Closed-back headphones suit most listeners due to their versatility. They tend to be comfortable and offer a well-isolated listening experience in both noisy and quiet environments. Closed headphones generally have sufficient noise isolation to not let too much ambient noise seep into your audio. They also don’t leak as much as open headphones, so they’re less distracting to the people around you. Finally, closed headphones cater a bit more to fans of bass.
So far, we've tested nearly 350 pairs of closed-back headphones and below are our recommendations for the best closed-back headphones to buy in 2020. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones and the best headphones.
The best closed-back headphones for casual use that we've reviewed so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. These wireless headphones are one of the most comfortable ones we've tested and they offer a well-balanced sound profile. Additionally, they're also one of the best noise cancelling headphones. They have a great 20-hour battery life that you can use throughout a few days, making them quite versatile for everywhere you go.
Their well-balanced audio reproduction lends itself well to most music genres, making them an even more versatile option. These Bluetooth headphones can also connect via NFC for a quicker and easier pairing procedure and people who like to work with headphones will love their multi-device pairing feature. You're able to connect to two devices simultaneously, like your phone and desktop, and easily switch between both. You can also use them wired with the included audio cable, even if the battery is dead, which is quite convenient.
While these headphones used to have industry-leading noise cancelling, a recent firmware update (4.5.2) considerably worsened the ANC performance of our unit, especially in the bass and mid ranges. Consider the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 if you prefer stronger noise cancelling, but they’re more expensive and may not provide added value for everyone. Although those who like to be able to customize the way their headphones sound will be disappointed by their lack of customization options, if you’re looking for headphones with a simple, ergonomic design that deliver a well-rounded performance straight out of the box, then these are the way to go.
If you want more customization options or use your headphones in a very noisy environment and need the best ANC you can get, go with the Sony WH-1000XM3. They aren't quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018, but their companion app provides much more customization options and they're the best noise cancelling headphones we've tested to date. They're more stylish headphones that have a high-end and premium feel. While they might sound a bit bass-heavy by default, they have a decent EQ in their app, making them a bit more customizable than the Bose. These also have touch-sensitive controls, but they don't work appropriately in freezing conditions, so they won't be the best option if you leave in a colder climate. On the other hand, you can also check out the Jabra Elite 85h Wireless if you would like over-ear headphones that have physical controls and that are still comfortable. However, their ANC feature is a bit weaker than the Sony and the Bose headphones.
Get the Bose if comfort is the most important thing to you, but if you want headphones to drown out chatty coworkers or noisy bus and plane engines, go with the Sony.
If you find our main picks too expensive, check out the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, the best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested to date. These Bluetooth over-ear headphones look and feel quite premium, and have a good, comfortable design thanks to their well-padded ear cups and headband. The controls on each ear cup are great and give you a very easy-to-use control scheme with a ton of features, including volume control. It's worth noting that we tested the SE model, which are currently available for just under $200, but we'd expect the standard model, which are considerably cheaper, to perform very similarly.
Their sound profile is extremely well-balanced, with just a bit of extra low-bass that will give your music extra thump without sounding cluttered or overpowering. This makes them a great choice for most types of content or music, from podcasts to dubstep. Their battery lasts 30 hours, which is extremely good, so you should be able to use them for almost an entire work-week before needing a charge.
While they have a dedicated companion app for iOS and Android, unfortunately, it doesn't offer much and only allows you to see their last synced position and check their current battery-life. Also, their ANC feature doesn't do much, and they won't help much with blocking out the low rumble of bus or plane engines, and most background speech is blocked passively by having your ears physically covered. Overall, however, their premium look and feel, great controls, and very well-balanced and versatile sound profile make them a great choice of closed-back headphones that are among the best over-ear headphones we've tested so far.
If sound quality is what matters most for you and you also want a pair of audiophile-level headphones that you can also use outdoors, get the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, the best audiophile closed-back headphones. They're one of the better options if you're looking for headphones just for listening to music, but they have the added noise reduction of a closed-back design so you can use them outside with your phone.
These headphones have a well-balanced sound that packs a good and exciting bass, a well-balanced mid-range, and a good reproduction of higher frequencies that's not too sharp or recessed. They have a durable build that should last you years of regular use, and they're comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.
If you decide to go for these wired headphones, you won't have the freedom and convenience of a pair of Bluetooth headphones like the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016. They also don't focus on noise isolation even if they're closed-back, as they lack any active noise cancelling feature. You can also check out Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO for even better-built headphones, although they don't have a detachable cable and some people find them to be a bit sharp and piercing.
The best closed-back headphones for gaming that we’ve tested so far are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. These gaming headphones are extremely versatile as they can be used in various ways. They come with a base transmitter for very low wireless latency, but they can also be used wired or even with a phone via Bluetooth. Their design is quite comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions and you're more than likely never going to run out of battery thanks to their dual-battery system, as long as you keep putting one in the charging dock.
Their audio quality is also great, which some may be surprised by considering it's labeled as a gaming headset. It has a very good audio reproduction performance, which is great for video game sound effects and soundtracks, but will also be suitable for everyday music. On top of being one of the more neutral-sounding gaming headphones, they have a very good microphone for online voice chat with friends and teammates. You can also easily mix your game audio and chat audio and the dock provides a good amount of customization and control over the headphones.
On the downside, these headphones aren’t entirely wirelessly compatible with the Xbox One and don’t have mic level controls, which can be disappointing for some gamers. Their ski-goggle inspired fit can also be a bit uncomfortable for those with larger heads. The Astro A50 Wireless are a great alternative thanks to their compatibility with Xbox One, great microphone customization options, and more ergonomic fit.
If you’re looking for gaming headphones that perform well but that won’t break the bank, then get the Logitech G433. They’re not wireless like the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, but they sound great and still provide a reasonably feature-packed experience, especially for wired headphones. They come with lots of accessories, like additional ear cups, cables, and even a USB adapter so you can access the great Logitech G App program on your PC. Their boom mic is detachable, so it won’t be in your way when you don’t need it and one of their provided audio cables has an in-line mic so you can still take calls on-the-go. On the downside, their build quality feels mediocre, especially since they’re covered in a fabric that could easily rip. Consider the Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset as a more comfortable, better-built alternative with a more premium design, though they're more expensive.
Get the SteelSeries if you want the freedom of wireless gaming headphones, but if you want to spend less and don't mind having a wire, go with the Logitech.
The best closed-back headphones in the budget category that we've tested so far are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. These ANC over-ear headphones feel decently well-made and are quite comfortable. They're an upgraded version of the Anker SoundCore Life 2 Wireless, and look and feel almost identical, though their slightly smaller design should fit more people more comfortably, and their ANC is improved. Their battery life is also slightly improved and a two-hour charge will now get you just over 32 hours of battery life, which is outstanding.
They have an excited, V-shaped sound profile that will please fans of bass with quite a bit of extra thump and kick that won't overpower vocals. This results in a sound reproduction that's well-suited for a wide variety of content and genres, from EDM to classic rock. While their ANC works decently well, unfortunately, they may not be the best choice for commuting or travel as it isn't the best at blocking out the low rumble of bus or plane engines. On the upside, they do an excellent job at blocking out background chatter, making them a decent choice for the office.
Like most Bluetooth headphones, their microphone performance isn't the greatest, and the person on the other end of the line will likely have a difficult time hearing you in even moderately noisy environments, though voices recorded with the mic sound quite clear and easy to understand. Overall, these are a decent overall pair of closed-back over-ears that are good for a variety of uses and offer a good price-to-performance ratio.
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.
03/09/2020: Replaced Mixcder E9 with Anker Soundcore Life Q20 and removed earbud and over-ear picks.
01/09/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
10/30/2019: Replaced Mpow H10 with Mixcder E9 for 'Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones'.