Best Over Ear Headphones Under $500 – Ultimate Listening Experience

If being a musician has taught me anything it’s that sometimes you need to pay extra for quality and comfort. Whether it’s a guitar pick, a jack extension, or headphones, true performance will always cost you.

How often do you complain about poor audio when you’re on the street or in the comfort of your own home? If you’re still paying only a few bucks for your headphones or worse, you’re using earphones, then you’re probably complaining a lot.

Changing headphones every couple of months or once a year is something a lot of people do. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s something you can avoid.

My Favorite Over Ear Headphones for Any Occasion and Activity

Check out my top over ear picks for the best headphones under $500 and find something that you can use for more than one activity.

Wireless over ear headphones offer loads of comfort. What makes things even better is when you also get a pair that sound really good. The Bose QuietComfort 35 is a really nice choice for gaming, studio recordings, and movie time.

The absence of any cables makes them comfortable to use. Of course, the soft padding also helps. What’s really interesting about this pair is that it comes with Alexa voice control. This makes it so much easier to manipulate your music library, customize settings and more.

The headphones also feature a dual-microphone system. Like all QuietComfort headphones, these include excellent active noise cancellation features which help you achieve a clearer sound. The audio profile seems quite balanced whether you’re listening to an audiobook or blasting heavy riffs in your ears.

Since smartphones are pretty much the norm these days, you can also take advantage of the Bose Connect app to personalize your settings, share your music, manage connections, and even adjust the level of noise cancellation.

  • Adjustable active noise cancellation
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    Comfortable
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    Wireless
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    Support for Alexa
  • Slight ear pressure
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    Short Bluetooth range

These open back headphones have been around for some time. They’re quite versatile and you may have noticed me recommending them in other lists and articles.

On the inside, the quality of the transducers is as high-end as you could hope for at under $500. The HD 660 S headphones do a good job if you’re looking for accurate stereo sound. The frequency response is impressive on both the low and high frequencies.

These headphones won’t do you much good when traveling or listening to music outside. They promote a more open soundstage. However, this isn’t a bad thing. Along with a more natural sound you also get more comfort.

Because of the way the grille is set up, you won’t encounter any issues with overheating or added ear pressure. The grip of the headband is barely noticeable after a few minutes, thanks in part to the thick velour padding.

Visually, the HD 660 S doesn’t look as high-end as its predecessor, the HD 650. But if you’re looking for sound quality, clear vocals, and an open sound, then these are the pairs to beat.

  • Natural sound
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    Long cable
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    Comfortable
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    Prevent overheating
  • Limited noise cancellation
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    Not great for outdoor use

I’ll be the first to admit that the HE-400I are weird-looking headphones. The unique headband design and bulky ear cups are something of an acquired taste. That being said, if you’re paying this much for headphones, you’re probably more interested in the sound quality and comfort than looks.

As unique as these headphones look, they are more than comfortable. The headband design is intended to relieve most of the head and ear pressure. Want something to wear for hours? – These won’t disappoint.

The beveled ear pad design also fights the dreaded ear pressure. And the headphones feel a lot lighter than most in this price range, despite their bulky appearance.

The soundstage is fairly balanced. There’s a good definition in the high frequencies and bass. The midrange is clear and crisp. What ultimately sealed the deal for me was the passive noise cancellation.

Although not sporting a traditional ear pad design, you can barely be bothered by outside interference. Of course, the planar magnetic technology also contributes to this as it enhances the sound coming from your headphones really well.

  • Planar magnetic headphones
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    Superior comfort
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    Balanced soundstage
  • Odd-looking
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    Short cable

The Crossfade 2 headphones have a very futuristic design. They might be perfect for gamers, albeit expensive if they were to serve no other purpose. But if you are looking for a pair of headphones that give you freedom of movement and a balanced soundstage no matter what you’re listening too, you might enjoy this model.

The design is closed-back. The ear cups are hexagonal but they are very comfortable unless you have really big ears. Yes, size sometimes matters, unfortunately. Not all headphones fit equally well on everyone.

Although these aren’t amazing for outdoor use, they are very portable headphones. They can be used wirelessly and they also come with a hard case. That’s plenty of bang for your buck right there.

The autonomy of the headphones isn’t bad either. It takes just 30 minutes to charge the headphones and get four hours of use out of them.

  • Sleek futuristic look
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    Wireless
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    Balanced soundstage
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    Heavy-duty case included
  • Slight head pressure from the SteelFlex headband

The Philips SHP9500S is another pair of headphones designed for those that prefer a more natural sound. The open-back design is what makes everything come together. Although I personally prefer headphones that can cancel some noise, I admit that they’re not suited for every occasion and every musical genre.

Although bulky, these headphones are some of the most comfortable in their price range. The ear cups are very large and the overall weight is hardly noticeable after a few minutes. There are no issues with head or ear pressure and most of this is due to the extra padding on the headband and the ear pads.

There’s some really good bass definition which might be considered overpowering if not for the open-back design. The midrange and high-frequency is as good as one could hope for. The soundstage is spacious, natural, and undistorted.

