A pair of the best over-ear headphones are hands-down the best way to listen to music, podcast and audiobooks. They bring you exceptional sound quality, maximum comfort and an impressive soundstage along with many other additional features like wireless connectivity and active noise cancellation.
While earbuds are convenient and often sound great, for anyone who is serious about music and wants to extract as much detail as possible from their hi-res audio files, over-ear headphones are the way to go.
The over-ear headphones in this guide have big, powerful drivers and come in both open-back and closed-back variations. The former offer an almost concert hall-like experience for your favorite music that’s as close as you get to watching it live – although they leak a lot of sound so not suitable for use in a communal office commuting or while working Huh .
Over-ear headphones may also be a better option for your hearing health than in-ear headphones. That’s because they put a little more distance between loud sounds and your eardrums and, by blocking out a lot of ambient noise (or all ambient noise if they have ANC), you don’t need to turn up the volume of your headphones as often. It’s high enough. If protecting your hearing is important to you (and it should be), that’s another reason to consider over-ears.
The biggest problem with over-ear headphones? they cost. Because of the size of their drivers, the premium materials used in them and all the research that makes them as good as they do, their sticker prices can sometimes be astronomical.
Note that we say ‘sometimes’. There are really great sounding over-ear headphones on the market that cost under $100 / £100 / AU$150. And while we’ve covered some budget options in this guide, be sure to check out the best cheap headphones you can buy today for full running top cans that won’t break the bank.
In our guide below, we’ve selected a number of over-ear headphones, including wired models as well as wireless headphones for those who don’t want to cut the cord.
our top picks
While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of making some of the best-sounding audio gear on the market—over the company’s DT770, DT880 and DT990— Ear headphones were renowned for their excellent build and sound quality.
Above all, though, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, a headphone that won our Editors’ Choice for its imaging, design, and value for money. Both headphones cost the same ($599 / £589 / AU$1,159), so you won’t find the deal to pick one after the other. The difference here comes down to the sound.
Since they are open, the DT 1990 Pro is meant to be used for serious analytical listening at home or in the studio. Sound is able to move in and out but the good news is that the open-back design gives you the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. The soundstage is also wide enough to allow even the most lackluster listener to track where each instrument is playing.
The DT 1990 Pro are the best over-ear headphones in our opinion, but be sure to also check out our review of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro for a closed-back version that’s a little more socially friendly.
Read more: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Review
It’s almost unfair to stick them in the same category as the more substantial hearing-focused over-ear headphones, but the Sony WH-1000XM4 are the best all-around headphones we’ve heard since the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Not only do they sound great and pack excellent noise cancellation, but they manage to do it all wirelessly.
The other over-ear headphones on our list deliver better sound quality, sure, but the WH-1000XM4 manages to offer the best balance of features and performance.
While they don’t look much different from their predecessors, several new features including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best. Headphones in 2021.
All it has to offer without the serious price-premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM4 Over-Ear Wireless Headphones are a great choice for on-the-go music listeners.
Read more: Sony WH-1000XM4 Review
- best sony headphones of 2021
The fourth entry on our list of the best over-ear headphones could easily have been the first if they hadn’t cost more than $1,000 / £1,000 / AU$3,000. The Sennheiser HD 800, hands down, are some of the best-sounding pairs of over-ear headphones on the planet, which are affectionately praised by inner circles of audiophiles around the world. When paired with the proper hardware, they sound absolutely excellent – balanced in every way.
Unfortunately, they are overly expensive and there are more audio equipment than the average consumer is willing to buy. Should you find yourself in need of — or, let’s be honest, wanting — amazing over-ear headphones, these are them.
Read more: Sennheiser HD 800 Review
With the LCD-1 open-back headphones, Audeze brings its uncompromising technology to the real world(ish) cost. As long as you’re willing to do your listening in great isolation—that design will produce some sound leakage—there’s no reason to ignore these over-ear headphones.
The LCD-1’s overall presentation, no matter what content you’re listening to nor the volume at which you’re listening, is composed, engaging, and utterly believable. Listen to music you’ve never heard before and you’ll never suspect that you’re being given the full picture.
Listen to music you’ve heard a thousand times before, and there’s a good chance the LCD-1 will have some nuance you’ve never heard before.
Read more: Audeze LCD-1 Review
If you’re looking for class-leading wireless, noise-canceling headphones and you’re not put off by the $399 / £349 / AU$600 price tag, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are well worth considering.
With refined noise-canceling, superior sound quality, a respectable aesthetic, the PX7 can give any over-ear headphones on this list a run for their money.
plus. They’re packing aptX Adaptive for better stability and latency between headphones and your device, as well as bringing high-quality (24-bit) streaming aptX HD to the table.
Read more: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones Review
The Sennheiser HD 560S is meant to be used as a device in the most literal sense. If you want to be able to get an in-depth look at the details of a mix, or do A/B comparisons with absolute certainty, these are exactly the kind of headphones you need. If you want to get entertainment, energy and vigor from your music, however, they are less than ideal.
Sonically, the Sennheiser HD560S is a brutally revealing hearer. Sure enough, the soundstage they describe is huge in all directions, and individual elements of the recording appear in a fairly solid area of space on stage. Detail levels—whether related to instrument timing, vocal technique or any other aspect of the recording—are downright sky-high, and the HD560S maintains an even, neutral balance from the very bottom to the very top of the frequency range.
Read more: Sennheiser HD 560S Review