If you're on the hunt for the best over-ear headphones, you've come to the right place. No matter your budget, there's a pair for you
The best over-ear headphones remain extremely popular despite the rise of more compact audio solutions like true wireless earbuds.
They’re a fantastic option for those that find earphones, earbuds or on-ear headphones uncomfortable and can deliver an impactful, immersive audio experience their more portable counterparts simply can’t match.
With hundreds of over-ear headphones available, picking the right pair is no mean feat. That’s where we come in. We’ve tested a wide range of over-ear headphones and compiled a list of the very best of them, which you can find below, along with some honourable mentions also worth considering.
You’ll also find a buying guide that will arm you with all the information you need to make a well-informed purchase. If you decide that over-ear headphones aren’t for you, you may want to check out our dedicated guides to the best Bluetooth headphones, noise-cancelling headphones, cheap headphones and cheap wireless earbuds.
How we test the best over-ear headphones
To provide you with the best buying advice possible, we test every pair of over-ear headphones extensively before deciding whether they deserve a spot on this page.
Each pair has been worn and used daily by one of our experts to discern build quality, comfort level and audio performance. We try out every available feature and sound mode, stream audio over every supported Bluetooth codec and feed the headphones high-resolution and spatial audio material from sources like Tidal and Apple Music where necessary.
We leave no stone unturned in terms of what’s tested. If there’s an in-built microphone, we’ll have colleagues comment on its quality during calls and analyse voice clarity and background noise on recordings. If there’s a companion app, we’ll experiment with every aspect of it: whether that’s checking how impactful the EQ settings are, measuring lag between video and audio in a low-latency mode or simply judging how intuitive the app is to navigate and use.
Our over-ear headphones are tested in a wide variety of situations and locations, including home offices, noisy tubes and the streets of London, and these diverse environments allow us to analyse key aspects of performance such as sound isolation and noise cancellation efficacy. We run side-by-side comparisons of over-ear headphones in similar price brackets to help us recommend certain pairs over others and we always keep close tabs on how many hours we’ve been using a particular pair to try and verify the manufacturer’s battery life claims.
How to choose the best over-ear headphones for you
Should I buy wired or wireless over-ear headphones?
Wired over-ear headphones need to be connected to an audio source via a physical cable. Many use cables terminating in 3.5mm jacks, though professional-grade over-ear headphones often use larger 6.3mm jacks or XLR (External Line Return) connectors.
Wireless over-ear headphones operate over Bluetooth and therefore don’t require any cabling. As long as you stay within the Bluetooth range of your audio output, you can move around freely while enjoying whatever you’re listening to.
Wired connections typically deliver better quality audio but advances in Bluetooth technology have seen the gap close considerably. The big advantage wired headphones have is that they’ll never run out of charge as they draw power from your output device.
That doesn’t mean you should disregard wireless headphones, though. They grant a great deal more listening freedom and you won’t ever have to untangle a length of cable again. Universal connectivity with any Bluetooth-enabled device is especially convenient, too, though it’s worth remembering you won’t be able to hook your headphones up to non-Bluetooth devices unless they house an optional 3.5mm port.
Are over-ear headphones comfortable?
As a general rule of thumb, over-ear headphones provide better comfort than in-ears or on-ears. The headphones’ earcups sit around your ears to provide a cushiony feel. It’s important to consider clamp force, which is the level of pressure the headphones put on your head; loose-fitting headphones will naturally be more comfortable to wear but may shift position on your head when you move around.
What’s the difference between open- and closed-back headphones?
Closed-back headphones have sealed earcups that prevent a significant proportion of external noise from making its way to your ears. This enables them to isolate sound better and helps them provide a weighty bass response.
In contrast, the earcups of open-back headphones aren’t sealed and allow air to pass through to the speaker element. This reduces air pressure build-up in the earcups and gives the headphones an airy, natural sound. However, it also allows external sound in – and your audio out – so open-back headphones are best used at home or in other quiet environments.
Is driver size important to over-ear headphones?
