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 590 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 own 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're also fitted with a highly effective active noise cancelling (ANC) system that allows them to 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 bit of 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 even more comfortable over-ear headphones, try the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, they lack sound customization features like a graphic EQ, and their continuous battery life is shorter. However, the Bose have a lightweight and well-padded fit that doesn't clamp too tightly onto your head. Their sound profile is much more neutral than the Sony, although it still has a touch of extra bass to add thump, rumble, and boom to your mixes. They also have an ANC system that can block out an outstanding amount of ambient noise around you. They have a continuous battery life of around 20 hours, and they're equipped with an auto-off timer to help further conserve battery life. You can even pair them with up to two devices at a time, making it easy to switch between using your smartphone and computer.
Go for the Sony if you want the ability to adjust your headphones' sound profile to better suit your tastes. However, if you prioritize a more comfortable fit from your closed-back headphones, check out the Bose instead.
The Razer Opus Wireless are the best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested. These over-ear headphones have an ANC system that does an outstanding job of blocking out ambient noise like the low rumble of bus or plane engines and ambient chatter. They also have a very comfortable fit, so you can wear them for long periods of time without feeling too much fatigue.
These well-built headphones have a very well-balanced and neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, which makes them versatile enough for a variety of audio content. However, if you prefer a different sound, their companion app has a graphic EQ as well as presets to help you really customize them. They also deliver over 32 hours of continuous playback time, which should get you through long days at the office or on the road without a recharge, and can even be used passively when you've run out of battery life.
Unfortunately, their integrated microphone has some trouble separating your voice from ambient noise around you. They also lack multi-device pairing, so it can be a bit more of a hassle if you want to switch between your laptop and smartphone. However, these headphones deliver a very versatile performance, especially at this price point, and they're even among the best noise cancelling headphones that we've tested.
The best closed-back headphones for audiophiles that we've tested 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 they may need some readjusting to experience their treble response the same way every time. Their soundstage isn't nearly as open and wide as open-backs 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 many active features in comparison to the 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 Anker Soundcore life Q20 Wireless are the best budget closed-back headphones that we've tested. While they're the older generation of the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, they're still available and offer a decent overall price-to-performance ratio. They have a very good active noise cancelling (ANC) feature, and while they have a harder time blocking out bass-range noise like the rumble of a bus or plane engine, they do a much better job of cutting down mid-range sounds like ambient chatter.
These headphones have a very excited sound profile that adds a lot of extra boom and punch to your mixes. They have decent build quality, with a thin metal sheet to help reinforce their headband, and are quite lightweight, which makes them comfortable to wear for a couple of hours at a time. Thanks to their over 32 hours of continuous battery life, they should last through long days at the office or on commutes.
Unfortunately, they lack sound enhancement features like an EQ or presets to help customize their sound to your liking. They also don't come with a hard case, and their basic fabric pouch won't protect your headphones from anything but dust and slight water damage. That said, if you're looking for a wallet-friendly pair of closed-back headphones, they're a suitable choice.
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.
Mar 12, 2021: Verified that main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category. Added Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Jan 13, 2021: Added the Apple AirPods Max Wireless to Notable Mentions. The Apple AirPods Max lack the wide amount of customization features that the Sony WH-1000XM4 offer and aren't as comfortable. For many users, the Sony also provide a better price-to-performance ratio than the Apple. Replaced the Mpow H10 with the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless for 'Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones'. The Mpow H10 variant that we tested has now been discontinued. It has been replaced with an upgraded variant of these headphones. We haven't tested this variant yet and can't verify whether it performs similarly to the previous generation.
Nov 06, 2020: Replaced the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless with the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. Added the Bose QC35 II as 'More Comfortable Alternative'.
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.