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 670 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best over-ear headphone with a closed-back design to buy. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones and the best headphones.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are the best wireless closed-back headphones we've tested. These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears have a sturdy-feeling high-grade plastic construction 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 should be more than enough for a couple of days, though battery consumption can vary depending on your 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 and a graphic EQ to fine-tune your listening experience. They have a highly effective active noise cancelling (ANC) system that lets them 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 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 we've tested.
If you're looking for closed-back headphones with a more comfortable fit, try the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC 35 II Wireless 2018. These over-ear headphones aren't as well-built as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, but they have a lighter design and a looser fit, making them more comfortable and less likely to cause fatigue for most people. Some may also prefer their more neutral default sound profile, although they don't come with any sound customization features. While their ANC isn't quite as effective at blocking out bass-range noise, like rumbling bus and plane engines, it still does a superb overall job isolating you from ambient sound. They last for about 20 hours of continuous use off of a single charge, and if the battery dies, you can also use them passively with the included cable.
If you want a better noise isolation performance or headphones with sound customization features, go for the Sony, but consider the Bose if you're looking for a more comfortable fit for long flights or day at work.
The AKG N700NC M2 Wireless are the best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested. These headphones have an ANC system that automatically adjusts itself and does a great job blocking out noise. Their default sound profile adds some extra rumble and punch to your audio, but it's still well-balanced and suitable for a variety of genres.
If you prefer a different sound, their companion app includes a parametric EQ and presets that you can use to customize it. You can also use it to map either 'Ambient Aware' or 'Talk-Thru' mode onto the onboard control scheme, so you can hear ambient sound and easily pause your audio without removing the headphones. Their lightweight, comfortable design is suitable for long listening sessions, and they provide about 20 hours of continuous use off of a single charge.
Unfortunately, while they have a mic with a good recording quality, it's not very good at separating your voice from ambient sound, so you may be hard to hear if you take a call in a busy office. Some users have also reported that their unit's hinges broke with continuous use, so they may not be very durable. Their great noise isolation and robust customization features make them a solid choice if you're looking for closed-back headphones for less than $200.
The best closed-back audiophile headphones we've tested are the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO. They have a very neutral sound profile that's well-suited for a variety of audio content. Vocals and lead instruments sound clear, accurate, and detailed, while a bump in the mid-treble makes sibilants like cymbals bright, which is good if you prefer a more analytical sound to pick out imperfections in your mixes.
These over-ears have a wide passive soundstage, and your audio seems like it's coming from speakers placed in the room around you rather than from inside your head. They also have a great build quality and feel sturdy and dense. Their plush microfiber padding on the ear cups helps keep you comfortable during long listening sessions.
Their audio cable isn't detachable, so if you damage it, you'll need to replace the entire unit. They don't block out as much background noise as other closed-back headphones on this list, and they bleed some audio at high levels. Luckily, they can still cut down a decent amount of ambient chatter around you, which is handy if you're listening to audio in a shared space.
The best budget closed-back headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. These headphones offer decent performance at a more affordable price. Thanks to their ANC system, they do a good job of blocking out ambient chatter as higher-pitched noise like the hum of an AC unit.
These over-ears have a comfortable and lightweight fit. If you enjoy genres like EDM and hip-hop, their excited v-shaped sound profile adds intense thump, punch, and boom to mixes while vocals and lead instruments are bright. They have 32.3 hours of continuous playback time, so you don't need to worry about running out of battery life during your workday. You can use these headphones passively with their included 1/8" TRS cable in a pinch.
Unfortunately, you can't adjust their sound to your liking since they don't have EQ presets or other sound customization features. They also lack a more sturdy carrying case, and while they come with a basic pouch to keep dust from accumulating when you're not using them, it won't protect the headphones from water or fall damage. Still, they have a good ANC system and comfortable fit suitable for casual use.
Apr 25, 2022: Verified that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are available.
Feb 24, 2022: Replaced the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x with the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO as the Beyerdynamic have a more neutral sound profile. Moved the Audio-Technica to Notable Mentions.
Dec 21, 2021: Replaced the Razer Opus Wireless with the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless as the 'Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200' because the variant of the Razer we tested is no longer available.
Oct 28, 2021: Checked out picks for product availability and accuracy. However, there hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Sep 01, 2021: Checked our picks for consistency and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
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.