Generally speaking, the bigger the driver – the component in each ear cup that vibrates to produce soundwaves – the wider the soundstage. This results in better instrument separation, greater depth and a sense of space between you and the music. Driver size isn’t the be-all and end-all, however. In-ear headphones with the audio world’s smallest drivers can sound wider than a set of over-ear headphones – how the headphones are tuned is far more important than the size of their drivers.
What other features should I look out for?
Active noise cancellation (ANC): This handy feature helps reduce the impact of environmental sound on your audio experience. It’s particularly useful in busy urban areas and while commuting and is often accompanied by a transparency mode, which makes you more aware of your surroundings by pumping sound in.
Battery life: This is only of importance to Bluetooth headphones. Given no one likes charging their tech products, the longer a pair of over-ear headphones last, the better. Manufacturers typically state battery life based on listening at around 50% volume, which is important to bear in mind if you like to listen to your music loud. Battery life of around 20 hours should be a bare minimum, though many pairs far exceed that figure.
Controls: You’ll typically find physical control buttons located on one or both of the earcups of a pair of over-ear headphones. These are very easy to use and learning which buttons do what is relatively intuitive. However, some manufacturers incorporate touch controls and gestures into their over-ear headphones. These aren’t to everyone’s taste, so be sure to check what type of controls the headphones you like the look of use.
Carrying case: Most over-ear headphones come with some way of transporting them, though the quality of these differs wildly from product to product. It’s normally a case of you get what you pay for – cheaper models tend to come with fabric bags, while pricier models come with hard-shelled cases that do a far better job of protecting their precious cargo.
READ NEXT: Best speaker
The best over-ear headphones to buy in 2023
1. Sony WH-1000XM5: Best over-ear headphones overall
Price when reviewed: £319 | Check price at John Lewis The fifth-gen iteration of Sony’s flagship headphones may not add any flashy new features, but they make minor improvements on their predecessors in all the right areas. Audio is more detailed, noise cancellation more effective and the pared-back design more comfortable than ever.
They still support all the key convenience features found on the WH-1000XM4, chief among which is Adaptive Sound Control. This automatically switches audio and noise-cancellation settings based on what you’re doing and where you are, and you can add specific locations or have the headphones learn places you regularly frequent. It’s extremely useful and works a treat.
Speak-to-Chat, Quick Attention mode, wear detection and effective touch controls are equally handy and the Headphones Connect app remains one of the best around. The Sony WH-1000XM4 offer better value for money but the XM5s can’t be beaten in terms of overall quality.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)
2. Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Best over-ear headphones under £100
Price when reviewed: £75 | Check price at Amazon If you’re looking for exceptional value-for-money over-ear headphones, you’ll struggle to find better than the Life Q30. They’re very comfortable, sport amazing battery life and their audio is highly customisable via the Soundcore companion app.
The app features 22 EQ presets to choose from and an eight-band graphic equaliser that you can use to create your own EQs should you not find any of Anker’s to your taste. You’ll likely want to make use of the options at your disposal, as the Life Q30’s default sound profile is dominated by ear-shaking bass that takes away from well-articulated mids and treble.
The app also allows you to switch between the Life Q30’s three active noise-cancellation profiles – Transport, Indoors and Outdoors – all of which work very well for a pair of budget headphones, and grants access to a music library provided by Anker’s streaming partner LÜM.
Read our Anker Soundcore Life Q30 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 265g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)
3. Apple AirPods Max: Best over-ear headphones for Apple users
Price when reviewed: £499 | Check price at Amazon Apple’s latest pair of over-ear headphones deliver a superb experience characterised by excellent sound quality, effective active noise-cancellation and a comfortable fit. Although their audio presentation is on the laid-back side, the AirPods Max are a joy to listen to thanks to a wide soundstage, impressive instrument separation and a slight roll-off of top-end frequencies, which prevents them from ever becoming fatiguing.
But the ace up their sleeve is Spatial Audio, which is Apple’s version of head-tracking surround sound. It works exceptionally well, increasing your immersion in any Spatial Audio content you’re watching. Support for the technology is limited at present – you can currently only make use of it while streaming content on Disney+ or Apple TV in the UK – but we expect it to come to other platforms soon, at which point the AirPods Max will truly shine. Active noise cancellation is right up there with the very best around and build quality is top-notch, too, making the AirPods Max a must-have for iPhone users with big budgets.
Read our Apple AirPods Max review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 385g; Cable length: 1.2m (Lightning to USB-C)
4. Bose QuietComfort 45: Best over-ear headphones for comfort
Price when reviewed: £249 | Check price at John Lewis The Bose QuietComfort 45 continue the QuietComfort 35 II’s legacy of delivering best-in-class comfort, with supremely soft earcups that form a perfect seal around your ears without pinching them or creating too much pressure on your head. This seal does a good job blocking out external sound too, boosting the QC 45’s already exceptional ability to attenuate noise in your environment.
Though they don’t quite hit the same sonic heights as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Technics EAH-A800, the QC 45 provide eminently listenable audio that can be tweaked via the Bose Music app. The three-band equaliser lets you boost what is otherwise a relatively restrained bass response and takes the edge off overly sharp treble at higher volumes, and there are a handful of EQ presets available, too.
If you’re after something more snazzy, the Bose NC 700 are a superior option, but for comfort and noise cancellation, the QC 45 can’t be beaten.
Read our Bose QuietComfort 45 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: 240g; Cable length: 1.5m (2.5mm to 3.5mm)
5. Focal Bathys: Best premium over-ear headphones
Price when reviewed: £699 | Check price at AV.com
The Focal Bathys manage to justify their eye-watering price tag with exceptional performance in just about every area. Their luxurious build strikes a fine balance between aesthetics and comfort, battery life clocks in at a very solid 30 hours and the Bathys offer nifty features like the ability to act as a digital-to-analog converter – something you won’t find on any other option on this list.
Their standout feature, however, is undoubtedly their audio performance. The Bathys deliver a clear, balanced and expansive soundstage with impeccable detail, handling everything from deep bass to crisp treble with precision. And while they’re not quite up to Bose’s elite noise-cancelling levels, they’re still competent at keeping sonic intrusions at bay. If you prioritise audio excellence – and have the spare cash – these headphones deserve serious consideration.
Read our Focal Bathys review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug, USB-C; Weight: 350g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)
6. JBL Tour One M2: Best over-ear headphones for customisation
Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at Amazon
When it comes to customisation options and extra features, the JBL Tour One M2 deliver a breadth of choice that many of their more expensive rivals can’t match. Sound can be personalised to your ears using JBL’s Personi-Fi feature, while a spatial audio toggle in the JBL Headphones app is available to widen the soundstage. The Tour One M2’s 40mm dynamic drivers put in a balanced and powerful performance too, handling a variety of genres well across both Bluetooth and wired listening.
EQ presets and a ten-band graphic equaliser provide further ways to tweak the sound, and convenience features like wear detection and sidetone adjustment are also present and correct. Add in effective noise cancellation and 30-hour battery life with it engaged, and there’s little to grumble about and plenty to play with on the highly impressive Tour One M2.
Read our JBL Tour One M2 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 2.5mm jack plug; Weight: 272g; Cable length: 3.9m (removable)
7. Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2: Best over-ear headphones for bass lovers
Price when reviewed: £172 | Check price at Amazon
Those that prefer their lower frequencies of the skull-rattling variety need look no further than Skullcandy’s latest pair of over-ear headphones, the Crusher ANC 2. Like the rest of the Crusher range, the ANC 2 are fitted with haptic feedback motors that rumble in time with the bass notes to deliver a more sensory experience. It’s not always a perfect match, and can sometimes be overbearing, but it’s easily adjustable via the dial on the left earcup or through the Skull-iQ app.
The headphones don’t rest on that gimmick, either. Even without the enhanced bass, audio quality is engaging, with plenty of customisation options in the app, including Personal Sound by Mimi, which creates a unique profile suited to your hearing. Throw in effective, albeit not class-leading, noise cancellation and solid battery life of up to 50 hours, and the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 are great value at this price.
Read our Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 332g; Cable length: Not listed
8. 1MORE SonoFlow: Stylish and affordable all-rounders
Price when reviewed: £85 | Check price at Amazon Proof that you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds to get a decent pair of over-ear headphones, the 1MORE SonoFlow offer an attractive design and terrific audio at an affordable price. The sonic profile is strong across the frequency spectrum, but mid-range is particularly impressive, with the LDAC codec unlocking the ability to stream high-resolution audio.
Even more impressive is SonoFlow’s battery life, which clocks in at around 70 hours with ANC turned off. Even with noise cancelling on, the headphones still manage up to 50 hours of playback. Once depleted, a five-minute charge can provide enough juice for five further hours of listening.
The ANC isn’t quite as capable as the rest of the package but is still decent enough for the money. Our biggest gripe is a slight background hiss that’s audible when using the transparency mod – if you can put up with that, the 1MORE SonoFlow are brilliant all-rounders that deliver top-notch audio and a host of useful features.
Read our 1MORE SonoFlow review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 250g; Cable length: Not listed
9. Technics EAH-A800: Supreme comfort meets bumper battery life
Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at John Lewis The Technics EAH-A800 may not be best-in-class in any one particular area but are strong performers across the board. They’re second only to the Bose QuietComfort 45 when it comes to fit, deliver exceptional battery life of up to 50 hours when using the AAC codec with ANC on, and sound superb, too.
The default sound signature is well-balanced and accurate, and there’s no shortage of audio information being supplied. Detail is particularly impressive in the mid-range but the EAH-A800 aren’t found wanting in the bass department, with their 40mm drivers packing a low-end punch when necessary. Support for the LDAC Bluetooth codec means you can enjoy higher resolution audio on supported devices and further elevates what were already great-sounding cans.
Read our Technics EAH-A800 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 298g; Cable length: 1.5
10. Edifier WH950NB: Best mid-range over-ear headphones
Price when reviewed: £180 | Check price at Amazon If the WH-1000XM5 are too dear for you, you’ll want to consider the similarly named Edifier WH950NB. With supremely comfortable faux leather cups, high-resolution audio support and 34 hours of ANC-engaged battery life, these Edifier over-ears excel in all the areas that really matter for half what Sony’s flagship cans cost.
The ANC modes are effective, sound quality is impressive, while Bluetooth multipoint and incredibly precise EQ customisation options further their appeal. They don’t support the AAC codec – meaning iPhone users will have to make do with SBC – and there isn’t any wear detection either. But besides these small issues, the WH950NB are great-value over-ear headphones that tick all the right boxes.
Read our full Edifier WH950NB review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 296g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)
11. Urbanista Los Angeles: Best over-ear headphones for battery life
Price when reviewed: £169 | Check price at Urbanista
This pair of wireless over-ear headphones sports near-infinite battery life thanks to a solar panel built into the headband. The panel allows the Los Angeles to charge whenever they’re exposed to daylight, meaning they’ll be gradually topping themselves up as you walk along the road. The carrying case is even designed in such a way that the headband remains exposed, so you can pack them away, leave them on the window sill and return to find them with more juice than you left them with.
To our knowledge, the Los Angeles are the only over-ear headphones offering this kind of functionality but there’s more to them than the unrivalled battery life. Their sound profile will go down very well with those fond of a generous helping of bass and their active noise cancellation is pretty decent for the money, too. They could be a little more comfortable when worn for long periods, but very few over-ear headphones in the Los Angeles’ price bracket can match them for style.
Read our Urbanista Los Angeles review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 322g; Cable length: N/A
12. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2: Best over-ear headphones for style
Price when reviewed: £279 | Check price at John Lewis There are plenty of attractive premium over-ear headphones, but in our book, the B&W PX7 S2 are the pick of the bunch, particularly if you go for the blue and gold model pictured above. They’re also available in black and grey, but regardless of which model you go for, you’ll be getting high-quality sound and effective noise cancellation in addition to a sophisticated aesthetic.
