The best over-ear headphones of 2022 | CNN Underscored

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If you’re looking for the best sound quality, noise canceling, and you demand all-day comfort (or you just don’t like the feel of earbuds), a great pair of over-ear wireless headphones is what you need.

We’ve put the latest and greatest full-size headphones to the test, checking out sound quality, usability, comfort and features to find the best over-ear headphones for you, whether you’re looking for something to shut out the world at work, a compact travel companion, or just something stylish, dependable and comfortable for everyday listening.

The best wireless over-ear headphones overall

The Sony WH-1000XM5 improves on the XM4, with a slimmer design and refined noise-canceling microphones — it’s the best over-ear Bluetooth headphone you can buy right now. XM4 owners have little reason to upgrade, but for anybody else the XM5s are the high-end headphones to get.

Sony has held the top spot on our best noise-canceling headphones and continues to sit securely atop our best wireless headphones rankings as well. The WH-1000XM5’s active noise cancellation (ANC) continues to be some of the best around, turning most of the audible chaos of everyday life into a blissfully quiet hum, and when you add in the great sound and call quality, comfort, sleek design and solid app support, it adds up to a hard-to-beat package.

The new model improves on the older XM4 with an improved processor and set of microphones for active noise cancellation, improved call quality, slightly faster charging time, automatic ANC optimization and a slightly sleeker design. Sound quality is as it was in the last generation — and that’s a good thing, since it was already one of the best-sounding headphones we’d tested, with rich, balanced sound that highlighted the tiniest details across all the genres we listened to during our testing, from sensitive acoustic tracks to booming pop to searing hardcore.

The XM5s sound great out of the box, but you can customize them to your liking via the Sony headphones app for iOS or Android. The app’s equalizer lets you choose from a number of presets (which do things like boost the bass or provide a quieter mix), and those willing to get into the nitty-gritty can also make their own sound profiles. You can also take advantage of immersive 360 Reality Audio — Sony’s proprietary spatial audio tech that places sound all around you — on supported apps such as Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Music, as well as Sony’s high-resolution LDAC streaming format.

Battery life is impressive — we got 34 hours, or five straight days of all-day use before the battery gave out. And when you do run out of juice, a quick-charge features gets you 3 hours of playback time from a 3-minute charge cycle.

None of these features would make any difference if they weren’t comfortable to wear. And the XM5’s supple, spacious faux-leather earcups and lightweight frame make them a delight to wear throughout walks, subway rides and full days of work in the home office. They also look great, with an understated design in either black or silver that slims down the headband from the previous-gen model. It’s only a fraction of a pound lighter, but the entire design is much sleeker overall. And the slim mesh carrying case keeps the WH-1000XM5 safe when it’s time to stash them away.

The best noise-canceling over-ear headphones

Perfect for commuting, the office, long flights or just around the house, the Bose 700 combines Bose’s industry-leading ANC with great sound and a new, more comfortable and stylish slimmed-down design.

The best over-ear wireless headphones for Apple users

Now priced less stratospherically, the great sounding AirPods flagship headphones integrate seamlessly with your Mac and iPhone, let you access Apple’s nifty Spatial Audio pseudo-surround format, and impressive noise cancelation and great controls make these solid all-day companions.

The best over-ear wireless headphones for audiophiles

This latest update to the Bowers & Wilkins Bluetooth flagship offers superb sound and great build quality in a package that should appeal to those looking for sound quality above all else in a wireless headphone.

The best budget over-ear wireless headphones

While the sound isn’t as refined and they aren’t as comfy as our main recommendations, the Elite 85h gives you great sound and effective noise canceling for about half the price, along with great build quality and simple, easy to use controls.

If you’re like most of us, if you’re considering spending upwards of $300 on a set of headphones you want something that can cover all the bases: active noise cancellation, or ANC; a stable Bluetooth wireless connection that works with all of your stuff (hopefully with fast switching; support for all of your favorite audio formats; integration with the operating system you use, whether iOS or Android; and an app that lets you manage it all without too much frustration. And you need it to be comfortable to wear all day and to pack up small enough to take with you wherever you go.

