Beats vs. Bose: Which brand makes the best headphones?

Who makes the best wireless headphone: Beats vs Bose? We're pitting the two popular brands against each other in a head-to-head showdown to help you figure out which one deserves your cash.

We've taken a pair of headphones from each of these well-regarded brands, and looked at a range of factors. Audio quality, comfort, battery life, noise cancellation and more all come under our scrutiny as we figure out whether Beats or Bose offer the best in each category.

While we've picked out specific pairs of headphones to use as our baseline, we've also pulled in the best deals for each brand across their headphone ranges. With sales days like Black Friday fast approaching, it's worth being vigilant and pouncing on bargains when you find them. 

If none of the Beats and Bose headphones appeal to you, fear not – we've tested and reviewed plenty of other models from different brands in our best headphones (opens in new tab) buying guide. But for now, let's get into the thick of it and start the showdown: Beats vs Bose.

Beats vs Bose: Beats Studio3 vs Bose 700

We’ve chosen two comparable pairs of headphones as champions for this battle. In the Beats corner, the Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones – these premium wireless over ear headphones have an MSRP of $350 and they’re the top end of what Beats has to offer. 

Meanwhile, in the Bose corner, we have the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, widely regarded to be the best noise-cancelling headphones the company has ever produced. Commanding an RRP of $379, they're a more sophisticated option than the recent Bose QC 45 headphones.

We’ve split this contest down into five distinct categories: comfort, noise-cancelling, audio quality, battery life, and style

Beats vs Bose: Comfort

Over-ear headphones are meant to cup your ears so you can wear them comfortably for hours at a time. These Beats are adjustable, like most headphones, so they'll fit your head without issue. However, your ears may not sit just right inside the ear cup unless your ears are relatively small. The craftsmanship of the earpieces leaves something to be desired, too, as many customers reported peeling materials after only six months' use.

Weight-wise, the two sets of headphones are pretty much the same proposition. The Beats cans are a little heavier, though it's only a difference of 10g so it's not something you're realistically going to notice. The Beats do fold down a bit better though, with the Bose pair still quite chunky even in their smallest configuration.

We were impressed with the comfort level of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in our review. They're fine to wear for hours on the go without any issue, and the cleverly integrated on-ear controls work very well. They never feel like they're squeezing your head the way some over-ear headphones do, and the seamless metal connecting band feels light and comfortable across the head.

Winner: Bose

Beats vs Bose: Noise Cancelling

Often, noise-cancelling comes down to what you can perceive. If you have sensitive hearing, you may be able to pick up a slight hissing sound while using these Beats wireless headphones. They employ Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which is noise created through microphones in the ear cups to help block out background noise. The effect is staggering, and it really does block out almost all external noise.

The downside is that this hissing noise could be irritating to some listeners, but we’ve never had any issues with it, especially when listening to music or other audio. You’re only likely to hear the sound when the headphones are on, but nothing is playing.

Bose, however, was always going to be the hands-down winner here. The noise cancelling tech in the Bose 700 headphones is freakishly good; at its highest settings, it can essentially banish the rest of the world away and leave you completely alone with your sounds. The ambient noise-removal tech got a whole overhaul for these headphones and it has paid off handsomely. The intensity of the effect can also be fine-tuned, which is handy for making them suit your personal preferences. 

Winner: Bose

Beats vs Bose: Audio Quality

Traditionally, Beats are known for heavy bass, but that's not the case for the Beats Studio3 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones. The sound quality of these Beats is more balanced than ever, but perhaps a bit muddled. Audio quality is largely subjective, so without trying them out yourself, you have to blindly trust reviewers – who all have a different set of ears. If clarity and purity in sound is what you seek, you won't find it in these Beats, but the quality is decent enough for all the other features you get.

As we said, it's important to remember that audio quality is a subjective measurement. That being said, Bose's headphones do well in this department. The sound quality they produce is consistently clear and bold, with vocals and other mids rendered cleanly. The bass can be a little weak by default, but this is the sort of thing that's not too hard to adjust. It's a close-run thing, but for our money, the Bose cans squeak by here.

Winner: Bose

Beats vs Bose: Battery Life

Beats includes a built-in rechargeable battery that is meant to last up to 22 hours during wireless use, which is right on the target for most users. In fact, if you turn the Active Noise Cancelling off, you can squeeze up to 40 hours of battery life out of these things. They last even longer when plugged in too. Now that’s not bad, not bad at all.

The Bose 700 headphones, meanwhile, are rated to last around 20 hours. It's a decent showing, and both our testing and user reviews seem to bear it out. They can also charge within fifteen minutes to deliver up to two hours of playback – though once again, the Beats come out ahead in this category, able to juice up to three hours of playback on a ten-minute charge. 

Winner: Beats

Beats vs Bose: Style

You won't find a better-looking pair of headphones on the market than these Beats. They come in 9 different colors, so you can consider these an accessory to your outfit as much as a piece of technology. These headphones fold up to a compact size and fit neatly in the included case.

The Bose 700s are no one's idea of bad-looking, and are a definite step up over the previous QC 35 II headphones. They're sleek and have a premium feel, with an all-metal band and smooth earcups. The overall style is a little more utilitarian than the Beats, and there are considerably fewer color options to choose from. We'll give this one to the Beats – it's hard to imagine anyone choosing the Bose headphones based solely on looks.

Winner: Beats

Should you buy the Beats Studio3 or Bose 700 headphones?

In the end, both Bose and Beats headphones offer something different, so it really depends on what you value. The Bose 700 headphones offer superior sound quality, especially in the mid range, and are more comfortable to wear for long periods. Their class-leading noise cancellation technology is also top of the heap, able to completely and totally block out the outside world to an unerring degree,

The Beats Studio3 headphones, meanwhile, are the more stylish option, and have superior battery life. At retail price, they're also a little cheaper, though this isn't necessarily an ironclad guide. In reality, the prices for both sets of headphones can and do fluctuate considerably. 

What’s that? You’re not going to let us cop out and call it a tie? Fine, Bose wins. Neither set of headphones is a bad choice, and while we think the audio quality in the Bose cans is superior, Beats certainly aren’t bad. But when you’re dropping $350 on a pair of headphones, you expect better than “not bad” audio quality. The Bose headphones ask for a little extra premium, but for our money, it's worth it.

Ian Stokes is the Tech Editor here at Top Ten Reviews. He has extensive experience in tech and games journalism, with work published on IGN, Kotaku UK, Waypoint, GamesRadar, Trusted Reviews, and many more. You'll find him covering everything from smartphones and home computers to 3D printers and headphones. He's also our resident cocktail expert.

With contributions from