The best over-ear headphones for 2024: top cans for any budget

The best over-ear headphones completely immerse you in sound. It's no secret that by design, they're more tuned for audiophiles, who often favor wired models where there’s more room for large, powerful drivers to deliver detailed, high-definition audio and immense soundstages. 

Compared to the best earbuds out there, over-ear headphones have an advantage in that they encapsulate your ears completely, which has an outsized effect on the listening experience – larger earcups means larger drivers and space for real acoustic work to happen. They also tend to be more comfortable, which makes them perfect traveling companions, especially given that many are wireless and come with additional features such as active noise cancellation. 

We rank over-ear headphones highly among the best headphones you can buy, so it may not be surprising to learn that they even have added health benefits. That's right, an over-ear design can be better for your hearing health compared to in-ear headphones, because the drivers don’t sit right up close to your delicate eardrums, pushed down into your ear canal. The passive sound isolation provided by a good pair of padded ear cups also means you won't need the volume so high.

Written by
Becky Scarrott
Written by
Becky Scarrott

I've reviewed over 150 audio products since becoming a tech journalist, ranging from super-budget earbuds to high-end Hi-Res Audio music players. Before joining TechRadar, I spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing everything the world of audio had to offer; before that, I was a professional dancer. My love of music ties it all together.

Recent updates

March 20 2024
Added some additional information about how we test, and added a new section covering our recent reviews that haven't made it into this list.

The quick list

Want to cut to the chase and find out which over-ear headphones are the best? Below, you’ll find a roundup of our choices. You can also jump to a more detailed review of every pick, along with our price comparison tool to help you find the best deals.

The best over-ear headphones for 2024

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The best over-ear headphones for most people

Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones

(Image credit: Future)
The best over-ear headphones for most people

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 253g
Frequency response: 4Hz to 40kHz
Drivers: 1.57-inch dome-type
Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent noise cancellation
+
Great rich audio
+
Light and comfortable design

Reasons to avoid

-
Not water-resistant
-
Better noise cancellation now available

The WH-1000XM4s may not be Sony's flagship headphones anymore – that title has since been passed onto the Sony WH-1000XM5, which are at #8 in this list – but we still rate these as being the best for most people, because of their impressive sound quality and features balanced with the lower prices you can now find them for. You can do better in most individual areas, but not as a complete package for this price, and we think they're all the headphones that most people will need.

Aside from clear, well-realised and deep sound, there's also highly effective noise cancellation. You've got useful extra features too, including multi-point pairing for switching between two devices instantly, DSEE Extreme upscaling of lower-quality audio (such as from Spotify), auto-pausing when you remove them, Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, plus LDAC higher-quality wireless tech for compatible phones. 

They're also lightweight and comfortable, with a folding design that's convenient for travelling. Now that they've had a price drop – and especially if you get them for the extra discounted price they're regularly available for – these are just unbeatable value, which is why they're still at the top of this list years after their release.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review 

The best budget over-ear headphones

Sony WH-CH520N headphones held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
The best over-ear headphones with noise cancellation on a budget

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 192g
Frequency response: 7Hz-22,000Hz
Drivers: 30mm dynamic
Battery life: 35 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and comfortable
+
Good active noise cancellation
+
Great extra features

Reasons to avoid

-
They don't fold
-
Weaker ANC than pricier options

Sony has stripped back its more premium over-ear headphones to create the WH-CH720N. The remaining features and the focus on well-defined sound means that they’re the best budget option out there at this price, when you balance the audio quality, noise cancellation, and cost.

They stand above the cheaper competition with some more flagship-level features, including support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, DSEE upscaling of mediocre-quality tracks, multi-point pairing, and adaptive active noise cancellation – although this is not at the same high level as the Sony WH-1000XM4, let alone the more premium Sony or Bose headphones here. The sound quality is also impressive, delivering an excellent balance between bass, mids and treble, and tons of detail. 

But, of course, there are limitations at a lower price, and the sound definitely feels more constrained compared to the expansive and natural audio from the more premium options here. They also don’t support hi-res LDAC or have automated control settings. The buttons are easy to find, though, and the extremely lightweight design makes them comfortable to wear for long periods. And all this for one of the most affordable prices on the market? These are a steal.

Read our full Sony WH-CH720N review

The best premium over-ear headphones

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 over-ear headphones

(Image credit: Peter Hoffmann)
The best over-ear headphones for premium features and sound

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 293g
Frequency response: 6Hz-22,000Hz
Drivers: 42mm dynamic
Battery life: 60 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound quality and great ANC
+
Best-in-class battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
A little plain aesthetically
-
Design doesn't fold up into the headband

Sennheiser’s flagship wireless over-ear headphones have a few key advantages over the very hot premium competition. With an incredible 60-hour battery life, intuitive app, extensive feature set, easy on-ear controls, talented adaptive noise cancellation and an energetic-yet-accurate sound, the Momentum 4 really are the complete package. 

