Best over-ear headphones 2020: the best-sounding headphones you can buy

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The best over-ear headphones are still the number one headphone options in terms of audio quality, soundstage and comfort – even if you like the style and the convenience of the best earbuds on the market.

Over-ear headphones also tend to be better for your ear health than in-ear headphones models. Which means if ensuring your hearing is at its best long into your twilight years, these are the best choices for you. 

They also bring you superior audio performance. The best over-ear headphones have the largest drivers and come in both open-back and closed-back variations – the former of which offers an almost concert hall-like feel to your favorite music. 

Over-ear headphones don’t mean you need to sacrifice style. There are wireless models, like the Philips PH805, the Sony WH-1000XM3, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7, and the Sennheiser PXC 550-II. However, old-school cool is still very much in. Take a look at the brilliant Audeze LCD-1 and Cleer Next for proof that wired headphones are still among the best you can buy.

It’s an exciting time for audio. If rumors are to be believed, 2020 could be the year we’ll see the first-ever pair of over-ear Apple headphones, too – and that could really shake up the competition, just as the Apple AirPods have taken over the world of true wireless earbuds

You’ll find a number of wired models in our guide below because of the more consistent sound quality they bring. But if you’re looking for other cool features, make sure you check out our dedicated guides to the best noise-cancelling headphones and the best wireless headphones, too.

Our top picks

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

1. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Professional headphones that know how to have fun

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 370 g | Cable length: 9.8 ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 250 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Sturdy and comfortable

Breathtaking resolution

Slightly recessed mids

Highs can be fatiguing

While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best-sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770, DT880 and DT990 were renowned for their excellent build and sound quality. 

Above them all, however, stands the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, a headphone which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($599, £589, AU$1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound. 

As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out but the good news is that the open-back design gives you the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. Soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.  

If you’ve been searching for a pair of the best over-ear headphones that are used by some of the world’s leading audio engineers, these are them. (Check out our review of the Beyerdynamuc DT 1770 Pro too for a closed-back version more friendly to company.)

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Sony WH-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony WH-1000XM3

Over-ear cans that offer the whole package

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 255g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Superb noise-cancelling

Great-sounding audio

30-hour battery life

Call quality issues

It’s almost unfair to stick them in the same category as the more critical listening-focused over-ear headphones, but the Sony WH-1000XM3 are one of the best all-around headphones we heard last year. Not only do they sound great and pack excellent noise cancellation, but they manage to do this all wirelessly. 

Other headphones on our list offer superior sound quality, sure, but the WH-1000XM3 manage to offer the best balance of features and performance. 

And while it’s the noise cancellation that really sell these headphones, they’ve also got a couple of interesting tricks up their sleeves like built-in Google Assistant and Alexa, plus support for NFC and aptX HD with some Android devices. 

Offering all of this without a serious price-premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM3 are a great all-around choice for on-the-go music listeners. 

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sennheiser HD 800

3. Sennheiser HD 800

The Sennheiser HD800 is the headphones fit for kings

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 330g | Cable length: 3m | Frequency response: 14 – 44,100 Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 300 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Sounds simply superb in every way

Beautifully balanced

Incredibly detailed

Undeniably expensive

The fourth entry on our list easily could’ve been the first if it didn’t cost well over $1,000/£1,000. The Sennheiser HD 800 are, hands down, one of the best-sounding pairs of over-ear headphones on the planet, affectionately praised by inner circles of audiophiles the world over. When paired with the proper hardware, they sound absolutely excellent – balanced in every way. 

Unfortunately, they’re supremely expensive and require more audio equipment than the average consumer is ready to buy. Should you find yourself in need – or, let’s be honest, in want – of amazing over-ear headphones, these are them.

Read the full review: Sennheiser HD 800

audeze lcd-1

(Image credit: Audeze)

4. Audeze LCD-1

Affordable audiophile headphones

Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 250g | Cable length: 2.1m | Frequency response: 10 – 50,000 Hz | Drivers: 90mm | Driver type: Planar | Sensitivity: 99dB | Impedance: 16 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Direct, detailed sound

Super comfortable

Well-made build

Sound leakage

With the LCD-1 open-back headphones, Audeze has brought its uncompromising technology down to a real-world(ish) price. As long as you are prepared to do your listening in splendid isolation – that design will generate some sound leakage – there’s just no reason to overlook these over-ear headphones.

