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 as well as limiting the amount of audio leakage. These types of headphones suit most listeners due to their versatility as they are better suited to giving you peace and quiet 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.
So far, we've tested nearly 450 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 best closed-back headphones with a wireless connection that we've reviewed so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. These Bluetooth over-ears are one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones we've ever tested thanks to their very lightweight design and well-padded ear cups and headband. They have easy to use physical controls, look and feel quite premium and durable, and have great 20-hour battery life.
Their sound profile is very well-balanced and will be well-suited for a very wide variety of genres and content. While they have a tiny bit of extra bass, it isn't overpowering or boomy and adds a nice amount of kick to all genres. Unfortunately, their dedicated companion app doesn't offer any EQ presets or customization, so you can't change the way they sound in case you prefer a more unnatural sound profile.
They have an excellent active noise cancelling (ANC) feature that does an outstanding job at blocking out background chatter and the high-pitched noises of an AC unit or fan, though they aren't as outstanding at blocking out engine rumbles. They also support multi-device pairing so you can easily switch between your phone and a PC, making them a great choice for the office. Overall, these are a good pair of headphones for most uses and are the best headphones we've tested.
If you listen to music in very noisy environments or want to be able to change the way they sound, get the Sony WH-1000XM3. They're not quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018, and their touch-sensitive controls don't work in cold climates, but their app gives you access to EQ options, and their ANC performs even better. Their default sound profile has a bit more bass, but you can easily change it via presets or a graphic EQ within the Sony | Headphones Connect app. They're the best noise cancelling headphones we've tested to date, and their ANC feature works better across-the-board than the one found on the Bose. They look and feel a bit more premium and durable, but unfortunately, they're a bit heavier which may cause some discomfort during long listening sessions. They don't support multi-device pairing like the Bose, but their battery lasts seven hours longer, which is great.
Overall, if you want a more versatile pair of headphones with physical buttons that are extremely lightweight and comfortable, go with the Bose. However, if you want to be able to customize the way your headphones sound or want the best ANC available, get the Sony.
The Razer Opus are the best closed-back headphones under $200 that we’ve tested so far. They offer a premium design, all-day comfort, and an intuitive control scheme with physical buttons for volume, calls, and ANC activation. They also feel quite well-built, with a dense plastic construction, and offer a stable enough fit to be used while running. Their excellent ANC system effectively blocks out everything from the rumble of construction equipment to the high-pitched hum of AC units.
Their sound profile is well-balanced, making them well-suited for listening to a wide variety of content. They deliver outstanding mid accuracy and very neutral bass, although the latter is a little underemphasized out-of-the-box. Thankfully, if you want a little more thump and kick, their sound profile can be customized to your liking via presets or a graphic EQ in the dedicated Razer Opus app. Continuous battery life is excellent, offering nearly 33 hours of continuous playback with ANC enabled on a single charge.
On the downside, they don’t support multi-device pairing, which might present a bit of a hassle if you constantly switch between listening to your phone and computer. Their integrated microphone also only does a mediocre job of isolating your voice from background noise, so they’re not the best choice for making calls in crowded or loud environments. With that said, they deliver excellent value, with an extremely balanced sound profile, solid-feeling build quality, and an ANC system that outperforms anything else at this price point.
The best closed-back headphones for audiophiles that we've tested so far 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 you may need to readjust them a bit to experience their treble response the same way every time. Their soundstage isn't nearly as open and wide as open-back headphones 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 a lot of active features in comparison to 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 closed-back headphones in the budget category that we've tested so far are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20. These relatively inexpensive Bluetooth headphones are fairly comfortable for most head shapes, thanks to their padded ear cups and good-sized headband. They also have a somewhat intuitive physical control scheme and deliver an outstanding 32 hours of playback on a single charge, so they should easily cope with a couple of long days at the office.
They have a bass-heavy and excited sound profile that'll deliver the thump and kick fans of EDM and hip-hop crave, but without sounding boomy or overpowering for other genres. Their noise isolation performance is very good overall: while their ANC doesn't help too much in reducing lower-frequency noises like bus or plane engines, they still do an excellent job at blocking out background chatter.
Due to their lower price point, they don’t feel as well-built as other entries on this list and lack features such as NFC and multi-device pairing. They also lack a dedicated companion app, so there's no way to adjust their bass-heavy sound profile if it's not to your liking. However, they still offer surprisingly decent overall performance for the price and are among the best budget wireless headphones we’ve tested so far.
07/07/2020: Changed 'Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200' recommendation to Razer Opus, moved Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 Wireless to 'Notable Mentions'.
05/08/2020: Updated text for accuracy and clarity. Removed gaming categories; if you're looking for gaming headphones, check out our recommendations for best gaming headphones.
03/09/2020: Replaced Mixcder E9 with Anker Soundcore Life Q20 and removed earbud and over-ear picks.
10/30/2019: Replaced Mpow H10 with Mixcder E9 for 'Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones'.
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.