Nuraphone headphones on transitSource: Nura

Best Over-Ear Headphones Android Central 2020

Over-ear headphones may not be as popular as they once were but they still have a place in the market. They're great for when you want the best sound quality you can get from a set of headphones. Portable and especially wireless (Bluetooth) headphones have exploded over the past decade and that's why the Sony WH-1000XM3 have taken our top spot as the best set of headphones you can buy right now.

Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM3

Side profile of Sony WH-1000XM3Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

No surprise here. Sony remains the king of active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones, and Bluetooth headphones in general, with the WH-1000XM3. Not only do these headphones feature class-leading ANC, but they also have just about every other feature you could want while retaining a great 30 hours of battery life on a single charge. When the WH-1000XM3 are dead, you can plug the included USB-C cable in and get a quick charge. Ten minutes of charge nets you five hours of listening time. Unfortunately, during that time you won't be able to actually use your headphones as audio playback (both wired and wireless) is disabled when charging.

Sound quality is decent out of the box if you're a fan of a ton of bass. However, that won't matter much since their companion smartphone app (available on both Android and iOS) has a built-in EQ that allows you to adjust how they sound.

You can also enable an ambient sound mode by using your palm to cover the right ear cup. This lets you hear the environment around you without having to remove your headphones. Arguably this could be implemented better since holding your hand over the right ear cup for more than 15 seconds can get exhausting, fast.

The WH-1000XM3 are also comfortable. It's not optimal (personally I get a pain on the crown of my head after several hours), but definitely better than most other headphones I've tried. The ear cups and headband are super soft and the headband extends far for those who have bigger heads.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Customizable sound
  • Solid comfort
  • Ambient sound mode
  • Great app for both iOS and Android

Cons:

  • Can't charge and listen simultaneously
  • Ambient sound mode could be better
  • Expensive

Best Overall

Sony WH-1000XM3

Class-leading wireless ANC

These are the best ANC headphones on the market. The WH-1000XM3 pack a strong punch that is currently unmatched.

Best Open-Back: Sennheiser HD600/650

Sennheiser HD6000 open-back headphonesSource: Sennheiser

Without a doubt, if you're looking for the best over-ear headphones around with an open back, you'll want to check out the Sennheiser HD600 or HD650. They're both similar in form factor, with the only real differentiator being the slightly tweaked sound signature.

Let's first discuss comfort. Both these headphones are probably the most comfortable headphones for their price point. The ear cups and headband feel like absolute pillows. Since they're open-back you don't have to worry about your ear getting warm.

If I had to have a gold standard for sound quality, the HD600 take the cake. Their soundstage is great thanks to their open-back design, albeit it's mostly in your head. Their bass is a bit lacking due to the aforementioned open-back design but is still present. The rest of the sound signature is balanced and natural. Nothing is elevated or overpowering. The HD650 are a slightly different story. They bring more low bass in and punch much harder than the HD600.

There are two major downsides here. The open-back design means your audio will leak no matter what environment you're in, so, you'll probably want to use them at home. The other major downside is both these headphones require an amp to get the most out of them. You can try plugging them into your phone but you'll most likely need to max out the volume to even get any sort of sound out. Fortunately, the HD600 and HD650 don't need that much amplification so most, if not all, amps will work. They also use a proprietary cable on the headphone end. This is almost as bad as having a non-detachable cable. Fortunately, the cable is detachable and Sennheiser seems to be good at keeping the cable in stock.

Pros:

  • Great sound quality
  • Super comfortable
  • Excellent soundstage
  • The HD650 have more bass

Cons:

  • Sound leakage
  • Requires an amp
  • Proprietary cable
  • Expensive

Best Open-Back

Sennheiser HD600/650

Comfy excellent sound

Open-back headphones are the way to go if you're looking for the best at-home audio.

Best Value: Anker Soundcore Life 20Q

Anker Soundcore Q20Source: Anker

The Life 20Q's strongest suit is battery life. They net you up to 40 hours of juice on a single charge with ANC enabled. If you turn off ANC, you're looking at an additional 20 hours of juice, with a total of 60 hours of battery life before needing to recharge.

Their ANC performance, however, is a bit weird. Unlike other ANC headphones and earbuds out there, the Life 20Q is best at blocking out higher-pitched noises such as talking but struggles quite a bit on the low-end. This means that you'll still be able to somewhat hear the sounds of engines or the wheels on a bus.

