And I’m just gonna come out and say it: Over-ear headphones are superior to on-ear or in-ear headphones in terms of comfort and sound quality. You can wear ’em for hours at a time and almost forget they’re on your head. Plus, over-ear headphones are excellent at sealing out background noise around you and helping you focus on what you’re listening to while you’re working or gaming.
So, you’ve made the decision to buy over-ear headphones instead of in-ear or on-ear options. But now, you have to navigate the over-ear headphone market and choose the best one for you. Here’s everything you’ll need to consider when making your final decision:
- Sound Quality: The overall sound your over-ear headphones produce is the most important deciding factor. Most over-ear headphones will have larger (and usually dynamic) drivers that are able to produce more accurate and crisp sound. All of the headphones on our list sound awesome, but if you happen to veer off the list and look at other options, keep in mind that, typically, headphones that have some form of noise cancellation will end up producing better sound (though they are usually more expensive).
- Comfort: Headphones are usually worn for long periods of time, so it’s crucial to choose a pair that’ll be comfortable to wear all day (and whether or not they’re actually up to the task). Over-ear headphones, when compared to on- or in-ear headphones, are the most comfortable type. But pay attention to what the earcup material and padding are made out of (like memory foam), as well as the shape of the headband and whether it’s adjustable.
- Active Noise Cancellation: It’s almost impossible to find a wireless over-ear headphone that doesn’t have some sort of noise-canceling feature, and the best over-ear headphones have Active Noise Cancellation, also called ANC. This technology works by using built-in microphones to pick up low-frequency noises in your environment (like air conditioning), then neutralizes them using a mirrored version of those sounds.
- Battery Life: This is an important factor to keep in mind, especially if you plan to use the headphones all day long. If you choose a pair with ANC, it’ll have two different battery life estimates, one for when ANC is turned on, and one for Standard mode without ANC, which you should look at. Alternatively, if you don’t ever want to worry about recharging a battery, you could opt for a wired over-ear headphone that doesn’t require a battery.
- Wireless vs. Wired: Although wireless headphones seem to be all the rage today because so many of us love to connect via Bluetooth with no wires involved, there are still plenty of reasons to go with a wired set instead. Wired headphones are typically more affordable, produce better sound quality, and are easier to connect (as long as you have a device with a compatible headphone jack). Plus, with wired headphones, you don’t have to worry about the battery running out as there’s no battery to keep charged.
- ✓ Excellent Active Noise Cancellation
- ✓ Comfy over long periods of time
- ✓ Phone call quality is awesome
- ✗ Touch controls aren't everyone's favorite
- ✗ No IP rating
- ✗ Not the most affordable pair
For most people, there’s no better pair of over-ear headphones than Sony’s WH-1000XM4 model. Although slightly pricey, you get what you pay for: an awesome pair of headphones with gorgeous noise cancellation. With Sony’s Dual Noise Sensor technology and five built-in microphones, these headphones cancel out background noise almost flawlessly.
Those five built-in microphones also help you sound crystal clear on phone or video calls. There are touch sensor controls on the headphones that let you easily answer phone calls, control your music, activate your voice assistant, and more.
Sony uses Edge-AI and Adaptive Sound Control to give you a personalized listening experience based on the kind of music you like. And with this current-gen pair of headphones, Sony improved the design to relieve pressure from your head and ears, making it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
These Sony headphones are compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac devices, and can be used with virtual assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri. You can expect up to 30 hours’ worth of battery life out of these headphones. And should you run out of battery, charging them for just 10 minutes will get you about five hours of playback. Or, you can always use them wired instead of wireless, but you won’t be able to use the ANC feature.
The only real downside to these headphones is that there’s not a clear IPX rating, but Sony states that they’re “equivalent to IPX4.” If you’re not planning to use them while you work out, this isn’t a huge issue.
For most people, Sony's WH-1000MX4 headphones are a solid choice, with top-tier noise cancellation tech and a great battery life.
- ✓ Wired or wireless use option
- ✓ IPX4 rating
- ✓ Active Noise Cancellation
- ✗ Pretty expensive
- ✗ Bluetooth connection can occasionally go out
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are another pretty sweet option for noise-canceling goodness. One of the biggest differences between these headphones and the Sony option above is that these officially have an IPX4 rating, meaning that they’re a great choice for working out and they won’t get damaged if you accidentally splash some water on them.
Beneath the comfy earcups, there’s a noise-rejecting dual-mic system that picks up your voice and delivers clear sound to you and whoever you’re talking to. There are also three levels of noise cancellation that help block out unwanted noise and keep your audio balanced no matter what volume you’ve got your headphones set to.
