The best over-ear headphones make everything sound better – and keep the extraneous world at bay (until you want to invite it back in). Whether you’re mad about music, prefer podcasts or like to immerse yourself in audiobooks, the headphones here will present them at their very best thanks to their large, powerful drivers and impressively large and detailed soundstages.
They’re comfortable for long periods, and many models boast additional features such as active noise cancellation and integrated voice assistants for carefree travels and effortless operation.
Why over-ear headphones? Because while earbuds are great too, you can’t fight the laws of physics: good sound is all about moving air, and no headphones move air as well as a good pair of over-ears. If you’ve got hi-res audio files and you don’t have a pair of the best headphones, you’re missing out on some of the sheer musical joy available.
Over-ear headphones are also less likely to ruin your hearing – no seriously, cans can be better for your hearing health compared to in-ear headphones. Because they sit on (rather than in) your ears, they’re a little further from your sensitive eardrums, and since their padding blocks out a lot of external noise passively, you can listen comfortably without having to turn the volume up as high. That’s particularly true when the headphones have active noise cancellation, which removes the kind of external sounds that tend to steal the sonic detail when you’re listening on the move.
How to choose the best over-ear headphones for you
There’s no doubt that some of the very best headphones can be expensive, and we’ve made a point of including some very affordable options as well as the money-no-object options. But realistically the combination of premium materials, very high quality components, very precise engineering and all the research and development goes into them means that’s inevitable: in much the same way that a cheap guitar doesn’t feel or sound as good as a quality one, you can’t make really high performance headphones that cost the same as more mediocre models.
That’s not to say that more affordable headphones are bad. They’re not: this market is incredibly competitive and we have a dedicated guide to the best cheap headphones to help you find budget-friendly headphones that are still good quality. But there’s a difference between good and spectacular, and the latter option costs more to develop, to make and to buy. Which will you choose? Read on, and consider your budget.
In this guide we’ll show you the best options for every kind of music and in every price range so that you can get the best possible sound quality, convenience and comfort no matter how much you want to spend. Our guide will cover all the bases including noise-cancelling headphones, wired models, and wireless headphones for listeners who want the convenience of cable-free listening.
Our pick of the best over-ear headphones
We said under intense review that Sennheiser’s welcome update to its 2019 Sennheiser Momentum third-generation Wireless headphones (listed below) would soon be sitting pretty at the top of this buying guide, and here they are. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are the newest August 2022-issue wireless over-ear headphones from Sennheiser and if Sony isn’t worried, it should be.
These cans boast an incredible 60-hour battery life, a likeable app, an extensive feature set, easy on-ear controls, talented adaptive noise cancellation and a zealous sound that’ll have you nodding your head happily wherever you go. Yes, they’re a tad plain aesthetically, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and these headphones sound outrageously good for the level.
Sennheiser has packed everything and the kitchen sink into the Momentum 4 Wireless’s spec sheet, including Sidetone to better hear your voice during calls and ‘Sound Zones’, EQ and ANC presets which can be set to magically kick in when you’re, well, in the zone. Make no mistake though, the headline-grabber is still the sound. And what a sound it is! Think open, detailed, expansive, neutral and crisp. Never is it overly warm; never is it congested or muddied through the bass.
Move over Sony XM5, there’s a new set of cans in town and honestly, they’re just that little bit better across the board…
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review
Until a few weeks ago when Sony launched the WH-1000XM5, the Sony WH-1000XM4 were the best all-around headphones we’d heard since, well, their predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Not only do they sound great and deliver excellent noise cancellation, but they manage to do this all wirelessly. Other over-ear headphones on our list may offer superior sound quality, but the WH-1000XM4 manage to offer the best balance of features and performance.
While they don’t look significantly different from the headphones from Sony that came before them, the XM4s include a number of new features such as multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor.
Offering all of this without a serious price premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM4 over-ear wireless headphones remain a great all-around choice for on-the-go music listeners.
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
Beyerdynamic may not be quite as well known as its German sibling, Sennheiser, but the audio company has a history of creating some of the best-sounding audio gear on the market. Their DT770, DT880 and DT990 over-ear headphones were loved by many for their excellent build and sound quality.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is even better. It’s an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, a headphone which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($599 / £589 / AU$1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference between the two models really comes down to their sound.
As they’re open-back, these DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. During our testing we found that the open-back design means some outside sound gets in (and some audio leaks, so these aren’t headphones for cramped commuting) but that same design delivers a breathtaking sense of space. The wide soundstage enables even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.
