Best Wireless Headphones For All Budgets 2021

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Whether for music on the go, or to unwind after a long day, wireless headphones have become an indispensable item. Here are nine of the best to consider in 2021. 

Wireless headphones are one of those inventions we never knew we needed. Remember when Apple forced us to cut the cord with the removal of the headphone jack from iPhone 7 onwards?

There was no small amount of bellyaching then. Fast forward to today, and look at the wondrous selection of highly advanced wireless headphones all around us. 

From pebble-sized earbuds capable of reproducing every note of your favourite opera, to sleek, lightweight headphones that can shut out surrounding noise like your personal isolation booth, here are eight of the best wireless headphones for every budget.      

Which type of wireless headphones are best for me: in-ear, on-ear or over ears?

One important thing to note when choosing a set of wireless headphones is the format – do you go for in-ear, on-ear or over ears? Here’s what you need to know about the three different formats.

In-ear wireless headphones (aka earbuds)

The smallest format of the three, in-ear headphones or earbuds consist of two earpieces to be worn in each ear. They often come with a carrying case that doubles as a charger, while some variations connect both earbuds with a flexible neckband that may also house an inline speaker or button controls.

The main appeal of in-ear wireless headphones is their small size, which is undoubtedly more convenient and less intrusive than full-size headphones.

However, as you can imagine, earbuds are limited in size and weight to allow for comfort during use. This limits the form factor that designers have to work with, resulting in early generations of in-ear headphones that were simply not very well-designed (*ahem* first-gen Apple Airpods *ahem*), yet quite costly.

Some of the common early problems were sound quality, loudness, battery life, connectivity or some combination of these. 

Thankfully, audio technology has improved by leaps and bounds, allowing the best in the in-ear format to compete with their larger cousins in delivering amazing sound. Some models even include active noise cancelling for enhanced isolation and immersion. 

With top-end capabilities packed into the small form factors, in-ear headphones cater to arguably the widest range of music lovers – from weekend warriors pumping iron, to harried professionals taking a boardroom Mozart break.

On-ear and over ear headphones

These two formats describe the universally recognisable design for headphones – that is, two earcups joined by a headband.

The difference between the two is actually quite subtle and may not matter to most casual music listeners. On-ear headphones have smaller earcups that are meant to fit on the ears. Over ear headphones, meanwhile, have larger earcups that are designed to cover the ear completely.

Both formats have their pros and cons. For example, on-ear headphones may be more comfortable for some, as only the ear canals and outer ears are covered. Over ear headphones, meanwhile, cups the entire ear and seal against the skull, which may cause you to feel hot. 

Another factor is size and weight – on-ear headphones are usually smaller and lighter than over ear headphones. However, on-ear headphones may not be as effective in blocking out ambient noise, compared to over ear headphones that engulf the entire ear.

Still, sonic technology has improved far enough that both formats are capable of delivering a satisfying listening experience, depending on how they’re designed.

Ultimately, the choice to go with either on-ear or over ear is a minor one and not likely to severely impact your listening experience.

What about noise cancelling?

Many headphones advertise themselves as ‘noise-cancelling’, but not all claims mean the same thing.

Simply put, there are two types of noise cancelling to consider: passive and active noise cancelling. 

Passive noise cancelling arises from simply blocking out ambient noise – which happens when you put in a pair of earbuds, or put a pair of headphones over your ears. Passive noise cancelling is highly dependent on physical factors, such as the fit or seal of your headphones, your surroundings, and the material your headphones are made of. 

Active noise cancelling (ANC) is what you should be looking out for if you anticipate using your headphones in noisy environments, or want to achieve the best listening experience.

Headphones with active noise cancelling utilise a variety of digital and analogue technologies to reduce or cancel ambient noise in and around your ears, creating a more conducive stage for your music. ANC can dramatically improve sound quality and result in a richer, more satisfying listening experience.

What if I want to customise my listening experience? 

