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  1. Table of Contents
  2. Intro
  3. Best Headphones
    1. Alternative
  4. Best Mid-Range
    1. Alternative
  5. Best Budget
    1. Alternative
  6. All Reviews
  7. Q&A
Updated

The 6 Best Over-Ear Headphones - Winter 2018
Reviews

Best Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones, also called around-ear headphones, offer a simple design with large ear cups that fit around the ears (read our article over-ear vs on-ear headphones). They can be a little bulky, but they generally offer decent noise isolation and are very comfortable to wear for extended periods.

So far, we've tested 104 over-ear headphones and below are our recommendations for the best ones to purchase this winter.

Best Over-Ear Headphones: Sennheiser HD 800 S

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
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Test Benches:

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
6.2
Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
8.5
Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
4.8
Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.5
Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
5.4
Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
6.2
Home Theater
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Score components:
6.2
Gaming
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Score components:

Of the 104 over-ear headphones we've tested so far, the best ones are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. If you have the budget and consider yourself a hardened critical listener or an audiophile, then we strongly recommend the HD 800s.

They’re well-built and durable open headphones with expertly matched dynamic drivers that deliver an accurate audio reproduction. Their open design also recreates the ambiance of a good stereo speaker set up for an immersive listening experience. However, like most open headphones, the 800S have only one specific use case so you won’t be taking them outside.

See our review

Alternative For Everyday Use: Bose QuietComfort 35

If you need a pair of headphones for more casual use, then get the Bose QuietComfort 35. They're great for commuting thanks to their excellent noise cancellation. They have a sufficiently good sound to satisfy most listeners and they're comfortable enough to wear for hours.

They might not be as sturdy or as isolating as the Sony WH-1000XM2 over-ear headphones, but they provide a better overall experience and a more consistent sound quality. Overall, the QC35 are great versatile headphones that won't disappoint. 

See our review

Best Mid-Range Over-Ear Headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
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Test Benches:

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
7.3
Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.7
Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.4
Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.1
Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.5
Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
6.2
Home Theater
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Score components:
5.9
Gaming
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Score components:

For a mid-range option, the best over-ear headphones are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They're a lot more affordable than the Bose QuietComfort 35 or the Sony WH-1000XM2, and they're well-rounded enough for most use cases, even gaming. These over-ear headphones don't isolate as well as the Bose QC 35, but make up for it with a tough, durable build quality, a simple and efficient control scheme and an incredible wireless range. 

They Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are more sturdy and have more features than the Beats Studio3 Wireless, especially for Android users and they're also less expensive, which make them a great recommendation for a pair of mid-range over-ear headphones. 

See our review

Alternative for Critical Listening: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

If you really care about sound quality, we recommend the Audio-Technica M50x over-ear headphones. Like the Sennheiser HD 800 S, they offer a more focused experience. These headphones do especially well for critical listening and studio recording thanks to their high comfort level and amazing audio reproduction.

They block a decent amount of ambient noise and do not leak as much as open headphones such as the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, which have a slightly better sound but cannot be used in more varied environments. If you care about sound quality but not as much about active features, then get the M50x; they are a great recommendation for most people. 

See our review

Best Budget Over-Ear Headphones: Philips SHP9500

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
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Test Benches:

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
5.9
Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.8
Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
4.6
Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.4
Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
5.3
Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
6.0
Home Theater
Show Help
Score components:
6.0
Gaming
Show Help
Score components:

If you’re on a tight budget, the best over-ear headphones we've tested are the Philips SHP9500. They're great audiophile headphones that are significantly cheaper than most open headphones with their level of audio fidelity. 

Like most open headphones, they're not versatile enough for all environments but if you want a comfortable listening experience at a budget price, the SHP9500 are the headphones to get. They’re well-built and comfortable, open-back headphones that accurately reproduce the ambiance of a well-mastered track. 

See our review

Cheaper Alternative: Superlux HD 681

If you want an even cheaper alternative to the Philips SHP 9500, get the Superlux HD 681. They're more comfortable than the Superlux HD 668B with the same great sound that's surprisingly well-balanced for their price range.

While they are nowhere near as comfortable or as well-built as the Philips, their semi-open design leaks a little less. They're also considerably cheaper while delivering a comparatively good sound quality.