We think the DT 1990 Pro are the best over-ear headphones, but for listening on the move we think you should consider the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro for a closed-back version that’s a little more socially friendly.
Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review
These newly released Sony over-ear ANC headphones take their predecessors’ place as some of the best headphones money can buy at the moment – even if they cost more money than previous iterations in the line up.
Whether you like the new lighter design (which can no longer be folded up, although the earcups will lie flat) or not, they really are comfortable and the user-friendly perks are impossible to ignore, whether it’s reliably recognising when the headphones have been removed from your head and pausing your music, noting you’re having a conversation and dialling down the volume or switching off noise cancelling features when you’re out on a busy road, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones can anticipate exactly what you want them to do without you needing to touch a button yourself. These smart features feel snappier and more responsive than with previous versions – and the noise cancellation and sound quality remains unbeatable at the level. We like these headphones a lot, and we think they’re the best wireless buy for the vast majority of people.
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review
These headphones could have easily been the top of our list if they didn’t cost well over $1,000 / £1,000 / AU$3,000. The Sennheiser HD 800 are, hands down, some of the best-sounding pairs of over-ear headphones on the planet, affectionately praised by inner circles of audiophiles the world over.
Testing these headphones was an absolute joy. When you pair them with suitably high quality hardware they sound absolutely excellent and balanced in every way. The sound is incredibly detailed, they feel great to wear even for long listening sessions, and they’re so good they might leave even the best hi-fi speakers gathering dust.
Unfortunately, they’re also supremely expensive and require higher-end audio equipment than the average consumer is ready to buy. But if you have the system to drive them and the bank balance to afford them, these are the headphones to buy.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 800 review
With the LCD-1 open-back headphones, Audeze has brought its uncompromising and often very expensive technology down to a real-world(ish) price. As long as you’re prepared to do your listening in splendid isolation – that design will generate a fair amount of sound leakage – there’s just no reason to overlook these over-ear headphones.
In our tests we found that no matter the artist or genre, the LCD-1s’ overall presentation was composed, engaging and entirely believable. You’ll hear previously undiscovered details in the music you already love and you’ll hear new music as the artists intended; that open back design delivers an incredibly detailed performance that’s crystal clear, delightfully nuanced and completely compelling.
Read our full Audeze LCD-1 review
If you’re looking for class-leading wireless, noise-cancelling headphones and you’re not put off by $399 / £379 (approx. AU$575) price tag, then the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 are well worth considering.
They’re a worthy upgrade over their predecessors, the PX7, which we thoroughly enjoyed testing. This newer version, albeit even more expensive, offers the classiest Bowers & Wilkins finish yet. The battery life is still 30 hours, the same as the older model, but the comfort level has been stepped up considerably over the PX7.
The headphones offer a talented sound with oodles of textured detail through vocals and mid-range. This is thanks to 40mm high-resolution drive units, angled within each ear cup to deliver an incredibly immersive soundstage. Audio performance isn’t perfect, when the bass drops it really does drop, muddying the sound.
So there are more versatile over-ear headphones on this list, like Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones, which offer a better experience across a broader genre of music. But the PX7 S2 work particularly well for certain genres, especially classical music, they’re surgically precise and insightful through keys, strings and vocals.
Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 review
The Sennheiser HD 560S are are best used as a tool, in the most literal sense. If you want to be able to look deep into the details of a mix, or to make A/B comparisons with absolute certainty, these are exactly the sort of headphones you need. If you want to be entertained, energized and invigorated by your music, though, they’re less than ideal.
Sonically, the Sennheiser HD560S are a ruthlessly revealing listen. Sure enough, the soundstage they describe is big in all directions, and individual elements of a recording appear on the stage in an absolutely solid area of space.
Detail levels – whether concerning instrument timbre, vocal technique or any other aspect of a recording – are absolutely sky-high, and the HD560S maintain an even, neutral balance from the very bottom of the frequency range to the very top. But they don’t flatter recordings, and that means they can be rather harsh on poorly recorded or poorly mixed audio.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 560S review
At $199 / £160 (around AU$290) the Philips PH805 offer exceptional value for money. These are wireless over-ear headphones, using Bluetooth 5 for connectivity that’s capable of higher resolution audio playback.
Using a single Lithium-Ion cell delivering up to 30 hours of playback time from a single charge, the Philips PH805 have active noise cancellation on board, listening via a couple of mics on each earcup. In our testing we found the noise cancelling to be both effective and easy to control.
The build quality is sturdy and competent. Sound quality is also very impressive for the price, with well-controlled low frequencies, attacking trebles, and detailed mids that give vocals a real sense of character.
