Finest on-ear headphones for 2021: Beats, Jabra, Skullcandy and extra

Despite the fact that full-size around-ear or over-ear headphones are likely to ship one of the best sound, and listening expertise, not everybody needs to stroll round carrying cumbersome headphones with large, squishy ear pads. Whereas headphones that sit on high of 1’s ears aren’t everybody’s factor, on-ear fashions with smaller earcups are extra compact, travel-friendly and have a tendency to value much less. They’ve additionally developed, with extra fashions that includes energetic noise cancellation, noise isolation, a headphone amp and different superior options that had been as soon as solely present in bigger over-ear fashions.

This is a take a look at our present high picks for one of the best on-ear headphones primarily based on key elements equivalent to how efficient they’re at noise cancellation and the way good they sound. They’re all wi-fi headphone fashions besides the Grado Status Collection SR80e and Beats Ep wired headphone. There is not a single earbud on this listing, so if that is one thing you are in search of, try our wireless earbud list to have music enjoying instantly into your ear canal.

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Launched in mid-2020, the Jabra Elite 45h was primarily billed as one of the best on-ear headphone for the cash. Whereas there’s nothing terribly fancy about it is without doubt one of the greatest on-ear headphone values proper now, with good sound high quality, a sturdy design and cozy match (for on-ear headphones, anyway). Moreover, this bluetooth on-ear headphone performs nicely as a headset for making calls and features a sidetone function that permits you to hear your voice within the headphones so you do not discuss too loudly. Battery life additionally good. Obtainable in a number of shade choices, it lists for $100 however steadily will get discounted to $80. 

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The Solo Professional is the primary Beats on-ear headphone to function energetic noise cancellation and the primary full-size Beats wi-fi headphone to cost by way of Lightning. It makes use of the corporate’s Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling (Pure ANC headphones), “derived from the over-ear Studio3 Wireless, with up to date tuning to accommodate the on-ear kind issue,” Beats says. With a faucet of a button, you’ll be able to flip off that noise cancellation to save lots of battery life or hit the button a second time to enter an audio transparency mode that permits you to hear the surface world and ambient sound, not simply the music you are listening to.

Obtainable in a number of shade choices, the noise-canceling headphone is supplied with six microphones, two of that are beamforming mics designed to hone in in your voice while you’re making calls or speaking to your voice assistant (Apple’s H1 chip is on board for always-on Siri). The sound qualityof these wi-fi earphones is clean and well-balanced, with punchy bass that does not make music sound boomy. It is snug for an on-ear mannequin and it is extra compact design travels higher than some full-size fashions on this listing. I simply want it value rather less and got here with a cable to plug in to in-flight leisure methods. Alas, the Lightning-to-3.5mm is an optionally available bluetooth headset accent that prices $35, which is ridiculous.

Read our Beats Solo Pro review.


Skullcandy’s Riff is the religious successor to the Grind Wi-fi, which I preferred for the cash. Obtainable in a number of shade choices, it retails for round $50 and has puffy, pillowlike ear cups that make these snug headphones for an on-ear mannequin. It additionally has nice sound for its worth, with open, detailed sound high quality and plump bass that is comparatively well-defined. My solely gripes about its ear cup design are that the highest would not function a padded headband (on the crown of your head) and it feels somewhat low-cost, with no metallic elements. That stated, it is good and light-weight and has a dual-hinge that enables the headphone to fold up and fold flat. No carry pouch is included. Battery life is rated at solely 12 hours, however a quick cost function helps you to get 2 hours of juice from a 10-minute cost (this has micro-USB charging not USB-C).


Towards the top of 2019, Bowers & Wilkins launched its new noise-canceling headphones: The over-ear PX7 ($400) and on-ear PX5 ($300). Each are nice bluetooth headphones with slick designs, nice sound and respectable noise cancellation (it is not so good as the Sony WH-1000XM3’s however it’s not far off). The PX7 has greater drivers and bolder general sound, however the PX5 is extra compact, simpler to journey with (it takes up much less room in a bag) and could be had for about $100 lower than the PX7, which is not being discounted but.   

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Comfy for an on-ear mannequin, the BackBeat 500 delivers good audio high quality and is sturdy. Battery life is rated at 18 hours. This bluetooth headset additionally is available in a sweat-resistant sport model, the BackBeat Fit 500, which prices about $10 to $20 extra, relying on the colour.

Read BackBeat 500 review.

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AKG’s N60NC headphones have been out some time, however they’re nonetheless good on-ear Bluetooth headphones with energetic noise cancellation and nice audio high quality. Samsung now owns Harman, which owns AKG, and Samsung would not actually know find out how to market this venerable Austrian audio audiophile headphone model (AKG earbuds have been included with Samsung telephones). Initially, $300, you will discover these wi-fi earphones for a lot much less. They’re definitely extra attractive at that worth.

Read AKG N60NC Wireless review.

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Beats makes loads of bluetooth headphones with excessive worth tags, however its entry-level EP headphone is a surprisingly good listening expertise worth. The listing worth is $100, however you will discover it on-line for nearer to $90 and generally much less. The EP is an on-ear mannequin that is not as swanky as Beats’ considerably forgotten on-ear Mixr, in addition to the over-ear Executive and Pro fashions. However because of its bolstered metallic body, it jogs my memory of low-frills variations of these headphones. By low-frills, I imply it is not extremely flashy and it would not fold up or fold flat for journey (it has no hinges).

I preferred the way in which they sounded and so did Steve Guttenberg, who as soon as wrote CNET’s Audiophiliac weblog. These open again headphones exhibit the traits of  headphone: They’re clear and open-sounding, notably for an on-ear headphone, and there is sufficient treble element to provide them some sparkle. (In different phrases: They don’t seem to be extremely dynamic.)

The bass is somewhat accentuated — that is Beats in spite of everything — however it’s not bloated or boomy. There’s sufficient bass right here to fulfill a low-end audiophile headphone lover however not a lot to show off somebody who’s in search of a extra balanced, neutral-sound high quality in a headphone.

Read our Beats EP review.

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Grado makes some nice sounding wired on-ear fashions, together with the entry-level SR60e ($80) and SR80e ($100), in addition to the costlier SR125e ($150) and 325e ($300). Like different Grado headphones, the SR80e options an open-back design, which delivers good open, articulate sound high quality. Nonetheless, that sound does leak out a bit from the headphones, permitting folks close by to listen to what you are listening to, so they don’t seem to be ideally suited for an open-office surroundings.

This headphone has been round since 2014 and it nonetheless sounds nice, with a clean tonal steadiness, loads of element, and deep bass. That is the wired on-ear headphone for individuals who need a wonderful listening expertise with nice sound for the cash. You want an adapter to make use of it with telephones which have solely Lightning or USB-C ports and no headphone jacks. 

Read Grado SR80e review.

See extra headphone and listening picks

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