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Best Bose headphones

Bose is a headphone powerhouse, and these are its best offerings.
By
April 12, 2022
Best for most
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
By Bose
The Bose NCH 700.
8.2
Check price
Positives
Slick design
Great ANC
Good sound
Battery life
Negatives
Price
No folding hinges
Not as comfortable as Bose QC 35 II
The Bottom Line.
The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is without a doubt the best the company has to offer when it comes to headphones.
Read full review...
Best safety
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
By Bose
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds in black against a white background.
7.2
Check price
Positives
Secure fit
IPX4 rating
Smart assistant access
Fast charging
Good for outdoor exercise
Negatives
AAC and SBC only
Case does not charge
Microphone is so-so
The Bottom Line.
If you do most of your exercising outdoors, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds offer a secure fit while still allowing you to hear your surroundings.
Read full review...
Best portable
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
By Bose
The Bose QuietComfort true wireless noise cancelling earbuds in black against a white background.
7.6
Check price
Positives
Active noise cancelling
IPX4 rating
Comfortable fit
Bluetooth 5.1
Battery life, fast/wireless charging
Auto play/pause
Negatives
SBC and AAC only
Bose Music app required to switch between devices
No in-app EQ
Price
The Bottom Line.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are a great do-it-all option for anyone, so long as you can afford it.
Read full review...
Best workout
Bose Sport Earbuds
By Bose
The Bose Sport Earbuds in black against a white background.
7.5
Check price
Positives
Excellent fit
IPX4
Active EQ
Auto play/pause (right bud)
Microphone blocks out background noise
Fast charging, USB-C case
Negatives
Limited onboard controls
Weird connection issues, no Bluetooth multipoint
Lacks in-app EQ and ambient aware mode
The Bottom Line.
If you want true wireless earbuds that you can bring with you on your next run, go with the Sport Earbuds.
Read full review...
Best gaming
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset
By Bose
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset​ in black against a white background.
8
Check price
Positives
Noise cancelling
Great headhones
New mic attachment is easy to use
Battery life
Negatives
Expensive
Mic attachment not available separately
The Bottom Line.
If you don't have a gaming headset or everyday headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset might be just the ticket. Otherwise, it's expensive and pretty barebones.
Read full review...

There are a few audio companies that rise out of audio forums and become a part of our culture. For a long time when people referred to active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones, they really meant Bose headphones. For many consumers, that same thought process rings true even today. While its flagship noise cancelling headphones can’t outdo Sony’s top contender, Bose has a healthy line of headphones. Let’s focus on a few of the best Bose headphones around, starting with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

Editor’s note: this list of the best Bose headphones was updated on April 5, 2022, to include a note about the updated software of the Bose QuietComfort 45, to add a contents menu, and to include an FAQ section along with in-line FAQs.

Why is the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 the best Bose headphones you can buy?

If you or someone you know wants those noise cancelling Bose headphones, then the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is your best bet. This has a slick new design that’s been upgraded in almost every way from the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and it’s arguably better overall than the newer, Bose QuietComfort 45.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
8.2
Neither the Shure Aonic 50 nor the Bose Headphones 700 (pictured, black) have folding hinges.A photo showing the microphone array of the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700.The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 on black surface.The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 onboard button controls.Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 outsideThe frequency response chart for the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 which follows our house curve, though some bass emphasis is apparent.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Buy now
See review
See review

Gone is the plastic build in favor of a metal headband that seems way less likely to snap. Unfortunately, these no longer fold but you can still rotate the ear cups 90 degrees, so you can wear the headset around your neck comfortably. The playback controls have also been updated and are now found in a touch-sensitive gesture pad on the right ear cup.

The noise cancelling is still good, which is exactly what you’d expect from the company. Of course, they didn’t knock either the Apple AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM4 out of their top spots, but it’s still better than no ANC at all. This is easily one of the best pairs of active noise cancelling headphones around and you can even choose between 10 levels of ANC depending on your situation.

(Click the chart to expand.)

You get around 20 hours of constant playback and can recharge via USB-C, which is good news for anyone that wants these to last a while since USB-C is slowly taking over. Just like the QC 45, this is also compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, and even Siri if you’re connected to an iOS device.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 connectivity is improved upon with the updated USB-C connection, as opposed to microUSB on the QC 35 II. ANC is better than its older sibling and the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. The reason to really opt for the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is that it just sounds better with a more reasonable, customizable frequency response and very good ANC.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 now comes with a rudimentary equalizer, so the reasons for picking it over the older QuietComfort 35 II are now limited to price. If you absolutely must save as much money as possible, the older headphones mainly fall short by having a microUSB port instead of a USB-C port. That’s it.

Now that there is a newer version out, you might be able to find the QC35 II for quite a bit cheaper, so if you’re hoping to save some cash this is the way to go. Both QuietComfort headphones fold down, making each more portable than the sleeker Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

(Click the image to expand.)

How about the Sony WH-1000XM4?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is another great pair of noise cancelling headphones with a consumer-friendly frequency response that you can EQ from the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS and Android). If you want to save even a bit more, the Sony WH-1000XM3 offers almost everything the XM4 does, minus Bluetooth multipoint and speak-to-chat functionality.

Want to stay aware when exercising outdoors? Get the Bose Sport Open Earbuds

If you spend a lot of time biking or running outside, you know the importance of hearing your surroundings for safety. The Bose Sport Open Earbuds lets you hear what’s happening around you, while still letting you enjoy your music, access Smart Assistant, and take phone calls.

Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
7.2
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds in the open carrying case next to a climbing rope and belay device.A woman wears the Bose Sport Open Earbuds.The Bose Sport Open Earbuds outside of the closed carrying case and surrounded by bike tools.The left Bose Sport Open Earbud faces up with its connector pins, speaker grill, and "L" indicator in full view, while the right earbud rests in the case cutout next to bike tools.The Bose Sport Open Earbuds in the open case with the left earbud button in clear view.The Bose Music app displays the Bose Sport Open Earbuds shortcut menu for the left earbud button.The Bose Sport Open Earbuds secured in the proprietary charging dock next to a stack of books.
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
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See review

The Sport Open Earbuds offers a secure fit and last a respectable 7 hours, 21 minutes according to our testing. The carrying case does not charge the buds, but when you get home you can use fast charging (via a proprietary charging cradle). And due to the shape of the Bose Sport Open Earbuds, a charging case would most likely be quite bulky. The microphone is not our favorite, but it will definitely work for short calls.

Related: The best Bose speakers

Due to the design prioritizing your environmental awareness, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds intentionally does not have much bass in their audio reproduction. Effective bass reproduction tends to require a tight seal, and a tight seal means more passive sound isolation. This would run counter to the purpose of the Bose Sport Open Earbuds, as a safety-oriented product.

Need portable ANC? Get the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is the company’s first set of noise cancelling true wireless earphones. Predictable low and midrange frequency noises are significantly quieted, though incidental noise (e.g., the clang of dishware), still comes through. Bose’s StayHear Max ear tips keep the buds in place, despite their relatively large housings.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
7.6
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds in the USB-C charging case next to a Gameboy Color and PlayStation 4 controller.The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds rest outside of the open charging case.A hand holds the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds open charging case.The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds rest next to the closed charging case on a wood surface.The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds rest outside of the charging case on a table and in front of a stack of books.The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds next to the Bose Sport Earbuds for a size comparison.A woman wears the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds.A cat paw reaches for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds case as a woman inserts it into her pants pocket.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Buy now
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See review

These earbuds feature an IPX4 rating, so you can exercise in them. Then again, if you want a dedicated exercise headset, consider the Sport Earbuds instead: it’s smaller, just as durable, and more affordable. The Bose QC Earbuds has a great mic for phone calls that produces sidetone audio when in a call, so you can hear your own voice too. Most people like this because it makes you less inclined to unwittingly raise your voice.

Read on: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)

Bose’s earphones use Bluetooth 5.1 and support just two Bluetooth codecs: AAC and SBC. This plays to iPhone owners’ benefits, but high-quality streaming over AAC varies greatly on Android. You need to download the Bose Music app if you want to remap the controls, access firmware updates, or switch between devices.

The USB-C case supports Qi wireless charging, and can fast charge the earbuds. All you have to do is place the buds in the case for 15 minutes, and you’re allotted two hours of playback. The earbuds last 5 hours, 29 minutes on a single charge with ANC enabled, which outperforms the Apple AirPods Pro but doesn’t come close to the Sony WF-1000XM4.

