When it comes to raw sound quality, nothing beats the sense of scale a pair of decent over-ear headphones can provide. If pristine audio performance is what you’re after, you can simply do no better than the headphones you’ll find here.
Now, that does mean making a few trade-offs. That might mean buying a pair of wired headphones instead of wireless ones, or losing out on features like active noise cancellation so audio can sound as neutral as possible.
If you’re looking for the best wireless headphones and best noise-canceling headphones guides specifically, we can help you out, but don’t feel bad if you’re specifically looking for Hi-Fi headphones and don’t mind shaving off some of the non-essential features to get it.
With that said, this guide will focus on sound quality above all else. There are a couple of wireless and noise-canceling equipped choices in our list, but that’s only because they sound great in addition to packing these features.
Has something changed since the last time you visited this page? That’s completely normal. We’re always updating this guide with the best headphones – which, as you can expect, changes frequently. That said, you can expect this guide to be as up-to-date as we can get it on any given day, ensuring that you’re getting out top picks all year round. Without further ado, here’s our guide to getting the most for your money, whatever your budget.
What are the best over-ear headphones?
1. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
BEST SOUND: 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: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Pros: Built like a tank excellent. Pros: comfortBreathtaking. Pros: resolution. Cons: Slightly recessed mids. Cons: 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 renown 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 is meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. The 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 Hi-Fi headphones that are used by some of the world’s leading audio engineers, these are them.
2. Philips Fidelio X2
BEST VALUE: Brilliant headphones for a brilliant price
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: .85 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.9″ speakers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1mW | Impedance: 30 Ohm
Pros: Brilliant sound Pros: Superb value Pros: Very comfortable Cons: Lacks extras
The Philips Fidelio X2’s are a superb pair of headphones offering premium comfort and build quality with a sound that rivals even the most vaunted audiophile cans. Perhaps on sheer sound quality range comfortable they’re a notch off the likes of the top Oppo or Sennheiser offerings – but the fact that you’d be saving vast amounts of cash by opting for the Philips is just a no-brainer.
3. Beyerdynamic DT 177E0 Pro
ENTRY-LEVEL AUDIOPHILES: Recording studio pedigree, DJ booth price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic
Pros: Beautifully crafted soundscape Pros: Sleek design. Pros: Good price for the quality. Cons: They’re a bit bulky
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pros are a stunning pair of headphones. Are they expensive? To some no, to most yes; but for the sheer listening experience, they deliver you’d be hard pressed to take them off after putting them on, even using them with portable HRA players and mobile phones.
That said, they really do push the boundaries of what you can do with a dynamic driver. All praise to Beyerdynamic for putting together such a wonderful product.
4. Sennheiser HD 800
GOLD STANDARD: 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
Pros: Sounds simply superb in every way. Pros: Beautifully balanced. Pros: Incredibly detailed. Pros: Comfort is excellent. Cons: 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 is 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.
5. 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear
BARGAIN AUDIOPHILE: Excellent sound at an affordable price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.65lb (293g) | Cable length: 4.40ft (1.35m) | Frequency response: 20 – 40,000Hz | Drivers: 137/64“ (40mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 104dB SPL @ 1kHz | Impedance: 32 Ohms
Pros: Detailed and balanced sound. Pros: Quality materials. Pros: Excellent value. Cons: No inline mic or remote.
If you’re looking for a pair of audiophile headphones that won’t break the bank, the 1MORE Triple Driver over-ear is a great place to start. Its build quality and detailed sound really impress and we think bass-lovers will like the slight mid-bass emphasis and control in the lower registers while not sacrificing the mids or highs. The headphone reveals a good level of detail throughout the frequency range and never get harsh in the upper registers.
To that end, it’s hard to fault the $250 (about £190, AU$338) 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear, making them an easy recommendation for the price.
6. Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature
ULTRA-PREMIUM: The B&W P9 Signature is all about the sound quality
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 413 g | Cable Length: N/A | Frequency response: 2 – 30,000Hz | Drivers: 1.6 inch (40mm) Mylar/Titanium | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 111dB SPL @ 1kHz – / 1Vrms | Impedance: 22 Ohms
Pros: Exceptional level of detail Pros: Clarity across the whole range Pros: Comfortable for long periods Cons: Premium price tag
The B&W P9 Signatures are simply some of the best-sounding headphones we’ve ever used. They have a tight, refined sound that offers an almost unmatched level of detail.
That said, the fact remains that they’re a comparatively feature-light pair of cans. If you want to spend less then you can get a much more portable pair that’ll be better suited to the morning commute or a plane ride thanks to additional features like noise-cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity.
But, if you’re looking to invest in a seriously high-quality pair of headphones to listen to a high-quality music collection, then there are few that can match the P9s at this price point.
7. Sony WH-1000XM2
FEATURE-PACKED: Cans that offer the whole package
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 23g | 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
An improvement on Sony’s existing flagship, the Sony WH-1000XM2 sound great, pack excellent noise-cancellation, and manage to do this all wirelessly.
Other headphones offer better sound quality, longer-range wireless connectivity, or better battery life, but the Sony WH-1000XM2 manage to offer the best balance of features and performance.
It’s also got a couple of interesting tricks up its sleeve like a selective noise-cancellation mode that lets in certain useful sounds, and a shortcut that allows you to quickly hear what’s going on around you.
Offering all of this without a serious price-premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM2 are a great choice for on-the-go music listeners.
8. Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT
HEY GOOD LOOKING: These over-ear headphones bring both performance and value
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .64 pounds | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.7″ drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB | Impedance: 35 ohm | Battery life: 40 hours
Pros: Stellar battery life Pros: Balanced sound Pros: Wired mode sounds even better Cons: Highs can be too energetic
Audiophiles typically shun wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years. There are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.
That said, the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT feature some of the best wired and wireless sound quality for a headphone under $200 (£150). They play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. They’re extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built. Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a charge. And while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelling and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.
9. Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless
WIRELESS CHAMP: 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
Pros: Excellent build quality and comfort Pros: Detailed and spacious sound Pros: Sounds just as good wired Cons: 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 wireless headphone, this is it.
10. Bose QuietComfort 35 II
NOISE CANCELLING WONDERS: Bose cut the wires off its flagship cans
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes
Pros: Class-leading noise-cancellation Pros: Incredibly comfortable Pros: Plain design Cons: Not the most detailed sound
After cutting the wires off its flagship cans with the Bose QC35 headphones, Bose’s QC35 II are a slightly more minor upgrade. This time the big addition is Google Assistant, which can be summoned with the press of a button.
Otherwise these are more or less the same headphones that we enjoyed the first time around. The QC35s aren’t the best sounding out there, but their noise-cancellation is class-leading and if that’s your priority then they’re a great choice.