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The 7 Best On-Ear Headphones - April 2019
Reviews

Best On Ear Headphones
345 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

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 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 331 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, the best on-ear noise cancelling headphones, and the best Bluetooth headphones.

  1. Best On-Ear Headphones: Marshall MID ANC Wireless

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.6
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.2
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.7
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best on-ear headphones we've tested so far are the Marshall MID ANC. They’re versatile, noise cancelling headphones with a well-made, more premium design than some of the other Marshall headphones we've tested.

    The Marshall MID ANC have a bright, balanced sound that makes them a good choice for critical listeners who prefer on-ear headphones. They have a very good wireless range, a decent 17-hour battery life, and a great control scheme that's efficient and easy to use.

    Unfortunately, they don’t automatically turn off to conserve power, even when inactive, which is a bit disappointing. Their noise isolation is also not very strong, so they’re not the best choice for super noisy commutes, but they do better in loud environments than most on-ears. That said, if you like on-ear headphones and want something versatile enough for most situations, then the MID ANC are a great choice.

    See our review

  2. Alternative With Better Noise Isolation: AKG N60NC Wireless

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re looking for on-ear headphones that have stronger active noise cancelling, then get the AKG N60NC. They sound a bit more boomy than the Marshall MID ANC and they don’t reproduce vocals and instruments as clearly, but they have better noise isolation performance and they leak less sound. They’re fairly comfortable, feel reasonably well-built, and fold up in a more compact format.

    Unfortunately, the AKG N60NC aren’t as well-built as the other recommendations in this article. Their battery also doesn’t last as long as other wireless on-ears we’ve tested. Thankfully, it charges quickly, and the AKG N60NC also support multi-device pairing, which is a nice touch. They’re decent headphones overall and are worth looking at if you want something with reasonable active noise cancelling.

    See our review

  3. More Comfortable Alternative: Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a more comfortable on-ear design, then get the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. They’re not noise cancelling like the Marshall MID ANC or the AKG N60NC, so they won't do as well in loud environments, but they have plush, supple earcup padding that makes them the most comfortable on-ears we’ve tested so far. They’re well-built, easy-to-use wireless headphones with a well-balanced sound that caters to all music genres.

    Unfortunately, the SoundLink On-Ear don’t support NFC for easier pairing with mobile devices, or the Bose Connect App like the Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II do. However, they’re still a good choice for those looking for comfortable on-ears that sound good.

    See our review

  4. Alternative With A Great Battery: Beats Solo3 Wireless

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you don’t like having to always keep an eye on your headphone’s battery life and want to keep charging to a minimum, then get the Beats Solo3 Wireless. They’re not as versatile as the noise cancelling Marshall MID ANC nor are they as comfortable as the Bose SoundLink On-Ear, but they have an excellent 42-hour battery life that will easily last you a whole weekend of heavy continuous use. They don’t take long to charge and even have a quick charge feature that delivers up to 2 hours of battery life from a 10-minute charge.

    The Beats Solo3 Wireless have deep, thumping bass that is great for fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM or hip-hop but can be a bit overpowering. They sound less sharp than the Marshall MID ANC but are a bit dark in comparison and may not be ideal for more vocal-centric music like jazz or pop. That said, the Solo3 are a solid choice for fans of deep bass who who value battery life.

    See our review

  5. Wired Alternative: Audio-Technica ATH-M60x

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you don’t like dealing with a battery at all and prefer the latency-free experience of wired headphones, get the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x instead. They may not be as convenient or as versatile as the wireless recommendations in this list, especially if you often find yourself fumbling with tangled cables when you’re rushing out the door, but they sound good and are a decent no-frills option.

