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Best over-ear headphones: Over-ears for kids and professional users

If you’re looking to pick up a new pair of headphones, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a list of the best over-ears we’ve reviewed recently. 

A good pair of headphones is an essential piece of tech for any music lover, traveller or commuter and the over-ear style is one of the most effective for enveloping the ear and blocking out unwanted noise, with or without the help of ANC. Many also find over-ears to be more comfortable than on-ear or in-ear headphones. 

We’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best pair of over-ears for you. We look at a wide range of criteria when reviewing headphones, which includes the design, features and audio performance of each pair and run battery tests to give you an idea of whether they can match their claims. 

This list includes a pair of over-ears for a variety of situations, including the best pair for kids, the best wireless over-ears, the best premium ones and the best studio cans. 

If you’re not settled on over-ears just yet, you may want to check out some of our other headphone lists. These include the best wireless headphones and the best wireless earbuds, while if you’re interested in blocking out distractions then best noise-cancelling headphones might be more up your alley. Anyone of the sporting persuasion should check out our best running headphones and for a complete overview, check our best headphones page.

How we test

How we test headphones

Not just anybody can review a pair of headphones. You don’t need superhuman hearing to tell what’s good, but you do need to know what to listen out for.

Our headphone tests are done by some of the best and most prolific reviewers in the industry, with years of experience listening to everything from the plasticky freebie earbuds that come with your smartphone, to five-figure beasts of glass and marble. We love music and we want your tunes to sound good, too.

So we listen every pair of headphones we can get on or in our ears. We use a variety of sources, from basic MP3s playing on a laptop to high-quality tracks on dedicated hi-res audio players.

Our test tracks are wide-ranging to give headphones a thorough challenge. They’re also familiar, so we know every track backwards, and we know which bits might trouble the lesser performers.

We listen again and again, and we do that for weeks in case the sound changes – because it usually does. Then we’ll listen to similarly priced rivals and come up with a verdict that reflects the performance and features for the money.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best wireless over-ears
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Pros

  • Excellent comfort
  • Musical, rich audio performance
  • Impressively clean and natural noise cancellation
  • Superb Ambient Mode
  • Great call quality

Cons

  • Don’t fold anymore
  • Connection can get choppy in busy areas
  • No water resistance
  • Slight jump in RRP

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are the best wireless over-ears we’ve reviewed, following up on the success of their popular predecessors. 

The WH-1000XM5’s biggest change from before is a change in look. They sport a modern modern look to, and ditch the ability to be collapsed, a change that is meant to help with noise cancellation, which we found reaped benefits with less noticeable wind noise detected than on the WH-1000XM4. They’re super comfortable to wear, the redesigned earpads and cushions create a solid seal, while at around 255g, they’re one of the lightest noise cancelling over-ears available.

The noise cancelling itself is excellent, the call quality is class-leading while the battery life remains the same as before, it 30 hours with ANC on matches the likes of the B&W Px7 S2 and is better than either the Bose QuietComfort 45 and AirPods Max. There’s Speak-to-Chat setting brings convenience, pausing music when you’re talking, the Quick Attention mode allows you hear your surrounding environment, and there’s built-in voice assistance available from both Google and Alexa. The Adaptive Sound Control detects and logs locations in the Sony Headphones app, allowing you to build custom sound profiles based on the places you frequent. The XM5 are a feature-packed wireless headphone.

When it comes to sound quality, there’s support for LDAC that’s useful for listening to higher quality tracks from streaming services. We found the midrange to be rich and detailed, the headphones feature a boost in the low and high frequencies over the XM4, with instruments sounding better defined and more focussed. This all contributes to a performance that’s more refined sound than their immediate predecessor.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

Meze Audio Liric

Best premium over-ears
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Pros

  • Transparent and revealing performers
  • Premium construction
  • Cosy to wear

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Needs high quality tracks and sources
  • Not strictly portable

If you’re something with audiophile tastes we’d recommend taking a look at the Meze Audio Liric. These are wired headphones (so no wireless support here), and the build quality is excellent, constructed from high-grade magnesium, leather and aluminium that offers a sleek minimalist look, The earcups are large in size, which makes them less suited for small heads, but they are comfortable to wear thanks to the padded ear cups that envelope the ears. 

