may be the dominant headphones on the market these days, but a lot of folks still appreciate a good pair of full-size over-the-ear headphones and many of the the latest top models are quite impressive. While the majority of the headphones on this are wireless and feature active noise canceling, there are a handful of more audiophile-oriented wired-only headphones on the list. Note that most wireless headphones — except the — include an audio cable, so a wired option is usually available for those seeking it.
New for this update are the following headphones: the , Edifier W820NB, Edifier Stax Spirit S3 and Technics EAH-A800. I dropped the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 because the Momentum Wireless 4 is scheduled to be released in the next few months. And we do expect to see a few more significant over-ear headphones released this summer, too.
Here’s a look at the best headphone options that go over your ears (they are also sometimes referred to as “around-the-ear” headphones). When making my picks, I considered factors such as build quality, comfort and sound quality (of course), as well as noise canceling and voice-calling performance.
Yes, they’re expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony. They also feature arguably the best noise cancellation on the market, along with premium build quality and Apple’s virtual surround-sound spatial audio feature for video watching. While they’re heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions. These are one of the best pairs of noise canceling headphones.
Read our Apple AirPods Max review.
When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony’s WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they’ve improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it’s done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $400 price tag ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of those changes are good, and Sony’s made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.
Premium noise-canceling headphones tend to cost more than $300. But what if you’re on a tight budget — what’s your best option for noise-canceling over-ear headphones?
As far as sound, comfort level and build quality, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Anker’s SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. They don’t quite have the same clarity or bass definition as some of the top premium models, but they’re less than a third of the price and get you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound: It’s well-balanced overall with punchy bass, and there’s an app that allows you to tweak the sound. The noise canceling is good for the price, though not up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Battery life is rated at an impressive 40 hours with USB-C charging.
The only area where the Q30 headphones fall a little short is voice calls. They pick up your voice fine in quieter environments, but they just don’t reduce background noise all that well.
Compared with the step-down Q20, the Q30 headphones do offer improved sound (it’s not a huge difference, but it definitely is a notch up) and a more premium design.
Sony has released its new WH-1000XM5 but the WH-1000XM4 remains on sale. While I prefer the WH-1000XM5 — it’s a little more comfortable, has improved noise canceling, more refined sound and significantly better voice-calling performance — the WH-1000XM4 is still a great headphone and some people may prefer its slightly more energetic sound and how it folds up into a smaller case than that of the WH-1000M5. It also costs less and we should see some nice discounts on it going forward.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review.
We were fans of Beyerdynamic’s earlier DT 770 Pro headphones. The new DT 700 X is easier to drive than the 770 Pro, thanks to the company’s new STELLAR.45 sound transducer with an impedance of 48 ohms, so it plays better with smartphones, tablets and laptops without requiring a headphone amp.
The headphone is targeted at content creators who want accurate audio reproduction, but it’s a bit more dynamic sounding and less bass shy than many studio headphones, which tend to restrain the bass and hew toward a very neutral sound profile. The DT 700 X is a revealing, clean-sounding headphone that offers invitingly open sound (particularly for a closed-back headphone) and makes you realize what you’re missing after listening to similarly priced Bluetooth headphones.
Unlike the earlier DT 770 Pro, which is being sold at a nice discount (around $160), the DT 700 X comes with two interchangeable (detachable) straight cables in different lengths, and the DT 700 X arguably has a little cleaner look than its predecessor.
The solidly built headphone — it weighs 350 grams — is quite comfortable, featuring upgraded soft, velour-covered memory foam earpads that offer decent passive noise isolation. The earpads and the headphones’ other parts are replaceable, Beyerdynamic says.
