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The 4 Best On-Ear Headphones - Spring 2023 Reviews

Best On-Ear Headphones

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, making them generally more compact and breathable than over-ears without needing 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 and a sound profile that suits the type of music you listen to. The best models even have 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, check out our recommendations for the best headphones, the best over-ear headphones, and the best wireless Bluetooth headphones.

  1. Best On-Ear Headphones

    The best on-ear headphones we've tested are the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless. Although they're a bit dated by today's standards, these iconic headphones have become emblematic of the on-ear design, thanks to their colorful look, which helps them stand out from the crowd. They're also equipped with a W1 chip to pair them with other Apple devices seamlessly. Thanks to their over 38 hours of continuous playback time, they'll easily survive long days on the go without a recharge.

    Like earlier Beats headphones, these on-ears have a bass-heavy sound that delivers extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes, making them a great choice for genres like EDM and hip-hop. That said, the extra bass muddies the rest of the mix, and they lack customization features to help you adjust them otherwise. Unlike their higher-end (and unfortunately discontinued) sibling, the Beats Solo Pro Wireless, they also lack noise cancelling and have trouble blocking background noise like bus engines and ambient chatter.

    See our review

  2. Best Mid-Range On-Ear Headphones

    For a cheaper option, look at the best on-ear wireless headphones we've tested in the mid-price range: the JBL Live 460NC Wireless. They represent a good option at a much lower price. They have a well-balanced default sound profile suitable for various genres and work with a companion app that includes a graphic EQ and presets for customization. They support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected with your computer and phone simultaneously.

    Their battery provides around 29 hours of continuous use, meaning they easily last through a workday or long flight. Unlike the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless, they have an ANC system, which does a fair job of blocking out background noise across the range. It has trouble effectively reducing bass-range noise like rumbling bus and plane engines but does better at cutting down ambient chatter. They're well-built and have a decently comfortable fit for most. However, their clamping force makes them have a tight fit, which can become uncomfortable over time.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget On-Ear Headphones

    While the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless have an MSRP of just over $50, you can find them on sale for a more wallet-friendly price; if you can get them at a lower cost, their extra features make them worth checking out. They have a slightly warm sound profile out of the box that results in smooth vocals and instruments. That said, their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets so that you can tailor their sound to your needs. They also support multi-device pairing, so you can stay connected to your smartphone and PC simultaneously, and have a virtual soundstage feature to help immerse you in your audio.

    These on-ears last over 52 hours continuously, which is great for long days on the go or at your desk. They also have a decently comfortable fit and are fairly well-built. Their plastic design isn't the sturdiest, but that's normal at this price point. However, unlike the JBL 460NC Wireless, they lack noise cancelling and struggle to block ambient sound. They also don't have an AUX port, so you can't use them wired. If you care about optional analog connectivity, consider the Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2, which have full audio and mic compatibility via analog, but you can still use them wirelessly. However, they aren't as well-built or comfortable as the Sony headphones.

    See our review

  4. Best Wired On-Ear Headphones

    The best wired on-ear headphones we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x. If you're looking for something for listening to music or casual daily use and prefer wired headphones, 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 easily plug them into a mixer or amp as well as a phone or computer. They're designed with audiophiles in mind, so unlike the Beats Solo3 2019 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 different genres and types of content. While most of the bass response is very accurate, there's some overemphasis in the high-bass range, adding 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 not in use.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Jabra Evolve2 65 Wireless: The Jabra Evolve2 65 Wireless are call-oriented headphones optimized for United Communications (UC) or Microsoft Teams. They have a much better mic performance than the JBL Live 460NC Wireless but a much weaker noise isolation performance. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 30, 2023: We replaced the Skullcandy Riff 2 Wireless with the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless as the Sony offer a more customizable and well-rounded performance.

  2. Apr 27, 2023: Checked that the picks are relevant and available.

  3. Mar 17, 2023: Replaced the Beats Solo Pro Wireless with the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless as they've been discontinued and are no longer available.

  4. Feb 17, 2023: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.

  5. 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.

All Reviews

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.