For the past couple of weeks I’ve been testing three incredibly awesome pairs of Bluetooth headphones (the best wireless headphones under $350): the Beats Solo3 Wireless (the Product Red special edition), the Bose QC35s — or Quiet Comfort 35s — (the Midnight Blue limited edition) and the Sony h.ear on Wireless NCs in black. It’s been fun: I did a listening test, a sound leak test and a full feature comparison (all of which you can see and hear for yourself in the video.
When I set out to test the 3 best Bluetooth headphones that cost $350 or less I considered many options. Let me briefly explain how I ended up purchasing the Beats, Bose and Sony headphones to review. It’s pretty simple, actually: Audeze, Parrot, B&O and Grado either don’t have wireless headphones in this price range or don’t make wireless headphones at all (ahem, Grado).
Sennheiser and V-Moda, while basically in the price range, just don’t really make headphones that are “my style” (despite sounding great according to other reviewers). And the ever popular Audio Technica does make some wireless headphones but they would really fit better in a $250 and under roundup (and I obviously stayed away from cheap brands nobody has ever heard of before).
So why $350? To me this price range really hits a sweet spot that I’d call “affordably premium.” Headphones in this range certainly aren’t cheap but they’re still fairly attainable at the same time (they cost about what a kid would save up for a new gaming console).
Best wireless headphones spec comparison:
- Price: the Beats and the Sony’s both cost $300 while the Bose run $50 more.
- Fit: the Beats are on-ear while the Bose and Sony cans are both over-ear.
- Battery life: the Beats absolutely crush the competition with up to 40 hours of juice while the other two pairs are rated for only half that.
- Noise canceling: the Bose and the Sony are both noise-canceling and the Beats are not.
- Size: the Beats are the lightest and smallest of the bunch with the Bose not far behind and the Sony’s are about 2 oz heavier.
- Portability: all 3 are foldable and come with carry cases (the Beats have the smallest footprint while the Bose and Sony cases are both significantly larger).
- Controls: all 3 make use of real buttons rather than a wonky touch interface but the buttons on the Beats blend in much better (and are mostly camouflaged).
- Colors: the Beats have 8 color options followed by the Sony’s with 5 and the Bose with 3.
So those are the specs and features, but how about real-life performance?
Let’s start with the sound as that’s the most important factor when it comes to buying headphones of any sort — much less the best wireless headphones. To me the Bose have the best sound in terms of conventional standards. What I really mean by that is that they’re the most balanced and professional. Other than volume differences (as you can see in the video — the Sony is louder than the Bose at the same volume), the Sony’s sounded very similar to the Bose to my ears.
The Beats, however, are (not surprisingly) in a world of their own. They’ve got that signature Beats sound which some people love and some people hate. And of course I’m talking about the bass — it’s what defines the Beats listening experience. And with the Solo3 Wireless I’d say the bass is punchy without distorting. It’s definitely amped up but it won’t wash out the other sounds (the mids and the highs). It’s just more intense than the Bose or Sony’s (whose bass I would describe as smooth and, well, balanced).
So here’s the thing: the “best” sound is subjective and depends on your personal taste and preferences (and possibly your age, haha, along with the circumstances you find yourself in). I would call the Beats fun while I’d call the Bose and Sony headphones more serious and straight-laced (they’re for the sound snobs out there and I don’t mean that in a negative way).
In other words: they’re all great and all service different purposes and target difference demographics. Just pick the ones you like the best or that fit your life the best! There is no “right” answer, really.
In my sound leak test (aka the “how much are the people around you going to hate you test”) the Bose performed so much better than the other two headphones which were quite leaky by comparison (again you can see the results for yourself in the video).
Which are the most comfortable wireless headphones?
The Bose are definitely the most comfortable of the bunch (and you couldn’t have a list of the best wireless headphones without extreme comfort). No question about that. They’re all about comfort — it’s right in the name — and they don’t disappoint. They fit around the ear nicest, put the least amount of pressure on your head and the headband and ear cups are soft and plush.
Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me) was that the Beats came in second in the comfort department (for me, personally). Many (almost all) reviewers have said that the Beats Solo3 Wireless are pretty tight on the head — almost uncomfortably so. But I didn’t find that. I can definitely see what they’re talking about — they are snug, for sure — but I don’t find them uncomfortable.
The Sony’s came in last here just because they had a pretty snug fit around my ears. I wouldn’t call them uncomfortable — just snug.
Toughness and durability
But the Sony’s felt the most durable of the bunch to me. They’re super-solid. The Beats are pretty solid as well and the Bose felt the least solid of the pack but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re dainty or breakable. These are three amazing pairs of headphones, after all, and one of them had to be last. But really, I think it’s just that the Bose are the lightest of the bunch and that lends to the fact that they seem a little less sturdy (keyword there is seems).
I’m certainly not worried that any of the headphones will get broken or stop working with normal wear and tear. They’re all tough enough — especially if you treat them well and keep them in their carry cases.
Everyone is of course going to have an opinion when it comes to design (and in this small list of the best wireless headphones especially the design differences couldn’t be more different) but for me personally I really like the Beats. They’re the smallest of the bunch and I like the way they look on the head the best. The Sony’s seem gargantuan compared to the others so they are my least favorite in this instance. The Bose are right there in the middle for me.
Simplicity and usability
In terms of usability and simplicity the Beats again beat the competition. The Solo3 Wireless are just so simple to use — in large part thanks to the new Apple chip that can only currently be found in the Apple AirPods. This chip is what increases the battery life and extends the wireless range to almost ridiculous levels and also makes pairing a serious cinch (watch the video).
But the QC35s win some points for being the only headphones of the bunch that work with a companion app. The Bose app lets you fine tune and tweak the sound settings of your headphones to your hearts delight — something the other two headphones can’t match.
Noise canceling showdown
Now two of the best wireless headphones I’ve listed here are noise canceling — the Bose and the Sonys. Of the two the Bose ANC (active noise canceling) experience is superior, thought I didn’t the the Sony’s were bad at all. But the Bose noise canceling technology is just the best on the market — it’s pretty unbeatable.
- If you’re a traveler and you want peace and quiet and comfort you’ve got to go with the Bose.
- But if you’re really looking for something more stylish that will really let you crank up the bass you’re best bet is clearly the Beats.
- Finally if you want something that’s super sturdy the Sony’s are probably the right choice for you.
Truly you can’t lose with any of these headphones — collectively they’re the best wireless headphones under $350. Feel free to ask me any questions you have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.