Over-ear headphones, also called around ear headphones, offer a simple design with large ear cups that fit around the ears (read our article over-ear vs on-ear headphones). They can be a little bulky, but they generally offer decent noise isolation and are very comfortable to wear for extended periods. Below are our recommendations for the best over ear headphones we have tested so far.
Best Over-Ear Headphones
The best over-ear headphones we've tested for critical listening are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. If you have the budget and consider yourself a hardened critical listener or an audiophile, then the HD 800s are a good option.
They’re well-built and durable open headphones with expertly matched dynamic drivers that deliver an accurate audio reproduction. Their open design also recreates the ambiance of a good stereo speaker set up for an immersive listening experience. However, like most open headphones, the 800S have only one specific use case so you won’t be taking them outside.
The best over-ear headphones for everyday use are the Bose QuietComfort 35. If you need a pair of headphones for your daily routines, then get the QC 35. They're great for commuting thanks to their excellent noise cancellation. They have a sufficiently good sound to satisfy most listeners, and they're comfortable enough to wear for hours. They might not be as sturdy or as isolating as the Sony MDR 1000x, but they provide a better overall experience and a more consistent sound quality.
Best Mid-Range Over-Ear Headphones
For a mid-range option, we recommend the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They are more affordable than the Bose QuietComfort 35 and are well-rounded enough for most use cases, even gaming. They do not isolate as well as the Bose QC 35 in loud environments, but they make up for it with a tough, durable build quality, a simple and efficient control scheme and an incredible wireless range.
Compared to the Samsung Level Over Wireless, they sound sufficiently good out-of-the-box for most listeners, especially for fans of a bass-heavy music and have a superior suite of wireless capabilities.
If you really care about sound quality, the Audio-Technica M50x, like the Sennheiser HD 800 S, offer a more focused experience. These over-ear headphones do especially well for critical listening and studio recording thanks to their high comfort level and amazing audio reproduction.
They block a decent amount of ambient noise and do not leak as much as open headphones such as the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, which have a slightly better sound but cannot be used in more varied environments. If you care about sound quality but not as much about active features, then the M50x are a good recommendation for most casual and some critical listeners.
Best Budget Over-Ear Headphones
If you’re on a tight budget or if you just want the best critical listening experience under 100$, we recommend the Philips SHP9500. They're great audiophile headphones that are significantly cheaper than most open headphones with their level of audio fidelity. They’re well-built and comfortable, open-back headphones that accurately reproduce the ambiance of a well-mastered track. However, like most open headphones, they’re not really versatile.
If you want an even cheaper alternative to the Philips SHP 9500, then the Superlux HD 668B are a great option. Like the SHP 9500, they deliver a surprisingly well-balanced audio reproduction for their price range. While they are nowhere near as comfortable as the Philips, their semi-open design leaks a little less. They're also considerably cheaper while delivering a comparatively good sound quality.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best over the 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:
- Sony MDR 1000x. Best over-ear for noise isolation and a sturdy, wireless design. Slightly inconsistent sound quality. See our review
- HiFiMan HE-400i. Excellent sounding planar magnetic headphones with a decently comfortable design. Slightly weak build quality and bulky design. 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
- Sony MDR 1A. Balanced sound quality and comfortable design. A bit expensive for what they have to offer. See our review
- Samsung Level Over Wireless. A good alternative to the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. Versatile headphones with customizable sound but a slightly bulky design. See our review
- Parrot Zik 3.0. Excellent build quality in a sleek and compact design with a versatile companion app. Mediocre battery life. See our review
- Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. Great build and audio quality. Stable and comfortable design but a bit tight on the head. 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 are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection.