Best(est) Bluetooth Headphones
Sennheiser has been setting the standard for sound quality in the audio industry, for years. It is not a brand always tuning its headphones for pleasant listening experience, they are usually more about technical accuracy, targeting pros. Unless you are certain kind of audiophile that is not ideal. And few pro users, obsessed about accuracy would be using a bluetooth headphone, anyway. But with a quality pair of Sennheisers you can be confident that you are getting clean and accurate sound. Which is more than you can say about many of its competitors (cough, #Beats).
Momentum series takes things in a welcome direction, of achieving an extremely pleasant and clean sound, that you will immediately appreciate during long sessions of listening to music. And with the latest, Momentum 4 model they have a home run! It is our winner of the sub-$400, active noise-cancelling (ANC), bluetooth, over-ear headphone category. And they are winning with a comfortable margin, too!
We tested many bluetooth headphones. Here we highlight the ones we liked the most. And we are starting by mentioning some technical details. Specs ain’t everything, but as a baseline, it’s good to know what they are.
Please note that sound quality is the author’s subjective take. I am not a sound engineer, or a professional musician, but I was classically trained in musics earlier in life, and am somebody who listens to a lot of music so you can think of me as a fellow consumer, who has tried way too many headphones and has a reason to believe that he can tell good from bad, and great from good, all the more technical frequency measurements be damned. I also often look at the opinions of other reviewers, I consider trust-worthy, to check my biases and make sure you don’t get an opinion nobody else agrees with, just in case (so far so good).
The prices indicated here are the ones on Amazon at the time of writing this review.
|Sennheiser Momentum 4
|SBC, AAC, aptX
|Soundcore Life Q35
|SBC, AAC, LDAC
|SBC, AAC, LDAC
|Bose QuietComfort 45
Now, without further ado, let’s get to which one is the best.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 over-ear bluetooth headphones are the clear winner for us, comparing across all dimensions that matter, and after hours of first-hand listening.
The Momentum 4 over-ear headphones are a fantastic choice. More affordable than Sony and Bose, but with far superior sound they make most music listening a delightful experience, even for prolonged sessions. They have accurate sound reproduction so baseheads will want to crank-up their equalizers, but for the rest of us they are perfect right out of the box. Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) while somewhat less capable than the class-leading Sony, is very good and nothing to complain about. It has very long battery life with mind-boggling 60 hours and very convenient fast charging, that will juice you up for 4 hours of listening with just 5 minutes of charging! The build quality is sublime and we really like the subtle, modern looks, as well. Usually, Sennheiser is not my cup of tea, because they often have too technical sound profile, but Momentum 4 is none of that. It is a true consumer marvel. If we have to point out any weakness, it is the limited expansion of the headband. Frankly, these headphone may not be for people who have larger than average head, so make sure you check for comfort before you throw-away the packaging and make your purchase final.
Soundcore by Anker Life Q35 Multi Mode Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are an amazing deal! We actually liked the 2021 RedDot-award winner Q35s more than the updated Q45 model.
SoundCore by Anker is a relatively new entrant on the audio market, but boy do we love them! These Chinese manufacturer, usually known for their chargers and battery packs has been taking the audio industry with their fantastic products and shockingly low prices. Life Q35 is one of the best headphones they have ever made, if not the best. It won the prestigious RedDot innovation award in 2021, for a reason. Actually, we tested the updated Q45 model and really tried to like it more, but Q35 is simply better. It’s lighter, more comfortable and has the Tap To Talk feature that they shockingly removed in Q45. This feature allows you to touch an ear-cup to pause what you are listening to, so you can talk to somebody, and then resume the listening, without removing the headphones, super nice!
We love Life Q35’s sound! It is crisp, clear and enjoyable with wide soundstage. It is definitely not as good as that of the Sennheiser Momentum 4, but the price is less than half, so per dollar it may even be better. Try yourself if you don’t believe it!
The other thing SoundCore nails in all of its products, including Q35 is multi-device connectivity. This is the bane of surprisingly large (most?) bluetooth headphones–if you pair it will multiple devices, switching from one to another is always buggy. Not with SoundCore! As a matter of fact, in our experience, only Sony is as good as SoundCore in this regard. And Apple, to some extent (if all your devices are also Apple-branded). It makes a huge difference if you use your headphones with your laptop, phone, and tablet, or maybe other devices as well.
In summary, SoundCore is not the best of this category, it is the best in sub-$150 category, but it is so good that it got a glowing mention as the affordable option even when compared to much more expensive alternatives, because it is just very, very good for the price! Give it a try, if budget is important for you.
Best ANC for Travelers
Sony has been the top dog in this category last several years, having comfortably bumped previous winners in Bose. And their latest model, WH-1000XM5 doesn’t disappoint. If you travel a lot by air or train, you should definitely consider Sony.
Sony has hands-down the best noise-cancelling and call quality in this category! If you travel a lot, or make calls a lot, this is the headphones you should buy. They are also very comfortable, so if Sennheisers are too tight for you, Sony is probably a great choice. Their app is great and build quality is nice. What we don’t like about them is the clean but disappointingly dull sound. It’s not bad, not by any stretch of imagination, it’s just not enjoyable at all. We love music, and listen to it all day, every day and WH-1000XM5s are not the headphones we would pick up to enjoy any genre of the music. It’s too boring, unless we were fighting the roaring of airplane turbines or the deafening sound of train running on rails. If that is you, Sony could save you a lot of headache, literally, and go for it!
Bose QuietComfort series had industry-leading noise-cancelling when they were introduced and they are still riding that fame, but the reality is that Sony, and Apple, albeit in higher price category, have far surpassed them and there is not much Bose has going on, anymore, in our opinion. They never sounded particularly well to begin with. We don’t think they justify the high price they carry, and thus do not recommend them, but you may disagree with us so give them a shot, in case you like them.
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