Updated

Best Over Ear Headphones - Spring 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

Usage Ratings
5.2Mixed 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:
8.5Critical 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:
3.7Commute/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:
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.
Score components:
3.8Office
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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 Sennheiser HD 800S are the best headphones for critical listening that we’ve tested so far. 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.

See our review

Runner-Up

If you want a more versatile option to use as your everyday headphones, get the Sony MDR 1000x. These over-ear headphones a lot more practical for the casual listener and still deliver an above average audio reproduction that’s even better if you use them wired. They’re well-designed, sturdy headphones that have the best noise canceling measured so far. This means they do comparatively better than most headphones in loud environments and are especially good if you have a noisy commute or you’re a frequent flyer.

See our review

Best Mid-Range Over-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:
6.9Commute/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:
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.
Score components:
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.
Score components:

If you’re looking for a more affordable, wireless option to the versatile MDR-1000x, then the Plantronics Backbeat Pro are a good mid-range alternative. They do not isolate as well in loud environments, so they let in more ambient noise when commuting. However, they have a tough build, a simple and efficient control scheme and an incredible wireless range. Combined to a very low wireless latency, these headphones are well rounded enough for most use cases, even gaming.

See our review

Runner-Up

The Audio-Technica M50x, like the HD800s, are 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. However, they’re also closed-back headphones so you can use them in more varied environments. They do not leak as much as open headphones and block a decent amount of ambient noise. 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.

See our review

Best Budget Over-Ear Headphones

Usage Ratings
5.0Mixed 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.
Score components:
8.0Critical 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:
3.6Commute/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:
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.
Score components:
3.8Office
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:

The Philips SHP9500 are great critical listening headphones that are significantly cheaper than most open headphones with their level of audio fidelity. If you’re on a tight budget or if you just want the best critical listening experience under 100$, then get the SHP9500. 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.

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
  • 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.

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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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