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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Best Over Ear Headphones in 2023

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Bluetooth earbuds may be all the rage right now when it comes to cool and convenient audio devices, but when you really want to dive deep into an audio experience, it's got to be over-ear headphones. A good set of cans will blow earbuds out of the water with the sound they can deliver. While earbuds can fire the audio directly into your ears, these over-ear cans create a properly sealed soundstage that surrounds you with the audio.

A good pair will be versatile for everything from gaming and listening for approaching enemies, chilling out with some tunes, to a movie marathon. And, thanks to their bigger size, these options tend to be among the most comfortable wih their wide surface area and luscious memory foam padding. We've picked out some amazing headphones that deliver whether you want ultra-premium, highly affordable, wired, or wireless – and click here to find them in the UK.

TL;DR – These are the Best Over Ear Headphones:

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2

Best Over Ear Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2

Audio-Technica knows how to make a mean headset with a killer value, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is a solid example of that. This is a wireless version of the great ATH-M50X, and it simply expands on the capabilities of that headset. You’ll still find powerful, 45mm Neodymium drivers offering up a 15-28,000Hz frequency response range for deep bass and crisp treble. The 38-ohm impedance will also let you drive them over a wired connection with just about any device you have handy.

The wireless performance is also set to impress. Using Bluetooth 5.0, the headset is able to offer a 50-hour runtime. The headset also supports LDAC and AAC high-quality audio codecs. It also includes dual microphones to pick up your voice for calls, and there are simple on-ear controls for media playback and calling up Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Audio-Technica even includes a carrying pouch to keep the them secure when you’re on the go.

Tascam TH-02

Best Budget Over Ear Headphones

Tascam TH-02Tascam TH-02

The Tascam TH-02 will bring you into the realm of powerful audio for a shockingly affordable price. For about $30, you’re getting a pair of cans that go a little beyond the frequency response range of your average pair. Going down to 18Hz will land you with a little more bass response, while 22,000Hz tops off the treble. That sound will come out of 50mm dynamic drivers. The headphones don’t need anything special to operate though, as their 32 Ohm resistance means you can use them with smartphones and laptops while still enjoying plenty of volume.

The closed back design helps keep external noise out for critical listening. If you’re recording, that seal will also help keep monitor audio from leaking back into the mic. You can take the headphones on the go with easy portability thanks to a folding design, and a quarter-inch adapter will let you use it with pro-audio gear as needed.

Sennheiser HD 800 S

The Ultimate Audiophile Experience

Sennheiser HD 800 SSennheiser HD 800 S

Headphones can range in price from $15 to $1,500, and if you have money to burn, the higher end of that spectrum gets you a real treat for your ears. While there are a few incredible sets on the high end, Sennheiser’s HD 800S are often seen as the high-water mark of consumer audiophile cans.

They have an insanely open soundstage, giving you some of the most natural sounding audio you’ll ever hear, and adhere to a flat sound signature better than the vast majority out there. They aren’t cheap, you’ll need an amplifier to drive them, and many people probably won’t even like the way they sound, but for true purists, it doesn’t get much better. And hey, the price could be worse—Sennheiser makes a $60,000 set, too.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best Noise-Cancelling Over Ear Headphones

WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5

Are you ready to tune everything out and really dig into what you're listening to? Then, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are the headphones for you. With this model, Sony took what was already a great pair and made them just that little bit better. You now get eight noise-canceling mics effectively doubling the amount from its previous model. AI and a new processor are also integrated into the headphones, so rather than you having to adjust manually, the ANC is automatically optimized. And similar to the WH-1000XM4, by just putting a hand over your one ear cup, the ANC will temporarily disable, so you can hear the world around you.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 totes some of the most drastic design changes to the line in years. You no longer get a foldable headband, making it slightly less convenient for travel. The earcups also have more clamping force for better soundproofing. But, don't worry, these are still a supremely comfortable pair of cans. Once you’ve got the headphones in your ideal position, connecting to your various devices is simple by using Bluetooth or the classic 3.5mm jack. However, you might not feel the need to use the wired connection often, as these offer a 30-hour battery life. And probably most importantly, the WH-1000XM5 sounds stellar.

Sennheiser Momentum 4

Best Wireless Over Ear Headphones

Momentum Wireless 4SennheiserMomentum Wireless 4

If you’re opting to cut the cord, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 is a comfortable and classy option with heavily cushioned leatherette ear cups and a padded, fabric-lined headband. Even with its lightweight build, you still get a wild 60-hour battery life along with easy-to-operate on-ear controls using both physical buttons and a touchpad—just be aware that touchpad is extra sensitive. Being wireless, you connect to your devices over Bluetooth 5.2 and can enjoy listening to some high-end audio files thanks to the support of AAC, AptX, AptX Adaptive, and SBC codecs.

