The best over-ear headphones designs are known for their high comfort levels, with ear cushions that form a comfortable seal around your entire ear to fill your whole ear with sound and not just your ear canal as with in-ear buds. Over-ear designs also do a good job of reducing the external noise of your surroundings, and our extensive tests show that this kind of passive noise isolation is very effective at minimising disruptive background noise even before you've switched in any active noise cancellation (ANC).
With so may pair of headphones to choose from, getting the right headphones for your needs can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Getting to listen before your buy can be a big challenge, as not too many audio outlets are blessed with demo stock for your to try out before you buy.
Thankfully, we're here to help make the process a little easier, and all the models in our headphone reviews are thoroughly tested to by our experts. We assess audio quality, comfort, and durability, as well as plenty of criteria in between to help remove the headache of choosing the right headphone.
Whether you’re looking for a stylish pair of headphones made with luxurious materials and loaded with the latest features, or something a bit more understated for practical portable use, we’ve got you covered with our picks of the best over-ear headphones we’ve tested. All are available to buy right now, with many models significantly discounted from their list price.
Top 3 best over-ear headphones
Best for overall value: Sony WH-1000XM5
The top spot goes to Sony’s WH-1000XM5 for their exceptional sound quality, active noise cancellation, and high levels of comfort. They build on their similarly excellent predecessor the XM4 and offer LDAC support for high-resolution Bluetooth streaming, delivering superior sound quality for your hi-res music library.
Best with ANC: Bose 700
Nobody does active noise-cancelling quite as well as Bose. The Bose 700 has almost all of the same sound quality strengths as the still available Sony WH-1000XM4 (opens in new tab), but its noise cancellation tech is even better. However, although both models can be found discounted, the Bose often tends to be a little bit more expensive.
Best for sound: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 over-ears feel good, are beautifully constructed, have active noise-cancelation, and a control app. Extended functionality is not their thing as they're designed to deliver the best wireless sound this sort of money can buy. And they do — with one of the most enjoyable performances we've heard.
Best over-ear headphones Black Friday deals
Black Friday 2022 is right around the corner so it's time to start thinking about what to look out for in this year's deals. The best over-ear headphones are always in high demand, so it pays to start shopping as early as possible if you're looking for top performance that echos the iconic style of the real thing but without the big price tag. Many of our favorite picks will be on sale making this period an ideal time to buy one of the best over-ear headphones. Be sure to follow our Black Friday deals page for all of your shopping needs this holiday season.
The best over-ear headphones you can buy right now
Sony’s new flagship headphones improve upon the already great XM4s with better active noise cancellation, call quality, sound, comfort and connectivity. Most of the changes aren't huge — though the first two are certainly noticeable — but it's more than enough for Sony to retain its long-held number 1 spot.
The touch controls and battery life (30 hours with ANC on, 40 with it off) are also to be commended, as is the excellent Sony Headphones Control app, which lets you tweak the EQ to your preference. The slightly bland design counts against them, as does the $50 price increase, but the XM4s are still around if you want to spend less, and overall there's no question that these are the best wireless headphones you can buy. If you're still not convinced then check out our Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. WH-1000XM4 face-off to see how they compare.
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.
Nobody does active noise-cancelling quite as well as Bose. The replacement for another top-quality set of ANC cans, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the Bose 700 adds a slick new design, useful capacitive touch controls and even better sound quality.
What makes the ANC so great isn’t just its effectiveness, but the amount of control Bose affords you over it. Through the mobile app there are no fewer than 11 different levels to choose from: so you can leave a touch of ambient noise coming in if you want to listen for announcements or stay safe near traffic, or you can turn it up to full and silence even the kinds of noises ANC can have trouble with, like speech.
See our full Bose 700 review.
The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 over-ear headphones are priced the same as the Sony. They feel good, are beautifully constructed and are either good-looking in an understated way or a bit too understated for their own good — it depends on your taste. They have active noise-cancelation and a control app — but ‘extended functionality’ is not their thing.
They’re designed to deliver the best wireless sound this sort of money can buy, and they do. The entire frequency range hangs together well, with nothing overstated and nothing struggling for representation. Tonality is clean, consistent and entirely convincing. If you want every wireless headphone feature under the sun, you have plenty of choice. If, however, you want headphones that make the most of the digital audio information you give them, the Px7 S2 really needs to be in your thinking.
Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 review.
The Px8 are Bowers & Wilkins' most advanced noise-canceling headphones to date, and are a confident addition to the luxury headphone market. Wireless audio is via Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive codec support when connected to compatible playback devices, and cables are suppled for wired headphone jack connections too.
The bespoke 40mm Carbon Cone drive units present even more sound details across all parts of the frequency range than the the company high-ranking Px7 S2, and sumptuous materials to further aid comfort. Bass performance is more agile on the Px8, thanks to the new driver material, but it's the mid frequencies where these flagship headphones excel, delivering an abundance of natural detail and midrange clarity to make every voice syllable sound convincingly realistic. Despite the sound quality gains though, the higher price compared to its fellow Px7 S2 and near rivals, means they rank slight lower in terms of overall value.
Read our full Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review.
The Focal Bathys offer ingenious versatility: they're a superb, high-performance headphone that's perfectly suited to critical audiophile listening at home, while also practical and conveniently wireless to enable owners to enjoy them on the go. The price may initially seem high, but when you weigh up flagship features like Focal’s dynamic drivers, integrated DAC with full hi-res audio support, and top-tier audio performance, $799 feels like something of a bargain.
The combination of Focal’s M-dome speaker drivers and support for Hi-Res Audio ensures the Bathys sound spectacular. Recordings were deeply layered during our listening sessions, giving instruments plenty of room to breathe, and the onboard DAC is awesome for uncompressed 24-bit sound when connected to lossless sources such as Apple Music and Tidal. Fidelity is increased and there’s a greater degree of tightness in the delivery.
Read the full Focal Bathys review.
As expensive as the AirPods Max is, there’s a sense that you get what you pay for: the aluminium and mesh fabric build is plush and comfortable, while sound quality and ANC effectiveness are up there with the best.
Apple has also loaded the AirPods Max with some rather advanced features, like Adaptive EQ, which tailors the sound output according to how the AirPods Max sit on your head: frequencies are tweaked to account for the fit of the earcups and the size of your ears. There’s also Spatial Audio, a very impressive version of digital surround sound, though as this feature requires a recent iOS or Mac device to work the AirPods Max are best suited to existing Apple fans.
See our full Apple AirPods Max review.
Although the revamped design of Sennheiser's fourth generation Momentum Wireless headphones don't stand out quite like their classic-looking predecessor, the 60-hour battery life is a real crowd pleaser and make these the one to beat. Add in the easy-going Sennheiser sound and effective noise cancelling, and the Momentum 4 are one the most practical wireless headphones we've seen, perfectly built for a life on the road rather than tethered to a power socket needing regular battery top ups.
Sennheiser's smooth house sound handles a wide range of music content, from pounding beats to more mellow tunes with aplomb. It has Bluetooth 5.2 and aptX Adaptive support, and there's a supplied 3.5mm cable for audiophile wired connections. ANC performance is effective, and auto Wind Noise Reduction is very impressive when stood on a windy train platform on daily work commutes.
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review.
With exceptional battery life and full noise cancellation, complete with an Ambient mode, the Cleer Enduro ANC is a stone-cold bargain. Sure, its ANC tech isn't on the same level of the Bose 700, but for well under $200 there aren't many pairs of over-ear headphones that offer such a complete package.
It's even got support for the high-quality aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec, and if you instead connect using the bundled 3.5mm cable, you can listen to Hi-Res Audio as well. You can manually adjust the EQ too, using the companion app, though we liked the default, bass-heavy sound signature.
Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.
Replacing the widely popular QC35 II is the QuietComfort 45, an updated take on the model that revolutionized the noise-cancelling category. Bose equipped these over-ear headphones with a six-mic array that blocks out a vast number of ambient noises, much like the flagship 700, and produces crisp-sounding calls in most environments. The minimalist, cozy design remains mostly untouched, though these cans are lighter and sturdier than their predecessor. Sound quality has been improved to produce richer, more detailed audio. A lengthier playtime (24 hours on a single charge) also gives this version an advantage over other Bose models.
It’s a shame that Bose didn’t offer an option to turn off ANC mode for power conservation. These headphones don’t come with some software perks found on older Bose headphones either. Still, this is a top-tier noise canceller that is sold for a reasonable price.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review.
