Best over-ear headphones 2022: Our favourite Bluetooth, noise-cancelling and wired over-ear headphones

Andy White
9 Aug 2022

If you're on the hunt for the best over-ear headphones, you've come to the right place. No matter your budget, there's a pair for you

The best over-ear headphones remain extremely popular despite the rise of more compact audio solutions like true wireless earbuds.

They're a fantastic option for those that find earphones, earbuds or on-ear headphones uncomfortable and can deliver an impactful, immersive audio experience their more portable counterparts simply can't match.

With hundreds of over-ear headphones available, picking the right pair is no mean feat. That's where we come in. We've tested a wide range of over-ear headphones and compiled a list of the very best of them, which you can find below, along with some honourable mentions also worth considering.

You'll also find a buying guide that will arm you with all the information you need to make a well-informed purchase. If you decide that over-ear headphones aren't for you, you may want to check out our dedicated guides to the best Bluetooth headphones, noise-cancelling headphones, cheap headphones and cheap wireless earbuds

Best over-ear headphones: At a glance

  • Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM5 | Buy now
  • Best for Apple users: Apple AirPods Max | Buy now
  • Best under £100: Anker Soundcore Life Q30 | Buy now
  • Best premium pair for style: Bose NC700 | Buy now
  • Best affordable open-back option: Sennheiser HD560S | Buy now
  • Best for battery life: Urbanista Los Angeles | Buy now
  • Best if money is no object: Sennheiser HD 820 | Buy now

How to choose the best over-ear headphones for you

Should I buy wired or wireless over-ear headphones?

Wired over-ear headphones need to be connected to an audio source via a physical cable. Many use cables terminating in 3.5mm jacks, though professional-grade over-ear headphones often use larger 6.3mm jacks or XLR (External Line Return) connectors.

Wireless over-ear headphones operate over Bluetooth and therefore don't require any cabling. As long as you stay within the Bluetooth range of your audio output, you can move around freely while enjoying whatever you're listening to.

Wired connections typically deliver better quality audio but advances in Bluetooth technology have seen the gap close considerably. The big advantage wired headphones have is that they'll never run out of charge as they draw power from your output device.

That doesn’t mean you should disregard wireless headphones, though. They grant a great deal more listening freedom and you won't ever have to untangle a length of cable again. Universal connectivity with any Bluetooth-enabled device is especially convenient, too, though it's worth remembering you won't be able to hook your headphones up to non-Bluetooth devices unless they house an optional 3.5mm port.

Are over-ear headphones comfortable?

As a general rule of thumb, over-ear headphones provide better comfort than in-ears or on-ears. The headphones’ earcups sit around your ears to provide a cushiony feel. It’s important to consider clamp force, which is the level of pressure the headphones put on your head; loose-fitting headphones will naturally be more comfortable to wear but may shift position on your head when you move around.

What’s the difference between open- and closed-back headphones?

Closed-back headphones have sealed earcups that prevent a significant proportion of external noise from making its way to your ears. This enables them to isolate sound better and helps them provide a weighty bass response.

In contrast, the earcups of open-back headphones aren't sealed and allow air to pass through to the speaker element. This reduces air pressure build-up in the earcups and gives the headphones an airy, natural sound. However, it also allows external sound in - and your audio out - so open-back headphones are best used at home or in other quiet environments.

Is driver size important to over-ear headphones?

Generally speaking, the bigger the driver – the component in each ear cup that vibrates to produce soundwaves – the wider the soundstage. This results in better instrument separation, greater depth and a sense of space between you and the music. Driver size isn’t the be-all and end-all, however. In-ear headphones with the audio world’s smallest drivers can sound wider than a set of over-ear headphones - how the headphones are tuned is far more important than the size of their drivers.

What other features should I look out for?

Active noise cancellation (ANC): This handy feature helps reduce the impact of environmental sound on your audio experience. It's particularly useful in busy urban areas and while commuting and is often accompanied by a transparency mode, which makes you more aware of your surroundings by pumping sound in.

