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 close to the ear by blocking background noise and limiting audio leakage. These types of headphones are more versatile and are better suited for commutes, outdoor strolls, and working with others around you. They also tend to have more bass than open-back headphones.
We've tested over 700 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones with a closed-back design to buy. For more, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones and the best headphones.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO are the best closed-back headphones we've tested. These high-end closed-back headphones have excellent build quality and come with a durable carrying case that, while bulky, will help protect them when not in use. Unlike their more affordable sibling, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, they also have a detachable audio cable, so you can easily replace it if it gets damaged. Thanks to their plush ear cup padding, they're very comfortable, making them a solid choice for long listening sessions.
They have a well-balanced sound with an exceptionally flat mid-range, so vocals and instruments are clear and accurate. Although they lack some low-bass, the rest of the bass is fairly neutral, resulting in adequate punch and boom. Their treble response is underemphasized, hurting the detail of vocals and instruments. Their soundstage feels closed-off and unnatural, but this is normal for closed-back headphones. They can still passively block out a fair amount of ambient chatter. They don't leak that much audio at high volumes.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are an upper mid-range priced pick that performs great despite some build issues. While well-built and sturdy, these headphones are very tight, and users with average-to-large heads will feel a hard squeeze near their temples and around their ears. That said, for those with smaller heads, these over-ears are comfortable and offer very similar performance as the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO at a reduced price point.
With an analytical sound profile out of the box, vocals and lead instruments sound clear, accurate, and detailed, but a bump in the mid-treble makes sibilants like cymbals a bit sharp. They passively cut down a decent amount of ambient chatter around you, which is handy if you're listening in a shared space. However, their audio cable isn't detachable, so if you damage it, you'll need to replace the entire unit. If you're looking for closed-backs with multiple detachable audio cables, it's worth checking out the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. However, they don't block out as much background noise passively.
The Sony MDR-7506 are not only the best mid-range closed-back headphones we've tested, but they're also some of the best studio headphones on the market, thanks to their balanced sound. These over-ears have a bump of extra bass to add thump, punch, and boom to mixes, while another peak in the treble range makes vocals and instruments bright and sparkly. They also have a very neutral and flat mid-range, so vocals and instruments are accurately reproduced.
While these retro-chic over-ears have a cheap and plasticky frame, especially compared to the sturdy Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO. They're decently comfortable, thanks to their lightweight frame, and have a coiled audio cable, so you don't have to worry about tangling. However, they struggle to passively block out mid-range background noise like ambient chatter, which can be troublesome if you want to listen to audio around others.
Build quality tends to take a big hit at the budget price point, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are no exception. Their frame feels cheap, especially compared to the Sony MDR-7506, while their exposed audio cable makes them more prone to damage over time. However, their warm sound profile is worth considering if you want audiophile-grade headphones at a more digestible price.
Although they lack a bit of thump and rumble, their bass range has a bump in mid to high-bass to add punch and warmth to your mix. It doesn't clutter or muddy the mid-range, so vocals and instruments remain clear, present, and detailed in your tracks. Their treble is quite recessed, and sibilants like cymbals are especially dull. These over-ears also struggle to block background noise, which can be frustrating if you're listening to audio in a moderately noisy room.
If you're looking for over-ears that you can use anywhere and everywhere, the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are the best closed-back headphones for casual use we've tested. These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears have a sturdy-feeling plastic frame and a comfortable fit, with ample padding and a lightweight design. They also supply upwards of 37 hours of continuous playback time on a single charge, which will be more than enough for a couple of days. They have a highly effective active noise cancelling (ANC) system that filters out a remarkable amount of background noise, from the low rumble of bus and plane engines to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit, not to mention ambient chatter from people nearby.
They have a bass-heavy default sound profile, which will please fans of EDM or hip-hop but can also muddy vocals and lead instruments. The Sony|Headphones Connect app also features a graphic EQ with presets to fine-tune your listening experience. You won't experience too much fatigue wearing them, but if comfort is a top priority, you may prefer the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless instead. They're lighter and clamp onto your head less tightly, which helps make them more comfortable for most people. While they perform similarly overall, the Bose headphones aren't as well-built and don't block out as much noise.
Looking for an audiophile-centric design on the go? The MOONDROP Aria are the best in-ear monitors we've tested. Their well-balanced sound profile has a bit of extra boom in the bass range. While sibilants like cymbals can sound dull, instruments and lead vocals are present and clear. However, because of their in-ear design, their passive soundstage feels less immersive, with sound seeming to come from inside your head more than the over-ear options on this list.
On the plus side, their in-ear fit helps passively block ambient sound like background chatter. They're also well-built and comfortable, as they don't put much pressure on your inner ear once you find a good fit with the selection of differently-sized tips. While some users have reported that the cable is prone to fraying or curling up, it's fortunately detachable, so you can replace it without buying new headphones if it gets damaged.
Jan 06, 2023: Minor changes made for clarity.
Oct 11, 2022: We've overhauled this article to better align it with user expectations. We've added the following headphones: the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO, the Sony MDR-7506, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. We've also removed the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless and cleared the Notable Mentions of picks that are out of date.
Jul 18, 2022: Added the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x as the 'Best Studio Closed-Back Headphones', the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless as the 'Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100', and the MOONDROP Aria as the 'Best Closed-Βack In-Ear Monitors'.
Apr 25, 2022: Verified that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are available.
Feb 24, 2022: Replaced the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x with the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO as the Beyerdynamic have a more neutral sound profile. Moved the Audio-Technica to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphone with a closed-back design 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.