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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Stuart Pritchard

Most comfortable over ear headphones to shop in 2023: Sit snug and sonorous

Headphones, be they on-ear, over-ear, in-ear, bone conducting or some freakish hybrid combination of two or more of the above tune-bringing techs, are generally reviewed on the strength of the most seemingly important things.

They are valued on their performance, design and price. However, while these are undoubtedly of the utmost import, there is one more vital facet that elevates good headphones to the ranks of great headphones: comfort. 

Your cans may offer unrestricted access to the most advanced audio imaginable while remaining wonderfully wire-free and as ANC eliminates interference from the unrelenting outside world, it all counts for nothing if fatigue starts to take its hellish toll, forcing you to whip ’em off until you’ve had time to recover.

Known as ‘listener fatigue’ or ‘ear fatigue’ to those in the aural know, prolonged use of cans of any kind can cause tiredness and, in some cases, even pain, usually because of excessive volume in the higher frequencies. Which is a pain in the neck. But do you know what else is a pain in the neck? A pain in the neck caused by wearing headphones that are too heavy, too inflexible to natural movement, or simply such a poor fit that they clamp your cranium uncomfortably or sit slack and loose forcing constant readjustment.

Obviously, you want none of this nonsense ruining your you-time, and frankly, there’s no good reason why you should allow it when all that can be avoided by investing in headphones created with your comfort in mind. Whether for work or play, far more agreeable headphone options are out there, ranging in price from around £100 up to excessive-to-most amounts depending on the level of absolute comfort you crave.

And, what’s more, we’ve been putting them to the test on your behalf, fighting the threat of ear fatigue, muscling through music, gaming, conference calling and countless hours of fatigue-flirting TV, to arrive at this round-up of the most human-friendly headphones to be found.

Come, enter your comfort zone…

Best comfortable headphones at a glance:

Bowers & Wilkins Px8

Best for: All-round excellence

So, the flagship Px8 headphones from god-tier audio brand Bowers & Wilkins are, if not the best, certainly in the top two when it comes to tech, for these absolute over-ear sonic stunners are nothing less than exquisite in all arenas of looks, wear and performance.

Lovely and light at 320g, thanks to cast aluminium arms, the Px8’s driver cups rotate through 180° to allow for a flexible fit that gently hugs the head in an embrace of luxury Nappa leather, ticking the ‘comfy’ box with full confidence.

Wirelessly offering up a whopping 30 hours of playback, incredible clarity is assured by cunningly angled carbon cone drive units reducing distortion to next to nothing, while B&W’s revised magnet, voice coil and surround driver ooze effortless accuracy into your ears.

In fact, it would be impossible to overstate just how good these sound, precise, clear and natural at all volumes, the combined aptX adaptive wireless tech and Digital Signal Processing eking the absolute most out of Hi-Res streaming services for an audio experience that’s out of this world.

Add to this six microphones creating crystal clear calls and noise cancellation that utterly excels at outing the outside and the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 offer physical and technological comfort that’s simply second to none. Available in Black, Tan or right regal Royal Burgundy, 600 quid may seem steep, but this is upper echelon audio.

Buy now £599.00

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX

Best for: Comfort unconfined

Now then, remember way back in the last review where I said the B&W Px8 was in the top two for tech? Well, killing any existing sense of suspense, welcome to the other option, the remarkable new Beoplay HX from legendary AV brand Bang & Olufsen.

Giving some 35 hours of Bluetooth 5.1 wireless wonderment with adaptive ANC on or 40 hours off from a full charge, 40mm electro-dynamic drivers with Neodymium magnets and manual audio adjustment via the Beosonic equaliser on the accompanying B&O app, the sweetest of sounds await those with the requisite £449 in funds, with every element of the sound spectrum as beautifully balanced as audio equilibrium itself.

Built around an aluminium frame, an ergonomic pressure-relieving headband comes fitted with memory foam ear cushions, all finished in the softest lambskin leather, this is not so much a set of over-ear headphones, this is a prolonged hug from the head-going equivalent of the world’s most comfortable armchair. Indeed, designed with lengthy usage firmly in mind, whether that’s in the office or on a long-haul flight, you could very well wear these for that entire epic battery life and, other than the sheer excellent audio quality, forget they are there.

Simplicity to connect with one or two devices simultaneously using Microsoft Swift Pair, Google Fast Pair and Made for iPhone, the adaptive ANC is adept at allowing you to let as much or as little ambient sound into your ears, whether rocking out to the latest release from new pop beat combo The Beatles, or enduring/indulging in an epic Teams meeting of telephone call in crystal-cut clarity via the Beoplay’s six microphones. 

Audiophile personal audio with an edge of all-consuming comfort, buy the B&O ticket, strap them on and recline yourself in a soundscape of pure silk.

Buy now £449.00, Bang & Olufsen

Edifier WH950NB

Best for: Bargain bang for your buck

For those who want all the epic audio but without all the epic costs normally associated with that kind of gadgety greed, there is a company called Edifier.

Having picked up prestigious awards for its products from a range of renowned gong-givers, our experience with Edifier has never been anything less than a thing of elation, thanks to the innovation that comes packed into each and every audio option they enter the market with.

So, having recently been more than impressed by an incredibly accessible Edifier soundbar, a set of WH950NB Edifier cans because, well, not only are they rammed with top-end audio tech, such as titanium film-treated 40mm drivers for sensationally superior Hi-Res sound, Active Noise Cancellation, and four built-in ambient noise-cancelling mics powered by an audio signal processor, they’re also exceptionally comfortable.

At 296g, they may not be the lightest, but the premium finish of the well-upholstered headband and the soft, deep earcups give a fit that’s snug without being restrictive, letting you work, rest and play for hours on end without the need to take a break.

Connecting over ultra-sturdy Bluetooth 5.3, Hi-Res Audio compatible, built to last and skidding into the ‘Affordable Audio Arena’ at well under 200 of your Earth pounds, Edifier bring all the music for much less of the money.

Buy now £180.00, Amazon

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2

Best for: Quality and comfort for less cash

A critically acclaimed producer of objet d’audio with the aim of bringing high-end features to a more affordable price point, Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50xBT2 are not cans for the dainty and demure, as they are undeniably, attention-grabbingly chunky in look and weigh-in at a fulsome 307g. But then they need to be that scale to house their whopping 45mm drivers, dual mics with beamforming technology (multi-mic array directs sound towards the user), stupendous 50-hour battery and, to a lesser extent but important to mention, built-in Amazon Alexa.

So, the sound quality when it comes to music is superb and enhanced further by the EQ contained within the accompanying A-T Connect app, while call quality is clearer than the on-coming supposed plot twist in an M Night Shyamalan movie, so full marks on those fronts. But… are they comfy?

Well, despite the more aggressive-looking design, A-T’s wireless or wired wonders come with a very accommodating headband and earcups, both deep and spongy enough to soothe even the sorest outer ear, whilst the 180° rotating cups help you achieve perfect positioning for long-time listening.

Ludicrously underpriced at £170, the ATH-M50xBT2 may have no ANC, but the firm cup-to-head seal and powerful drivers work hard to cut off outside interference, so unless you live/work in a ridiculously rambunctious environment, Audio-Technica’s got you covered for considerably less of your money-pound-cash.

Buy now £156.98, Amazon

EPOS Audio IMPACT 1000

Best for: Banishing brain fatigue

During the seemingly endless working-from-home lockdowns of 2020, a seemingly endless number of video conferences were endured and a seemingly endless amount of video calls too. What we found was that headphone fatigue came even faster.

The reason for this was that focusing fully on said calls and conferences was almost impossible with all the background racket and ‘brain fatigue’ was rife as a consequence. A common problem for those working in an open office, particularly amongst those who use a single-sided headset, eliminating that as an issue ever again like a teleconferencing Terminator is the IMPACT 1000 from EPOS Audio.

Coming complete with a Bluetooth dongle for your computer and setting up simply with your smartphone, this slick double-sided solution sets a new standard for the office, with adaptive ANC cutting out the chatter, EPOS AI introducing industry-leading voice pickup and – wait for it – EPOS BrainAdapt technology allowing for 100 per cent conversation concentration and the very clearest of communication in both directions.

Microsoft Teams certified and giving triple connectivity, we’ve been testing the IMPACT 1000 out now for the best part of two weeks and, frankly, am not entirely sure how we ever managed online meetings without them; and as for brain fatigue, well, looks like we're all out of excuses.

Buy now, EPOS Audio

Puro Sound Labs PuroPro

Best for: Comfy listening guaranteed 

When it comes to a combination of complete comfort and listening pleasure, sure weight and physical design are of paramount importance, but so is considering your future comfort and preventing partial hearing loss. This is where the cheerfully cheap new PuroPro comes in from Puro Sound Labs.

Not only are you getting 40mm dynamic drivers benefitting no-end from Puro Balanced Response Curve which works to deliver a more natural, genuine listening experience that tunes out any excessive midbass that makes audio sound awful and, over the long term, can damage hearing, they also allow users to choose between two volume limits of 85dB or 95dB, the former allowing for up to 8-hours of safe listening and the latter for 50-minutes, as recommended by the World Health Organization and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Thus, your present and future enjoyment of audio is protected, and that’s headphone comfort on a different level. As to your other delicate features, protein leather earpads and headband cushion those gently but firmly, keeping you comfortable for the entire duration of your – maximum – 8-hour listenathon.

