The best Bose headphones and earbuds merge the brand’s greatest strengths into functional and sleek designs. They deliver unrivaled active noise cancellation (ANC), look fancy, sound amazing, and serve as some of the best calling headsets out there. Not to mention some of these models play nice with Bose’s ecosystem of audio products, connecting to smart Bluetooth speakers for extended use with other devices.
Even though Bose is considered the king of ANC, more rivals have come onto the scene and put the heritage audio brand on notice. Sony has made incredible progress with its Mark Series over-ear headphones (WH-1000XM4) and wireless earbuds (WF-1000XM4). Apple has also stepped up its game with the AirPods Max and top-selling AirPods Pro. As competitive as the market is, that hasn’t stopped Bose from expanding on its legacy, which remains strong, thanks to new critically acclaimed releases and past models that still stand the test of time.
After testing nearly every major release, we gathered our experts to assemble a ranking of the best Bose headphones and earbuds available. Scroll down to see where your money is best spent.
What are the best Bose headphones and earbuds?
At the top of our list of the best Bose headphones and earbuds is the Bose 700. These svelte-looking cans are considered the market’s top noise-canceller, powered by elite ANC circuitry and intelligent algorithms that drown out close to 95% of ambient noise. Speaking of which, the 700 headphones can also let in vast amounts of external sound to hear what’s happening around you via Full Transparency mode. Call quality is also best in class.
Second place goes to the best wireless earbuds for noise cancellation: the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. These buds produce warm, pleasant sound and excellent call quality. However, this is the product that popularized hybrid ANC, blending Transparency mode with noise cancellation to make ambient noises more distinctive and less harsh, while still listening to music. It is amazing.
Coming in at No. 3 is the Bose QuietComfort 45. The latest Bose noise-cancelling headphones improve on ANC, battery life, and sound, and retain much of what made their predecessor an industry favorite (e.g., minimalist design, superb comfort). You get special perks like access to the Bose Music app and features like SimpleSync to pair the headphones with the Bose Smart Soundbar.
Fitness fanatics are taken care of with the Bose Sport Earbuds, which stuff balanced sound and Bluetooth 5.1 into a smaller and sportier design than the QuietComfort Earbuds. These are solidly constructed earbuds that can sustain sweat and splashes of water (IPX4), plus their compact charging case holds a max of four extra charges. The color options (Baltic Blue, Glacier White, Triple Black) also make them appealing to exercisers who value their appearance.
There is much more to learn about the aforementioned models, as well as other notable selections worth checking out. Here is a look at the best Bose headphones and earbuds.
The best Bose headphones and earbuds right now
Engineered with 11 levels of ANC, eight individual microphones, and a revamped mobile app that extends functionality, the Bose 700 makes the strongest case for both the best noise-cancelling headphones and the best wireless headphones. The ability to toggle between different ANC settings on the fly is an awesome feature, giving listeners full control of noise neutralization, which is flawless on these cans. Enabling the highest level will quiet most high-frequency noises effectively without disrupting the soundstage.
The call quality is even more impressive with Bose’s mic system pulling double duty to block out rumblings and amplify vocals for clearer calls, as well as voice command recognition. These headphones also deliver top-tier sound reproduction and have a contemporary design that justifies its luxury price. The latest software update introduced several enhancements, including an adjustable EQ, improved connectivity, and better level/voice prompt fixes.
For those working remotely, Bose launched an updated version called the 700 UC that is compatible with popular video-conferencing programs like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.
Read our full Bose 700 review.
Bose outdid themselves by integrating the same category-leading active noise cancellation from the 700 headphones into these tiny buds. What you end up with is the absolute best ANC model in the true wireless space. Like its over-ear counterpart, the QuietComfort Earbuds grant access to 10 levels of adjustable noise cancellation, three of which can be saved on the Bose Music app, so you can easily cycle through them on the left bud. Bose transferred over its Active EQ technology and proprietary drivers to give these buds a warm, pleasant sound as well. And just when you thought the performance perks stopped there, the QuietComfort Earbuds boast a strong mic array that guarantees best-in-class call quality.
All that functionality surely requires a lot of battery life to operate, which, sadly, is the QuietComfort Earbuds’ greatest compromise. Users are stuck with playtimes that are barely higher than the regular AirPods. On top of that, the charging case is ridiculously large and doesn’t offer much additional battery life.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.
The latest QC over-ear headphones bring enhanced active noise cancellation into the fold to eliminate mid-frequencies better than previous models. Two ANC modes are available: Quiet for traditional noise cancellation and Aware for ambient listening. Each performs at a high level and plays nicely with other Bose technologies, including the all-new TriPort acoustic architecture and Volume-optimized Active EQ, both of which help produce high fidelity. Improvements to comfort and battery life accommodate longer listening sessions.
If you’re someone who often turns off noise cancellation to relieve their eardrums of pressure, look elsewhere because there is no option to disable the feature. It’s always on. This model also lacks some of the features of the flagship 700, including 10 levels of adjustable ANC and EQ.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review.