Read our full Philips PH805 review
These Sennheiser over-ear headphones sound fantastic, with high levels of detail, warm bass, and natural-sounding highs.
Customizable noise cancellation is a great touch, but we found that Sennheiser’s noise cancelling doesn’t quite reach the class-leading standards set by Sony and Bose. Battery life also doesn’t compete with the Sony WH-1000XM4 or 5, and they’re more expensive to boot.
So, why buy the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019)? Well, if built-in Tile tracking appeals to you, and you like the industrial design and premium materials of the Momentum Wireless, that could be reason enough – and if you do opt for them over the Sony model, you won’t be missing out on any audio quality. In that respect, they’re truly matched.
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019) review
The build, battery life, and sound quality of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II are all very impressive, improving upon the previous PXC 550 model with the latest Bluetooth standard and enhanced audio and smart capabilities. Understated yet comfortable, these cans are particularly well suited for smaller-eared users.
The PXC 550-II over-ear headphones are a bit cheaper than the same firm’s Momentum Wireless. They’re also more sober in appearance and smaller too, but they still deliver an impressive and sophisticated performance.
During our testing we found that the bass frequencies were clear as well as punchy with excellent texture and detail, the mids are rich, and the treble frequencies boast real shine and attack. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II are a very enjoyable listen no matter what your tastes may be.
Read our full Sennheiser PXC 550-II review
The Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are the best-sounding wireless headphones you can buy. Their sound is spacious, detailed, and makes you want to rediscover all of your music library. They may not wow you with artificially big bass or overly sparkling highs but they offer consistently clear audio that feels like going from 1080p to 4K resolution for your ears.
Extensive codec support including AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD and aptX LL is ideal for streaming from multiple sources at the best possible quality, and with about 25 hours of battery life in our tests they’ll last you a fair while too.
They’re a little on the heavy side at 380g compared to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s 235g and their average noise isolation means they’re far from ideal for traveling. However, if you’re looking for the best sound from a pair of over-ear headphones for listening at home, you can’t go wrong with these Beyerdynamic cans.
Read our full Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless review
They may not beat the Sony WH-1000XM4’s battery life and price, but the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are still a fantastic pair of over-ear headphones.
By applying noise cancellation on both music and phone calls, they offer class-leading technology, and well as a vibrant, lively sound and wide, well-balanced soundstage.
If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life.
That said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for these Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and we found the noise cancellation to be out of this world. If focused listening is your top priority, these are a solid choice.
Read our full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
The Apple AirPods Max were the most hotly-anticipated headphones for quite some time, having been the subject of rumor and speculation for two years. They have active noise cancellation, superb audio quality, and a design that sets them apart from most noise-cancelling headphones on the market.
While their exceptional audio performance and class-leading ANC impresses, they’re let down by their eye-watering price, horrible carrying case and their lack of support for Hi-Res Audio codecs.
Despite their high price, the AirPods Max aren’t exactly aimed at the audiophile crowd; if they were, they’d have a 3.5mm audio port. These headphones are squarely targeted at card-carrying members of the Apple ecosystem, and they’re packed with nifty features for iOS users and come in an unmistakably ‘Apple’ design.
For Android users, the AirPods Max don’t have the same features as on iOS. That means for Android, you’re paying the Apple Tax without getting any of the benefits. We can’t justify the high price of these headphones if you won’t be connecting them to Apple hardware.
But, if you’ve already bought into the Apple ecosystem, you have a lot of money to burn, and you don’t care too much about hi-res audio, you won’t find headphones that sound better or are easier to use than the AirPods Max.
Read our full Apple AirPods Max review
The V-Moda M-200 are the apex of what wired headphones can be. Although it’s 2022 and wireless headphones are much more convenient, there are still those who prefer a corded experience. That includes professionals like music producers, DJs, and video editors. Even some audio enthusiasts and gamers prefer a wired headphone for its reliability.
The design of the M-200 is classic V-Moda: the earcups retain the brand’s signature hexagonal, angular design and the build quality is excellent with a mix of plastic, aluminum, and comfortable, sweat-resistant PU leather.
Despite the unusual shape, they fold up nicely and are well protected in their included hard case.
The M-200 are certified for Hi-Res Audio and have a sufficiently wide frequency response to play very high bitrate audio tracks. The included balanced cable enables you to enjoy isolated left and right channels for additional resolution and clarity.
Compared to their predecessor, the M-100, which we found to be rather bass heavy, the M-200s deliver a much more neutral listening experience with a slight warmth in the mids.
The M-200 are undeniably expensive but they’re worth it for its sound quality, resolution, build quality, and unique customizable plates.
