If you love listening to music, you should have an over-ear headphones pair.
Yes, earbuds/in-ear headphones give you portability and a smaller profile to take care of, but they can’t stand against over-ear headphones when it comes to the real deal – the sound quality (thanks to their larger sound drivers).
Not only over ear headphones give you excellent passive isolation, the comfort level, and the soundstage are on the next level as well.
Over ear headphones are also far less harmful (generally) to your hearing because of their increased distance from your eardrums.
Best Over Ear Headphones 2021
Below I’ve shortlisted some over-ear headphones that I believe to be the best ones right now.
AKG Pro Audio K72: Check Price On Amazon
Best Budget Over Ear Headphones 2021
At first, we have affordable K72s by AKG.
AKG is generally known for focusing on the sound quality of their headphones rather than the aesthetics. And the same is true for K72.
It is a simple-looking headphones pair with synthetic leather ear cups that will be large enough for most of us. This leather is of high quality that makes these cups comfortable.
These ear cups are joined together by two steel bands that are connected by a fabric hammock.
Despite being plastic for the most part, these headphones are well built and don’t feel as cheap as their price suggests.
It comes with a 3-meter long thick cable that’s tougher than what you’ll normally find at this price. It’s not removable though, which doesn’t make it as future proof as some high-end headphones.
The simple design and extra-long cable mean that you can’t take these out without looking like a weirdo. The lack of in-line remote controls doesn’t help in this regard either.
But this is not a dealbreaker because they’re made for in-home or studio listening.
In terms of raw specs, K72 comes with 40mm dynamic drivers, has a frequency range of 16-20,000Hz, has impedance at 32 Ohms, and sensitivity at 112 dB.
Being cheap headphones, K72s don’t have the sound quality of other monitor headphones.
But you do get a flatter frequency response instead of one skewed towards the bass – as is the case with many budget models.
Music sounds wider and airy in K72, but the midrange is a bit colored and the vocals don’t sound completely natural.
GRADO SR80e: Check Price On Amazon
GRADO SR80e is the third iteration of the SR80 series and is a great option as an open-back over-ear pair.
It features a retro design with round-shaped ear cups covered with large-sized extended foam ear pads. These foam ear pads are very comfortable but not so durable. The good thing is that these ear pads are replaceable but you would have to buy extras on your own.
The metal prongs that connect the ear cps with headband, and the grill cover that allows you to see the inside the back of these ear cups, add to the vintage looks of these headphones.
It’s further connected by a 2m long thick cable. This cable has some weak spots (such as the Y-splitter) but is strong for the most part.
There is no in-line remote which is surprising considering the $100 price tag.
This long cable is also the reason why these headphones are not so portable despite having rotatable ear cups and low weight.
There’s no noise isolation in SR80e and you get sound leakage as well. But it’s an inherent issue with all open-back headphones.
Thanks to its high-class treble performance, classical songs do well here. On the other hand, Bass is tight and smooth but sub-bass and thump are lacking which makes it less suitable for certain genres.
Like all open-back headphones, SR80e gives you a wide and open soundstage that, along with detail in midrange, makes music more lively and energetic.
My main gripe is the average build quality which means you can’t afford more than a few minor drops.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT: Check Price On Amazon
ATH-M50xBT is the wireless variant of Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50x.
ATH-M50x was released way back in 2014 and were praised for their excellent build quality, comfortable design, detachable cable, and well-balanced sound.
Let’s see how ATH-M50xBT fairs, shall we?
As far as the design is concerned, it looks exactly like the original M50x because you can’t differentiate which one of them is wireless without checking specs.
The ear cups and headband are made up of good quality plastic, and cups are further covered with thick ear pads. There’s no active noise cancellation but these thick pads give enough noise isolation.
The left ear cup is the one where you’ll find the controls: volume up/down buttons and a physical slider to turn them on or off.
The ear cups can be folded against the headband which reduces it to half of the original volume and makes a good portable option.
In case you don’t want wireless connectivity for any reason, ATH-M50xBT comes with a 1.3 m cable. that contains in-line controls.
To turn these headphones on, you just need to move the physical slider on the left ear cup and they will be discoverable by your device.
Unlike in some premium headphones, multiple devices cannot be connected simultaneously.
Powered by Bluetooth 5, these headphones consume very little energy which results in their long battery life of more than 30 hours on a single charge.
But as much as Bluetooth has evolved, it still can’t compete with a wired connection for sound quality. This is the reason why the original ATH-M50X sounds slightly better than the M50xBT.
The latency problem becomes more visible when you’re watching the video content. You can work it around by using the included wire but it would defy the overall wire-less purpose of these headphones
Like its predecessor, M50xBT has crisp highs, clear mids, and overall open sound. The sound signature is the same but the bass is slightly over-powered and will make it a good option among young listeners.
My main problem with these headphones is the lack of Active Noise Cancellation and thick ear pads which can make your ears hot if used for several hours continuously.
Sony WH-1000XM4: Check Price On Amazon
Best Over Ear Headphones 2021
Unlike other headphones on this list, WH-1000XM4 is relatively new and was released a few months ago.
It’s the fourth iteration of Sony’s widely acclaimed WH-1000XM line-up of high-end wireless headphones.
Since its inception, these headphones are getting better with WH-1000XM3 being declared the best wireless headphones way back in 2018.
Sony has not tried to reinvent the wheel and made a few changes as they could in WH-1000XM4.
WH-1000XM3 was one of the best active noise-canceling headphones back in the day, but Song has increased the thickness of ear pads to increase the passive isolation as well.
While it serves the purpose, this extra thickness makes these new headphones a little less comfortable than 1000XM3.
One big complaint people had with Wh-1000XM3 was the lack of multipoint Bluetooth connectivity. WH-1000XM4 partly solves this problem but the caveat here is that both of your connected devices must be using AAC Bluetooth codec.
Then there’s the speak to chat functionality which makes these headphones stop the audio if you’re detected to be speaking.
It’s somewhat similar to another one where the playback stops if you remove them.
This feature is useful but can be annoying considering the enhanced sensitivity of sensors. This is why I would suggest you disable it when not necessary.
Another good feature is the ambient mode which is enabled by cupping your hand over the left ear cup. This lowers the playback volume, turns off noise cancellation, and increases mic sensitivity to help you hear what’s happening around you.
It can be a handy feature for frequent commuters.
Like its 1000XM3, WH-100XM4 has a focus on bass and treble when it comes to audio. Bass response is flatter slightly but still more than what you get in reference headphones.
Of course you can tweak the EQ settings in the companion app if you don’t like it, but this is how it is by default.
The overall sound is warmer this time.
In terms of noise-canceling, Sony has raised the bar even higher (QN1 noise-canceling processor is the same though), and now you can eliminate even very low-frequency sounds. Bose NC 700 is still a touch above but Sony is closing the gap quickly.
In terms of battery, a single charge can last almost 20 hours of continuous usage with ANC turned on. Lastly, 1000XM4 supports quick-charging and a charge of 10 minutes can give you 5 hours of playback time.