In terms of sound, their bass is boosted quite a bit. However, the boosted bass is likely there to compensate for the lack of ANC performance in the low end. The midrange is natural and balanced, while the treble is boosted slightly. Overall, the sound is quite enjoyable, especially for those who love bass.

Comfort is excellent, even over long periods of time. The headband extends pretty far and the ear cups are soft and large. Their clamping force isn't too strong so it won't feel like they're constantly trying to squeeze your head.

Pros:

  • Super long battery life
  • Great comfort
  • Great bass-boosted sound
  • Solid ANC performance for their price

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • Can be too much bass for some
  • ANC struggles in some areas

Best Value

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

They basically last forever

You get excellent sound and great comfort for ridiculously long listening sessions at a low price.

Best Wireless: Nuraphone

Nuraphone headphonesSource: Nura

The Nuraphone differentiate themselves from other headphones by using medical-grade sensors to measure how you perceive sound. During the setup process, they play an assortment of sounds, which helps to measure how your ears are responding to the sounds. They then record feedback from your ear. This all customizes how you hear with them on.

Aside from the super awesome personalization features, the Nuraphone are both over-ear and in-ear headphones. The over-ear portion is used to produce bass, while the in-ear portion is used to play everything else. This allows the Nuraphone to have a super-wide soundstage despite being closed-back headphones.

The app gives you a handful of other customization features beyond analyzing your ears. There's an immersion mode slider, which is just an over-glorified bass booster. It increases the amount of thump and rumble in your bass, and due to the in-ear/over-ear design (Inova as Nura calls it), this won't cause any distortion in your music. Battery life is also great. The official number is "more than 20 hours" but I've been able to get 30-35 hours on a single charge in my testing.

There are some downside to the Nuraphone, however. Firstly, there's no on/off switch. The headphones use a sensor in the right ear cup to detect whether or not they're on your ears. This introduces a strange problem where the headphones take several seconds to wake up and connect, sometimes up to 6-8 seconds. The reverse is true as well. When you're done with the Nuraphones, they take up to a minute to power off, which can be annoying if you're trying to preserve battery life.

Pros:

  • Great sound quality
  • Medical-grade hearing sensing & test
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Can be uncomfortable for some
  • Proprietary port for wired listening
  • Slow to wake/sleep
  • Expensive

Best Wireless

Nuraphone

Truly innovative cans

A solid first attempt from Nura. The Nuraphone have a lot to offer but some minor annoyances can be dealbreakers for some.

Best Sound: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3

Side profile of Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 headphone on the headSource: Sennheiser

The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 offers some of the best sound from Bluetooth headphones to date. While they won't compare to wired options, the Momentum Wireless 3 feature boosted bass overall, a slightly recessed but balanced midrange, and a balanced treble overall. The soundstage is excellent for closed-back Bluetooth headphones, and dynamic range is equally as great.

Comfort is good here, too, with big, soft ear cups, and an equally as soft headband. The ear cups are attached to a sliding mechanism on each side and extend far enough so that even people with big heads will fit them just fine. You won't have an issue with discomfort or fatiguing and you'll easily be able to wear them for extended periods of time.

Their biggest weakness is battery life. They are only capable of up to 17 hours on a single charge with ANC enabled. This is much less than even the Bose Noise Canceling 700 which get up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, and much less than the Sony WH-1000XM3 which feature 30 hours. Fortunately, the Momentum Wireless 3 charge over USB-C, however, they do not feature fast charging of any sort. This means you'll be waiting around two hours for them to charge when the headphones die.

ANC performance is superb. It's not on the level of the Sony WH-1000XM3, but it's good enough. If we had to rank headphones by ANC performance, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 would comfortably be in third place behind the WH-1000XM3 and Bose NC 700.

Pros:

  • Great, bass-boosted sound
  • Excellent comfort
  • USB-C charging
  • Superb ANC performance
  • Sliding mechanism ensures great fit

Cons:

  • Battery life could be longer
  • No fast charging capabilities
  • Expensive

Best Sound

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3

Super comfy

These are super comfortable with great ANC and sound. However, battery life could be better.

Best Noise-Canceling: Bose Noise Canceling 700

White/silver Bose NCH 700s in handSource: Bose

The Bose Noise Canceling 700 are the de-facto set of headphones for travel. You'll be able to wear them for 10+ hours without an issue as they are super comfortable. You won't experience any discomfort with them no matter your head or ear shape, period.

