Headphones remain the second-most popular category of electronics in South Africa, and most of the major brands are well represented. Wireless headphones are now standard issue, but not all cans are created equal.
To help you make a smart purchasing decision we have compiled a list of the best wireless headphones on the market. They all sound fantastic, use the much-improved Bluetooth 5 and will run for hours on a single charge.
Wireless headphones are traditional over-ear or on-ear headphones without the wire – the two earcups are connected by a headband and connect to the phone using Bluetooth.
True wireless earbuds have no cord whatsoever. You place a tiny earbud in each ea. These connect to each other and to your phone using Bluetooth, giving us true freedom. If you're looking to go full wireless, we also have a round-up of the best true wireless headphones.
Wireless earbuds have a cord connecting both buds which runs behind the neck, hence the name "neckbuds". Check out the best wireless earbuds for more.
Best over-ear wireless headphones
- Sony WH-1000XM4
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
- Bowers & Wilkins PX7
- Jabra Elite 85H
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Apple AirPods Max
- Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
- AKG N60NC
- Sennheiser HD 450BT
- JBL Tune 750BTNC
- Skullcandy Crusher ANC
- Jabra Elite 45h
The Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver 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 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
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.
As an alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3, these 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-1000XM3 and the battery life is also 10 hours less than Sony headphones despite costing more, but they're still well-worth considering when looking for a pair of wireless headphones.
Read more: Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 review
If you’re looking for wireless noise-cancelling headphones and you're not put off by the R7689 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.
Offering class-leading battery life, terrific style and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h are easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier wireless headphones on the market at this price point.
When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.
If you want an alternative to Sony's WH-1000XM4, these wireless headphones are a great choice.
Read more: Jabra Elite 85H review
Bose took the already-excellent QC35 and updated them with Google Assistant. This means you still get the class-leading noise cancellation Bose is known for, good sound quality, and incredible comfort. Said simply, they sound great and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.
Despite the popularity of the QC35s, Bose has shaken things up by releasing a totally new wireless noise-cancelling headphones model, with a focus on sleek design and “breakthrough” audio tech: the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. They may not have pipped Sony to the top spot of the best noise-cancelling headphones, but they're still a fantastic pair of over-ear headphones, coming in at number two.
Read more: Bose QuietComfort 35 II review
The release of the Apple AirPods Max represented the highest-profile headphones launch for some time, having been the subject of rumor and speculation for two years, and come with active noise cancellation, superb audio quality, and a design that sets them apart from most noise-cancelling headphones on the market.
While their exceptional audio performance and class-leading ANC impresses, they're let down by their eye-watering price, baffling carrying case, and lack of support for Hi-Res Audio codecs.
Despite their high price, the AirPods Max aren’t exactly aimed at the audiophile crowd, owing to their lack of 3.5mm audio port; instead, these cans are squarely targeted at card-carrying members of the Apple ecosystem, with nifty features for iOS users and an unmistakably ‘Apple’ design.
For Android users, the AirPods Max are simply a high-performance pair of noise-cancelling headphones with an unusual design, as fantastic as they may sound – and for these users, we can't see how the high price is justified.
But, if you've already bought into the Apple ecosystem, you have a lot of money to burn, and you don't care about Hi-Res Audio, you won't find headphones that sound better or are easier to use than the AirPods Max.
Read more: Apple AirPods Max review
These Sennheiser over-ear wireless headphones sound fantastic, with high levels of detail, warm bass, and natural-sounding highs.
Customizable noise cancellation is a great touch, though it doesn't quite reach the class-leading standards set by Sony and Bose. Battery life also doesn't compete with the Sony WH-1000XM3s, and they're more expensive to boot.
So, why buy the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless? Well, if built-in Tile tracking appeals to you, and you like the industrial design and premium materials of the Momentum Wireless, that could be reason enough – and if you do opt for them over the Sony model, you won’t be missing out on any audio quality. In that respect, they’re truly matched.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019) review
The AKG N60NC Wireless sound like a pair of headphones that should be much more expensive than they are.
At their mid-range price point these wireless headphones offer fantastic value for money, with great sound quality and a level of noise-cancellation performance that's on a level with the much more premium entries on this list.
Our biggest issue with these headphones is the fact that they're on-ear rather than over-ear, meaning that we found that they got uncomfortable over longer periods.
Regardless, the benefit of this is that this is a fantastically compact pair of headphones, and if you're willing to make the trade-off then these are great for the price.
Read more: AKG N60NC Wireless review
Although Bose has long been the default choice for noise cancelling technology, arch-rival Sennheiser has definitely closed the gap and are now as good at sound isolation. However, here Sennheiser has scored a victory on another front: price. The HD 450BT sound every bit as good as cans costing twice as much and the noise cancelling is excellent too.
With the foldable design Sennheiser has also managed to keep these properly compact, and they're still quite light, especially for headphones offering an impressive 30 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation turned on.
The HD 450BT work equally well as a well-padded over-ears to use on your morning commute and all day at work, and for the frequent traveler who wants great sound and noise cancelling in a more affordable package.
Read more: Sennheiser HD 450BT
JBL is a popular name in the world of wireless headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price.
That's what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC's as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.
Read more: JBL Tune 750BTNC review
Skullcandy is better known for its "street" styling but its audio tech and build quality have improved a lot over the years. The Crushers have the unusual distinction of providing haptic bass that you can physically feel and can be scaled up to teeth rattling effect using a slider on the left cup. But Skully have added some other smarts to these pop music monsters, including three noise cancelling modes and the Tile feature which can be used to locate your headphones when misplaced in the home or office.
They sound great too, with some decent mid-range response which is unusual for pop music cans. Although it's an all-plastic affair with a tough steel headband, there's ample cushioning on the cups or all-day use at your desk or on the street. They also fold down to a surprisingly portable package and come with a quality carry case.
Full review: Skullcandy Crusher ANC
For just $79 / £69/ AU$99, Jabra has wrapped Bluetooth 5 connectivity, 40mm full-range dynamic drivers and a smattering of physical push-button controls in a wireless on-ear frame – unlike the over-ear Jabra Elite 85h in this list. Faux leather and memory foam, combined with winningly un-creaky plastic, make for a comfortable fit (even if the earpads themselves absorb ear-heat quite quickly and then give it straight back).
There’s voice control available from Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Jabra’s Sound+ control app even walks you through a brief hearing test to establish exactly how the EQs should be set to best suit your ears. By the standards of overtly affordable headphones, the Elite 45h are feature-packed.
Read more: Jabra Elite 45h review
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