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Why drive a sports car long distances when you can sit in the back of a Rolls Royce? That’s why I think wireless over-ear headphones with noise canceling are the best solution for everyday listening. Similarly priced in-ears or wired over-ears (around $200 to $400) may sound better or look prettier, but they’re not as well suited to long-term daily use.
Sony and Bose have been releasing the best wireless noise-canceling headphones for most people over the past few years. Prefer better sound quality when listening? Get the Sony WH-1000XM3 (8/10, WIRED Recommends), which have outstanding balance and fidelity. Want to be heard loud and clear on conference calls? Buy the Bose Noise Cancelling 700, which have beamforming mics that pick up every syllable.
But after searching high and low, I’m happy to report I’ve finally found another contender worth mentioning: a special, somewhat overlooked collaboration between Sennheiser and Epos Audio called the Adapt 660. They’re cheaper than both the Sony and Bose models, at least for now, and they’re even more comfortable and simple to use. For the cash, they might be some of the best all-around headphones ever made.
The Adapt 660 doesn’t have the same vintage-style glamor of Sennheiser’s flagship Momentum headphones (which have looked the same since we reviewed them glowingly in 2012), but that’s on purpose.
Epos and Sennheiser have taken to calling their inconspicuous foldable collaboration Enterprise Headphones, to indicate that they’re for serious businesspeople who wear gray suits and drive late-model German sedans to suburban mansions.
I am none of those things, but as with free snack bars, quality health care, and gratis gym memberships, the corporate world and I have once again stumbled into alignment. If so-called enterprise headphones are for people who like great sound, extreme comfort, top-tier noise-canceling, and good call quality, I’ll happily sign up. Just don’t make me wear red.
All Brains, No-Brainer
With rounded black ear cups, oval-shaped ear pads, and understated silver accents, the Adapt 660 headphones look simple, but they offer a surprisingly novel feeling in your hands.
These are some of the lightest noise-canceling headphones I’ve worn. Every material feels as though it was chosen for the perfect blend of durability and weight, with a special amount of attention paid to how soft and supple the headband and ear cups can be. They float on your head, with the perfect amount of clamping force to stay stable but not hurt the top of your skull over long listening sessions.
The whole user experience feels like it was designed by an IT department tired of complaints. Bless them, I’m tired of making them. Charge them up, turn them on, pair them to your cell phone and laptop (they pair to two devices at once!), and pick one of three noise-canceling settings from a switch on the bottom of the right ear cup. Epos even includes special artificial intelligence that works to quiet outside noise when you’re using the four built-in beamforming mics on Zoom or phone calls.
Yes, you can install a Sennheiser-made app to adjust your equalization and toggle other advanced settings, but out of the box, the Adapt 660 do everything you expect without forcing you to dig through a manual. That’s surprisingly rare when it comes to expensive headphones.
The touch controls, located on the outside of the right ear cup, are super easy to use too. Swipe up to raise the volume, right to change songs, and tap it to play/pause. There’s also Alexa compatibility, so you can easily pull up podcasts, weather forecasts, and more without getting out your phone. Plus, you’ll rarely seek out the USB-C charging cable. The Adapt 660 get 30 hours of listening between charges—nearly a full workweek in my testing.
German (Sound) Engineering
Sennheiser makes some of the best-sounding headphones (and professional-tier audio equipment), so it doesn’t come as a shock when I say the Adapt 660 sound fantastic.
What I’m most impressed by are timing and balance. The dynamic drivers feel punchy and tight, bringing proper depth to my favorite Kendrick Lamar tunes, but they don’t overwhelm with the low end when I watch an explosive movie like The Old Guard on Netflix.
One thing I noticed about the sound signature compared to that of Sony and Bose headphones is how open it feels. Where many noise-canceling headphones can feel boxed in and close to your ears, the Adapt 660 are a bit freer. That could be because of the way the noise-canceling is set up on these headphones in particular.
Sennheiser and Epos have purposely modified the noise-canceling algorithm to allow important notifications like train announcements or people speaking to you to get through, to some extent, while limiting droning HVAC or other loud noises as much as possible. You won’t get quite the same whisper-quiet background, but it leads to one of the most intuitive-feeling noise reduction experiences.
I’ve genuinely loved every moment I’ve spent with the Adapt 660. From work meetings to blasting tunes while cleaning my garage, they’ve been a welcome listening companion, and the sturdy cans have stood up to everything I’ve thrown at them.
These headphones have good enough noise-canceling to be excellent in all but the loudest scenarios, they have excellent call quality, and Sennheiser’s legendary tuning provides exceptional sound. It’s rare I’m this happy with any device.
Prices seem to fluctuate somewhat. As of publication, the Adapt 660 is around $285. Considering the $350 or so you’ll pay for the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Bose Noise Cancelling 700, I’d choose the Epos. Heck, even for the original $439 price, this special collab might be worth it.
Updated on July 20, 2020: We’ve updated to reflect the fact that the headphones have Bluetooth 5.0. A previous version of this review stated they had Bluetooth 4.2.