In terms of battery life, the NCH 700 last up to 20 hours on a single charge. This isn't bad in any stretch, but most other high-end ANC headphones are now offering 30+ hours of battery life between charges. They charge over USB-C but don't feature fast charging of any sort, which means they'll take roughly three hours to charge from a dead battery. Unfortunately, just like the Sony WH-1000XM3, you won't be able to listen to them while they're charging either.

Sound quality is pretty decent. They're pretty balanced overall but lack in dynamic range and soundstage. They sound super narrow and lack any sort of depth. The overall sound does get a bit muddy with more complex music and movies as well.

In terms of ANC performance, the NCH 700 are only a notch behind the WH-1000XM3. They perform really well and easily block out the engines of cars and planes. They struggle with higher-pitched noises, but that's pretty typical with ANC headphones. The NCH 700 feature up to 11 "steps" of ANC, but that's mostly a gimmick. Most people want maximum ANC or no ANC at all.

Pros:

  • Superb ANC performance
  • Long battery life
  • Decent sound quality
  • USB-C for charging
  • Superb comfort

Cons:

  • Can't charge and listen simultaneously
  • Lacks fast charging capabilities
  • Battery could be better

Best Noise-Canceling

Bose Noise Canceling 700

Silent listening

The NCH 700 feature superb battery life, decent sound, and excellent comfort for your travels.

Best Budget Wireless: Tribit XFree Tune

Tribit XFree Tune headphonesSource: Tribit

Want wireless headphones with really long battery life? If you answered yes, the Tribit XFree Tune are the right headphones for you. They last up to 40 hours on a single charge, which will get most people through the week without needing to recharge. Sure, they charge over Micro-USB, which is outdated at this point, but this isn't a huge deal if you have a ton of older gadgets around.

In terms of sound quality, the XFree Tune perform well. The bass is elevated but isn't too overwhelming. The midrange is balanced and smooth, and the treble has an emphasis, making some tracks sound overly bright. Overall, they bring a fantastic, consumer-friendly sound to the table.

For comfort, the XFree Tune are excellent. There's no ear fatigue and the headphones are relatively light, so there shouldn't be any issues with the headband crushing your head. The ear cups and headband are made out of leather as well, which gives you a nice cushion.

Pros:

  • Fun, consumer-friendly sound
  • Good comfort
  • Strong battery life
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging

Best Budget Wireless

Tribit XFree Tune

They basically last forever

You get excellent sound and great comfort for ridiculously long listening sessions at a low price.

Noise Canceling for Less: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2Source: Plantroincs

If you're wanting ANC headphones but don't want to spend a fortune, take a look at the BackBeat Pro 2 from Plantronics. They won't feature the best ANC performance out there, but they still perform well. They still block out the usual engine and fan noise, but you'll still be able to hear them, slightly. Sound quality is quite good with a boost in the bass that will make bass lovers happy.

In terms of comfort, the BackBeat Pro 2 are decent. The ear cups are large and the headband extends well. Unfortunately, they can get really uncomfortable after extended use forcing you to take breaks. This is especially notable if you have a large head as the headband has a tendency of putting all the weight on the crown of your head.

The headphones charge over Micro-USB, but that's expected for a set of "budget" headphones. They also lack any sort of fast charging capabilities so you'll need to make sure you have enough juice. Otherwise, you'll be looking at roughly 3 hours to charge from a dead battery to 100%. However, that shouldn't be a big issue as the BackBeat Pro 2 feature up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Good comfort
  • Solid ANC performance

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • Lacks fast charging capabilities

Noise Canceling for Less

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Inexpensive tunes

For the price, the BackBeat Pro 2 are unbeatable thanks to their great comfort, battery life, and ANC.

Best Budget Open-Back: Philips SHP9500

Philips SHP9500 open-back headphonesSource: Philips

Open-back headphones are great for at-home use, and you don't have to pay a lot to get some. Enter the Philips SHP9500, a budget-friendly set of open-back headphones that make almost no compromises.

Comfort wise, the ear cups and headband are large enough for most ears and heads. You won't have any issues with comfort, fatigue, or your ears getting warm thanks to their open-back design. Of course, they are wired so need to worry about Bluetooth latency or charging. The included cable is detachable and thankfully Philips uses a standard 3.5mm jack so you can plug in any 3.5mm cable and it'll work (including ones with microphones).

The sound quality is excellent as expected. You won't need an amp due to their lower ohm-impedance, but having an amp will make them sound better. The overall sound is good with a balanced and natural sound signature with little modifications here and there that most people won't hear. And because they are open-back headphones, their soundstage is wide.

