The 9 Best Over-Ear Headphones of 2020

Rock out with these top-of-the-line over-ear cans

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Most Popular: Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II


If you are looking for the best noise-cancelation on the market, then the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II are the headphones for you. Bose has long been the market leader in noise-cancelation technology and these don't disappoint. Available in black or silver, the design is minimal yet comfortable. All of the controls are housed on the earcups, where you will be able to manage calls, access the Alexa virtual assistant, and adjust the level of noise cancellation. The headphones will last on wireless for 20 hours, while the built-in microphone (with built-in noise-rejecting technology) allows you to take calls when you are paired with a phone.

As far as noise-cancellation goes, expect the loud rattle of a plane or crowded train to disappear when in use. Bose has also upped their game in the audio department, using a volume-optimized EQ for consistent and balanced performance that takes outside elements into account. Plus, the fact that they're Alexa-enabled allow you to voice-control your music and get answers to questions as you would with any virtual assistant.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best noise-canceling headphones

Best Overall, Wireless: Sony WH1000XM3 Wireless Headphones


The Sony WH1000XM3 may be the last wireless over-the-ear headphones you’ll ever need to buy. The ergonomic design ensures that you can wear these headphones for hours in total comfort — a slim profile reduces pressure on the ears, as does the overall lightweight build quality. The headband was also built to properly fit the arch of the head and add some additional padding. And they're made for long-term wear: these headphones have a 30-hour battery life and can run wirelessly for up to five hours after just 10 minutes of charging. That's great news for travelers. 

Speaking of traveling and loud places, the Sony’s noise-canceling capability is, in a word, exceptional. Knocking out sound from planes to trains to automobiles, they can even reduce the volume of your chatty cubicle mate. All of this is key considering the sound quality will make you want to use the Sony’s again and again. With 40mm drivers and hi-res audio capability, these headphones can make any kind of music sound great.

Best New Release: Bose 700


In the consumer audio space, Bose's namesake alone makes people take notice. Whenever it drops a new pair of headphones, audiophiles and ordinary music listeners alike are inclined to reconsider the landscape. The Bose 700s, in particular, are stylish, noise-canceling, and offer all the bells and whistles we've come to expect. Held together by a stainless-steel headband, Bose's signature high-end soundstage projects through soft leathery, earcups that both look and feel premium.

Keep in mind, however, that because Bose is tight-lipped about its sound research, you won't find a lot of information about how it's produced. Then again, the best secrets are the most hidden, or something like that. Inside the 700s, Bose packs some interesting smart features. For starters, a smart assistant call button, along with intuitive touch controls, expand their capabilities beyond music playback alone.

Be that as it may, the coolest modern feature is called "Bose AR." This protocol uses motion sensors to determine the angle of your head, then pairs that with location data obtained via the Bose Sound app to augment the sound you're hearing. It sounds complicated on paper, but in practice, it's effortless. And used with certain apps, it can greatly enhance your listening experience, thus improving your quality of life as a result. We're excited to see how third-party apps use this technology to their advantage.

Best for Phone Calls: Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra Elite 85h

For years now, Jabra has been developing something of a reputation for itself putting out smartphone peripherals and Bluetooth headsets of the highest caliber. More recently, it's been focused on Bluetooth headphones for recreational audio consumption, led by its Elite 65t in-ear Bluetooth earbuds. But, clearly, phone calls are still important, especially when your job (or life) necessitates a multi-microphone array. Enter the Jabra Elite 85h over-ear headphones.

Put them on your ears and you'll hear a broad range of sounds at various frequencies, anywhere from 10Hz all the way to 20kHz. But Jabra has also included what it calls SmartSound, powered by eight separate microphones. This technology aims to optimize sound response based on your environment. In combination with the active noise-canceling technology, the end result is cutting-edge isolation and beautiful sound response. Another standout feature is the 36-hour battery life, almost double that of even the longest-lasting competitors. Plus, the look and feel are premia, and a one-touch control summons the voice assistant of your choice.

Best Bass: Sony WH-XB900N

Often requiring a cryptologist to decipher its model names, it's admittedly difficult to cull through Sony's headphone lot and determine what's the right fit for you. The WH-XB900Ns might seem like they compete directly with the 950Ns, and in many ways they do. At their core, the 900Ns are bass-centric headphones, offering a “bass duct” in their construction that seems to operate much the same way a bass port would on a larger speaker. There’s also a pretty solid seal between the padding and your head which, in conjunction with the 1.57-inch drivers, gives a lot of power on the bottom end of the spectrum.

By the numbers, that spectrum spans from 20Hz to 20kHz, meaning you’ve got coverage of the entire human hearing range, including the bottom end. Where the newer 900Ns diverge from the 950Ns is in their modern feature stack. The 900Ns offer Bluetooth 5.0 for stability in connection and sound quality, NFC for easy pairing with compatible devices, touch controls, and even smart assistant compatibility. The battery life is impressive, too, offering 30 hours of listening on a single charge, depending on your usage. It all comes in a sleek package that looks more like the WH-1000X line than it does the 950N. It’s a bit on the pricey side, in our opinion, but if you can afford it, you’ll be happy.

Best Wired: Sennheiser HD 599 Headphones

Universally regarded as the best-wired headphones around, the Sennheiser HD 599 is a superb combination of style and sound. With a name that’s synonymous with quality, the HD 599 is also beautifully designed, offering satin textured ear cushions for extra comfort even after hours of wear. Making them even more comfortable is the exceptional padding around the headband. They are leather wrapped for quality and, from a design standpoint alone, these headphones are worth every penny.

