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Best Bose headphones 2021: noise-cancelling and wireless

What Hi-Fi? 20/01/2021 What Hi-Fi?
a close up of a computer mouse: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds © Provided by What Hi-Fi? Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best Bose headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Bose headphones you can buy in 2021.

Bose is synonymous with great headphones and with noise-cancelling too. The US audio firm was the first to offer its customers the silent treatment and is still very much at the top of the game, partly why choosing the best Bose headphones can be quite tricky.

Bose has won a string of awards for its noise-cancelling headphones. The ground-breaking wizardry blocks out ambient noise - aeroplane engines, the rumble of a train, irritating work colleagues - and, if you think that they offer a solution to you personal audio problems, then you might well be right.

Bose has expanded its range of noise-cancelling headphones to suit every budget, and diversified into other types of cans – including sporty true wireless earbuds and premium wireless over-ear headphones.

Whether you’re looking to shut out the world, bring your favourite songs to life or smash your fitness goals, it’s a fair bet that Bose has a pair of headphones to suit your needs.

The latest models feature rechargeable batteries, wireless connectivity and even voice-assisted smart features but don't be put off by the more affordable, older models with still excellent sound quality and noise-cancelling smarts. There are Bose bargains to be had.

Now, check your budget and requirements and browse the list below for the very best Bose headphones.

Want to get active and cut the cord at the same time? There’s a lot to love about these sporty, lightweight wireless earbuds. They offer surprisingly rich sound and punchy bass that'll get your toes tapping (or feet pounding the treadmill, maybe).

Aimed at gym-goers, they're IPX4 sweat- and splash-resistant, too, so won't baulk at a sweaty workout out in the rain. Slip them on and you’ll find that the comfy silicone ear hooks hold them in place while jogging or busting out a HIIT workout. You shouldn’t experience too many drop-outs, either, thanks to Bose's reliable Bluetooth chipset. They’re not truly ‘wireless’, though, as they have a neckband cable featuring a lightweight remote. 

Battery life is average but six hours playback is plenty for a commute or a workout. If you’re seeking some accomplished wireless buds to accompany you on a sporty adventure, you'll be hard pressed to find a better option for less money. 

Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Wireless

Bose's first-ever pair of noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds are a huge success. These Bose feel lightweight enough for the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComfort are both sweat and weather-resistant) and they're great to live with. Battery life is a claimed six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – a decent reserve, but by no means class-leading. You can customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation, in Bose's handy companion app.

The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by the Bose buds is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.

All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are sensational all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. These wireless earbuds are more than a match for any rival.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

True wireless earbuds are a modern miracle. Somehow, Bose has crammed a battery, amplifier and Bluetooth chip into these tiny ear buds. What's more, they're rugged, sporty and water-resistant. How do they do it?

Sure, they’re a little on the chunky side – but Bose hasn’t compromised on performance. Expect rich, expansive bass and sparkling vocals. Battery life is a respectable five hours but slot the buds into the carry case/charger, and you can inject them with an extra ten hours of power. Which should be long enough for even the most long-lasting of gym bunnies. 

They're packed with useful features, too. Like the five LEDs on the outside of the case that indicate how much charge is left. And forgetful types will appreciate the ‘Find My Buds’ feature, too, which shows their location on your phone. Handy.

These five-star beauties are laden with features but it's the impressive sound quality that makes them a cut above the rest. 

Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free

Five years ago, opting for noise-cancelling headphones meant compromising on sound quality. But as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II over-ear headphones prove, that’s no longer the case. 

These offer powerful, controlled bass, three noise cancellation settings (‘low’, ‘high’ and ‘off’) and plenty of bells and whistles. 

The headline news is that they come with in-built Google Assistant, which reads out text messages and online notifications while you’re on the move. You can even dictate a reply or rifle through your music library using voice commands, so they're usable even if your hands are full.

Dead battery? Charge them up for 15 minutes and they’re good for another 2.5 hours of playback. Very useful if you're about to head out the door. And as the name suggests, they're some of the most comfortable headphones around, ideal for settling in for a long flight. 

If you’re looking for ultra-comfortable, cutting-edge noise-cancelling, these will tick all your boxes.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

A breakaway from the QuietComfort range, the 700s are the beginning of a more premium series of Bose noise cancellers. Both the acoustics and digital signal processing have been redesigned. There is an eight-microphone system (six to cancel noise, two for voice pick-up) and you can adjust the level of noise-cancelling control by increments from 0-10. That's a serious level of control that most rivals can't match.

Both the silencing effect and the call quality is impressive and definitely an improvement on the QuietComfort range. Voices are more intelligible when phoning and high levels of noise cancelling seem more subtle and less like listening in a vacuum. Even if you're not playing music, just activate the noise-cancelling to block out unwanted noise.

Comfort and aesthetics are spot-on too and, sonically, the neutral-to-lean character makes for uncomplicated listening, although some may prefer the richness and depth of other headphones. Still, these are a great option.

Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

The Bose Sports Earbuds are a sort of mash up between the QuietComfort Earbuds and the Bose SoundSport Free.

The housings are smaller and a little rounder than the ones you get with the QuietComforts but, understandably given the relative prices, they do feel a little cheaper. All the same, Bose's umbrella-shaped silicone pads and soft wing tips makes them comfortable over long listening periods.

The Sport Earbuds are sweat and weather resistant, battery life is average but should be enough in combination with the case. There's also voice assistant support and both good noise isolation and noise cancelling too.

Sonically, these are some expertly balanced buds for tone. Every track we play through them is handled fairly and squarely. High frequencies never annoy or grate and low frequencies aren’t overcooked as is often the case with lower-end wireless earbuds. There’s a richness and fullness to bass notes, but they never sound fat and slovenly. On an initial listen they really draw you in, but better buds offer more expression, clarity and can uncover a touch more detail. The Sport Earbuds are still very listenable, they just don’t make music sound quite as special as the very best at this level.

Read the full Bose Sport Earbuds review

These wireless range-toppers feature a built-in heart rate monitor, meaning you can track the effectiveness of your sporty endeavours. Build quality is as solid as the The Rock’s abs and while there's no noise-cancelling function, the hugely impressive acoustics balance smooth, seamless bass with soaring treble.

They're surprisingly comfortable to wear and very easy to use: simply pair them with your phone via Bluetooth or NFC and you’re done. They do protrude much more than most in-ears, however, with the black earpieces sticking out quite a way. But they're so light you could forget you're wearing them.

A five-hour battery life is decent enough for a workout, but if you're factoring in commuting time too and a bit of leisure activity you will have to charge them most days. If that doesn't put you off, these gas-guzzling ‘buds breast the tape in the race to be crowned sportiest earphones. Victory!

Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Pulse

If you’re looking for a pair of portable noise-cancelling earphones with a good battery life, the QC30s should hit the spot. The design features an elegant, well-crafted neckband containing a powerful battery. Not keen on the idea of wearing a plastic collar? Don't knock it until you've tried it - it's actually surprisingly comfortable. 

Bose’s ace up its sleeve is sound quality, and these deliver in spades. Timing is effortless and the soundstage is open, spacious and energetic. They manage to keep tracks organised, without instruments blending into one another. And they have no problem handling dynamic shifts, always delivering plenty of detail at both high and low volumes.

The only potential fly in the aural ointment is the shape of the earbuds. They fit some people like a glove; others like a cheap suit. Still, the premium noise-cancelling tech, all-day battery life and superb sound quality add up to a five-star buy.

Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30

Aimed at travel junkies, these foldable headphones are seriously suitcase-friendly. You get 15 hours playback and a full charge takes around 1.5 hours. In a hurry to catch a plane? Just 15 minutes of charging returns a couple of hours of playback. While that won't see you all the way to your destination, it should see you through a short haul flight without having to listen to the person in the seat next to you.

The quirky blue and beige colourway are a bit more Ryanair than British Airways, but the ear cushioning feels luxurious and the detailed, expressive sound oozes confidence. Of course, the latest Bose cans offer more clarity and improved battery life. But with prices dwindling (they were originally launched in 2014), the Soundlink On-ears are an absolute steal – even if they’re no longer state-of-the-art.

If you're travelling on a budget, these are a great choice to stash in your carry-on.

Read the full review: Bose Soundlink On-ear

These Series I of the Bose QuietComfort headphones might have been superseded by the Series II model, but they're still a solid choice for those who want to put the world on pause. You'll benefit from the most effective noise-cancelling technology around and enjoy crisp, bright vocals to boot.

And because they're a little long in the tooth now, you might just find them going for a bargain price, although you may have to a good dig around the web to find a pair.

Unlike earlier Bose noise-cancelling cans, which ate AAA batteries like a child scoffing Smarties, these are rechargeable. Which should save you a fortune. The built-in lithium-ion battery is good for 20 hours of use too, which is a decent amount of time by any measure. They also feature Bluetooth for wireless playback and NFC for one-touch pairing. 

Would they win a beauty contest? Probably not. But the plush ear cups will cocoon your cochleas in comfort. And when you factor in the cheaper price, they're a no-brainer.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35

Back in 2014, we awarded these stylish, wired noise-cancelling headphones five stars in honour of their well-balanced presentation, smooth midrange and fantastic design. And those all still ring true today. That's the good news.

The bad news? They’re not rechargeable. Which, by today's standards, is a little like saying they're powered by steam. But a single AAA battery will last around 35 hours, so you shouldn't run through them too quickly. And when the battery dies, you can still use the headphones – if you're prepared to make do without active noise-cancellation, that is. It's a sacrifice, but one you might have to make should you be caught short. 

Still, the build-quality is truly exceptional and the QC25s are some of the most comfortable noise-cancellers we've reviewed. If you’re looking for reliable, wallet-friendly performers, that have stood the test of time, these are a great bet if you can find them available somewhere. Just make sure you stock up on batteries.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 25

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