10 Over-Ear Headphones That Are Worth Buying Right Now

Finding a great pair of headphones in today's market can be tricky, as there's more choice than ever, and it's easy to get lost in all the options. Wireless headphones used to be a sonically inferior option, but with 3.5-millimeter jacks now mostly missing from the latest smartphones and laptops, they've become a booming market, with their sound quality improving rapidly as a result. Likewise, wired headphones have become even more refined in their definition, offering crisper, cleaner audio than ever before in an attempt to tempt buyers away from their cordless competition.

It's important to know what you're looking for before jumping in and deciding which headphones to purchase, as buying a pair that's not suited to your needs will seriously affect your listening experience. Whether you're looking for the ultimate home-listening headphones or the best in active noise-canceling technology, there's something out there to please everyone. Here's a quick rundown of some of the best on-ear headphones on the market, all of which could be considered among the best in their class.

Grado SR325x

The latest iteration of Grado's Prestige line, the SR325x is much more about evolution than revolution. Its almost vintage-looking design continues to set it apart from its competitors, offering a look that's unique, albeit an acquired taste. The new model comes with revised foam earpads that are thinner than the older generation and might take some getting used to, especially for wearers who aren't familiar with Grado's other headphones. Another point to note about the design is that these headphones are open-backed, and they do leak sound, to the point where people nearby will notice (via What Hi-Fi?). This is very much a pair for those who prefer listening alone, somewhere where they won't be frequently disturbed.

The SR325x, like its predecessors, continues to offer one of the clearest and most expressive sound experiences in its price bracket. To get the most out of it, it's recommended to use a quality music player, or an external DAC for music played through a laptop or phone. With an appropriately good signal, these headphones will bring the best out of all manner of genres, from rock to soul. At $295, the SR325x aren't exactly cheap, but they're great value for audiophiles who want to get the best out of their at-home system without breaking the bank.

Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X

Straddling the line between audio professionals and hi-fi listeners, the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro Xs offer a sound that aims to put accuracy above all else. Beyerdynamic has developed a reputation for making some of the most durable headphones on the market, so buyers can rest easy knowing their new headset will remain fully functional years or even decades into the future. That makes the headset's retail price of $349.99 seem like more of a long-term investment rather than a one-off indulgence.

Of course, being durable is no use if the actual sound quality is no good, and the DT 900 Pro X doesn't disappoint here. They're particularly suited to studio producers or fans of more acoustic genres of music. Reviews suggest the headset's biggest strength is its ability to reproduce the liveliness and wide dynamic range of classical, jazz, or acoustic music, but listeners looking for a warmer, more pop-friendly sound might be underwhelmed. Nevertheless, the headphones make a great option for either professionals checking the finer details of their mixes, or at-home listeners who want to extract every bit of definition out of their favorite jazz or classical recording.

Austrian Audio Hi-X50

If it's audio production rather than home listening you're shopping for, then the Austrian Audio Hi-X50 professional headphones should tick all the right boxes. ProducerHive called them a great choice for general studio work, with an excellent mid-range and bass response that is present but doesn't overwhelm the mix like more casual "bass-boosted" style headphones can do. The overall construction of the headphones is very high-quality, and the memory foam in the ear cushions helps them stay comfortable even through longer studio sessions.

Austrian Audio itself is a relatively new entry to the market, having only been founded in 2017. However, its engineers are all ex-employees of veteran audio equipment maker AKG, so they have decades more knowledge than their "start-up" status would imply. The team's years in the industry are clearly evidenced in the sound quality of the Hi-X50s, which is on par with the rivals from the likes of Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic. The pair can be picked up for $299, offering home producers and audio professionals a reasonably priced way to upgrade their setup.

Apple AirPods Max

Anyone who's encountered the AirPods Max either in an Apple store or online will probably have been struck by one thing: their price. At $549, the wireless headphones are significantly costlier than pretty much every other rival pair on the market, although it turns out, their construction does go some way to justifying their eye-watering price tag. Even so, most audiophiles will have to think long and hard about spending that kind of money on a pair, especially since they come from a brand that's not traditionally known for high-end audio products.

Cost aside, the AirPods Max are in fact some of the best-sounding wireless headphones out right now, and they're made even better by their top-notch noise cancellation, which can be switched on and off almost instantly. The metal-and-mesh headband remains comfortable over long listening periods, and the cups are equally well-fitting. Inside the cups, there are sensors that detect when a user takes the headphones off and automatically pauses the track, a small but useful feature that indicates Apple's commitment to the details. Now, the AirPods Max are far from perfect, with a slightly disappointing microphone quality and no power button to turn the headset on and off. In their segment, though, there are very few headphones that top them for overall sound quality and listening experience. In rare cases, they do go on sale, so it's worth watching for seasonal reductions to try and take a bit off that sky-high asking price.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony took the winning formula of the WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones and improved on it for 2022's WH-1000XM5. The latest iteration comes with an all-new design that's slimmer and more subtle than its predecessor, swapping the chunky headband and metal trim for a smoother, monotone look. The ANC (active noise cancellation) is also better than ever, with background noise more effectively reduced without being distractingly silent. SlashGear's review described it as being "the true absence of sounds, rather than [the listener] being aware that [sound is] being electronically erased."

