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, they 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 more comfortable pair of on-ear headphones, try the Marshall MID ANC. While their ANC feature isn't as powerful as the Beats Solo Pro Wireless and can't block out as much background noise, they're more lightweight and feel well-padded. They have a good build quality that feels sturdy, and they offer around 17 hours of continuous battery life, which can easily last throughout your 9-5 workday. They also have a well-balanced sound profile that delivers a touch of extra thump and punch in your favorite songs. On the downside, they don't come with a companion app. Their integrated microphone also has a mediocre recording quality, so you sound thin and muffled. It also struggles to separate your voice from ambient noise, even in moderately loud environments.
If you're looking for a pair of on-ear headphones that deliver impressive active noise cancelling, check out the Beats. However, if you prefer your on-ears to be more comfortable for longer listening sessions, consider the Marshall.
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 take a lot of phone calls while wearing your headphones and you need a good microphone to ensure you're heard clearly, try the Beats EP. While their sound profile is a bit boomier than the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x and they don't come with as many audio cables, the Beats have an in-line microphone, so you're able to take calls on-the-go. Thanks to the mic's good recording quality, your voice should sound present and natural, although a little thin. They're also balanced enough for most audio content, and they have a decently comfortable fit too. However, some users may find that the headband puts some pressure on the ears, which may be a little fatiguing if worn for several hours at a time. Android users may also be a bit disappointed as their in-line remote only works with iOS devices.
If you're planning to use your wired on-ears to only listen to audio, get the Audio-Technica. However, if you're looking for on-ears that offer a more versatile experience that also lets you make phone calls, check out the Beats.
The Status Audio BT One Wireless are the best budget on-ear headphones that we've tested. Although these affordable Bluetooth on-ears are simple in design, they offer a decent build quality and a comfortable fit. They also have 22.5-hour continuous battery life and fully recharge in less than an hour.
They have a fairly balanced sound profile with a bit of overemphasized bass, which is great for bringing out thump and rumble from your favorite EDM or hip-hop songs. That said, they're still neutral enough for most content as they're able to reproduce clear, present, and detailed vocals and lead instruments. They also support aptX-LL codec for low-latency wireless audio, which can help improve sync issues when watching videos.
While they have an integrated microphone, its recording quality is mediocre, so your voice sounds thin and muffled. Due to their on-ear fit, they do a poor job of passively isolating noise around you and barely block out any noise like bus engines or ambient chatter. Still, if you don't mind their basic features, they deliver a balanced sound profile and a comfortable fit without breaking the bank.
11/13/2020: Replaced the SkullCandy Grind Wireless with the Status Audio BT One for Best Budget On-Ear Headphones. Also replaced the Bose SoundLink Wireless with the Marshall MID ANC Wireless.
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.