If bulky over-ear headphones and tiny earbuds had a baby, it’d probably look a lot like a set of on-ear headphones. The good news is that you get to enjoy the best of both worlds. That’s because on-ear headphones have the benefit of having speakers large enough to produce hi-fi sound (the way over-ear headphones do) while remaining compact enough to stow away for easy transport (the way earbuds do).
The makers of quality on-ear options can pack the ear cups full of technology, like active noice cancellation and radio frequency technology while ensuring that the headphones are still light weight and produce great audio full of rich bass and crisp mids. On-ear headphones typically have have adjustable headbands to fit all head sizes, plus padded cushions that relieve pressure on the ears, regardless of how expensive or cheap the price.
Since virtually *every* company claims its headphones produce the best sound, are made from the best materials, and have the best features available, we decided to turn to reviewers to see which on-ear headphones were the most worthy of your money. Here they are:
Best high-end on-ear headphones
These are made by Bose, so you know you’re getting a quality headset. Bose headphones are known for their powerful audio performance, quality, and durability. PC Mag writes that these headphones produce a “rich bass response and well-defined highs.”
At 5.4 ounces, the SoundLink headphones are pretty light for a set of Bluetooth on-ear headphones. The benefits of choosing these include 15 hours of playtime and an advanced 2-way microphone system. The controls are simple and they can be used either with or eithout the Bluetooth. (They come with an audio cord if you’d rather plug in.)
These headphones aren’t really suited for working out, so if you’re looking for something like that consider one of the others on the list. (Or opt for earbuds like these.) Otherwise, if you want a way-above-average set of headphones for sound, these are a good bet.
Amazon customer Racer Hex writes,
“Sound is awesome, very crisp and full. Extremely easy Bluetooth operation, too. The battery life is pretty good and it has a woman’s digital voice reporting the battery life in 10% increments, it’s also good about managing the battery when not actually in use. Needless to say it’s very convenient to just plug it in with USB to charge. The comfort is good – the on-ear pieces cover my whole ear snug but not uncomfortable even after hours of wear.”
The RS 120 RF (Radio Frequency) Wireless Headphone were built to let you enjoy sound without dealing with tangly cumbersome cables. These lightweight, on-ear headphones by Sennheiser work by receiving sound from the included transmitter base when it’s connected to the output of any audio source. So you can connect it to your TV, computer, smartphone or sound system and receive the audio from up to 300 feet away, even if you’re in another part of the house, with walls and doors in the way. The base also acts as a charging station when the headphones are not in use.
Perhaps our favorite thing about these headphones though is that they can connect with multiple users, so you can all share the same audio experience being transmitted from the same source.
Sennheiser is known for creating headphones that produce detailed, clear sound along with impressive bass. The RS120 model has received more than 14K customer reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Amazon reviewer Bill Powers writes:
“My old faithful Sony wireless headsets went south during ur recent move into our house so I needed a hew wireless headset pronto. I’ve always liked Sennheiser so thought I’d give this one a chance, and for $60 I thought I could manage to live with it even if it didn’t sound as good as the Sonys. WELL! It beat the Sony in every aspect. it’s lighter weight, has fuller sound, a LOT more volume, farther coverage from the base, better overall sound though I do wish these wireless headphones had defeatable audio limiting on them. Otherwise, it’s darn near perfect.”
The Beats Solo3 headphones use what Apple calls Pure ANC (Adaptive Noise Cancelation) to give you uninterrupted sound. ANC is a form of noise cancelation that uses advanced algorithms to monitor the sounds around you and adjust the level of noise cancellation to best match your environment. What makes it really cool is that it adjusts for sound leakage caused by your hair, glasses, the shape of your ear, and even the movement of your head. But you can turn Pure ANC off if you want to enjoy longer battery life.
Available in more than a dozen fun colors, the Beats Solo3 headphones were the first to use the new Apple W1 chip (which are also now in the AirPods.) When the Beats Solo3 headphones launched in 2016, Raymond Wong had this to say:
“With the W1 chip, Beats was able to improve the Solo 2’s 12 hours of battery life up to 40 hours, an increase of over 3x.
The best wireless headphones, some of which cost more than the Solo 3, only get up to half the battery life of Beats’ new headphones. The only one that I could find that matches the Solo 3 on battery life is Sony’s DRBTN20, which seems to have middling sound.”
According to the PCMag review, the Beats Solo3 headphones have “Powerful, bass-forward (but balanced) audio performance” and feature “feature exceptionally comfortable earpads.” Though the headband could be more comfortable, the 300-foot Bluetooth range helps balance out some of the cons.
Amazon reviewers have plenty of good things to say about their Beats, racking up more than 3,000 reviews on the site and netting the headphones an average of 4 out of 5 stars.
