap to pause or play, double and triple-tap to skip a track. Touch and hold gestures can be switched between turning on or temporarily piping ambient sound into the earbuds, triggering your voice assistant, or changing the volume (left to go down, right to turn it up). Take both earbuds out and the music automatically pauses. Hold both for three seconds to pair another device. It all works very well.
The Buds+ sound really good producing detailed, balanced audio with a good amount of low-end punch. They can be cranked up to be uncomfortably loud, and come with a basic preset equalizer. They sound far better than most rivals at this price, but can’t match the most expensive earbuds for pure sonic quality.
A solid connection is a minimum requirement these days. The Buds + supports Bluetooth 5.0, has a rock-solid connection with a large range of devices, can be used individually, and has improved support across Android and Apple products, thanks to the Buds+ app on both platforms. They work well with Windows and can be hot-swapped between devices without having to manually disconnect each one. The standard SBC and AAC codecs are supported alongside Samsung’s proprietary scalable codec and a Samsung-only low-latency mode for gaming. Samsung devices also get instant pairing and pairing syncing between devices such as phone and tablet.
Call quality is improved over the original Buds, with better clarity and reduction of background noise for the recipient. Battery life too is much improved, lasting up to 11 hours between charges which are far longer than most. The compact flip-top case is one of the best, easily fitting in the money pocket of a pair of jeans, and is capable of fully charging the earbuds once for a total of 22 hours of playback. The case can be charged via USB-C or wireless charging.
The earbuds are even rated a seven out of 10 by repair-specialists iFixit for repairability, including the ability to replace the battery, which makes the Buds+ far less disposable than rivals.
How Much Should You Spend on Bluetooth Headphones?
This is a look at the top wireless headphones we’ve tested overall, regardless of price. As such, many of the options here fall in the $100 and up range. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money to get headphones that deliver quality audio. If you’re shopping on a budget, head over to the best Bluetooth headphones for under $50 for plenty of great options that won’t break the bank.
With that in mind, we’ve included a range of styles and prices here. You’re bound to find something that fits well, sounds great, and—above all—doesn’t tie you up in knots. Once you’ve found the perfect pair, check out our five easy tips to extend the life of your headphones and six ways you’re using your headphones wrong. And if you want to share your tunes with others, look no further than our favorite wireless speakers.
In determining the best wireless earbuds, we consider fit, battery life, sound quality, design, and value (are they worth the price?). We also factor in features like how well the controls work and how easily the earbuds pair with phones.
In terms of audio, we listen to many sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity, and fullness. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance.
During the testing phase, our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for hours at a time throughout the course of a week. Reviewers will make note of battery life and how well it matches the rated battery life provided by earbud makers.