Best over-ear headphones in 2024: Top picks tested by experts

Whether you're looking for the best over-ear headphones for sound quality, the best noise canceling tech to block out your surroundings, or the longest lasting pair of headphones for commutes and travel, this buying guide breaks down all the top performers for every category. 

With dozens of designs to choose from all offering similar features and high levels of performance, finding the best over-ear headphones that fill your entire ear with sound can sometimes feel overwhelming. But with models starting from $99 and every price point in between up to $699, I've done all the hard work for you by selecting the best over-ear headphones you can buy right now for every activity. 

All the over-ear headphones have been tested by audio experts who know everything about great sound so you can rest assured you'll be getting the best audio experience in models with strong durability and high comfort levels. Read on to find the best over-ear headphones right for your budget.

The Quick List

About the author

Portrait studio shot Lee Dunkley
Lee Dunkley

Hi, I'm Lee and I cover all things audio for Tom's Guide, including maintaining our buying guides on the best headphones, wireless speakers, soundbars, and computer audio. I am passionate about sound quality and getting the best sound for all kinds of setups. I've been testing and writing about audio for more years than I care to remember, and I love providing sound advice to help shoppers make informed buying decisions to achieve great sound. 

The best over-ear headphones you can buy right now

Best over-ear headphones overall

Sony XM5 headphones in ecru (off white) placed outdoors on a garden table

With spectacular versatility and performance these are best for most people

Specifications

Weight: 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
ANC: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC, LDAC

Reasons to buy

+
Articulate and engaging sound
+
Great control options
+
Impressive noise-cancelation

Reasons to avoid

-
Redesign and eco credentials ups the price
-
Gets hot around the ears during longer listening

As Sony’s XM-series flagship headphones, the XM5 launched in 2022 improve upon the already great XM4s with better active noise cancelation, call quality, sound, comfort and connectivity in streamlined design with signifacnt eco credentials. Although the majority of the performance changes aren't huge — though the first two are certainly noticeable — it's enough to ensure the latest version of the popular XM-series retains top ranking. 

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 might count against them for some buyers (the XM4s are still around and cost less), but 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.

Best value over-ear headphones

Sennheiser Accentum on a cream-colored bench

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Strong Sennheiser sound and ANC performance at a mid-level price

Specifications

Size and weight: 6.4 x 1.8 x 7.6 inches; 7.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 50 hours with ANC enabled
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX HD
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great ANC battery life
+
Effective noise canceling
+
Robust build and good comfort levels

Reasons to avoid

-
No on-ear detection
-
No carry case

Sennheiser Accentum are a mid-priced ANC pair of headphones with plenty of flagship features. Probably the most outstanding thing about the Accentum noise-canceling headphones, though, is the 50-hour battery life and quick charge that's achieves up to 5 hours of listening time from a 10-minute top-up. 

These low-cost Sennheisers are based around the Momentum 4 Wireless (ranked below), and although they have slightly smaller drivers, they master the company's signature sound. There are plenty of rich bass notes on hand to give whatever you're listening to the right level of energy without over emphasizing low frequencies. Everything feels nicely proportioned and there's plenty of mid-range clarity.

ANC is very effective at reducing background sounds to a pool of silence, and Transparency mode was effective during my testing, too. When it comes to taking voice calls, the Accentum has two built-in microphones and a dedicated wind-reduction mode. Multipoint seamlessly switches from one Bluetooth device to another, and there's an adjustable side-tone to help keep conversations feeling natural.

Best noise-canceling over-ear headphones

Bose QC Ultra Headphones listing image shown in smoke white held aloft in daylight on an urban street

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Best noise-canceling headphones, period

Specifications

Size and weight: 7.7 x 2.0 x 5.5 inches; 8.96 ounces
Battery life (rated): 24 hours (18 hours w/ Immersive Audio)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Modernized design
+
Effective Immersive Audio experience
+
Intuitive controls
+
Best-ever ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
High cost compared to most rivals
-
Middling battery life for a flagship design

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are the best noise-canceling headphones overall. As the replacement for the Bose 700, the company has raised the bar yet again for active noise-canceling headphones, effectively silencing outside world around you. The new model throws in Immersive Audio tech and plenty of extras including Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint connectivity, aptX Adaptive support, and touch volume control. This all comes in an all-new modern and lightweight design that's comfortable enough to be worn for hours.