Like the Cleer Enduro ANC (above), Anker's Soundcore Space Q45 are quite the bargain with a remarkable set of features and effective ANC performance. They offer remarkable battery life, quality ANC, and superb sound powered by upmarket specs and special features. Sound quality has a liveliness that pulls listeners to the front row of the performance on whatever music you're listening to. The sonic soundstage is wide and immersive, and have a ramped up low end, rich mids and crisp highs.
Anker engineered the Space Q45 with a versatile Ambient Sound mode that features dual settings for both Noise Cancellation and Transparency settings. And they all work well when used in proper situations. These headphone are not without some flaws, but nevertheless they have compelling sound and noise neutralization for half the price of Bose and Sony’s flagship models and are worth tracking down.
Read the full Anker Soundcore Space Q45 review.
When it comes to 3D sound on headphones, the AirPods Max had that market locked down until the Yamaha YH-L700A showed up. These large wireless cans pump out category-leading spatial audio, creating a listening experience that can be enjoyed with any stereo audio content from “virtually any source.” Yamaha’s head-tracking technology makes it so that music and movies change with how you turn your head, automatically adjusting the output on each channel to hear details and effects accurately in a 360-degree soundscape. You get several 3D modes for different content, along with strong noise cancellation and wireless performance.
Being one of the heavier models out, it’s unlikely that you’ll be wearing these on commutes. The uneven playtimes when enabling and disabling 3D Sound Field also presents an issue for anyone jumping on an international flight. But if you’re planning to use spatial audio headphones for at-home listening, the YH-L700A is the way to go.
Read our full Yamaha YH-L700A review.
Microsoft might not be the first name in audio, but the Surface Headphones 2 is a pleasant surprise. It both sounds better and cost less than its predecessor, the original Surface Headphones, and it makes up for middling battery life with some very fast charging: we went from empty to full charge in well under an hour.
The Surface Headphones 2 might also be a good choice if you use Windows a lot. It requires a Microsoft 365 subscription, but there’s a unique voice dictation feature that uses the onboard microphones to turn your speech into text in Word or Outlook, and makes a very useful tool for anyone working from home.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review.
How to choose the best over-ear headphones for you
When shopping for headphones, you’ve already narrowed things down massively by deciding on a pair of over-ear cans specifically. But there can still be much variation in the design of individual pairs, so you should still look out for factors like the headband shape or the amount of earcup padding to judge how comfortable they might be. Don’t be afraid to pass on headphones you don’t like the aesthetics of, too.
Sound quality is clearly important. You can read more about how we test this below, but you should consider whether you’d prefer a balanced sound or once that favors a particular part of the frequency spectrum — electronic fans might prefer heavy bass, for example. That said, several over-ear headphones have mobile apps that let you tweak the EQ to your liking.
Think about how much battery life you’ll need as well. Over-ear headphones can deliver anywhere between about 20 and 60 hours of playback so you should never need to recharge too often, though naturally longer is usually better. Keep in mind that ANC will reduce battery life when it’s turned on, as it needs to permanently power the onboard microphones.
How we test the best over-ear headphones
We thoroughly test every pair of headphones based on a variety of factors, and employ a consistent testing approach so any comparisons with other pairs are trustworthy and fair.
In this case, every pair of over-ear headphones has been used over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. This allows the tester to both gauge the sound quality across a mix of genres and volumes, and to see how comfortable the headphones are when worn for extended periods. We’ll listen to hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, pop and more to see how each pair performs, and will do the same with movies, podcasts and games, where applicable. Find out how we test and try out demo tracks for yourself in our guide to getting the best headphone sound for you.
We also test the effectiveness of features like noise-cancelling in real-life situations, and will make sure manufacturer claims about battery life and Bluetooth range are accurate. Build quality, the ease of setup and any control schemes — including those involving an app — will also be judged.
We rate over-ear headphones with a 5-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that excel in one or more particular fields that's rated 4 stars or above may also receive an Editor’s Choice award.
Contributions from: Alex Bracetti, Simon Lucas
Next: Fancy headphones that prioritize sound above everything else? Then check out our picks for the best audiophile headphones. Alternatively, if you're in the market for more discreet earbuds at a range of prices from entry level to high-end, then check out the very best wireless earbuds we've tested.
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