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Best Over-Ear Headphones: The best wired and wireless pairs

If you’re someone who prefers the comfort of full-sized headphones, we’ve put together this list to help you choose the best pair of over-ears.

A good pair of headphones is an essential piece of tech for any music lover, traveller, or office user. 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

This list includes a pair of over-ears for a variety of situations, including the best pairs for childrens, the best wireless over-ears, the best for audiophiles, what’s best for office use, and other options besides. 

If you want to check out some of our other headphone lists we have best wireless headphones and the best wireless earbuds, while if you’re interested in blocking out distractions then have a look at our best noise-cancelling headphones.

Anyone of the sporting persuasion should check out our best running headphones and for a complete overview, check our best headphones page.

Best over-ear headphones at a glance:

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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  • Musical, rich audio performance
  • Impressively clean and natural noise cancellation
  • Superb Ambient Mode
  • Great call quality
  • Less expensive than Bose


  • Non-foldable design
  • Choppy wireless comfort in busy areas
  • Not the best for ANC

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are Sony’s latest premium wireless over-ears, following up on the success of their popular predecessors. The biggest change from the previous model is how they look. They sport a modern modern look to, and ditch the ability to be collapsed, a change that’s meant to help the noise cancellation peformance, which we found reaped benefits with less noticeable wind noise detected than on the WH-1000XM4.

They’re comfortable to wear, with the redesigned earpads and heading creating a solid enough clamping force and seal; while at around 255g, they’re one of the lightest noise cancelling over-ears around.

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.

The Speak-to-Chat feature that 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. These headphones pack plenty of convienience for the everyday user.

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 Empyrean II

Best audiophile over-ears
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The Empyrean II are a remarkable pair of headphones for those who want to listen to music in the best quality possible.

Priced at £2749 / $2999, you’ll need a capable amplifier and higher quality sources to take advantage of what the Meze headphones offer but according to our reviewer, the Meze will happily deal with low quality sources as long as you’ve got a decent amplifier to give music a boost. If it’s an uncompromised performance that you want, the Meze Empyrean II deliver on that front.

The presentation is neutral one that boasts remarkable levels of detail retreival and resolution. Our reviewer found their tonal balance from the bottom to the top end of the frequency range to be impeccable. The low end is conveyed with depth, texture, and substance, while the midrange is full of information. They’re an engaging, energetic, and entertaining listen.

The headphones are on the large side, but they’re comfortable to wear even after several hours thanks to the suspension wings and headband that help balance weight across the head. Earpads are included, and swapping them out is easy enough thanks to Rinaro’s isomagnetic coupling technology. Meze offers five different cable types at different lengths, so overall you get a choice of ten different cables to suit your set-up when ordering the headphones.

Reviewer: Simon Lucas
Full Review: Meze Empyrean II

Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones

Best budget over-ears for children
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  • Volume limited to protect small ears
  • Fun designs
  • Affordable prices


  • 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, we’d recommend giving the Planet Buddies Volume Limited Headphones a look. 

We’ve tested the wireless version of these headphones and found them be effective, and 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

Poly Voyager Surround 80 UC

Best over-ears for the office
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  • Very comfortable design
  • Lots of connectivity options
  • Great mic quality


  • Large design
  • Not very portable
  • No stated Bluetooth codec support

Since the pandemic, there’s been a rise in people using headphones for online meetings, but rather than using the a pair of headphones that might not offer the best call quality, why not get a pair designed specifically for the task?

That’s where the Poly Voyager Surround 80 UC enters the discussion. Available in a few different configurations, the version we tested is rather expensive but if you look around £259 is one of the cheaper prices on offer (and far less than the £466 quoted on some sites).

They’re not the smallest headphones for an over-ear, an aspect our reviewer had qualms with, but they’re comfortable to wear as using them across a full workday, the reviewer noted there was heat build-up that they noticed, nor any skin irritation. Build quality is sturdy and well-constructed, which you’d expect for the outlay.

The noise-cancellation is effective, not quite up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM5, but strong enough to drown out the drone of an everyday office. Wireless call quality is excellent, with the ten ‘boomless’ mics working well to capture your voice and render it clearly. Use the USB connection and we noted an even better call quality performance.

