Best Over Ear Headphones Under $500 – Ultimate Listening Experience

Updated on by Gavin Whitner | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

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.

Best Over Ear Headphones Under $500

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 at this price point. 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

Boasting Sony’s industry-leading ANC technology, the Sony WH1000XM3 headphones take digital noise-canceling to another level. If you’re looking for virtual soundproofing as well as multiple smart features, these over-ear headphones may be for you.

Along with Alexa compatibility and responsive touch controls for playlist manipulation, calls, and for your virtual assistant, the headphones also offer a battery life of up to 30 hours. I also like the foldable design, which makes them more portable and easier to store.

On top of all that, the ergonomic design ensures plenty of listening comfort, whether you’re wearing them during a flight or your movie night.

While the mic may not be of the highest quality, it does a good job on calls. Of course, it’s the adaptive noise cancellation that most people look for in the WH1000XM3s, and this doesn’t disappoint.

  • Long battery life
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    Touch controls
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    Virtual assistant
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    Digital ANC
  • Slightly expensive

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

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 the best over ear headphones for you if you’re more interested in vocals 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

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones are, in my opinion, the best that you can wear and pair with a plush bathrobe. I like that they’re reasonably priced for the average music enthusiast and that there are 80 and 250 Ohm impedance level options.

The open-back stereo design gives the DT 990 Pros a more natural sound and comfortable feel. I will say that given the way these are calibrated, for rich bass, spacious sound, and powerful treble, you can also use them for various studio applications.

All in all, it’s hard to find any fault with the DT 990 Pro headphones because they’re very well balanced. However, these probably won’t interest you if you need something to travel with or if you want superior noise cancelation.

  • Good value for money
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    Soft and comfortable feel
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    Robust frame
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    Suitable for multiple applications
  • Average noise canceling

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

The ATH-M50xBT headphones offer a nice balance between convenience and raw power. These headphones come with powerful 45mm drivers with impressive clarity and deep bass response.

Technically, I wouldn’t recommend these for bass heads, as the overall audio seems pretty balanced. I do recommend them if you’re in the market for midrange prices and also want to enjoy touch controls and voice assistant functionality.

The ATH-M50xBT headphones have controls for the microphone, volume, playback, and taking calls. In terms of comfort, they’re slightly above the average. The added padding takes care of all head and ear pressure while also offering good stability. But I admit that the bulky feel and looks are not for everyone.

  • 45mm large drivers
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    Carry pouch and USB cable included
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    Touch controls
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    Impressive soundstage
  • Possibly too bulky for travelers

The Sony MDR7520 headphones come with 50mm drivers and are thus capable of impressive volume levels. The close-ear design provides some passive noise canceling too, although nothing too special as you would need when traveling by train or plane.

What does set them apart is the extra-wide frequency response range and a 4,000mW power handling capacity. If you’re looking for raw output power, deep bass, and limited distortion, the MDR7520 may have what you need.

These headphones may not look or feel very rugged, but their flexibility does allow a certain degree of comfort. What the frame may lack, these headphones make up for in cable and connectors quality. The package also includes a soft carry case.

While these aren’t your everyday travel headphones, they can be the ideal wired solution for your home and office.

  • Flexible and comfortable
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    High power handling capacity
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    Superior quality connectors and cable
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    50mm drivers
  • Slightly expensive

As far as Bluetooth headphones are concerned, the Bose 700 model has one of the more reliable batteries. The battery lasts for up to 20 hours, even at high volumes and under continuous load. Bose also added a built-in Alexacompatibility, as it is becoming a standard feature these days.

The headphones come with a carry case, but most importantly, they come with 11 different levels of noise cancellation. I find this particularly useful in over-ear headphones as it makes the effort of wearing big headphones, worth it.

Another cool feature is the unique pairing technology, the Bose SimpleSync, which allows the Headphones 700 to be paired with both the Bose Soundbar 500 and 700.

That will facilitate a superior listening experience as opposed to listening on your average devices or sound cards.

  • Adjustable noise canceling
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    Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility
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    Bose SimpleSync technology
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    Comfortable
  • The battery could last longer at this price range

While most people only talk about Shure microphones, I don’t mind taking a closer look at its headphones either. A great example is the Shure SRH1840. These open-back over-ear headphones have a professional finish and natural sound.

I think these can be the ideal choice if you’re aiming for more depth and a rich sound. While the soundstage doesn’t seem calibrated for the vocal midrange, the punchy bass and the extended high end provide a very interesting sound.

What I think is even better is the very rugged aluminum alloy build and the overall light weight. That makes the headphones very comfortable as well as long-lasting. The padding on the headband is on-point, and there’s also very little internal resonance to worry about due to the high-end steel driver frame.

  • Lightweight and durable
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    Ergonomic dual-frame construction
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    Natural soundstage
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    No internal resonance
  • Average noise-canceling abilities

Available in a wide range of colors, the Beats Studio3 over-ear headphones are among the best in the industry. They feature adaptive ANC technology to block external ambient noise. This Beats technology also has a twist as it’s capable of making real-time calibrations.

The battery life is not bad, sitting at 22 hours on a full charge. I think I like the Bluetooth connectivity and fast charge features more than the sound, though. The Studio3 headphones have the Apple W1 chip, which provides class one connectivity.

Speaking of fast charging, the Fast Fuel feature allows you to charge the headphones for three hours of playtime in just 10 minutes. The package also includes a RemoteTalk cable and a USB charging cable.

