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The 4 Best On-Ear Headphones - Summer 2024 Reviews

Updated Jul 02, 2024 at 03:36 pm
Best On-Ear Headphones

Although the popularity of on-ear headphones has waned over the years, many people still find them 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, making them generally more compact and breathable than over-ears without needing earbuds sticking inside your ear canal. However, they tend to fit tighter than over-ears, which can put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on your ears, depending on the design. Good on-ears have a fit that works for you and a sound profile that suits the type of music you listen to. The best even have Bluetooth support and active noise cancelling (ANC).

We've tested over 70 pairs of on-ear headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones with an on-ear design. Check out our recommendations for the best headphones, the best over-ear headphones, and the best wireless Bluetooth headphones.

  1. Best On-Ear Headphones

    The Beats Solo 4 Wireless are the best on-ear headphones we've tested. They're the next generation of the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless, our previous top pick. While they maintain much of the signature aesthetic that helped put Beats on the map, including the comfortable, stable fit, some notable tweaks make them an improvement on their predecessor.

    The biggest change between this model and the previous generation is the sound profile. Beats are renowned for manufacturing bass-forward headphones that bring out the thump and rumble in genres like EDM and hip-hop, but the Solo 4 skew in favor of an almost flat bass response. The mids are balanced with a slight boost in the upper mid-range that helps emphasize vocals. The bright treble response can be fatiguing over time, though, as it adds excessive harshness to sibilants. They deliver audio very consistently, so you can achieve similar audio delivery across listening sessions.

    Another positive change is the increased battery life, which is now 48 hours, making them a good fit for a variety of uses. That said, there's still no ANC, and their on-ear design doesn't provide much attenuation against ambient sound, so you'll hear sounds like engine rumble and street noise in your audio. Disappointingly, the mic recording quality is a step down from the previous generation, so your voice sounds thin and muffled when on a call.

    See our review

  2. Best Mid-Range On-Ear Headphones

    The JBL Live 460NC Wireless are the best on-ear wireless headphones we've tested in the mid-range. Their price can fluctuate slightly, but they're a good option when you can get them for less than $100. Out of the box, these versatile headphones offer a well-balanced sound suitable for many different audio genres, and their companion app's parametric EQ and presets let you customize their sound. They also support multi-device pairing, so you can stay connected with your computer and phone simultaneously.

    Unlike the Beats Solo 4 Wireless, they have an ANC system. It has trouble effectively reducing bass-range noise like rumbling bus and plane engines but does better with higher-pitched sounds like ambient chatter, which is handy if you want to focus on your work at the office or in a cafe. Their 29-hour continuous battery life is impressive, albeit not as good as the Beats' 48 hours. Still, they can easily last through a workday or long flight without a recharge. They're also well-built and decently comfortable, though their high clamping force can get fatiguing over time.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget On-Ear Headphones

    The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are the next-best option if you want to spend less. These budget-friendly headphones have some extra features that make them worth checking out. Their price also fluctuates, and they're an especially good deal if you can get them for less than $50. They have a slightly warm sound profile out of the box that results in smooth-sounding vocals and instruments, and their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets so that you can tailor it to your needs. They're also compatible with a virtual soundstage feature to help make your audio more immersive, and they support multi-device pairing to let you stay connected to your smartphone and PC simultaneously.

    These on-ears last over 52 hours continuously, which is great for long days on the go or at your desk. They also have a decently comfortable fit and are fairly well-built. Their plastic design isn't the sturdiest, but that's normal at this price point. However, unlike the JBL Live 460NC Wireless, they lack noise cancelling and struggle to block out ambient sound. They also don't have an AUX port, so you can't use them wired. If you care about optional analog connectivity, consider the Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2, which have full audio and mic compatibility via analog and can also be used wirelessly. However, the Skullcandy aren't as well-built or comfortable as the Sony headphones.

    See our review

  4. Best Wired On-Ear Headphones

    The best wired on-ear headphones we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x. Wired headphones are a good option if you want the lowest latency option for watching videos or care about audio quality. These come with a detachable cable and two 1/8" to 1/4" adapters, meaning you can easily plug them into a mixer, amp, phone, or computer. Their design keeps audiophiles in mind, so they don't have a mic or onboard controls like the Beats Solo 4 Wireless. As a result, you can't use them to make phone calls or easily skip a track when you're on the go.

    Their sound profile is neutral and well-balanced, so they're suitable for fans of different genres and types of content. While most of the bass response is very accurate, there's some overemphasis in the high-bass range, adding a touch of extra boom and warmth to mixes. Vocals and lead instruments still sound present and clear, though you can't customize their mix since they aren't compatible with a companion app.

    Fortunately, these on-ears are decently comfortable and well-built, and they come with a soft pouch to keep dust off the headphones when not in use. However, if you want an even more comfortable pair of wired on-ears, check out the Sennheiser HD 25 instead. Their ear pads aren't as cushioned, but they're still easy to wear with glasses, and their headband splits for a more stable fit. That said, their bass-heavy sound won't be ideal for everyone.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Jabra Evolve2 65 Wireless: The Jabra Evolve2 65 Wireless are call-oriented headphones optimized for United Communications (UC) or Microsoft Teams. They have a much better mic performance than the JBL Live 460NC Wireless but a much weaker noise isolation performance. See our review
  • Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2: The Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2 are budget-friendly on-ear headphones. Bass fans might like their thumpy, boomy sound profile, but others might find their bass response overwhelming. Unlike the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless, you can use them wired or wireless, but they aren't very well-built. See our review
  • Pioneer DJ HDJ-CUE1BT Wireless: The Pioneer DJ HDJ-CUE1BT Wireless are wireless on-ears designed for DJing. They have a bass-heavy sound profile that's better suited to beatmatching kicks than the Beats Solo 4 Wireless. However, the Beats have a more balanced sound overall and deliver audio much more consistently. See our review
  • JBL Tune 520BT Wireless: The JBL Tune 520BT Wireless are budget on-ears with an excellent 65 hours of continuous battery life. They have a more bass-heavy default sound than the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless and a shorter latency when using their 'Video' mode. That said, the Sony have a virtual soundstage feature that can add an immersive quality to your audio, plus their mic has a better recording quality. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jul 02, 2024: We changed parts of the text for clarity and flow, but we haven't tested any relevant on-ear headphones since the last update, so our picks have stayed the same.

  2. May 31, 2024: We've added the Beats Solo 4 Wireless as our top pick due to their improved battery life and neutral sound performance compared to their predecessor. We've also added the JBL Tune 520BT as a Notable Mention.

  3. Apr 24, 2024: We've checked all the picks in this article to ensure they still represent the best in each category but have made no changes. We've mentioned the JBL Live 670NC, which we've purchased. We anticipate that it might replace the JBL Live 460NC as our mid-range pick.

  4. Mar 27, 2024: We've added the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT Wireless as a Notable Mention due to their long continuous battery life and compatibility with a wired connection. Otherwise, there are no changes to our top picks, though we've checked to ensure all products are still in stock.

  5. Feb 29, 2024: We've added the Sennheiser HD 25 as a more comfortable alternative to our wired pick.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best on-ear Bluetooth headphones and on-ear wired 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.