Battery life: This is only of importance to Bluetooth headphones. Given no one likes charging their tech products, the longer a pair of over-ear headphones last, the better. Manufacturers typically state battery life based on listening at around 50% volume, which is important to bear in mind if you like to listen to your music loud. Battery life of around 20 hours should be a bare minimum, though many pairs far exceed that figure.

Controls: You'll typically find physical control buttons located on one or both of the earcups of a pair of over-ear headphones. These are very easy to use and learning which buttons do what is relatively intuitive. However, some manufacturers incorporate touch controls and gestures into their over-ear headphones. These aren't to everyone's taste, so be sure to check what type of controls the headphones you like the look of use.

Carrying case: Most over-ear headphones come with some way of transporting them, though the quality of these differs wildly from product to product. It's normally a case of you get what you pay for - cheaper models tend to come with fabric bags, while pricier models come with hard-shelled cases that do a far better job of protecting their precious cargo.

The best over-ear headphones to buy

1. Sony WH-1000XM5: Best over-ear headphones overall

Price: £379 | Buy now from Amazon

The fifth-gen iteration of Sony's flagship headphones may not add any flashy new features, but they make minor improvements on their predecessors in all the right areas. Audio is more detailed, noise cancellation more effective and the pared-back design more comfortable than ever.

They still support all the key convenience features found on the WH-1000XM4, cheif among which is Adaptive Sound Control. This automatically switches audio and noise-cancellation settings based on what you're doing and where you are, and you can add specific locations or have the headphones learn places you regularly frequent. It's extremely useful and works a treat.

Speak-to-Chat, Quick Attention mode, wear detection and effective touch controls are equally handy and the Headphones Connect app remains one of the best around. The Sony WH-1000XM4 offer better value for money at a discounted price of £280, but the XM5s can't be beaten in terms of overall quality.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)

Buy now from John Lewis

2. Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Best over-ear headphones under £100

Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon

If you're looking for exceptional value for money over-ear headphones, you'll struggle to find better than the Life Q30. They're very comfortable, sport amazing battery life and their audio is highly customisable via the Soundcore companion app. The app features 22 EQ presets to choose from and an eight-band graphic equaliser that you can use to create your own EQs should you not find any of Anker's to your taste.

You'll likely want to make use of the options at your disposal, as the Life Q30's default sound profile is dominated by ear-shaking bass that takes away from well-articulated mids and treble. The app also allows you to switch between the Life Q30's three active noise-cancellation profiles - Transport, Indoors and Outdoors - all of which work very well for a pair of budget headphones, and grants access to a music library provided by Anker's streaming partner LÜM.

Read our Anker Soundcore Life Q30 review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 265g; Cable length: 1.2m (removable)

Buy now from Amazon

3. Apple AirPods Max: Best over-ear headphones for Apple users

Price: £469 | Buy now from Amazon

Apple's latest pair of over-ear headphones deliver a superb experience characterised by excellent sound quality, effective active noise-cancellation and a comfortable fit. Although their audio presentation is on the laid-back side, the AirPods Max are a joy to listen to thanks to a wide soundstage, impressive instrument separation and a slight roll-off of top-end frequencies, which prevents them from ever becoming fatiguing.

But the ace up their sleeve is Spatial Audio, which is Apple's version of head-tracking surround sound. It works exceptionally well, increasing your immersion in any Spatial Audio content you're watching. Support for the technology is limited at present - you can currently only make use of it while streaming content on Disney+ or Apple TV in the UK - but we expect it to come to other platforms soon, at which point the AirPods Max will truly shine. Active noise-cancellation is right up there with the very best around and build quality is top-notch, too, making the AirPods Max a must-have for iPhone users with big budgets.

Read our Apple AirPods Max review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 385g; Cable length: 1.2m (Lightning to USB-C)

Buy now from Amazon

4. Bose QuietComfort 45: Best over-ear headphones for comfort

Price: £320 | Buy now from Amazon

The Bose QuietComfort 45 continue the QuietComfort 35 II's legacy of delivering best-in-class comfort, with supremely soft earcups that form a perfect seal around your ears without pinching them or creating too much pressure on your head. This seal does a good job blocking out external sound too, boosting the QC 45's already exceptional ability to attenuate noise in your environment.