Luckily, most major manufacturers have been trying to hit this target for a few years now, and they’ve largely succeeded. The latest wireless flagships from Sony, Bose, Apple, Sennheiser, Bowers & Wilkins, Jabra and others mostly do it all, and frankly they all sound pretty good too (with some differences in how they’re voiced) so the choice comes down to what integrates best with your stuff (or gives you the most options) and what feels good and sounds good to you.

The best wireless over-ear headphones overall

The best noise-canceling over-ear headphones

Best over-ear wireless headphones for Apple users

The best over-ear wireless headphones for audiophiles

The best budget over-ear wireless headphones

Battery llfe

30 hours

20 hours

20 hours

30 hours

36 hours

Fast charging

3 hours of playback in 3 minutes

3.5 hours of playback in 15 minutes

1.5 hours of playback in 5 minutes

7 hours of playback in 15 minutes

5 hours of playback in 15 minutes


8 (8 for ANC; 4 for calls)

8 (6 for ANC; 4 for calls)

9 (8 for ANC; 3 for calls)

6 (4 for ANC; 2 for calls)

8 (4 for ANC; 6 for calls)

Multi-device pairing

Yes (2 devices, Bluetooth multipoint)

Yes (2 devices, Bluetooth multipoint)

Yes (automatic source switching via iCloud)

Yes (2 devices, Bluetooth multipoint)

Yes (2 devices, Bluetooth multipoint)

Colors available

Black, white

Black, Luxe Silver

Space Gray, silver, green, pink, sky blue

Blue, black, gray

Black, copper, Gold Beige, navy blue, Titanium Black


0.55 pounds

0.56 pounds

0.85 pounds

0.68 pounds

0.65 pounds







To find the best over-ear headphones, our testers have put the leading models available through a set of listening tests as well as using them everyday over several months, focusing not just on sound quality, but on functionality, usability and comfort — the issues that are so important to most users.

We carefully examined design elements, studied every physical control and application interface element, tested active noise cancellation, transparency, equalization and virtualization software options and noise isolation, timed battery life and charge time and read up on warranties.

Throughout the process, we compared each headphone carefully with its competitors, new models, and previous favorites to get the best sense of how the models we tested stacked up to the field.

Comfort and build quality

We wore the headphones for an extended period of time to determine whether it provided enough adjustability and whether the headband’s clamping force was too weak, too strong, or just right, and whether the ear cups allowed enough room or felt tight over time. We also considered weight, bulk and style.

We also looked carefully at the quality of the materials used, how clean construction was, and how well assembled each headphone was. We also looked at how compact each model folded, and at case materials and construction.

We assessed how well the ANC software and hardware of each pair of headphones dampened environmental sound. We created two noisy conditions to test: running on a treadmill with a TV on high volume nearby and sitting next to an active washing machine; later testing added a kitchen hood fan and window air conditioner. This section also required intensive cross-comparison to figure out which headphones were dampening more sound, and what range of sound was being affected.

In addition to personal favorites our testers knew well, we used a baseline set of well-engineered contemporary songs, including acoustic, electric, and electronic music, so we could easily establish direct comparisons, this included “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, “Royals” by Lorde, “Jazz Crimes” by Joshua Redman, “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen and “Neon Lights” by Molotov Jukebox, “Let Me In” by Laminate Pet Animal and “Might Be Right” by White Reaper.

We listened carefully for how well each headphone reproduced bass and revealed midrange and treble detail, as well as how realistic a soundstage it created, as well as overall clarity, paying special attention to whether noise cancelation and transparency modes interacted with or interfered with the overall sound. And for headphones that used virtual surround modes, we assessed the realism and usefulness of the included effects.

