Top five best over-ear headphones for 2021
Over-ear headphones are the largest style of headphones, completely encasing your ears for the ultimate in comfort and sound. Many pairs also feature active noise cancelling – perfect for peace and quiet when commuting by bus or train, or for frequent flyers to cut out plane noise. They can often be more costly than other headphone types, so it's important to choose well. We round up the very best pairs available.
Below we've listed the best over-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 over-ear headphones
Pricing and recommendations correct as of January 2021.
Over-ear headphones to avoid
Over-ear headphones are expensive, so it's important you make the right choice first time rather than wasting money on a dud. The worst models we've seen are uncomfortable around your ears and sound terrible – one even adds a background hiss to everything you listen to. You'll definitely want to avoid the models we've listed in the table below.
Advantages of over-ear headphones
They may take up more space in your bag, but the biggest advantage of over-ear headphones is comfort. It can be hard to find a pair of in-ear headphones that will fit your ears properly, and for longer listening periods in-ear headphones can become irritating. On-ear headphones put pressure on your ears and can start to hurt over long periods, and aren't quite as good at blocking out external noise as over-ear pairs. A solid pair of over-ear headphones provides a physical barrier between your ears and the outside world, which is why active noise cancelling is a feature most often found in over-ear headphones.
Sound quality is slightly less clear cut. Technically it is possible for in-ear headphones to sound just as good as over-ear ones, but in practice this is completely dependent on how they fit inside your ear, making sound quality of in-ear headphones more temperamental. Small movements inside your ear will have a big effect on the levels of bass and treble that you experience, so it's far easier for a manufacturer to produce a consistent-sounding over-ear model, and easier for you to be confident you'll get a fit that'll deliver the best sound the headphones offer so you don't lose out.
Using Bluetooth wireless over-ear headphones
Many prefer wireless headphones to free themselves from tangled wires and to not have to worry about accidentally yanking the cable out if you step away from your computer for a second. In addition, many smartphones now lack a dedicated headphones socket, so you either need an adaptor or to buy Bluetooth wireless headphones.
Over-ear Bluetooth models benefit from a generally longer battery life compared with in-ear and on-ear wireless models. This is simply because they're big enough to fit bigger batteries in, giving you more listening time even when they add in extra features such as active noise cancelling. A good pair will give you over 20 hours of listening time – more than enough to get through even the most intensive day of use.