The best way to choose headphones is to try them out yourself – your ears are the best judge anyway, and what sounds best to you, is best for you.  

You can further fine tune the output from your headphones by using the associated app which you can download and operate using your phone. 

Depending on your headphones’ brand and model, you may be able to access presets that enhance the quality of certain genres of music, or replicate different soundscapes. Some apps also come with a digital equalizer, so you can tune your music to suit your particular tastes.

9 best headphones for every budget 

Brand and model Type Features Price 
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Over ears

ANC: Yes

Battery life: 40hr

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Connections: Bluetooth

Comfort and fit: Memory foam ear cups, lightweight plastic

$106.22 on Amazon
Bose SoundSport Wireless In-ear (with neckband)

ANC: No

Battery life: 6hr

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Connections: Bluetooth, NFC

Comfort and fit: 3 sizes of in-ear tips, neckband 

$172.71 on Amazon 
Sony WF-1000XM3 In-ear (with charging case)

ANC: Yes

Battery life: 6hr

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Connections: Bluetooth

Comfort and fit: Ergonomic tri-hold structure

$217 on Amazon
Sony MDR-XB950B1 EXTRA BASS Over ears

ANC: No

Battery life: 18hr

Connections: Bluetooth, NFC

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Comfort and fit: Plush, deep earcups, leather-padded metal headband

$269 on Sony
Technics EAH-AZ70W In-ear (with charging case)

ANC: Yes

Battery life: 6hr

Connections: Bluetooth

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Comfort and fit: Lightweight, brushed aluminium 

$268.14 on Amazon
Jabra Elite 85t In-ear (with charging case)

ANC: Yes

Battery life: 31hr

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Connections: Bluetooth

Comfort and fit: In-ear, oval silicon eargels (S, M, L) 

$308 on Amazon
Apple AirPods Pro In-ear (with charging case) ANC: Yes

Battery life: 4.5hr

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Connections: Bluetooth

Comfort and fit: Soft silicon tips (S, M, L) 

$379 on Apple.com
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Over ears

ANC: Yes

Battery life: 20hr

Weight: 250gm

Connections: Bluetooth

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Comfort and fit: Leather earcups, steel headband with silicone-covered foam

$499 on Amazon
Sony WH-1000XM4 Over ears

ANC: Yes

Battery life: 30hr

Weight: 254gm

Connections: Bluetooth

Volume control: Yes

Microphone: Yes

Comfort and fit: Pressure-relieving foam earpads, swivel-foldable structure

$499 on Sony

Best headphones under $200

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid

Source: Anker

Price: $106.22
Features: ANC: Yes | Battery life: 40hr | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Connections: Bluetooth | Comfort and fit: Memory foam ear cups, lightweight plastic
Recommended for: Wallet-friendly music enjoyment in noisy environments.

The Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid offers up to 90% reduction in ambient noise, thanks to a clever combination of active-noise cancelling microphones and digital noise cancellation algorithm. 

So if you usually listen to music in noisy environments, such as on the train or bus, you’ll find this a great choice to enjoy your music without resorting to maxing out the volume. 

Looks wise, the Soundcore Life Q20 sports a somewhat dowdy design with matte finishing and recessed indicator lights. It’s not the most sexy-looking headphones, to be sure.

But at least the memory foam earcups and rotating joints offer hours of listening comfort – assured by its impressive 40-hour playback time.

And if you take in consideration the low, low price, this pair of headphones delivers loads of value.  

Bose SoundSport Wireless

Source: Bose

Price: $172.71
Features: ANC: No | Battery life: 6hr | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Connections: Bluetooth, NFC |Comfort and fit: 3 sizes of in-ear tips, neckband
Recommended for: Gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts looking to work out with a power playlist.

The Bose SoundSport Wireless delivers quality sound playback, combined with a sweat-resistance feature and lightweight-yet-secure fit, to power you through your run or weight-lifting.

Whether your exercise playlist consists of EDM, hip-hop, power ballads or a handpicked collection of personal anthems, the SoundSport Wireless does an admirable job of delivering clear, punchy beats on a bed of growling bass.

All this is achieved with the absence of active noise cancelling, a testament to the legendary BOSE audio quality.

The result is a pair of great-sounding workout headphones that sits securely in place through even the most intense of workouts – thanks to soft, comfortable silicone ear tips and a flexible, lightweight neckband. 

Best headphones under $400

Sony WF-1000XM3

Source: Sony

Price: $217
Features: ANC: Yes | Battery life: 6hr | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Connections: Bluetooth | Comfort and fit: Ergonomic tri-hold structure
Recommended for: Athletes and music lovers seeking true wireless freedom 

Offering style and power in a compact package, the Sony WF-1000XM is a great choice for those seeking the freedom of truly wireless headphones – especially with its lowered price after the launch of its successor (see below).

Launched in 2019, the WF-1000XM3 captured the attention of audiophiles already primed to expect great things from the series as the superior alternative to Apple’s Airpods. But this iteration soon proved capable of exceeding every expectation as it rose up to take its place among the top.

Delivering exceptional sound quality and dexterity across a wide range of genres, aided by digital active noise cancelling, the WF-1000XM3 has become a fast fan favourite. 

Audiophiles will, no doubt, enjoy the stunning performance and stylish design, while fitness folks will love the small form factor and truly wireless convenience. 

Sony MDR-XB950B1 EXTRA BASS

Source: Sony

Price: $269
Features: ANC: No | Battery life: 18hr | Connections: Bluetooth, NFC | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Comfort and fit: Plush, deep earcups, leather-padded metal headband
Recommended for: EDM bassheads and those who love bass-heavy tracks

Sony’s EXTRA BASS lineup features proprietary “Electro Bass Booster technology” to deliver a bass-oriented sound, a development catered to the rise of EDM and house music in recent years. 

While earlier devices focused on portable Bluetooth speakers meant for house parties (complete with poolside friendly IP67 rating and multi-coloured light show), the experience is now available to solo listeners via the MRD-XB950B1 wireless headphones.

Sturdy and premium-feeling, with plush, deep earcups and leather-padded metal headband, the MRD-XB950B1 delivers rich, textured sound with a focus on deep bass notes. Its audio performance will surely get you in the mood to bop along to your favourite basslines.

While these headphones are best paired with house and dance music, they can also produce some pretty interesting results for other genres too. Pop and K-pop will get a rich, concert-hall sound, while power ballads take on a deeper, more profound feel.

Technics EAH-AZ70W

Source: Technics

Price: $268.14
Features:  ANC: Yes | Battery life: 6hr | Connections: Bluetooth | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Comfort and fit: Lightweight, brushed aluminium 
Recommended for: A worthy option for those seeking premium-sounding, true wireless in-ear headphones.

Truly wireless in-ear headphones often underdeliver in an area or two, due to the tiny form factor designers are forced to work with. 

However, with a good balance between sound quality, build and price, the Technics EAH-AZ70W stands out as a worthy option for those seeking a good all-rounder in the truly wireless format.

This pair of headphones don’t suffer from the anemic sound that can plague some of its peers, delivering solid, punchy and spacious sound anchored by deep and deftly defined bass. Its digitally-enhanced active noise cancelling also creates audio isolation for a more immersive listening experience.

Additionally, the EAG-AZ70W’s looks as good as it sounds. Its premium sound is matched by an equally attractive brushed aluminium finish.

Jabra Elite 85t

Source: Jabra

Price: $308
Features: ANC: Yes | Battery life: 31hr | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Connections: Bluetooth | Comfort and fit: In-ear, oval silicon eargels (S, M, L) 
Recommended for:  Those who want great-sounding, long-lasting wireless headphones.