The LCD-1s’ overall presentation, no matter the material you’re listening to nor the volume at which you’re listening, is composed, engaging and entirely believable. Listen to music you’ve never heard before and you’ll never doubt you’re being given the full picture. 

Listen to music you’ve heard a thousand times before and there’s every chance the LCD-1’s will find some nuance in there you’ve never really heard before.     

Read the full review: Audeze LCD-1

bowers & wilkins px7

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones

Strong all-rounders

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 310g | Cable length: 1.2m | Frequency response: 10 – 30,000 Hz | Drivers: 43.6mm | Driver type: Full range | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 20 kOhms | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A

Best-in-class sound quality

Competitive battery life

Robust Bluetooth connection

Earcups don’t collapse

If you’re looking for class-leading wireless, noise-cancelling headphones and you’re not put off by the $399 / £349 / AU$600 price tag, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are well worth considering. 

With sophisticated noise-canceling, much-improved sound quality, a honed aesthetic, the PX7 could give any of the over-ear headphones on this list a run for their money. 

Plus. they’re packing aptX Adaptive for improved stability and latency between the headphones and your device, as well as high-quality (24-bit) streaming aptX HD brought to the table.

Read more: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones review

Philips PH805

(Image credit: Philips)

6. Philips PH805

Premium wireless headphones without the premium price

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 7 – 40,000Hz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 90 dB | Impedance: 16 Ohms | Battery life: 30 hours | Wireless range: 33ft | NFC: N/A

Well made

Good battery life

Punchy, controlled, and detailed sound

Noise cancelation could be more effective

At $199 / £160 (around AU$290) the Philips PH805 offer exceptional value for money. These are wireless over-ear headphones, using Bluetooth 5.0 for connectivity – so high-resolution audio playback should be achievable. 

Using a single Lithium-Ion cell for up to 30 hours of playback time from a single charge, the Philips PH805 have active noise cancellation on board, administered by a couple of mics on each earcup. 

Read more: Philips PH805 review

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019)

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

7. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019)

Over-ear headphones that don’t skimp on the smart features

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 6Hz to 22kHz | Drivers: 42mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 17 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes

Brilliant audio quality

Cool design

Battery life isn’t great

More expensive than rivals

In terms of audio quality, these Sennheiser over-ear headphones sound fantastic, with high levels of detail, warm bass, and natural-sounding highs.

Customizable noise cancelation is a great touch, but it doesn’t quite reach the class-leading standards set by Sony and Bose. Battery life also doesn’t compete with the Sony WH-1000XM3s, and they’re more expensive to boot. 

So, why buy the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019)? Well, if built-in Tile tracking appeals to you, and you like the industrial design and premium materials of the Momentum Wireless, that could be reason enough – and if you do opt for them over the Sony model, you won’t be missing out on any audio quality. In that respect, they’re truly matched. 

Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (2019) review

sennheiser px 550 ii

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

8. Sennheiser PXC 550-II

A subtler alternative to the Momentum Wireless

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 227g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 17-23,000Hz | Drivers: 32mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 110 dB | Impedance: 46 ohm | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

Judicious sound

Good battery life

Subtly premium looks

Struggles on trebly recordings

The build, battery life, and sound quality of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II are all very impressive, upgrading the previous PXC 550 model with the latest Bluetooth standard and enhanced audio and smart capabilities.

The PXC 550-II over-ear headphones are a bit cheaper than the Momentum Wireless, a bit more sober in appearance and definitely not as big, with a sophisticated sound. 

