Top five best on-ear headphones for 2021
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.
Best on-ear headphones
Pricing and recommendations correct as of January 2021.
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.
Wireless vs 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.