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 570 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 Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are the best closed-back headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested. These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears have a sturdy-feeling high-grade plastic construction and a comfortable fit, with ample amounts of 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 of use, though battery consumption can vary depending on your own 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 as well as a graphic EQ to fine-tune your listening experience. They're also fitted with a highly effective ANC system that allows them to 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 bit of 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 that we've tested.
If you want a pair of even comfier over-ear headphones, consider the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, these over-ears don't have any sound customization features like presets or a graphic EQ and have a shorter battery life, but they're a little lighter and don't clamp your ears as tightly, resulting in an amazingly comfortable fit. Like the Sony, they can pair with two devices simultaneously, which is great if you want to stream music from your phone while remaining connected to your computer. Their sound profile is also quite well-balanced, so they should suit a wide variety of musical genres. Unfortunately, they trap quite a bit of heat inside their ear cups, which could cause you to sweat more than usual, especially if you wear them while exercising.
Consider the Sony if you want a broader array of customization features and superior battery life, but take a look at the Bose if you prioritize a comfier fit.
The best closed-back headphones under $200 that we've tested are the Razer Opus. These sleek over-ears have an excellent active noise cancelling (ANC) performance, which helps block out noise like bus or train engines as well as ambient chatter. They also have a great build quality and are comfortable enough for long listening sessions.
Right out-of-the-box, they have a very balanced and neutral sound profile that's versatile enough for most audio content. That said, if you prefer to tweak their sound to your liking, their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets. They also have a continuous battery life of over 32 hours, and they have an auto-off feature that helps conserve battery life when they're not in use. They've got good controls that are easy-to-use, and they come with a hard case so that you can protect your headphones when on-the-go.
Unfortunately, while their integrated microphone does an alright job of recording your voice, it struggles a lot to separate it from ambient noise around you, making them less-than-suitable for taking calls in loud or noisy environments. They also don't support multi-device pairing, so it can be a bit of a hassle if you want to quickly switch between your computer and smartphone. That said, these headphones offer a well-balanced sound and a sturdy build quality. Their ANC also outperforms most other competitors at this price point.
The best closed-back headphones for audiophiles that we've tested 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.
Their sound profile is expertly tuned and is well-balanced and natural, but with a tiny amount of extra kick. Their response consistency is decent, though they may need some readjusting to experience their treble response the same way every time. Their soundstage isn't nearly as open and wide as open-backs 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 they're more designed for use in a studio or while at home, they lack many active features in comparison to the 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 Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless are the best closed-back headphones at the budget-level that we've tested. They offer over 24 hours of continuous playback time, which is impressive. They also have a fairly well-balanced and neutral sound profile, which makes them suitable for a variety of audio content.
They have thick and soft padding on the ear cups and headband. Although their build can creak while you're moving them around your head, they still feel decently dense and sturdy. They can also be paired with up to two devices at a time, which is great if you like to move between your smartphone and laptop. Although their companion app doesn't offer a lot of customization features, it has two EQ presets. You can also adjust the level of active noise cancelling (ANC) to your preferences.
Unfortunately, while their ANC does an okay overall job of isolating noise around you, it does a poor job of cutting down bass-range sound like bus or plane engines, which can be annoying during your daily commute or on long trips. Some users have also experienced their unit's headband cracking or breaking over time. Still, if you're trying to keep your expenses down, they offer a balanced sound at a budget-friendly price point.
Mar 12, 2021: Verified that main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category. Added Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Jan 13, 2021: Added the Apple AirPods Max Wireless to Notable Mentions. The Apple AirPods Max lack the wide amount of customization features that the Sony WH-1000XM4 offer and aren't as comfortable. For many users, the Sony also provide a better price-to-performance ratio than the Apple. Replaced the Mpow H10 with the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless for 'Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones'. The Mpow H10 variant that we tested has now been discontinued. It has been replaced with an upgraded variant of these headphones. We haven't tested this variant yet and can't verify whether it performs similarly to the previous generation.
Nov 06, 2020: Replaced the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless with the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. Added the Bose QC35 II as 'More Comfortable Alternative'.
Sep 08, 2020: Replaced the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless with the Mpow H10 Wireless for 'Best Budget' to reflect pricing changes.
Jul 07, 2020: Changed 'Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200' recommendation to Razer Opus, moved Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Mar 09, 2020: Replaced Mixcder E9 with Anker Soundcore Life Q20 and removed earbud and over-ear picks.
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.