We tested each physical control to find out whether the user interface of each model was easy to understand and how intuitive it was to control playback, calls, volume, Bluetooth pairing and features like ANC and transparency modes. We paid equal attention to companion apps, examining the extended settings available and how intuitive and useful the software was in daily use.

We paired each headphone with multiple Apple, Android, and Windows devices, assessing ease of pairing and switching between multiple devices (where that was supported) as well as speed of reconnection and carefully noting range and latency.

To check battery life, we used a long playlist and following a full charge to capacity, ran each headphone to exhaustion at normal listening level (75% volume) with ANC on and off. We also used them as part of our daily routines, charging them to capacity and then using them for work and commute until exhaustion to get a sense of how many days of real-world use they would support. After exhausting the battery, we also double checked quick-charge features, testing to see if we could get the claimed battery life.

We researched what the warranty covered for each device., what period it covered, and whether extended warranties or service plans were available.

2-underscored best over ear headphones lead


The Beats Studio3 Wireless are a great set of headphones overall, and are the latest update to the model that sparked today’s interest in high-end headphones for regular people. They integrate seamlessly with Apple devices, switching automatically between your Macs, iPhones and iPad, so they do make a good less-expensive alternative to the AirPods Max if the design and feel works for you. We loved the sound and look, though compared to newer designs from Sony and others they aren’t as comfortable, and we found the physical control button loud and clicky.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9

The Beoplay H9 are expensive — in the same neighborhood as the AirPods Max — but do impressive sound quality with solid bass and a wide soundstage, along with good active noise cancellation. And though they have a beautiful design and impressive build quality, we found them uncomfortable to wear for long periods, and their touch controls frustrating to use. And call quality wasn’t great — recipients consistently reported hearing an echo of themselves.

$329 at Bose and Amazon

The Bose QuietComfort 45 offers the same great noise canceling as the Bose 700, in a more traditional package with lots of physical controls in place of the 700’s touch controls. The build quality is impressive, they fold small as befits their executive-travel heritage, and they’re made for long-term comfort. They’re perfect for road warriors, but we think that most people will be happier with the Bose 700, which is more stylish and our testers found more comfortable overall.

The JBL Live 650BTNC deliver crisp sound and a reasonably realistic soundstage for the money, though compared to your recommendations they suffer somewhat, especially on the low end, where they don’t deliver extended bass. The JBL Headphones app gives you multiple sound profiles to choose from, but they don’t overcome the 650 BTNC’s inherent character. The sleek, minimal design is attractive, but they have a lot of clamping force so they aren’t as comfortable for long wear as our main recommendations. But they’re available at a deep discount, and if you’re looking for something to use occasionally they may fit the bill.

The Poly (formerly Plantronics) BackBeats Pro 2 has decent overall sound quality but lacked bass extension and didn’t produce a wide-sounding soundstage. Call quality was relatively poor, with one recipient describing it as sounding like we were underwater. But they are comfortable to wear, and they have a fun-to-use rotary volume control.

The updated Sennheiser Momentum 4 drop the retro styling of their predecessors for a more vanilla look, but improved ANC, a solid app and great sound make them a compelling choice for headphone aficionados.

Skullcandy Crusher ANC

The $319.99 Skullcandy Crusher ANC were our least favorite among those we tested. A dedicated bass boost slider on one of the cups lets you go from thin bass response to skull-rattling boom, but it felt like a gimmick, adding clutter to the mix but not definition. Using the Skullcandy app gave us access to some better-sounding sounding custom profiles, but given that the Crusher wasn’t especially comfortable to wear, we’d look at one of our other recommendations at this price..

These were our previous favorites, and if you’re looking to save $50, they sound just as good as the newer WH-1000XM5s. That said, we think the better ANC and call quality of the revised model is worth the extra money, but if that stretches the budget too far these are still a good option. Like the newer Sonys, the XM4 offers great sound, long battery life, and very effective noise canceling (and you control them with the same useful, full-featured app).

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