As far as sound quality goes, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4 delivers booming bass and crisp, pleasant highs, though you can customize your audio further using the Sennheiser Smart Control app. If you’re looking to make calls while rocking these headphones, the four beamforming mics let you come across clear while dampening noises in your environment. The headphone’s ANC also does a decent job of blocking outside distractions to immerse you deeper in that sound, though still not as well as the Sony WH-1000XM5.

Wyze Headphones

Best Budget Wireless Over Ear Headphones

Wyze HeadphonesWyze Headphones

There is no shortage of cheap wireless over-ear headphones you can pick up on the market right now, but if you want premium features at the budget price point, you're going to want the Wyze Headphones. For just $50, you're getting a pair of Bluetooth headphones that include active noise cancellation. That feature alone sets them apart from the competition in their price ballpark. But, they go even further.

The Wyze headphones use Bluetooth 5.0 and can connect with two devices at once, letting you easily switch between audio sources. You can also use them wired with a 3.5mm audio cable, which also lets you tap into their extended frequency response range. The mics used for noise cancelling also passthrough ambient sound in with Quick Conversation mode, in case you need to hear what someone is saying but don't want to constantly be taking your headphones off. Roughly 20 hours of battery life and quick charging over USB-C ensure these standout capabilities hold up throughout the day.

HiFiMan Sundara

A Planar Magnetic Option

SundaraHiFiMan Sundara

Most of our favorite over ear headphones offer dynamic drivers where a small coil receives a signal from your device, creating a magnetic field that reacts with a magnet to vibrate a diaphragm and generate sound. Planar magnetic drivers use a design with magnets on either side of the thin, flat diaphragm, allowing for more natural bass extension and less harmonic distortion. However, planar magnetic drivers are more expensive to produce and tend to be heftier, so there’s less variety compared to dynamic driver-based headphones.

Planars are becoming more popular, though, and if you’re ready to dip your toe in the water, the HiFiMan Sundara is a solid and "affordable" entry point. These headphones are chunky and heavy, but the well-cushioned earcups and a suspension band should help relieve fatigue from longer wearing sessions. Once you’re plugged in, you’ll enjoy a wide sound stage and virtually no distortion, even in the highs, making them an audiophile's dream. Just note that these cans use a good deal of power, so you're better off connecting to a computer over your smartphone.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Best Smart Over Ear Headphones

Surface Headphones 2MicrosoftSurface Headphones 2

For a bit of extra smarts, the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 have some tricks in store. These over-ear headphones provide battery life for wireless listening even on the longest work days with 18.5 hours for audio playback or 15 hours for voice calls. You can also enjoy enhanced wireless audio thanks to support for the aptX codec. If you’re running low on battery, you can also switch to a 3.5mm audio connection, or you can charge back up to 100% in under 2 hours.

The Surface Headphones 2 aim to make your life a bit easier. You’ll find you can easily control the volume of what you’re listening to with a dial on the right ear and control the volume of the world around you with a dial on the left ear, which provides 13 levels of active noise cancellation. The dual microphones that handle your voice calls can also let you address your choice of voice assistant, but where they get really smart is in Microsoft 365. You’ll be able to use it for dictation in Microsoft’s productivity suite, letting you rest your hands and get a little more comfortable in your office chair from time to time.

Apple AirPods Max

Best Hi-Fi Over Ear Headphones

AirPods MaxAppleAirPods Max

Apple just got in on the Hi-Fi game with the release of the new, premium AirPods Max. The headphones are about as Apple as a device can get, aesthetically, with a smooth metal exterior and even Apple's Digital Crown for adjusting volume, controlling audio playback, taking calls, and bringing up Siri. Of course, Apple also inserted its own custom-made dynamic drivers. These are rather heavy, but Apple has designed a mesh band at the top that should distribute the weight evenly.

The AirPods Max come at a high price, but you'll be getting active noise cancellation through eight microphones as well as a transparency mode to allow you to keep enjoying your tunes while still being able to hear the outside world. You'll also get spatial audio with Apple's head tracking feature on supported iPhones and iPads. The head tracking is powered by an Apple H1 chip in each ear cup. The AirPods Max connect wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0 and have a 20-hour battery life, though you can also use a wired connection with a 3.5mm-to-Lightning cable.

Razer Opus

Best Wireless THX Sound

OpusRazer Opus

The Razer Opus headset will check a lot of boxes for users, and support for true THX sound is one of them. The headset was built to THX specifications, and it delivers on frequency response, minimal distortion, and noise isolation. It goes even further to cut down on external sounds with active noise cancellation. Of course, when a headset does this much to erase your surroundings, you can easily toggle on and off ambient sound mode to hear what's around you.

You'll find plenty of memory foam cushioning inside the Razer Opus, so you can stay comfortable even if you want to wear it for a long time to truly test the 40-hour battery life. When it comes time to charge the battery back up, you can do so with a modern USB-C cable. And for connectivity, you can enjoy the best of both worlds with both Bluetooth and wired audio.

