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While the year’s events may have led to many working from home, there’s something to be said for popping on a pair of headphones, even when you’re within the confines of your own house. They let you focus on the task at hand while blocking out distractions, and with Zoom calls now part of the new normal, headphones prevent audio bleed – everyone will be able to hear you better, and vice versa.
But why Bluetooth headphones? Over-ear cans tend to be more comfortable, especially if you’re using them over a full day, and wireless connectivity offers convenience and tidiness. The trouble is, it’s tough to pick the right cans for you. Luckily, we’ve dug through the endless reams of options and found the best five.
What makes a great set of Bluetooth headphones?
There are a number of factors to consider when picking out a pair of Bluetooth headphones, including comfort, features and aesthetics. Read on for a quick guide on what these entail and how they’ll impact your decision.
Battery life/Charge time: Because these headsets are wireless, battery life plays a crucial role. Some cans offer “quick charge” capabilities to get the music flowing within minutes, while others have long-lasting battery life that will keep you going for a while without a charge.
Isolation/Noise-Cancellation: Clever tech that allows you to focus on your audio content of choice, noise cancellation works in a number of ways. Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) involves generating an “anti-noise” that mirrors and cancels the ambient noise. Adaptive Noise Cancellation, on the other hand, is similar, but the “anti-noise” is created by algorithms and adjusted in real-time. Passive Noise Cancellation, however, is where the headphones simply form a seal around your ears to stop sound getting in or out.
Style and build quality: While this is subjective, no one wants to wear headphones that are too garish or simply lack a premium feel. Spending your hard-earned cash on a pair of headphones only to have them feeling plasticky isn’t a great feeling, so the options we’ve picked are sleek yet rugged enough to last you.
Comfort and fit: Similar to style, comfort is subjective to a user. That said, however, the options we’ve picked here have numerous features that make them suitable for long durations of use. These include lightweight designs, padded ear cups and well-made headbands. The right pair should feel easy to wear for a few hours at a time – after all, why buy a pair if they’re not comfortable?
Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)
Bose has quietly become one of the best options for headphone buyers, offering some truly impressive features.
While it may lack the colour options of some others on this list, it offers not one, not two, but three levels of noise cancellation: high, low and off. We like that the low setting here lets in more ambient noise, which can be useful if you need to hear traffic around you, for example.
This more flexible way of looking at noise cancellation is backed up by a 20-hour battery life (40 hours with ANC turned off), the option to use it with a cable, and a full-featured Bose app that lets you tweak it to your liking – including allowing it to interface with digital voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and even Siri.
Beats Solo Pro
Beats may have once had a reputation for offering more style than substance, but the Solo Pro might be the Apple sub-brand’s finest effort yet.
A comfortable, on-ear design makes them better suited for longer use durations than even the more premium Beats Studio model. They also fold up into a fairly compact shape and come with a soft felt carrying case.
22 hours of battery life is nothing to sniff at, either, and you can get around three hours of playtime from a 10-minute charge via the Lightning cable. If you’re using an iPhone, iPad or Mac, you’ll be able to connect instantly thanks to the in-built Apple W1 chip, and then automatically switch between your source devices.
While these may be a pricey pair of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are just as incredible as the WH-1000XM3 they replace – previously the gold standard.
These sleek over-ear cans offer an understated design as well as comfortable headband and ear cups, the latter of which rotate to allow them to be very compact when placed in a bag or the included carry case.
For audiophiles, the WH-1000XM4 are capable of playing high-resolution audio, as well as upscaling compressed sound, too. It also offers 30 hours of battery life (with ANC on, impressively), and five hours of playback from a 10-minute charge.
Sennheiser Momentum 3
The metallic matte steel design may not be for everyone, but these incredibly comfortable Sennheiser headphones certainly make a statement – they almost look like they’d be at home in a futuristic command centre.
As with the Bose headphones, the Momentum 3 offers three levels of noise cancellation, as well as a customisable app to switch between them. There are also subtle hardware buttons on the left cup, allowing to adjust the volume, check the battery level, toggle the ANC and more.
The Momentum 3 also features handy Auto On/Off and Smart Pause functions when you remove/place the headphones on your ears. This is particularly useful, as the device’s battery life – 17 hours – isn’t the longest on this list.
However, the leather construction of the cups and headband certainly helps these cans stand out from the flock.
Jabra Elite 45h
Jabra has emerged as one of the “new kids on the block” in the headphones department, and the Elite 45h offers plenty to love. Considering the price, it offers excellent audio quality, but we especially love its massive 50-hour battery life on a single charge. Couple that with memory foam cups, and you won’t need to take them off – nor will you want to.
Its 40mm speakers – one of the biggest in this category – paired with Jabra’s customisable MySound app delivers a very enjoyable audio experience. The Elite 45h can also be paired with two devices at once, offers fast-charging (10 hours of playback in 15 minutes) and supports digital assistants. At just about $100, this is an unbeatable deal.