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 to hear your surroundings better than over-ear headphones. The best on-ear headphones offer a blend of portability, comfort, and high-quality sound.
We've tested 262 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 Bluetooth headphones.
The best on-ear headphones we've tested so far are the Marshall MID ANC. They deliver a versatile experience for most use cases, with a well-balanced sound that makes them a good choice for more critical listeners that prefer on-ear designs. They're also noise-canceling headphones, so they do better in loud environments compared to typical on-ears. They have a good wireless range, decent battery life, and a well-made design that feels more premium than some of the other Marshall headphones we've tested. They also have an excellent control scheme that's efficient and easy to use.
However, they won't be the ideal travel or commuting headphones since their noise isolation is not that strong. They are not as well built as the B&W P5 Wireless; they can sound a bit sharp on some tracks, and do not automatically turn-off to conserve power, even when inactive, which is a bit disappointing.
Overall, if you like on-ears and want a versatile headphone for most of your use cases, then the MID ANC are a great choice.
If you want a longer lasting headset that you do not have to charge as often as the Marshall MID ANC, then get the Beats Solo3 Wireless. They are not noise-canceling like the Marshall, so they will be a bit worse in louder environments. They're also slightly tighter on the head which is not as comfortable for everyone and are a bit less balanced in their frequency response. On the upside, the Beats Solo3 have an excellent 42-hour battery life that will easily last you a weekend of heavy continuous use. They do not take long to charge and have a quick charge feature that delivers up to 2 hours of battery life from a 10-minute charge.
Their sound quality is also a bit less treble-heavy than the MID ANC so they won't sound as sharp on some tracks but may also sound a bit darker overall. The Solo3 are a great choice if you're an iOS user that wants a long lasting headset that's also easy to use and versatile enough for most activities.
If you’re looking for on-ear headphones with the best sound quality for critical listening, get the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x instead. They aren’t wireless and don't have an ANC feature like the Marshall MID ANC, so they won't be as convenient or as versatile to use casually with your phone. Technically, even the over-ears ATH-M50x are a better option since they offer a much better value, but if you’re only looking for on-ears, the M60x are more portable and still have a great design similar to the rest of the ATH-M lineup. They are fairly comfortable for on-ears and have a good audio reproduction that is versatile for a variety of music genres.
Unfortunately, they don’t fold into a more compact format like the M50x and their bass is a bit dependent on placement and sensitive to positioning. Also, since they are on-ears, they don’t create a seal around your ears to help reduce ambient noise. They are still one of the best sounding on-ears we’ve reviewed so far. If you’re looking for open-back on-ears, we suggest taking a look at the wireless Grado GW100.
If you want a more comfortable on-ear design that's not as expensive as the Marshall MID ANC or the Beats Solo3 Wireless, then get the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. They are not noise-canceling like the MID ANC, so they won't do as well in loud environments. They also won't last as long on a single charge as the Beats, although they do have better power saving features.
On the upside, they have a much more comfortable on-ear fit that's better than most of the on-ears we've tested. They’re easy-to-use, with a good build quality, decent battery life, and wireless range as well as a well-balanced sound that caters to all genres.
Overall, the Bose SoundLink are the most comfortable on-ears we've tested so far and they deliver a good sound quality that will satisfy most listeners.
If you want a cheaper alternative to the Bose SoundLink On-Ear, then get the JBL E45BT. Their build quality isn’t on par with Bose’s and they might not feel as comfortable as the SoundLink On-Ear, but they are fairly versatile for their lower price tag. They have a great 26-hour battery life and only take about 2 hours to fully charge. You’ll be able to use them throughout the day without any problem and for multiple uses as they are stable and lightweight for running as well.
They don’t isolate much noise due to their on-ear design, but they have above-average sound quality, with a small V-shaped profile that makes them exciting to listen to. If they are still over your budget, the cheaper JBL T450BT can be another decent option for on-ears with good audio quality.
If you want the best budget on-ears we've tested, then get the Skullcandy Grind. They do not have the foldable frame of the JBL E45BT so they won't be as portable. They also won't be the most stable on-ears for sports, unlike some of the other options on this list.
On the upside, they offer one of the best value for your money thanks to their surprisingly great build quality and balanced sound for their price range. They're the second most comfortable closed-back on-ear we've tested, just behind the Bose SoundLink On-Ear and they're an easy to use headset with a great control scheme and a decent battery life.
Their slight lack of portability and isolation might be an issue for some, especially if you commute and travel a lot but overall, if you want a comfortable and budget on-ear for your daily routine, you can't do much better than the Grind at this price.
If you want a more portable on-ear headset than the Skullcandy Grind and care about sound quality, then get the Koss Porta Pro. They have an open-back design, so they isolate less than the Skullcandy and most on-ears on this list. They also have a weaker build quality that does not feel as durable. On the upside, they deliver a decent audio reproduction that feels a bit more immersive than the Grind, thanks to the open-back earcups.
Their lightweight frame and low tension also make them very comfortable to wear for long listening sessions, even if they aren't as well padded as the SoundLink On-Ear. They also have a portable and foldable design that's compact enough to carry around on your person. If you want an on-ear design for critical listening, that's also portable, stable, and breathable enough for running outdoors, then the Koss are a good choice.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best on-ear headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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.