They're not the most interesting in terms of looks, though their fabric headband does stand out a little while being deliberately quite neutral-looking, and they don't fold down for easy portability – but these are basically the only flaws we can muster up about these headphones, and they're not exactly dealbreakers.

There are features here that are especially smart, such as Sennheiser's 'Sidetone' option, which passes your own voice into calls more clearly (and adjustably), so you you're not wondering if you're yelling, and it makes the conversation feel more natural. Smart 'sound zones' enable you to customize both the noise cancellation and EQ depending on your location, with the switch happening automatically, which is a really nice experience. Nothing else offers such smart control.

But beyond all this, the sound quality remains the star here. We said in our review that "whatever genre we throw at the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, we find ourselves remarking at the open, detailed, expansive, neutral and crisp performance. Never is it overly warm; never is it congested or muddied through the bass." The noise cancellation is a little weaker than the Sony WH-1000XM5, and definitely a step down from the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones – but it's on-par with the Sony WH-1000XM4, and is highly effective overall.

Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review 

The best over-headphones for noise cancellation

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

(Image credit: Future)
The best over-ear headphones to silence the world

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 250g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: 35mm
Battery life: 24 hours

Reasons to buy

+
The best noise cancellation you can get
+
Fantastic sound quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is weak
-
A very premium price

If you need the best noise cancellation that over-ear headphones offer right now, you need Bose's Ultra Headphones. The noise-blocking power is a step up from basically anything that's been available before, and we've never heard the sound of a busy city centre so strong quietened, or the speech of others in an office or around the house. We called it "mind blowing" in our review. 

This power comes at a very premium price (higher than the likes of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless), but it also comes with absolutely glorious audio quality, so it feels very much worth its price. Our review said that the Ultra Headphones "deliver some of the most alive, exciting, textured, finely resolved, deeply engaging music I've ever heard from a pair of wireless headphones. It's the kind of sound I would expect to pay 50% or even twice as much for."

They also have a very premium feel, while being light and comfortable – and have a travel-friendly folding design, which is always welcome. They're not flawless – it's a shame they lack USB-C audio and general aptX support (they do have Snapdragon Sound, though), and the 24-hour battery life is the lowest here by a long way – but these things are easy to forgive if wonderful sound and active noise cancellation in equal measure is what you want. Though if you want to spend a little less, the ANC in the Bose QuietComfort Headphones is practically as good, though the sound quality is weaker.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review

The best over-ear headphones for affordable sound

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 on an orange and blue sofa

(Image credit: Future)
The best planar magnetic over-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 329g
Frequency response: 20Hz-40KHz
Drivers: 70 x 89mm planar magnetic
Battery life: 80 hours (we actually got 90)

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed, expansive, engaging and zealous listen
+
Light, comfortable, foldable design
+
Incredible battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No active noise cancellation
-
App is acceptable rather than comprehensive

For the casual listener, planar magnetic headphones might go over their head. But for the audiophiles out there, this type of speaker driver is highly sought after and very rarely comes in wireless (or reasonably affordable) forms – but the Edifier does both. Planar magnetic drivers have a larger, flat and super-thin diaphragm in a magnetic field in each earcup, which offers more exciting and distortion-free sound.

And following hours of testing, we rate the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 as the best planar magnetic headphones you can buy right now, and with their price being competitive with the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, they're the best-sound headphones at the level too – you have pay around twice as much for the likes of the Focal Bathys or Bowers & Wilkins PX8 to match them. What you're getting here is beautifully detailed and expansive audio quality, a light comfortable folding design, and an incredible 80 quoted hours of battery life (we noted in our review that this even pushed up to 90). 

But there are some things missing from the package, most notably active noise cancellation. And while they do have app support, there's nothing like the level of smart features you get compared to Sennheiser or Sony, and the app isn't as slick. But maybe that doesn't matter – at a price that's premium but still mainstream, no other wireless headphones can touch them for sound.

Read our full Edifier Stax Spirit S3 review

The best open-back wired over-ear headphones

The Sennheiser HD-660S2 headhphones pictured on a wooden surface.

(Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Henry St Leger)
The best open-back over-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Open
Weight: 260g
Frequency response: 8Hz – 41,500Hz
Drivers: 38mm
Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Open-back design and comfortable fit
+
Consistent, neutral sound
+
Various cable options

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of smart features
-
Needs a separate amp to get the most out of them

If you love a natural, open sound, then a pair of wired open-back headphones are the way to go and the Sennheiser HD-660S2 are our favorite pair. These boast an immensely impressive and expansive soundstage, but being open-back means they don't block out the outside world, so they need to be used in quiet spaces – and they're wired only as well.