Read our full V-Moda M-200 Studio Headphones review
Whether it’s Bluetooth speakers or headphones, you know what to expect from JBL: decent sound quality for a decent price.
That’s what we found with the older JBL Live 650BTNC – and now, to take their place, JBL has launched the JBL Tune 750BTNC. They’re a superior successor to the 650BTNCs, offering high specification for a good price.
We think the JBLs look a lot like Beats and feel just as solid and safe. They look and feel more expensive than they actually are.
We enjoyed testing these headphones: they sound great, they look great, and they fit well too. They’re reliable and easy to use, and while they lack waterproofing and very long battery life it feels churlish to complain when they deliver so much for the money.
Read our full JBL Tune 750BTNC review
The Focal Stellias sound absolutely fantastic. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.
If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias’ precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.
The reason they’re not higher on our list? They’re very, very expensive at $3,000 / £2,799 (about AU$2,400). And as good as they are, the Focal Stellias are prohibitively expensive for most people: they’re 10 times the price of our current favorite headphones.
If you like the sound of these luxury headphones but can’t justify the price, check out our initial hands-on review of the new Focal Elegia. They may not sound quite as breathtaking as the Focal Stellia – at least that’s what we gathered from our initial listening session – but the Focal Elegia headphones are still very impressive.
Read our full Focal Stellia review
The Shure AONIC 50 sport a wireless, active noise-cancelling over-ear design and are priced similarly to the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose NC 700 Headphones.
Bluetooth 5 connectivity helps you get a decent 20 hours of battery life, as well as support for Hi-Res Audio files and every worthwhile codec including aptX HD, LDAC and aptX Low Latency too. 10 stages of environment mode amplification along with two types of noise cancellation provide some extra options.
Ultimately, while you won’t find every feature under the sun here such as no touch controls or auto-off feature, the Shure AONIC 50 are laser-focused on delivering the best sound-quality of almost any noise-cancelling headphone, and we found their Hi-Res Audio performance to be completely mesmerising. That secures them a place among the best over-ear headphones for audiophiles.
Read our full Shure AONIC 50 review
The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 are the tech giant’s second pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and they offer a ton of great improvements over the original Surface Headphones while retaining some of their best qualities. 13 levels of noise cancellation is a particular highlight, and we enjoyed the warm soundstage they deliver.
In spite of those improvements – which includes a longer battery life and a more comfortable design – the Surface Headphones 2 are considerably cheaper than their predecessors, making them the obvious choice if you’re trying to choose between the two.
That lower price also makes them a great alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM5, especially as they’ve retained the winning design features of the original Surface Headphones, with built-in dials on each earcup to control your music and the active noise cancellation.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review
Urbanista’s first over-ear noise-cancelling headphones are a good choice for buyers on a budget who don’t want to sacrifice style or sound performance. But inevitably low prices mean some compromises.
We found that the noise cancellation, while effective, isn’t the best on the market. They’re good for bass, and while they’re not as detailed as some they’re particularly well suited to pop and R&B. The auto-pause feature works well and the included hard case is a nice thing to have.
Battery life tops out at 50 hours which is pretty great, while support for Bluetooth 5 means you won’t have to worry about any audio dropouts. That makes these a great alternative to pricier models like the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Apple AirPods Max, especially if you’re keen on some bass heavy sounds.
Read our full Urbanista Miami review
In many ways, the Beoplay HX are a typical Bang & Olufsen product: premium materials, premium construction, premium price. In others, though, they’re a lot less willful than we’ve become used to from the company.
These HX headphones don’t prioritize design over performance, and while they’re undeniably expensive, they’re not as stratospherically priced as you might expect. What you get for the price, then, is vivid, lively sound and the feel and look of a premium product.
They’re more expensive than many similarly capable rivals, for sure, but rivals might not put as much of a smile on your face: the spec is great, performance is extremely impressive and every time we wore them we felt like a million dollars. These are genuine head-turners, but there’s substance to match the style.
Read our full Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review
Final Audio has finally launched a pair of wireless, noise-cancelling, over-ear headphones. We think they’re excellent.
We’ll admit that they don’t look or feel particularly special. But their specifications, which includes aptX Low Latency Bluetooth, a long battery life, and active noise cancellation, are very good for the price. Their relatively modest size and weight means they’re a really good option for anyone who wants to listen in comfort for long periods.
The UX3000s sound much better than they look. Their dynamism, detail and musicality make the UX3000 an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable listen. The active noise cancellation is effective enough at dealing with the majority of external distractions – we’re not talking about Bose-type levels of noise negation, but then we’re not talking about Bose prices either.
