Closed-back headphones suit most listeners due to their versatility. They are comfortable and offer a well-isolated listening experience in both noisy and quiet environments. Closed headphones 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 not distracting to the people around you. Finally, closed headphones cater a bit more to fans of bass.
So far, we've tested 283 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best closed-back headphones to buy in 2018. See also our recommendations for the best wireless over-ear headphones and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best closed-back headphones we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They're super comfortable and easy-to-use Bluetooth headphones with one of the best noise-cancellation on the market.
They're a slight upgrade to Bose QuietComfort 35 with more control over their noise cancellation feature and a dedicated button to trigger Google Assistant. They have a good battery life with power saving features, a balanced sound that caters well to most genres and they're easy to use with simple controls and few customization options.
Unfortunately, this also means that they won't be as customizable as the Sony WH-1000XM2 or the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless since you can't EQ their sound profile. Also, they're not as well built or as premium-looking as Bowers & Wilkins PX but deliver a slightly more reliable performance overall which makes them the better choice for most listeners.
If you want a headset that isolates as well as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II but delivers a more customizable sound that you can adjust to your liking, then go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 instead. They may not be quite as comfortable as the QC 35 II, and they also have a slightly more bass-heavy default audio reproduction that will not sound as neutral as the Bose. However thanks to their highly customizable app, they are a bit more flexible for users with different tastes and use cases. They also have a slightly better noise canceling feature. Their sound, although slightly darker than the Bose, can be easily EQed via the app and you can even add some room effect for further customization. They also have an excellent battery life and last longer than the WH-1000XM2 overall thanks to the added auto-off timer that you can adjust via the app.
In short, the WH-1000XM3 are a great alternative to the Bose and may even be a better option if you're the type to dive deep into customization options. However, their touch-sensitive control scheme is not as precise and also does not work as well in colder climates. So if you live in colder regions this may be a deal breaker for you but for most, they're a great headset, with a great build quality, a comfortable design, excellent noise isolation, and a good, customizable sound. You can also get the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless for the same level of customization but their noise canceling is not as good.
If you like noise cancelling over-ears like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM3 but find them a bit too expensive, then get the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 instead. They offer the best value for their mid-range price although they will not be the most isolating headphones since their noise canceling is not as good as the Bose or the Sonys. They also do not come with a very customizable app.
On the upside, what they lack in isolation they more than make up for with their exciting bass-rich sound, excellent wireless range and battery life and an ergonomic and easy-to-use design that's well built and durable. They even support aptx-LL (a low latency codec) which makes them more suitable than most of the headphones on this list for watching movies as long as you have the right transmitter dongle.
If you're looking for a mid-range option that delivers great value for your money, then you can't go wrong with Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2.
If you need a more portable design than the over-ears on this list, the Samsung Gear IconX will be the best option for your money. They only isolate passively so they won't be as good as the Bose QC35 II in loud environments. They also won't have the battery life or range of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 and won't be as easy to use. On the upside, they're a decently affordable truly wireless in-ear with a lot of features.
They have a decent sound quality, a customizable app that offers great health tracking features and a compact and stable design that you can use for running and will easily fit into most pockets. They also have up to 4 gigs of onboard storage so you do not have to carry your phone around to listen to your tunes if you don't want to. This makes them a great option for sports but they're also a versatile option for most uses cases if you want to go truly wireless.
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. They won't have the convenient range of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They also do worse in loud environments since they are not noise-canceling headphones.
On the upside, they have a well-balanced sound that packs a good and exciting bass, a well-balanced mid-range and a good reproduction of the higher frequencies that's not too sharp or recessed. They also have a durable build quality that will last you years of regular use, and they're comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions. They're one of the better options if you're looking for a headphone for just listening to music, but they also have the benefit of a closed-back design so you can use them outside with your phone.
If you want a budget wireless headset, the Skullcandy Grind are one of the best budget closed-back headphones we've tested. They do not have active noise canceling so they won't be the best option for very noisy environments and commutes. They also have an on-ear design that doesn't fold.
On the upside, they are a lot more comfortable than most of the on-ear headsets we've reviewed. They also have a well-balanced sound that caters well to most genres and a good build quality that feels sturdy and durable especially at their price range. They have an easy-to-use control scheme and design.
The Skullcandy Grind are a good choice if you're looking for a budget wireless headset and like on-ears. The Bluedio T4 and Cowin E7 are noise canceling headphones that will provide a bit more isolation for your noisy commutes but will not be as comfortable or as portable.
If you do not mind wired gaming headsets to use with your console controllers and for gaming on PC, then get the Logitech G433. They're not wireless like the Skullcandy Grind so their range is limited to their relatively short audio cables. On the upside, they are gaming headphones with a casual design that you can use outside.
They're lightweight and comfortable over-ears that come with a couple of accessories including replaceable ear cup pads and an excellent, detachable boom mic that's great for multiplayer games. Better yet, they have a well-balanced audio reproduction that sounds surprisingly neutral for their price range, so they will cater well to all genres and games. You can also slightly tweak their sound profile thanks to the Logitech gaming software on PC. The HyperX Cloud II and Cloud Alpha are better built and more comfortable alternatives to the G433, but they do not benefit from a customizable app and their sound quality is not as well-balanced.
If you want a budget option that gives you the convenience of a wireless design and a customizable sound at a budget price, then get the Jaybird Freedom 2. They may not have an as good sound quality as some of the other budget recommendations. They also have a pretty limiting charging clip that will be a deal breaker for some. However, for their price range, they have a good set of active features, a decently balanced sound, and they isolate well enough for commuting and most use cases. They're also stable enough for sports, and they're one of the only in-ears below a 100$ with a customizable sound profile, so if you care about tailoring your listening experience to meet your needs, then they're the best choice you can get.
The Anker Soundbuds Curve are an even more budget option with great performance for their price and would be a strong alternative to the Jaybird Freedom F5 and Freedom 2 if you do not care much for a customizable sound profile. You can also check out the KZ ZS-10 for a wired in-ear with good performance around the same price if the relatively short 4-hour battery life of the Freedom II and the limiting charging clip is a deal breaker for you.
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 (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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.