They're as at home in the mixing booth as they are at, uh, home for general listening – they have an air of superiority to them. They feature magnificent sound recreation that's more powerful and convincing that basically anything else here, especially when paired with one of the best portable DACs or hi-res music players, though they can be powered just by a laptop without extra equipment. We said in our testing that while they do leak sound, it's not too bad – but you may not be popular in the office if you use them, still. 

They have premium ear cup cushioning and a durable headband to prevent vibration and make sure you can get lost in your music for a long time. These are bound to delight anyone looking to have the delights of open-backed cans.

Read our full Sennheiser HD-660S2 review

The best mid-range wired over-ear headphones

Sivga Oriole being held in the air.

(Image credit: Future)
The best mid-tier over-ear headphones

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 280g
Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
Drivers: 50mm dynamic
Battery life: 50 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Strong sound across the frequencies
+
Look fantastic
+
Light and comfortable build

Reasons to avoid

-
Better for smaller heads
-
A little light on bass for some
-
No wireless or ANC

Sivga is not a very well-known brand but you’ll find its Oriole headphones hard to forget once you see them. The striking wooden ear cups aren’t just for looks either and are capable of delivering decent sound across varying frequencies – all for a reasonable mid-range price.

At this mid-tier price level, there are lots of competing wired over-ear headphones to choose from but the Sivga Oriole, which are the costlier alternative to the company’s Robin, are the best you can buy considering the step-up in sound quality thanks to large 50mm dynamic drivers.

They don’t have active noise cancellation or Bluetooth like many of the other options here, but the full suite of core components are here though. The Sivga Oriole comes with a 1.8m long cable, a 3.5mm to 6.3 adapter and a hemp carry case. The lightweight design is another advantage here.

Read our full Sivga Oriole review 

The best premium Sony over-ear headphones

Sony WH-1000XM5 on a table

(Image credit: Peter Hoffmann)
The best over-ear headphones for high-end Sony fans

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 250g
Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz
Drivers: 30mm carbon fibre composite dome
Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent noise cancellation
+
Wonderful sounding performance

Reasons to avoid

-
New design is less portable
-
Not a huge upgrade over WH-1000XM4

Sony's flagship headphones do a huge amount of stuff incredibly well. In our review, we were deeply impressed with their sound quality, and until recently, we rated their active noise cancellation as being the best you could get. However, as things stand now, they're beaten in key ways by competitors that means they're not the slam dunk pick that might've been.

The rich, well-balanced music quality, for example, is beaten by the even more expansive and alive sound from the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, which are also not far off matching the noise cancellation quality too. The Sennheisers also offer double the battery life of the Sony headphones, and even more great smart features – plus better hi-res support.

And the noise cancellation is fantastic, has been beaten by the Bose QuietComfort Ultra, so if your focus is the best noise-stopping power possible, those are the best buy. 

And when it comes to all-round value, there's a reason the Sony WH-1000XM4 are still top of this list – the newer XM5 are better, but only by a little way, and they regularly cost a lot more, especially because the XM4 frequently have extra discounts. These are fantastic headphones, they're just in an especially cut-throat world – but if you've loved Sony's stuff in the past and want its latest and greatest new headphones, we'll happily recommend them.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review

The best over-ear headphones for design

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 held in a hand

(Image credit: Peter Hoffmann)
The best over-ear headphones for ultra-luxe looks as well as sound

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 320g (without carry case)
Frequency response: Not listed
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Agile and detailed sound
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Noise cancellation is average
-
Expensive

If you like the finer things in life, the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 are fantastic. They're refined in every sense of the word, from their beautiful design that's a cut above the rest, to their phenomenal sound quality. Yes, this comes at a high price, but there are good reasons for that, as we explained in our review: "a new carbon cone 40mm drive unit replaces the bio-cellulose driver in the more affordable Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 and the die-cast aluminum arms, diamond-cut bright metal detailing and Nappa leather trim elevates the build to high-end territory." 

The sound quality here is just fantastic, ranking among the best you can get from wireless headphones. Compared to the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, which are high in this list because they're so good musically, we said in our review that the PX8's "extra energy, depth, emotional oomph and overall immersion in excellent-quality music place the PX8 in a different league" beyond the Sennheisers.

But we've chosen these for their design as well as their audio quality, and in our review we said "the PX8 would look right at home around the neck of a bright young thing on a business-class flight to Milan" – they're smart and they stand out from the crown, but without being ostentatious. They're extremely comfortable too, and they feel premium every time you touch their materials or slide the headband.

The noise cancellation is far more average than the sound, so if that's a priority you might be better off with the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. And the most extreme audiophiles will probably find the Focal Bathys even more to their taste, but those have a less elegant design. Anyone who wants super-sleek headphones that are also top-tier for sound will be happy with these.

Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

The best wireless over-ear headphones for sound

Focal Bathys on green grassy background

(Image credit: Future)
The best over-ear headphones for audiophiles with full smart features

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 350g
Frequency response: 15Hz – 22kHz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Exciting, detailed, expressive sound