Best Over-Ear Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar’s round-up of the best Hi-Fi over-ear headphones you can buy in 2018.
When it comes to raw sound quality, nothing beats the sense of scale a pair of decent over-ear headphones can provide. If pristine audio performance is what you’re after, you can simply do no better than the headphones you’ll find here.
Now, that does mean making a few trade-offs. That might mean buying a pair of wired headphones instead of wireless ones, or losing out on features like active noise cancellation so audio can sound as neutral as possible.
If you’re looking for the best wireless headphones and best noise-cancelling headphones guides specifically, we can help you out, but don’t feel bad if you’re specifically looking for Hi-Fi headphones and don’t mind shaving off some of the non-essential features to get it.
With that said, this guide will focus on sound quality above all else. There are a couple of wireless and noise-cancelling equipped choices in our list, but that’s only because they sound great in addition to packing these features.
Has something changed since the last time you visited this page? That’s completely normal. We’re always updating this guide with the best headphones – which, as you can expect, changes frequently. That said, you can expect this guide to be as up-to-date as we can get it on any given day, ensuring that you’re getting out top picks all year round. Without further ado, here’s our guide to getting the most for your money, whatever your budget.
1. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
BEST SOUND: Professional headphones that know how to have fun
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 370 g | Cable length: 9.8 ft or 3.9 ft | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 102dB | Impedance: 250 ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Built like a tank
Slightly recessed mids
Highs can be fatiguing
While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770, DT880 and DT990 were renown for their excellent build and sound quality.
Above them all, however, stands the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, a headphone which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($599, £589, AU$1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound.
As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out but the good news is that the open-back design gives you the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. Soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.
If you’ve been searching for a pair of Hi-Fi headphones that are used by some of the world’s leading audio engineers, these are them.
Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
2. Philips Fidelio X2
BEST VALUE: Brilliant headphones for a brilliant price
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: .85 pounds | Cable length: 9.8 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.9″ speakers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1mW | Impedance: 30 Ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
The Philips Fidelio X2’s are a superb pair of headphones offering premium comfort and build quality with a sound that rivals even the most vaunted audiophile cans. Perhaps on sheer sound quality they’re a notch off the likes of the top Oppo or Sennheiser offerings – but the fact that you’d be saving vast amounts of cash by opting for the Philips is just a no brainer.
3. Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro
FOR ENTRY-LEVEL AUDIOPHILES: Recording studio pedigree, at a price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Beautifully crafted soundscape
Good price for the quality
They’re a bit bulky
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pros are a stunning pair of headphones. Are they expensive? To some no, to most yes; but for the sheer listening experience they deliver you’d be hard pressed to take them off after putting them on, even using them with portable HRA players and mobile phones.
That said, they really do push the boundaries of what you can do with a dynamic driver. All praise to Beyerdynamic for putting together such a wonderful product.
Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro
4. Sennheiser HD 800
THE GOLD WINNER: The Sennheiser HD800 is the headphones fit for kings
Acoustic design: Open | Weight: 330g | Cable length: 3m | Frequency response: 14 – 44,100 Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 300 ohm | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Sounds simply superb in every way
Comfort is excellent
The fourth entry on our list easily could’ve been the first if it didn’t cost well over $1,000/£1,000. The Sennheiser HD 800 are, hands down, one of the best-sounding pairs of over-ear headphones on the planet, affectionately praised by inner circles of audiophiles the world over. When paired with the proper hardware, they sound absolutely excellent – balanced in every way.
Unfortunately, they’re supremely expensive and require more audio equipment than the average consumer is ready to buy. Should you find yourself in need – or, let’s be honest, in want – of amazing over-ear headphones, these are them.
Read the full review: Sennheiser HD 800
5. Focal Listen
THE FRENCH ALTERNATIVE: Some of the best high-end headphones that don’t destroy the bank
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.60lb (273g) | Cable length: 4.60ft (1.4m) | Frequency response: 15 – 22,000Hz | Drivers: 137/64“ (40mm) Mylar/Titanium | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 122dB SPL @ 1kHz – / 1Vrms | Impedance: 32 Ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Excellent build quality
Rich, balanced sound
Great noise isolation
Overall, the Focal Listen offer a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. They offer stellar balance, build quality and understated design – and while they may not be as high resolution as the Pioneer SE-MHR5 and other headphones capable of High-Res Audio playback, their sound-to-dollar ratio is impressive.
At $250 (£150, AU$329), however, they’re not cheap but you actually get a lot for your money (see: sound and build quality). Should Focal continue to pump out cans that provide balanced sound and top-notch build quality at an affordable price, audiophiles might look more and more in the French company’s direction.
Read the full review: Focal Listen
6. Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature
ULTRA-PREMIUM: The B&W P9 Signature is all about the sound quality
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 413 g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 2 – 30,000Hz | Drivers: 1.6 inch (40mm) Mylar/Titanium | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 111dB SPL @ 1kHz – / 1Vrms | Impedance: 22 Ohms | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Exceptional level of detail
Clarity across the whole range
Comfortable for long periods
Premium price tag
The B&W P9 Signatures are simply some of the best-sounding headphones we’ve ever used. They have a tight, refined sound that offers an almost unmatched level of detail.
That said, the fact remains that they’re a comparatively feature-light pair of cans. If you want to spend less then you can get a much more portable pair that’ll be better suited to the morning commute or a plane ride thanks to additional features like noise-cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity.
But, if you’re looking to invest in a seriously high-quality pair of headphones to listen to a high-quality music collection, then there are few that can match the P9s at this price point.
Read the full review: B&W P9 Signature
7. Sony WH-1000XM2
FEATURE-PACKED: Cans that offer the whole package
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 23g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes
30-hour battery life
Hinges are fragile
An improvement on Sony’s existing flagship, the Sony WH-1000XM2 sound great, pack excellent noise-cancellation, and manage to do this all wirelessly.
Other headphones offer better sound quality, longer-range wireless connectivity, or better battery life, but the Sony WH-1000XM2 manage to offer the best balance of features and performance.
It’s also got a couple of interesting tricks up its sleeve like a selective noise-cancellation mode that lets in certain useful sounds, and a shortcut that allows you to quickly hear what’s going on around you.
Offering all of this without a serious price-premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM2 are a great choice for on-the-go music listeners.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2
8. Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT
HEY GOOD LOOKING: These over-ear headphones bring both performance and value
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .64 pounds | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.7″ drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 100 dB | Impedance: 35 ohm | Battery life: 40 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Stellar battery life
Wired mode sounds even better
Highs can be too energetic
Audiophiles typically shun wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years. There are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.
That said, the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT feature some of the best wired and wireless sound quality for a headphone under $200 (£150). They play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. They’re extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built. Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a charge. And while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelling and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.
Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT
9. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
WIRELESS CHAMP: Incredible audio fidelity backed by a serious price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 4.6 feet | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 28 ohms | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes
Everlasting battery life
Finicky multi-function button
These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but for many, they’re almost prohibitively expensive. However, if you’re an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
10. Bose QuietComfort 35 II
NOISE CANCELLING WONDERS: Bose cut the wires off its flagship cans with great success
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes
Not the most detailed sound
After cutting the wires off its flagship cans with the Bose QC35 headphones, Bose’s QC35 II are a slightly more minor upgrade. This time the big addition is Google Assistant, which can be summoned with the press of a button.
Otherwise these are more or less the same headphones that we enjoyed the first time around. The QC35s aren’t the best sounding out there, but their noise-cancellation is class-leading and if that’s your priority then they’re a great choice.
Read the full review: Bose QC35 II