Fortunately, there’s more to the Sennheiser HD 599’s than looks. The audio is just as good, if not better than their design. Premium components are expected with all Sennheiser headphones, and the 599 does not disappoint. Running proprietary tech, they deliver a solid low end, awesome mids, and richly-detailed highs. The bass straddles the line perfectly between not too much and not too little. As a wired headphone, you also never need to worry about battery life — just plug them in and start listening.

Best Budget: JBL E55BT Wireless Headphones

Finding a pair of great-sounding wireless headphones that don’t cost a fortune isn’t easy, but the JBL E55BT is a rare exception. Offering a warm and balanced sound that feels more premium than the price tag, JBL hit a homerun with this headphone. The 50mm dynamic drivers add a wide range of frequency response with terrific clarity. Low and high sounds are detailed and crisp. Mids hit just the right amount of response without sounding unnatural. Bass isn’t terribly deep but it’s more than satisfactory. Everything from metal to movie soundtracks sounds great.

Good sound isn’t the only aspect worth bragging about. Sound isolation is good enough to reduce plenty of ambient noise. Only when compared to a higher-end pair will you really notice a difference. The plastic build quality helps keep the price low, but they do squeak a bit while moving as a result. The fabric headband is comfortable even if it provides a minimal amount of padding. Weight is ergonomically distributed around the headphone so no one point of the head ever feels heavy.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best budget headphones.

Best Design: Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature HiFi Headphones

Over the course of more than 50 years, Bowers & Wilkins has been a leader in the audio field. Their P9 signature HiFi wired headphones are no exception. Standing out from the more traditional black headphones, the P9 opts for a unique retro brown style that’s very 1970s. The good news is it works and feels as good as it looks. The leather on the ear cups and headband is comfortable and looks luxe. The rest of the headset consists of an aluminum design that’s both sturdy and stylish. It also adds the benefit of reducing vibrations that could affect the audio experience.

Inside each ear cup rests 40mm drivers, each angled slightly inwards for a more natural listening experience. Once you place the headphones on your head and turn on the sound, you’ll find a superb level of detail. Bass never overwhelms while highs, lows, and mids all sound very natural. If there’s one thing the P9 could add to make it the perfect headphone, it would be active noise cancellation. However, as an over-the-ear headphone, most ambient noise is naturally reduced.

Best Splurge: Focal Elegia Reference Headphones

While it’s not your typical high-end headphone, Focal’s Elegia is a hidden gem in its price range. As a closed-back headphone — a rarity in the premium market —Focal has set the bar for audio quality. It allows the wearer a little more privacy than an open-back headphone so you won't distract your neighbor with your music. The secondary benefit of a closed-back design is the boosted noise isolation, which limits ambient noise from the world around you. It’s true that closed-back can get hotter than open-back over lengthy listening, but that’s really not a factor with the Focal.

This headphone, which is manufactured in France, has extremely comfortable leather wrapping all over it. The headband is soft and comfortable as are the suede-like microfiber ear cups. They’re not too heavy thanks to an aluminum frame, and the design does a great job of hiding the 40mm angled drivers. Across the board, for highs, lows and mids, Focal pushes out a richly detailed sound. Bass is as good as you would expect, hitting the sweet spot of just enough without being overwhelming.

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Our Process

Our writers spent 180 hours researching and testing the most popular over-ear headphones on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

What to Look for in Over-Ear Headphones

Wireless or wired - You’re ready for your next pair of headphones, but do you know if you want them wireless or wired? Wireless headphones are an excellent option for those who can’t stand a mess of wires; additionally, they are compatible with many modern smartphones that don’t include headphone jacks. However, wired headphones can be more reliable and don’t need their batteries to be recharged continuously.

Noise-canceling - Looking to escape the world around you when you put on headphones? Search for headphones that offer active noise-cancelation. Great for those who travel on planes or work in busy environments, noise-canceling headphones can reduce the noise around you to help you focus on what you’re listening to.

Materials - While some headphones are produced from plastic, others can be crafted from metal or even beautiful wood. Plastic headphones are typically less expensive and are lighter on the head, but metal construction can offer more stability, leading to a long lasting pair of headphones.

Test Results: Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Most Popular)

What We Like
  • Excellent noise canceling

  • Super comfortable

  • Great sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Design feels slightly outdated

  • Can’t swap battery for extended battery life

Our testers loved the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones for their comfort, sound quality, and especially their noise-canceling. Calling these headphones “a fantastic buy,” one of our reviewers raved, “The sound quality is outstanding and perhaps better than many would expect.” Our testers didn’t mention a lot of negatives, although one felt the design could have been streamlined since it’s identical to the previous version from Bose. And while one of our reviewers praised the 20 hours of battery life, he also commented, “The battery cannot be replaced, meaning you can't swap batteries for longer battery life.” Overall? “The combination of comfort, great sound, and value make it a winner,” one of our testers declared.

Test Results: Sony WH-1000XM3 (Best Overall, Wireless)

What We Like
  • Amazing sound quality

  • Sleek design

  • Customized noise canceling

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Touch controls are a little tricky

“The sound quality on the 1000XM3s is among the best I’ve ever tried, with a great smooth response, impeccable detail, and ample bass without being cumbersome,” one of our testers reported. Our reviewers were also impressed by the “sleek, lightweight construction” and “astounding” noise canceling. One of our testers declared, “With customization that lets you tailor it to your surroundings, these are perfect for those who want heavy isolation.” In terms of negatives, one of our reviewers said, “The touch controls on these headphones are a bit wonky and difficult to get used.” Our testers also noted the steep price tag, with one explaining, “These really are very premium, and they deliver on that premium promise, but if they were under $300, they would be nearly perfect.”

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