Though they don't quite hit the same sonic heights as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Technics EAH-A800, the QC 45 provide eminently listenable audio that can be tweaked via the Bose Music app. The three-band equaliser lets you boost what is otherwise a relatively restrained bass reponse and takes the edge off overly sharp treble at higher volumes, and there are a handful of EQ presets available, too.

If you're after something more snazzy, the Bose NC 700 are a superior option, but for comfort and noise cancellation, the QC 45 can't be beaten.

Read our Bose QuietComfort 45 review for details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1; Weight: 240g; Cable length: 1.5m (2.5mm to 3.5mm)

Buy now from Amazon

5. Sennheiser HD560S: Best open-back over-ear headphones under £200

Price: £170 | Buy now from Amazon

Those in search of affordable, accurate headphones need look no further than the Sennheiser HD560S. These open-back beauties are extremely comfortable thanks to their velour-lined earcups and nicely padded headband but it's their refined sound that really stands out.

Their frequency response is incredibly flat, the soundstage they create is expansive and spacious and they articulate mids and treble with clarity and detail. They're also free from the unnatural sculpting of bass frequencies, making them a top choice for professional use or critical listening. That reference-grade sound isn't for everyone, but for those that appreciate it, the HD560S are a wonderful purchase.

Read our Sennheiser HD560S review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Wired 6.3mm jack, 3.5mm jack adapter; Weight: 240g; Cable length: 3m

Buy now from Amazon

6. Technics EAH-A800: Supreme comfort meets bumper battery life

Price: £300 | Buy now from Amazon

The Technics EAH-A800 may not be best-in-class in any one particular area, but are strong performers across the board. They're second only to the Bose QuietComfort 45 when it comes to fit, deliver exceptional battery life of up to 50 hours when using the AAC codec with ANC on, and sound superb, too.

The default sound signature is well-balanced and accurate, and there's no shortage of audio information being supplied. Detail is particularly impressive in the mid-range but the EAH-A800 aren't found wanting in the bass department, with their 40mm drivers packing a low-end punch when necessary. Support for the LDAC Bluetooth codec means you can enjoy higher resolution audio on supported devices and further elevates what were already great-sounding cans.

Read our Technics EAH-A800 review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 298g; Cable length: 1.5

Buy now from Amazon

7. Philips PH805: Best mid-range over-ear headphones

Price: £160 | Buy now from Amazon

The Philips PH805 deliver in the two key areas any pair of good headphones should: comfort and sound. The memory foam earcups feel particularly cosy and create a snug seal over your ears without ever cramping them. Audio sounds great no matter what genre you're listening to, with richness and clarity across the audio spectrum.

Noise cancellation isn't quite in the same league as the Sony WH1000-XM4s at the top of this list but works well to cut out external sound and there's an awareness mode if you want to continue listening to music but need to take in audio information around you. If the PH805 have one weakness, it's that they employ a mixture of touch and physical controls. We found them intuitive and easy to use but having to swipe your finger up the earcup to increase volume won't appeal to everyone.

Read our Philips PH805 review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 280g; Cable length: 1.2m

Buy now from Amazon

8. Urbanista Los Angeles: Best over-ear headphones for battery life

Price: £170 | Buy now from Urbanista

Best over-ear headphones: Urbanista Los Angeles

This pair of wireless over-ear headphones sports near-infinite battery life thanks to a solar panel built into the headband. The panel allows the Los Angeles to charge whenever they're exposed to daylight, meaning they'll be gradually topping themselves up as you walk along the road. The carrying case is even designed in such a way that the headband remains exposed, so you can pack them away, leave them on the window sill and return to find them with more juice than you left them with.

To our knowledge, the Los Angeles are the only over-ear headphones offering this kind of functionality but there's more to them than the unrivalled battery life. Their sound profile will go down very well with those fond of a generous helping of bass and their active noise cancellation is pretty decent for the money, too. They could be a little more comfortable when worn for long periods, but very few over-ear headphones in the Los Angeles' price bracket can match them for style.