There aren’t as many features as you would get from a pair of wireless headphones, but the Liric have an impressively wide frequency response of 4Hz to 92kHz for better reproduction of low and high frequencies. This is filtered through Rinaro’s Isodynamic Hybrid Array M24 driver that uses the company’s Phase-X system that it claims improves spatial sound imaging for a more faithful reproduction. The Ear pad Air Flow (EAF) system is another feature onboard, which aims to optimise acoustic volume and reduce the size of the earcup chamber, though that makes us wonder how big it would have been without this technology inside.. 

Audio performance is where the Liric shines. It’s a soundstage that’s big in scope and full of detail; the stereo image is brought close to the listener, which gives the impression of instruments and voices appearing much closer to our ears. The Liric are a revealing and transparent pair of headphones, so it would be wise to consider pairing them with an equally capable source such as an Astell & Kern SP2000T. We found that with a capable source, bass levels improved by giving the headphone more detail to feed off on. If you want to hear your music in high quality, the Liric are a skilful, well-balanced pair of wired over-ears to consider. The $2000 / £1799 price is expensive, but they’re worth it for the quality they exude.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Meze Audio Liric

Shure SRH840A

Best studio over-ears
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Pros

  • Flat enough for mastering use
  • A better-looking, more practical design than the previous version
  • Enjoyable enough to use as all-round home headphones

Cons

  • Low-mid bump affects separation and dimensionality
  • Single semi-proprietary 3m cable limits their versatility

The Shure SRH840A are an affordable pair of home studio-grade reference headphones that are ideal if you value sound quality above all else. 

They are the follow up to the SRH840 from years ago, built from a mix of aluminium, plastic, synthetic leather and a fabric weave, with a redesigned headband that tracks closer to the shape of the head than that of their predecessor. As such, we found these improvements to be positive ones, ensuring good comfort as the breathable headband and firm ear cup pads enabled our reviewer to wear them for up to six hours with no obvious fatigue. 

The headphones come with a long 3m cable, which limits their portability, making them well-suited for listening around the home but less ideal for using out and about. Given they are home studio-grade reference headphones, it wouldn’t make sense to use these outside of the home.

The sound of the SRH840A is similar to their predecessor with the same 5–25000Hz frequency response and low impedance for use with non-specialist hardware. They have the neutrality required of a pair of monitor headphones with some thickness in the upper bass and low mids to avoid sounding sterile. The bass is measured and punchy and the sound width is good, but we were less impressed by the sense of depth in the soundstage. 

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full Review: Shure SRH840A

Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones

Best over-ears for children
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Pros

  • Volume limited to protect small ears
  • Fun designs
  • Affordable prices

Cons

  • Poor tonal balance
  • All the pairs I tested require a 3.5mm jack
  • The multifunction button doesn’t work with some devices

If you’re a parent in need of a pair of over-ears suitable for children, then we’d recommend giving the Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones a go. 

We’ve tested the wireless version of these headphones and found them be effective, the wired models are just as cute in appearance for the younger ones, but the headline feature here is that they are volume limited to 85dB. This is the volume level WHO recommend to protect small ears from developing noise-induced hearing loss. 

The headphones come in a variety of adorable designs, from the vibrant Olive the Owls, to the eared Pippin the Pandas and the customisable Colour and Swaps. All are soft and adjustable and some fold up to slip into carry pouches as well. These headphones are quite light on features. The Olive the Owl and Colour and Swap pairs feature multi-function buttons on their cables, while the Pippin the Pandas actually have two ports so kids can listen to music and watch movies with friends. 

We did find the volume limit subdued some of the dynamism produced by these headphones, and there’s much in the way of detail but the bass still has a good amount of presence and it feels like a worthy trade off to protect your kids ears. For adults, consider the PuroPro Hybrid ANC headphones which also have volume limited technology inside.

Reviewer: Hannah Davies
Full Review: Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones

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FAQs

Why are volume limited headphones good for kids?

The Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones cannot be pushed past 85dB, which is the limit recommended by the World Health Organisation to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss. This can be especially useful on kids headphones as children might not recognise when their music is too loud.

What is ANC?

ANC stands for Active Noise Cancelling, a feature designed to block out distractions and outside noise when you wear your headphones.

Why would I want over-ear headphones?

Over-ear headphones have larger ear cups that envelope the ears and generally offer better passive noise isolation. You might also find them to be more comfortable than on-ear headphones, but this comes down to personal preference.

Comparison specs

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