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. However, they 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 65 pairs of on-ear models, 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 wireless Bluetooth headphones.
The JBL Live 460NC are the best on-ear Bluetooth headphones that we've tested. These headphones stand out from the crowd, thanks to their extra features including multi-device pairing, active noise cancelling (ANC), and companion app support. While their default sound profile is neutral and already well-suited for most audio content, you can use the app's parametric EQ to finetune them to your liking. You can also use the EQ presets if you prefer to use simpler sound adjustments.
These over-ears have good build quality with a metal plate to help reinforce their build. They also have over 29 hours of continuous playback time, which should last through long days on the go, and they're equipped with an auto-off timer to conserve battery life if you forget to turn them off. While their ANC only offers an okay overall performance, it can still help block out some mid-range sounds like ambient chatter found in offices or cafes.
Unfortunately, they have a somewhat high clamping force, and it can be uncomfortable to wear them over long periods. Their integrated mic also has a sub-par noise handling performance, so your voice can be drowned out if you're taking a call from a noisy environment like a busy street. That said, they offer a well-rounded and customizable performance, making them the best on-ear wireless headphones that we've tested.
If a premium build matters to you, the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless are the most durable on-ears that we've tested. These headphones have a high-grade plastic build with sturdy yokes and thick memory foam padding. Their battery also supplies over 37 hours of continuous playback time, and they have a standby mode to conserve battery life when you aren't using them.
These on-ears have ANC and are able to block out a great amount of ambient noise such as bus engine rumbles and ambient chatter. They also support multi-device pairing, so you can connect them to your laptop and smartphone at the same time. Out of the box, they have a very bass-heavy sound profile that's well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop.
However, their extra boom and warmth can muddy vocals and lead instruments. They also lack sound customization features like an EQ or presets to help you adjust their sound to your liking. That said, these high-end headphones have an excellent build quality and offer a robust performance worth checking out.
The Beats Solo Pro Wireless are the best on-ear headphones for iPhone users that we've tested. They have an H1 chip integrated into their design, allowing you to seamlessly pair them with other Apple devices. If you like to stream movies, they also have low latency when connected to iOS devices.
Like most Beats products, these well-built headphones come in several stylish colorways. They also have an ANC system that can block out a good amount of noise. Although they have some trouble reducing bass range noise like bus engines, they can block out office chatter well. Their slightly excited sound profile also packs a bit of extra thump, rumble, and punch to mixes, while vocals and lead instruments are bright and sparkly. They have roughly 24 hours of continuous battery life too, which will last through long days on the go.
However, their integrated mic's recording quality is sub-par, resulting in speech that sounds muffled and lacking detail. Also, the headphones have a limited extension range, meaning if you have a large head, you may have trouble getting them to fit. Still, these sleek headphones offer lots of Apple-centric features that iPhone users can appreciate, making them a solid choice for on-ears.
The best on-ears for running that we've tested are the JBL Live 400BT Wireless. You may prefer to use on-ear headphones when exercising if you tend to experience discomfort when wearing earbuds. These headphones have a tight and breathable fit that should stay in place while jogging.
These on-ears have easy-to-use physical controls with a talk-through setting, so you can quickly chat with others without taking off your headphones. They also have a continuous battery life of over 30 hours, which should last through long workouts. Their default sound profile is fairly neutral, making them a versatile choice for most kinds of audio content. However, you can also adjust their sound to suit your tastes using their companion app's parametric EQ and presets.
On the downside, their fit can be a bit tight on the top of your ears and their plastic design feels a bit cheap. They also lack ANC and offer a mediocre overall noise isolation performance, which isn't ideal if you want to block out noise on the track or in the park. Still, these on-ears are worth considering for running, thanks to their stable fit and neutral sound.
The best wired on-ear headphones that we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x. If you're looking for wired headphones for listening to music or day-to-day use, these have a comfortable fit and aren't too tight on your head. They come with a detachable cable and two 1/8" to 1/4" adapters, meaning you can connect them to a mixer or amp.
Their sound profile is neutral and well-balanced, so they're suitable for fans of a variety of genres and types of content. While most of the bass response is very accurate, there's some overemphasis in the high-bass range that adds a touch of extra boom and warmth to mixes. They're also decently breathable, comfortable, and well-built, and they come with a soft pouch to keep dust off the headphones when they're not in use.
Unfortunately, since they're designed for audiophiles, they don't have a mic or onboard controls, so you can't use them to make phone calls or easily skip a track when you're on the go. They also do a poor job of isolating you from ambient sound. That said, if you're looking for on-ear headphones with a wired design or a neutral sound profile, these are a solid choice.
The best budget-friendly on-ear headphones that we've tested are the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless. Although these headphones are simple in design, they have over 38 hours of continuous battery life, making them well-suited for long days on the go. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can connect to your smartphone and PC at the same time.
These on-ears have a slightly v-shaped sound profile that delivers extra warmth and kick to tracks, while vocals and lead instruments are bright and detailed. Their fairly comfortable fit has a wide range of articulation to help accommodate different-sized heads. They also have an easy-to-use control scheme, and their integrated mic offers decent recording quality, ensuring your voice sounds clear and natural.
Unfortunately, they have a mostly plasticky design which doesn't feel very sturdy. They also have a bad noise isolation performance and won't block out the low rumbles of bus and plane engines or ambient chatter. That said, these headphones are a suitable choice if you're looking for wallet-friendly on-ears.
May 12, 2022: Made the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless the 'Most Durable On-Ears'.
Apr 12, 2022: Removed the Beats EP, Beats Solo3 2018 Wireless, Marshall MID ANC Wireless, Koss Porta Pro KTC, and Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear/HD1 On-Ear as they're no longer available. Also added the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless as 'Better Built Alternative'.
Mar 17, 2022: Removed the Status Audio BT One Wireless from Notable Mentions as it's no longer available. Checked out picks for accuracy and product availability.
Feb 14, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
Jan 12, 2022: Changed the Beats Solo Pro Wireless to 'Best On-Ear Headphones For iPhone'. Checked our picks for accuracy and product availability.
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.