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 canal. However, they tend to fit tighter than over-ears, which can put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on your ears, depending on the design. Good on-ears have a fit that works for you and a sound profile that suits the type of music you listen to. The best 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.
The Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless are the best on-ear headphones we've tested. These iconic on-ear headphones have their manufacturer's signature design and a colorful look that helps them stand out. With a versatile performance, they're a great choice for listening to music no matter where you go. They have a W1 chip for seamless pairing with Apple devices, and their over 38 hours of continuous playback time means 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. The extra bass muddies the rest of the mix, though, and the headphones lack customization features to help you adjust their sound. Unlike their higher-end (and unfortunately discontinued) sibling, the Beats Solo Pro Wireless, they also lack noise cancelling and won't block out much background noise like bus engines and ambient chatter. Still, they're worth checking out if you love the on-ear look.
The JBL Live 460NC Wireless are the best on-ear wireless headphones we've tested in the mid-price range. Their price can fluctuate slightly, but they're a good option when you can get them for less than $100. Out-of-the-box, these versatile headphones offer a well-balanced sound suitable for many different audio genres. Their companion app's parametric EQ and presets let you customize their sound. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected with your computer and phone simultaneously.
Unlike the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless, they have an ANC system. It has trouble effectively reducing bass-range noise like rumbling bus and plane engines but does better with higher-pitched sounds like ambient chatter, which is handy if you want to focus on your work at the office or in a cafe. Their 29-hour continuous battery life is pretty impressive, albeit not as much so as the Beats'. Still, they easily last through a workday or long flight without a recharge. They're also well-built and decently comfortable, though their high clamping force can get fatiguing over time.
The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are the next-best option if you want to spend less. These budget-friendly headphones have some extra features that make them worth checking out. Their price also fluctuates, and they're an especially good deal if you can get them for less than $50. They have a slightly warm sound profile out of the box that results in smooth-sounding vocals and instruments, and their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets so that you can tailor it to your needs. They also support virtual soundstage feature to help make your audio more immersive, and they support multi-device pairing to let you stay connected to your smartphone and PC simultaneously.
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're less well-built and comfortable than the Sony headphones.
The best wired on-ear headphones we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M60x. Wired headphones are a good option if you don't want to deal with recharging your headphones or want the lowest latency option for watching videos. These come with a detachable cable and two 1/8" to 1/4" adapters, meaning you can easily plug them into a mixer, amp, phone, or computer. Their design keeps 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 you can't customize their mix since they aren't compatible with a companion app. Fortunately, these on-ears are decently comfortable and well-built. They even come with a soft pouch to keep dust off the headphones when not in use.
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.