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Best Bose headphones 2020: noise-cancelling and wireless

Best Bose headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Bose headphones you can buy in 2020.

Bose was the first to offer active noise-cancelling to consumers, and is still very much at the top of the game. The US firm 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 or irritating work colleagues.

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.

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

1. Bose SoundSport Wireless

The sporty, lightweight and sweat-resistant ones.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 6hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Comfortable
Fun sound
Strong wireless performance

Reasons to Avoid

Less-than-stellar battery life

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

2. Bose SoundSport Free

True wireless buds for those who like to feel the burn.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 5hr | Charging: USB/Case | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Weighty, full-bodied sound
Deep, powerful bass
Even tonal balance

Reasons to Avoid

Thanks to an update, not a lot

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

3. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Cutting-edge, premium noise-cancelling with Google Assistant.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 20hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Sophisticated noise-cancellation
Crystal-clear voice calls
Stylish design

Reasons to Avoid

Rivals feel more premium

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

4. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Better wireless fidelity, better noise cancelling, same great sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 20hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Next-gen noise-cancellation
Comfortable and stylish
Crystal-clear, upfront sound
Intuitive touch controls

Reasons to Avoid

Lack class-leading insight
Rivals have better battery life
Expensive

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

5. Bose SoundSport Pulse

Run to the beat... of your own heart.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 5hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Excellent wireless reliability
Fun bass
Decent HR sensor
More comfy than they look

Reasons to Avoid

Short battery life

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

6. Bose QuietControl 30

This slinky Bluetooth neckband rocks.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 10hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Insightful sound
Impressive noise cancellation
Punchy bass

Reasons to Avoid

Neckband not to everyone’s tastes

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

7. Bose Soundlink On-ear

No-frills Bluetooth headphones.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 15hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Good build quality
Balanced, detailed sound
Decent battery life

Reasons to Avoid

Quirky colours

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

8. Bose QuietComfort 35

Slick, sophisticated noise-cancelling.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 20hr | Charging: USB | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Generous battery life
Super comfortable
Rhythmic and insightful sound

Reasons to Avoid

Bluetooth isn't aptX
Not the most forgiving balance

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

Best Bose headphones 2020

(Image credit: Bose)

9. Bose QuietComfort 25

Award-winners that have stood the test of time.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: No | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 35hr | Charging: No (1xAAA) | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Good noise cancellation
Clear, balanced sound
Comfortable to wear

Reasons to Avoid

Powered by AAA batteries

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