Battery life is great: the UX3000 should last for 35 hours from a single charge if ANC is switched off, and 25 hours or so if it’s switched on. During our testing we found that charging from flat to full took between two and two and a half hours, which is fairly quick for such a large battery.
There’s no accompanying app or touch controls here so they’re a fairly minimal pair of over-ears, but specs-wise they’ve got everything you could want and more at a very decent price. We’d definitely recommend checking them out before splashing the cash on a much more expensive rival.
Read our full Final Audio UX3000 review
First things first: don’t expect to be blown away by nearly two grand’s-worth of wired headphone prowess if you’re attaching them to a mediocre source of music. Spotify free-tier subscribers, owners of virtually all smartphones that still have a physical headphone connection, folks who want to hook them straight into the side of their laptop should all a) look elsewhere, and b) spend much less money on headphones. The Liric are unapologetically intolerant of all of this.
Extended functionality? Nope. Mainstream pricing? Hardly. Adaptable or undemanding? Not a chance. You don’t get pampered by the Meze Audio Liric wired over-ear headphones. Buy a pair and it’s you who’ll be doing most of the pampering.
That said, a considerable amount of money put Meze Audio’s way buys big, hard-wired headphones fitted with esoteric planar magnetic drivers – and though their closed-back configuration and (laughably big) carry-case makes them better for portable listening than most Meze Audio over-ear headphones, they’re neither discreet nor especially portable.
What they are is beautifully made, from high-quality materials. And if there’s anything you take away from this Meze Audio Liric bit of text, it should be that they sound – with one caveat – superb. If it’s detail you want, a proper reading of a recording as a performance, insight into tone and timbre and shape of individual notes, the Liric are a convincing and utterly musical listen, and ranking among the best over-ear headphones for sheer fidelity.
Read our full Meze Audio Liric review
How to choose the best over-ear headphones
When buying over-ear headphones, sound quality is the most important feature to look out for – the more expensive, the better your cans tend to sound, although there are quite a few impressive exceptions to this rule.
How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?
If you’re all about that bass, you’ll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows.
It’s also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you’re in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.
As we mentioned, there are a few wireless and noise-cancelling headphones in this list – that’s because the sound quality of these models is exceptional. Many over-ear headphones come with these quality-of-life features these days, although they’re often pricier than their wired counterparts – if you can’t live without these modern conveniences, make sure you’re buying headphones with the latest Bluetooth technology and active noise cancellation.
Design is also hugely important, as a good pair of over-ear headphones need to be comfortable for long listening sessions – look out for padded earcups and headbands in materials like memory foam for ultimate comfort.
What are the best overall headphones?
The headphones in the top spot of this guide are the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, and they are the best-sounding wired headphones that still offer decent value for money.
However, if you’re looking for the best all-rounders, our pick has to be the Sony WH-1000XM4, which combine stellar sound with active noise cancellation, wireless connectivity, audio upscaling, and a sleek design that’s truly portable.
How much should I spend on headphones?
That really depends on your budget – you don’t need to overstretch yourself to prices you can’t really afford in your quest for great sound.
There are plenty of excellent budget headphones under $100 / £100 / AU$150 – check out brands like Jabra and JBL if you want to keep costs down.
High-spec wireless and noise-cancelling headphones tend to cost a little more than this. When you get to true audiophile headphones for analytical listening, the prices really start to shoot up – but these cans will last you decades if you look after them.
Is it worth getting over-ear headphones?
Choosing over-ear headphones over earbuds is a personal choice. There’s no wrong option here but over-ear headphones typically provide better battery life and better sound quality.
Thanks to being larger, they can pack in a better battery along with more advanced features like superior drivers. By their very nature, they tend to provide better noise cancellation too as they cover your ears more comprehensively than earbuds.
However, some of your decision making process needs to come down to what you feel more comfortable with. Earbuds are easier to store away, but not everyone likes the feeling of them in their ears. Alternatively, headphones can feel more secure over your head but are heavier and require more thought when storing them.
How we test the best over-ear headphones
If you’re looking for a pair of the best over-ear headphones, this guide focuses on sound quality above all else.
You’ll find cans we’d recommend for audiophiles and those working in professional roles through to the best over-ear options for those who simply want to focus at work or enjoy their favorite tunes at home.
To help you compare these headphones, we’ve recommended other models if we think that they might be better-suited in terms of price, sound and performance.
We have tested all of the headphones in this guide extensively, spending lots of time analyzing the sound, fit, design, specs, and value for money.