    Although they have good audio reproduction in general, their bass is a bit sensitive to the way they’re positioned on the head and whether you wear glasses or not. They also don’t really manage to create a seal around your ears to help reduce ambient noise, which makes them less suitable for use at the office or while commuting. All things considered, though, they’re still among the best-sounding on-ears we’ve reviewed so far. If you prefer the more spacious sound of open-back headphones, consider the wireless Grado GW100.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget On-Ear Headphones: Skullcandy Grind Wireless

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.5
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.2
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    6.2
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    6.8
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    6.6
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.8
    TV
    Score components:
    5.5
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a cheaper option, the best on-ear headphones in the budget category are the Skullcandy Grind. They’re not as well-built as the Marshall MID ANC, but this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering their low price point.

    The Skullcandy Gring offer great value for your money thanks to their surprisingly balanced sound and very comfortable fit. They have a simple, efficient control scheme that’s easy-to-use and their 15-hour battery life is decent too.

    Unfortunately, their frame doesn’t fold into a more compact format and their noise isolation performance is quite poor. Their lack of portability and isolation might be an issue for some, especially if you commute and travel a lot. That said, if you want comfortable and inexpensive on-ear headphones to use casually, you can't do much better than the Skullcandy Grind at this price.

    See our review

  7. More Portable Open-Back Alternative: Koss Porta Pro KTC

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Open-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want more portable on-ear headphones than the Skullcandy Grind, then get the Koss Porta Pro. They have an open-back design, so they isolate even less than the Skullcandy, but this also results in a slightly more immersive listening experience. Their lack of isolation also makes them a good choice for outdoor runners who want to remain aware of their surroundings. 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.

    Unfortunately, they’re not very well-built and they don’t feel super durable. They’re also wired, so although they’re portable, stable, and breathable enough to wear while running, you may want to make sure they don’t get caught on anything that could yank them off your head. If you don’t mind a wired connection, though, they’re a decent option for those who like their open, lightweight design.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless: A well-designed and premium looking wireless on-ear with great battery life. A bit too pricey for what they have to offer and not as comfortable to wear for long periods of time. See our review
  • Koss Porta Pro Wireless:  A wireless variant of the Koss Porta Pro. Decently balanced open sound and a stable breathable design for outdoor sports, but not as good as the wireless options in their price range. See our review
  • Beats EP: A simple, well-built on-ear with a well-balanced sound, but a bit too pricey for its lack of features. See our review
  • Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear/HD1 On-Ear: Sturdy and durable for an on-ear design. Decent sound quality but struggles in loud environments, and they're a bit leaky. See our review
  • Samsung Level On Wireless: Good versatile on-ear headphones with an above average sound but a flimsy build and weak isolation. See our review
  • Grado SR60e/SR60: Good and open audio reproduction. Leaky and the audio quality suffers in loud environments due to the open design. See our review
  • BÖHM B-66 Wireless: Versatile on-ear headphones with an above-average sound. Slightly too tight on the head and inconsistent battery performance. See our review
  • Philips Fidelio NC1: Good build quality, decent sound, and noise cancellation. Too expensive for what they have to offer. See our review
  • Beats EP: Good sound, sturdy, and easy to use design. Slightly pricey and not as portable also a bit tight on the head. See our review
  • Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2: Stylish and sturdy design. A bit too pricey for what they have to offer and not as comfortable to wear for long periods of time. See our review
  • Marshall Major 2/Major II: Decent sound and lightweight design. Flimsy build quality. See our review
  • Sound Intone CX-05: Sturdy durable design but poor sound isolation and portability. See our review
  • JBL T450BT Wireless:  A cheaper alternative to the JBL E45BT with a more portable and stable design, but with worse battery life and no audio cable to use wired. See our review
  • Grado GW100 Wireless:  Open-back and wireless alternative to the ATH-M60x for critical listening on-ear headphones, but leaky and has to be used in quiet environments to enjoy their sound quality. See our review
  • JBL E45BT Wireless: Versatile wireless on-ears with an exciting sound profile. Not as comfortable or as well-built as the top picks. See our review

All Reviews

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 (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.

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