Priced at just £120, for slick sound and assured safety, the PuroPro are worth every penny.

Buy now £120.00, Amazon

Logitech Zone Vibe 100

Best for: Making light work of it all 

One of the main causes of discomfort when it comes to cans in the workplace is having to heave their weight around on your head all day. While the initial hour(s) may not prove too problematic, as time drags on heavier headphones will begin to take their toll on your neck muscles. Most of the time the trade-off for losing weight is losing tech, but then along comes the Zone Vibe 100 from Logitech and blows that equation out of the water.

A work of over-ear ingenuity, the 100 weights just 185g, yet still manages to take the form of full-sized double-sided desk warriors with 40mm drivers, dual omnidirectional, noise-cancelling MEMS mics with directional beamforming and DSP, and a battery good for 18-hours of chatty Kathy time and 20-hours listening. This, of course, all makes the Vibe 100 an excellent option for both work and play.

In the case of the former, the flip-to-mute noise cancelling mic makes for crisp, clear conversation, while with the latter those drivers pump creamy rich audio with thunderous bass and clear highs right into your head when the working day is done.

Connecting to your devices over super-stable Bluetooth 5.2, the aforementioned bird-like lightness of the Zone Vibe 100 makes them wearable without any worry of weight at all, while the memory foam earpads and lamb-soft knitted covers make them as comfortable as cans can be.

Buy now £110.00, Logitech

OneOdio Monitor 80

Best for: Luxury listening and complete comfort

For those of you who don’t care for carrying your cans in the awful wintry outside world and have no truck with all that wireless malarkey, but do want high-quality audio and comfort like the lap of luxury to lounge back in, then the Monitor 80 from OneOdio is for you.

Here, 40mm drivers shuffle around sound in an open-back design, unlike any other models featured here. What’s an open-back design? Well, where closed-backs keep sound inside and block out exterior annoyance, open-backs don’t. What’s the point in that then? Because they allow leakage and the ingress of ambient sound, open-backed headphones allow for a far more spacious, air-filled sound field that lets you listen for much longer without falling to fatigue. So, in avoiding tired ears, the open back reigns supreme.

Capable of handling Hi-Res audio and blessed with advanced high-precision etched diaphragms, what you get in that spacious audio playground is absolute definitiveness in bass, mids and highs, combining to create a studio-level listening experience. 

With fatigue virtually eliminated, the Monitor 80 adds super-soft velour earpads, adjustable earcups and a spring steel headband into the comfort mix, making these headphones the utter epitome of comfort, like the headphone equivalent of slipping into a pair of finely fitted velvet underpants. 

If you don’t want wireless or to take your audio outside, OneOdio’s Monitor 80 could very well be the answer you seek for perfect home playback; and if you seek that at a price which seems like a badly mangled misprint, then head to OneOdio’s way now.

Buy now £99.99, Amazon

1MORE SonoFlow

Best for: Quiet and comfort at next-to-no cost

The SonoFlow from 1MORE, a set of over-ears that many self-proclaimed sound snobs might dismiss simply for the fact that they cost so little, but as ever with such spurious pseudo-audiophiles, they’d be fools to do so.

Admittedly reduced right now from £90, which is still next to nowt in the grand scheme of sound reproduction, Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Audio Wireless certified, the SonoFlow comes revving with 40mm drivers featuring a DLC (diamond-like-carbon) composite diaphragm and soft PET film that have been fine-tuned by four-time Grammy Award recipient Luca Bignardi, and although I don’t know who he is either, he’s won four Grammys so who are we to question?

Sound quality, then, is impressive for cans costing twice, maybe three times the amount, so for this piffling price you can be rightly dazzled by it. Then there’s the proprietary noise cancellation tech, which is adept at keeping the uproariousness of others at bay. Is it the best noise cancellation available? At this price, of course not! But it is robust and effective enough to allow the drivers to do their thing unmolested, so that’s another massive tick in this remarkable bargain box.

Connecting over Bluetooth 5.0 and doling our 50 hours of playback with ANC on and 70 hours off, when it comes to comfort beyond cushioning any assault on your bank balance, large, plumply padded, soft earpads embrace your ears. This is while the adjustable headband makes finding a fit worthy of a few hours of simplicity itself.

And there you have it: the 1MORE SonoFlow – snap them up while you can!