Beyerdynamic also sells the open-back DT 900 X for the same price. That model should provide slightly more open, airy sound but the big drawback is people around you can hear whatever you’re listening to — and sound also leaks in. This closed-back version is more versatile.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 essentially looks the same as its popular predecessor, the QuietComfort 35 II, with the biggest design difference being a USB-C port in place of the older Micro-USB. (At 238 grams, the QC45 weighs just 3 grams more than the QC35, which should be imperceptible.) And while the Bose 700 have plenty of fans, a lot of people (including me think this QuietComfort design is slightly more comfortable and the headphones fold up and fold flat. It’s arguably the most comfortable pair of headphones out there.
They also sound very similar to the QC 35 II, with no change to the drivers. Where you’ll see an improvement is with the noise cancellation (there’s a transparency mode), which very well could be the best out right now. According to Bose, there’s a new electronics package that powers the new ANC system, which now better muffles “unwanted sounds in the midrange frequencies” (voices) that you’d “typically find on commuter trains, busy office spaces and cafes.”
I found that to be true and give these the slight edge over both the Headphones 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 for noise canceling. That said, you can’t adjust the level of noise canceling like you can with those models, which offer a more robust feature set, particularly the Sony. You also can’t tweak the sound in the app; there’s no equalizer settings.
The headset performance has also improved, with better noise reduction during calls. And these offer multipoint Bluetooth pairing. That means you can pair the QC45 with two devices simultaneously — such as a smartphone and PC — and switch audio as needed. They’re equipped with Bluetooth 5.1 and support the widely compatible AAC audio codec but not AptX.
While these have advantages over the Headphones 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 and do sound quite good, those models sound slightly better: The 700 is slightly more natural sounding and tuned more for audiophiles, while the Sony has more dynamic bass. So that makes choosing between these three models that much more difficult.
Edifier makes some nice headphones and earbuds that offer good quality for your dollar. And while its Stax Spirit S3 is pretty pricey at $400, it’s essentially a value version of a high-end audiophile headphone. It features planar-magnetic drivers (with Audeze components) that deliver clean, clear, distortion-free sound. Though these aren’t noise-canceling headphones, they are wireless and are certified as hi-res. You can also use them as wired headphones, though you may want to pair them with a headphone amp in wired mode.
I found them comfortable to wear, and they’re relatively compact and reasonably weighted (329 grams) for planar magnetic headphones. Battery life is excellent at up to 80 hours of listening time at moderate volume levels, and these do have multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can simultaneously connect them to two devices (such as a smartphone and a computer). They’re also decent for making calls and come with an additional set of “cooling-mesh” ear pads for outdoor use in warmer environments.
These are built on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon audio platform and support its aptX Adaptive audio codec (along with SBC but alas, not AAC), which is capable of delivering near lossless audio if you stream from an aptX-compatible Android device or dedicated music player and subscribe to a music service such as Qobuz or Tidal that offers high-resolution tracks. Certain smartphones are now certified for Snapdragon Audio, which simply means you’re getting the best end-to-end Qualcomm solution for wireless Bluetooth streaming. I tested these headphones with the Motorola Edge Plus 2022 smartphone, which features Snapdragon Audio. How much of a difference it made is debatable, but overall I was impressed with the sound, though sound does vary with the recording quality of certain tracks (the headphones are revealing, sometimes too much so).
Planar magnetic headphones are known for delivering detailed sound with well-defined bass and clear, natural-sounding mids (where voices live). These have a balanced, flatter sound profile and while the bass is punchy and ample, it’s not quite as meaty as what you get with some headphones like Apple’s AirPods Max or Sony’s WH-1000XM5. But they sound really good. And while they’re missing some features, like ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off, and a customizable EQ (you only get a few presets along with a low-latency gaming mode), you’re ultimately buying these for their audio quality.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have been out a while but are still one of the best over-ear noise canceling headphones, with excellent sound, noise cancellation and top-notch headset performance for voice calls. Bose’s newer QuietComfort 45 headphones probably have the slight edge in terms of comfort and offer a tad better noise canceling, but the Headphones 700 arguably sound a little better with slightly more refined sound.
Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.
