On-ear headphones offer a more compact design than their over-ear brethren and have smaller ear cups that rest on the ears instead of around them (see our article about over-ear vs on-ear headphones). They can apply a lot of pressure on the ears, but they allow your ears to breathe and to hear your surroundings better than over-ear headphones. The best on-ear headphones offer a blend of portability, comfort and high-quality sound. Below are our recommendations for the best on ear headphones we have tested so far.
Best On-Ear Headphones
The best on-ear headphones we've tested are the Beats Solo 3 Wireless. Design wise, they are almost identical to the Beats Solo 2, but they have a better-balanced sound quality that’s good for both casual and critical listeners. If you’re looking for a well-rounded pair of headphones to use every day and like the look of the Solo 2, then upgrade to the Solo 3.
The Beats Solo 3 have a solid build quality, an excellent battery life and they’re decently portable. They can be a bit tight on the head and lack isolation for really noisy environments, but they’re comfortable and stable enough to take to the gym.
If you want a better-built pair of headphones that you do not plan to use at the gym, then get the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless. They do not sound as good but they still deliver a sufficiently balanced audio reproduction that should please most listeners. They’re also built with premium materials that give the headphones a durable yet luxurious appeal that’s decently portable but doesn’t fold like the Beats Solo3. On the upside, they have an excellent battery life.
Best Mid-Range On-Ear Headphones
For a mid-range option, we recommend the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. Most on-ear headphones are a bit tight on the head, which causes fatigue when using them for a while. However, these Bose headphones are one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones we’ve reviewed so far. If comfort is a big priority for you, then get the Soundlink On-Ear.
They’re simple to use and easy to pair with your Bluetooth devices. They won’t be ideal for loud, noisy environments, but they have an above-average sound that should satisfy most listeners. They're also a bit better built than the Samsung Level On Wireless and feel more durable.
If you want a simple and straightforward on-ear headphone with a good audio reproduction, then get the Marshall Major II instead. They're not as comfortable as the Bose Soundlink OE or as packed with features as the Samsung Level On Wireless, but they're much cheaper. They have a lightweight build and compact yet sleek-looking design that will work for most. If you don’t want to spend as much as you would for the headphones higher on this list and still want a closed design, then the Major II are a great mid-range option.
Best Budget On-Ear Headphones
For a budget option, we recommend the Koss Porta Pro. They deliver an excellent and immersive sound quality at an amazingly low price point. They're lightweight, open on-ear headphones that are comfortable enough to wear for hours. Their open design means they leak a lot and don't block much ambient noise but if you need an affordable pair of good-sounding on-ears, then get the Porta Pro.
If you don't like the open design of the Koss Porta Pro, the Sennheiser HD 202 is a great option. Like the Marshall Major II, they’re wired, passive, headphones that are not the most suitable for loud, noisy environments or varied use cases. They do one thing well, and that’s sound. They have an above average audio reproduction that’s balanced enough for most listeners.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best On-Ear headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
A few examples of On-Ear headphones that didn't make the cut:
- Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear. Sturdy and durable for an on-ear design. Decent sound quality but struggles in loud environments and they're a bit leaky. See our review
- Samsung Level On Wireless. Good versatile headphones with an above average sound but a flimsy build and weak isolation. See our review
- Grado SR60e. Good and open audio reproduction. Leaky and the audio quality suffers in loud environments due to the open design. See our review
- BÖHM B-66. Versatile headphones with an above-average sound. Slightly too tight on the head and inconsistent battery performance. See our review
- Philips Fidelio NC1. Good build quality, decent sound and noise cancellation. Too expensive for what they have to offer. See our review
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for on-ear headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection.