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Best over-ear headphones 2024: Options for every budget, tried and tested by experts

Aerial shot of the JBL Tour One M2 headphones on wooden floor background with their earcups facing the ground

Want the best over-ear headphones - wired or wireless, noise-cancelling or not? Our experts have tested them all so you don’t have to

The appeal of the best over-ear headphones, whether wired or Bluetooth, is obvious. They’re more comfortable than in-ear equivalents like true wireless earbuds and have space for bigger speaker drivers to deliver bigger, more immersive sound. And they’re available at a huge range of prices, with an equally big range of functions and features.

The Expert Reviews team has decades of experience and has tested hundreds of pairs of over-ear headphones to produce this: the list of the best over-ear headphones, at every price and of every style, to help you select your perfect pair.

Some are wired, some are wireless – but they all offer brilliant performance and represent great value for money. We’ve even included a buying guide that will give you all the information you need to make the most informed purchase decision possible.


Best over-ear headphones: At a glance

Best overallSony WH-1000XM5 (~£300)Check price at John Lewis
Best for Apple usersApple AirPods Max (~£499)Check price at Amazon
Best under £100Anker Soundcore Life Q30 (~£80)Check price at Amazon
Best over-ear headphones without ANCAudio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 (~£160)Check price at Amazon

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.

Testing a pair of Bowers and Wilkins over-ear headphones at the Expert Reviews office

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.


The best over-ear headphones to buy in 2024

1. Sony WH-1000XM5: Best over-ear headphones overall

Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at John Lewis

  • Great for… across-the-board performance, extended functionality
  • Not so great for… it doesn’t fold flat, no water resistance

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 full 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: £80 | Check price at Amazon

  • Great for… battery life, customisation options
  • Not so great for… can sound bottom-heavy

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 full 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

  • Great for… noise cancellation, immersive spatial audio
  • Not so great for… your bank balance, demonstrative sound

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 full Apple AirPods Max review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 385g; Cable length: 1.2m (Lightning to USB-C)


4. Focal Bathys: Best premium over-ear headphones

Price when reviewed: £699 | Check price at John Lewis

 

  • Great for… all-round performance, battery life
  • Not so great for… those on any kind of budget

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 full Focal Bathys review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug, USB-C; Weight: 350g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)


5. JBL Tour One M2: Best over-ear headphones for customisation

Price when reviewed: £279 | Check price at Amazon

JBL Tour One M2 review - right earcup controls

  • Great for… variety of features, customisation options
  • Not so great for… premium build quality

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 full JBL Tour One M2 review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 2.5mm jack plug; Weight: 272g; Cable length: 3.9m (removable)


6. Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2: Best over-ear headphones for bass lovers

Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Amazon

Best over-ear headphones - Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2

  • Great for… exciting low-frequency presence, battery life
  • Not so great for… noise cancellation

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 full Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 332g; Cable length: Not listed


7. 1MORE SonoFlow: Stylish and affordable all-rounders

Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at Amazon

  • Great for… value for money, LDAC compatibility
  • Not so great for… transparency mode affects sound quality

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 full 1MORE SonoFlow review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 250g; Cable length: Not listed


8.  Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e: Best over-ear headphones for style

Price when reviewed: £378 | Check price at Amazon

bowers and wilkins px7 se review headphones leaning against white background

  • Great for… gorgeous looks and detailed sound
  • Not so great for… customisation options

In our opinion, the PX7 S2e are the best-looking over-ear headphones on the market. It wasn’t just their stylish aesthetic that impressed us during testing, however. The PX7 S2e sound fantastic – even better than the PX7 S2 thanks to a new 24-bit digital signal processor – and are supremely comfortable to boot.

Their sound signature is one characterised by balance; they’re equally articulate across the frequency spectrum, with treble always sounding clean and bass packing plenty of punch. Bluetooth codec support is first-rate, too. AptX Adaptive and aptX Lossless mean you’re covered for lossy 24-bit/96kHz or lossless 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution streaming, which isn’t always the case with premium over-ear options.

ANC could be more effective – it falls short of Bose’s extremely high benchmark – and EQ options are limited; otherwise, the PX7 S2e are hard to fault.

Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 307g; Cable length: 1.2m


9. Sennheiser HD 560S: Best open-back over-ear headphones under £200

Price when reviewed: £139 | Check price at Amazon

  • Great for… faithful, poised sound
  • Not so great for… sonic neutrality won’t suit everyone

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 full Sennheiser HD560S review

Key specs – Connectivity: Wired 6.3mm jack, 3.5mm jack adapter; Weight: 240g; >Cable length: 3m


10. Sennheiser Accentum Plus: Best mid-range over-ear headphones

Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Sennheiser

  • Great for… hybrid adaptive noise cancellation, value for money
  • Not so great for… EQ controls

The Accentum Plus make several improvements to the already excellent Sennheiser Accentum and are the most capable over-ear performers we’ve tested under £200.

They add intuitive touch controls and a 3.5mm input, meaning you can choose whether to enjoy their articulate audio over a wired or wireless connection. There’s support for aptX Adaptive if you choose the latter, along with Bluetooth multipoint for seamless switching between two sources, while wear detection is another welcome addition.

The list of convenience features doesn’t end there, however. Hybrid adaptive noise cancellation is on hand to dampen external distractions, while “Sound Zones” can automatically switch your preferred ANC and audio settings based on your location. Battery life remains ample at 50 hours, and although their neutral tuning won’t appeal to everyone, the Accentum Plus are fantastic all-rounders unmatched in their price bracket.

Read our full Sennheiser Accentum Plus review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 277g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)


11. Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2: Best over-ear headphones without ANC

Price when reviewed: £160 | Check price at Amazon

Ice blue Audio-Technica M50xBT2 headphones lying on a wooden desk, with one earcup face down on the desk and the other earcup folded at an angle

  • Great for…. neutral, detailed sound, call quality
  • Not so great for… reducing the impact of external sound

If you can live without noise cancellation and want a pair of over-ear headphones that sound and look superb, look no further than the M50xBT2. They delivered well-balanced, detailed sound during testing and we enjoyed their stylish aesthetic and how robustly built they are. They’re comfortable to wear too, though our reviewer found his ears got a little warm during longer listening sessions.

The control buttons are well thought out and make handling music playback without reaching for your phone a doddle, while call quality was another standout feature during testing. Some may find them a little light touch in the bass department and those wanting to drown out the outside world should look elsewhere given the absence of ANC. But passive noise cancellation is effective enough and the M50xBT2 sound so good that ANC’s omission isn’t a deal breaker.

Read our full Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 307g; Cable length: 1.2m


12. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: Best over-ear headphones for noise cancellation

Price when reviewed: £449 | Check price at Amazon

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review - earcups folded in

  • Great for…. drowning out the world around you
  • Not so great for… those on a budget

While we didn’t feel the Bose QC Ultra Headphones justified their hefty price tag in the looks or feel department, there’s one area in which their prowess is undeniable: noise cancellation. Bose is class-leading where ANC is concerned and the Ultra Headphones possess an uncanny ability to reduce external distractions to near-silence.

They’re extremely lightweight and comfortable too, while their audio was detailed and convincing when tested. We weren’t hugely impressed by the new Immersive Audio modes, however. Bose’s take on spatial audio is very content-dependent; feed it something designed for multi-channel consumption like a Dolby Atmos film soundtrack and it’s great we found but stereo recordings tended to lose definition. Still, if you’re looking for best-in-class ANC, the Ultra Headphones are where it’s at.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.5m


🡩 Jump to our favourite picks

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.

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