If you've ever used a pair of over-ear or on-ear headphones, chances are they had a closed-back design. Unlike open-back headphones, which try to create a natural listening experience by fully letting sounds both in and out of the headphones, closed-back headphones keep music to the listener by blocking out background noise coming in while also limiting the amount of audio leakage. These types of headphones suit most listeners due to their versatility as they're better suited to giving you some peace while out and about, without bothering those around you. They also tend to have more bass than open-back headphones. While technically most earbud and on-ear headphones are closed-back, we'll focus on over-ear options in this article.
We've tested over 615 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best closed-back headphones to buy. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones and the best headphones.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are the best closed-back headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested. These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears have a sturdy-feeling high-grade plastic construction and a comfortable fit, with ample amounts of padding and a lightweight design. They also supply upwards of 37 hours of continuous playback time on a single charge, which should be more than enough for a couple of days of use, though battery consumption can vary depending on your own usage patterns.
They have a bass-heavy sound profile out-of-the-box, which should please fans of EDM or hip-hop but can also muddy vocals and lead instruments. Fortunately, the Sony | Headphones Connect app features a couple of EQ presets as well as a graphic EQ to fine-tune your listening experience. They're also fitted with a highly effective active noise cancelling (ANC) system that allows them to filter out a remarkable amount of ambient noise, from the low-rumble of bus and plane engines to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit, not to mention background chatter from people nearby.
Unfortunately, their integrated mic delivers sub-par recording quality, as it makes your voice sound thin, muffled, and lacking in overall detail. Their bulky design can also make them a bit of a hassle to carry around. Otherwise, their rich feature-set, solid build quality, and superb noise isolation capability help make them some of the best travel headphones that we've tested.
If you want more comfortable closed-back headphones, check out the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. While their continuous battery life falls short of that of the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless and their companion app lacks an EQ, the Bose have a lightweight design that doesn't clamp on your head as tightly. These headphones also have a more neutral and flat sound profile than the Sony, which some users may prefer, although they still deliver a touch of extra thump, punch, and boom to mixes. They're equipped with an ANC system that can block out a significant amount of background noise around you, like the low rumbles of bus and plane engines to ambient chatter. They last roughly 20 hours continuously, and their auto-off timer can help conserve battery life when you're not using them.
Try the Sony if you want to customize your closed-back headphones' sound profile to your liking. However, if you want lighter, more comfortable headphones, go for the Bose instead.
The Razer Opus Wireless are the best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested. These over-ear headphones have an ANC system that does an outstanding job of blocking out ambient noise like the low rumble of bus or plane engines and ambient chatter. They also have a very comfortable fit, so you can wear them for long periods of time without feeling too much fatigue.
These well-built headphones have a very well-balanced and neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, which makes them versatile enough for a variety of audio content. However, if you prefer a different sound, their companion app has a graphic EQ as well as presets to help you really customize them. They also deliver over 32 hours of continuous playback time, which should get you through long days at the office or on the road without a recharge, and can even be used passively when you've run out of battery life.
Unfortunately, their integrated microphone has some trouble separating your voice from ambient noise around you. They also lack multi-device pairing, so it can be a bit more of a hassle if you want to switch between your laptop and smartphone. However, these headphones deliver a very versatile performance, especially at this price point, and they're even among the best noise cancelling headphones that we've tested.
The best closed-back headphones for audiophiles that we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. These popular wired over-ears are very well-known amongst audio enthusiasts and sound engineers and are the best studio headphones we've tested. They're comfortable thanks to their large ear cups that easily accommodate any ear size, and they don't feel too tight on the head. They're made from dense plastic and look and feel very durable and premium, with a detachable audio cable that can easily be replaced if damaged.
Their sound profile is expertly tuned and is well-balanced and natural, but with a tiny amount of extra kick. Their response consistency is decent, though they may need some readjusting to experience their treble response the same way every time. Their soundstage isn't nearly as open and wide as open-backs like the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, though this is expected. On the plus side, this makes them much more versatile and more suitable for use during your daily commute or in the office.
As they're more designed for use in a studio or while at home, they lack many active features in comparison to the most popular Bluetooth options. Their audio cable doesn't feature a microphone or in-line remote, so they don't have any controls or the ability to take phone calls. On the bright side, their wired design means you don't have to worry about battery or latency issues, though you may need an adapter to use them with newer phones without a headphone jack.
The best budget closed-back headphones that we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. Although these headphones are the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless' predecessor, they're still available on the market and offer a decent overall performance. They also have an ANC that does a good job of cutting down office chatter as well as the high-pitched hum of an AC unit.
Fans of EDM and hip-hop can really enjoy their excited v-shaped sound profile, which delivers intense thump, rumble, and boom to mixes. Overemphasis in the treble range also makes vocals and lead instruments bright and sparkly. These headphones have over 32 hours of continuous battery life, and you can use them passively via their 1/8" TRS cable if you prefer. Their comfortable, lightweight fit also makes it easy to wear them for long days at the office or on the go without feeling too much fatigue.
Unfortunately, they don't have a companion app and lack sound customization features like an EQ, so you can't adjust their sound to suit your tastes. While they come with a soft pouch to help keep dust from accumulating on them when you're not using them, this pouch won't protect your headphones from impact-related damage. However, if you're looking for wallet-friendly closed-back headphones, their solid ANC performance and comfortable fit make them a suitable choice for most users.
Sep 01, 2021: Checked our picks for consistency and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Jul 06, 2021: We've checked the text for accuracy and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
May 11, 2021: Replaced the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless with the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless as the Plantronics are no longer available at this price point.
Mar 12, 2021: Verified that main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category. Added Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Jan 13, 2021: Added the Apple AirPods Max Wireless to Notable Mentions. The Apple AirPods Max lack the wide amount of customization features that the Sony WH-1000XM4 offer and aren't as comfortable. For many users, the Sony also provide a better price-to-performance ratio than the Apple. Replaced the Mpow H10 with the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless for 'Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones'. The Mpow H10 variant that we tested has now been discontinued. It has been replaced with an upgraded variant of these headphones. We haven't tested this variant yet and can't verify whether it performs similarly to the previous generation.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best closed-back headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for closed-back 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.