Best Bose headphones 2024: noise-cancelling and wireless models tested by us

Best Bose headphones: quick menu

If you’re in the market for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, it’s no real surprise that you’ve found yourself on this page dedicated to Bose products. While Sony took home an armful of What Hi-Fi? Awards last year, Bose ran it close with a selection of dynamic, engaging-sounding headphones that also boast the best active noise-cancelling (ANC) in the business. 

Bose has also branched out recently, adding to its range of in-ear and over-ear models with the Open Ultra Earbuds, which don’t offer any noise-cancelling tech at all, so it can be tricky to work out which ones are worth your time (or, more pertinently, your money). And that’s where we come in. 

Our expert reviewers have done what you can’t and tested all of the best Bose headphones in advance, scoring them each on sound quality, comfort, features, and noise-cancelling performance (if applicable). Every pair has been fully evaluated both in our state-of-the-art listening rooms and out in the real world, so you can be sure that anything you buy from this list has the What Hi-Fi? seal of approval.

If you want to know more about our testing process see the section at the bottom of the page, or read on to discover which Bose headphones and earbuds have made the cut.

Harry McKerrell headshot
Harry McKerrell

I'm a staff writer who has listened to and reviewed dozens of products, including a variety of wireless headphones from Bose, Sony, Apple and more, during my time at What Hi-Fi?. I have a particular affinity for all things wearable, including over-ear headphones, true wireless earbuds and running headphones, with a particular focus on sound quality, all-day comfort and how effective additional features are. My ever-growing experience with audio products across all types and price points makes me ideally placed to give you first-hand insights into which Bose headphones to pick and which to avoid.

Recent updates

30 May 2024: Removed Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and Bose Soundsport Free entries, added image galleries for each product.

The quick list

The best Bose headphones overall

Bose's flagship wireless ANC headphones are some of the best around.


Bluetooth : SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
Noise-cancelling : Yes
Battery life : 24 hours
Charging : USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Finishes : Black, white smoke, sandstone

Reasons to buy

Folding design
Rich, full-bodied sound
Punchy, dynamic delivery
Exceptional noise cancelling

Reasons to avoid

Immersive Audio is unconvincing
Expensive compared to key rivals
Can’t be used via USB-C

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are some of the best over-ear cans the American brand has made in quite some time. Built to a pleasing standard and with plenty of features to make you feel like you're getting your money's worth, Bose’s QC Ultra Headphones take noise-cancelling to a new level, cocooning you in stillness and letting you enjoy your music without interruptions or intrusions.   

And you'll certainly enjoy your music when played through the Ultra Headphones. We haven’t heard a pair of Bose over-ears sound as entertaining or refined for quite some time, with the premium cans offering a rich, full-bodied sound that marries refinement and detail with excitement and dynamism. 

The big news for the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones is the debut of Bose’s Immersive Audio tech, which is essentially the company's take on spatial audio, but it's a feature that still feels rather hit-and-miss to our ears. It's also a devil for eating up your battery life when switched on.

Elsewhere, voice calls perform with clarity and reliability, and while the Ultra Headphones don't have a given IP rating, they do fold neatly away for ease of storage and portability. Battery life, meanwhile, tops out at a decent 24 hours total, while the inclusion of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound Technology suite brings aptX Adaptive support and the latency and stability benefits that come along with it.

If you can get over the slightly underwhelming performance of Immersive Audio and the cans' rather whopping price tag (we tested them at £450 / $429 / AU$649 in 2023), there's still so much to get excited about. That unquestionably delicious sonic flavour, coupled with admirable build quality and laudable feature set, all add up to a very enticing pair of headphones indeed.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review

The best Bose earbuds

Ultra-stylish and ultra-fun to listen to, these are some of Bose's best.


Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6 hours (18 with charging case)
Wireless charging : No
Waterproof : IPX4
Finishes : Black, white smoke

Reasons to buy

Punchy, musical sound
Solid, weighty bass
Excellent ANC
Comfortable for long-term wear

Reasons to avoid

Immersive Audio greatly impacts battery life
No Bluetooth multipoint
No wireless charging

Looking for an ultra-talented pair of Bose buds to rival the might of the Sony WF-1000XM5? Enter the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, the only logical alternative to our current Award-winners at this level and some of the best buds you'll find anywhere for around £250-300. They're pushing well into premium wireless territory, but a five-star rating proves the Ultra to be worthy of that rather substantial price tag. 

Sonically, the Ultra Earbuds are up there with the best, offering not only depth and weight but healthy helpings of detail and insight, too. It's easy to characterise the Ultra Earbuds (and much of Bose's general stable) as being inclined towards a set, "look-at-me" sonic profile, but there's so much nuance and breadth to these buds that we'd advise you to rethink that preconception. Even the call quality is great, with exactly the clarity and stability you'd expect at this price point. 

Elsewhere, the very fine Bose app allows you to alter the amount of noise-cancelling on offer via several customisable presets, with the Ultra Earbuds once again delivering peerless ANC that just filters out any unwanted racket with startling ease. As you might have guessed, Bose once again nails it in this ultra-competitive department.

It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, nor is there wireless charging or Bluetooth multipoint (both of which the Sony WF-1000XM5 offer). Sad? Yes. Dealbreaking? Not as far as we're concerned, especially as the Ultra Earbuds look and sound as good as they do.

The Ultra replace the company's 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award-winning QuietComfort Earbuds II, so shop around and you might be able to find a big chunk of cash slashed off the older pair. 

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review 

The best Bose headphones for running

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds on a wooden table

Interested in a pair of open earbuds? Bose's effort might be as good as we've yet seen. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)
An innovative and effective open alternative to standard in-ear wireless buds.


Bluetooth : 5.3
Noise-cancelling : No
Battery life : 7.5 hours bus, 26.5 hours total
Charging : USB-C
Built-in mic and controls : N/A
Finishes : 2 (black, white smoke)

Reasons to buy

Musical, entertaining sound
Good sense of timing
Surprisingly solid, weighty bass
Comfortable fit

Reasons to avoid

Relatively expensive by earbuds standards
Not the last word in clarity or detail
Call quality could be better

We've seen a recent uptick in the number of brands attempting to implement a so-called 'open' design into their respective wireless earbud stables. Huawei attempted it with the FreeClip buds, Sony had a go with the Linkbuds and now Bose has officially joined the party with its take on the increasingly popular format.

Instead of burrowing into the ear canal, the earpiece for the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds is made up of three parts: the pill-shaped bud itself, the battery cylinder and a silicone band known as a 'flex joint' connecting the two sections. That makes the Open Earbuds rather comfortable, as they don't rely on sitting inside your ears to deliver that signature Bose sound.

Speaking of sound, these really do feel like a pair of Bose buds. Slightly hollow bass aside, the sonic reproduction of the clever buds is far better than we had expected, with weight, solidity and enthusiasm that manages to stay away from ever feeling thin, removed or uninvolved. If you think the Open Earbuds make excessive sonic sacrifices, you might be surprised by what they can do. 

No, there's no noise-cancelling, nor are there pure touch controls, but if you're keen on something different, there's a lot to recommend these innovative and unique Bose trailblazers.

Read our full Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review

Top Tip
Harry McKerrell headshot
Top Tip
Harry McKerrell

I lived with the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds for nearly a month, so I know exactly what they're like on a day-to-day basis. That open design is great if you hate the intrusion of in-ears, even if you might experience a touch of minor discomfort where the tip of the bud meets your ear. If you're hunting for an unobtrusive pair of sporty earbuds or you struggle with traditional in-ears, they're a solid option, but if you don't need that open configuration, seek out the Bose QC Ultra or the Sony WF-1000XM5 instead.

Also consider

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: They're not quite the hot property that they once were, but Bose's former Award-winners are still an exceptional pair of wireless in-ears. That also means they’re currently available for a good chunk less than their successors, so could be a good option for anybody who can’t quite stretch to the very latest.

Bose QuietComfort 45: Originally released in 2021, the QC45 have been succeeded multiple times and aren’t that easy to get hold of anymore, but their usability, likeable sound and lightweight, foldable design mean they remain a more affordable choice if Bose has any in stock.

How to choose the best Bose headphones for you

The good news is that Bose has won a string of Awards for its noise-cancelling headphones. The company is known for its 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 to a power point? Also look at how durable the headphones are, as a poor IP rating can stymie your plans to head outside with your new cans or in-ears.

Speaking of going outside, decide what you want your headphones to do. If you run a lot, wireless buds are far better than over-ear headphones, and those that have helpful design features for a better fit, such as the QC Ultra Earbuds or the Ultra Open Earbuds, are worth considering.  

