Not too long ago, if you wanted wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling (ANC), or even just a good battery life, neckband headphones were the way to go. However, companies have been getting better and better at cramming these powerful features into ultra-compact truly wireless earbuds.
While neckband headphones might seem a bit outdated in comparison - after all, their core design hasn't changed much from the very first Bluetooth earphones - they're still very popular. Many people prefer how you can just put them around your neck and forget about them. You can enjoy having your music at arm's reach all day long, without needing to worry about dropping your earbuds if you take them out to chat with a friend. Even though truly wireless technology is catching up, neckband headphones also still generally have better ANC, microphone, and battery performance.
We’ve tested over 100 wireless earbuds and in-ear headphones. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best neckband headphones. If you’re looking for our top picks of other earbuds or in-ear 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 wireless neckband headphones we've tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. These headphones have a curved neckband that keeps you comfortable whether you're commuting or working at the office, and their soft, silicone earbud tips have a secure fit that doesn't put too much pressure on your ear canal.
Thanks to their well-balanced and neutral sound profile, they're versatile enough for a wide array of audio genres such as rock or podcasts. They also have an impressive active noise cancelling feature that helps to cut background sounds like bus and train engines so that you can enjoy your commute. Although they can take a bit of time to charge, their 11-hour battery life should be able to last you through your work day and their auto-timer is a nice feature that can help you save power when not in use.
On the downside, they don't have the best build quality. While it's mostly a cosmetic issue, the rubber coating surrounding the neckband can detach and peel away, which is disappointing for higher-end headphones like these. Still, they deliver a comfortable fit with great noise cancelling and a balanced, neutral sound, making them one of the best neckband headphones we've tested to date.
The best neckband Bluetooth headphones for customization we've tested so far are the Sony WI-1000X. Although it might be tempting to go for the newer generation Sony WI-1000XM2 Wireless instead, the older model performs better overall and is even more customizable. Their battery lasts longer, their noise cancelling is a little stronger, and they have a slightly more balanced sound out-of-the-box.
While these neckband headphones perform very well on their own, their excellent compatibility with the Sony | Headphones Connect app helps bring them to the next level. By default, they have a versatile, neutral sound; however, with the app, you can not only fine-tune their sound profile with a graphic EQ but also add room effects, customize sound positioning, and even activate virtual surround sound. These headphones can also be used wired once their 10-hour battery life runs out with the included micro-USB to 1/8" TRS cable, which provides extra value while traveling.
Unfortunately, some people find the earbuds press down uncomfortably near the ear canal, which can cause some fatigue over time. On the upside, these neckband earphones come with seven different tip options to help you find the best possible fit. Their in-ear fit also helps with their passive noise isolation. Combined with their impressive active noise cancelling, they isolate noise remarkably well, which makes them especially easy to recommend for commute and travel.
The best neckband earphones for mic quality we've tested so far are the Jabra Elite 65e. These wireless earbuds feature an in-line mic that’s closer to the mouth than other wireless headphones, which minimizes the volume of background chatter and makes your voice sound clearer and more full-bodied. Combined with a dedicated button for muting the microphone, they’re great for phone calls.
While their default sound profile is a little lacking in detail and clarity, it can be adjusted in the Jabra Sound+ app, which provides a wealth of functionality for their other features, including microphone controls, multi-device pairing, and setting up ANC profiles. With the latter system activated, they do a very good job of blocking out noise across the audible spectrum. They’re also very well-built and quite comfortable, with stability fin-shod earbuds that’ll stay in place even if you’re out on a run.
On the downside, their 8.5-hour battery life is a little on the short side. Their earbuds have unusually long stalks, so their fit might not suit everyone. Still, thanks to their high-quality microphone and plethora of customization options, the Jabra are among the best earbuds with a mic we’ve tested so far.
The JBL Live 200BT are the best budget neckband headphones that we've tested to date. These wireless in-ear headphones are decently well-built for the price, with a flexible rubberized neckband and braided audio cables. Their control scheme is intuitive, with clicky physical buttons for volume, track skipping, and call management.
These headphones have an extremely well-balanced sound profile with no part of the mix overwhelming another, so they should suit a wide range of musical genres. They also don’t leak too much audio, so feel free to crank up the volume without worrying about disrupting coworkers. Meanwhile, their 10.5-hour battery life should get you through the workday without an issue but might run out on the way home, especially if you’ve got an especially long commute.
On the downside, they lack any sort of dedicated app support to fine-tune your listening experience. However, they do offer multi-device pairing, which is a handy feature if you tend to swap between listening to content on your phone and computer. Overall, these are a no-frills pair of headphones that deliver very solid performance.
If you're looking for something more fully-featured and have a Samsung phone, then get the Samsung U Flex. They don't sound quite as well-balanced as the JBL Live 200BT Wireless straight out-of-the-box, but they're a lot more customizable thanks to their companion app on Samsung devices. With any other Android phone, the app is nearly useless, but on Samsung, you get not only a graphic EQ, but also room effects and volume monitors for different connected devices. They last just over 11 hours on a charge and also have a standby mode to help save power. Their in-ear fit isn't comfortable for everyone, though, and they don't isolate much noise passively.
Get the JBL if you'd prefer a simpler pair of earbuds that are missing all the bells and whistles but do what they do well. However, if you have a Samsung phone and would rather have something you can customize, then go for the U Flex.
07/28/2020: Minor changes to text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product picks.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best neckband Bluetooth 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.