Some of the downsides are the same downsides you could mention with any open-back headphones. They're designed to be used at home, in a relatively quiet environment. They also leak sound like crazy, but that's by design. On the bright side? You don't need an ambient sound mode because you'll hear everything around you no matter what.

Pros:

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Wide soundstage
  • Great comfort

Cons:

  • Sound leakage
  • Meant to be used at home
  • Wired only

Best Budget Open-Back

Philips SHP9500

Critical listening on a budget

Budget headphones don't have to be bad. The Philips SHP9500 are a great example of that with excellent sound and soundstage.

Most Stylish: Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Bower & Wilkins PX7Source: Bowers & Wilkins

What if you can have both a great looking set of headphones but also want them sound good? Enter the Bowers & Wilkins PX7.

In terms of sound, the PX7 feature a bass and treble-heavy sound that is common in most consumer headphones. The bass isn't boosted to the point where it's bloated, and the treble isn't boosted to the point where it's sibilant or piercing. However, what's most impressive about their sound is their soundstage, which is wider than most other closed-back headphones.

Battery life is great with up to 30 hours of juice on a single charge. The headphones charge over USB-C and you can even charge and listen simultaneously over the same cable. This makes the PX7 a perfect companion for those who have headphone jack-less phones or tablets. You'll also get fast charging with up to six hours of playback with a 15-minute charge.

Their only real sacrifice is in the ANC department. Their ANC performance just isn't all that great, and turning on ANC messes with their sound a significant amount. You're better off keeping ANC off as a whole if you want a great experience. Comfort is only decent here, too; the clamping force is super strong so you'll sometimes feel like they are squeezing your head.

Pros:

  • Great consumer-friendly sound
  • Good comfort
  • Long battery life
  • USB-C charging and audio

Cons:

  • Mediocre ANC performance
  • Expensive

Most Stylish

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Looks great

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 look fantastic, sound great, and last a long time on a single charge.

Longest Battery Life: Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra Elite 85hSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

If battery life is your top priority, look no further than the Jabra Elite 85h. They feature an incredible 35 hours of battery life on a single charge, which is more than enough to last you through a long flight and then some. The headphones charge over USB-C, which is always welcome. Unfortunately, you won't be able to use the headphones while they're charging. This seems to be a trend of ANC headphones and probably has something to do with the fact that the headphones need to be "on" and powered even when using them wired to give you ANC.

Sound quality is pretty decent. They sound a bit dull and lack midrange and treble out of the box. Fortunately, you can tweak their sound with Jabra's excellent smartphone app available on both Android and iOS. The app also lets you tweak how much ANC you want. Their ANC still has a notable hum when flying but it's not too bad, especially when you have music playing.

The Elite 85h also have some neat quality of life features. For example, they turn on and off with a swivel of the right ear cup. The headphones also automagically play/pause when you take your headphones off or put them back on. They are super comfortable, even for long periods of time.

Pros:

  • Superb battery life
  • Customizable sound
  • Useful smart features
  • Great comfort

Cons:

  • ANC is only decent
  • Out of the box sound isn't great

Longest Battery Life

Jabra Elite 85h

Long listening sessions

It feels like the Elite 85h last forever between charges. They also feature great comfort and useful smart features.

Best Planar Magnetic: Drop Panda

Drop Panda HeadphonesSource: Drop

You should think of the Panda from Drop as an updated version of the Oppo PM-3. The Panda essentially uses the same driver as the PM-3, with a few minor tweaks.

What else do you need to know? First and foremost, they're a planar magnetic driver. You don't need to know what that means other than that they'll be good at reproducing bass. The bass is balanced, deep, and quite enjoyable. The midrange is solid as well, but the treble is a bit lackluster. The treble presence on the Panda is an improvement over the PM-3, but don't expect them to be bright or "airy". The presence is there and blends well with the rest of the sound. Dynamic range is excellent, and the soundstage is decently wide.

In terms of comfort, if you have a smaller head, you won't have much issue with them, even over long periods of time. However, if you have a larger head, you may run into issues with comfort, especially over long periods of time. The headband has a tendency to create pain near the crown of your head.

The Panda feature 30 hours of battery life on a single charge. From dead, you can get three hours of listening time with a 10-minute charge, which is pretty decent. Otherwise, they'll take roughly three hours in total to charge. The headphones charge over USB-C and even support audio over the same port. Their only real downside is that they don't feature ANC, but ANC usually comes at the expense of sound quality. Likewise, ANC was an intentional omission on Drop's part to retain great sound.

