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 over 300 closed-back headphones and below are our recommendations for the best closed-back headphones to buy in 2019. 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 tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They have a very comfortable design, a well-balanced sound, and a great battery life that help make them a very versatile option, suitable for most uses.
These headphones have great audio reproduction, with a balanced sound profile that lends itself well to music of virtually all genres. They support NFC for easier Bluetooth pairing and can also connect to two devices at the same time, which is great if you often switch between your laptop and smartphone. They have a great 20-hour battery life and also feature an adjustable auto-off timer to help save power.
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 the QC 35 II 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 a premium pair of headphones that look and feel even more durable than the Bose. Out-of-the-box, their sound profile is slightly bass-heavy, but they're fully customizable through Sony's great companion app which gives you a graphic equalizer and presets so you can adjust the sound to better suit your needs. Unfortunately, their on-ear controls don't work properly in cold temperatures, so they may not be great if you live in colder climates. If you want a pair of on-ears with great physical controls that are still comfortable and customizable, consider the Jabra Elite 85h Wireless, though they have weaker ANC.
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.
The best closed-back headphones under $200 are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They’re well-built, comfortable wireless over-ears with active noise cancelling. They have ergonomic physical controls, which makes them easy-to-use, and the SE version even comes with a nice hard carrying case. They sound good, have an excellent battery, and provide very good value overall.
These headphones have an exciting, bass-rich sound profile that brings out the thump and rumble of bass-heavy genres like EDM or hip-hop but is still balanced enough for vocals and lead instruments to sound present and detailed. Their 30-hour battery life is outstanding, and they have a bunch of power-saving features to help it last even longer.
On the downside, their noise isolation isn’t as good as that of some of the more premium noise cancelling headphones we’ve reviewed, like the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless. If you’re looking for better ANC in this price range, consider the Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25, but they’re wired and use AAA batteries. The Plantronics have better controls, leak less sound, and can be paired to two devices simultaneously which, along with their comfortable design and exciting sound, makes them the best headphones under $200 we’ve tested so far.
If you like the isolation of closed-back headphones but prefer the portability of in-ears, get the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They don't have ANC and don't isolate engine rumbles as well as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016, but they offer better customization and are much more portable. They're decently comfortable with a good stable fit and impressive build quality; they're even rated IPX7 for sweat and water resistance, though we don't currently test this. While they're fairly well-balanced out-of-the-box, they're compatible with Jaybird's MySound app which allows you to customize their sound. They isolate background voices well and leak practically no sound, meaning you can turn up the volume of your music without bothering those around you. If great sound isolation is the most important thing to you, you may want to consider the Jabra Elite Active 65t Truly Wireless, though they aren't as comfortable for most people.
Go with the Plantronics if you prefer the feel of over-ear headphones or need ANC, but if you want the portability of earbuds and still want something with decent noise isolation, get the Jaybird.
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.
Since these are wired headphones, they don’t have the convenient wireless range of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016. They also don’t perform as well in loud environments since they aren't noise cancelling headphones. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are also great-sounding critical listening headphones that feel even better-built than the Audio-Technica, but they don’t have a detachable cable and can sound a bit sibilant to some listeners.
The best closed-back headphones for gaming that we’ve tested so far are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. They’re very versatile headphones that support wireless connections not only with their USB base transmitter but also via Bluetooth as well. They also have a unique dual-battery system that ensures you’re never out of power as long as you always keep one battery charging.
These headphones have outstanding audio reproduction and are well-suited to not only video game soundtracks and effects, but film scores, podcasts, and audiobooks too. Their microphone performance is remarkable and you can mix audio from both wireless sources simultaneously, which is great if you like to chat on your smartphone while gaming.
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 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 budget closed-back headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Mixcder E9. While they're primarily made out of plastic, they're reinforced by a thin metal plate giving them a surprisingly decent build-quality and making them feel slightly more premium than other options at this price point. They have an easy to use control scheme and even include a nice hard carrying case, which is a welcome addition for a pair of budget headphones.
These headphones aren't too heavy with good, comfortable padding on the ear cups which means you should be able to wear them for extended periods without feeling any fatigue. Their sound profile is decently well-suited for a wide variety of music, though they do favor bass a bit and will perform slightly better with bass-heavy genres. Overall, their sound reproduction is good, especially for the price.
Unfortunately, their ANC is only decent, though it does a good job blocking bass frequencies like the rumble of engines, making them a decent option for blocking out bus noise during your daily commute. The mid-range performance of the ANC is a little weaker, though it should be able to block out some background chatter in the office. Those looking for the best noise cancellation they can get in the budget range should consider the Mpow H10 Wireless, though they feel considerably cheaper.
If you prefer the fit of on-ear headphones, the Skullcandy Grind Wireless are a good budget choice. They don’t have ANC like the Mixcder E9 Wireless, but they feel much better-built. The Skullcandy are a lot more comfortable than most on-ear headphones we've reviewed and have a well-balanced sound that caters well to most genres. On the downside, they can’t be folded into a compact format.
Get the Mixcder if you want ANC or prefer over-ear headphones, but if you like the smaller design of on-ears, go with the Skullcandy.
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.
10/30/2019: Replaced Mpow H10 with Mixcder E9 for 'Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones'.