Closed-back headphones suit most listeners due to their versatility. They tend to be comfortable and offer a well-isolated listening experience in both noisy and quiet environments. Closed headphones generally 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 less distracting to the people around you. Finally, closed headphones cater a bit more to fans of bass.
So far, we've tested nearly 300 closed-back headphones and below are our recommendations for the best closed-back headphones to buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones and the best headphones.
The best closed-back headphones for casual use that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They have a very comfortable design, a well-balanced sound, and a great battery life that help make them a very versatile option, suitable for most uses.
These headphones have great audio reproduction, with a balanced sound profile that lends itself well to music of virtually all genres. They support NFC for easier Bluetooth pairing and can also connect to two devices at the same time, which is great if you often switch between your laptop and smartphone. They have a great 20-hour battery life and also feature an adjustable auto-off timer to help save power.
While these headphones used to have industry-leading noise cancelling, a recent firmware update (4.5.2) considerably worsened the ANC performance of our unit, especially in the bass and mid ranges. Consider the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 if you prefer stronger noise cancelling, but they’re more expensive and may not provide added value for everyone. Although those who like to be able to customize the way their headphones sound will be disappointed by their lack of customization options, if you’re looking for headphones with a simple, ergonomic design that deliver a well-rounded performance straight out of the box, then the QC 35 II are the way to go.
If you prefer headphones that you can customize to your heart’s content, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3. They’re not quite as comfortable nor as easy-to-use as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but their companion app provides significantly more customization options, and they have much better ANC. They have one of the best noise cancelling systems we’ve tested to date, and their app, Sony | Headphones Connect, provides not only a 5-band EQ but also sound positioning and room effects, ANC optimization, Bluetooth codec options, and more.
Unfortunately, their touch-sensitive control scheme doesn’t work properly in cold temperatures. The headphones also can’t connect to multiple devices, which can be annoying if you use them in an office setting and need to quickly switch between your work PC and smartphone. Consider the Jabra Elite 85h as a more ergonomic alternative with great physical controls and multi-device pairing, but no NFC and weaker noise cancellation.
The best closed-back headphones under $200 are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They’re well-built, comfortable wireless over-ears with active noise cancelling. They have ergonomic physical controls which makes them easy-to-use and the SE version even comes with a nice hard carrying case. They sound good, have an excellent battery, and provide very good value overall.
These headphones have an exciting, bass-rich sound profile that brings out the thump and rumble of bass-heavy genres like EDM or hip-hop but is still balanced enough for vocals and lead instruments to sound present and detailed. Their 30-hour battery life is outstanding, and they have a bunch of power-saving features to help it last even longer.
On the downside, their noise isolation isn’t as good as that of some of the more premium noise cancelling headphones we’ve reviewed, like the Sony WH-1000XM3. If you’re looking for better ANC in this price range, consider the Bose QuietComfort 25, but they’re wired and use AAA batteries. The Plantronics have better controls, leak less sound, and can be paired to 2 devices simultaneously, which along with their comfortable design and exciting sound makes them the best headphones under $200 we’ve tested so far.
If you like the isolation that closed-back headphones provide but prefer the more portable format of in-ears, get the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They don’t isolate noise in the bass range as well as the Bose Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 do with ANC, but they still do a decent job and even reduce more noise in the mid-range. They also have outstanding leakage performance, so you can raise your listening volume to mask out more noise without disturbing those around you. They have a stable fit that’s great for sports and are rated IPX7 for superior sweat and water resistance. They sound decent and are compatible with the great Jaybird MySound app for added customizability.
On the downside, you may not find these as comfortable as over-ear headphones, especially after long periods of time. They also have a proprietary charging cradle that’s a bit restrictive. The Samsung Galaxy Buds are a good choice if you prefer truly wireless earbuds, though you may prefer the Jabra Elite Active 65t if you want truly wireless headphones for sports.
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're one of the better options if you're looking for headphones just for listening to music, but they have the added noise reduction of a closed-back design so you can use them outside with your phone.
These headphones have a well-balanced sound that packs a good and exciting bass, a well-balanced mid-range, and a good reproduction of higher frequencies that's not too sharp or recessed. They have a durable build that should last you years of regular use, and they're comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.
Since these are wired headphones, they don’t have the convenient wireless range of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They also don’t perform as well in loud environments since they’re not noise cancelling headphones. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are also great-sounding critical listening headphones that feel even better-built than the Audio-Technica, but they don’t have a detachable cable and can sound a bit sibilant to some listeners.
The best closed-back headphones for gaming that we’ve tested so far are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. They’re very versatile headphones that support wireless connections not only with their USB base transmitter but also via Bluetooth as well. They also have a unique dual-battery system that ensures you’re never out of power as long as you always keep one battery charging.
These headphones have outstanding audio reproduction and are well-suited to not only video game soundtracks and effects, but film scores, podcasts, and audiobooks too. Their microphone performance is remarkable and you can mix audio from both wireless sources simultaneously, which is great if you like to chat on your smartphone while gaming.
On the downside, these headphones aren’t entirely wirelessly compatible with the Xbox One and don’t have mic level controls, which can be disappointing for some gamers. Their ski-goggle inspired fit can also be a bit uncomfortable for those with larger heads. The Astro A50 are a great alternative thanks to their compatibility with Xbox One, great microphone customization options, and more ergonomic fit.
If you’re looking for gaming headphones that perform well but that won’t break the bank, then get the Logitech G433. They’re not wireless like the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, but they sound great and still provide a reasonably feature-packed experience, especially for wired headphones. They come with lots of accessories, like additional ear cups, cables, and even a USB adapter so you can access the great Logitech G App program on your PC. Their boom mic is detachable so it won’t be in your way when you don’t need it and one of their provided audio cables has an in-line mic so you can still take calls on-the-go.
On the downside, their build quality feels mediocre, especially since they’re covered in fabric that could easily rip. Consider the Logitech G Pro X as a more comfortable, better-built alternative with a more premium design. They’re more expensive, though, and the difference in price may not be worth it for everyone, especially since their mic doesn’t perform as well as that of the G433.
The best budget closed-back headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Mpow H10. They’re not as well-built as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, but they're even less expensive and provide very good value for their price. They’re comfortable and perform quite well for budget headphones.
These headphones have great bass, good treble, and sound decent overall. They have a surprisingly impressive battery for their price and provide over 23 hours of continuous playback on a charge. They can be used while they charge and even passively with their included audio cable. They also have an excellent 56-foot wireless range and slightly lower latency than most Bluetooth headphones.
These headphones sound better and have improved ANC performance over the less expensive Mpow H5, but the H5 feel better-built, come with a great hard carrying case, and even support multi-device pairing. The build quality of the H10 is mediocre-at-best and they make a concerning snapping sound when you bend them in half. That said, they provide a better listening experience than the other Mpow overall and are still very good budget headphones.
If you prefer the fit of on-ear headphones, the Skullcandy Grind Wireless are a good budget choice. They don’t have ANC like the Mpow H10, but they feel much better-built. The Skullcandy are a lot more comfortable than most on-ear headphones we've reviewed and have a well-balanced sound that caters well to most genres.
On the downside, they can’t be folded into a compact format. That said, they aren't expensive and are comfortable. Overall, they're a good choice if you're looking for budget wireless headphones and like on-ears.
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.