Best Over-Ear Headphones
Admittedly, one of the toughest products to buy is a new pair of headphones. Perhaps no other technology device on the market is going to take more research and more thought to buy. Sure, you could simply buy a model that has received high reviews from various reviewers but that will not always guarantee you get what you desire. The reason is headphone quality is very subjective. While aspects like build quality and comfort speak for themselves, the sound quality is another story. What one user believes sounds good another will believe sounds miserable. And, if you are looking for top-notch sound quality, you will have to pay the price. Today, in specific, let’s focus solely on over-ear headphones, though. These devices will completely surround your ears, unlike other models. They are known for their exceptional comfort and sound quality but, again, it all depends on the specific brand.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 2.75 hrs of research
The build quality is utterly phenomenal
The ear pads are replaceable
Features an open, circumaural design
- Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
- Bowers & Wilkins P9
- Bose QuietComfort 35
- Focal Elegia
- SONY MDR-1AB
- Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
- 1MORE Triple Driver
- SONY WH-1000XM2
- Philips X2/27 Fidelio
- Mpow 059
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST OVER-EAR HEADPHONES
1. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
The build quality is utterly phenomenal
The ear pads are replaceable
Features an open, circumaural design
Very, very expensive
With advanced technologies, Beyerdynamic was able to design their DT 1990 Pro Headphones to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. If you want premium then look no further.Read more
The main reason this is able to achieve such amazing quality is due to the latest Tesla driver technology. Of course, the open-back design also helps to ensure a wider and more dynamic stereo sound.
Not only are the ear pads designed of memory foam but they also sport high-tech textiles. This combination drastically enhances the overall comfort.
Being handcrafted in Germany, you know that the DT 1990 Pro is exceptionally built. It is high-end for a reason and one of those reasons is that this is going to outlast nearly every other model.
This is a wired model and it comes with two individual cables. One of them is a short coil cable and the other is a long straight cable.
What is really nice is the seller includes two ear pad variants with your purchase. They can be swapped out and they will each alter the sound quite a bit.
If you are willing to spend the money, and that is a big if, then this is arguably your best option. Make no mistake about it; for hardcore headphone users, this will be money well spent.
2. Bowers & Wilkins P9
Exquisitely crafted from high-quality materials
Backed by a two-year limited warranty
The drivers have been angled
A few users were not thrilled with the sound quality
Bowers & Wilkins is one of the most popular manufacturers in the world of headphones. Could it be that their P9 is the greatest creation of their illustrious tenure? Yeah, that just might be the case.Read more
Though some users were not thrilled with the sound quality of the P9, it is still going to mightily impressive for most of you. This is headlined by the proprietary piston diaphragm speaker drivers and the advanced drive unit that provides precision at higher frequencies.
In conjunction with the high-quality leather, the P9 is also designed with vented multi-later memory foam cushions and this combination ensures a comfortable experience.
Bowers & Wilkins did not go cheap with their P9 that much is for sure. It is equipped with Italian leather and forged aluminum arms for enhanced durability.
This is yet another wired model and it is equipped with a standard 3.5-millimeter stereo jack.
A handy, and often overlooked, feature for headphones is the ability for them to be folded. Bowers & Wilkins did not overlook this feature and did implement it into their P9.
When you own a product such as this, it proves that you are in the game for nothing but the best. This will be out of the price range for many of you so be aware of that, however.
3. Bose QuietComfort 35
It is compatible with Alexa
Designed with multiple levels of noise cancellation
The sound quality is fantastic
The bass is a bit weak when compared to other models
Various users have criticized the call functionality
A list of this magnitude would not be complete without an appearance from Bose. They are known for their exceptional sound quality and their QuietComfort 35 Series II exemplifies that superbly.Read more
Not only does this have built-in noise cancellation technology but it implements it in three different levels. All in all, this is the sound quality you expect from a pair of Bose headphones (though the bass is a bit weak).
The general consensus from various users is that the QuietComfort 35 Series II is indeed comfortable. It is often compared to Sony models with many users claiming this is superior in the comfort area.
