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 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-ear 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 JBL Live 460NC are the best wireless on-ear headphones we've tested. These headphones have a very well-balanced default sound profile, with just a bit of extra thump and rumble in the bass range. It's well-suited for a variety of different genres and types of content, and you can also customize it with a parametric EQ and presets in the JBL Headphones app.
They have a good onboard control scheme that's easy to use. You can press the ANC button to cycle between noise cancelling mode and 'Ambient Aware,' which lets you hear your surroundings without pausing your audio. The ANC feature does an adequate job of isolating you from ambient sound, and their roughly 29-hour continuous battery life is long enough to last through a long flight or few days at work.
Unfortunately, while they have a decently comfortable fit, some users may find them a bit too tight, especially when wearing them for long periods. Otherwise, if you're looking for on-ear headphones, these offer a customizable sound profile and impressive battery performance.
The Beats Solo Pro Wireless are the best on-ear headphones for iPhone users. These sleek and well-built headphones have an H1 chip so that you can seamlessly pair them with other devices in your Apple ecosystem. They also have low latency on iOS devices, which is good if you stream video.
They have a slightly excited sound profile that brings out a touch of extra thump and rumble to mixes. Vocals and lead instruments still sound clear, bright, and sparkly, making them a suitable choice for most kinds of audio content. They have an ANC system that can block out a good amount of ambient noise around you. Their roughly 24 hours of continuous battery life should also last through long listening sessions.
Unfortunately, their integrated mic has sub-par recording quality, so your voice sounds muffled and lacking in detail. If you have a large head, you may also find their fit too tight, especially as the headband has limited extension. They have thick ear cup padding, though, and their headband can distribute the headphones' weight well.
The best on-ear headphones for working out that we've tested are the JBL Live 400BT Wireless. These headphones have a tight, stable fit on your head, so they shouldn't slip around too much during a run. Their wireless design means you don't need to worry about a cable getting in your way or snagging on something.
They don't trap very much heat against your ear, so they shouldn't make you sweat much more during exercise sessions. Their default sound profile is very neutral and suitable for many genres and types of content. However, if you prefer a different sound, you can customize it with a parametric EQ and presets in the companion app. Their long continuous battery life of roughly 30 hours should suit long-distance runners as well.
Unfortunately, they don't have an ANC feature, so they may not be ideal if you want headphones that block out distracting noise at the gym. Their small ear cups also put a bit of pressure on top of your ear, which may be uncomfortable over long periods. That said, if you're a runner who favors headphones with an over-ear design, these are worth considering.
The best wired on-ear headphones that we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x. If you prefer a wired connection, these audiophile on-ears have a detachable audio cable design and come with three cables. They also come with two 1/8" to 1/4" adapters, which is good if you want to connect these headphones to your mixer.
They have a fairly neutral and accurate sound profile, which makes them well-suited for a variety of audio content. Their bass range is very flat, although they have a touch of extra high-bass to add boom and warmth to mixes. They're also decently well-built as well as comfortable and breathable. They come with a soft pouch to help keep them from collecting dust when you're not using them.
However, they're designed with audiophiles in mind, so they don't have a mic or controls. They also do a poor job blocking out background noise like bus engine rumbles or ambient chatter, which could be frustrating if you want to wear them during your commute. However, if you prefer wired on-ears or want something more suitable for neutral sound, they're a solid choice.
If you want more versatile headphones, check out the Beats EP. Unlike the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x, they're more prone to inconsistencies in audio delivery, and you may especially notice a drop in bass if you have thick hair or wear glasses. However, the Beats' audio cable has an in-line mic so that you can take calls when you're on the go. It also has good recording quality, so your voice sounds clear and natural. There's an easy-to-use control scheme on the cable, making it easy to play or pause your audio without taking out your phone. While their sound profile is warmer than the Audio-Technica, they deliver extra boom to mixes, which should please fans of EDM and hip-hop. Unfortunately, the mic has mediocre noise handling, and your voice could be drowned out by background noise, so if you have an important call, it's best to take it from a quieter place.
If you're looking for audiophile headphones with a wired design, try the Audio-Technica. However, if you're looking for more versatile wired headphones for more casual use, take a look at the Beats instead.
The best budget-friendly on-ear headphones that we've tested are the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless. Although these headphones are simple in design, they have over 38 hours of continuous battery life, making them well-suited for long days on the go. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can connect to your smartphone and PC at the same time.
These on-ears have a slightly v-shaped sound profile that delivers extra warmth and kick to tracks, while vocals and lead instruments are bright and detailed. Their fairly comfortable fit has a wide range of articulation to help accommodate different-sized heads. They also have an easy-to-use control scheme, and their integrated mic offers decent recording quality, ensuring your voice sounds clear and natural.
Unfortunately, they have a mostly plasticky design which doesn't feel very sturdy. They also have a bad noise isolation performance and won't block out the low rumbles of bus and plane engines or ambient chatter. That said, these headphones are a suitable choice if you're looking for wallet-friendly on-ears.
Jan 12, 2022: Changed the Beats Solo Pro Wireless to 'Best On-Ear Headphones For iPhone'. Checked our picks for accuracy and product availability.
Dec 16, 2021: We've checked our picks for product availability and accuracy. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Nov 16, 2021: Checked that picks still represent the best recommendations in their categories and that the products are in stock.
Oct 21, 2021: We've checked our picks for accuracy and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Sep 21, 2021: Checked out picks for product availability and accuracy. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
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.