The 8 Best On-Ear Headphones for 2024: Sony, Beats, Sennheiser and More – CNET

$55 at Walmart

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Top budget on-ear headphones

Sony WH-CH520

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$32 at Amazon

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Best budget on-ear headphones for less than $40

Soundcore by Anker H30i

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$200 at Amazon

The Beats Solo 4 come in pink and blue

Best Beats on-ear headphones

Beats Solo 4

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$100 at Amazon


Best on-ear headphones from JBL

JBL Live 670NC

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$30 at Amazon


Top on-ear headphones for under $40

Creative Sound Blaster Jam V2

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$70 at Amazon


Affordable Sennheiser on-ear headphones

Sennheiser HD 250BT

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$41 at Amazon


Solid budget on-ear headphones

Skullcandy Riff Wireless

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$25 at Amazon

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Top budget wireless on-ear headphones

Edifier WH500

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Though around-ear or over-ear headphones tend to deliver the best sound and listening experience, not everyone wants to walk around wearing full-size headphones, which can sometimes be a little bulky. Though headphones that sit on top of your ears aren’t everyone’s thing, on-ear models with smaller ear cups are more compact and travel-friendly, and tend to cost less (several models on this list are under $50). They’re also good for folks with smaller heads, including kids. Note that the majority of on-ear headphones don’t offer active noise canceling, though some do.

I’ve tested all the models on this list, evaluating their design, comfort level, sound quality, voice-calling performance and noise-canceling prowess (if they offer that feature). They’re all wireless headphones, but most of them also offer a wired connection. I recently added the Beats Solo 4 and JBL Live 670NC to the list and will continue to add worthy on-ear models as they hit the market. If none of these headphones piques your interest, you can check out CNET’s other headphone best lists, such as our best wireless earbuds list and our best noise-canceling headphones list.

Sony released its new entry-level CH-720N noise-canceling headphones in 2023. They’re quite good, but if you can’t afford them (they list for $150), the company’s new budget on-ear WH-CH520 headphones are an intriguing option for only around $50.

They lack noise canceling and are pretty no-frills, but they feature good sound for their price, are lightweight and pretty comfortable for on-ear headphones, and also have excellent battery life (they’re rated for up to 50 hours at moderate volume levels. Additionally, they have multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can pair them with two devices simultaneously (such as a smartphone and computer) and switch audio. Voice-calling performance is decent, though not up to the level of what you get with the CH-720N. 

Note that there’s no wired option — this is a wireless Bluetooth-only headphone. The CH-520 offers overall balanced sound with decent clarity. The bass has some punch to it but doesn’t pack a wallop, and you’re not going to get quite as wide a soundstage as you get from Sony’s more expensive over-ear headphones. But these definitely sound better than Sony’s previous entry-level on-ear headphones and sound better than I thought they would. I tried the white color but they also come in blue and black. 

The Soundcore H30i are inexpensive on-ear wireless headphones that compete with the Sony CH-520 and JBL Tube 510BT (the Tune 520BT is its new-for-2024 successor). There’s no active noise-canceling and the headphones are pretty no frills, but they do feature decent sound quality with ample bass for their low price and you can pair them to two devices simultaneously (multipoint Bluetooth). I’m slightly more partial to the Sony CH-520, which are slightly more comfortable and sound slightly better (they have a tad more clarity). That said, the H30i have a folding design, and while they don’t come with a carrying pouch, they do include a headphone cord for wired listening (the Sonys are wireless only).

Battery life is impressive — the H30i are rated for up to 70 hours of listening at moderate volume levels. And while you shouldn’t expect great voice-calling performance, it is acceptable in quieter environments. I also appreciated that you can tweak the sound profile in the companion Soundcore app for iOS and Android.

In a nutshell, the Beats Solo 4 on-ear headphones have pretty much the same look on the outside as the 3s, but some notable improvements on the inside bump their performance by about 25% to 30% when it comes to sound quality, battery life and voice-calling. 

Would I pay $200 for them? No, I wouldn’t. But if you look at what’s happened with the Studio Pro’s pricing — they’re sporadically discounted to $200 or $150 off their list price and even dropped to $180 for Prime Day — the Solo 4s won’t always be $200. I’m certain we’ll see them fairly soon for what the Solo 3s now cost, which is around $130. They make a lot more sense at that price, particularly if you’re looking for a more compact on-ear headphone and don’t need active noise canceling.