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

The best wireless headphones of 2021 include some of the most advanced audio devices we’ve ever seen. The best part? These wireless headpho...

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.

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 best 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 spatial audio. They're an all-around winner.

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. These are the three main styles of wireless headphones – so feel free to jump to whichever style fits your needs and budget.

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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.

The best wireless headphones and over-ear headphones

the sony wh-1000xm4 wireless headphones in black

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

The best noise-cancelling headphones have a new winner

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 8.95 oz | Cable length: 3.94 ft | Frequency response: 4Hz to 40kHz | Drivers: 1.57-inch | Driver type: Dome-type | Sensitivity: 104.5 dB | Impedance: 47 ohm | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: 30 meters (98ft) | NFC: Yes

Improved noise-cancellation
DSEE Extreme audio upscaling
Multipoint pairing
Not water-resistant

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.

Read more: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones review

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the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in silver

(Image credit: Bose)

2. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose's wireless noise-cancelling headphones are easily its best yet

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.64 lbs (289g) | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 100 meters (330 feet) | NFC: No

Outstanding noise cancellation
Fun, lively sound
Battery life could be better
More expensive than Sony

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

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(Image credit: Future)

the bowers & wilkins px7 wireless headphones in black

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

3. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones

Strong all-rounders

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 310g | Cable length: 1.2m | Frequency response: 10 – 30,000 Hz | Drivers: 43.6mm | Driver type: Full range | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 20 kOhms | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Best-in-class sound quality
Competitive battery life
Robust Bluetooth connection
Earcups don't collapse

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.

Read more: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones review


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:

the Nuraloop headphones in black

(Image credit: NuraLoop)

1. NuraLoop headphones

Improving on aural perfection

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Frequency response: 20Hz - 20 kHz | Drivers: 8.6mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 16 hours | wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

Rich, adaptive audio
ANC and social mode
Rugged, sweatproof desig
Stiff neckband can get in the way

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.

Read more: NuraLoop headphones review

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the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds in black

(Image credit: Optoma)

2. Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

Practically flawless wireless earbuds

Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 15 gram | Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz | Drivers: 6 mm | Driver type: dynamic | Sensitivity: 92 dB +/-3 dB at 1 kHz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Battery life: 10 hours | wireless range: 10 m (33ft) | NFC: No

Impressive audio 
Customized eartips  
Practical design 
Not suited to one-ear listening 

The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: wireless earbuds that are good for basically all situations, whether you're looking to take them out on a run or just wear them around town. 

They're ideal for exercise, although any urbanite will also find their lightweight functionality and impressive sound isolation highly appealing. If you want proof that Bluetooth earbuds can now compete with the best of them, look no further.

Read more: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 review

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the Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Wireless Headphones in gray

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

3. Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Wireless Headphones

Neckbuds with phenomenal sound

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 31g | Frequency response: 10Hz - 30kHz | Drivers: 9.2mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 96 dB | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | NFC: No

Comfortable design
Excellent sound quality
No waterproofing
Average battery life

The Bowers & Wilkins PI3 are the first neckband wireless earbuds for the company, and they're a great start. Well-designed, comfy, and simple to use, they sound really good, too.

Thanks to dual drivers, these buds sound fantastic, with crisp highs, lively mids, and plenty of powerful bass. Look past the fairly unremarkable battery life and limited features, and you'll be mostly very impressed by what these offer.

Read more: Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Wireless Headphones review

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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:

the sony wf-1000xm4 true wireless earbuds in black

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds

The best true wireless earbuds you can buy today

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 7.3g | Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz | Drivers: 6mm | Battery life : 8 hours (earbuds) 16 hours (charging case)

Rapid, full-bodied and eloquent sound
Truly useful features
Impressive call quality
Unremarkable battery life
No aptX support

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.

Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review

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the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds in black

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds

These true wireless earbuds are still winners in our book

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 7g | Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz | Drivers: 6mm | Battery life : 6 hours (earbuds) 18 hours (charging case)

Efficient noise-cancellation
Inconspicuous looks
Great fun to listen too
Not suitable for sports

For nearly two years, the Sony WF-1000XM3 were best true wireless earbuds you could buy – until they were usurped by the WF-1000XM4.

However, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are still worth considering, not least because you can usually find them discounted to around  $170 / £150 / AU$200. 

The Sony WF-1000XM3 still manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds, fist-pumping musicality, a sleek design, and a decent battery life. 

Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review

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The Nuratrue true wireless earbuds in black wth a white logo

(Image credit: Nura)

3. Nuratrue

The most customizable wireless earbuds you can buy

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight : 7.4g (each bud) | Frequency Response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Battery life (onboard) : 6 hours

Excellent sound
Highly personalized
Noise cancellation
Doesn’t use latest Bluetooth version
Battery life could be better

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. 

Read more: NuraTrue review

Check out TechRadar's exhaustive guides to the best headphones to buy today including the best on-ear headphones and the best in-ear headphones.

For some more specialist pairs, take a look at our guides to the best wireless headphones, best true wireless earbuds, best wireless earbuds, and the best noise-cancelling 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.

Looking for some headphones you can work out with? Check out our guides to the best swimming headphones, the best workout headphones, and the best running headphones



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