Buy now £84.50, Amazon

Jabra Evolve2 65 Flex

Best for: Best in class/office ANC

An office-going option, may we introduce you to this on-ear variant from Jabra, the Evolve2 65 Flex.

First up, it's light, 136g to be precise, making it the least neck-muscle-bothering model you’re likely to encounter anywhere else within these reviews. Secondly, jumping straight to the raison d'être of this piece, they're comfortable, thanks to ‘Jabra Air Comfort’, which uses a pressure-relieving, padded headband with rotating memory foam earcups to let these little things sit pretty upon your pate for endless hours without bothering you once. Comfort 2.0.

Then we come to the tech – small they may be, but absolutely strawberry jam-packed with sweet, sweet tech, including the flip up/down noise-cancelling ‘Jabra ClearVoice’ microphone that ensures optimal voice transmission, incredible Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to keep the daily disquietude of other office users completely out of your head, dual device connectivity for phone and laptop/PC, and full compatibility with video conferencing services, such as Zoom and Teams.

For comfortable, all-day remote collaboration, the Evolve2 65 Flex is an absolute metaphorical heavyweight, offering audio that is impeccably clear and speech pick-up that’ second-to-none.

Add to all that a wireless charging pad that fuels the ’phones via USB and, yes, Jabra has delivered nothing less than an Evolve2-ution in collaborative office audio.

Buy now £225.00, Amazon


Best for: frequent flyers

Competing with Bang & Olufsen when it comes to cost, you may think B&O have the edge on name alone, but the Canadian sonic success story PSB has been around for 50 years and has built a rock-solid reputation in audio reproduction in that time that is truly to be reckoned with. Indeed, take the shiny new M5U 9 over-ears for example, featuring 40mm drivers that have been – wait for it – graphene-infused to enhance enhancing damping, stiffness, and efficiency, fused with low-latency aptX Adaptive Bluetooth and all-digital active noise cancellation, the noise that spills into your ears is premium with a capital ‘p’. But that’s far from all…

Because the inner meanderings of the ear canal are different for everyone, the cunning PSB employs M4U 9 employs ‘Audiodo Personal Sound’, a system where each ear is assessed using an unerringly precise audio test, before a personalised hearing profile is generated. What's more, EQ presets allow you to fine-tune even further until the audio you experience sounds like you’re in the room at the recording.

With ANC keeping outside noise where it belongs and 25 hours of playback pumped into you from a single charge, the PSB M4U 9 offers power and performance in equally exciting measures. “But,” you’re asking, "how do they feel?”

Let’s put it this way, imbued with gyro-suspended earpads, specially tilted to provide ergonomic support, an expandable headband, complete with a fabric inner cover, and a choice of both fabric and leatherette earpads, your comfort is utterly assured, like sinking back into a wingback Chesterfield chair.

The pinnacle of PSB’s considerable powers, the M4U 9 is a set of headphones for frequent flyers or long-distance travellers in general who demand the highest performance from their wireless headphones and, of course, comfort that will see the course.

Buy now, PSB

Sennheiser Momentum 4

Best for: Comfort and control

A colossus of the audio arena, Sennheiser is, quite simply, one of the most popular headphone companies in the history of headphone companies; and you don’t get to be that without lavishing absolute innovation on your products at every turn.

The latest in the over-ear line, the Momentum 4, features an audiophile-inspired 42mm transducer system with an accompanying app including built-in EQ, presets, sound modes, and the option to personalise your sound still further, this is Sennheiser’s Signature Sound and it’s ear-delightingly dynamic, bright, brilliant and clad in clarity. 

When it comes to battery, a full charge will give you a whopping 60 hours of play, with ‘Smart Pause’ helping conserve that charge by automatically stopping and starting when you take them off or put them back on, so you’re never likely to be stuck for top tunes or calls clearer than a crystal bell, the adaptive ANC assisting invaluably in those areas.

And when it comes to controls the innovation continues to abound, with an intuitive and invisible tap and swipe ‘Smart Control’ system built into the ear cup cap making it impossibly easy to access all functions with none of the fumbling often associated with fiddly buttons. 

But what of comfort? Here we find a lightweight build designed to take the strain off the muscles, complete with deep, softly cushioned earpads, a very pleasantly padded headband, and a lovingly low-friction hinge mechanism that provides perfect, pressure-free fit, so when it comes to comfort, the M4 envelopes the head like a tailor-made noise-glove. 

A fresh audio tech triumph from Sennheiser at a more than reasonable price for listening gear at this level, the ANC performance may not be quite up there with the ‘twice the price’ options I’ve already looked at here, but then… practically half the price!

Buy now £310.00, Sennheiser

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