With Bose, the last thing you are going to get is a poorly-made product. That is on full display here as only premium materials have been utilized for construction.
Unlike many of the other models on this list, this is a wireless option. It utilizes Bluetooth technology and can be paired with the Bose Connect app. As for the battery life, it will vary, but you can expect up to 20 hours on a single charge.
Even though you can answer phone calls with this model, various users have criticized the functionality (mainly saying too much background noise can be heard). Also, this can connect to Alexa so that is a big plus.
It is fair to make the argument that this is the most practical entry on this entire list. The QuietComfort Series II offers superb sound, is wireless, comfortable, and is also compatible with the top-end voice-activation program, Alexa.
4. Focal Elegia
The attention to detail is superb
Comes with a durable carrying case
Equipped with memory foam ear pads
The price is extremely lofty
Not too many of you reading this currently will be willing to spend this kind of money on this type of technology. Then again, despite the lofty price, you can’t deny the advanced design of the Elegia.Read more
Wow, is there a better word to say than wow? This is equipped with drivers that are shifted toward the front of the ear cup for enhanced sound and a four-millimeter frameless, copper voice coil. Oh yeah, and the M-shaped inverted dome enhances the surface area.
As impressive as the sound is, the comfort could be even better. This is thanks to the memory-foam ear pads that are covered in plush microfiber fabric.
For this price, the materials better be high in quality and they most certainly are. This is headlined by the black and silver aluminum and premium leather accents.
Now, the cable that is included is quite thick and stiff. Yet, it is able to deliver the exceptional sound quality that makes it all worth it, in the end.
Focal spent most of their time mastering the sound and the comfort of their Elegia. That said, there are not too many extra features to speak of.
If you are not somewhat enthralled by this model then your expectations are simply too high. In 20 years, this may be obsolete but currently, this is the cream of the crop.
5. SONY MDR-1AB
The Beat Response Control reduces bass distortion
Really seals in the sound
It is ideal for portability
A few buyers have had issues with the build quality
This is the third straight model that has been designed by a world-renowned manufacturer. Sony is as elite as it gets and their wired, MDR-1AB more than delivers the goods.Read more
In addition to the Responsive Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) driver which offers a more precise and consistent sound across the frequency range, the MDR-1AB is also equipped with Beat Response Control which reduces the amount of heavy bass distortion.
As is mentioned, this feels as good as it looks. This is thanks to the sleek metal headband that is fully padded and the black leather ear pads that are equipped.
In spite of the seamless stitching and high-quality materials, there have been previous buyers who have had issues with the build quality of this model.
Yes, this is a wired model and a 3.94-foot cable comes with your purchase. This allows you to manually connect to any compatible technology device.
If you ever wanted to take the MDR-1AB on the go, it would be easy to do so thanks to the foldable ear cups and the sliding metal headband.
Much like with Bose, it really is difficult to go wrong with Sony. They are a juggernaut in the technology industry and their MDR-1AB is a prime example of why.
6. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
Backed by a two-year warranty
It is a foldable design
Designed with advanced noise cancellation technology
Not the most comfortable model out there
An emphasis has been placed on wired headphones but the Momentum 2.0 is actually wireless and is able to deliver sound quality that even the strictest of users will be fond of.Read more
One of the reasons the Momentum 2.0 has such impressive sound is due to the advanced noise cancellation technology that has been integrated. It uses four different microphones to drown out any background noise.
The good news is the Momentum 2.0 is ergonomically designed and is outfitted with memory foam cushions. In spite of this, though, the ear cups are on the smaller side and the padding on the band is not very thick.
Though the comfort is questionable, the materials and durability are certainly not. The build quality is top-notch with stainless steel and leather being the main contributors.
Even with both Bluetooth and the noise cancellation enabled, you can still achieve up to 22 hours of battery life on a single charge. Yes, as was mentioned before, this is a wireless model.
In addition to the fact that this is foldable, there are two built-in microphones that allow you to take phone calls. During such, the background noise will also be masked.
It would not have hurt for Sennheiser to optimize their model more for comfort. The sound and build quality do make up for it, though, without question.
