Best on-ear headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best on-ear headphones you can buy in 2019.
On-ear headphones are a good middle ground between in-ears and over-ears, they don't burrow in your ears like the former and tend to be more portable than the latter. As the name suggests, they sit on your ears rather than covering them completely, which is a look you might prefer.
As with any headphones, when buying a pair of on-ears, there are a few things to keep in mind. What features do you want? Bluetooth? Active noise-cancelling?
What style are you after? An open-backed pair will give superior sound, but they leak the music like nobody's business. They're strictly for at-home use only. Using them on the bus? A closed-backed pair will avoid annoying your fellow passengers.
You should also consider how portable they are. Most pairs fold up to fit in a pocket or small bag, and some are so light you could forget you have them on you. Check them out in a shop if you can.
Finally, you'll need to decide on a budget. Thankfully, our pick of the best on-ears covers a wide range of prices from under £50 to close to £250.
These on-ears have a bold, striking design, and fold up small so are eminently portable. They're well made, with sturdy aluminium ear cups and a strong (though wafer thin) stainless steel headband. The sound is fantastic too - it's balanced and insightful, with a welcome amount of bass weight. And there's plenty of detail to get your teeth into. The design might be a bit 'wannabe Beats' for some, but there's no mistaking a quality pair of headphones.
Read the full review: AKG Y50
A quick glance at this list will tell you that AKG makes some of the best on-ears around. And the Y500s are some of the firm's finest work to date. The design is suitably premium, with a cushioned, adjustable headband and memory foam earcups. They fold up small enough to fit in a pocket, and pair wirelessly to your device over Bluetooth. Want to hear what's going on in the outside world? Activate the Ambient Aware feature and you'll subdue the music enough to hear background noise. Sound quality is superb, and they support your phone's voice-activated personal assistant too. Hugely appealing on-ears.
Read the full review: AKG Y500 Wireless
With earpads clad in sheep leather, there's no doubt these B&Ws are quality headphones. They're small and lightweight, and fold down to make them even more portable. But the performance is anything but lightweight - bass is rich and full, with a finely handled tonal balance that shows off the best of any track. The only downside is a slight lack of attack. Still, if you’re after an easy listen from a pair of ultra-compact headphones, the P3s are a great portable option.
Read the full review: B&W P3 Series 2
These wireless on-ears are some of the best value headphones under £100. They combine the bass boost of a street headphone with the kind of smoothness that should appeal to audiophiles. They're tuned for impact rather than neutrality, with plenty of low-end thump, but if that's your thing they will do you proud. And it's not all bass: the mids are unexpectedly smooth and the treble pleasingly sweet. A very appealing all-rounder, and not just because of the price tag.
Read the full review: Urbanista Seattle Wireless
Be warned: these are open-backed, which means they leak sound like anyone's business. Which is great for home listening (as the sound is more open and spacious), but not so great for your daily commute. Unless you want everyone knowing your guilty pleasures include Kylie and Black Lace. A sturdy solid build meets superb sound quality, with an expansive sound space really letting every instrument breathe. If you’re serious about sound quality and they fit your budget, what are you waiting for?
Read the full review: Grado SR325e
Part of Sennheiser's hugely successful Momentum range, these wired on-ear headphones don't disappoint. The sound boasts body and warmth, plus texture and detail in spades. This all makes for an effortless, enjoyable listen. Bass is weighty without being invasive but these particular Momentums don't have quite enough clarity in the midrange for a five star recommendation. Having said that, they're still hugely capable for the money.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-ear
These impressive AKGs boast a 15-hour battery life with Bluetooth and noise-cancelling turned on, and can stretch to 30 hours if you turn off the former. They're comfy enough to wear all day, and the earcup-mounted controls are more intuitive than a lot of pairs we've tested. Trust us, it makes a real difference. The sound is bursting with detail and precision, with a delicate balancing act of bass, midrange and treble. A handsome pair of on-ear headphones.
Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless
This is one of the few pairs on on-ear headphones in this list that are open-backed, meaning sound leaks like water through a sieve. But the upside is a more open, spacious soundstage - indeed, at this price, the dynamics, detail and clarity are all but unmatched. They sound fast and nimble, able to jump between genres with ease, and the bass is clean and punchy. Some may find them a little tiring to listen to for long periods at high volumes and the design won't suit everyone, but you can't argue with the overall sound quality.
Read the full review: Grado SR80e
Sound quality for these wireless on-ears is clear, with the kind of insight that makes it easy to tell the calibre of the talent on hand. There's none of the hiss and whine you sometimes get with some wireless headphones. Detail levels are excellent, while their sense of rhythm is spot on. And when charged, they'll give you 20 hours of play time - which is ample in anyone's book.
Read the full review: AKG Y50BT