The 5 best over-ear headphones in 2021 for audiophiles, wireless users, and budget shoppers

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  • Over-ear headphones tend to offer better sound performance than earbuds.
  • The perfect pair of over-ear headphones blend impressive audio quality with a comfortable design.
  • That’s why we think the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are the best over-ear headphones you can buy.

Over-ear headphones are the ultimate in comfort and sound quality, but they aren’t always very portable like wireless earbuds.

If you decide that over-ear headphones are the right choice for you, then there are a few key things you should look for before you buy any old pair. For starters, you’ll want to think about whether you want a wired or wireless pair. Wired headphones generally sound better, though the difference might not be noticeable for most people, while wireless headphones are more convenient, because you cut the cord out of the equation.

You’ll also want to consider the type of driver inside the headphones. This won’t matter for most people, but audiophiles who want a ton of clarity and detail might want to consider a pair of planar magnetic or electrostatic headphones for the best performance.

Perhaps the most important thing to think about when looking for a new pair of headphones is budget. Audiophiles will be the first to tell you that it’s easy to spend thousands on a great pair of headphones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quality model for much less. With all this in mind, we’ve rounded up the best over-ear headphones for a variety of price points.

Here are the best over-ear headphones you can buy:

The best over-ear headphones overall

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO headphones may not be cheap, but the sound quality of these cans makes them absolutely worth the price.

Pros: Amazing sound quality, extremely comfortable

Cons: Expensive, bulky, not wireless, open-back design lets in outside sound

If you’re simply looking for the best over-ear headphones out there and don’t care too much about anything else, then the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO headphones are the way to go. These headphones may be a little pricey, but they’re built with the recording studio in mind, and they’re made specifically to deliver a powerful yet natural sound.

There are a few reasons these headphones sound so good. For starters, unlike most headphones these days, the DT 1990 PRO feature an open-back design. That means outside noise can get in, and your music can be easily heard by those around you, but it also helps create a much more natural sound with a wide soundstage. Open-back headphones are perfect for those who plan on listening to music at home by themselves.

On top of the open-back design, the headphones feature plenty of padding, replaceable and removable cables, and more. The sound-quality on these headphones, however, is where they really shine. They’re slightly bass-forward with plenty of midrange support and a ton of detail in the high-end. With more detail, instruments sound defined and separate, which makes for an awesome listening experience.

So what’s the downside? Well, the main one is price. They’re also a little bulky, though considering they’re really built for home use, that may not be an issue.

The best wireless over-ear headphones

sennhesier momentum 3

The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 headphones are the complete package, offering excellent sound quality, a comfortable fit, and wireless support.

Pros: Excellent design, wireless, great sound quality, comfortable, noise cancellation

Cons: Expensive, noise cancellation isn’t on par with models from Sony and Bose

Sennheiser is known for building some of the best headphones on the market, and the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 headphones are no exception to that rule. The headphones are beautifully designed, super comfortable, sound great, and even offer noise cancellation.

There are a ton of reasons to love these headphones, but the biggest reason is how great they sound. The headphones may not be the most accurate sounding headphones in the world, but they offer a fun listening experience.

For example, while there’s a little extra bass, it’s not too over-the-top. The mids are well-tuned, and the highs offer plenty of detail and clarity. They may not be as detailed as a pair of high-end wired headphones, but when it comes to wireless headphones in this price range, these are the best for audio performance. 

The headphones offer some great smart features too. They have noise cancellation, and while it’s not quite as good as Bose’s or Sony’s, it’s still effective. They even have Tile tracking built into them, so you shouldn’t ever lose them.

The best noise-cancelling over-ear headphones

Sony wh-1000xm4

Sony’s WH-1000XM4 are our go-to pair of headphones when we look for a balance of sound quality and noise-cancelling performance. 

Pros: Impressive sound quality, customizable sound, excellent noise cancellation, comfortable, long battery life, wireless

Cons: Expensive at full price

We picked the Sony WH-1000XM4 over the Bose 700 in this category because, while both headphones have similar noise-cancelling performance, the XM4s have a few advantages when it comes to portability. Most notably, the XM4s can fold up to make them easier to transport and they have longer battery life.

Don’t expect studio-grade accuracy here — the XM4s are meant to be a high-quality pair of headphones for “most people” to enjoy their music rather than audiophiles. With that in mind, they have a great range for bass, mids, and highs, and they handily produce clear and detailed sound. They’re also highly adaptable to your tastes thanks to adjustable settings via the app. 

Noise-cancelling performance is among the best you can find. The XM4s easily cancel unwanted noises in home and office settings, and they’re perfect for travel and commuting. 

With great quality and noise cancellation, however, comes a pretty high price tag for Bluetooth headphones. That said, the XM4s often get price cuts that bring them down closer to the $300 mark, and sometimes even lower. If you’re looking for a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones that won’t disappoint with audio quality, go for the Sony WH-1000XM4.

The best mid-range over-ear headphones

beyerdynamic

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones may not be the prettiest around, but their sound quality is unrivaled in this price range.

Pros: Excellent sound quality, good value for money

Cons: Bulky, no removable cable, no wireless support

Beyerdynamic may claim the top spot on our list with the expensive Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO headphones, but it turns out the company makes some pretty great budget headphones, too. Case in point: The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones. This model features an affordable price and offers excellent value for the money.

While these headphones may not be wireless or have noise cancellation, they do offer fantastic sound quality. The DT 770 PRO boast plenty of bass without going too far over the top, a well-tuned midrange, and a good amount of clarity and detail in the high-end.

Of course, the headphones aren’t perfect. They’re largely suited for home listening rather than anything else, and they’re a bit bulky because of that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s still something to keep in mind. The headphones also don’t have a removable cable, which is a little frustrating for some.

Still, despite those issues, most reviewers love the headphones. PCMag gave them 4.5/5 stars, while CNET gave them 8/10.

The best affordable over-ear headphones

Audi Technica headphones

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are an ideal choice for buyers who want a budget-friendly pair of over-ear headphones that still sound great.

Pros: Comfortable, 40mm drivers with excellent sound for the price

Cons: Bass response is lacking, no wireless support

Though they are a step down from our other picks, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x over-ear headphones perform remarkably well for their price.

The entry-level pair of studio headphones use an over-ear design with 40mm drivers. Bass isn’t particularly impactful, but the headphones offer impressive audio performance for their class, with pleasing high- and mid-range sound quality. Again, these aren’t audiophile level, but they get the job done very well for everyday listening.

Comfort and build are also strong thanks to the cushioned headband and padded ear cups. While the headphones don’t feature wireless connectivity or active noise cancellation, the cups actually provide solid noise isolation so outside sounds won’t bother you as much while listening.

As a brand, Audio-Technica is known for higher end headphone models, like the M50x and M70x, but for such a budget-friendly price, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x provide a very nice value.

Check out our other headphone buying guides

Apple AirPods Pro

The best noise-cancelling headphones


The best earbuds


The best true wireless earbuds


The best cheap headphones

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