There’s also an action button on the headphones that you can use to switch between those three levels of noise cancellation. Or, you can use it to control a virtual assistant—like Alexa or Siri—and get quick access to your favorite songs or playlists, start a routine, and more.
With voice prompts, it’s easy to pair devices via Bluetooth or NFC. Or, you can pair devices via the Bose Connect app (Android/iOS); through the app, you can also personalize your settings and download firmware updates. You can get up to 20 hours of battery life when using the headphones wirelessly, or up to 40 hours when in wired mode.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The QuietComfort 35 II headphones from Bose are another fantastic option, especially if you want an IP-rated pair.
- ✓ Super affordable
- ✓ Long battery life
- ✓ Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation
- ✗ No IP rating
- ✗ Touch controls may not be everyone's favorite
If you’re not looking to spend a whole lot but still want quality headphones, check out Anker’s Soundcore Life Q30 headphones. They use hybrid ANC and dual noise-detecting mics to filter out up to 95% of the low-frequency sounds around you. And with soft protein leather earcups full of memory foam padding, these are super comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
The Life Q30’s have 40mm drivers and flexible silk diaphragms that help produce low bass and crisp treble sounds. There are also three modes you can switch between for optimized noise cancellation: Transport mode is great for lessening airplane engine noise, Outdoor mode works well at reducing traffic and wind noise, and Indoor mode helps cancel out everyday office noises.
When the headphones are in noise-canceling mode, the battery life lasts up to 40 hours; when in standard mode, you’ll get up to 60 hours. And if the headphones are dead but you need to go somewhere, five minutes of fast charging will give you up to four hours’ worth of listening.
Using touch controls, you can connect to devices via Bluetooth or NFC, adjust volume, switch between two devices, and more. Using the companion Soundcore app (Android/iOS), it’s easy to make your music sound the way you want to hear it. You can choose from 22 EQ presets, switch between noise cancellation modes, and even create a personalized noise soundscape for when you just need to relax.
Soundcore by Anker Life Q30
The Soundcore Life Q30 headphones may be affordable, but they certainly don't skimp on features and battery life.
- ✓ Compatible with Switch, PlayStation, and PC
- ✓ Solid battery life
- ✓ Comfy over long sessions
- ✗ Not compatible with Xbox
- ✗ Mic quality isn't top-tier
- ✗ Wireless headphones for gaming aren't everyone's cup of tea
The Cloud II headset from HyperX has everything you’d want in a gaming headset. It has a low-latency 2.4GHz wireless connection and a range of up to 20 meters, letting you game seamlessly from your couch or stay in touch with your friends while you grab a snack from the kitchen. And you’re free to game for quite a while, as its battery lasts up to 30 hours.
This headset is insanely comfortable, too, perfect for long gaming sessions. The earcups are padded with premium memory foam and covered with a soft leatherette material. Plus, the headset is lightweight, taking some of the stress off of your head and ears over hours of gaming.
On the more technical side, there are large 53mm drivers and HyperX 7.1 surround sound tech that work together to create an immersive audio experience. With the virtual surround sound in particular, it’s easier to pick up on positional audio cues in competitive games. There’s also a noise-canceling detachable mic that’s Discord and TeamSpeak certified.
The HyperX Cloud II headset is compatible with PC, PlayStation 4/5, and Nintendo Switch. If you need a pair of headphones for your Xbox console, try out Xbox’s Wireless Headset that’s specifically designed with these consoles in mind.
HyperX Cloud II
For PlayStation and PC gamers, the HyperX Cloud II headset is a great option that's comfy enough to wear for multiple hours at a time.
- ✓ No batteries or charging required
- ✓ Seamless audio connection
- ✓ Professional grade headphones
- ✗ No wireless option
- ✗ Not a great portable option
- ✗ No Active Noise Cancellation
Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50X headphones are an amazing pick if you’re searching for a pair of over-ear headphones with a wired connection. This brand, in particular, produces some professional quality headphones that are often used by audio engineers and others in the industry.
Inside, there are large 45mm drivers designed with rare earth magnets and copper-coated aluminum wire voice coils, which in simple terms, translates to some pretty dope sound quality. The earcups contour around your ears, helping increase the seal between the cup and your ear. Also, the earcups swivel 90 degrees, which is great for storage as well as one-ear monitoring if you need to be able to hear your surroundings.
Plus, because these are wired headphones, they’re ready to go as soon as you plug them into your compatible device. There’s not a built-in battery, so you won’t have to worry about charging these headphones, either; they’ll go as long as you need them to.
If you're looking for a wired pair of over-ear headphones, Audio-Technica's ATH=M50X model is the best of the best.