Where to Get the Best Over Ear Headphones in the UK

Audio-Technica ATH-M50XBest Over Ear HeadphonesAudio-Technica ATH-M50X £129.00Tascam TH-02Best Budget Over Ear HeadphonesTascam TH-02 £38.00Sennheiser HD 800 SThe Ultimate Audiophile ExperienceSennheiser HD 800 S £1,399.00Sony WH-1000XM4Best Noise-Cancelling Over Ear HeadphonesSony WH-1000XM4 £299.00

What to look for in a pair of Over Ear Headphones

You might think narrowing your search down to “over ear headphones” would help make the decision process easier, but there are still a ton of things to consider when buying a pair for yourself. A few of the most important include:

Sound: First, and most importantly, you want a pair that sounds good. Some aspects of sound are subjective, like the sound signature, which refers to how balanced the bass, midrange, and treble are. Some people may prefer a “flat” signature that’s closer to the artist’s intention, while others may prefer heavy bass, or a “v-shaped” frequency response that boosts the bass and treble for a livelier feel.

Other things about sound quality are more objective. It’s possible, for example to have bass-heavy with low-quality sound (where the bass is overly boomy) or high-quality sound (where the bass is tight, punchy, and doesn’t completely drown out the rest of your music). If things sound distorted, harsh, or muddy, that’s usually an indication of lower quality headphones. Higher quality headphones sound better, but also cost more, so it’s all about balancing your ears with your budget.

Comfort: Some feel like a cloud on your head, with plush ear pads and a headband that you barely notice is there. Others clamp down hard, squeezing your brain like it’s in a vice and putting undue pressure on the top of your skull.

Most are somewhere in between.

If you plan on wearing them for long stretches—like multi-hour gaming sessions—you’ll want to make sure you get something that stays comfortable long-term. There are a few things that can help—for example, you can replace pleather ear pads with velour-style pads to keep your ears from getting hot—but sometimes you just have to try a pair for yourself. Make sure you put a set of headphones through its paces within that return period, so you don’t end up with a headache and buyer’s remorse.

Open-backed headphones sound more natural and airy but leak sound both ways…


Open- or closed-backed: The ear cups of your headphone can either be open, allowing air to pass through them, or closed, creating a more sealed housing. Open-backed headphones have a more natural, airy sound, but leak sound both ways—you can hear everything going on around you, and people sitting next to you can hear your music. That makes them less than ideal for commuting, offices, and libraries, but makes them great for critical listening at home.

Closed-backed headphones, on the other hand, tend to have a more limited soundstage, but are great for emphasizing bass. (That’s not to say all closed-backed designare bass monsters with limited soundstages, but you get the idea). Most importantly, a closed-backed pair stop people from hearing your music and isolate you from outside noise. Both types of headphones can be great, so buy what sounds good to you and fits your use case.

Closed-backed headphones tend to have a more limited soundstage, but emphasize bass


Wired or wireless: Mobile device manufacturers may be trying to slowly pummel the headphone jack into submission, but wired audio is still around and kicking. All other things kept equal, wired headphones will be cheaper than their wireless counterparts, and don’t come with some of the connection problems and none of the battery life limitations that wireless audio comes with. Still, wireless audio can be mighty convenient if you’re out and about, as long as you can charge them regularly—just be prepared to shell out a bit more for a quality pair.

Active noise cancellation: If closed-back noise isolation isn’t enough for you, some headphones also come with active noise cancellation, which uses clever frequency trickery to cancel out noise around you.

It doesn’t work for all sound—it’s better with consistent noise like the drone of an airplane—but it can be mighty useful. That said, it can also make some people uncomfortable or give them headaches, so you may have to experiment with different headphones and levels of cancellation to find something that works right for you.

Impedance: Most of the options on this list have an impedance of 32Ω (ohms) or less, meaning they’ll work great with a laptop, phone, or tablet—just plug it in and press play. Once you get into audiophile-grade stuff over a couple hundred dollars, though, you’ll start to see more high-impedance headphones at 64Ω, 250Ω, or even 600Ω.

Higher-impedance headphones need a headphone amplifier to supply more power to drive properly


The Higher-impedance, the more power is needed for the drivers to work properly, so you may find them too quiet when plugged straight into a phone or laptop—to get them at the proper volume, you’ll need a headphone amplifier to supply more juice. That’s a completely separate topic with its own list of best products, but the JDS Labs Objective2 and Schiit Magni 3 are good starting points at a decent price.

Headphones are one of those products that are sometimes hard to describe using words alone, and they can be incredibly subjective. So, your best bet when shopping is to order a pair and try it out for yourself—just be sure to buy from a store with a good return policy in case they don’t fit your tastes. You can always send them back and try something else.


Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get grease on his mechanical keyboard.

Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.

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