Read more: Sennheiser PXC 550-II review

Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

9. Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless

Incredible audio fidelity backed by a serious price

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 4.6 feet | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 28 ohms | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes

Excellent build quality and comfort

Detailed and spacious sound

Sounds just as good wired

Not ideal for travel

The Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are the best-sounding wireless headphones you can buy, period. Sound is spacious, detailed, and makes you want to rediscover your music library. Their bulky design and average noise isolation make them terrible for travel but if you’re looking for the best sound from a pair of over-ear headphones, this is it.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

(Image credit: Bose)

10. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Class-leading noise cancelation, but not the best battery life

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 25g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

Outstanding noise cancelation

Fun, lively sound

Elegant design

Battery life could be better

They may not beat the Sony WH-1000XM3’s battery life and price, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are still a fantastic pair of over-ear headphones. 

By applying noise cancelation on both music and phone calls, they offer class-leading technology, and well as a vibrant, lively sound and wide, well-balanced soundstage. 

If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. 

That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise-cancelation is out of this world.

Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

JBL Live 650BTNC

(Image credit: JBL)

11. JBL Live 650BTNC

Well-rounded headphones that are excellent value

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 249g | Cable length: 3.93 feet | Frequency response: 16Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 100 dBSPL@1kHz/1mW | Impedance: 32 | Battery life: 20 hours with ANC and wireless enabled | Wireless range: N/A

Dynamic, punchy sound

Supports Google Assistant + Alexa

MicroUSB charging

Good, but not class-leading ANC

For the money, the JBL Live 650BTNC punch above its weight in terms of sound quality, build, and features. The cons we have listed above – like mapping the assistant to the touchpad and its use of microUSB – are simply nitpicks with none of them being outright deal-breakers. 

That said, we came away very impressed at the well-rounded package JBL created for the market and would certainly recommend them to anyone in the market for a cheap pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Read the full review: JBL Live 650BTNC review

Focal Stellia

(Image credit: Focal)

12. Focal Stellia

Luxury headphones, luxury price

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.96 lbs (435g) | Cable length: 1 x 4ft OFC 24 AWG cable, 1 x 10ft OFC 24 AWG cable | Frequency response: 5Hz – 40kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz | Impedance: 35Ohms | Battery life: NA | Wireless range: NA | NFC: No

Stunning, precise sound

Open soundstage

Comfortable

Extremely expensive

The Focal Stellias sound absolutely fantastic. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.

If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias’ precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.

So why didn’t they make the list? Well, we included them as a bonus option because they’re incredible. But they’re very, very expensive. 

They’re $3,000. And as good as they are, therein lies the problem: the Focal Stellias are prohibitively expensive for most people, at 10 times the price of our current favorite headphones, the Sony  WH-1000XM3s.

If you like the sound of these luxury headphones but can’t justify the price, check out our initial hands-on review of the new Focal Elegia. They may not sound quite as breathtaking as the Focal Stellia – at least that’s what we gathered from a short listening session – but the Focal Elegia headphones are still very impressive.

Read the full review: Focal Stellia review

What to look for

Over-ear headphones: what to look for

To make things easier for audiophiles, this guide focuses on sound quality above all else. 

When buying over-ear headphones, sound quality is the most important feature to look out for – the more expensive, the better your cans tend to sound, although there are quite a few impressive exceptions to this rule. 

How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?

If you’re all about that bass, you’ll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows. 

It’s also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you’re in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.

As we mentioned, there are a few wireless and noise-canceling headphones in this list – that’s because the sound quality of these models is exceptional. Many over-ear headphones come with these quality-of-life features these days, although they’re often pricier than their wired counterparts – if you can’t live without these modern conveniences, make sure you’re buying headphones with the latest Bluetooth technology and active noise cancelation. 

Design is also hugely important, as a good pair of over-ear headphones need to be comfortable for long listening sessions – look out for padded earcups and headbands in materials like memory foam for ultimate comfort. 

Best over-ear headphones at a glance:

  1. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
  2. Sony WH-1000XM3
  3. Sennheiser HD 800
  4. Audeze LCD-1
  5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Wireless Headphones
  6. Philips PH805
  7. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
  8. Sennheiser PX 550-II
  9. Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless
  10. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
  11. JBL Live 650BTNC
  12. Focal Stellia

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