Overall audio quality is also noticeably improved over the WH-1000XM4, with a new, smaller 30-millimeter driver that Sony claims makes for better control. The redesigned driver means the headset lacks the "punch" that the older model can deliver, but sounds feel more accurate overall. There's also a 3.5-millimeter jack included as standard for devices that either aren't compatible with wireless connectivity or just sound better through old-fashioned copper. Unfortunately, the improvements present in the WH-1000XM5 are also reflected in its price. Sony lists the headphones for $399.99, a hefty price tag for a wireless headset, but still some way short of the astronomically-priced Apple AirPods Max. However, for frequent flyers and remote workers, the ANC coupled with the excellent music quality makes the WH-1000XM5s a strong choice.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2

The first generation of Bowers & Wilkins' flagship wireless headphones was unveiled in 2019, and quickly established itself as one of the leading headsets at its price point. In 2022, the company released its second-generation PX7 S2s, which promise even better definition and richness than before. The pair is priced at $399, putting them right on par with Sony's flagship WH-1000XM5s. While Sony arguably offers a better range of features and active noise canceling options, it's the Bower & Wilkins headphones that come out on top for pure sound quality.

Expect clean, bright, and consistent audio that works best with suitably high-quality audio files, although even with regular Spotify tracks, there's a clear uptick in definition versus cheaper headphones. Noise canceling is perfectly adequate although it's not quite as comprehensive as competitor offerings, so louder noises will get through and can become distracting (via Tom's Guide). In terms of design, the PX7 S2s look a little uninspiring, but there will undoubtedly be some buyers who dig their anonymous looks. They might not quite be the best in class when it comes to ANC or design, but for sound quality, it's hard to find a better pair of wireless headphones at this price.

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Wireless ANC headphones offer users the ultimate in on-the-go convenience, filtering out unwanted background noise while letting users enjoy their favorite tracks in high quality. Or at least, they do ... until they run out of battery. Sennheiser's latest pair of wireless headphones aims to make sure that never happens, with a class-leading 60 hours of battery life, roughly double what rivals from Sony and Bowers & Wilkins offer (via Tech Radar). They're also comfortable to wear over extended periods, even if the new all-plastic design does lose some of the unique style factor that the previous generation Momentum 3 Wireless headphones boasted.

Sony still wins overall in the ANC department, but the Sennheisers do an almost equally good job of removing unwanted sonic intrusions across all but the deepest frequencies. The headset will tackle pop, rock, or dance music with equal capability, with a rich, agile mix that will have listeners appreciating the subtleties of their favorite vocalist better than ever before. The Momentum 4 Wireless headphones also undercut their rivals in price, retailing for $349.95. The only thing that lets the Sennheisers down against Sony's flagship WH-1000XM5s is the not-so-perfect ANC, but for $50 less, it's a sacrifice that's definitely worth considering.

Sony WH-1000XM4

While Sony's WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones are still the class benchmark, it's worth considering the previous generation WH-1000XM4s if you don't want to splash out $400 on a pair of headphones. Unveiled in 2020, the WH-1000XM4s redefined Sony's ANC lineup, pivoting to a design focused on working from home as much as traveling. They offer much of the same functionality as the WH-1000XM5s, albeit with a slightly cheaper price tag. Officially, they still retail for $349.99, but keep an eye out for sales as it's possible to find them for substantially cheaper than that.

Built from sturdy plastic, the WH-1000XM4s are among the most durable high-end headphones currently on the market, and even against increasingly stiff competition, they remain among the best for active noise cancellation. They even have one distinct advantage over their successor: They can fold up into themselves to fit neatly into travel bags or backpacks, whereas the WH-1000XM5s are restricted to simply folding the cans flat. They might not be the absolute latest in Sony's lineup, but the WH-1000XM4s deserve a look for anyone trying to get the best value for their hard-earned cash.

Beyerdynamic Amiron

If budget isn't so much of an issue and the main priority is ultimate sound quality, the Beyerdynamic Amiron wired headphones are about as good as it gets in their price bracket. Retailing for $599.99, they're the most expensive pair here, but they offer a level of clarity that wireless or cheaper headphones simply can't match yet. Virtually no genres are off-limits for the Amirons, which can reproduce everything from rock to classical music with studio-like quality given a good enough input to work with.

They're also supremely comfortable, with a mix of alcantara and microvelour in the earcups and headband that makes them feel a lot more luxurious than the other headphones here. They're connected to a 3-meter (10-foot) long cable, with a 6.3-millimeter jack that can unscrew to reveal a smaller 3.5-millimeter jack underneath. Like other open-back headphones, sound does spill out into the room around you as you're listening, so this isn't a pair you'd want to listen with when there are other people about (via What Hi-Fi?). However, for solo listeners, the Amirons remain a great high-end choice assuming you've got a suitably lofty budget.

Shure SRH1540

Shure's headphones have previously catered to the professional market rather than the consumer one, but with the SRH1540, the company has taken a different direction. These premium-looking wired headphones are instead aimed squarely at the discerning audiophile, with their aluminum and carbon fiber trim looking suitably high-end. They're classy, but that's to be expected for a headset that retails for $499.99. The SRH1540s sound less flat than most of Shure's other headphones, but that helps give music a more lively and vibrant feel, with an excellent balance between highs, mids, and bass (via TweakTown).

The closed-back design prevents sound from leaking out, but it doesn't affect the overall quality, with virtually zero distortion noticeable. A 3.5-millimeter jack comes as standard, so they can be plugged straight into a phone or other device if need be. There's no noise cancellation and the ear cups don't rotate or fold, but there's a protective case included that should make transporting them hassle-free. In a way, they're a more "traditional" audiophile's headphone than many of the alternatives here, but with excellent sound quality and high-end construction, few would argue that's a bad thing.