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 Bluetooth neckband in-ears are direct competitors to the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless and perform very similarly. However, while the Bose don't have access to an EQ, the Sony work with the excellent Sony | Headphones Connect app, which does everything the Bose Connect can do, but also adds a graphic EQ, room effects, preset sound profiles, and button mapping.
These headphones are decently comfortable, and they come with seven different tip options to help you find the best possible fit, which is great. They feel quite well-built, and should be stable enough to stay in your ears during a run or jog. Their out-of-the-box sound profile is decently well-balanced, though some people may find them a bit lacking in bass. Luckily, their companion app gives you access to EQ presets or a fully graphic EQ, so you can customize the sound profile to better suit your preferences.
Their noise isolation is great, thanks in part to their ANC feature which will help block out the low engine rumble of buses or planes, and keep you concentrated in an office filled with chatty co-workers. They can also be used wired if their battery dies with the included microUSB to 1/8" TRS cable, which is very rare for Bluetooth headphones. Overall, these are a great pair of neckband headphones that give you a ton of customizability options.
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 microphone that we've tested so far are the Jabra Elite 65e. While both the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless and the Sony WI-1000X Wireless have a built-in microphone, the Jabra's microphone performance is much better. They have a comfortable design as they don't go as deep in the ear canal as most in-ears, and their included stability fins help them stay in even during some workouts. They're the best earbuds with a mic that we've tested to date, and your voice should sound clear and full-bodied even when in relatively noisy environments.
While their out-of-the-box sound profile may be a bit bass-heavy and muddy for some people, luckily they work with Jabra's very good Sound+ app that gives you access to a graphic EQ, so you can customize the sound to better suit your preferences. They support multi-device pairing, which is great if you switch between two devices frequently, and while their ANC isn't as good as the Bose or the Sony's for the low rumble of engines, it still does a good job blocking out background chatter.
Unfortunately, their 8.5-hour battery life isn't quite as long as the Bose or Sony, but they can be used while charging, which is rare for neckband-style headphones. Overall, if you take a lot of phone calls while using your headphones and want something with a decent and clear microphone, these are your best option.
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.
01/31/2020: Minor text and structure changes; no change in recommendations.