Reviewer MindSeedTV had this to say:
“The Bluetooth connectivity is very simple with apple products. As soon as I turned the headphones on I was prompted with a message on my iphone asking If I would like to connect to the Solo3. Very cool. Also You can travel 300 feet away from your cell phone while wearing these and the music will not break up. That is much further than any other Bluetooth device is currently capable. Most devices allow you to get 30 ft away. So if you would prefer to charge your headphones a lot less and walk further away from your cellphone while wearing these. GO with these! if you don’t mind charging the headphones every few days and you don’t plan on getting too far from your phone. Get the Beats solo2 wireless. Sound quality and music experience will be EXACTLY the SAME!”
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because they produce powerful, balanced audio. Amazon customers seem to agree, awarding 4.2 out of 5 stars. These headphone have up to 30 hours of battery life and are designed for easy transport. The lightweight black earphones can be folded down to fit comfortably into your pocket, so you can have them whenever you’re ready to rock out. This set also comes with active and passive noice cancellation capabilities so if you’re on your next flight and want to block out the sound of jet engines, you can do that. If you sit next to a noisy coworker, you can block their sound out too.
Or if you just want to silence the world while you take a nap, you can do that too.
Super plush earcups will keep you comfy for long-term wear, but the best part of these headphones is that they’re solidly reliable. They seem to check off all the boxes that you’d want: Good audio, solid battery life, collapsible, optional audio cord, and more.
Amazon customer comeoniwanttogo writes:
“The sound – wonderful crisp highs and tight mids and bass. The noise cancelling – throw away your Bose…. these are way better at noise cancelling. The build… Solid, built to last but feel light and comfortable when worn. I travel for work a lot and these are exactly what I needed.”
Best cheap on-ear headphones
Let’s start with the basics: Is it possible to get a quality pair of on-ear headphones for less than $20? Why yes, it is. For less than $15 you can have a highly rated pair of on-ear headphones that are just as stylish as they are affordable. This lightweight option is designed with pressure-relieving ear pads so you stay as comfortable as possible. The ear cups swivel so you can store them away easily, and there’s a 36mm driver to emit high-quality sound.
Available in white, black, or blue, hese built-by-Amazon headphones are pair of the AmazonBasics collection. They’re super lightweight at just 4.5 ounces and receive rave reviews, with some commenting on how great they are for the price.
Amazon reviewer Steven Matt writes:
“I am giving this product 5 stars for it’s price to performance ratio. Yes, there are hundreds of headphones that will perform and sound better that you can purchase on Amazon for a little more money than the 15 bucks I spent on these, In the 25 to 45 dollar range there are some really good deals and very fine phones and buds. After burning these guys in for 20 hours I was mightily impressed by how the midrange expanded and the base tightened up. I am an audiophile in search of the holy grail of great sound, for less money and then telling friends and family how to save by checking out those products. I was really surprised how good they sounded out of the box.”
Who doesn’t want a pair of ear cups that feel as good as they look? This pair of headphones are made with synthetic leather ear pillows that are soft enough for you to even forget you’re wearing ’em.
Skullcandy’s Uproar Wireless on-ear headphones connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. With a 10-hour battery life, you can pretty much go all day without worrying about needing a recharge. There’s an onboard mic and remote so you can take calls from work and navigate your Spotify playlist with the easy-to-reach buttons on the ear cups.
With a solid 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon and more than 1,000 reviews, customers are into these headphones too. Amazon reviewer Dunnington writes:
“I got hese Skullcady Bluetooth headphones for use at the gym, and after more than a month of nearly daily use, I have to say they are even better than I’d hoped . Despite my best efforts I have never found satisfactory in-ear headsets, wired or wireless, that will stay in my ears while exercising. On top of the fall-out problem the tiny ear bud controls are too hard to use and the battery life of the Bluetooth versions is often lacking. I was worried that on-ear headphones might fall off while exercising but the Skullcady stays put. The controls are big, easy to understand and to see or feel for when on my head. The Bluetooth instantly synched with my iPhone 6 and is quick to link up when I turn it on. The battery seems to last forever between charges. So far I’ve had to charge it once using it 5-6 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour. The sound is fine for the mostly classical music, with some rock or blues that I listen to. I’m not looking for a concert hall experience at the gym. The headphones do manage to keep out the annoying gym-supplied music without blocking my ability to hear when someone speaks to me. There are so many choices when looking for Bluetooth earbuds or headphones and so many reviews (a lot of which look to be spam) that finding the best option is a real chore. For just $30 the Skullcady was a low risk choice, and I’m glad a took a chance on them.”
The EXTRA BASS option on this headset by SONY produces rich, powerful sound with low frequencies that you can take with you everywhere. They’re built with 30mm drivers for sound, faux leather cushions on the headband and ear cups for comfort, and a flat, tangle free cable for durability and ease of use.
Some 95% of Best Buy customers would recommend this headset to a friend (281 out of 298). Verified Purchaser AdamStone writes:
“I have to admit that I didn’t have high hopes for this headset. I purchased it out of need for a noise cancelling headset that offered a mic for calls. Unpacking them I noticed just how great the quality is. They have a refined feel and the comfort is outstanding. Sound quality is amazing and the bass levels are great. I love this headset and I”m now a fan of Sony headsets.”