Best Bose headphones 2023: 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 2023. 

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, which can make choosing the best Bose headphones tricky. 

But that's where we come in. Our experts have done the hard work for you, testing and reviewing all the best Bose headphones on the market today, so you can be sure that whatever you buy has the What Hi-Fi? seal of approval. 

How to choose the best Bose headphones for you

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The good news is that Bose has won a string of awards for its noise-cancelling headphones. The company's is known for the tech, which blocks out ambient noise – aeroplane engines, the rumble of a train, office chatter – and offers a neat solution to your personal audio problems.

Bose has also diversified into other types of headphones, including sporty true wireless earbuds and premium wireless headphones. So, whether you’re looking to shut out the world, bring your favourite songs to life or smash your fitness goals, Bose has a pair of headphones to suit your needs.

Since most of the best Bose headphones are wireless, you'll want to pay close attention to battery life. After all, what's the point of going wire-free if you have to stay close a power point? 

Ok, now for the fun bit. Browse the list below for our pick of the best Bose headphones on the market...  

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Bose's revamped noise-cancelling earbuds wowed us and promptly picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award 2022. (Image credit: Bose)

1. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Bose's flagship noise-cancelling earbuds have never sounded better.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6hrs (24hrs with charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Weight: 6.2g each

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional noise-cancelling
+
Fantastic sense of refinement
+
Beautifully balanced sound
+
Excellent detail levels

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life can be bettered
-
Call quality is nothing special
-
No Bluetooth multipoint
-
No wireless charging

Bose's latest buds – named 'Best wireless earbuds over £200' at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 – are wonderfully refined and set a new benchmark for noise-cancelling wireless earbuds.

Smaller and lighter than the original QC Earbuds (further down this list), the Earbuds II provide a comfortable fit and lots of features. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, and the Bose app is excellent. 

Noise-cancelling is very good, and capable of automatically adjusting the amount of ANC so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises. As for sound, it's balanced and neutral to the point that you feel you can almost touch the instruments. 

Downsides? It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, but that's small beer when you consider that these classy buds ooze sophistication and deliver everything you’d expect from a high-end Bose product.

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review 

Best Bose headphones: Bose SoundSport Wireless

Like to pump iron? These dynamic-sounding earphones are both comfy and sweat-resistant. (Image credit: Bose)
The sporty, lightweight and sweat-resistant ones.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 6hr
Charging: USB
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Weight: 23g

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? Then chances are you'll love these sporty, lightweight wireless earbuds as much as we do. 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 Bose SoundSport Wireless review

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The first-generation QuietComfort Earbuds are now cheaper than ever and far from obsolete. (Image credit: Bose)
Fantastic wireless earbuds with some brilliant built-in tech.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6hrs (18hrs with charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Weight: 8.5g

Reasons to buy

+
Exciting, entertaining sound
+
Superb balance
+
Impressive noise-cancelling

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life

Bose's first-generation noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds continue to prove hugely popular. They're relatively lightweight, sweat and weather-resistant, and are generally easy 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. Sound is shot through with power, poise and dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied; go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.

They might have been superseded by the Award-winning QC Earbuds II, but the originals remain great all-rounders. They're now discounted, so you can pick up these musical buds at a nice price.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best Bose headphones: Bose SoundSport Free

They might be an older model, but the SoundSport Free deliver a solid presentation and suit a wide range of music genres. (Image credit: Bose)
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
Weight: 9g per bud

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Thanks to an update, not a lot

These rugged, sporty and water-resistant earbuds are 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 2017-launched five-star beauties are getting a little long in the tooth, but can still find stock online. They laden with features and sound quality remains impressive.

Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free

Best Bose headphones: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Impressive noise-cancelling and design, but sound quality isn't quite as premium as we'd like at this price point. (Image credit: Bose)
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
Weight: 254g

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 musical richness and the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM4  but these are still a great option.

Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort 45

Another very likeable pair of Bose QuietComfort headphones but, sonically, you can buy better. (Image credit: Bose)
The QC45 offer great noise cancellation, but they can be bettered in sound quality.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 24hr
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Weight: 240g

Reasons to buy

+
Effective noise cancellation
+
24-hour battery life
+
Comfortable build

Reasons to avoid

-
Sparsely featured comparatively
-
Beaten for dynamics and timing
-
No aptX Bluetooth

If you want a set of robust, travel-friendly wireless over-ear headphones you can put on and largely extinguish the outside world for up to 24 hours, the Bose QC 45 has the edge over most of the competition at the price.

Thanks to Bluetooth 5.1, the Bose QuietComfort 45 now offer true multi-point pairing. These headphones also have better microphones than their predecessor's the QC35 II (below), so you can expect better voice pickup when taking phone calls.  

Sound is delivered with excitement and zeal across the frequencies. Mids are pleasingly three dimensional and bass is weighty, but timing isn't as cohesive as we'd like. Sonically, the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM4 have more to offer.

Settings are basic, and if you want 11 levels of noise-cancellation, you'll need to opt for the company's flagship Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (above). Still, there's plenty to like about the Bose QC45; they're based on a tried and tested product that will likely stand the test of time.

Read the full Bose QuietComfort 45 review

Best Bose headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

If you want to say goodbye to background noise and trailing wires, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are still a solid buy. (Image credit: Bose)
Premium noise-cancelling headphones that have stood the test of time.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 20hr
Charging: USB
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Weight: 232g

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated noise-cancellation
+
Crystal-clear voice calls
+
Stylish design

Reasons to avoid

-
Rivals feel more premium

It's hard to believe it but these headphones made their debut in 2017, quickly proving that choosing noise-cancelling headphones didn't mean compromising on sound quality. 

They might have been trumped by the 2021 QuietComfort 45 but they remain a decent buy, especially if you can get them at a tidy discount. They offer powerful, controlled bass, three noise cancellation settings (‘low’, ‘high’ and ‘off’) and plenty of bells and whistles. 

Built-in Google Assistant reads out text messages and online notifications while you’re on the move, and you can even dictate a reply or rifle through your music library using voice commands.Battery life is 20 hours (the newer QC 45 up that to 24 hours).

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: Bose Sport Earbuds

A good pair of sporty wireless earbuds for gym-goers, but not nearly as impressive as the Bose QC Earbuds II. (Image credit: Bose)
These Bose wireless earbuds are a solid option for sporty types.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 5hr (15hr with case)
Charging: USB/Case
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Weight: 6.75g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Enthusiastic delivery
+
Balanced presentation
+
Weighty, agile bass

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight connection issues
-
Music lacks subtlety and refinement
-
Midrange could be more expressive

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

How we test headphones

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.

Of course, testing headphones don't often require such facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.

We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments. 

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.

Tom is a journalist, copywriter and content designer based in the UK. He has written articles for T3, ShortList, The Sun, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Elle Deco, The Sunday Times, Men's Health, Mr Porter, Oracle and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include mobile technology, electric vehicles and video streaming.