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 noise both in and audio out of the headphones, closed-back headphones keep music close to the ear by blocking background noise and limiting audio leakage. These headphones are more versatile and better suited for commutes, outdoor strolls, and working with others around you. They also tend to have more bass than their open-back counterpart.
We've tested over 720 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones with a closed-back design to buy. For more, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones and the best headphones.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO are the best closed-back headphones we've tested. These high-end headphones have excellent build quality and come with a durable carrying case that, while bulky, will help protect them when not in use. Unlike their more affordable sibling, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, they also have a detachable audio cable, so you can easily replace it if it gets damaged. Thanks to their plush ear cup padding, they're very comfortable, making them a solid choice for long listening sessions.
They have a well-balanced sound with an exceptionally flat mid-range, so vocals and instruments are clear and accurate. Although they lack some low-bass, the rest of the bass range is fairly neutral, resulting in adequate punch and boom. Their treble response is underemphasized, hurting the detail of vocals and instruments. Their soundstage feels closed-off and unnatural, but this is normal for closed-back headphones. While they don't have ANC, they can passively block out a fair amount of ambient chatter and don't leak much audio at high volumes.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO perform great despite some build issues. While well-built and sturdy, these headphones are very tight, and users with average-to-large heads will feel a hard squeeze near their temples and around their ears. That said, these over-ears are comfortable for those with smaller heads and offer very similar performance as the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO at a reduced price point. With an analytical sound profile out of the box, vocals and lead instruments sound clear, accurate, and detailed, but a bump in the mid-treble makes sibilants like cymbals a bit sharp.
They passively cut down a decent amount of ambient chatter around you, which is handy if you're listening in a shared space. However, their audio cable isn't detachable, so if you damage it, you'll need to replace the entire unit. If you're looking for closed-backs with detachable audio cables, it's worth checking out the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. However, they don't passively block out as much background noise as the 770 PRO.
The Sony MDR-7506 are some of the best studio headphones on the market, thanks to their balanced sound. These over-ears have a bump of extra bass to add thump, punch, and boom to mixes, while another peak in the treble range makes vocals and instruments bright and sparkly. They also have a very neutral and flat mid-range, so vocals and instruments are accurately reproduced.
While these retro-chic over-ears have a cheap and plasticky frame, especially compared to the sturdy Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, they're decently comfortable and have a coiled audio cable, so you don't have to worry about tangling. However, they struggle to passively block out mid-range background noise like ambient chatter, which can be troublesome if you want to listen to audio around others.
Build quality tends to take a big hit at the budget price point, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are no exception. Their frame feels cheap, especially compared to the Sony MDR-7506, while their exposed audio cable makes them more prone to damage over time. However, their warm sound profile is worth considering if you want audiophile-grade headphones at a more digestible price.
Although they lack a bit of thump and rumble, their bass range has a bump in mid to high-bass to add punch and warmth to your mix. It doesn't clutter or muddy the mid-range, so vocals and instruments remain clear, present, and detailed in your tracks. Their treble is quite recessed, and sibilants like cymbals are dull. These over-ears also struggle to block background noise, which can be frustrating when listening to audio in a moderately noisy room.
If you're looking for closed-backs that deliver high audio quality but retain a mic for chatting with others, gaming, or podcasting, then look at the RØDE NTH-100M. These audiophile headphones stand out from the pack as you can buy them with or without their detachable boom mic. Don't feel locked into your choice; if you want a mic down the line, you can buy it separately. The mic offers excellent recording quality, ensuring you'll be heard crystal clear. Though it struggles to separate your voice from background noise, this won't be an issue if you only use them in a dedicated space like your living room or office.
These comfortable over-ears have a round, warm sound profile. Though they lack low-bass compared to the previous picks, they deliver extra boom to mixes. Thanks to their treble roll-off, vocals and instruments sound mellow. They're a poor choice for blocking background noise since they struggle to reduce ambient chatter. Some users have also reported issues of audio quality varying between units, and the headphones themselves are prone to inconsistencies in audio delivery due to fit, positioning, and seal.
If you're looking for over-ears that you can use anywhere and everywhere, consider the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears have a sturdy-feeling plastic frame and a comfortable fit, with ample padding and a lightweight design. They also supply upwards of 37 hours of continuous playback time on a single charge, which will be more than enough for a couple of days. They have a highly effective active noise cancelling (ANC) system that filters out a remarkable amount of background noise, from the low rumble of bus and plane engines to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit, not to mention ambient chatter from people nearby.
They have a bass-heavy default sound profile, which will please fans of EDM or hip-hop but can also muddy vocals and lead instruments. Fortunately, the Sony | Headphones Connect app also features a graphic EQ with presets to fine-tune your listening experience. You won't experience too much fatigue wearing them, but if comfort is a top priority, you may prefer the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless. They're lighter and clamp onto your head less tightly, which helps make them more comfortable for most people. While they perform similarly overall, the Bose headphones aren't as well-built and don't block out as much noise.
If you're looking for more casual-use, closed-back headphones, check out our picks for the best wireless Bluetooth headphones!
May 19, 2023: Removed the MOONDROP Aria and the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless from our picks as they don't align with user expectations for closed-back headphones. We've also added the RØDE NTH-100M as the 'Best Closed-Back Headphones With A Mic' option for users who want closed-back headphones for gaming or podcasts.
Mar 09, 2023: We added the Focal Bathys Wireless and the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X in the Notable Mentions. We also made text updates for clarity and relevance.
Oct 11, 2022: We've overhauled this article to better align it with user expectations. We've added the following headphones: the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO, the Sony MDR-7506, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. We've also removed the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless and cleared the Notable Mentions of picks that are out of date.
Jul 18, 2022: Added the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x as the 'Best Studio Closed-Back Headphones', the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless as the 'Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100', and the MOONDROP Aria as the 'Best Closed-Βack In-Ear Monitors'.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphone with a closed-back design 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.