Updated

Best On Ear Headphones - Spring 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

Usage Ratings
7.2Mixed 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.
Score components:
7.6Critical 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:
7.0Commute/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.
Score components:
7.3Sports/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.
Score components:
7.1Office
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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.
Score components:

The best on-ear headphones are the Beats Solo 3 Wireless. Design wise, they are almost identical to the 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. They have 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.

See our review

Runner-Up

If you prefer a classier looking 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 Solo3. On the upside, they have an excellent battery life.

See our review

Best Mid Range On-Ear Headphones

Usage Ratings
7.1Mixed 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.
Score components:
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:
6.8Commute/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.
Score components:
7.1Sports/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.
Score components:
7.2Office
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.
Score components:

Most on-ears headphones are a bit tight on the head which causes fatigue when using them for a while. However, the Bose SoundLink On-Ear 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.

See our review

Runner-Up

The Marshall Major II are much cheaper than the SoundLink OE, but they’re also wired and less practical for most use cases.  If you want a good audio reproduction and don’t want to spend as much as you would for the headphones higher on this list, then the Major II are a suitable mid-range option. They feel a bit flimsy, but they're decently comfortable, portable and stable. 

See our review

Best Budget On-Ear Headphones

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.
Score components:
6.9Critical 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:
4.3Commute/Travel
Show Help
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.
Score components:
5.3Sports/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.
Score components:
5.1Office
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.
Score components:

If you want a budget option for on-ear headphones, then get the Sennheiser HD 202 II. 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. 

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
  • Grado SR60e. Good and open audio reproduction. Leaky and the audio quality suffers in loud environments due to the open design. 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.

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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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