7. ORE Triple Driver
The value is excellent
Features a state-of-the-art aluminum alloy design
They have been expertly tuned by Luca Bignardi
Discomfort can result during longer sessions
Now, this is a brand that you may have never heard of before until now. However, you will never forget their name after you see what they are capable of.Read more
What helps to deliver enhanced sound is the 40-millimeter graphene dynamic driver and the bass reflector. Of course, this model was also expertly tuned by Luca Bignardi (who happens to be a Grammy-winning sound engineer).
During longer sessions, it is not uncommon for this to provide discomfort. Yet, it is designed with leather-cushioned ear cups and an adjustable headband that is padded.
One thing is for sure; you can’t question the utilized materials here. This state-of-the-art design is outfitted with anodized aluminum alloy ear cups and a stainless steel headband.
One of the reasons this is able to deliver such impressive sound is due to the audiophile-grade oxygen-free copper wire. Indeed, this means the model is wired and not wireless.
Due to the fact that the design is fully collapsible, you can take these headphones anywhere you want to go with ease.
Even though there are other models on the market that are superior, this remains a high-quality option with excellent sound quality.
8. SONY WH-1000XM2
Features smart listening
Arguably the best sounding Bluetooth model at this price range
The battery life is magnificent
The comfort is not the best
The build quality could be better
In this price range, you will be hard-pressed to find another pair of Bluetooth, over-ear headphones with superior sound quality. Of course, this model does fall short in other areas, admittedly.Read more
Again, if nothing else, the sound quality of the WH-1000XM2 is utterly superb. This is thanks to industry-leading noise cancellation, Sony’s DSEE HX software for hi-resolution audio and S-Master HX technology that reduces distortion.
This is a model that often gets compared to the QuietComfort Series from Bose. One area where this is inferior, though, is the comfort. Longer sessions will not be ideal for the WH-1000XM2.
A persistent problem with this model is that the headband can crack. Be very careful to treat this with care as even though it is not cheaply made, the last thing you want is for the headband to break.
It is up to you as you can go wireless or wired with this model. For the former, you can enjoy up to 30 hours of use on one charge (while subjective, this is fantastic battery life).
Sony equipped this with all sorts of extra features. This includes voice assistant capabilities, touch control, quick attention mode and smart listening. All these modes enhance the intuitiveness of this design.
It is easy to see why previous users have raved about these over-ear headphones. Yet, the comfort and longevity concerns are apparent and this is something you need to take into consideration.
9. Philips X2/27 Fidelio
The drivers have been pre-titled
Features LMC drivers for enhanced quality
Equipped with a dedicated cable management clip
Quality control issues have been documented
The weight is a bit high
This model resembles many of the other top-end over-ear headphones on the market, honestly. Various users have experienced quality control issues, though, and that does hurt its ranking on this list.Read more
Above all else, the pre-titled and the Layered Motion Control (LMC) drivers enhance the overall sound of this model. The latter is a unique feature that enhances the drivers in a layer of dampening gel.
Though this is a tad heavy, the deluxe memory foam and the breathable material enhance the overall comfort. Also, the 3D mesh ensures a perfect fit which also helps.
Okay, so Philips did not skimp on the materials. However, quite a few users have had quality control issues with most of them receiving damaged components.
A 3.5 to 6.3-millimeter adapter is included with your purchase and that is ideal given that this is a wired model.
To ensure a tangle-free experience, there is a dedicated cable management clip that has been integrated here.
Granted you actually receive an undamaged product, you can enjoy the high-quality that is provided by these headphones. Do note, though, that this has been an issue for some previous buyers.
10. Mpow 059
Features a battery life of up to 20 hours
The build quality is pretty good
The design is foldable
Limited sound quality
Not the best comfort
Alright, perhaps you did not come here today looking to break your bank. The good news is there are high-quality, affordable options out there. And, while the Mpow 059 is not going to satisfy hardcore users, this is a good example of such.Read more
The best way to describe the sound quality of the Mpow 059 is average. It is to be expected with an option at this price range. Also, this does not have noise cancellation but does sport passive noise isolating.
Though this option does not have the most supreme comfort, the memory-protein ear cushions are suitable and the softly padded headband is solid.