There’s a bit of an old-school vibe to the Technics EAH-A800 — and it’s not just the Technics brand, which Panasonic resurrected in the last few years. Their design is something of a throwback but the headphones are comfortable and both fold up and fold flat. They feature a big, energetic sound with powerful bass and good detail. However, they take a day or two to break in.
They feature ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off, as well as multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them to two devices at the same time like a computer and smartphone. Additionally, they have support for Sony’s near lossless LDAC audio codec for Bluetooth streaming that’s available on certain Android devices. I mainly listened to these headphones with an Android device and the Qobuz music service, which offers high-resolution tracks. That setup offers the best possible wireless sound quality.
The headphones are available in black and silver, and according to Panasonic, can deliver up to 50 hours of battery life at moderate volume with ANC on. That’s excellent. The EAH-A800 also works well as a headset for making calls, with eight onboard microphones for noise reduction and voice pickup.
Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay HX headphones are the successor to the company’s H9 series headphones (the X is the Roman numeral 10) and, like those earlier H9 models, the HX headphones carry a list price of $500 (some colors are discounted at Amazon). That price makes it a direct competitor of Apple’s AirPods Max, which are heavier at 385 grams versus the HX’s 285 grams. I don’t know if the HX headphones are more comfortable than the AirPods Max, but I found the two models pretty equal in the comfort department over longer listening sessions, and these do feature the usual swanky B&O lambskin-covered memory foam earpads.
The HX has custom 40mm drivers, Bluetooth 5.1 and support for Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive (that includes AptX HD) for high-resolution wireless streaming when you combine an aptX-enabled Android device with certain music-streaming services like Qobuz.
Their sound measures up well to the AirPods Max’s sound, overall well-balanced, with deep, well-defined bass, natural-sounding mids (where vocals live) and inviting detail in the treble. If you want to push the treble or bass, you can tweak the EQ in the Bang & Olufsen app for iOS and Android and give the headphones a warmer or brighter profile.
While these are expensive, they offer more accurate sound than the Sony WH-1000XM4. Their noise canceling is also very good and voice-calling capabilities are also quite solid. Additionally, they offer multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect them with a smartphone and PC simultaneously (Microsoft Swift Pair-enabled for Windows machines) so you can easily switch between the two. (The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones also have this feature.) Battery life is rated at up to 35 hours with noise canceling on and 40 hours with it off. Those are excellent numbers.
Earlier Bang & Olufsen models included a soft case (a pouch really), but the HX headphones come with a hard case. As I said, they’re expensive, but the small improvements over earlier flagship Bang & Olufsen noise-canceling headphones help make the HX headphones a worthy alternative to the AirPods Max.
Edifier makes some good-sounding PC speakers and true-wireless earbuds, and it’s done a nice job with its W820NB noise-canceling headphones. The first thing you’ll notice about them when you put them on is that they’re comfortable — the earpads are nicely cushioned and the headphones fit snugly on your head. They also sound good for their price, offering just enough clarity and decent bass performance. Their sound didn’t blow me away, but I was fine listening to these headphones for a while; they sound pretty pleasant.
There’s also an ambient mode that lets outside sound in and a low-latency gaming mode. They’re decent enough for voice calling and battery life is pretty impressive, with up to 49 hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels (and noise canceling off).
A couple of things are missing. There’s no carrying case or headphone jack — they’re Bluetooth only. But the 820NB headphones are still a good value.
JBL’s Tour One are the company’s 2021 flagship pair of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphone and they’re very good. Not only are they comfortable to wear, with nicely padded earcups and a relatively light design, but they also deliver strong sound quality. The bass is punchy, there’s good clarity and the headphones have a pretty wide soundstage. I also like the touch controls, and the adaptive noise canceling is solid and so too is headset performance for voice calling. Battery life is rated at 25 hours with noise cancellation on and up to 50 hours with it off.
