In-ear headphones are justifiably popular for their portability, but if you take sound seriously, the best over-ear headphones in this list are absolutely the way to go.

Bigger headphones can have bigger drivers that are inherently better at delivering bigger, naturally bassier sound. They don’t burrow uncomfortably into your ears or make it sound as if your favourite tunes are being drilled directly into your cerebral cortex. Instead, at their best, they’re like wearing a pair of fluffy earmuffs and listening to a live band play just for you.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? But which pair of over-ear headphones should you buy? You’re just moments from finding out.

Black Friday 2019 is fast approaching. Keep your eyes peeled to our Black Friday headphones deals page for the very latest offers on in-ear, on-ear, wireless and noise-cancelling headphones. If you’re ready to buy today, our price comparison tool below has rounded-up the current juiciest prices for you to take advantage of today.

What are the best over-ear headphones right now?

If you’re hunting for a shortcut to the very best over-ear headphones you can buy, there are two very different ways you can go – high-tech or old-school.

The high-tech option is the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. These are wireless, closed-back, noise-cancelling headphones that sound brilliant and are suited to every scenario and sonic inclination.

The old-school side is covered by the Grado SR325e cans. Wired, open-backed and only as technologically advanced as an acoustic guitar, these headphones are intended for hi-fi aficionados who do their listening at home. But while the Grados are comparatively restrictive, they’re exceptional capable in a way that no amount of technology can replicate.

The best over-ear headphones: buying advice

The first thing you need to decide when looking for a new pair of over-ear headphones (once you’ve settled on a budget) is whether you want to go wireless or are happy sticking with wires. The market is very much heading in a wireless direction – not only are wireless pairs now more abundant than a beard at a Rush concert, phones are now the primary source of music listening and many of those no longer even have headphone sockets.

The good news is that wireless headphones can now be bought for very reasonable money, but it is worth bearing in mind that both wireless sound quality and battery life can vary greatly. Looking for a pair with a more recent version of Bluetooth (5.0 is the most recent, widely available iteration) can help in both regards, but isn’t a guarantee. And if you can find a pair with the audio-focused aptX codec, you know that sound quality has at least been a factor in the design.

If you’re going wired, you don’t have to worry about gizmos and thingamajigs and can concern yourself with more tangible considerations such as the length and thickness of the cable, and whether the connector is the more common 3.5mm type that you find on a phone or the chunkier, more hi-fi-specific 6.3mm type. The good news is that the more premium hi-fi pairs often include an adapter, although buying one separately won’t set you back much at all.

The other big thing to consider is whether you want open or closed-back headphones. Closed-back models are way more common now, as they keep the audio more or less confined to your noggin, while open-backed headphones generally leak enough noise that anyone in the vicinity will feel as though they’re listening to the world’s tinniest radio, which obviously isn’t ideal for the bus. But open-back headphones also generally sound more open and spacious – more like listening out-loud to a full-sized hi-fi than two little drivers strapped to your head – so if you need to listen quietly but not silently, and take your music enjoyment seriously, they can very much be the way to go.

The best over-ear headphones you can buy right now

noise-cancelling headphones

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony WH-1000XM3

Digital meets analogue in these brilliant, wireless, noise-cancelling cans

Price: £280 | Type: Closed | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Mic: Yes | Controls: Yes | Battery life: 30hr | Connector: USB-C

Awesome all-round sound

Excellent noise-cancelling

Slightly fiddly touch controls

Sony’s third-generation noise-cancelling cans are simply brilliant. Not only do they block out more noise than practically any rival, they sound better, too, thanks to the introduction of analogue amplification.

There’s an app that you can use to tweak the amount of noise-cancelling provided, from ‘I don’t want to hear anything but my own heartbeat’ to ‘I’d quite like to know if a car’s about to run me over’, and you can even set the headphones to adapt the noise-cancelling to the environment.

The exhaustive battery life means that even the longest of long-haul flights is covered, and the sound can even be optimised for altitude, ensuring you’re always getting the best quality. The only tiny issue is that the touch controls can take a little getting used to, although they are pretty accurate once you do.

noise-cancelling headphones

(Image credit: Grado)

2. Grado SR325e

Incredible hi-fi headphones for luxurious at-home listening

Type: Open | Bluetooth: No | Noise-cancelling: No | Mic: No | Controls: No | Battery life: N/a | Connector: 3.5mm, 6.3mm

Gloriously open, detailed sound

Hard-wearing

Not suited for portable use

Don’t look like they cost £250+

They might look more like the sort of headset that a 50s telephone exchange operator might use than a pair of luxury headphones, but these Grados are utterly unbeatable at this price.

The 325es are open-backed and leak noise like a sieve leaks water, so are completely unsuited to use on a train or bus, but that allows them to deliver a really open, airy and spacious sound that’s more akin to listening to a great pair of hi-fi speakers.

And we really are talking great. The sound here is transparent, detailed, rhythmic and downright glorious. If you take your music listening seriously, this is the pair to get.

noise-cancelling headphones

(Image credit: B&W)

3. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

These super-sexy noise-cancellers feature next-gen Bluetooth

Price: £350 | Type: Closed | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Mic: Yes | Controls: Yes | Battery life: 30hr | Connector: USB-C

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