The over-ear, wireless headphone market is a crowded one and it can be hard to differentiate between good over-ear headphones and bad ones.
You’d be forgiven to think that the best over-ear wireless headphones are simply rated on their sound quality. In reality, there’s much more to it than that.
There are many things to consider when buying a new pair of over-ear wireless headphones. In this guide, we’ll explain the important features you need to look for and give you a ranked list of the best over-ear wireless headphones NZ for 2021.
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The best over-ear wireless headphones NZ 2021
Customisable ANC | 30-hour battery life| Fantastic price | Supports high def codecs
Sony’s WH-1000XM4’s are the best over-ear wireless headphones on the market. They produce a top quality sound that allows you to easily hear every instrument in the mix and they support a variety of audio codecs, including the high definition LDAC codec.
The WH-1000XM4’s are lightweight and comfortable with very little clamping force. You can wear them for long periods, with their 30-hour battery life off a single charge, and they won’t get uncomfortable.
The WH-1000XM4’s touch controls and noise cancellation are excellent and you get everything you would expect in a high quality set of over-ear wireless headphones for less than the competition costing $400.
Apple AirPods Max
Great ANC | Expensive | Sturdy aluminium frame | Massive soundstage
Apple has a habit of entering markets late and then changing the game. And it has done it again with the AirPods Max. The sound is as good as I’ve heard from a high-end (non-studio) pair of headphones, and the functionality is equally peerless. The design of the headphones is already iconic too, though the case could be a lot better.
Yes, they’re expensive. But high-end audio is already expensive. Apple justifies its price with industry-leading sound, design, and seamless connectivity with the Apple ecosystem.
Clearly, the AirPods Max won’t be for everyone, but the features and functionality offered here will appeal to lots of people.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Market-leading ANC | Great one-piece design | Vibrant sound | 20-hour battery life
Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are, I think, the best-looking headphones on the market. The one piece design is sleek and classy centered around the stainless steel headband.
The 20-hour battery life is less than Sony’s flagship over-ear headphones but still more than enough to get you through a long flight. The touch controls are intuitive and if you’re looking for the best noise-cancelling over-ear headphones on the market then the Bose 700’s will suit you.
Importantly, the Bose 700’s sound great. They have a bassy, vibrant sound with a wide soundstage. The higher frequencies can sound harsh at times but overall the sound is very good.
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 3 Wireless
Tile integration | Unique design | Small battery life | Lots of audio customisation
The first thing that sets the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 3 Wireless Headphones apart from its competition is the in-built Tile integration. Using the Tile app you can easily find your headphones if you’ve misplaced them, which is great.
They have a unique design and are made of sturdy metal materials as opposed to the more common plastic and they’re compatible with several codecs aptX, AAC, and SBC. The MOMENTUM 3’s produce a great sound with the wide soundstage however the ANC isn’t quite as good as other wireless over-ear headphones on this list.
The MOMENTUM 3’s have the smallest battery on this list at 17-hours off a single charge.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
Market-leading ANC | Lacks touch controls | Easily manoeuvred | 20-hour battery
The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II over-ear wireless headphones are good but not great. They produce a good sound quality that people will love, but the bass can sometimes be overpowering.
Bose is well known for its market leading ANC and its present with the QuietComfort 35’s. They have a standard black plastic design, they’re comfortable and are easily maneuvered into bags and cases.
If you aren’t a fan of touch controls then these headphones may appeal. The buttons on the sides of the ear cups are intuitive and easy to use and the wired connection is a nice touch.
It’s important to understand that these are older wireless headphones. Bose has released a newer flagship model, the 700 series. Yet while they’re older they still do a good job.
What to consider when choosing the best over-ear wireless headphones
How much should I spend?
Over-ear headphones are expensive. This is because they come with a bigger battery, better sound engineering and better active-noise cancellation compared to in-ear alternatives.
The price for over-ear wireless headphones ranges dramatically. You can expect to pay anything between NZ$400 and NZ$1,000 for a good pair of wireless over-ear headphones. Don’t panic, though as the NZ$1,000 headphones are right at the top of the range. You can still get a really good pair of over-ear wireless headphones for around NZD$500.
Do audio codecs matter?
It’s important to consider what audio codecs the headphones support. Nearly all headphones are compatible with the universal AAC codec, however more advanced codecs aren’t always supported. If you’re looking for high-resolution audio streaming (from services like Tidal) then you should consider getting a pair of headphones that support high-resolution codecs. If you’re happy listening to low-resolution music (Spotify) then advanced codec support might not be the most important factor for you.
How much does the design of the headphones matter?
The design of over-ear wireless headphones is very important. Over-ear headphones are designed to be worn for long periods of time and they need to be comfortable. The clamping force of over-ear headphones is especially important to think about. If you find the headphones are tight and they tend to crush your head, this could pose an issue.
It’s also important to take into consideration what material the headphones are made out of. If you’re the type who likes to rigorously use your headphones then you’ll want a pair that is made of sturdier material. Sometimes there can be a tradeoff between sturdiness and comfort so you’ll need to decide which one is more important to you and choose your headphones accordingly.
Does it matter what device I’m connecting my headphones to?
It definitely pays to take into consideration what device you use to stream your music. There are multiple reasons for this. Firstly, audio codecs require both the headphones and the device to support them in order for them to work. If your phone supports a high-resolution codec but your headphones don’t (and vice versa) you won’t be able to stream your music using that codec.
It’s also important for voice assistants. If you’re an Apple user, and you use Siri as your voice assistant, then it would be wise to purchase over-ear headphones that are compatible with Siri. The same goes for Google Assistant and Alexa.
Is noise cancellation important?
While most of the best wireless over-ear headphones have very good active noise cancellation, this is still something you should consider. If you find you turn noise cancellation off and on a lot then it’s important to consider how many different levels of ANC your headphones provide.
The best headphones also come with ambient sound controls that allow you to hear outside noises. This allows you to constantly wear your headphones without taking them off and if that’s what you’re looking for you’ll want a pair of headphones that are capable of providing a good ambient sound.
Are touch controls important?
Yes. The days of getting your phone in and out to change song or pause music are over.
The best over-ear wireless headphones have great touch controls. In the past, buttons were used, but now it seems premium headphone brands are moving to touch controls.
It’s important to think about what your chosen headphones allow you to do with touch controls. Some headphones have more customisation options than others, and it’s important to think about what you’re going to want to do with your headphones on the fly. Some headphones don’t allow you to change volume with touch controls while some do. It’s important to consider what you want to be able to do with touch controls, and purchase headphones that allow you to do so.
Do my over-ear headphones need a large battery?
Most of the time, over-ear headphones will last a lot longer than in-ear headphones simply because they house a bigger battery.
There isn’t much difference between the battery life for the best over-ear wireless headphones these days, with most of them providing an average of 20 hours of battery off a single charge (which is plenty.)
However, some headphones do accommodate wired connections as well as wireless Bluetooth. If you travel a lot and don’t always know where you’re going to be able to charge your headphones, then this is an important feature to consider.