Updated

Best On Ear Headphones - Winter 2017
Reviews

On-Ear headphones offer a more compact design than over-ear models and have smaller ear cups that rest on the ears instead of around them (read our article about Over-Ear vs On-Ear headphones). They're usually easy to wear but can apply a lot of pressure on the ears. Below are our recommendations for the best on-ear headphones, we have tested so far.

Best On-Ear Headphones $300+

Usage Ratings
6.8Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
7.1Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.5Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
6.9Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
6.7Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
6.6Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless have a good audio reproduction, a sleek and sturdy build quality and a lightweight, wireless design. They deliver a decent performance in most of our tested categories and use cases. However, they're a bit pricey for what they have to offer, especially for passively isolating on-ear headphones.

See our review

Alternative

The Beats Solo2 Wireless are stylish, comfortable and moderately sturdy on-ear headphones. Although they're not the ideal for critical listening, they have a surprisingly well-balanced sound that's not too bass-heavy like previous Beats models. That plus their decent overall performance for most use cases and good active features makes them versatile headphones for everyday, casual use. However, they're a bit pricey.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones $150 to $300

Usage Ratings
6.9Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
7.2Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.5Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.0Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
7.0Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
6.8Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Bose SoundLink On-Ear are very comfortable and deliver a stable listening experience, with above-average sound quality. They have a good wireless range and feel well built if a little plasticky. However, they don't block or cancel noise and leak a bit, which may disturb people around you at higher volumes. 

See our review

Alternative

The Fidelio NC1 have an above-average sound quality. They're compact and robustly built for an on-ear design. They're also versatile enough for loud environments thanks to their decent noise isolation performance. However, the on-ear design is not for everyone. They're also not very stable and will easily fall off your head if you move around too quickly.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones $75 to $150

Usage Ratings
6.7Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
6.6Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.1Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
6.9Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
6.7Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
7.0Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Bohm B-66 are great-sounding wireless Bluetooth headphones that won't easily fall your head. They don't leak much sound and have good audio controls, but they feel too tight on your head, which gets uncomfortable quickly.

See our review

Alternative

The Marshall Major II have a simple yet stylish design, with a decent sound for critical listening. They don't leak much and are moderately comfortable for on-ear headphones. This makes them a decent option for studio recording. However, they won't be the best headphones to use in loud environments, and they also don't feel very durable.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones below $75

Usage Ratings
5.4Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
7.0Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
3.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
5.1Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
4.7Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
6.4Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The HD 202 II are low-budget, closed-back, critical listening headphones with an above-average sound. However, they're not well-rounded enough to be good everyday on-ear headphones. They don't isolate much and feel a little plasticky and cheap in their design but on the upside, they don't leak too much.

See our review

Alternative

The Grado SR60e have a good and open audio reproduction that's ideal for critical listening. They're cheaper than most open-back headphones that deliver this kind of sound quality. Unfortunately, they're not the best for casual use. They intentionally leak a lot and their audio quality suffers in loud environments because they don't block any noise.

See our review

All Reviews

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:

  • 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

  • Bowers & Wilkins P5 S2. The wired version of the P5. Great build and sound quality but not the most comfortable fit for everyone.  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

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 is no perfect on-ear headphone. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection.

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Questions & Answers

1 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
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I'm looking for a decent pair of Bluetooth on ear headphones. Would be mostly used for watching TV (a Samsung with Bluetooth) from 8-10'. All of your on ear headphones in <$100 range seem to have the same comment of too tight on the ears. The Bohm B66 seem to have a nice price/performance ration with the latest price on Amazon of around $85. Any other recommendations?
The Bohm B-66 are a versatile and affordable pair, but as mentioned they're pretty tight on the head. You may get used to them over time, but they're not the most comfortable headphones out-of-the-box. If you're looking for a good On-Ear substitute, the Samsung Level On Wireless are currently on sale. They're equally, if not more, versatile than the Bohm but they're a bit more expensive too. Alternatively, there's also the Sony MDRZX770BN. They're comfortable over-ear headphones for most use cases but do not sound as good as the Level On.
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