Best Over-Ear Headphones Android Central 2019

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 possibly get from a headphone. Whether it be closed-back, like the Sony WH-1000XM3, which are usually designed for portability and travel, or open-back, like the Sennheiser HD600 which are designed for at home use, over-ear headphones deliver the best way to enjoy music without investing in speakers.

Best Overall: Sennheiser HD600/650

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

Let's first discuss comfort. Both these headphones are probably the most comfortable headphone on the market. The ear cups and headband feel like absolute pillows — no complaints when it comes to comfort or fatigue. 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. The soundstage is super wide thanks to the open-back design. The low-bass is a bit lacking due to its open-back nature but still has a recessed presence. Mid- and upper-bass, along with the mid-range and treble, is super smooth and neutral. Nothing is elevated or overpowering. The HD650 is a slightly different story as it brings that low-bass in and punches much harder than the HD600. Otherwise, it's the same exact sound signature.

There are two major downsides two the HD600 and HD650. 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 of them. Fortunately, the HD600 and HD650 don't need that much amplification so most if not all amps will work. Also, they use a proprietary cable on the headphone end. Fortunately, the cable is detachable and Sennheiser seems to be pretty good at keeping the cable in stock.

Pros:

  • Great sound quality
  • Super comfortable
  • Excellent soundstage

Cons:

  • Sound leakage
  • Requires an amp
  • Proprietary cable

Best Overall

Sennheiser HD600/650

Comfy excellent sound

Open-back headphones are the way to go if you're looking for the best at-home audio. The Sennheiser HD600/650 don't disappoint.

Best Active Noise Canceling: Sony WH-1000XM3

No surprise here. Sony still remains king of active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones with its WH-1000XM3. Not only does it have class-leading ANC, it tries to shove every possible feature you might want in a headphone into it while still 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 wont be able to actually use your headphones.

Sound quality is decent out of the box if you're a fan of a bass-heavy, dark sound signature. However, that won't really matter much as the companion smartphone (available on both Android and iOS) can adjust this.

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 headphone. Arguably this could be implemented better since holding your hand over the right ear cup for more than 15 seconds can get fatiguing, 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Best Active Noise Cancelation

Sony WH-1000XM3

Class-leading wireless ANCs

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

Best Wireless: Nuraphones by Nura

First and foremost, the Nuraphones use 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 by recording feedback from your ear that are 100x lower than what most humans can hear.

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

The app gives you a handful of other customization features beyond analyzing your ears. There's an immersion mode slider which is an over-glorified bass low-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 good. 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 Nuraphones, however. First and foremost, there's no on/off switch. The headphone uses a sensor in the right ear cup to detect whether or not they're on your ears. This introduces a strange problem where the headphone takes 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.

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

Best Wireless

Nuraphones by Nura

Truly innovative tunes

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

Best Budget Wireless: Tribit XFree Tune

Want wireless headphones with really long battery life? 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. 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 mid-range is neutral and smooth, and the treble has an emphasis, making some tracks sound overly bright. The sound can be defined as V-shaped, which some may like over a completely flat and neutral sound.

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:

  • V-shaped, fun sound
  • Good comfort
  • Strong battery life

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging

Best Budget Wireless

Tribit XFree Tune

They last basically forever

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

Best Budget Noise Canceling: Mpow H10

The Mpow H10 are definitely the best budget pair of wireless over-ear headphones around, especially for its price.

In terms of sound quality, the H10 are above-average. The bass overall is flat and neutral. It's not over- or under-emphasized, nor is there too much or too little boomy-ness. The mid-range is great, only being slightly recessed in the mid-mids while the lower- and upper-mids are neutral and flat. The treble is okay as well. They may sound sibilant, piercing, and sharp for some users.

Battery life is excellent with up to 30 hours of usage on a single charge. Usually, headphones at this price range get somewhere between 10-15 hours of usage on a single charge, and this is with ANC enabled. Yes, the Mpow H10 have ANC and, fortunately, the ANC doesn't effect the sound quality in any major way so you can just keep it on 24/7. The ANC itself is good for its price — great for commutes and office environments, although it struggles quite a bit while flying.

Comfort is surprisingly good here, too. There are no issues with fatigue, pain, or any sort of soreness over several hours of usage. The ear cups use a pleather material, which is fine, and the rest of the headphone is made of a mostly plastic design, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The plastic allows the H10 to be super light which makes them even more comfortable.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Comfortable and light
  • Solid ANC
  • Above average sound quality

Cons:

  • Sound is a bit sharp
  • ANC while flying could use improvement

Best Budget Noise Canceling

Mpow H10

Inexpensive tunes

For the price, the Mpow H10 are unbeatable thanks to its great comfort, battery life, and ANC.

Best Budget Open-Back: Philips SHP9500

Open-back headphones are great for at-home use, but just because you only use them at home doesn't mean they have to be expensive. 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 the open-back design. Of course, it's wired so need to worry about Bluetooth audio codecs 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).

Sound quality is excellent as expected. You wont need an amp due to its lower ohm-impedance, but having an amp will make them sound better. The overall sound is really good with a basically neutral sound signature with little modifications here and there that most people won't here. And because it's an open-back headphone, the soundstage is super wide.

Obviously, some of the downsides are the same downsides you could mention with any open-back headphone. They're designed to be used at home, in a quiet environment. They also leak sound like crazy by design. On the bright side? You don't need an ambient sound mode because you'll hear it 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 is a great example of that with excellent sound and soundstage.

Best Planar Magnetic: HiFiMan Ananda

Most headphones available on the market use dynamic drivers and that's for good reason. They're easy to manufacture, sound good, and can be used in anything as small as truly wireless earbuds up to large stadium speakers. However, there are other driver types out there, including planar magnetic. This is where the HiFiMan Ananda comes in — a set of planar magnetic headphones meant for people who care deeply about sound quality.

The sound quality here is good. The bass is neutral and flat, while the mids are relatively even with some marginal dips and elevation below and above neutral, respectively. The treble is where they fall short. The treble is fairly uneven with big dips and elevation throughout the entire range making the treble sound a bit odd. This is normal for planar magnetic headphones since they're typically great at reproducing bass and mids but suffer quite substantially with treble.

Comfort is decent. The ear cups and headband are fairly large. If you have a smaller head, the ear cups may actually extend past your jaw making them super uncomfortable for smaller headed people. Aside from the ear cups, the headphones themselves are fairly heavy thanks to the planar magnetic driver.

Surprisingly, the Ananda doesn't require any sort of amplification. In fact, the company promotes the idea of using them with your mobile device. This is thanks to the 25 impedance, which is relatively low. You probably won't want to use these much in public though as they are open-back and leak sound.

Pros:

  • Good sound quality
  • Big ear cups
  • No amp required

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Ear cups may be too big for some
  • Treble response isn't the greatest

Best Planar Magnetic

HiFiMan Ananda

Planar at its finest

Planar makes your headphones substantially heavier. If you can get over that, the HiFiMan Ananda deserves your attention.

Bottom line

Over-ear headphones are getting smaller, more compact, and wireless. However, not everyone wants that and sometimes you want to just sit at your desk, throw on some headphones and enjoy music the way the artist intended. If that sounds like you, the Sennheiser HD600 or the HD650 are fantastic choices.

Both these headphones are not portable due to its open-back design and amplification requirements. You could get a portable amp and carry that with you but then you run into the issue of everyone around you being able to hear your audio. If you've always had the itch to listen to your music how it was intended, the HD600 or HD650 are definitely what you're looking for.

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 or soundstage. 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 absolutely 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 really good and you can't go wrong with any of them.

Our top three picks, the Sennheiser HD600, Philips SHP9500, and the HiFiMan Ananda, are all solid pairs that are for those who want the most accurate sound you can get. All three sets can essentially replicate neutral sound without much issue and if there are any inconsistencies can easily be EQ'd to fix any minor variations in sound.

The Nuraphones by Nura are our fourth pick due to how controversial their sound can be. For me personally, they sound absolutely fantastic for a portable ANC headphone. While they can't touch the soundstage from a good open-back headphone such as the Sennheiser HD600, they actually have an impressively wide soundstage despite being a closed-back headphone.

Best active over-ear headphones, ranked by sound quality

  1. Sennheiser HD600
  2. Philips SHP9500
  3. HiFiMan Ananda
  4. Nuraphones by Nura
  5. Sony WH-1000XM3

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 of time, why have them in the first place?

Easily the number one pick for over-ear headphone comfort is the Sennheiser HD600/650. Those things feel like absolute pillows on your ears and on 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. Sony WH-1000XM3
  3. Philips SHP9500
  4. Mpow H10
  5. Tribit XFree Tune

Impedance

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

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 which 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 Mpow H10 is our top pick in this regard. They're relatively inexpensive headphones designed for portable use. The Sony WH-1000XM3 and Nuraphones by Nura are the next two obvious ones as they're both designed for wireless use. Both headphones can be used wired with practically any device around.

Interestingly, the Philips SHP9500 and the HiFiMan Ananda are our last two picks despite being open-back headphones. Typically open-back headphones have a higher impedance because of their nature, but both the SHP9500 and Ananda can be used with a portable device without any sort of amplification. Of course, amplification always helps if you're looking to squeeze out every bit of detail out of your headphones.

  1. Mpow H10
  2. Sony WH-1000XM3
  3. Nuraphones by Nura
  4. Philips SHP9500
  5. HiFiMan Ananda

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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