See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Sony WH-1000XM2. Best over-ear for noise isolation and a sturdy, wireless design. Slightly inconsistent sound quality. See our review
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. Great build and audio quality. Stable and comfortable design but a bit tight on the head. See our review
  • HiFiMan HE-400i. Excellent sounding planar magnetic headphones with a decently comfortable design. Slightly weak build quality and bulky design. See our review
  • Sennheiser PXC 550. Highly customizable sound and noise isolation. Comfortable, stable and well-built over-ear headphones but mediocre noise isolation. See our review
  • Beats Studio3 wireless. A good alternative to the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 with a sleek and polished design. They're a worthy upgrade to the original Studio Wireless but slightly lack active features. See our review
  • Sony MDR-7506. A good substitute to the M50x at a much lower cost. However, they don't sound as good but leak a little less. See our review
  • SteelSeries Arctis 7. A well-rounded gaming over-ear headset with a wired connection for casual outdoor use.  Slightly bulky and wireless only with its transmitter which is a bit limiting.  See our review
  • Sony MDR 1A. Balanced sound quality and comfortable design. A bit expensive for what they have to offer. See our review
  • Astro A50. Great sound quality for critical listening and comfortable design. A gaming-oriented headset limited by the range of the base station. See our review
  • Superlux HD 668B. Good, well-balanced sound quality, very affordable price range. Slightly uncomfortable and a bit cheaply made. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 700. Over-ear headphones with a premium build quality, great sound. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best over the ear headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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 over-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.

Questions Found an error?

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Questions & Answers

18 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
5
Can you review the vmoda line of headphones? I'm curious as to how they stack up to the competition.
Sure, we are already planning on reviewing V-MODA headphones in the coming months.
1
Hi there! I'd like to suggest that the Sennheiser HD 380 Pros be reviewed; they're the successor to the HD 280s and widely considered to be better subjectively, and they're also widely and relatively cheaply available, so I'd love to see a scientific assessment of them.
Already on our list, but it may takes us a couple of months to review them.
1
Please please please add a column to factor in the Bluetooth headset's microphones. If they're listen-only headphones then great, but if there's a microphone present then it needs to be more than a mere afterthought. The lack of detailed commentary on call quality by reviewers in general grants permission to completely overlook a critical part of headphones' usability with the phone they're paired to. Experiences with the flagship travel-friendly bluetooth headphones: After owning the QC35 for a month I pre-ordered the PXC550 and then also the MDR1000X simply because of my experience with the QC35 on calls. The PXC550 fared significantly worse, which was a dealbreaker because I actually really liked them. I listened to a call recording with the MDR1000X and it was, no exaggeration, no better than wired earbuds with the omni-directional inline mic dangling below my neck. So until I try something better (almost afraid to try Backbeat Pro 2 because I do love the sound image and ANC of the Bose), I'm forced to supplement my $350 Bose QC35 with a $40 Plantronics. In an office the QC35 is hard to use for a conference call without putting myself on "mute" between every word, yet with even a cheap calling-oriented Bluetooth headset I can stand on a Subway platform and only have to worry about myself going a little deaf. For what it's worth, Bose and Sennheiser both make premium ANC aviation headsets, and Bose makes a lot of ANC military headsets (most especially for vehicle crews). Sony's product measures the acoustic characteristics of the wearer's ears and head to optimize the DSP for better listening, so they're not idling either. It's not a big stretch to ask for good microphonics from their flagship consumer bluetooth headsets.
Thanks for your message. As previously mentioned, we have yet to review the quality of headphones' microphones. But it's part of our road-map. Having said that, please keep in mind that with Bluetooth devices you are always at the mercy of the bandwidth provided by the Bluetooth protocol. Therefore the microphone audio will always sound compressed.
1
Hello, do you plan to review the Astro A50 gen3 headset? I can see you did a review on Turtle Beach Elite 800, Astro and TurtleBeach are the top premium gaming headsets - it would be super cool to have your opinion on the Astro A50 gen3 as well. Thank you
We are planning on reviewing gaming headsets and will add the A50 to our list, but that would probably be sometime later this year.
1
Hi, I'm a bit confused to see the HD600 and M50x both having the same critical listening score, that doesn't make any sense! is there an error or...
Thanks for your question. The M50x has a better bass and in general a better frequency response than the HD600. But the HD600 is open-back, which means it has a better soundstage. In our current scoring configuration, these difference cancel each other out.
1
Im looking for an over ear headphone to use for a variety of things. First I primarily will use it for Gaming on an Xbox and PS4 and Movies. However I also want to use it with my phone and laptop for music. I dont want to need an amp and I do not require a microphone but one would be a bonus and what I would really like is something wireless with the option of connecting a 3.5mm cable to use off battery. My price limit is around $250 but I would prefer to spend under $200 if possible. Any recommendations?

