With so many options for over-the-ear headphones, also referred to as around-the-ear styles, it can be hard to identify which ones truly best meet your needs. While there are some similarities among headphones, there are definitely not all the same. For example, some are designed for cordless listening via Bluetooth while others have the added benefit of noise cancelling capabilities.
Five Great Around-the-Ear Headphones
1. Monoprice Hi-Fi DJ Style Pro Headphones: Great Bargain
If you're looking for a super-low priced pair of DJ-style headphones that sounds great, you can't go wrong with Monoprice's Hi-Fi DJ Style Pro Headphones. At less than $25, it's hard to find a better bargain on quality over-the-ear headphones.
In a CNET review, Steve Guttenberg describes them as "hands-down, the best full-size, over-the-ear headphones you can buy on the cheap." They are constructed mostly of plastic, but as Guttenberg points out, they are not flimsy. He describes their "bass-midrange-treble balance" as "nice and smooth," saying that it is "suitable for those with audiophile tastes." Lean Audio even says they can work well in professional situations, describing them as "perfect tracking headphones for a studio on a budget," especially when working with bands where headphone damage is a distinct possibility.
This pair of headphones far exceeded my expectations for their price point. They are well-made, have really good sound and a comfortable fit. They are very well-suited for home listening, and the design will appeal to anyone who likes the look of DJ-style headphones. The low cost makes them a great option for tweens and teens (or anyone). People who still use a home stereo will love the included adapter plug, and the extra-long cable makes it easy to listen to your stereo or other device while laying in bed or lounging on your sofa.
- Comes only in black
- Thick adjustable headband with padding
- Padded ear covers
- Closed-back design
- Earpieces fold inside the headband
- 50 mm drivers on each side
- Comes with two removable cables: a 4-foot cable and an 11.5-foot cable
- Cable attaches below the left ear cover
- Comes with an adapter plug to connect directly to a home stereo system
- Does not come with a carrying case
- Does not have in-line controls
Purchase directly from Monoprice for under $25. Volume pricing discounts are available if you order more than one pair at the same time.
2. Sony MDR-7506: Professional Experience
If you are looking for a reasonably priced pair of headphones with true professional sound quality, Sony's MDR-7506 model is a great option for you to consider.
Listed at the top of C-Net's list of the best over-the-ear headphones, Sony's MDR-7506 is a great option for those who are seeking a professional listing experience. Retailer Sweetwater describes this model as their "most popular choices for professional studio monitoring and focused listening" and states that these headphones can be found "in virtually every recording studio on the planet". They are described as "a recording industry standard" on Head-Fi.org.
C-Net describes these headphones as extremely comfortable, saying that they "are comfortable to wear for hours at a time". Comfort isn't the only thing this model has going for it. The sound is outstanding - according to C-Net they work well with every genre of music, offering great sound at a "relatively modest price point".
What these headphones don't have is a lot of the extras of newer models. This style has been around since 1991. It was designed for music - not mobile devices - and it still works great for that. However, the cable is coiled unlike the flat cables the most mobile-friendly models have, but this is a feature that music lovers looking for a studio-like experience (even at home) will likely find charming.
- Earcups have a closed back design
- 40 mm drivers
- Gold connectors with adapters for 1/4" and 1/8" audio jacks
- Coiled cord made with oxygen-free copper
- Frequency response range from 10Hz to 20kHz
- Earcups can be folded inward
- Headband can be adjusted to get best fit
- Padded ear covers
- Ear covers can be replaced
- Comes with a soft case
Purchase from Sweetwater and ZZSounds for around $100.
3. Sennheiser HD280 Pro: Studio
Also included in C-Net's list of the best over-the-ear headphones, the Sennheiser HD280 Pro model is also a great option for those looking for a studio-quality listening experience. According to PCMag.com, this model was "designed for professional studio use" and "is ideal for recording and mixing applications". Both C-Net and PCMag.com praise this pair of headphones for being very comfortable.
According to a review on C-Net, the sound quality is excellent, providing "the sort of detail you hear only from high-end speakers". The reviewer also praises the versatility of these headphones, noting that the sound is outstanding across all genres of music.
While it hasn't been on the market as long as the Sony MDR-7506 model, it has been available since 2003. Hence, its design isn't particularly mobile-friendly. Like the Sony model, its cable is coiled. However, the C-Net reviewer points out, "If you're thinking of using the HD 280 Pros with an iPod, you won't be disappointed. The headphones' resolution came through loud and clear with ours."
- Swivel mounted ear cups with a closed mounted design
- 1/8" audio jack
- 1/4" audio jack adapter included
- Ergonomic design
- Padded earcups
- Padded headband
- Cable can be replaced
- Ear cups can be replaced
- Case not included
4. Monoprice Noise Cancelling Headphones: Great for Airplanes
If you are looking for a pair of affordable headphones that have noise cancelling capabilities, you'll likely find the ones from Monoprice to be very appealing.
As a frequent business traveler, I had been considering purchasing a pair of noise cancelling headphones for airplane trips for a while but could not quite bring myself to pay the $300+ price tag that seems common for this particular style of headphone. I was thrilled to discover the Monoprice model for less than $120, and even more pleased to find out first-hand how well it works at cancelling noise, even screaming babies in an airplane cabin.
While the sound quality may not be as impressive as the much more expensive brands, these headphones work fine for my purposes while fitting within my budget. ConsumerReports.org recommends Monoprice as a "bargain buy" alternative to the publication's top-rated brands, all of which cost $300 or more. DigitalHippos also recommends these headphones for their high quality and affordable price.
- Battery (included) required for noise cancelation feature (not needed just to listen to music)
- Comes only in black
- Padded adjustable headband
- Padded ear covers
- Closed-back design
- Comes with a a 4-foot removable cable
- Cable features in-line controls for music and phone (compatible with iOS devices)
- Includes a stereo adapter and Internet calling adapter
- Comes with a hard nylon zipper case
Order from Monoprice for under $120. If you order more than one pair, a volume discount will apply.
5. Monoprice Premium Bluetooth Hi-Fi: Powerful Bluetooth
If you're looking for Bluetooth headphones with a powerful, long-lasting battery, terrific range and great sound, Monoprice's Premium Bluetooth Hi-Fi over-the-ear model is an excellent and affordable choice.
I was very impressed with the range of these headphones, finding they will work anywhere in my large two-story house, as well as in parts of the yard (even with the door closed). They are also quite comfortable to wear. However, the sound is a little more bass-heavy than I prefer. A review on DigitalHippos.com describes these headphones as "VERY bass heavy," pointing out that this is an advantage for "bumping tracks" and some games, though not likely to be preferred by people who prefer "subtle, sophisticated sound."
- Available in your choice of black or white
- Will operate up to 60 feet from paired device in an open area
- Provides 20 hours of music listening or talk time per charge
- Standby battery life up to 325 hours
- Hands-free calling capabilities
- Comes with a micro USB charging cable (but not a wall plug)
- Includes an audio cable for non-Bluetooth usage
- Wide padded headband
- Foldable for easy storage
- Comes with a slick-finish carrying pouch
Order from Monoprice directly for under $80.
Choosing Your Perfect Headphones
Listening to music can be a very personal experience, so it stands to reason that there are headphones designed for just about every need and preference. The options presented here are ten great ones, but there are many more options available. When making your selection, consider your personal preferences carefully. There is sure to be an ideal pair that meets your needs while fitting in your budget.
Note: I received review products some of the items discussed in this article. The opinions presented here are my own.