Update, August 20, 2020: The Sony WH-1000XM3 has been replaced with the Sony WH-1000XM4, and to replace the Bang & Olufsen H9 with the LG Tone Flex XL7.
As Amazon and Apple continue to push their virtual assistants onto consumers, Google follows suit. The conglomerate has teamed up with a few big-name companies to enable Google Assistant integration into a variety of headphones. If you want to take full control of your phone from your headphones, any of these picks will do.
Best Google Assistant headphones:
- Sony WH-1000XM4
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
- New Google Pixel Buds (2020)
- LG Tone Flex XL7
- JBL Live 650BTNC
Editor’s note: We will update this list of the best Google Assistant-integrated headphones regularly as new devices launch.
1. Sony WH-1000XM4
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones succeed the Sony WH-1000XM3, and offer incremental but welcome improvements from the previous generation. For one, there are now modern comforts like automatic ear detection, so media playback auto-pauses as the headset is removed. It also uses speak-to-chat voice recognition, which relies on AI to detect your voice. It then automatically decreases media volume so you can carry a quick exchange with someone. Our very own Adam Molina found this to be more of a nuisance than a perk, though, because of how sensitive the voice pickup was. You can always disable it through the free Headphones Connect app.
Noise-cancelling performance is excellent, and low-frequency sounds are effectively reduced. Any commuter will be happy to have these noise-cancelling headphones. Audio quality is excellent, but may sound odd to listeners used to cheaper consumer headsets. Bass notes aren’t egregiously amplified, and can make it seem like the bass is nonexistent. Quite the contrary: bass and midrange notes, where most instrumental frequencies fall, are accurately relayed. This is a versatile headset when it comes to software features and reproducing all genres of music.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 support both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
High-quality Bluetooth codecs are supported for all of your streaming needs, including SBC, AAC, and LDAC. The omission of aptX support is curious, but LDAC has been supported across Android devices since Android 8.0, so it shouldn’t be an issue for modern devices.
Sony WH-1000XM4 microphone demo:
Microphone quality is great, and will get you through all of your daily conference calls. Fast charging is very efficient: 10 minutes of connection to the USB-C cable yields five hours of playtime. Battery life is very good, and SoundGuys Sony WH-1000XM4 review recorded nearly 20 hours of playtime on a single charge.
2. Bose Headphones 700
If you’re a committed Bose fanboy, the Bose Headphones 700 are the company’s latest flagship. These have great noise-cancelling capabilities, comparable to the Sony WH-1000XM3. Sound quality is improved over the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headset. The new design is much sleeker than the Bose QC 35 II headphones, and this new model has a touch panel for gesture controls. Unfortunately, the Headphones 700 don’t have hinges, which affords less flexibility for packing. The integrated microphone sounds fine but makes low voices sound unnatural.
Bose is pushing its Bose AR platform. This is meant to bridge the digital and physical worlds by providing tailored audio content depending on your environment. The price may be hard to justify for many but these are a worthwhile upgrade from the QC 35 II.
3. Google Pixel Buds (2020)
The new Google Pixel Buds (2020) take a very simple, elegant approach to intricate technology. Users can easily access Google Assistant directly by saying, “Hey Google,” or by a simple tap-and-hold of either touch panel. The snail-like design is uniquely slim and sits practically flush against the outer ear, but the disc has a relatively large diameter and may prove uncomfortable for those with small ears.
Microphone quality is very good and transmits clear audio quality. Listeners on the other end of a call will recognize that you’re speaking from a headset mic, but background noises are effectively ignored and speech intelligibility comes through clearly. Take a listen for yourself:
Google Pixel Buds (2020) microphone demo:
Sound quality is excellent for a pair of consumer earbuds: bass notes are lightly amplified, granting more “oomph” to music reproduction. The spatial vent at the bottom of each earbud keeps listeners aware of their surroundings while still isolating the listener a bit from her surroundings. It serves as a good middle-ground between nozzle-free designs (e.g. AirPods) and standard earbuds.
4. LG Tone Flex XL7
The LG Tone Flex XL7 is a top-notch pair of wireless neckbuds with Google Assistant support. There’s a dedicated Google Assistant button the outer edge of the neckband, so you may quickly ask Google questions, request a readout of new notifications, set reminders, and more.
These stylish earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 and support SBC and AAC, the latter of which is for high-quality audio. Battery life is very good, and SoundGuys tested nearly 10.5 hours of playtime on a single charge. Quick charging is available; plugging the headset into the USB-C cable for 10 minutes provides three hours of playtime, making these a great pair daily earbuds.
Sound quality is neutral-leaning, and bass notes are slightly de-emphasized, which can be frustrating to listeners who are accustomed to booming bass notes. Midrange notes like vocals and popular instruments are accurately reproduced, and sound quality is generally clear.
LG Tone Flex XL7 microphone demo:
Microphone quality is quite good, and speech intelligibility was never an issue during testing. When moving about, though, the headset may rub against your clothing which will be heard by the person on the other end of the call.
5. JBL Live 650BTNC
These are some of the best JBL headphones and can be had for less than $200. Based on the headphones’ design and sound signature, the JBL Live 650BTNC are a great Beats alternative. Noise-cancelling performance is fine for the price, especially with attenuating low-end sounds. Speaking of the low-end, these are bass-heavy headphones.
If you listen to classical or vocal-heavy music, you may want to consider some of the other products mentioned. JBL combines physical buttons with a touch panel on the left ear cup for comprehensive on-board controls and Google Assistant access. If you want a stylish pair of noise-cancelling headphones for less, these are your best bet.
What you should know about Google Assistant headphones
Google Assistant headphones with complete integration grant listeners more control of their phones. It means that Google certified and optimized the product for its virtual assistant software. You can receive notifications via your voice without reaching for your phone. That said, not all Google Assistant headphones support direct voice access.
Bluetooth codecs explained
It’s no secret that wired audio quality still outperforms wireless audio, and that’s because the latter relies on lossy transmission through Bluetooth codecs. All you really need to know is that AAC, while a high-quality Bluetooth codec on paper, performs poorly across a range of Android devices. It’s a complex codec, that Android has yet to master handling. AAC is, however, great for iPhone and iPad users because it’s consistent and reduces audio-visual lag.
We Android fans should look out for headset with aptX or LDAC support. True, LDAC isn’t actually high-res, but it’s better than AAC. Both aptX and LDAC deliver high-quality, CD-like audio quality to your headset.
Google Assistant headphones work with Android and iOS
Right out of the box, you can pair any Bluetooth headset to an Android or iOS device but the caveat is that some features may be limited to one operating system or another. As it pertains to Google Assistant headphones, this means you won’t be able to directly access google with your voice on an iPhone. For instance, the Google Pixel Buds require an Android 6.0 device or later for hands-free access to the assistant.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
The SoundGuys team commits countless hours to testing as many audio products as possible, including Google Assistant headphones. Our sister site has its own objective testing philosophy and methodology to equip readers with as much knowledge as possible for potential buying decisions. Members of the team respect and understand audio to be a simultaneously objective and subjective experience and use that knowledge to inform their reviews, lists, and features.