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 JBL Live 460NC are the best on-ear wireless headphones that we've tested. These headphones are well-built, comfortable, and have a continuous battery life of just under 30 hours. They offer low latency with iOS and Android devices and support multi-device pairing, which is nice if you're always switching between your phone and computer.
Their default sound profile is fairly neutral, with a bit of extra bass that adds thump and rumble to mixes. You can also customize it with a parametric EQ and presets in the companion app. The active noise cancelling (ANC) feature does a decent job of isolating you from ambient noise. Conveniently, they also come with an audio cable that you can use to listen to music when you're out of battery.
Unfortunately, while they're decently comfortable overall, some users may find that they fit too tightly, especially if you wear them over long periods of time. Also, there's no case or pouch included to protect the headphones when you're out and about. Otherwise, these customizable and well-built headphones are a solid choice if you're looking for a pair with a wireless on-ear design.
If you're looking for headphones that do a better job of isolating you from ambient sound, you may prefer the Beats Solo Pro Wireless. While they aren't as comfortable as the JBL Live 460NC Wireless and don't support multi-device pairing, their ANC feature does a much better job of blocking out office-type noise like ambient conversations. They have a great build quality and a continuous battery life of roughly 24 hours. Their very neutral sound profile should be suitable for a variety of genres and types of content, although they don't have any sound customization options like an EQ or presets.
Try the JBL if you want on-ear headphones with a customizable sound profile, but consider the Beats instead if you want a better noise isolation performance.
The best on-ear headphones for working out that we've tested are the JBL Live 400BT Wireless. These headphones have a tight, stable fit on your head, so they shouldn't slip around too much during a run. Their wireless design means you don't need to worry about a cable getting in your way or snagging on something.
They don't trap very much heat against your ear, so they shouldn't make you sweat much more during exercise sessions. Their default sound profile is very neutral and suitable for a variety of genres and types of content, but if you prefer a different sound, you can customize it with a parametric EQ and presets in the companion app. Their long continuous battery life of roughly 30 hours should suit long-distance runners as well.
Unfortunately, they don't have an ANC feature, so they may not be ideal if you want headphones that block out distracting noise at the gym. Their small earcups also put a bit of pressure on top of your ear, which may be uncomfortable over long periods. That said, if you're a runner who favors headphones with an over-ear design, these are worth considering.
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.
They 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, they 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 best budget-friendly on-ear headphones that we've tested are the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless. These affordable headphones have a decent battery performance and last over 38 hours on a single charge. They also support multi-device pairing so you can connect them with your smartphone and laptop at the same time.
They have a slightly v-shaped sound profile that adds a bit of thump and boom to your mixes while vocals and lead instruments are bright. They also have an easy-to-use control scheme and a reasonably comfortable fit. Their integrated microphone also does a decent job of recording your voice, so you sound clear and natural, although a bit thin.
Unfortunately, they have a plasticky build which feels cheap, and they can move around or fall off your head with light movement. They also really struggle to block out background noise like the low rumble of bus or plane engines. That said, although they have a simple design, if you're looking for wallet-friendly on-ears, they're a suitable choice.
Jul 02, 2021: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock. Added the Beats Solo3 2018 Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Jun 03, 2021: Replaced the Beats Solo Pro Wireless with the JBL 460NC Wireless as 'Best On-Ear Wireless Headphones' and added the Beats as 'Alternative With Better ANC Performance'. Also replaced the Status Audio BT One Wireless with the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless as 'Best Budget On-Ear Headphones'.
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.
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.