On-ear headphones offer a more compact design than their over-ear counterparts and have smaller ear cups that rest on the ears instead of around them. They can apply a lot of pressure on the ears, but they allow your ears to breathe and hear your surroundings better than over-ear headphones. The best on-ear headphones offer a blend of portability, comfort, and high-quality sound. Some even have active noise cancelling (ANC) for better noise reduction when you’re on-the-go.
We've tested 367 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best on-ear headphones to buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best over ear headphones and the best on-ear wireless headphones.
The best on-ear wireless headphones we've tested so far are the Marshall MID ANC. They’re well-rounded headphones with a well-made, premium design and efficient control scheme. They have a decent ANC feature and are among the best on-ear noise cancelling headphones we’ve reviewed too.
These headphones have a bright yet balanced sound that makes them a good choice for music enthusiasts who prefer on-ear headphones. They have a very good 42-ft wireless range, a decent 17-hour battery life, and even come with two cable options if you prefer to use them wired.
On the downside, their noise isolation is also not very strong, so they’re not the best choice for super noisy commutes, but they do better in loud environments than most on-ears. Overall, they perform fairly well and are a good choice for those looking for versatile on-ear headphones.
If you’re looking for on-ear headphones that have stronger active noise cancelling, then get the AKG N60NC. They sound a bit boomier than the Marshall MID ANC and they don’t reproduce vocals and instruments as clearly, but they have better noise isolation performance and they leak less sound, making them the best on-ear noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested so far.
Unfortunately, they aren’t as well-built as the other recommendations in this article. Their battery also doesn’t last as long as other wireless on-ears we’ve tested. Thankfully, it charges quickly, and they also support multi-device pairing, which is a nice touch. They’re decent headphones overall and are worth looking at if you want something with reasonable active noise cancelling.
If you want a more comfortable on-ear design, then get the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. They’re not noise cancelling like the Marshall MID ANC or the AKG N60NC Wireless, so they won't do as well in loud environments, but they’re the most comfortable on-ear headphones that we’ve tested so far. They’re well-built with plush, supple earcup padding and are easy-to-use wireless headphones that sound good.
Unfortunately, they don’t support NFC for easier pairing with mobile devices, or the Bose Connect App like the Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II do. However, they’re still a good choice for those looking for comfortable on-ears with a well-balanced sound that caters to all music genres.
If you like to wear on-ear headphones while working out, then get the Beats Solo3 Wireless. They’re not noise cancelling like the Marshall MID ANC nor are they as comfortable as the Bose SoundLink On-Ear, but they have a more stable fit that’s better-suited to light exercise.
They have deep, thumping bass that is great for fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM or hip-hop. They have an excellent 42-hour battery life that will easily last you a whole weekend of heavy continuous use. They don’t take long to charge and even have a quick charge feature that delivers up to 2 hours of battery life from a 10-minute charge.
They sound less sharp than the Marshall MID ANC but their bass can be a bit overpowering. Their battery also doesn’t have an auto-off timer, so although it will take a while to deplete completely, it will continue to drain if you forget to turn the headphones off. That said, they are a solid choice for fans of deep bass who like to keep charging to a minimum and are looking for on-ear headphones with a good secure fit.
If you’re looking for on-ear headphones with a good stable fit like the Beats Solo3 Wireless but cost less money, then get the JBL E45BT. Their build quality isn’t quite on par with that of the Beats, but they’re fairly versatile for their price. They have a slightly V-shaped sound profile that makes them exciting to listen to, which can help get you pumped during your workout.
They have a great 26-hour battery life, but it doesn’t rival that of the Beats. Their small, circular earcups also don’t isolate much noise. If you want to go cheaper yet, you can consider the even less expensive JBL T450BT which are also decent for working out, but the difference in build quality might make the JBL E45BT worth the slight investment for most people.
If you don’t like dealing with a battery at all and prefer the latency-free experience of wired headphones, get the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x instead. They’re fairly comfortable and don’t fit quite as tightly as other on-ear headphones we’ve tested. They have a simple studio design and come with 3 different cable options to suit your different critical listening needs.
They have great, deep bass that’s heavy enough to be suitable for bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and EDM without overpowering the qualities of brighter, more vocal-centric pop, rock, or classical music. Their no-fuss wired design is great for watching videos on your phone or playing mobile games since you won’t have to worry about latency or battery life.
Although they have good audio reproduction in general, their bass is a bit sensitive to the way they’re positioned on the head and whether you wear glasses or not. They also don’t really manage to create a seal around your ears to help reduce ambient noise, which makes them less suitable for use at the office or while commuting. All things considered, though, they’re still among the best-sounding on-ears we’ve reviewed so far.
If you prefer wired on-ear headphones with a more casual look, then get the Beats EP. They sound a little boomy compared to the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x, but their design is more versatile for casual use thanks to the inclusion of an in-line remote and microphone on their cable. This makes them a better choice to use with your smartphone since you can play/pause your music and take calls directly from your headphones instead of your phone.
Although they feel fairly well-built, their cable is detachable like the Audio-Technica. If their cable breaks, you’ll need to replace the headphones entirely. They have a more stable fit than the M60x, though, so they’re less likely to go flying off your head if you need to run the catch the bus from time to time. Overall, they are decent wired on-ears for casual use thanks to their mobile-friendly design.
If you want the best budget on-ears we've tested, then get the Skullcandy Grind. They’re not as well-built as some of the more premium options on this list, but this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering their price. They’re very comfortable for on-ear headphones and have a simple control scheme that’s reasonably easy to use.
They have a fairly balanced sound that lends itself well to most music genres. Their 15-hour battery life is decent and they come with two audio cables, one of which has an in-line mic so you can even use them passively when the battery runs out.
Unfortunately, their frame doesn’t fold into a more compact format and their noise isolation performance is quite poor. Their lack of portability and isolation might be an issue for some, especially if you commute and travel a lot. That said, if you want comfortable and inexpensive on-ear headphones to use casually, you can't do much better than the Skullcandy Grind at this price.
If you want more portable on-ear headphones than the Skullcandy Grind, then get the Koss Porta Pro. They isolate even less than the Skullcandy, but this also results in a slightly more immersive listening experience. Their lightweight frame and low tension also make them very comfortable to wear for long listening sessions and they have a portable and foldable design that's compact enough to keep on you while you’re out and about.
Unfortunately, they’re not very well-built and they don’t feel super durable. They’re also wired, so although they’re portable, stable, and breathable enough to wear while running, you’ll want to make sure they don’t get caught on anything that could yank them off your head. If you don’t mind a wired connection, though, they’re a decent option for those who like their open, lightweight design.
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.