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These back to school headphones get an A+

The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones list for $349.99, but

The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones list for $349.99, but you can probably find them at a discount.  Credit: CBS Interactive

Whether "back to school" means on-campus classes, distance learning at home or some combination of the two is currently up in the air. But it's a fair bet that students in any situation will need new headphones, be it for checking in on Zoom-based classes or listening to music between classes.

With a multitude of models to choose from, it's not easy to figure out which headphones to buy. Here are several of CNET's highest-rated headphones — all of them wireless, but not all pricey — to help narrow down your choices.

WHAT Sony WH-1000XM3

THE COST $349.99

AVAILABLE FROM sony.com

The third generation of Sony's excellent wireless noise-canceling headphones, has a more comfortable fit and even better performance than its predecessor. It's got perfect sound quality for listening to music. With a strong battery life, these over-ear wireless headphones are the best bet for noise cancellation.

Though they list for $350, they frequently get discounted for closer to $280. And it's doubly important to seek out that discount: With a next-gen version of this pair of wireless headphones having already been spotted on Twitter, the XM4 successor is likely  to arrive later this year. 

WHAT Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

THE COST $379.95

AVAILABLE FROM bose.com

These over-ear headphones are strong all-around performers with up to 20 hours of battery life for listening to podcasts, music and more. While the Sony WH-1000XM3's design and fit (and lower price tag) might be more pleasing, this model works significantly better as a headset for making calls. For some people that may be worth the extra cost for the wireless earphones.

WHAT Jabra Elite 75t

THE COST $199 and up

AVAILABLE FROM jabra.com

At first glance, the Elite 75t seemed more like an evolutionary upgrade from the Elite 65t. But the updates turned out to be a little more substantial than we first thought. The Elite 75t's smaller size (the pair of earbuds and case are 20% smaller), its boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades.

And then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside it that make it easier to open and close and to keep the buds inside. While the Elite 75t isn't as comfortable as the AirPods Pro and doesn't have active noise canceling, it does make your music sound better, with clearer overall sound and better bass definition, so long as you get a tight seal.

Just note that the Jabra Elite Active 75t adds slightly better water-resistance for $20 more

The following CNET staff contributed to this story: executive editor David Carnoy, senior editor Laura K. Cucullu and copy editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.

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