If you would like to get a regular wireless headphone that you can also use for gaming, then we suggest the Plantronics Backbeat pro 2 and Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II. But keep in mind that for gaming you would have to use these wired, and you may need to get an extension cable for them as well.

For a purely gaming headset within your budget we would recommend the Logitech G930, but its downside is that you won't be able to use it with your phone wirelessly since they don't support bluetooth.

1
Firstly thank you for this great Page. Dear Mister/Miss, I readed your headphone rewievs and good a bit of fustrated. I informed very well on headphones and bought firstly a Philips Fidelio x2. I dont liked the Sound mutch but i keeped them. So 1/2years later i bought bose i raw in the Internet they should be very Bad but i give them a Chance. Now im using them and I like the Sound more that the x2, better Bass not so much high Bass and it sounds clearer. I never exspected it. So i was questening why on the Internet much guys say they are Bad. After this i found your site thats says good Stuff about them. So now i want too to change my gaming headphones. I would Listen Musik them and play Games with then price up too 400€. So i saw the astro a50 witch is also hated by the Internet. For Bad bass (EXTREMLY HIGH) and you guys give them a good review. Can you give me a tip for gaming/Musical and for movies headphones? I read much but on Forums so i dont Trust them anymore. Anyone says : a beyerdynamic or what ever is much better then a astro a50 but if i See the frequency Response... Sorry for the long Text hope you can help me!

Thanks for your message! This is because there is not a widely accepted reference on what a good sounding headphone should be. Sean Olive and others at Harman have done some research on what a good sounding headphone should measure like, and most of our calculations are loosely based on their research.

Having said that, the A50 is a good sounding headphone with a balanced bass. It also comes with an adjustable EQ, so you can further adjust its sound profile to your own liking.