  • Good value for the money
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    Highly comfortable
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    Natural soundstage
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    Excellent definition
  • Short cable
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    Not suitable for outdoor use

I find these headphones to be some of the most balanced if you’re looking for something equally efficient for the office and home. The bass performance is very solid without being overpowering.

The level of comfort is very impressive. The frame features dual-headband support. This allows the K712 Pros to exert less pressure on your head. When working long hours, there’s nothing that will annoy you more than head pressure.

Aesthetically speaking, the headphones look more like gaming headphones due to their color frame and over-the-top bulkiness. That being said, they look really cool and the fact that the ear cups are extra-large only improves the level of comfort.

The headphones also use flat wire voice coils which do a great job of improving the impulse and treble response. Combined with the good noise cancellation properties (passive), you’re able to get a spacious sound that’s fairly balanced and defined in the mid and high frequencies.

This may be your best bet if you’re more interested in vocal over anything else.

  • Solid build
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    Comfortable design
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    Enhanced vocals
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    Extra-large ear cups
  • Average quality cable
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    Need good amplification

If you know anything about audio equipment then you know the reputation of Audio-Technica. I’ve always been a fan of their headphones and this dynamic over ear pair piqued my interest right away.

The wing support system makes these some of the most comfortable over ear headphones hands down. The ear cups are large and well-padded. They also feature an open-air design which makes the headphones breathable and a pleasure to wear during the summer.

The most interesting thing about the ATH-AD1000X is the fact that you won’t find the same voice coils in any other model. The sound clarity and the nature of the soundstage are unique to these headphones

The frequency response seems balanced across the board, although the definition is better on the mid and high frequencies. This is a side effect of the open-air design.

In terms of aesthetics, if you’ve seen one pair of ATH headphones, you’ve probably seen them all. The rigidity of the magnesium alloy frame, on the other hand, is worth every penny in my book. It makes the headphones sturdy and yet very light which only enhances the comfort.

  • Fine-tuned for vocal clarity
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    Natural tone
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    Superior comfort
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    Durable build
  • Slightly distorted bass at high volume

I thought about ending the list with a bang. I have a soft spot for budget-friendly headphones and I always like to share my findings with my readers. Case in point, the HD 598 Cs is a solid choice for home or office use.

It has a frequency response range of 10 to 28,000Hz. These are not recording studio levels but they’re well over the human hearing range and great for practicing your instrument, watching movies, and playing games.

The headphones are light and padded for maximum comfort. They’re also compact which makes them great for travel. You get a long and a short cable for all your portable media devices.

Another feature I strongly appreciate is the closed-back design which tunes out exterior noise. These may be cheaper than other headphones on my list but they are very effective nonetheless.

  • Soft padding
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    Lightweight
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    Fine-tuned for enhanced clarity
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    Two cables included
  • Don’t play as loud as pricier models

Understanding the Primary Focus of Over Ear Headphones

Setting aside for a moment the superior sound quality, there’s one thing that makes over ear headphones worth every penny. The noise cancellation properties are the first thing I look at when testing or reviewing headphones.

The design of over ear headphones allows them to reduce the amount of outside sound. Now, some earphones also achieve this by going deeper into your ear canal. However, that also means that you’re more susceptible to eardrum damage from constant use.

Portability and Connectivity

Over ear headphones are not what you might call portable. Most of them are big, heavy, and not ideal to wear while traveling. A pair of wireless headphones might make things better since you won’t have to worry about tangling or damaging the wire.

That being said, over ear headphones aren’t designed for people on the move. You can still wear them like a DJ, just as long as you don’t plan on doing backflips at your mixing table.

If you are considering buying over ear headphones, make sure you’re buying them for the right reasons – studio recordings, live gigs, gaming, watching movies, or listening to music in your spare time.

Keep Your Eye Out for the Best Sound

Closed-back headphones offer better passive noise cancellation. The bass extension is also better since the cups are enclosed, and you don’t have to compensate by increasing the volume to unnatural levels.

However, there are those who prefer open-back headphones for their more natural and open sound. They would point to how listening to closed-back headphones is like listening to an audio system in a tiny room. The sound may be louder and more in-your-face, but the acoustics simply can’t compare.

Comfort for Days

Obviously, the frequency response range or the durability of the headphones deserve some consideration. But, once again, after a certain price point, headphones have very subtle differences between them.

Therefore, one thing you can still use to make your decision is the comfort. Don’t think for a second that some headphone manufacturers won’t skimp on comfort just because a model is high-end.

I recommend finding a pair that you can wear for at least three hours at a time without feeling any amount of head or ear pressure. That should be enough time to catch an epic movie, listen to a few concerts, or record some new tracks without leaving the studio.

Time to Invest in Sound Quality and Comfort

You have to remember that at the end of the day, it’s a matter of finding the best pair within your budget that comes as close as possible to your dream headphones.

And if you’re planning on splurging, make sure you’re not focusing on the less important features. That way, you can be sure that you're indeed getting one of the best headphones under 500 bucks.

Headphones should help you listen to impeccable audio no matter what you’re listening to, while also keeping you comfortable. The reason I listed as many headphones here is because personal taste is also a factor. This way I’m positive that anyone can find at least one pair that fits the bill for more than one activity.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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