For the price, the craftsmanship and utilized materials are actually pretty impressive. Most notably, this features stainless steel.
If you desire, you can use this with the provided audio cable. Of course, the option is there to use this wirelessly thanks to the built-in rechargeable battery.
One of the better features of this design is the fact that it is foldable. Oh yeah, a portable bag is also included with your purchase.
No, this is not for hardcore users or anyone that is seeking top-notch sound quality. The price simply does not warrant that but as an affordable option, this is fantastic.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is the reason why headphones can be downright expensive. But, it is also the most important criterion.
Above all else, this is the section that is going to be the most subjective and it was alluded to at the beginning of this guide. Oh yeah, and this is what is going to jack the price up. The reality is, you can buy headphones ranging from $30 all the way up to $1000. And, most of what you are paying for is the sound quality. But, what affects this? Well, it is a number of things but let’s break down some of it. For starters, you will often hear people reference both the driver size and the frequency range. Now, with the latter, it is not really that important to check the specific range that a model has as most headphones will be designed to fit into the human hearing bandwidth range.
As for the driver size, though, bigger does not always mean better. Yes, larger drivers will generate cleaner bass but they can also be less accurate at higher frequencies. Shooting for drivers right around 42 millimeters in size should do you just fine. Oh, and do not forget about noise cancellation. With active noise cancellation, unwanted background noise is going to be eliminated. However, understand that not all noise cancellation technologies will be the same (and some will be far superior to others). Also, keep in mind that engineers will often implement special technologies to enhance the overall sound quality of their headphones.
The last thing you want is to pop on a pair of headphones only for them to provide discomfort within a few hours, right?
If the emitted sound is the most important characteristic, then the comfort has got to be the second. In many ways, it can be just as vital and this is especially true if you enjoy wearing your headphones for longer sessions (such as for gaming or for work). But, when compared to earbuds, this is one nice factor of over-ear headphones. Because you do not need to literally insert them into your ears, they can be more comfortable for longer periods of time. However, they can also get quite warm and this is a common issue. This is amplified when you take into consideration that many top-end models will implement memory foam ear pads. Memory foam is an extremely comfortable material that will soften in reaction to your body heat. Yet, it also traps your body heat and has been known for its warmth (which can be a negative, in this case).
To combat this, look for models that implement breathable material in addition to the memory foam. Oh yeah, and also make sure that the headband has a sufficient amount of padding and that the model you pick is not too heavy (as these two factors can also affect the comfort).
Do yourself a favor and avoid going with cheap materials and poor craftsmanship.
Nothing more needs to be said than this. Do you really want to buy something cheap? Not price wise, per se, but in regard to the actual quality of the product? Everyone’s answer should be no but you know as well as everyone else that some products are just that, cheap. To avoid this issue for your new pair of over-ear headphones, look for high-quality materials and high-quality craftsmanship. The two really go hand-in-hand but you need to keep them both in mind.
For the materials, you probably want to opt against cheap plastic and fabrics that will tear within a few months of casual wear. Instead, shoot for materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, and leather. In regard to the craftsmanship, some of the best models are handcrafted in certain countries and are 100 percent authentic. This practically guarantees that the attention to detail will be present. Oh, and one last thing. Not too many models you see will be waterproof so it is best to avoid submersion or any contact with water.
It comes down to this; do you prefer wired or wireless models? Yes, each have their benefits.
Before you settle on a specific model, you first need to ask yourself one question; do you want your headphones to be wired or wireless? To better answer this question; let’s take a look at the characteristics of both. Clearly, wireless models are ideal for convenience as you do not need to mess around with cables. For some situations, this is going to be the most feasible solution for you. But, when you assess the sound quality, this is where wired models rule. This is mainly because they minimize the risk of interference as the signal is being directed via a cable and not via wireless transmission.
Okay, so what about the power supply? With wireless models, you will need to recharge the battery when it is depleted. Yet, many wired models will not require a power supply as they will be connected to your technology devices. In reality, both styles are great and have their advantages. But, for a quick overview, wired options are great for their sound quality, simplicity, and lack of need for a power supply. Meanwhile, wireless options remain a go-to for their convenience, comfort, and Bluetooth compatibility.
Outside of everything else, there are a few "other" features that you can look out for.
To be honest, none of what is about to be discussed is mandatory. All the above information is more important than these “extra features”. Yet, with that being said, you could call these bonus features and they can give you extra incentive to buy a specific model. One of them happens to be if they can be folded. Okay, so why does this matter (you may be asking yourself)? It is simple; if you want to take your headphones on the go, then it will be much easier to do so if you can fold them compactly.
Oh, and this is also where wireless models have their perks. Some of them will be engineered with special functions such as built-in compatibility with voice-activation programs (such as Alexa) and even touch control. For example, some designs will allow you to change the current track or adjust the current volume merely by touching a certain section of the headphones. Again, while not mandatory, this functionality is quite convenient.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
How much money are you willing to spend? That really is the be-all and end-all question here. And, even though you can’t solely assume that expensive headphones will sport top-notch sound quality, cheaper models will simply not perform the way some of you desire. Engineers around the world have designed some breathtaking models and they have done so with elite technologies that amplify the emitted sound. If you seek the best of the best, you will have to pay for it.
One reason some users prefer over-ear headphones, in specific over other versions, is they tend to be more comfortable for longer sessions. With that said, each model is going to be different so you need to watch out for some key features. For example, there needs to be ample padding integrated into the headrest and also enough padding on the ear cups. It is also not a bad idea to look for breathable materials.
Along with sound quality, top-end models are also not going to be crafted poorly. Top-name brands, such as Bose and Nike, are certainly not going to design too many headphones with cheap materials and poor construction methods. However, once again, this is where the price can become jacked up. Ask yourself this, though, is it better to spend the money now or do you want to constantly replace your current model?
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Do you need an amplifier?
For the record, a headphone amplifier is a device that is used to essentially deliver more power and enhanced clarity to the speakers that are inside connected headphones. Now, do you actually need this? Well, it all depends on what you plan to use to actually play your music. If you use old-school MP3 or CD players, then you may want to as the amplifiers built into those devices will be weak. If you are generally satisfied with the sound, though, you do not need to worry about this.
q: How exactly does noise cancellation work?
It was mentioned before that noise cancellation technologies are not all going to be the same. To give you a better understanding of how some of the technologies can work, here is what Bose does for their QuietComfort Series II. They place microphones in both the inside and outside of the ear cups. From there, the electronics system that is built-in is able to sense ambient sound and then measure it to produce a subsequent cancellation signal.
q: Can you charge wireless models from your laptop?
Yes, you most certainly can as long as the model you have is designed to be powered via USB (which it will, most likely). However, it needs to be noted that you may want to invest in an AC adapter to speed up the charging process. A USB port simply can’t supply as much power as an outlet can in your home. So, while both ways work, doing so on your laptop will take longer.
q: What are the best options for fitness?
To put it bluntly, over-ear headphones are simply not going to be the best for fitness-related activities. While this is purely subjective, admittedly, they are much bulkier than earbuds are. And, when you are partaking in fitness-related activities, chances are your body is going to be moving (sometimes vigorously). With that said, your most convenient option is probably going to be earbuds that are both sweat-resistant and durable.
q: How do you clean headphone jacks?
For the record, the reason you will want to clean your headphone jacks is they can accumulate dust over time. If left unchecked for too long, it may develop connectivity issues. Thankfully, cleaning them is not going to be too monotonous of a task and can actually be done with a cotton swab. Be gentle when you insert it inside the jack, though. Also, for more difficult debris, you can dip the swab in rubbing alcohol. Yet, do not drench the inside of the jack with the rubbing alcohol (you will not need that much).
q: Why can’t you hear the bass?
Do be aware that some models will not produce as much bass as others. But, if you know for a fact that your model does and you can’t seem to hear the bass, it may be something as simple as an incorrect fit. You need to experiment with the positioning of the headphones as this can actually make a huge difference. And, if there is an accompanying app to alter the preferences, ensure the bass level is where you desire it to be.