0
I am looking for a over the ear headset for gaming and music. I keep seeing the Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum Wireless 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset (981-000585) and the Hyper X Cloud II as the top rated headsets per reviews. Could you give me a sense of wether these are just basically good or if they are overpriced? I'm assuming you get what you pay for (naturally). Your site is the most informative site on the web and please continue to expand and delve into all facets of electronics!
Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately we haven't reviewed the headphones you mentioned yet, so we won't be able to make a recommendation. However, we will start reviewing gaming headsets in a few months.
0
Are you guys going to review any of the B&W headphones anytime soon. I'm very interested in the P7 and P5 models.
Thanks for your suggestions. We have already planned our headphones reviews for the month of June, but maybe we can sneak some of the B&W headphones in the July or August releases.
0
Why haven't you reviewed any of the Grado headphones. I have the 325e and they sound amazing!
Thanks for your suggestion. We haven't reviewed Over-Ear Grado headphones yet, however, you can find a couple of their On-Ear's reviewed here.
0
Please review HiFiMan HE400S?
We will add it to the list. However, since we have already purchased the HE 400i and the Edition X, it may take us some time to get to the 400S.
0
First of all, i want to thank you guys for making this site, i love it, i love the reviews, they're very informative, detailed and helpful for making comparisons, really thank you! I've already made a couple of lists of headphones (2 headphones per list to choose between), One for my music listing needs (mainly based on your Critical Listening score and details) the other is for the on-the-go listening (that contain wireless and ANC features and match your Portability, Stability and other scores) Now I'm trying to find a headphone for my gaming needs, I know you guys didn't start reviewing gaming headsets yet, I just want to know which of the sound specs and characteristics i should focus on if i want to have a great sound experience in games from a non-gaming headphones, is it the bass the mid or the treble? the Soundstage or the Imaging? i don't really care about the mic or the design. hope to see an answer soon, keep it up guys.
If you only care about sound quality, then critical listening rating should match up pretty well with what you are looking for. Then only thing to consider is whether the leakage of open-back headphones is an issue for you. In that case remove Soundstage (specifically Openness and Acoustic Space Excitation) as one of the criteria.
0
Have you guys considered changing you color coding system for your headphone reviews. Objectively if you look that the whole list of youre reviews it's give the impression everything that you have tested thus far is either bad or mediocre. Since most of the ratings end up in the 6-8 range pretty much everything is is yellow or worse with spots of green. With the current system you have the only headphones based on the numbers that will look good are Portable usage headphones. Everything else will probably be plastered with low rating for being bad at something they weren't designed for. Ultimately im saying the rating system needs to be revisited because it favors the wireless all rounders the most.
Thanks for your feedback. We do agree with you that our scoring can be improved to better match the subjective impression of them. We are planning on updating them in the near future and will consult your comments when doing so. However, not all of our ratings favor wireless headphones, for example, the Critical Listening usage rating, doesn't not include wireless.
0
Hi, I am looking for a new pair of over-ear headphones with emphasis on sound quality. I don’t think I am on the level of an audiophile but I still look for the best quality sound from my headphones. After some research I sorta set my goal as the OPPO PM-3 as it seems to offer the good sound quality, comfort, and the well-rounded usage I desire. I mainly listen from my mobile device or my computer and have not decided to purchase an amp yet. When I purchase a good pair of headphones I will probably make the change from mp3 files to FLAC files but again, I’m looking for something I can use on the go or if I’m in a quiet setting such as my own room. My music taste varies a lot so I want something well rounded. I am probably looking for something closed back as I am definitely not going be using these cans in just a quiet setting. Do you have any recommendations around the price range of the oppo pm3's? Any help would be much appreciated!
The PM3s are definitely a good choice, but you could also consider the DT770, or even the M50x. For the price of the PM3 you can even go for something wireless and noise cancelling like the QC35. All of these are very good sounding headphones.
0
What headphones would you recommend for use with Xbox One S and a TCL 55p607? I cannot afford an Atmos or DTS X soundbar or home theater system, so headphones are what I am looking at. They would only be used for movies (disc and streaming) and games. I do not use a microphone so it does not have to be a gaming headset, but I would like it to work with Xbox One S. I also would like them to function well with the Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos apps. Do the 7.1 rated ones work any better than stereo or do the apps make them the same? Thank you.
Since Xbox One doesn't support bluetooth headphones, your best option is to pick from our top ranked Critical Listening headphones. If you are looking for an open headphone, then something like the DT990 would be our recommendation, and for a closed headphone something like the QC25, M50X, or DT770. We can't comment on how they would perform with Sonic or Dolby Atmos since we don't test them under those conditions at the moment.
0
Since you clearly can’t be relied on for headphone reviews, I’m seriously doubting all your reviews now.
Are there any tests you think we could improve? And if so, do you have any suggestions we can implement to better our over-ear recommendations? We would appreciate your feedback on this issue.
0
Could you consider reweighting one of the categories to heavily consider portability? Commute and office are largely the same criteria, with isolation and comfort flopping places as most important. Out of all the categories, portability has, at MOST, 10% importance in a category. And when I mean portability, I mean being worn, not in the case. Thanks
We do agree that our portability test is more focused on transport than the size of the headphones when worn. We will discuss, and if sufficiently requested, also implement the size of the headphones when they are not folded.

As for the scoresets, we are still fine tuning our weight distributions and will take your suggestions into consideration when updating our scoresets for the new testbench.

0
Adding to the just mentioned suggestion of portability, I'd suggest getting the opinion of someone with a smaller head, as larger, more obtrusive headphones might not been as noticable on a larger head. Lastly, I'd also consider how well the headphones can be driven without amplification on the most common mobiles (ie Apple, Samsung, and a below average mobile phone when it comes to dac/amplification numbers) Thanks again
Thank you for your suggestion. Impedance, headphone drivability, and amplification requirements are some of the tests we plan to add to upcoming test benches. Once we have a reliable testing procedure to collect and compare that data we will add it to a testbench and update all headphones.

As for the portability follow up; Portability is an objective test, unlike comfort which is subjective and done in a group with different head shapes and sizes. Therefore the results for portability will have to be objective and comparable across all headphones and not be subject to listener preference in size.

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