Want a better version of the AirPods? Check out the Bose Sport Earbuds

Bose stepped up its game with the Sport Earbuds: these true wireless workout earphones are the most comfortable of their kind. The slick design means you can use this outside of the gym without looking like you’re about to deadlift double your weight. The StayHear Max ear tips work extremely well and keep the earbuds in place during very rigorous movement.

Bose Sport Earbuds
Bose Sport Earbuds
7.5
The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds sit outside of the closed charging case, all objects are covered in sprinkles of water.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds in the charging case, adjacent to a pair of yellow rock-climbing shoes.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds USB-C charging case half-inserted into a fanny pack pocket.A woman opens the Bose Sport Earbuds charging case with one hand.A woman uses the The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds' mobile app, the Bose Music app.A woman wears the Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds with a biking helmet in the background.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds outside of the open charging case; the earbuds are facing belly-up so the StayHear Max ear tips are in full view.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds StayHear Max ear tips in view; the buds are against a beige background.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds sit outside of the closed charging case, with the logos of the case and buds facing the viewer.
Bose Sport Earbuds
Bose Sport Earbuds
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See review

Just like Bose’s debut totally wireless earbuds, these earphones feature an IPX4 water-resistant rating, so you can sweat to your heart’s content while wearing these. The microphone quality isn’t perfect but it’s improved since the previous generation. Bose packed in a four-mic array, which does a fabulous job of cancelling out low-frequency background noise.

Battery life is average for earbuds of this variety, and we measured just over 5 hours of playtime from a single charge. The case can fast charge the earbuds, when you’re in a pinch. All you have to do is place the buds in the case for 15 minutes, and you’re met with 120 minutes of playtime.

While the Sport Earbuds may not be the most durable on the market, they're among the most comfortable.

It uses Bluetooth 5.1, and the connection strength is good but imperfect. When Lily took the earbuds outside with her phone, the buds struggled to stay connected beyond the five-meter mark. However, when her phone was inside and she was outside, the connection didn’t start to break up until she edged toward the nine-meter mark, which is the absolute maximum end of the wireless range. These support AAC and SBC, the former of which supplies consistent high-quality audio to iOS devices.

See: Why is true wireless connectivity so bad?

If you want to stay well under $200, and need a pair of earbuds for everyday use, we recommend picking up a pair of the Bose Sport Earbuds.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset is a great gaming option

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset is just the beloved Bose QC 35 II with a microphone attachment slapped on. Its design is deeply rooted in the world of general consumer audio, making it the least-flashy gaming headset you can buy. Depending on your taste, this may be a negative but our resident gaming expert Sam Moore enjoyed it.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset
8
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset lays on a fabric surface next to its detachable microphone.The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset sits on a desk next to Logitech gaming keyboard and gaming mouse, a Bose Companion speaker, and copies Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, and Dreyer's EnglishA man wears the Bose QuietComfort 35 II sitting at a PC.The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset lays on a metal table next to its volume dial and a Logitech G413 Carbon mechanical gaming keyboard.The detachable microphone and volume dial for the Bose QuietComfort 35 II gaming headset sit together on a fabric surface.The Bose QuietComfort lays flat on a wooden table plugged into its volume dial.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset
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Bose includes a robust USB-A volume dial, which is intended for PC use. You can’t miss the large dial, which offers a satisfying amount of resistance as it rotates. The rubberized bottom prevents the dial from slipping across the table, one of the last things you want to happen mid-firematch. It also features a button, so you can monitor your microphone levels.

You might like: Best gaming headsets with good microphones

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset doesn’t overcomplicate things, and is meant for wired use when gaming. You can, however, use it as a standard QC 35 II Bluetooth headset when out and about in the real world. It’s kind of a two-in-one, which might make the $329 price more palatable. The boom microphone is very good, and the internal microphone (for wireless use) isn’t too shabby either. Unfortunately, you can’t buy the boom microphone separately, so you can’t just attach it to a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 II that you already own.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II internal mic sample (Ideal):

Bose QuietComfort 35 II boom mic sample (Ideal):

You can’t create a custom EQ profile, which is a real shame, but it has a generally pleasing frequency response. Sub-bass notes are amplified 6dB, meaning you’ll notice a difference in loudness between bass notes and midrange notes. The difference isn’t dramatic though, so you can still perceive plenty of detail from your music.

