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Best Over Ear Headphones - Winter 2017
Reviews

Over-Ear headphones offer a simple design with large ear cups that fit around the ears. They're usually comfortable and easy to wear but can get a little bulky. Below are our recommendations for the best over-ear headphones we have tested so far.

Best Over-Ear Headphones $600+

Usage Ratings
4.9Mixed 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.
8.3Critical 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:
3.5Commute/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.
4.7Sports/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.
3.7Office
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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.
4.4Studio 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 Sennheiser HD 800 S are excellent sounding reference over-ear headphones. They are ideal for critical listening and have a have crisp and well-balanced audio reproduction. They're comfortable and sturdy but not versatile headphones. They are best used in private or in a studio while mixing, where you can fully experience the exceptional, open sound that they have to offer without being distracting to anyone around you.

See our review

ALTERNATIVE

The HifiMan Edition X are the best alternative to the 800S for critical listening. They deliver a spacious soundstage thanks to their super comfortable and large open earcups. They reproduce tracks with remarkable fidelity and have a bit more bass than the 800 S. Furthermore, the low impedance planar magnetic drivers do not require an amp and can be powered by your mobile device. However, they're the bulkiest headphones we've reviewed so far and their build quality is not as durable as the HD 800 S.

See our review

Best Over-Ear Headphones $300 to $600

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.
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:
7.8Commute/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.
7.1Sports/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.
7.5Office
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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.
7.1Studio 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 MDR-1000x are versatile headphones that do well in most situations and use cases. They have a good set of active features, they're sturdy, comfortable and have one the best noise cancellation that we've measured so far. This makes them especially good for commuting and isolating you in loud environments. They sound balanced good enough for most listeners but their mediocre treble performance might not be ideal for pure critical listening.

See our review

ALTERNATIVE

The Sennheiser HD 650 are great over-the-ear headphones for critical listening. They deliver an outstanding sound quality that accurately reproduces the stereo image, instruments, and vocals.  However, they're not as durable or comfortable as the HD 800 S but are a lot cheaper. They also have a brighter and slightly clearer representation of instruments and vocals than the DT 990 PRO.

See our review

Best Over-Ear Headphones $150 to $300

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.
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:
6.8Commute/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.
6.8Sports/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.
7.4Office
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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.
7.9Studio 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 Plantronics Backbeat Pro are a decent pair of wireless headphones, with one of the most easy-to-use and ergonomic control schemes we have tested so far. They sound good if a little bass heavy. However, they're a little bulky, heavy and the noise canceling produces a low audible rumble when turned on.

See our review

ALTERNATIVE

The AKG K701 deliver a great audio reproduction. They're not as well-built as the DT 990 Pro, but they deliver a more balanced and immersive sound quality. However, like most open-back headphones they're a bit bulky and not meant to be a versatile headset you can use in loud environments or outdoors. Also, unlike the K702 the audio cable is not detachable. 

See our review

Best Over-Ear Headphones  $75 to $150

Usage Ratings
6.0Mixed 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.
7.9Critical 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:
4.3Commute/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.
5.3Sports/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.
5.4Office
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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.
7.3Studio 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 Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are above-average studio headphones that have an outstanding, well-balanced audio reproduction. They are remarkably well priced for their sound quality, but their studio design lacks some features for everyday casual use. Also since they have a closed-back design, they're a bit more versatile than open-back headphones (see the differences between open-back and closed-back headphones). 

See our review

ALTERNATIVE

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO deliver a superb audio reproduction at a great price. Their sound quality is well balanced, open and spacious. They're sturdy, durable and well-padded headphones, but they're a bit tight on your head. Their open design is also not suitable for all environments, and the audio cable is not detachable or replaceable if it gets damaged. 

See our review

Best Over-Ear Headphones below $75

Usage Ratings
4.8Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
7.9Critical 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:
3.4Commute/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.
4.6Sports/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.
3.7Office
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.
4.3Studio 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 Philips SHP9500 are affordable yet well-built open headphones, with an excellent sound for critical listening. They're lightweight, comfortable and feel sturdier than some pricier open-back models. They're not the most versatile over-ear headphones due to their open design but they're a great option for critical listening. 

See our review

ALTERNATIVE

The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x are above-average budget studio headphones. They have a decently well-balanced audio reproduction. However, they're not the most versatile. The audio cable is not replaceable, they feel a bit plasticky and lack a few features for everyday casual use in moderately loud environments.

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best Over-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 Over-Ear headphones that didn't make the cut:

  • Bose QuietComfort 35. Outstanding noise isolation and a comfortable, wireless design. However, they're relatively leaky headphones. See our review
  • Sennheiser PXC 550. Highly customizable sound and noise isolation. Comfortable, stable and well-built headphones but mediocre noise isolation. See our review
  • Sony MDR-7506. A good substitute to the M50x at a much lower cost. However, they don't sound as good but leak a little less. See our review
  • Oppo PM3. Balanced sound quality and comfortable design. Planar magnetic drivers make the headphones expensive for what they do. See our review
  • V-MODA Crossfade M-100. Great build and audio quality. Stable and comfortable design but a bit leaky and weak noise isolation. See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for over-ear headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no perfect over-the-ear headphone. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection.

