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, 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-ears, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones with an on-ear design. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best headphones, the best over-ear headphones, and the best wireless Bluetooth headphones.
The Beats Solo Pro Wireless are the best on-ear headphones we've tested. Although they've been discontinued, they're still easy to find from online retailers. These iconic on-ears have an H1 chip, which lets you seamlessly pair them with other devices in your Apple ecosystem. If you like to stream video, they also have low latency when you're connected to an iOS device. They have ANC and do a good job blocking background noise, although they struggle a bit when tackling the low rumble of bus engines. With their ANC turned on, they last for 24 hours continuously and charge via lightning cable.
They have great build quality and come in a variety of colors to suit your style. They're lightweight and fairly comfortable too, but if you have a large head, their fit can be a bit tight, and their headband may not extend far enough to accommodate you well. Although their integrated mic has a sub-par recording quality, and your voice sounds muffled and lacking in detail, it can still separate speech from background noise decently well, which is important if you take a lot of calls on the go.
The JBL Live 460NC Wireless are the best on-ear wireless headphones in the mid-range we've tested. These are significantly cheaper than our top pick, and it's partly because on-ears aren't very popular, and many manufacturers have discontinued this style. Still, these are a good pick priced near the bottom of the mid-range. Out of the box, they have a fairly neutral sound profile versatile enough for most genres and types of content. If you prefer a different sound, you can adjust it with a parametric EQ and presets in the companion app. Their roughly 29 hours of continuous battery life is great for long flights or workdays, and if the battery dies, you can use them wired with the included 1/8" TRS cable.
They also have active noise cancelling (ANC), and even though it does a sub-par job of blocking out the low rumble of traffic, it offers better performance when tackling mid-range noise like office chatter. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected to your phone and laptop at once. They're also well-built and decently comfortable, although they have a somewhat high clamping force, which can become uncomfortable over time.
If you're looking for something more affordable, check out the Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2. While you may expect a barebones design at this price point, these on-ears offer nearly the same level of extra features as the JBL Live 460NC Wireless, minus noise cancelling. They have a companion app with a graphic EQ and presets so that you can finetune their excited, v-shaped sound profile to suit your tastes. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected to your smartphone and PC at the same time. They don't block out much background noise, so they aren't an ideal choice if you want to listen to audio in noisy places like a busy street.
The manufacturer advertises these on-ears to last 36 hours continuously, but we measured over 46 hours, so they'll last through long days on the go. They have a fairly comfortable and lightweight fit too. However, the headband lacks padding, and overall, their cheap plastic build makes them feel less than sturdy. If you're looking for budget-friendly headphones that are more robust, it's worth considering the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless. They also have a more neutral default sound profile, which some users may prefer, but lack sound customization features.
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 also connect them to a mixer or amp. They're for audiophiles, so unlike the Beats Solo Pro Wireless, they don't have a mic or onboard controls. 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 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. Vocals and lead instruments still sound present and clear, though. These on-ears are also decently breathable, comfortable, and well-built. They even come with a soft pouch to keep dust off the headphones when they're not in use.
Jan 20, 2023: We've replaced the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless with the Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2 as the Skullcandy offer more features and a longer continuous battery life.
Nov 11, 2022: Removed the JBL Live 400BT Wireless and the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless because they aren't available currently.
Jun 13, 2022: Removed the JBL CLUB 700BT Wireless and Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear/HD1 On-Ear from Notable Mentions as they're not available. Also changed 'Best Wireless On-Ears' to 'Best On-Ear Headphones'.
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'.
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.