  • Superior charging speed
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    Class 1 wireless Bluetooth
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    Available in multiple colors
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    Adaptive ANC
  • Not an overly impressive soundstage for this price range

It’s hard to make any top headphones list without including one or more Sennheiser models. The Sennheiser HD 599 SE is a no-brainer choice, as far as I’m concerned.

The headphones have a premium feel even though they’re not premium priced. The frequency response range of 12Hz to 38.5kHz is very impressive and is perhaps outshined only by the clarity of the dynamic soundstage.

While the audio may benefit from an extra dose of realism, let’s not forget that comfort is also important. The HD 599 SE headphones have a padded headband and very large earpads for eliminating ear pressure.

I also find the detachable cable adds to the overall level of comfort as it allows for more freedom and positioning options.

  • Two detachable cables included
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    Very comfortable
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    Wide frequency response
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    High-end Sennheiser Angel transducers
  • Sub-par performance at extreme volume levels

Go big or go home is an accurate way of describing the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 over-ear headphones. The PX7s headphones come with Legend 43mm drivers and a very large adjustable frame.

Adaptive ANC technology ensures that ambient noise gets canceled out regardless of what environment you wear them in. I also like the battery, which offers up to 30 hours of playtime at average to high volume levels.

Although there are plenty of fast-charging headphones on the market, the PX7 seems to edge out many, as it takes 15 minutes to charge the battery enough for six hours of playtime. Finally, the earcups are super adjustable and easy to lift to check up on your surroundings.

  • Powerful and clear 43mm drivers
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    30 hours of battery life
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    Very fast charging
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    Composite carbon fiber arms
  • The treble may seem too mellow for some genres

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 quality of the sound coming out of 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 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

For many, Skullcandy may be an average quality label. I think that their gear is often underrated, especially by budget-minded people. The Skullcandy Crusher headphones offer a nice balance of autonomy, versatility, noise cancelation, price, and comfort.

Could you ask for more? I don’t recommend these to audiophiles as the calibration is not high-end. However, the balanced soundstage offers some impressive highs, slightly emphasized mids, and the option to adjust the bass on the fly.

The noise cancellation is passive but still good. The fit may seem a bit tight at first, but there’s not a lot of actual ear pressure or head pressure. Controls for the microphone, playback, and volume are on the ear cup for easy access.

  • Good price to performance ratio
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    Rapid charge feature for 3 hours playtime
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    Up to 40 hours of battery life
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    Comfortable fit with passive noise canceling
  • Average clarity at high volume levels

Say you’re looking for studio-quality headphones that are also wireless and loaded with comfort features. I think that the Master & Dynamic MW50+ headphones might fit this description.

The MW50+ are over-ear headphones capable of delivering a very warm sound. They are lightweight and create very little pressure. Among the classic stainless steel and aluminum combination, the MW50+ headphones also feature lambskin leather and cowhide leather for a premium feel and look.

The isolation and cancellation provided by this particular design are surprising, especially since there’s no digital noise-canceling technology employed. The focus on clarity and audio detail is nothing short of impressive, whether you’re watching a movie or mixing to your favorite beats.

  • Extended signal range
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    Made with premium materials
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    Lightweight and very comfortable
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    Focused warm sound
  • Only up to 16 hours of continuous playtime

Building up from an already strong foundation, the Beoplay H4 2nd Generation headphones offer a balance of luxury and durability that is hard to match in their price range. These headphones have a simple yet eye-catching design. They’re lightweight and boast one of the most reliable Bluetooth connections.

I also like the optimization done for voice assistant features as well as the Band & Olufsen signature sound, which emphasizes the bass without compromising midrange clarity and detail. While the battery life is not too impressive, I think that the connection stability should compensate.

The rugged build is commendable, and the extra-large rounded ear cup design should offer a comfortable fit as well as sufficient passive noise-canceling for those interested in traveling with the Beoplay H4 headphones.

  • Premium materials
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    Voice assistant optimization
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    Superior Bluetooth reliability
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    Signature rich sound
  • Average autonomy

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.

Can Wired Headphones Work for Travelers?

It’s not the most convenient thing in the world to worry about a long cable when you’re catching a train or a flight with your headphones on. That said, wired headphones are less susceptible to interference.

If you do want more signal stability, then wired headphones are the way to go. I do recommend, however, to invest in headphones with detachable cables.

That way you’ll be able to replace the standard cable with something thinner and much easier to conceal, while at the same time reducing the overall weight and drag of the headphones.

With that in mind, know that most lightweight aftermarket cables are not necessarily durable. They may be more flexible than the cables that come with your headphones, but this can also mean that they’ll stop working properly much faster.

How Big Should the Earpads Be?

That’s hard to tell since everyone’s different. However,  the more the pads can cover around your ears, the more comfortable the headphones should be.

You don’t want them just surrounding the edges of your ears. That invites slippage and puts unneeded pressure on your earlobes.

Also, the more the pads cover, the better the noise isolation and canceling. Of course, the padding also plays a role.

Just because you see a pair of headphones with gigantic earcups, don’t expect the earpads to be equally big and comfortable. Some manufacturers use extra thick padding, which actually won’t help the headphones to mold to your ears, even though the earcups completely hide them underneath.

Unfortunately, manufacturers rarely list earpad dimensions, so you’ll have to test them or sift through user reviews.

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 over the ear headphones 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

About 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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