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Questions & Answers

9 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
1
Can you review the vmoda line of headphones? I'm curious as to how they stack up to the competition.
Sure, we are already planning on reviewing V-MODA headphones in the coming months.
0
I am looking for a over the ear headset for gaming and music. I keep seeing the Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum Wireless 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset (981-000585) and the Hyper X Cloud II as the top rated headsets per reviews. Could you give me a sense of wether these are just basically good or if they are overpriced? I'm assuming you get what you pay for (naturally). Your site is the most informative site on the web and please continue to expand and delve into all facets of electronics!
Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately we haven't reviewed the headphones you mentioned yet, so we won't be able to make a recommendation. However, we will start reviewing gaming headsets in a few months.
0
Are you guys going to review any of the B&W headphones anytime soon. I'm very interested in the P7 and P5 models.
Thanks for your suggestions. We have already planned our headphones reviews for the month of June, but maybe we can sneak some of the B&W headphones in the July or August releases.
0
Why haven't you reviewed any of the Grado headphones. I have the 325e and they sound amazing!
Thanks for your suggestion. We haven't reviewed Over-Ear Grado headphones yet, however, you can find a couple of their On-Ear's reviewed here.
0
Please review HiFiMan HE400S?
We will add it to the list. However, since we have already purchased the HE 400i and the Edition X, it may take us some time to get to the 400S.
0
Hi there! I'd like to suggest that the Sennheiser HD 380 Pros be reviewed; they're the successor to the HD 280s and widely considered to be better subjectively, and they're also widely and relatively cheaply available, so I'd love to see a scientific assessment of them.
Already on our list, but it may takes us a couple of months to review them.
0
Please please please add a column to factor in the Bluetooth headset's microphones. If they're listen-only headphones then great, but if there's a microphone present then it needs to be more than a mere afterthought. The lack of detailed commentary on call quality by reviewers in general grants permission to completely overlook a critical part of headphones' usability with the phone they're paired to. Experiences with the flagship travel-friendly bluetooth headphones: After owning the QC35 for a month I pre-ordered the PXC550 and then also the MDR1000X simply because of my experience with the QC35 on calls. The PXC550 fared significantly worse, which was a dealbreaker because I actually really liked them. I listened to a call recording with the MDR1000X and it was, no exaggeration, no better than wired earbuds with the omni-directional inline mic dangling below my neck. So until I try something better (almost afraid to try Backbeat Pro 2 because I do love the sound image and ANC of the Bose), I'm forced to supplement my $350 Bose QC35 with a $40 Plantronics. In an office the QC35 is hard to use for a conference call without putting myself on "mute" between every word, yet with even a cheap calling-oriented Bluetooth headset I can stand on a Subway platform and only have to worry about myself going a little deaf. For what it's worth, Bose and Sennheiser both make premium ANC aviation headsets, and Bose makes a lot of ANC military headsets (most especially for vehicle crews). Sony's product measures the acoustic characteristics of the wearer's ears and head to optimize the DSP for better listening, so they're not idling either. It's not a big stretch to ask for good microphonics from their flagship consumer bluetooth headsets.
Thanks for your message. As previously mentioned, we have yet to review the quality of headphones' microphones. But it's part of our road-map. Having said that, please keep in mind that with Bluetooth devices you are always at the mercy of the bandwidth provided by the Bluetooth protocol. Therefore the microphone audio will always sound compressed.
0
First of all, i want to thank you guys for making this site, i love it, i love the reviews, they're very informative, detailed and helpful for making comparisons, really thank you! I've already made a couple of lists of headphones (2 headphones per list to choose between), One for my music listing needs (mainly based on your Critical Listening score and details) the other is for the on-the-go listening (that contain wireless and ANC features and match your Portability, Stability and other scores) Now I'm trying to find a headphone for my gaming needs, I know you guys didn't start reviewing gaming headsets yet, I just want to know which of the sound specs and characteristics i should focus on if i want to have a great sound experience in games from a non-gaming headphones, is it the bass the mid or the treble? the Soundstage or the Imaging? i don't really care about the mic or the design. hope to see an answer soon, keep it up guys.
If you only care about sound quality, then critical listening rating should match up pretty well with what you are looking for. Then only thing to consider is whether the leakage of open-back headphones is an issue for you. In that case remove Soundstage (specifically Openness and Acoustic Space Excitation) as one of the criteria.
0
Hello, do you plan to review the Astro A50 gen3 headset? I can see you did a review on Turtle Beach Elite 800, Astro and TurtleBeach are the top premium gaming headsets - it would be super cool to have your opinion on the Astro A50 gen3 as well. Thank you
We are planning on reviewing gaming headsets and will add the A50 to our list, but that would probably be sometime later this year.
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