There are multiple levels of noise cancelation to balance the level of quiet with Aware mode (transparency) to suit your surroundings. Battery life has been extended to give up to 24 hours, while changes made to the controls and design make usability more practical and seamless. While the Bose 700 are a great alternative option to consider and can often be found discounted in our best headphone deals, the QC Ultra raise Bose's game and are as close to perfect as you’re going to get in the noise-canceling headphones category.

Best over-ear headphones for battery life

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones with case on window seat at reviewer's home

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Strong signature sound and 60-hour battery life with ANC

Specifications

Size & weight: 7 x 7.67 x 1.82 inches; 10.3 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 60 hours (with ANC)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Spectacular battery life
+
Great sound
+
Effective noise-cancelling performance 
+
Reliable touch controls
+
Robust design with plain styling (if you like that sort of thing)

Reasons to avoid

-
Anonymous styling
-
Earpads may make ears hot
-
Flaky connectivity issues with Smart Control app

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 makes them the one to beat. Add in the easy-going Sennheiser sound and effective noise canceling, 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. 

During my testing, Sennheiser's smooth house sound handled a wide range of music content, from pounding beats to more mellow tunes with aplomb. They have Bluetooth 5.2 and aptX Adaptive support, and there's a supplied 3.5mm cable for audiophile wired connections. ANC performance was effective, and auto Wind Noise Reduction is very impressive when stood on a windy train platform on daily work commutes. The combination of great sound quality, high comfort levels and 

Best premium over-ear headphones

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e held in the air above a dining room table

(Image credit: Future)
Best sound and build at the price

Specifications

Size and weight: Not specified; 10.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 30 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound
+
Low-profile design with smart styling
+
Effective noise canceling

Reasons to avoid

-
No touch controls
-
Noise canceling isn't as good as its rivals 

Just like the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2, the new S2e are an 'evolved' version of the company's entry-level headphones. They are priced at $399, which is exactly the same as the Sony WH-1000XM5 — see how they compare in my Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e face-off. 

They feel just as good as their predecessor and look identical. They are beautifully constructed and look much better than most price rivals in terms of build and finish. For example, several noise canceling headphone price rivals look plasticky by comparison, but the textured finish of the Px7 S2e looks stylish and doesn't show up finger marks in the way that some rivals do. On the other hand though, much like the S2 the new S2e version doesn't have much in the way of extended functionality. 

As an evolved version, the S2e takes inspiration and learnings from the company's Px8 flagship headphones together with a re-tuned acoustic performance and 24-bit digital signal processing (DSP). In short, they're designed to deliver the best wireless sound this sort of money can buy, and they do. In my review, I particularly liked the bass kick they brought to my music, which had a bit more energy than many of their price rivals. The rest of the frequency range felt nicely judged, and noise canceling was effective but not the strongest model around at the price. 

Overall, these are a great buy for anyone truly serious about sound quality, and less bothered about noise canceling or the latest features.

Best luxury over-ear headphones

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphone an a black leather sofa

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
A great balance of luxury design and high-end sound

Specifications

Size and weight: Not specified; 11.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 30 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated build and styling
+
Next-level sound quality
+
aptX Adaptive codec support

Reasons to avoid

-
High price limits appeal
-
No aptX Lossless audio 
-
No touch-controls 

The Px8 are Bowers & Wilkins' most advanced noise-canceling headphones to date, and 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 have sumptuous soft leather 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. But for practical luxury style and high comfort levels on longer listening these are hard to beat.

Best audiophile over-ear headphones

Focal Bathys

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
High-end sound and audiophile credentials at an attainable price

Specifications

Size and weight: 9.4 x 8.25 x 2.75 inches; 12.3 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours; 35 hours (audio jack mode); 42 hours (DAC mode)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1 with SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Spacious, high-quality sound
+
Built-in 24-bit/192kHz-capable DAC
+
Long battery life
+
Gorgeous design and easily portable

Reasons to avoid

-
One of the pricier ANC headphones out there
-
Mediocre noise cancellation
-
Buggy software and digital assistance support

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. 