If battery life is your main concern, you’ll like the 31-hour playback time on the Jabra Elite 85t. Assuming 3 hours of use each day, you can go for up to 10 days on a single charge. 

But long playback time isn’t the only reason why the Jabra Elite 85t made it onto our list. The model is also renowned for delivering exceptional sound quality for its price range, making it a worthy pick for those who’re looking for headphones with great punchy sound and a battery that just won’t quit. 

Adding to the allure is its active noise cancelling function, which drowns out the noise and puts the focus solely on your music. Its minimalist design and dainty size also makes it easy to carry around. It’s also comfortable in your ears, given the choice of three different eargel sizes that will fit almost every ear out there.

Source: Apple

Apple AirPods Pro

Price: $379
Features: ANC: Yes | Battery life: 4.5hr | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Connections: Bluetooth | Comfort and fit: Soft silicon tips (S, M, L) 
Recommended for: Music-loving iPhone loyalists 

Arguably the headphones that started it all, the first generation Apple AirPods were decidedly lacklustre. But with the arrival of the Pro version, Apple has more than redeemed itself. 

The Apple AirPods Pro fixes the most glaring fault of its predecessor — leaky music — with soft silicone tips that come in three sizes, paired with an in-app Fit Test that helps you select the best tip size for your ears.

Another laudable feature is the top-end active noise cancellation which adjusts at 200 times per second, so you get crystal clear sound no matter your listening environment. 

Plus, if you’re an iPhone loyalist, the Apple Airpods Pro is simply the best in-ear headphones for the device, thanks to a superior in-app experience.

While Apple is sometimes criticised for products that look better than they perform, this is not the case with the AirPods Pro. It’s pricey, but you’ll be getting the best of Apple’s iconic design paired with some serious, high-end technology.

Best headphones above $400

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Source: Bose

Price: $499
Features: ANC: Yes | Battery life: 20hr | Connections: Bluetooth | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Comfort and fit: Leather earcups, steel headband with silicone-covered foam
Recommended for: Music afficandoes that also appreciate great design 

The award-winning Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 will be sure to turn heads, if not with its sleek, organic curves, then with its reputation as Bose’s best-sounding wireless headphones. 

As Bose’s flagship in the hotly contested wireless headphone market, the 700 has a lot to stand up to. The device is more than capable of holding its own, featuring the best of Bose’s sound control that spans 11 settings, earcups with internal and external microphones for effective noise cancellation, external vents for optimal acoustic space, and other such wonders.

The Bose 700 looks and feels good as well, thanks to fully leather earcups paired with a steel headband with silicone-covered foam padding, and ergonomic design that mimics the ears’ natural angle. A burnished finish further accentuates its understated looks. 

Sony WH-1000XM4

Source: Sony

Price: $499
Features: ANC: Yes | Battery life: 30hr | Weight: 254gm | Connections: Bluetooth | Volume control: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Comfort and fit: Pressure-relieving foam earpads, swivel-foldable structure
Recommended for: Fans eager to see how far Sony can push the envelope

A follow-up to 2019’s smash hit WH-1000XM3, the WH-1000XM4 brings everything to the table, and then some. 

Instead of resting on its laurels with a few design tweaks, the WH-1000XM4 brings improvements on the best bits of its predecessor. Introducing a brand new sound processor, the latest model allows even highly compressed tracks to approach high-res quality. 

Noise cancelling – Sony’s claim to fame in the wireless headphones war – is even better here, with new algorithms and technology enabling real-time noise-cancelling performance. You won’t have any trouble isolating yourself to enjoy your music, even if you’re in the midst of a busy street.

And the cherry on top has got to be the improved comfort on the WH-1000XM4 (not that its predecessor was in any way uncomfortable), with larger, softer earcups and a slightly slimmer headband cushion.


Regardless of which wireless headphones and its budget range suits your needs, be sure to get it with the right cashback credit card to maximise your spend. Check out our comprehensive credit card comparison if you are in the market for one.

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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.