As tends to be the case with B&W products, the PX7 S2 deliver a neutral default sound profile designed to accurately reflect artists’ original creative intent and they’re a wonderfully engaging listen.
Their ANC may not be as smart as that employed by their Sony rivals but is effective enough to create pleasant listening conditions in most environments and a comfortable fit means you can enjoy audio for hours on end without any issues.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 307g; Cable length: N/A
13. Lindy BNX-100XT: Most stylish over-ear headphones under £100
Price when reviewed: £85 | Check price at Amazon
If you’re limited to a budget of £100, the Lindy BNX-100XT offer a great combination of build and sound quality, comfort and noise cancellation. They’re very similar in design and specifications to their predecessors, the BNX-100, but feature a couple of minor tweaks that improve the overall user experience.
The headphones are now charged via USB-C rather than micro-USB and they’re capable of connecting to two devices simultaneously, which is a big plus. ANC does a good job at cutting out low-end frequencies and the audio quality is impressive on the whole, though the sound profile does lack bass when noise cancellation is engaged. Included in the price are a sturdy carrying case, an aeroplane plug adapter and a 6.3mm stereo plug, all of which are very welcome extras in what is already an attractive package.
Read our Lindy BNX-100XT review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth and wired 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 540g; Cable length: 1.5m
14. Sennheiser HD 560S: Best open-back over-ear headphones under £200
Price when reviewed: £145 | Check price at Amazon Those in search of affordable, accurate headphones need look no further than the Sennheiser HD560S. These open-back beauties are extremely comfortable thanks to their velour-lined earcups and nicely padded headband but it’s their refined sound that really stands out.
Their frequency response is incredibly flat, the soundstage they create is expansive and spacious and they articulate mids and treble with clarity and detail. They’re also free from the unnatural sculpting of bass frequencies, making them a top choice for professional use or critical listening.
That reference-grade sound isn’t for everyone, but for those that appreciate it, the HD560S are a wonderful purchase.
Read our Sennheiser HD560S review
Key specs – Connectivity: Wired 6.3mm jack, 3.5mm jack adapter; Weight: 240g; Cable length: 3m
15. Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless: Best value premium over-ear headphones
Price when reviewed: £309 | Check price at John Lewis
If you’re after the full over-ear package but your budget doesn’t stretch to the WH-1000XM5 or B&W PX7 S2, these are the headphones to buy. They’re a fair bit cheaper than equivalent pairs from Sony, Bose, Apple et al. but still manage to deliver a truly impressive audio performance, great battery life and a pleasing array of customisation options.
Sennheiser hasn’t strayed too far from its successful sonic template with this fourth-generation model and the Momentum 4 Wireless handle pretty much any musical genre with wonderful confidence and clarity. You shouldn’t feel the need to EQ them yourself but there’s the option to do so if you wish, while the Smart Control companion app also lets you access a number of handy features, including the Sound Check hearing test and Sound Zones, which can be used to automatically switch settings depending on where you are.
Noise cancellation falls short of other big-brand rivals and the touch controls can be a little overly sensitive at times, but you’re still getting exceptional headphones at a very competitive price.
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review
Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 293g; Cable length: 1.5m
Best over-ear headphones: Honourable mentions
If you’re unconvinced by any of the above options, here are a couple of other impressive over-headphones worth checking out.
1. Creative Zen Hybrid | £60 | Buy now from Creative
Creative faces stiff competition when it comes to affordable over-ear options but the Zen Hybrid are a solid option if you value comfort and battery life above all else. Read our full Creative Zen Hybrid review.
2. Master & Dynamic MW75 | £549 | Buy now from M&D
With a headband fashioned from lambskin leather and earcups adorned by tempered glass, the M&D MW75 look the part, and sound the part, too. ANC could be better but if you’re looking for statement headphones, look no further. Read our full Master & Dynamic MW75 review.