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 like protecting your hearing. They can be better for your hearing health compared to in-ear headphones because they don’t sit right next to your delicate eardrums. The great sound dampening of a good pair of padded earcups that envelop you also means you don't need the volume so high.
Becky is a senior TechRadar writer (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team in early 2022, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Long before all of this though, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 23-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – most recently in March 2023, as a soloist in Rusalka at the Royal Opera House. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage.
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 overall
The WH-1000XM4s are a flawlessly designed pair of over-ear headphones that continue to remain at the top of our list for their premium features and increasingly better price.
The best budget over-ear headphones
By far the best value offering in the over-ear headphone space we've found so far, the WH-CH720Ns pack a lot of smart features in and boast effective ANC.
The best premium over-ear headphones
What hides behind this minimalist light and comfortable design are top-of-the-line features, including next-level noise cancellation, call quality and sound performance.
The best mid-range over-ear headphones
Sivga's Oriole stand out not just for their distinctive geometric design and decent audio but fantastic affordability. These wired headphones are also some of the comfiest.
Best for sound
The best over-ear headphones for sound
Hands down, we rate these as the best wireless planar magnetic designed headphones that audiophiles can buy right now. The flagship Stax Spirit S3 values sound above all else.
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Best for design
The best looking over-ear headphones
In the looks and sound quality department, the PX8 are the over-ear headphones that are hard to beat. Aluminum detailing encased by Nappa leather, they raise the bar of high-end.
The best open-back over-ear headphones
When it comes to a wide, expansive soundstage, an open-back design is essential. The wired HD-660S2 are made to bring mixing booth level quality to everyday listening.
Best for Bose fans
The best Bose over-ear headphones
The 700s haven't been replaced yet by newer models and that's because their pedigree lies in the sophisticated noise cancellation and sound quality they deliver.
Best for wireless audiophiles
The best wireless over-ears for audiophiles
Focal's debut wireless headphones are an audiophile's dream. They not only have an excitingly expressive sound but are comfortable to wear and easy on the eye.
Best for Apple fans
The best Apple over-ear headphones
If you love Apple products, then the undeniably Apple AirPods Max are the best option for over-ears. They sound incredible, have leading noise cancellation and great connectivity.
The best over-ear headphones for 2023
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The best over-ear headphones for most people
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The WH-1000XM4s may not be Sony's flagship headphones anymore – that title has since been passed onto the WH-1000XM5, which we rate as having the best active noise cancellation in the market – but these are still the best for most people because of their impressive sound quality and features balanced with the lower prices you can now usually find them for.
You've got useful extra features too, including multi-point pairing for switching between two devices instantly, DSEE Extreme upscaling and automated control settings thanks to built-in sensors.
You’ll get access to Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, which delivers spatial audio on stereo headphones, plus LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps for high resolution audio – although aptX and aptX HD are no longer supported. The WH-1000XM4s have set a benchmark that is hard to beat on all accounts by anything else out there.
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
The best budget over-ear headphones
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Sony has stripped back its premium flagship over-ear headphones to the bare necessities with the WH-CH720Ns. The pared down features means that they’re the best budget option out there at this price, balancing audio quality, noise cancellation and price.
They stand above the rest for the flagship-level features that have been added, 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 elite level that the Sony WH-1000XM4. The sound quality is also great, delivering strong levels of detail in the audio.
But, of course, there are limitations and the sound can feel constrained at times compared to pricier options. 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 one of the most 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