If you're still deciding which way to go, check out our how to choose the right pair of headphones guide, and don't forget that while Bose is a great brand, it isn't the only player in town. Cross-referencing with our general Best Buys and more bespoke pages will give you a better idea of exactly where Bose's best fit within the wider market.

How we test Bose headphones

Bose has made its name by creating some of the best noise-cancelling headphones available, so while we will test its products in the controlled environment of our world-class testing facilities, it’s only really possible to fully evaluate their abilities by taking them out into the real world. That allows us to put them up against the kind of noises they’ll encounter when you use them day-to-day, such as traffic noise, office chatter, and the general racket of a commuter train. 

Every pair is given plenty of time to run in before we start listening to various types of music from different sources (including wired ones if the headphones allow), paying close attention to any additional features, general usability, and how comfortable they are to wear for long periods. After all, there’s no point forking out for a pricey new pair of headphones if you keep having to give your ears a rest from them.  

Every product we test is given its own standalone review written by a single member of our highly experienced editorial team, but all verdicts are agreed upon as a whole, which helps to stop any personal preferences creeping in. All products, including Bose headphones, are also compared to their similarly priced rivals, so we can pick out the true class-leaders and recommend them to you. You can read more about the process here.

What Hi-Fi?’s team of testers is one of the most respected in the business, with over a century of combined experience in reviewing and writing about headphones, hi-fi and other AV equipment. We are proud to provide comprehensive, unbiased buying advice to you, with no PR companies or our publisher’s sales team having any influence over our reviews, so if you purchase something based on one of our Best Buy recommendations you can be guaranteed you’re getting a top-quality product.


Which is better: Bose or Sony?

If we're going by current Award-winners, the team over at Sony will likely be the ones sitting smugly as they stare happily at their bulging trophy cabinet (we assume that our trophies are proudly displayed by all who are lucky enough to receive them). As we noted at the time, Sony's clean sweep of the wireless headphones (and earbuds) category in 2023 was nothing short of remarkable.

Bose isn't far behind, though, and while we prefer the detail, balance and insight offered by the likes of the Sony WF-C700N and the WH-1000XM5, your preferences may be different. To generalise, the best Bose buds go heavier on dynamism, punch and enthusiasm, and while Sony's finest are superbly well-made and crammed with effective features, Bose still rules the roost when it comes to noise cancelling.

It's not always possible to compare like for like, either. Bose doesn't really make many budget wireless buds, for instance, while the US brand's premium Ultra Earbuds don't precisely match up with the XM5s in terms of price (tested at £300 / $299 / AU$450 versus £259 / $299 / AU$419).

How much should you spend on headphones?

Bose headphones and earbuds rarely come cheap, and while Sony tends to have most bases covered, Bose is usually more interested in leaning towards the middle and upper ends of the market. 

That said, Bose's models still vary in price, from around £120 / $130 for the SoundSport running buds to around £450 / $429 / AU$649 for the five-star QC Ultra Headphones. More generally, you can find a decent pair of wireless earbuds or headphones from around £100 / $100 / AU$200 or £60 / $80 / AU$120 respectively – we haven't come across many recommendable pairs below those prices, with cheaper, off-brand models tending to sacrifice too much in terms of build, sound and longevity to be worthy of your time. 

Do make sure to shop around, though. Whether you're dead-set on Bose's best or you want to spread your wings, it's always worth checking out our deals pages and Best Buys to stay informed. That way, you'll know the landscape far better and you'll be in a far stronger position when it comes to finding a deal or a discount.

Recent updates

  • May 2024: Removed products that are no longer recommended or available, added new quick list navigational elements and image galleries, and refreshed the intro and 'How We Test' section.
  • March 2024: Added FAQs and an "Also Consider" section to offer more alternative buying options for readers.  
  • November 2023What Hi-Fi? Award winners labelled after the 2023 Awards Best Buys and Product of the Year announcements.


Our pick of the best headphones for all budgets

Shop smart with our best headphones deals

Check out our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review

And our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. During his time at the publication, he has written countless news stories alongside features, advice and reviews of products ranging from floorstanding speakers and music streamers to over-ear headphones, wireless earbuds and portable DACs. He has covered launches from hi-fi and consumer tech brands, and major industry events including IFA, High End Munich and, of course, the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or trying to pet strangers' dogs.