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 650 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 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 have a highly effective active noise cancelling (ANC) system that lets them 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 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're looking for closed-back headphones with a more comfortable fit, try the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC 35 II Wireless 2018. While they aren't as well-built as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, they're lighter and don't fit as tightly on your head, making them less likely to cause fatigue if you're wearing them for hours at a time. Their ANC system's performance isn't as good overall, but it still does a fantastic job of isolating you from ambient sound. Their default sound profile is also more neutral than the Sony, although they lack sound customizations features. They provide about 20 hours of continuous use off of a single charge, and if they run out of battery, you can also use them passively with the included audio cable.
If you want to customize your headphones' sound profile or want the option with a better noise isolation performance, go for the Sony. If you're looking for more comfortable headphones for long flights or days at work, consider the Bose.
The AKG N700NC M2 Wireless are the best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested. These headphones have an ANC system that automatically adjusts itself and blocks out an impressive amount of noise. Their slightly bass-rich default sound profile delivers some extra thump and punch, but it's still well-suited for a variety of types of content and genres of music.
You can also customize their sound profile with a parametric EQ and presets in the companion app. The app also allows you to map 'Ambient Aware' mode or 'Talk-Thru' mode onto the onboard controls, so you can easily hear your surrounding or pause your music to chat with someone without taking off the headphones. They have a lightweight, comfortable design and a 20-hour continuous battery life that should easily last through a few days at work without recharging.
Unfortunately, while the mic has a good recording quality, it struggles to separate your voice from ambient noise, so it may be hard to hear you if you use them for a phone call in a loud place. Some users have also reported that their unit's hinges broke with continuous use. Otherwise, their great noise isolation and versatile performance make them worth considering if you're looking for closed-back over-ear headphones.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are the best closed-back headphones for audiophiles that we've tested. These headphones are well-known and popular with audiophiles due to their fairly neutral and well-balanced sound profile. Although their closed-back design hinders their ability to create a large and spacious passive soundstage, it still seems natural and as if it's coming from speakers placed in the room around you.
These over-ears have a comfortable fit and have a great build quality that feels durable. They also have decent response consistency. Even though they're prone to some inconsistencies in treble delivery, you should be able to achieve more a more consistent response if you take the time to adjust their fit, seal, and positioning to fit your head. They come with three audio cables and a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter, which is nice if you want to connect them to a mixer or amplifier.
However, the Audio-Technica are designed for studio or at-home use, and they lack features like a microphone or in-line remote, more commonly found on casual-use headphones. They can also be a poor choice for commuting as they struggle to block out the low rumble of bus and plane engines as well as ambient chatter. However, if you're looking for closed-back audiophile headphones, they're a suitable choice for most users. They're even among the best studio headphones we've tested.
The best budget closed-back headphones 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 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.
Dec 21, 2021: Replaced the Razer Opus Wireless with the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless as the 'Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200' because the variant of the Razer we tested is no longer available.
Oct 28, 2021: Checked out picks for product availability and accuracy. However, there hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
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.
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.