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.
These headphones 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 best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested so far are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. These Bluetooth over-ears are quite decent for the price and offer great value overall. They're comfortable headphones that look and feel premium and well-built and have one of the best and easiest to use controls we've ever tested. It's worth noting that we tested the Special Edition version, which come with a good hard carrying case, but we expect the regular model to perform very similarly.
These headphones have a very well-balanced sound profile that's versatile enough for almost all genres and content. They have a fair amount of extra rumble that will please fans of bass-heavy music but won't be too noticeable with most other genres. Their 30-hour battery life is exceptional, and they support NFC and multi-device pairing, which is nice.
Unfortunately, their companion app doesn't offer any EQ customization, so you can't change the way they sound. Their ANC feature also isn't the best, and while it helps dampen the sound of bus or plane engines a little, it doesn't work nearly as well as most newer options. Overall, they're impressive for the price and are among the best over-ear headphones we've tested.
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.
The sound profile of these headphones 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 these headphones are 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 inexpensive Bluetooth over-ears offer surprisingly decent performance for their price and are a decent upgrade over the previous version, the Anker SoundCore Life 2 Wireless. They're lightweight and comfortable, and fit people with smaller heads better than their predecessor. Their physical buttons give you a ton of control options, and they have an outstanding 32-hour battery life.
Their sound profile isn't nearly as well-balanced as the other options on this list, and they're quite excited-sounding with a good amount of extra bass. They'll give your music a lot of extra kick and thump without being overpowering or boomy, making them decently well-suited for most popular genres from EDM to modern rock. Their ANC works surprisingly well considering their price point, and they'll help give you some peace and quiet, especially in the office.
Unfortunately, they don't have a dedicated companion app, which is a shame as you can't adjust their sound if you find them a bit too excited or bassy. They also lack some extra features like NFC or multi-device pairing and don't feel quite as well-built and durable as the other options on this list. Overall, they're a versatile pair of over-ears that have a surprisingly good ANC feature and are among the best budget headphones we've tested.
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.