Pros:

  • Great sound
  • Long battery life
  • USB-C for charging and audio

Cons:

  • Can be uncomfortable for some
  • Lacks ANC

Best Planar Magnetic

Drop Panda

Planar at its finest

Planar headphones are typically heavy, at home headphones. The Drop Panda changes that by allowing you to take that experience on the go.

Bottom line

Over-ear headphones are getting smaller, more compact, and wireless. If that's what you're looking for, look no further than the Sony WH-1000XM3, which are the pinnacle of wireless headphone innovation. Stand out features include great portability for an over-ear headphone, excellent comfort, and ridiculously long battery life at 30 hours.

The WH-1000XM3 also currently offers the best active noise cancelation (ANC) performance of any headphone by a mile. If you need ANC headphones, go with the WH-1000XM3. However, the biggest downside with them is that you can't charge and listen to them at the same time. Yes, they do feature quick charging, but as soon as you plug them in to charge, audio playback gets disabled whether you want to use them over Bluetooth or through the wired 3.5mm connection.

How to choose the best over-ear headphones

While many people are ditching their over-ear headphones for more portable ones, they still play an important role in the headphone market, especially if you care about sound quality. You have to consider comfort as well. These headphones will be over your ear, on your head, and possibly squishing the top of your head for several hours at a time.

Of course, there's also impedance. While it's not that important when it comes to portable or wireless headphones, it's crucial when looking at high-end headphones. This is amplified when looking at open-back headphones.

Sound Quality

I'm going to be honest here. If the sound quality wasn't great, headphones wouldn't have made our list, period. The number one thing that attracts people to over-ear headphones is sound quality. Nobody would knowingly choose to use over-ear headphones that sound like garbage. While we have a numerical list here, all of them sound good and you can't go wrong with any of them.

Our top three picks, the Sennheiser HD600 and the Philips SHP9500 are both solid for those who want the most accurate sound you can get. Both sets can essentially replicate a balanced and natural sound without much issue and if there are any inconsistencies can easily be EQ'd to fix any minor variations in sound.

Best active over-ear headphones, ranked by sound quality

  1. Sennheiser HD600
  2. Philips SHP9500
  3. Drop Panda
  4. Nuraphones by Nura
  5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Comfort

Comfort is easily the second most important thing when it comes to over-ear headphones. If they're not comfortable and you can't wear them for long periods, why have them in the first place?

Easily the number one pick for over-ear headphone comfort are the Sennheiser HD600/650. Those things feel like absolute pillows on your ears and your head. The clamping force isn't too strong so they don't add a ton of pressure on your head either.

The next best is, unsurprisingly, the Sony WH-1000XM3. While not as comfortable as the HD600 or the HD650, they're comfortable enough and that's super important in the case that you need to use them for extended periods of time, perhaps while flying. When it comes to traveling, you'd want the most comfortable headphones you can find.

Best over-ear headphones, ranked by comfort

  1. Sennheiser HD600/650
  2. Bose Noise Canceling 700
  3. Sony WH-1000XM3
  4. Philips SHP9500
  5. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3

Impedance

In an attempt to not get overly technical, impedance indicates how much power a headphone may require. The higher the impedance, the more power your headphone requires, and the more likely you'll need an amp. Generally speaking, the lower the impedance the better.

The magical number for mobile devices is typically 32 or lower. Anything higher means you'll probably need an amp of some sort to drive your headphones. That number isn't universal, however, as smartphones such as the LG V30 can theoretically drive headphones with an impedance of roughly 600.

It's not like plugging in high-impedance headphones into a low-impedance device will result in no sound, either. That combination will likely work. However, you'll likely need to max out your phone's volume level to get some sound out of it, if at all.

To nobody's surprise, the Anker Soundcore Life 20Q are our top pick in this regard. They're relatively inexpensive headphones designed for portable use. The Sony WH-1000XM3, Nuraphone, Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3, and Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are our next obvious choices since they were all designed for wireless use.

And while the Philips SHP9500 are not on the list, they are worth mentioning as they have a relatively low impedance despite being an open-back headphone. The SHP9500 are one of the few open-back headphones that you can simply just plug into your smartphone and listen without an amplifier.

  1. Anker Soundcore Life Q20
  2. Sony WH-1000XM3
  3. Nuraphones
  4. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3
  5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Peter Cao has a deep love for sound, specifically in headphones. In his free time, he plays a ton of video games.

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