Think of the Sport Earbuds as a fitness version of the QuietComfort Earbuds minus all the bells and whistles. You’re getting refined sound and solid call quality in a similar, well-protected package. IPX4 certification makes these buds sweat and water-resistant. The StayHear Max silicone tips meld with the folds of the outer ear and keep the buds locked in during runs. Bose’s proprietary drivers and Active EQ technology keep music sounding warm and balanced. Having Bluetooth 5.1 onboard also establishes a strong connection between audio sources within range (35 feet max).
Battery life has never been a strength for the brand, so it’s no surprise that the Sport Earbuds has lower playtimes than most competitors. There isn’t a Transparency Mode available either, but Bose could add it in a future firmware update.
Read our full Bose Sport Earbuds review.
Despite being a generation older, the QuietComfort 35 II is still a popular ANC choice and one of the top performers in its class. You’re getting the same robust connectivity and digital assistant integration as the 700 headphones and the same battery life, which isn’t much to brag about, but standard for three-year-old cans. Sound quality is strong, highlighted by emphatic lows and crisp-sounding mids and highs. Superior noise cancellation is why you’ll want to own the QC35 II; it works in wireless and wired modes and keeps ambient sound to a minimum across the frequency spectrum.
Bose left the design untouched from the previous version, an area that wasn’t well-received the first time around due to its flimsy and plasticky frame. On the plus side, this makes the headphones super light and comfortable to sport for long hours.
An old-timer with some lasting power, one could argue that the QuietComfort 20i was the model that put Bose on the map. You’ve probably seen numerous business travelers wearing these in first-class over the years, enjoying top-notch ANC that minimizes any noise from coach and engine sounds. The attached battery pack can be a nuisance, but it holds up to 16 hours of playtime, three times more than the AirPods Pro offers. Furthermore, it’s great that the earphones can play audio when the power runs out.
With Bose focusing more on true wireless models, the QuietComfort 20i could benefit more from a drastic price drop (we suggest $150).
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 20i review.
The lack of ANC doesn’t make the SoundLink 2 any less valuable. These headphones focus primarily on connectivity and sound quality, two categories they crush. Lows are punchier and better balanced than the QC35 II, resulting in a vibrant soundstage. The transparent bass reproduction is some of the finest we’ve heard on any Bose wireless headphones. Operating on Bluetooth 4.0 doesn’t hold back connectivity, achieving a reasonable range (35 feet) and hosting cool wireless features like multipoint technology (pair to two devices simultaneously) and tap-to-pair NFC. Battery life isn’t anything to brag about, but it’s impressive to see these headphones have a playtime that isn’t too far off the 700 headphones.
Build quality is a bit flimsy, and the design doesn’t provide the best passive noise reduction either. The SoundLink 2 could be a serviceable audio companion if you can live with these flaws.
How to choose the best Bose headphones and earbuds for you
We’re talking Bose here. Therefore, noise cancellation must be at the top of the list. Not all Bose models come with ANC, but the more popular ones do, so you want to make sure the feature is available on your model. Try to seek out Bose headphones and earbuds that come with multiple levels of ANC and ambient listening. Those that don’t should have a design that can passively block out unwanted noise.
Audio goes hand in hand with ANC. All forms of media (e.g., music, videos, games) should sound crisp and clear without noise cancellation compromising quality. Explore models with powerful drivers and customization settings to personalize how you hear content. Bonuses like an EQ, presets, or spatial audio are greatly appreciated, but not essential.
You’ll need sufficient battery life to enjoy peaceful listening. The industry standard playtime is 20 hours for noise-cancelling headphones and 5 hours (per charge) for noise-cancelling earbuds. Thankfully, most Bose headphones and earbuds meet the criteria. Quick charging is another feature worth mentioning since it allows listeners to generate some juice within a limited time frame: a 10-minute charge often nets you 1 hour of use.
If wireless headphones or earbuds are your preference, consider something supporting the latest Bluetooth 5.0 versions. This gives you faster connectivity, increased range (est. 120 meters max), longer battery, and even multipoint technology to pair two audio sources simultaneously. More recent versions will also guarantee digital assistant support (Siri, Google, Alexa, Bixby).
How we test the best Bose headphones and earbuds
Laptop Magazine considers several factors when determining the best Bose headphones and earbuds. Design, comfort, sound, and value are on that list. All selections are compared to similar products in the category in terms of features, fit, and pricing.
Bose headphones and earbuds are worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours at a time. During this period, we assess ANC, fit, ease of use, and sound quality. We listen to sample tracks across several music genres, including hip hop, rock, jazz, and classical, while analyzing clarity, depth, imaging, and volume. Audiobooks, games, podcasts, and videos are also accounted for.
In addition, models featuring the latest audio codecs (e.g., aptX, LDAC) and spatial audio are tested using compatible hi-res streaming services (e.g., Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal). You can learn more about how these services can improve audio performance on laptops and mobile devices by reading this expert audio codec FAQ, which breaks down everything you should know about FLAC files, MP3s, and all other audio file codecs.
After testing is completed, Laptop Magazine rates every model based on a five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that is truly exemplary will be awarded an Editor’s Choice.