Many people prefer neckband headphones over regular wireless earbuds and in-ear headphones for their added ease-of-use. Instead of rummaging through your bag or pockets to find your earbuds, they’re conveniently hanging around your neck, which ensures they’re easy to access when you need them. Neckband headphones also tend to have additional features that more compact earbuds simply can’t provide, like active noise cancelling (ANC), improved microphone performance, and better battery life.
We’ve tested over 80 wireless earbuds and in-ear headphones and below are our recommendations for the best neckband headphones in 2020. If you’re looking for our top picks for other in-ear or earbud headphones, check out our recommendations for the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds and in-ears, the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds for running and working out, and the best noise cancelling earbuds.
The best neckband headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. Neckband designs can be polarizing and are not for everyone, but Bose has done their best to make them comfortable while still sounding good. The plastic construction of the neckband is lightweight and well-built, and Bose has even included a hard carrying case for extra protection. Unfortunately, the rubber sleeve on the neckband is known to peel off after a few months of regular use. However, this is purely a cosmetic issue and doesn't affect the overall performance of the headphones.
The earbuds themselves provide a good amount of passive isolation, but the addition of active noise cancelling is what makes them great for traveling. With ANC on, most people can expect around 11 hours of playtime and only 2.5 hours for a full charge. The Bose Connect mobile app can keep track of the remaining battery life as well as control the desired amount of active noise cancelling. Sadly, there aren't any sound profile presets or EQ to customize the sound. On the upside, the default sound signature is already very good. They sound well-balanced overall, with a slightly recessed mid-range, but the treble can be a tad uneven when it comes to sibilances.
All in all, Bose has put together an enticing package. If you're on the market for a good pair of headphones to travel with, the Bose are a great choice.
The best customizable neckband headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Sony WI-1000X Wireless. These headphones are direct competitors to the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless. They're similar in several ways in that they're both neckbands, they both have active noise cancelling, and they both have good sound. What sets the Sony apart, though, is the excellent Sony Headphones Connect mobile app, which is one the best on the market. It does everything that the Bose app is capable of while adding features such as room effects, preset sound profiles, graphic EQ, and button mapping.
Noise isolation on these headphones can also go toe-to-toe with the Bose. They perform slightly better in the treble range, mainly due to Sony's in-ear design, which requires a deeper insertion into the ear canals for isolation. The better passive isolation will also come in handy if you run out of battery, as they can be used wired, which is a rare feature for Bluetooth headphones.
If you want a pair of headphones but you're not sure whether you'll like the default sound profile, the Sony will offer the most flexibility and are worth a try.
If you’re looking for customizable neckband headphones that are less expensive with a different design, then consider the Jabra Elite 45e. They aren't noise cancelling like the Sony WI-1000X Wireless, but they’re significantly cheaper and have a more comfortable earbud fit. The Jabra Sound+ app is less feature-packed than Sony’s, but it still offers a good number of customization options, like a graphic EQ and location presets. While their default sound is alright for more bass-heavy genres like EDM, it won’t be ideal for more vocal-centric pop or rock music. However, if you’re ready to spend a little time with the Jabra Sound+ EQ, you’ll likely find a sound profile to suit your needs.
Get the Sony if you're looking for customizable neckband headphones with ANC, but if you want something more comfortable and affordable, then go for the Jabra.
The best neckband headphones with a decent microphone that we’ve tested so far are the Jabra Elite 65e. They’re a good choice if you like the design of the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless but want better mic performance. They have a surprisingly complete control scheme with a dedicated mic mute button and a comfortable, well-built design.
They have a surprisingly satisfactory microphone for Bluetooth headphones and are currently the best earbuds with a mic that we’ve tested so far. They also have decent noise cancelling and isolate well overall. While they have great bass, some may find they sound a little sharp. Thankfully, the Jabra Sound+ app provides a graphic EQ for you to customize the way they sound. It also lets you choose different noise cancelling profiles and switch between microphone settings.
These headphones have an 8.5-hour battery life, which is decent, but they don’t last as long as the Bose or the Sony WI-1000X Wireless. Thankfully, they provide audio while charging, which is great if you often use them near a power source like at your desk. If you find their neckband too bulky, consider the Beats BeatsX Wireless. They aren't noise cancelling and their mic isn’t as good, but they have an even more flexible and portable design that some may prefer.
The best neckband earphones in the budget category that we’ve tested so far are the JBL Live 200BT. They have a very lightweight, breathable design with a slim and flexible neckband. They’re fairly comfortable and their controls are easy-to-use. They sound decent and isolate fairly well, which makes them a reasonable choice for commuters on a budget or casual users who prefer a neckband-style design.
They have impressive audio reproduction and a very well-balanced sound that lends itself well to music of a wide range of genres. They don’t leak much sound, either, so you don’t have to worry about bothering those around you with your music too much. Their battery provides just over 10 hours of continuous playback, which will help get you through your work day, and they can connect to your laptop and smartphone simultaneously.
Although most people will be pleased with their neutral sound signature, some may find they sound a little bass-lite, and they aren't compatible with the JBL companion app for you to EQ the way they sound. They also have pretty high latency, so they might not be ideal for watching videos or playing mobile games, but some devices and video apps seem to offer some sort of latency compensation, so you may not notice as much. Overall, they're the best neckband Bluetooth headphones in the budget category.
If you have a Samsung device and are looking for customizable budget headphones, then get the Samsung U Flex. Their default sound profile isn’t quite as balanced as that of the JBL Live 200BT Wireless, but you can EQ the way they sound in the Samsung Level app if you have a Samsung device. They’re reasonably well-built for budget headphones and have a flexible, lightweight neckband design that’s sure to please those who enjoy the convenience of having access to their music nearby. The app also provides other customizable features, like room effects and volume monitors on Samsung devices, but if you use another Android device, the app is rather lackluster.
Get the JBL if you don't care for customization and prefer something that sounds more balanced out-of-the-box, but if you're a Samsung user and want more options you can control, then get the Samsung.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best neckband headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews of wireless earbuds and in-ears. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.
12/03/2019: Minor text and structure changes; no change in recommendations.