Top five best on-ear headphones for 2020
By Oliver Trebilcock
Article 2 of 3
We round up the best on-ear headphones to help you choose a pair with crystal-clear sound and optimum comfort.
On-ear headphones suit those looking for more compact and portable headphones than over-ear models, but don't get on with in-ear and earbud pairs. Wireless pairs will often have better battery life than in-ear pairs, too. We round up the best on-ear headphones to buy.
Below we've listed the best on-ear headphones on the market this year, so you can get great sound and stay comfortable whether you're on the go or at home.
Find the top headphones available by seeing our expert guide to the best headphones.
Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Best on-ear headphones
For those who don't want the bulk of over-ear headphones, these on-ear headphones are an excellent choice. They have fantastic sound and good build quality, and they fold into a compact shape to store in their carrying case. NFC support means you can connect them to your smartphone simply by touching your smartphone to the NFC symbol on the headphones.
These on headphones are ideal for your commute, with excellent active noise cancelling to block out unwanted background noise. They sound excellent and are comfortable as well - plus conveniently fold up into their provided carry case for easy storage. The safety issue only applies to very early batches and relates to the carry pouch.
If you love listening through headphones at home and want to do away with wires, these could be the perfect pair. They make for very immersive listening and have nice retro looks. They have a lovely warm, natural tone with a wide range of sound frequencies produced and plenty of detail.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at February 2020.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.
And here are three on-ear headphones to avoid
You don't want to waste your money on a pair of headphones that won't do your music justice. The worst on-ear models will be so horribly tight and uncomfortable on your ears that you won't want to listen for long, and can make your music sound like a booming mess or pathetically tinny. Make sure you avoid the models in the table below – they're some of the worst on-ear headphones we've ever seen.
On-ear headphones to avoid
These affordable headphones may have barely passable noise cancelling technology, but the headphones themselves are heavy, hot and uncomfortable to war. Sound is muffled, dull and lacking in detail. Battery life is also well below the manufacturer's claims. Avoid.
You'd be downright disappointed if you spent your money on these plasticky headphones. They're the wireless versions of the pair featured above, but they're every bit as bad at playing your music. Booming bass and a complete lack of detail mean that you'll be struggling to hear what your favourite artists are singing in their songs.
Don’t be fooled by the popularity of these headphones – people are being bought into the classic brand and don’t know what they’re missing. We'd love for these to sound as good as they look, but they don't. They sound thin, artificial and bright, with a poorly-integrated thick, thumping bass.
Wireless on-ear headphones
One of the first important decisions to make is whether you'd like to buy wired or wireless on-ear headphones. While you have to remember to charge them, many will choose wireless headphones to free themselves from untangling wires. Many smartphones also don't come with a headphones socket, so you have to use an adaptor or buy wireless headphones. The good news is that you don't have to spend too much to get a great on-ear wireless pair – we've reviewed an excellent Best Buy model for around £50.
As you go up the price brackets from here you'll get more features, such as active noise cancelling to cut out background noise from the train, bus or plane while commuting or travelling. Some models such as many from Sony come with a companion smartphone app that will allow you to change sound and other settings to your personal preferences on the headphones, such as adjusting levels of bass and treble.
If you're worried about your children damaging their hearing by listening to music too loud, there are quite a few on-ear models designed specifically for kids. These include built-in volume limiters so kids can't raise the volume to dangerous levels.
The best headphones for your hearing, whether you're an adult or a child, will be ones that block out as much external noise as possible so you don't have to turn your music up too loud to hear it. If you tend to listen in noisy environments, look for noise-cancelling models if you can (although these are often more expensive). But even some standard headphones with a good, tight fit will block out a lot of the noise from around you.