Over-ear headphones remain one of the best ways to block out background noise, get a little privacy, and enjoy rich sound from larger drivers that earbuds just can’t replicate (plus they keep your ears warm when it’s cold out). Add in noise cancellation, useful sensors, transparency modes, and high-quality wireless connections, and you end up with some of the best over-ear models available — starting with the exemplary.
If you have something else in mind, don’t worry — our top picks will cover the best over-ear models for wireless sound, gaming, studio work, and more.
Best all-around over-ear headphones
- Very comfortable
- Excellent sound quality
- Excellent noise canceling
- Very good call quality
- Very good battery life
- Bluetooth multi-device pairing
- Handy, customizable features
- No aptX or aptX HD
We don’t give out many five-star reviews to headphones, but one of the few goes to Sony’s incredible WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones, featuring LDAC connection support designed to be three times the quality of a standard Bluetooth connection so you don’t lose anything by going wireless. There’s also excellent active noise cancellation, plus sensors that can automatically drop you into an ambient sound mode when they sense you talking or pause music when you aren’t wearing the headphones.
These headphones also support multiple devices, which means they can automatically switch between your phone and computer, etc. If you’re looking for wireless headphones with excellent features that support incredible audio experiences for music, these are the ones for you. We’re also fans of the design, which provides a very secure fit over your ears without getting uncomfortable over time. Oh, and battery life is also some of the best around, too, at 30 hours with noise-canceling turned on and 38 hours when it’s off.
Sennheiser HD 560S
Best for music
- Excellent open-back design for audiophiles
- Angled 38mm drivers
- Not great when there's lots of background noise
Are you looking for over-ear headphones specifically to zone out and enjoy some of your favorite songs? Check out the Seinheiser HD 560s. These headphones from the prestigious German audio product maker use 38mm drivers specifically designed to meet audiophile standards and are angled for maximum compatibility with your ears. They also use an open-back design, which is made to help clarify audio even further (although you’ll want to be in an area with low levels of background noise to truly enjoy it).
The headphones come with a detachable 3.5mm cable and a design that’s more lightweight (just over 8 ounces) than many headsets targeted at audiophiles. They’re a good, affordable choice for everything from rocking out in your home to plugging in a calming soundscape while working and studying.
Apple AirPods Max
Best for Apple users
- Best-in-class ANC
- Amazing transparency mode
- Excellent build quality
- Excellent sound quality
- Top-notch call quality
- Charges via Lightning cable
- Heavy on head
Apple’s AirPods Max go big — in many ways. They have heavily padded earcups for better noise isolation, big high-tech controls featuring Apple’s Digital Crown, and big support for higher-end audio formats like Apple’s own Spatial Audio and head-tracking that can dynamically adjust the sound as you move around your environment. Thanks to Apple’s M1 chip, the headset is also super-compatible with Apple devices and Siri automation, as well as having tons of customization options for its controls.
The AirPods Max also have excellent sound — maybe not quite equal to some of our audiophile recommendations, but near enough to make little difference. The shifts between active noise cancellation and the transparency mode are especially impressive here. The only major downside to these headphones is that you lose some functionality if you aren’t on an Apple device — and they take up quite a bit of room.
SteelSeries Arctis Pro with GameDAC
Best for serious gamers
- Comfortable design
- Excellent mic
- Included GameDAC for amplifying and adjusting audio
- Not every gamer may want to use a DAC
- Wired design (although wireless options are available)
Gamers often prefer a sturdy over-ear headset to help pinpoint audio cues and discern where environmental noises like footsteps are coming from — or to just enjoy high-quality sound for their favorite, less competitive games. The Arctis Pro is an excellent wired gaming headset on its own, with a design that features an adjustable suspension headband to distribute weight and stave off headaches during long gaming sessions. There’s also an Arctis ClearCast bidirectional mic with voice cancellation to enable clear, effective communication when you need it.
But add in the GameDAC, and this headset rises to a whole other level. This DAC amplifies and optimizes audio from gaming sources like PlayStations or PCs to enhance every detail while allowing you to effortlessly control audio balance, chat mix, volume, and other key settings while you play.
Of course, some gamers (especially those on the sofa instead of at a desktop) find wired headsets hard to use. Don’t worry: The Arctis Pro is also available as a wired model, minus the DAC but plus some enhanced Bluetooth support for low-latency audio. You may also want to take a look at the Corsair HS80 headset, an alternative we particularly like.
Best for studio work
- Highly detailed and precise sound
- Mids and highs are incredibly clear
- Top-notch materials
- Very comfortable
- Balanced audio cable and input
- Restrained bass response
- Flat EQ won’t be to everyone’s liking
- Earcups may crowd larger ears
Over-ear headphones are also an important choice for any studio and sound editing work, as they provide the most audio information possible while also keeping out background noises for accurate feedback. There are many studio headphones, but one of our top favorites is this model from V-MODA. It includes excellent 50mm neodynium drivers and CCAQ voice coils designed for mixing and mastering, with fine-tuning provided by the likes of Roland. The headphones also use memory foam cushions and a sweat-resistant padded headband that are suitable for hours of work. The design also incorporates two-cable audio, with the left port used as a standard headphone jack and the right port and cable is for those who have access to a balanced stereo output. It’s perfect for studio work because it eliminates almost all interference.
The kit for the M-200 is simple but offers a mic attachment and a gold-plated 1.4-inch adapter. Those serious about their audio work will find the headset to be an excellent companion and worthy investment.
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