What are on-ear headphones? What’s the difference between these and other types of headphones? When it comes to specific types of ways to listen to our favorite tunes, TV shows and more, the best on-ear headphones will elevate our audio experiences drastically. Although a bit more of rare design in the game (at least compared to commercial-grade headphones), these particular pairs of cans are specially designed for those looking within the middle of the fit-spectrum when it comes to the combination of design and build. We continue our search to find the best pair of headphones for you today with on-ear headphones and have finally decided on the top 10 best to give you some options. Let’s get into what exactly these things are before we begin.
What are on-ear headphones?
If you’ve ventured over here from our headphones buying guide, we spelled out each and every possibility of design and build that comes within the headphone category. If you’re already decided with an on-ear build, continue down to our list. However, to define on-ear headphones for those needing some more information, we first recommend take their title literally — they’re on your ear. The ear cups are a bit smaller than traditional headphones in a circamural design, giving us some advantages over other popular types of headphones in the market.
The recommended uses and preferences by those who are on-ear headphones fans include those with needs that involve a more compact fit, (perhaps) more comfortable experience to avoid ear pain (they’re typically lighter than chunkier over-ear headphones), and those who are on-the-go and travel frequently. However, they can apply to just about any use, especially leisure listening if that’s what you fancy.
On-Ear headphones vs. over-ear headphones
When analyzing the different types of headphones, it at times can become a bit confusing, especially if you already have a particular image of what headphones are. In our case today, the typical on-ear or over-ear headphones debate may give you some headaches (at least it did for us when we were first trying to make sense of all of the different types of headphones out in the world today). We have our needed on-ear definition above; however, what about the term “over-ear headphones“? We’ve had quite a few questions when it comes to the differences between the two headphone designs. For one, over-ear headphones are technically also on your ear; however, they continue over your cartilage and surround your ear in a pillow-like fashion. Many who prefer over-ear headphones prefer the larger build, the (usually) thicker headbands, and overall better sound-isolation since there isn’t room for sound to escape. Producers also love them since most studio headphones have this over-ear and slightly larger design.
On the contrary, the build of on-ear headphones provide us with some room to allow your ears to breathe (since they don’t fully engulf your ears and block out the outside). This can help you in a few ways — less weight on your ears, more comfortable (depending on who you ask), and many may also consider this “safer” since you’ll be able to hear your surroundings a bit more than over-ear headphones (depending if you blast your tunes or not) in case you’re outside on a walk or run).
Lastly, we have the ever-so-popular wired vs. wireless debate, so if you did want some Bluetooth on-ear headphones, read our guide over there instead, since many of the models below come in wired, although we do include a few BT models if you want some options.
The top 10 best on-ear headphones
Klipsch Reference On-Ear
Award winning and highly reviewed, the Klipsch Reference On-Ear are our first pick for the best on-ear headphones due to their mixture of affordability and high sound quality. Although we’d still technically consider this to land in the middle to high price-point, the brand itself is pretty well-known for their higher-end audio products (especially speakers). Simplistic in its design, these on-ear headphones have soft cushions with an adjustable and padded headband that provide not only comfort when applied but also evenly distributes pressure for long-wear use. The ear cups and cushions help to maximize the sound of your audio, taking away any outside noise and giving you the opportunity to listen to all aspects of the audio you were meant to hear. These on-ear headphones come with a microphone that allows for hands-free phone calls, as well as buttons for you volume that allow the ability to adjust the music without ever having to pick up your device (great for apple devices). Lightweight and easy to fold and store, these are some of the best on-ear headphones on the market and come with a carrying case that make them simple to transport and take with you through every walk of life.
Marshall Major II Bluetooth
These things have caught our eyes now for the past year or so. In a world where we like to be unplugged and have no ties to hold us down, on-ear headphones like the Marshall Major II offers a hands-free Bluetooth option that delivers an above industry standard of over thirty hours of music before having to charge. Equipped with 40 mm dynamic drivers, you have some amazing sound quality on all audio for balanced and clear sound. All the control you need is in the control knob, giving you the ability to adjust your volume, shuffle, play, or pause the music you are hearing. The Major II are also functional with your phone, as the control knob lets you answer and end your calls; plus, with a built-in microphone you can have conversations via Bluetooth without ever having to take your headphones off. Finally, with an included headphone socket, friends can plug right in and hear exactly what you are listening to, further promoting the magic of a wireless world and making these one of the best on-ear headphones for the money if you were in need of a wireless Bluetooth pair of cans.
Comfortable, portable, and high quality sound makes the Beyerdynamic T51i another one of the best on ear headphones available, especially if you want something on the high-end of our price-point here. With the ability to block out external noise and isolate only the audio you are intending to hear, these headphones are able to deliver a low distortion but high-efficiency sound, a feature that Tesla technology is known for in their headphones. The ear cups are fitted with a memory foam pad, and can swivel up to 90 degrees to match whatever position you may find yourself in. This coupled with the adjustable headband creates the ultimate in comfortable experience for long-wear use. Compatible with all smart devices, they are equipped with a microphone for hands-free use, and come with a three-button attachment to adjust your volume and the playback of your audio. Lastly, equipped with an airplane adapter and a carrying case for ease in portability, these are some of the best on-ear headphones for traveling if you plan on doing so as well. Beyer never ceases to impress us with their mixture of fancy builds and amazing sound quality. They made it into our guides such as the best open-back headphones and best headphones for mixing for a reason.
While on the extreme higher end of the budget, the award-winning KEF M500 headphones needed a place in this in case some of you wanted to invest a serious amount of cash in their on-ear headphones. These offer quality high-resolution sound for music lovers alike, especially you audiophiles who take this listening process as a science. They’re super lightweight and contain a 40 mm driver that brings clarity and preciseness to each note that you hear. The Smart Hinge feature is the gold standard of these headphones, providing portability, comfort, and high quality audio. Smart Hinge allows the ear cups to conform to the individual, with memory foam padding built-in and a lightweight headband that easily fits across all head shapes, promoting long-wear use through a natural feel. Also, because the ear cups securely conform to the ear of the user, no sound is lost through the headphones, creating a high quality sound in all of your audio. Easy to fold and store and compatible with almost all smart devices, the KEF M500 is designed for the user is looking for optimal resolution and wearability for hours on end.
Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear
The most compact of the on-ear headphones we feature on this list, the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear is a lightweight version of other Sennheiser models that is one of the best on-ear headphones for an on-the-go lifestyle. Using 18-ohm transducers brings a stronger emphasis on the bass sound, which in turn allows for fuller resolution of the overall audio. While the headband is not adjustable like some of the other options on this list, both the headband and the ear cups are lined in Alcantara, a material similar to a suede fabric and lends to comfortable listening experience. The headphones are also collapsible to save space and maintain a portable design. Working with most smart devices, the in-line remote allows you to put your phone away and do everything you need through the headphones, making for an experience dedicated to you and your tunes. They’re quite affordable, landing in the lower-end as compared to other models in here.
Bang and Olufsen H2
A well-priced on-ear headphone with all of the features needed for the optimal music experience, the Bang and Olufsen H2 deliver clear audio that is great for the cost. Utilizing what is known as their “Bang and Olufsen Signature Sound” (they have a lot of partnerships with sports cars, like the Audi R8, who use their systems), these are some of the best on-ear headphones that provide a quality of audio designed to let you hear every note presented. The ear cushions are lined with lambskin rather than leather, giving for a softer feel during use. In fact, to make sure that comfort was insured, these are said to naturally adapt to fit the head of the user in the shape they need it in after a few minutes of use, making those long road trips or flights bearable with music at hand. They also come in multiple color options, and include an inline cable with a microphone and hands-free adjustments for song choices and volume. These features combined make the Bang and Olufsen H2 one of the best on-ear headphones you can find online right now.
Bluedio T2 Plus Turbine
While many of the best on-ear headphones on this list require an in-line remote in order to listen, the Bluedio T2 Plus Turbine is a wireless option for those with a preference for all things wireless (and if need be, they can be wired as well). Although extremely cheap and only recommended for those on a strict budget, these are one of the most useful on-ear headphones and are easy to pair with a multitude of smart devices, and through Bluetooth they have the ability to even pick up on FM radio stations. Spending time with a friend and looking to share the latest music? Simply have them plug-in their own headphones to the available jack located on the T2 Plus and share your audio. These on-ear headphones also come with a built-in microphone, giving you the option of answering your phone calls without ever having to take the them off. With these included features and a price that is great for those not looking to spend an arm and a leg on their pair, here’s another solid option for you.
With an updated driver design and cable, the Grado SR60e is another great budget-friendly option of on-ear headphones that offer great quality for the price. The open-back design of the headphones delivers an old-school quality to the overall look, allowing you to look directly into the headphone to see the driver while it works to deliver the audio. This design also helps some sound leak out, which many mixing and mastering users prefer since it prevents buildup of lower-end frequencies. This helps clarify the sound and even out the frequency response. The new driver removes any distortions that may occur in your audio, and instead delivers a clear sound quality with an emphasis on the bass, creating a more rich and balanced tone. The Grado SR60e are also foldable, and come with foam ear cups that can be replaced if damage occurs over time. Overall, these are the best on-ear headphones for the dedicated audiophile looking for a nice musical experience, focusing on sound quality over flair and delivering it all at a great price.
Samsung Level On
When it comes to appliances and devices, Samsung is one of the leading brands around as we all know, and the Samsung Level On headphones deliver further proof to the validity of the brand (since we, although speaking of ourselves, were a bit skeptical at first when it came to headphones by them). This one utilizes a design known as dual diaphragm, which works with the 40mm driver to deliver a sound and range that is both full and clear. The headband and ear cups each have a padded design built to provide comfort in all situations. The in-line connection is voice enabled, allowing you to answer your phone calls while continued wear of the headphones, and comes with a remote to adjust the playback and volume of your audio. With a carrying case designed specifically for the Level On, these on-ear headphones are able to move with you in all applications. They’re within the middle price-point, and if you’re skeptical at all, check the users reviews for this one because they’re impressively high.
Last but not least, we have the Koss SportaPros, and these in our opinion are the best on-ear headphones for people with active lifestyles and need a pair that can keep up with the pace. Built to fit perfectly in all types of recreational events, these lightweight on-ear headphones have a unique design as you can see in the photo. The ear cups are shifted to face the front of the head, with a headband that adjusts to either being worn behind the head or on top, making it flexible to all hairstyles and accessories. While most other headphones work to block out any outside noise, the SportaPros design allows for ambient noise to be heard, keeping the user safe and aware in all recreational settings. This sounds pretty counter-intuitive; however, those who this applies to know exactly what it means. The headphones lastly come with a four-foot long connection cord to use with compatible devices, and can collapse to fit in the accompanying carrying case, making it portable and easy-to-store for those that are living that on-the-go lifestyle. Not to mention how low they’re priced.