In a lot of ways, particularly their design (and sound, to a degree), the Tour One headphones are quite similar to the Sony WH-1000XM4. Even their cases look alike. But the Tour One model isn’t quite as good as the WH-1000XM4 and is missing a couple of the WH-1000XM4’s features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing.
V-Moda’s M-200 are one of the few wired headphones on this list. Released in late 2019, these clean and detailed sounding over-ear headphones have excellent bass response, and the cushy earcups mean they’re also comfortable to wear. Featuring 50mm drivers with neodymium magnets, CCAW voice coils and fine-tuning by Roland engineers — yes, V-Moda is now owned by Roland — the M‑200 is Hi‑Res Audio-certified by the Japan Audio Society. Other V-Moda headphones tend to push the bass a little, but this set has the more neutral profile that you’d expect from studio monitor headphones. They come with two cords, one of which has a built-in microphone for making calls. It would be nice if V-Moda offered Lightning or USB-C cables for phones without headphone jacks.
Note that last year V-Moda released the M-200 ANC ($500), a wireless version of these headphones that includes active noise canceling. They also sound great, but their noise cancellation, call quality and overall feature set don’t match those of the AirPods Max.
Introduced way back in 1991, the Sony MDR-7506 has long been a favorite headphone of recording engineers and other sound professionals (yes, these are wired headphones). The origins of its design date even further back, since the MDR-7506 headphones are, in fact, a refresh of the Sony MDR-V6 that rolled out in 1985. Both models were designed for the pro sound market, but remain hugely popular with consumers.
While the two models have the same design and are very comfortable, they don’t sound identical. Both offer very well-balanced sound and excellent clarity for their modest prices — and both are great overall values. But the MDR-V6 headphones make a little more bass and sound more laid-back and mellow, while the 7506 headphones are leaner with a more accentuated treble range, which makes the sound a little crisper and livelier.
Read our Sony MDR 7506 review.
Grado has upgraded its entry-level line of Prestige Series wired headphones for 2022. Hand-built, the line includes the SR60x, SR80x, SR125x, SR225x and SR325x, and they’re all very good at their various prices. Arguably, however, the $225 SR225x headphones hit the sweet spot if you’re looking for open-back audiophile-grade headphones that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
This updated model features a more durable eight-conductor cable infused with “super annealed” copper for “improved purity of the audio signal,” a more comfortable headband design and updated fourth-generation 44mm drivers that further cut down on distortion and are also more energy-efficient, making them easier to drive. I not only used these headphones with an external headphone amplifier attached to my computer but with an iPhone using a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter. They had plenty of volume when connected directly to the iPhone.
Open-back headphones are supposed to produce more open sound and these do just that, with powerful, controlled bass and natural, warm-sounding mids (where vocals live) along with excellent overall clarity. Stepping up to the SRS325x should give you a little bit more bass energy, but you’re not looking at a big jump in sound quality. As with any open-back headphones, these do leak some sound, so people around you can hear what you’re listening to.
These headphones have semisoft foam earpads that, when you first put them on, you wouldn’t think would be that comfortable over longer listening sessions. But they end up being more comfortable than you’d expect and the new headband design does help in that department. For entry-level audiophile-grade headphones that cost less than $250, it’s hard to do better than the SR225x.
Some people, particularly weightlifters, like to work out in full-size headphones, and the BackBeat Fit 6100 over-the-ear wireless headphones are a very solid choice for both the gym and everyday use. They have an adjustable sport-fit headband, an IPX5-rated water-resistant and sweat-proof design, 40mm angled drivers and noise-isolating earcups with an “Awareness” mode. Battery life is rated at 24 hours. The sound quality is quite good and the headphones stay on your head securely — you can adjust the tension in the headband, which is innovative and ideal for exercise headphones.
Note that Plantronics has discontinued its entire BackBeat headphones line, so this model should drift out of the market by year’s end. It started out at $180 and now costs half that and usually even less.
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