Bluetooth multipoint is supported for connecting to two devices at once, while there’s certification with Microsoft Teams.

And if you were to use these headphones for music, then they put in a good performance. Bass is generally warm and energetic, working well wiht genres such as punk and dance that require plenty of bass. Clarity in the treble region allows for good levels of detail, and there’s a nice degree of stereo separation too. We don’t feel you’d be disappointed if you were to use these headphones for music while you work. For a cheaper option there’s the Logitech Zone Vibe Wireless, although these office headphones don’t boast noise-cancellation.

Reviewer: Sean Cameron
Full Review: Poly Voyager Surround 80 UC

AirPods Max

Best Apple over-ears
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  • Wonderful, versatile sound
  • Many clever design elements and strong build quality
  • Spatial audio can be immersive for the apps that support it
  • Strong connection to the Apple ecosystem


  • Lack of ‘off’ button is annoying
  • The included case is bad in just about every way
  • Heavy and can’t be folded down
  • The high price can’t be ignored

The AirPods Max are Apple’s only over-ear headphones, and as a result they offer the best iOS integration of all the headphones on this list. 

The AirPods Max have a striking design with large metal cups, a mesh band and a dial that’s cribbed from the Apple Watch. Despite being far heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Bose QC Ultra Headphones, the AirPods remain comfortable to wear with their weight distributed across the headband to the point where we could barely feel them at all. 

However, there’s no IP rating, so we wouldn’t recommend using them at the gym, but very few over-ear headphones have an IP rating anyway. The physical buttons and dial make it easy to move through tracks, adjust the volume and toggle between noise cancellation and transparency modes, while the ANC itself is some of the best around with the adaptive setting doing a fantastic job of altering the noise cancellation levels to fit your environment. 

The transparency mode is excellent too, and the addition of spatial audio makes Disney Plus and Apple TV+ content feel much grander and less flat than it does with a regular pair of over-ears. However, some features like spatial audio and seamless quick device switching are only supported on iOS devices. 

When it comes to audio performance the AirPods Max are excellent, though perhaps not as big of an improvement over the Bose and Sony headphones to justify the higher price. The custom 40mm driver, dual H1 chips and adaptive EQ work together to offer a balanced and versatile sound that impressed us across a wide range of songs and genres. There’s plenty of bass and higher frequencies never sound harsh or distorted, 

The 20-hour battery life should get you through a long flight but it isn’t class-leading and the storage case offers little protection. However, if you’re looking for a pair of Apple-centric over-ears, you won’t find better than the AirPods Max. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: AirPods Max

Shure SRH840A

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


  • 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, 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, 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. A less expensive option to consider is Shure’s own SRH440A, which can be had for less than £100 / $100.

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full Review: Shure SRH840A

Puro BT2200 Plus

Best over-ears for kids
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  • Comfortable to wear
  • Good quality sound
  • Long battery life
  • Better build quality than you’d expect


  • Wired performance is a letdown
  • Shaky wireless performance in busy signal areas
  • Relatively expensive for kids headphones

We’ve tested a few headphones designed for adults from Puro, but the BT2200 Plus are the first model we’ve really tested of theirs for children. And it’s much better than they need to be.

Puro claims studio-grade quality and they’re not fair off. Clarity is good, detail levels are engaging, and the soundstage is described in wide enough terms, though we did find that some clarity and detail is lost when the volume is nudged up. They lack dynamism, which we’d expect for volume limited headphones, and bass is limp at default volumes (though it gets better when the volume is pushed up.

Battery life is long at 20 hours, and in our tests we felt you can get much longer. We do find the wireless connection to be a bit patchy in busy signal areas, the connection drops regularly even when we on the London Underground waiting for the tube.

The build quality is of surprisingly good quality for a children’s headphones. They’re not the cheap, plasticky quality that you get with less expensive options such as the Planet Buddies headphones. We found them comfortable to wear, and the clamping force is light enough that it shouldn’t cause an undue irritation for young ones. The headphones also come with a spare pair of earpads, so if you wanted to, you could switch and turn these headphones into an on-ear pair.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Puro BT2200 Plus

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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

IP rating
Battery Hours
Fast Charging
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Audio Resolution
Driver (s)
Noise Cancellation?
Frequency Range
Headphone Type
Voice Assistant

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