Best over-ear headphones for iOS users

The Apple AirPods Max displayed on a bookshelf

(Image credit: Future)
The best over-ear headphones for iOS users

Specifications

Size and weight: 7.4 x 6.6 x 3.3 inches, 13.6 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 20 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Luxury design
+
Excellent noise cancellation
+
Spatial Audio sounds great

Reasons to avoid

-
Distinctive styling may not appeal to everyone

Although the AirPods Max have been around since 2020 and have mostly stuck with their exceedingly high price (although they can regularly be found discounted online), they've maintained their ranking among the best headphones and continue to be popular. Their distinctive look with aluminium and mesh fabric may divide opinion among buyers, but they're plush and comfortable and sound quality and ANC effectiveness are still among some of the best noise-canceling headphones around.

They may lack support for Apple Adaptive Audio, Apple's newest suite of features, but they do have Adaptive EQ. This 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. 

While we found something to appreciate about the AirPods Max’s sound output across all our favorite musical genres during our testing, our favorite aspect came from Apple's spatial audio listening feature, which was a real game changer. Ultimately, the AirPods Max are the most expensive pair of Apple headphones, but the combination of cushy comfort, pristine audio quality, and killer features like spatial audio make them a great over-ear option ideal for iOS users.

Best under $99

Review listing image for Anker Soundcore Space One in blue

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Best sound and high-quality audio support for $99

Specifications

Size & weight: ‎6.38 x 3.62 x 7.32 inches; 9.1 ounces
Battery life (rated): 40 hours (ANC on); 55 hours (ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC, LDAC
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Vibrant, customizable sound
+
Effective ANC
+
Stylish design
+
Equipped with many useful features
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak call quality
-
Very cumbersome
-
Outdated control scheme

The Soundcore Space One boast a variety of premium features, including adaptive active noise cancellation, Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC codec support, customizable sound, multipoint technology, and some of the strongest quick charging out there. Lengthy playtimes, personalized listening modes, and safe volume settings add to the lengthy list of features. 

Our reviewer found that the Space One had deep bass, but felt that Anker had tweaked the sound profile to balance mids and highs, and that listening with ANC on upticks the low end. Complementing the Space One’s dynamic sound quality is adaptive ANC that can be personalized and used in different ways. There is Adaptive Noise Cancelling for adjusting performance to your surrounding noise levels or Customize Noise Cancelling for setting noise neutralization to 1 of 5 levels. These are a great budget option available in jet black, latte cream and sky blue colorways and a possible best value contender at the $99 price. 

Best over-ear headphones specs compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 WeightANCBattery life claimsConnectivity
Sony WH-1000XM58.8 ouncesYesUp to 30 hours with ANCBluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC, LDAC
Sennheiser Accentum7.8 ouncesYesUp to 50 hours with ANCBluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX HD
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones8.96 ouncesYesUp to 24 hours with ANCBluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless10.3 ouncesYesUp to 60 hours with ANCBluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e10.8 ouncesYesUp to 30 hours without ANCBluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD
Bowers & Wilkins Px811.2 ouncesYesUp to 30 hours without ANCBluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD
Focal Bathys12.3 ouncesYesUp to 30 hours without ANCBluetooth 5.1 with SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive
Apple AirPods Max13.6 ouncesYesUp to 20 hours without ANCBluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC
Anker Soundcore Space One9.1 ouncesYesUp to 40 hours with ANCBluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC, LDAC

How to choose the best over-ear headphones for you

Things to consider before you buy

1. Design: 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.

2. Sound quality: This 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.

ANC technology can compress sound and reduce dynamics, which may affect audio performance when turned on. In some cases, you’ll notice a background hiss when listening to music. However, the best noise-cancelling earbuds limit these disruptions to deliver full, crisp sound.

3. Battery life: 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.

4. Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best over-ear headphones. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will typically command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a pair of headphones the greater the chance that sound and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if you're constantly needing to recharge your audio gear, or the sound quality is poor. 

As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now many of our favorite models are being discounted by online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less. Bookmark our best headphone deals page to keep track on the latest discounts.

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. 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) tech your chosen model may have.

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.

Find out how we test for more information on our reviewing procedures.

Contributions from: Alex Bracetti, Simon Lucas, Kate Kozuch

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