The best wireless headphones 2021: our pick of the best ways to cut the cord

Asia's Tech News Daily

The best wireless headphones of 2021 include some of the most advanced audio devices we’ve ever seen. The best part? These wireless headphones come in all shapes and sizes, from the smallest earbuds to chunky over-ear headphones that’ll make your music really sing.

The best wireless headphones 2021: our pick of the best ways to cut the cord
© Provided by TechRadar a woman closing her eyes while wearing the sony wh-1000xm4 which are the best wireless headphones of 2021

So many options can mean it’s difficult to find the best wireless headphones for your needs, your budget, and your style – and that’s 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 – and some of them even come with nifty extras, including active noise cancellation and AI assistants that you can control with your voice.

After a lot of testing, we believe the overall top Bluetooth 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 spatial audio. They’re an all-around winner. That said, Bose just revealed the Bose QuietComfort 45, the sequel to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and those could challenge Sony for the crown.

Whatever you’re looking for, we’re here to help you find the best wireless headphones for you – 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

Wireless over-ear and on-ear models simply lose the wire connecting them to your device – otherwise, they look pretty much the same as your regular pair of wired cans, and give you the noise-isolating prowess of regular headphones without the need for cumbersome wires to connect to your device.

Wireless in-ear models, earphones, or earbuds (depending on your preferred vernacular), have a neckband connecting each earbud, making them ideal for runners who want the freedom of a wireless connection with the security of a wire keeping their earbuds firmly around their neck. 

Finally, true wireless earbuds have no cables whatsoever, with each bud either connecting to your device independently, or with one primary bud connecting to your phone, and the second bud connecting to the primary earbud. 

Feel free to jump straight to style of wireless headphones you like best – or read on for a full overview of the very best Bluetooth headphones you can buy today.

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Over-ear headphones

The best wireless over-ear headphones

Wireless over-ear headphones are the best choice if you’re looking for the ultimate audio quality, thanks to their large drivers and sound-isolating earcups. They’re also a good choice if you life to switch between listening with a wired connection and over Bluetooth, with most offering a 3.5mm audio port as well as wireless connectivity.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are the best wireless headphones you can buy, thanks to their excellent noise-cancellation, supreme sound quality, and 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.

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.

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.

In-ear wireless headphones

The best in-ear wireless headphones

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.

Here are our top picks for the form factor:

NuraLoop boils down the essence of the company’s first product, the Nuraphone, into a much more compact, rugged, and affordable package, and doesn’t lose much in the process.

The star of the show is its adaptive audio technology, which automatically determines a listening profile for the user and feeds them well-balanced, lush sound as a result.

On top of this, features like active noise-cancelling, social mode, an IPX3 rating, Immersion mode, a great battery life, and the ability to attach an analog cable for 3.5mm headphone jacks makes this pair of Bluetooth earbuds truly shine.

OnePlus is mostly known for its “flagship killer” phones, like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, but the company also makes headphones – the best example are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless 2, which offer incredible value in the neckbud earphones category. 

In terms of audio quality, these neckband earbuds boast a lively sonic presentation and an accurate-feeling soundstage, although bass-heads may want to look elsewhere for headphones that pack a bassier punch. 

They’re comfortable to wear, too, it’s just a shame that they don’t have a waterproof rating and the inline remote is so fiddly, because otherwise they could make a decent pair of running headphones. 

They may be $30 more expensive than their predecessors, but the improved battery life and sound quality makes up for that; it also makes it worth upgrading if you have the originals and are due a new pair of wireless earbuds. 

The SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them. The audio quality on offer here is fantastic and they look very elegant, too. 

They’re comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically designed eartips and they’re attached to a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while running or working out. thanks to an IPX4 rating, they should withstand sweaty sessions, too, making them a solid option for an spare pair of workout buds.

True wireless earbuds

The best true wireless headphones

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, but you’ll find our top picks here, too:

Sony is largely responsible for the rude health of the active noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds market, and with the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before. 

Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive. 

While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.

The NuraTrue are perhaps the most personalized wireless earbuds you can buy today – and they’re among the best-sounding, too. 

They’re the first true wireless earbuds from Australian audio brand Nura, following in the footsteps of its NuraLoop earphones – which, incidentally, are our pick for the best wireless earbuds of 2021.

The NuraTrue are another success for the company, offering unbeaten levels of customization that allow the earbuds to be tuned to your ears exactly. The accompanying app even analyzes how well the buds fit into your ears.

The end result is outstanding audio performance that reveals superb levels of detail in your music, and a wide soundstage that enables every instrument to sing. 

And in case you think these earbuds are made with only audio in mind, they in fact come with plenty of features that will appeal to anyone who wants a cheaper alternative to popular models such as the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4. These features include decent noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, fast charging, and support for hi-res audio too. 

Cambridge Audio might be best known for its high-end audio equipment, but over the past few years, the British company has branched out into the world of true wireless earbuds. 

Its first offering is the Melomania 1, which are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy. However, the new Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a worthy upgrade, putting many other earbuds in the shade in terms of audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use. 

While the design of the Melomania 1 Plus hasn’t deviated too far from its predecessors, there’s a clear step-up in terms of audio performance, with levels of detail and clarity that could rival some of the best over-ear headphones

A helpful app, easy controls, and excellent connectivity just makes us love them even more. The only downside is that there’s no active noise cancellation. However, when these earbuds sound this good, we doubt you’ll miss it much. 

Wireless headphones FAQs

Wireless vs true wireless: what’s the difference?

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.

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