Read our Urbanista Los Angeles review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 322g; Cable length: N/A

Buy now from Amazon

9. Bose NC 700: Best-looking over-ear headphones

Price: £259 | Buy now from Amazon

The Bose NC 700 are the company's most stylish over-ear headphones to date. They feature excellent noise-cancelling technology, soft ear pads, touch-based controls and a beautiful design.

Beauty aside, these are among the best set of ANC headphones on the market. Sonically, they delight throughout the frequency range and with an intuitive app to complement them, these headphones are well worth considering.

Read our Bose NC 700 review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm headset jack plug (optional); Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m

Buy now from Amazon

10. Cleer Flow II: An impressive, affordable Sony alternative

Price: £199 | Buy now from Selfridges

The Cleer Flow II are an affordable alternative to the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM4. They house the same QN1 noise-cancelling chip and their ability to dampen external sound is highly impressive. They also offer an ambient mode for when you need to be more aware of your surroundings, while conversation mode lets you reduce audio volume by holding your hand over the left earcup. If you’re not a fan of touch controls you’ll want to avoid the Flow II, however, as call and music controls are handled by swipes and taps rather than physical buttons.

The Flow II are Hi-res audio certified and their 40mm ironless drivers deliver an immersive, well-balanced sound signature. Bass is punchy without ever sounding bloated or impacting on the wonderfully clear mids and treble. There’s support for a pleasing range of Bluetooth codecs, with Sony’s LDAC and Qualcomm’s aptX and aptX HD codecs available in addition to SBC and AAC. And those that make regular use of Google Assistant will greatly appreciate that there’s a dedicated button to execute voice commands.

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 329g; Cable length: 1.3m (removable)

Buy now from Selfridges

11. Lindy BNX-100XT: Most stylish over-ear headphones under £100

Price: £88 | Buy now from Amazon

If you're limited to a budget of £100, the Lindy BNX-100XT offer a great combination of build and sound quality, comfort and noise cancellation. They're very similar in design and specifications to their predecessors, the BNX-100, but feature a couple of minor tweaks that improve the overall user experience. The headphones are now charged via USB-C rather than micro-USB and they're capable of connecting to two devices simultaneously, which is a big plus.

ANC does a good job at cutting out low-end frequencies and the audio quality is impressive on the whole, though the sound profile does lack bass when noise cancellation is engaged. Included in the price are a sturdy carrying case, aeroplane plug adapter and a 6.3mm stereo plug, all of which are very welcome extras in what is already an attractive package.

Read our Lindy BNX-100XT review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Bluetooth and wired 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 540g; Cable length: 1.5m

Buy now from Amazon

12. Sennheiser HD 820: Best over-ear headphones if money is no object

Price: £1,799 | Buy now from Selfridges

The Sennheiser HD 820s are the closed-back variants of the HD 800S (above). They have a warmer sound signature with more emphasis on the low-end, and yet maintain an open soundstage. They don’t offer the same incredible mid-range or openness as their open-back siblings, or the same meaty sound signature as closed-back alternatives such as the Fostex TH900 MkII or Audeze LCD-XC, but they’re otherwise fantastic headphones.

Read our Sennheiser HD 820 review for more details

Key specs – Connectivity: Wired, 6.3mm jack plug, 4.4mm jack plug, and XLR; Weight: 360g; Cable length: 3m

Buy now from Selfridges

Best over-ear headphones: Honourable Mentions

If you're unconvinced by any of the above options, here are a few other impressive over-headphones worth checking out.

1. AKG Y600NC | £110 | Buy now from Amazon

If classic looks and a spacious soundstage are features you look for in a pair of over-headphones, the AKG Y600NC will be right up your street. Their noise cancellation is rather disappointing though, so avoid them if you're after the best ANC around. Read our full AKG Y600NC review.

2. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 | £250 | Buy now from Amazon

With support for a wide range of Bluetooth codecs, including both aptX HD and aptX adaptive, top-notch ANC and a comfy fit, the PX7 are a strong option in a crowded market. Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review.

3. Montblanc MB 01 | £520 | Buy now from Montblanc

Combining premium build quality, stylish design, balanced audio and impressive ANC, the Montblanc MB 01 are a very capable first entry into the world of audio from esteemed lifestyle brand Montblanc. Read our full Montblanc MB 01 review.

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