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. They do 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 510 pairs of headphones, 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 on-ear wireless headphones.
The Beats Solo Pro are the best on-ear wireless headphones we've tested. These durable, premium-looking on-ears are fairly versatile and have an impressive noise isolation performance. With their ANC feature turned on, they block out lots of background noise, so they're a solid choice for your commute or your noisy office.
Overall, they have a neutral, well-balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different music genres. Thanks to their 24-hour continuous battery life, you don't have to worry about recharging them daily, which is convenient. They also don't leak a lot of noise, so you can crank up the volume on your favorite tunes without disturbing the people around you.
Unfortunately, these headphones don't offer any sound customization features, which may be disappointing for some listeners. They're decently comfortable, but if you have a larger head, you may find their fit a bit tight and uncomfortable, too. That said, these on-ears offer a fairly versatile performance that should please many different listeners.
If you're looking for a pair of wireless on-ears with a more comfortable fit, consider the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. While they don't have an ANC feature and can't block out as much background noise as the Beats Solo Pro Wireless, these on-ears have a more spacious headband that doesn't feel tight on your head. They're well-built, and they have an amazing 21-hour continuous battery life. Their sound profile is pretty balanced, too, so it's well-suited for listening to lots of different types of audio content. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any sound customization features.
If you prefer on-ear headphones with an impressive noise isolation feature, consider the Beats, but if you prefer on-ears with a more comfortable fit, check out the Bose instead.
The best on-ear headphones for working out that we've tested are the JBL Live 400BT. They have a stable, secure fit that stays in place quite well while running. Their on-ear design is breathable, and their controls are fairly easy-to-use. They fold into a more compact format to take up less space in your workout bag, and their wireless design ensures there are no cables for you to get tangled in.
Like many on-ears, their sound profile depends on how well they fit. If the ear cups fit snugly against your ears, you should find they have a well-balanced sound with a kick of extra bass to help get you pumped on your run. They have outstanding 30-hour battery life, and they even have an auto-off timer to help them last even longer. They can even connect to two devices simultaneously, which is handy if you have a separate MP3 player for running.
While their tight fit helps keeps them securely on your head while running or working out, it does make these on-ears less comfortable than some of the other options on this list. They also don't have the best build quality, so if they do happen to fall off your head during a sprint, they could suffer some damage. That said, if you're just looking for something to wear while jogging around the neighborhood, you shouldn't have any issues.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M60x are the best on-ear headphones with a wired connection that we've tested. These lightweight and compact on-ears seem well-built thanks to their dense plastic frame and metal hinges. They also come with three detachable audio cables, which is great if you need a little more range, and two 1/8" to 1/4" adapters in case you lose one.
Although they have a different design from the rest of the ATH-M series lineup, they have ample padding on the ear cups to give you a comfortable fit. They also have a well-balanced sound profile, and although there's a small dip in the low-mids, they're still suited for a variety of audio genres, whether you're listening to music casually or you're producing in a studio. If you're often moving from one location to another, they come with a soft pouch, which can help protect them from light scratches or dust.
Unfortunately, they're designed solely for listening to audio. They don't have a microphone, controls, or a companion app. They also don't isolate much noise, so they're not the best choice if you're wearing them during your daily commute or at the office. That being said, if you're looking for a pair of on-ears that deliver a neutral sound experience without worrying about audio latency, they're a suitable choice.
If you use your headphones to take a lot of phone calls and want something with a microphone, get the Beats EP. They have a boomier sound profile than the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x, and their cable isn't detachable, but their in-line microphone makes them a more versatile option for casual use. Despite their sound reproduction being fairly boomy, they're still versatile enough for most genres as the rest of their ranges are quite well-balanced and flat. They feel more stable on the head than the Audio-Technica, which is great if you need to run for a bus or like to use your headphones at the gym, and their microphone's recording quality is very good. Unfortunately, they're a bit tighter on the head, meaning that they may be uncomfortable during longer listening sessions, and their in-line remote doesn't work with Android devices.
Overall, if you don't need a microphone and just want something for listening to music, go with the Audio-Technica. However, if you want a more versatile pair of on-ear headphones for casual use, get the Beats.
The best on-ear headphones in the budget category that we've tested are the Skullcandy Grind. These Bluetooth on-ears are quite comfortable thanks to their lightweight design and soft ear cups. Their controls are simple, and they feel fairly well-built considering their price. Their battery lasts 15 hours off a single charge, which is pretty good, and they come with two different audio cables, one with an in-line mic and remote and one without.
While many Skullcandy headphones have a very overemphasized and boomy bass range, these are surprisingly well-balanced and bright. The amount of bass you get will depend on how snug they fit, but most people should find the sound quite neutral and natural. Some higher frequencies may sound a bit harsh and piercing, though this likely won't be too noticeable for everyone, and they're versatile enough for most genres and content.
Unfortunately, they don't block out much background noise, though this is common with on-ears, especially without an ANC feature. They also don't have a dedicated companion app to make changes to their sound profile, though again, this is expected at this price point. Overall, they're surprisingly decent for their price and are a good choice for those on a budget.
10/16/2020: Minor changes to text for accuracy and clarity, no change in recommendations.
09/18/2020: Removed the Marshall Major 2/Major II from the Notable Mentions because they were discontinued, added the Jabra Evolve2 65 Wireless as a Notable Mention.
06/22/2020: Added the JBL CLUB 700BT to Notable Mentions.
12/24/2019: Replace Marshall MID ANC Wireless with Beats Solo Pro; removed AKG N60NC. Replaced Beats Solo3 Wireless with JBL Live 400BT. Removed Koss Porta Pro KTC.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best on-ear 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.