Many people find on-ear headphones to be a good compromise between the portability of in-ears and the comfort of over-ears. They have smaller ear cups that fit directly on your ears, which makes them generally more compact and breathable than over-ears without needing to have earbuds sticking inside your ear. They do tend to fit tighter than over-ears, which can put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on your ears depending on the design. The best on-ears have a fit that works for you, along with a sound profile that suits the type of music you listen to. The best models even have additional features like Bluetooth support and active noise cancelling (ANC).
We've tested over 60 pairs of on-ear headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best on-ear headphones. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best headphones, the best over-ear headphones, and the best on-ear wireless headphones.
The Beats Solo Pro are the best on-ear headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested. They have a premium look and feel, and they offer a fairly versatile overall performance that can please many different types of listeners. Thanks to their ANC feature, they offer impressive noise isolation, so you aren't distracted by background noises while listening to your audio.
Out-of-the-box, they have a pretty neutral, slightly excited sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. They don't leak a lot of noise, either, and escaping audio sounds quite thin, so you can turn up the volume on your favorite tunes without really bothering those around you. They also last for 24 hours off of a single charge, so you don't have to worry about recharging them daily.
Unfortunately, while they're decently comfortable, their headband has a limited size adjustment range, so they may feel a bit tight for some listeners. They also don't offer any sound customization features, so you can't really adjust their sound to your liking. That said, if you like on-ear headphones, they're a solid choice.
If you're looking for a more comfortable pair of wireless on-ear headphones, consider the Marshall MID ANC. While their battery life isn't as long and their noise isolation performance isn't as impressive as the Beats Solo Pro Wireless, they aren't as tight on your head, so they're better suited for listeners with larger heads. These well-built headphones have a pretty neutral, though slightly excited sound profile out-of-the-box, with a little extra kick in the bass range and bright, excited vocals and lead instruments. They last for 17 hours off of a single charge, which is amazing. Their ANC feature can still block out higher-frequency background noises like the sounds of people talking around you, but it struggles to isolate against bass-heavy background noises like bus and plane engines.
If you want a pair of on-ear headphones with a longer continuous battery life and a better noise isolation performance, check out the Beats, but if you prefer more comfortable on-ears, consider the Marshall instead.
The best on-ear headphones for working out that we've tested are the JBL Live 400BT Wireless. They have a stable, tight fit on your head, so they shouldn't fall off your ears during your runs. Also, thanks to their wireless design, you don't have to worry about cables and wires getting in your way during your workout.
They offer a very neutral, balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. If you prefer a different sound, there's even a parametric EQ and presets available in the JBL Headphones app, which is handy. Also, distance runners can appreciate their over 30-hour continuous battery life, which helps you enjoy long runs without needing a recharge.
Unfortunately, their tight fit may not be comfortable for all listeners, especially because they put a bit of pressure on the top of your ear. Also, the plastic used in their build feels a bit cheap, especially compared to other high-end headphones. However, if you're a runner looking for a pair of on-ears, they're a solid choice.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M60x are the best on-ear headphones with a wired connection that we've tested. These headphones are decently comfortable, and they're designed for neutral listening. They're pretty well-built, too, and they even come with three different audio cables so you can connect them to lots of different devices.
These headphones offer a very neutral, balanced sound profile that makes them suitable for listening to a wide range of audio content. They have an extended low-bass, so they can reproduce the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy genres like hip-hop while vocals and lead instruments stay present in the mix. That said, there are some peaks and dips in the treble range, so sibilants like S and T sounds may be a bit uneven.
Unfortunately, these headphones don't have a very versatile design, as they don't come with a microphone or a battery. They don't offer any sound customization features, and they have poor noise isolation, so they aren't really suitable to wear at a crowded office or during your commute. That said, if you like on-ears with a neutral sound, they're a solid choice.
If you take a lot of phone calls while wearing your headphones and you need a good microphone to ensure you're heard clearly, try the Beats EP. While their sound profile is a bit boomier than the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x, and they don't come with as many audio cables, the Beats have an in-line microphone, so you can take calls on the go. The microphone has a very good recording quality, too, so your voice sounds present and natural to whoever's on the other end of the line. They're decently comfortable, too, and their wired design means you don't have to worry about them running out of battery during long calls. However, they also struggle to isolate against background noises, which could be distracting.
If you want wired on-ears with a more neutral sound profile and more audio cables to choose from, check out the Audio-Technica. However, if you prefer wired on-ears with a mic, consider the Beats instead.
The Status Audio BT One Wireless are the best budget on-ear headphones that we've tested. These on-ears are decently comfortable and decently well-built, and they even come with a carrying case to help protect them while you're on the go. They also last for over 22 hours off of a single charge, which should be enough to get you through multiple long listening sessions without a recharge.
They have a pretty neutral, though slightly bass-heavy sound profile that adds a little extra thump and punch to your audio, making them suitable for bass-heavy music genres like EDM and hip-hop. You can also pair them with up to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, making it easy to switch between different audio sources like your phone and your laptop. You can use them wirelessly, but they also come with a 1/8" TRS cable if you prefer to use them wired.
Unfortunately, they have poor noise isolation performance, so you may be distracted by background noises while listening to audio in noisier settings. Also, they leak a bit of audio, so you may annoy those around you if you listen to music at louder volumes. That said, these simple on-ears offer a pretty versatile performance given their more affordable price.
May 06, 2021: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Apr 09, 2021: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Mar 12, 2021: Minor changes to the text for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
Feb 12, 2021: Removed the Sony WH-CH510 Wireless from Notable Mentions as they aren't widely available. Minor updates to the text; no changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy.
Jan 15, 2021: Verified that our picks are accurate and available. Minor updates to the text; no changes in product picks.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best on-ear headphones for most people to buy. 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 on-ear 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.