There's a bewildering selection of headphones out there, from bling, bulbous, fashion-focussed ones to altogether more serious, audiophile propositions. If you want a pair, you'll need to take into account the fact that many larger headphones are open backed.
We've indicated if that's so here. Open backs leak sound like a sieve, which means that wearing them on public transport may lead to you being assaulted. And deservedly so, if we may say so.
So what we have here are closed-backed headphones, suitable for sucking the most possible detail out of music at home, but also wearable outside.
- Something smaller: best in-ear headphones
- Something techier: best noise-cancelling headphones
- Something wireless-er: best Bluetooth headphones!
What is the best on-ear/over-ear headphone
To reduce the effort involved, T3.com has done the hard listening for you and whittled down the competition to bring the finest over ear and on ear headphones available, without spending huges sums of money.
Our favourite picks included the Bowers & Wilkins P5 on-ears and Audio-Technica's ATH-MSR7 over-ears.
These are headphones that aren't too expensive, yet offer up a great, comfortable design alongside phenomenal sound quality.
However, our absolute favourite is the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Around Ear (yes, they had to invent their own terminology).
This has been around for a number of years, but still pounds the competition with its mix of style, indoor/outdoor versatility, sound quality and value for money. If our pair is anything to go by, they're also very hard to destroy.
How to buy over-ear/on-ear heaphones
Walk into your local headphone emporium. There you will see a large stand dedicated to Beats headphones. Well, you can walk straight past that; they're crap.
Ho ho! I joke of course. If you're after a certain style and a lot of bass, Beats over-ears can be, mmm, alright. But you can get way more bang for your buck, and a much more accurate sound from other brands.
It's worth bearing in mind that, other than for fashion reasons, there is no reason to buy brand new, hot-off-the-presses headphones.
Unlike phones, where obsolescence sets in after about five minutes, and Bluetooth and noise-cancelling headphones, where the tech is still improving all the time, older wired headphones are generally just fine. This is a very mature market.
If a pair of wired headphones was great five years ago, chances are they are still great now.
If at all possible, try headphones for sound before you buy. This is the huge benefit of larger headphones over in-ears: there's no hygiene issue with trying them on. Well, okay, there's less of a hygiene issue.
If you're buying online, you can also make use of the wonder that is distance selling legislation and send back any pair you're not happy with, conducting your own 'group test'.
Perhaps the most important thing with larger headphones is that if you wear specs, DO try them on for basic comfort.
It is quite amazing how many pillowy, soft-looking headphones actually act as a kind of torture device to glasses wearers, pressing the arms of your specs into your head, whilst going, "Is it safe?" like Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man.
It's also worth bearing in mind that practically all Bluetooth on-ear/over-ear headphones come with a headphone cable, for when the batteries run out. Obviously, you are paying something of a premium in that case, however.
There is another, better option for choosing the best headphones for going walkabout, of course.
Simply read the following list, and take our recommendations to heart. These on-ear and over-ear headphones are listed in the order of how much we love them, and there are price options from under £100 to over £350.
1. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Around Ear
Best over-ear, wired headphones
They've been around for a while now but the Momentum 2.0s remain the perfect trade off between looks, performance and long lasting value.
Thanks to the double-hinged headband the Momentum 2.0, despite being full-sized, is highly portable and unless you go for some Active Noise Cancelling (and pay the premium) you'll be hard pushed to find something that sounds better on public transport. Build quality is faultless, the leather is plush, the memory foam ear pads supremely soft, and the metal suitably brushed.
Sound quality is seriously impressive, with unexpectedly hefty bass performance, and the over-ear design cocoons the listener creating a wide soundstage really giving individual instruments the chance to shine.
Energetic, precise and hugely enjoyable. And unlike a lot of Sennheiser's range, the look has a certain timeless style to it, rather than looking like something a BBC technician might have worn in 1976.
2. Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2
Best on-ear, wired headphones
If you're looking for a pair of headphones you can wear on your commute as well as at home, the P5 Series 2 has been the on-ear king for the last few years.
On-ear headphones give a great mix of comfort, sound quality and portability for those who don't want the vast bulk of over-ears, but can't stomach invasive in-ears.
B&W's P5 was a solid early entry into the wider consumer market from high-end speaker kings B&W.
The P5 Series 2, however, is a huge improvement on the original, encompassing all the trademark audio quality and premium design associated with the brand.
The sound here is warm, with excellent clarity and a great middle range. Unlike the first incarnation, while heavy bass may be lacking, they don't by any means lack oomph.
3. Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
Audiophile performance without the price
Despite being well under £150, these cans from Japanese audio ninjas Audio-Technica are made with premium materials and verge on the luxurious.
In fact, they're a class act in every respect, and while a bit conservative, the sound generated from the 45mm True Motion Drivers makes up for the lack of bling. Performance is controlled but the result is a natural and well balanced delivery that your ears will love.
In short: audiophile performance without the audiophile price.
4. Kef M500
Delivers on sublime sound promise
These on ears are still big enough to reduce ambient interference and sound leakage to a minimum, making them a near perfect mix of convenience and aural quality, for those who prefer to listen outside rather than whilst umbilically linked to the home hi-fi.
The big, enveloping audio space presented lets you enjoy every instrument in exceptional detail, and there's plenty of bass, but no sense of everything else being overpowered by it.
Visually, the combination of black faux leather and precision-milled brushed aluminium puts them a class apart. Sure they've been around a while… But hey, so have The Beatles.
5. Oppo PM-3 Classic
Stunning, slightly higher-priced offering
You don't need to know what planar magnetism means, but trust us, it sounds good, and unlike many audiophile headphone technologies, it means these can be closed backed… Although they're still not exactly ideal for wearing down the high street or on the tram.
If you can stretch your budget to the Oppo PM-3, you'll be treated to something close to a sonic master class with remarkably balanced and instinctive performance. The sheer warmth of these things is like easing into a big audiophile bubble bath.
Gorgeous looks too although please note, you're paying for the sound quality, not real leather.
6. Master & Dynamic MH40
For those who like retro design
With a steampunky design, the Master & Dynamic MH40 is built to last. Hand assembled from lambskin, leather, steel and aluminium, no corner has been cut in the manufacturing process which gives these headphones a high-end feel that makes the price seem a bit of a steal.
More importantly than turning heads, even, the 45mm Neodymium drivers present a big, rich and enveloping sound perfectly suited to pop, rock and 'da beats', as young people call them.
7. Denon AH-MM400
Best looking over-ear headphones
Snug fitting, noise eliminating comfort allows these neutral, reference headphones to do a fine job recreating a huge stereo soundscape, whatever the material. Don't expect lobe flapping bass, just enjoy the tunes. And the walnut.
The audio may be the main draw, the wood inlay detail really is superb on these headphones-cum-sideboard, offering a tactile tweak to the usual black and silver.
They may have a walnut finish, but these sound far from wooden. Ho ho!
8. Sennheiser Urbanite
Best budget on-ear headphones
If you're on the look out for some Sennheiser cans, but aren't a fan of the more staid, rigid Momentum series, then the Urbanites might be right up your alley.
They're foldable, durable thanks to stainless steel hinges and pump out large amounts of bass. They're clearly targeted at the Beats audience, but for our money sound better and offer a much more sophisticated, European kind of cool.
9. Bose SoundTrue II
Headphones for your commute
It may not look especially luxurious, but the sound quality is typically Bose with a well-defined, really enjoyable performance and tight – not overbearing – bass helped significantly by the super noise isolating ear cups.
Similar in build quality to the Sony MDR-100A below, with a blend of matte plastic and marshmallowy leatherette, the Bose SoundTrue II is lightweight and extremely comfortable. With folding ear-cups, it's a very solid choice for commuting.