See: The best headphones for work

If money isn’t much of a concern, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset is the perfect companion for all of your late-night gaming sessions. It’s also a great thing to have if you spend the majority of your weekdays stuck in conference call, after conference call. If you want the regular Bose QC 35 II but think you could make use of the boom mic, this headset may be worth your time.

The best Bose headphones: Notable mentions

Of course, the options listed here aren’t all of the available Bose headphones. The ones that didn’t make the cut are all still fine, just not among the best four options they have to offer.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds next to the Bose Sport Earbuds for a size comparison.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (left) are bulkier than the Bose Sport Earbuds (right).
  • Bose QuietComfort 20: Just like the former earphones, these are not headphones. A popular choice for in-ear lovers, the QC20 is one of the more tried-and-true options here.
  • Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II: These cans are a very basic addition to the over-ear headphone lineup, without ANC or too many premium features. It’s not on this list because of its price.
  • Bose SoundSport Free: Whether you’re going to be lifting in the gym or going for a run, you shouldn’t have any issues with these falling out of your ears.
  • Bose SoundLink Micro speaker: For the on-the-go party that’s virtually pocketable, grab the SoundLink Micro.

What you should know about the best Bose headphones

Bose headphones are like any others in the sense that they use a set of drivers and fit on, around, or in the ear. But there are a few features that Bose headphones offer that make certain information more pertinent than with other brand lines. For one, Bose headphones are one of few lines that offer Google Assistant integration.

What is active noise cancelling and how does it work?

For commuting to school or elsewhere, noise cancelling headphones are a great choice for young people’s auditory health. Bose headphones use active noise cancelling which uses basic physics (if there’s such a thing) to get rid of unwanted noise. We have a full explainer of the details here, but the gist of it is due to something called destructive interference.

Why is isolation so important?

An illustration of the human cochlea.
This is your cochlea, responsible for determining what sounds you hear and what gets filtered out.

If you’re not listening to your music in a car, you’re probably listening in crowded buses, gyms, loud city streets, or rumbling trains with your Bose headphones on. In these less than ideal situations you’re surrounded by loud sounds. And when there are two sounds of a similar frequency, your brain will ignore the lower one and just focus on the one that’s louder. This is called auditory masking and while it sucks for music listeners today, it was great for our ancestors that had to survive in the wild and listen for predators.

Does music sound worse over Bluetooth?

You may have heard that Bluetooth sucks, and you should totally never buy wireless headphones. But is Bluetooth really that bad? Well, kind of. While Bluetooth quality and codec technology have improved greatly over the last few years, you still won’t get the same level of quality that’s attainable with wired headphones.

A chart showing the AAC Bluetooth codec's performance on the Huawei P20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and Apple iPhone 7.
It may be a high-frequency sound, but these drop-outs will be audible to younger ears.

We tested a few of the major Bluetooth codecs (the technology responsible for transferring higher amounts of data between your headphones and source device, thus resulting in higher quality) and found that they don’t all live up to their claims. In our testing, even AAC can be a little inconsistent on Android phones—but near-perfect on iOS devices. Luckily, your old ears most likely won’t even be able to hear the frequencies that are lost during the transfer. So while it’s technically true that wired headphones sound better, you’ll need to be a very keen listener to pick up the differences in most cases.

No, Bluetooth is not dangerous. There are plenty of conspiracies floating around on the internet but even though Bluetooth is a relatively new technology the science behind it is decades old. Just read for yourself.

Do you need to burn in any of the best Bose headphones?

A photo showing the inside grate of the AiAiAi TMA-2 MFG4.
Underneath everything else, the headphones are still pretty standard plastic cans.

If you hang around audiophiles enough or find yourself down a rabbit hole of audio forums on the internet, one phrase you’ll hear tossed around is “burn-in”. This is the belief that your brand new headphones need to be used for a certain amount of time before they can reach their peak performance. I’ll save you the hassle of trying this for yourself and just tell you that it’s not true. If you want to dig even deeper into this topic you can read our full explainer.

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Frequently asked questions about Bose headphones

Bose headphones work with both iPhones and Android phones, however, none of the company’s Bluetooth headsets support the aptX Bluetooth codec. This means that Android users don’t have a reliable, high-quality wireless listening option, while iPhone users do with the AAC codec. Of course, anyone can take advantage of lossless wired audio with any of Bose’s over-ear headsets.

(Click image to expand.)