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6 Jul 2019

Which wireless headphones actually live up to their quick charging claims?

Can you really get three hours of listening from a 15 minute charge? We test the Apple Airpods, Bose Soundlink on-ear and more to see if claims match reality

Many headphones say you can get hours of listening time from a 15 minute charge or less - great if you realise you forgot to plug them in. But how much truth is there to these claims? Our experts take a closer look at some of the most popular headphone brands to find out.

The recently released Apple Airpods claim you can get a remarkable 3 hours of listening from a 15 minute charge. So if you find them flat in the morning, you can have them ready for a journey while you have your breakfast. Other top brands like Bose, Sennheiser and Sony make similar claims.

Can you take these brands at their word, or is it just wishful thinking? This is not something our lab currently tests for, so our experts set up an experiment in the office using a range of popular headphones of all styles, from truly wireless in-ear headphones to over-ear pairs.

We first drained each pair of headphones until they were completely flat before beginning the test. We then charged them for the time they claim, and played the same music continuously on each at a reasonable listening volume, checking them every 15 minutes for when they eventually went flat. Find out the full results below.

Our best headphone reviews reveal the best-sounding headphones from our demanding lab tests.

Apple Airpods (2019), £159 - claim 3 hours listening from 15 minutes charging

Considering the tiny size of the Apple Airpods (second-generation, launched in 2019), Apple's making a remarkable claim that they'll keep going for a whole three hours from just 15 minutes of charging. But when we tested this ourselves, flattening the Airpods and then charging them from their charging case, they actually exceeded this by a wide margin - lasting for more than 4 hours 15 minutes before they stopped playing.

But does the sound quality and fit of these headphones make that battery life worthwhile, or are you paying over-the-odds for the brand name? Find out whether the Apple Airpods are worth buying in our definitive Apple Airpods (2019) review.

Bose Soundlink on-ear, £170 - claims 2 hours listening from 15 minutes charging

You might think that bigger headphones would be slow-charging, but Bose has proved this wrong with the Bose Soundlink on-ear, which also greatly exceeded their quick-charging claims in our investigation. They were still going strong for a good 45 minutes over the 2 hour mark.

The Bose Soundlink on-ear headphones are one of Bose's more affordable pairs, aimed at those who find full-size over-ear headphones too chunky for daily life. They also come with a standard 3.5mm detachable cable if you want to continue listening when the battery runs out.

However, they're still not cheap for standard on-ear headphones. Our lab gives their verdict on whether the sound quality and comfort puts these in a class above the rest in our exclusive Bose Soundlink on-ear review.

Sennheiser CX 6.00BT, £70 - claims 2 hours listening from 10 minutes charging

Unfortunately when something seems too good to be true, it sometimes is. The thin and lightweight Sennheiser CX 6.00BT has barely any space to fit in its batteries, and these Sennheisers didn't match their more ambitious claim than rival Bose made for its Soundlink on-ear when we tried it out. In fact, they didn't even get close, lasting for barely more than an hour after a 10 minute charge.

Corded in-ear wireless headphones suit those who want more compact earpieces than truly wireless headphones like the Apple Airpods, but with the same convenience of a Bluetooth connection to your device. They're also great for those who worry about losing a single earpiece.

So does the added comfort of the design and Sennheiser's reputation for sound quality make up for the quick charging? Our discerning listening panel put these through their paces in our thorough Sennheiser CX 6.00BT review.

Sony WH-XB700, £120 - claims 90 minutes listening from 10 minutes charging

It proved quite the task even to get these headphones flat to begin our test, with the Sony WH-XB700 claiming a giant 30-hour overall battery life. And despite a more challenging 10-minute charging claim than the Apple and Bose pairs we tried out, these Sonys still easily exceeded their claims - lasting for more than 2 hours from just a 10 minute charge.

It's even more impressive considering these are part of Sony's Extra Bass range, with plenty of powerful punch. They also support Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa voice control with compatible devices, and you can adjust the sound to your preferences using the equaliser to change the levels of treble and bass in the accompanying Sony Headphones Connect app.

Find out what our lab experts and professional listening panel thought of these headphones in our extensive Sony WH-XB700 review.

Sony WI-C600N, £113 - claims 1 hour listening from 15 minutes charging

If you're looking for added stability from an in-ear wireless pair, the Sony WI-C600N with a lightweight, flexible headband could be the perfect pair for you. They had the least ambitious quick-charging claims of the models we tried out, but they're noise cancelling headphones so it's not surprising. And they matched them exactly in our investigation, lasting for just over an hour of listening from a 15 minute charge.

They're quite low-cost for noise cancelling headphones, technology not commonly found on in-ear headphones. The headband is very flexible, so you can easily bend it to fit these headphones in your bag. They also have an ambient sound mode you can turn on to let more sound in from your surroundings, useful to hear train station announcements or when crossing the road.

But is the noise cancelling effective, and does the sound quality make these a worthwhile purchase? Our expert lab gives the answer in our full Sony WI-C600N review.

Find all the results from our rigorous lab tests by heading over to our headphone reviews page.