Over-ear headphones are BIG headphones; their cups cover the entire ear. Usually well padded, they can be comfortably worn for extended periods of time making them a good bet for working out in.
Bigger drivers inside the headphone sit close to the ear allowing for better sound quality and even without added noise-cancelling technology, over-ear headphones will seal out ambient noise providing a quieter environment to enjoy music.
Worrying about sound quality might seem strange to someone only using headphones to workout in but it’s been proven that listening to music during exercise can help us perform better. It makes sense, therefore, to give your ears (and your workout) a richer experience of sound during exercise - even if you’re lifting to Michael Buble’s Christmas album.
We’ve already written a post of pros and cons of over-ear and on-ear headphones for working out.
But over-ear headphones aren’t popular with all gym-users.
There’s no doubt that they’re heavier. The wider headband, bigger cups and thicker padding all add extra weight. They’re not as portable as on-ear headphones and earphones are and sometimes they run hot against the ears if you wear them for extended periods. Over-ear headphones are more expensive, too, and that can make people nervous about wearing them during exercise where they might easily become broken or damaged.
But the main reason that people don’t wear them in the gym is that over-ear headphones aren’t sweat-proof. Thankfully, there’s a really easy fix for that (or this would be a really short post): you can add a pair of washable headphone covers to any of the headphones listed below (and many unlisted brands, too). This will not only stop sweat from killing your expensive headphones BUT you’ll also be able to accessorise your cans in a range of awesome designs.
Best for Noise Cancellation: Sony WH1000XM3 Wireless
It’s tough recommending gym headphones with active-noise-cancelling technology (ANC). Some people believe it’s dangerous to workout without ambient noise, and they’re probably right. We wouldn’t advise using noise-cancelling headphones if you’re regularly exercising outdoors as it’s important to maintain situational awareness at all times and ANC headphones isolate us from the warnings and dangers in our environment.
That being said, it’s less of an issue in controlled environments like the gym where concentration and focus may be harder to achieve and there’s a reduced risk of danger. Ideally, you can also turn off ANC function in these cans where necessary.
Most of us probably still associate Bose as the industry leader in the noise-cancelling field but thanks to Sony’s HD Noise-Cancelling QN1 Processor, it’s ANC function has been improved as has it’s sound quality thanks to the 4x increase in processing power.
Touch controls on the right earcup make skipping tracks, answering phone calls and adjusting the sound easy.
It’s 20g lighter than its predecessor.
Thanks to its USB-C charging port, The Sony WH1000 MX3 has a fast-charge function meaning that you’ll get 5-hours of playback with a 10-minute charge.
They fold-down very easily.
Best for Affordability: Skullcandy Hesh 3
Skullcandy has never had a great reputation with audiophiles and although the Hesh 3 is unlikely to change everyone’s opinion, it’s a decent enough over-ear headphone for working out in and one that we felt deserved mentioning. For starters, it’s very affordable for a Bluetooth headphone and it comes in at over £250 cheaper than some of the others on this list.
The rapid charge function will give 4 hours of playback from a 10-minute charge. Whilst a full charge will give you up to 22 hours of power.
You can control volume, tracks and take calls by touching the earcup.
The Hesh 3 is built out of plastic which makes it lighter, and its design is a big improvement on some of the brands previous gaudier models.
They’re certainly not the most comfortable of headphones and that could be a problem if you’re working out for long periods at a time.
Skullcandy has always had a license to crank up the bass, and these are no exception. During a workout, however, this might be exactly how you prefer it.
Best for Comfort: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The clue really is in the name and the padding on the earcups of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is ridiculously comfortable. With a good clamp force, these shouldn’t feel loose or tight but hit that sweet spot somewhere in between. If you’re lifting in a noisy gym environment, then these could be ideal for maintaining your form via concentration.
It goes without saying that these have excellent noise-cancelling technology, too. You can volume up and down the ANC which is useful if you’re in an environment that requires some awareness - the gym, for example. Even without the ANC switched on, the thick padded cushions actually isolate a lot of noise on their own.
The battery is around 20-hours.
They come with a hard carry-case for transporting between your home and the gym.
Thanks to the plastic build, they’re lightweight - weighing in at 234g which isn’t bad.
Annoyingly, there’s no instant mute function as there is with rival brands - Sony, for example, lets you tap an earcup to cut music sound down to a whisper. This can be very helpful during exercise especially if you’re exercising with a partner.
Given that the padding is so thick, we’d warn against wearing these during exercise without first making sure these are sweat-proof headphones by adding covers.
We’d definitely pair up Bose QuietComfort headphones with a pair of Brexit ear hugs to ensure these superb headphones were suitable to sweat it out in the gym.
Best for Battery: Beats Studio3 Wireless (but only really for iOS users)
The Beats Studio3 Wireless headphone benefits from the Apple W1 chip giving a longer battery life. Although, it’s only iOS users who get the full benefit.
Sorry, Android users.
Fast-fuel is the real draw here: 3 hours of playback from a 10-minute charge which is an absolute Godsend if you’re running low just as you’re about the hit the gym.
22-hours battery through wireless and up to 40 without UNLESS you’re an Android user - sorry again guys, the battery then slides to a very average 11 hours wireless and 20 without.
The design is pretty robust - plastic, yes, but solid and certainly strong enough to survive regular gym trips.
The oval cut-out cushions offer comfort and a firm fit but one that won’t leave your ears aching.
Touch controls on the right earcup
ANC technology but not as good as Bose or Sony.
Decent sound quality - audiophiles generally don’t get behind Beats but these are probably more than adequate for those of us who aren’t so serious about hi-fidelity sound.
Best for Wireless Range: Master and Dynamic MW60
Master and Dynamic say you can get 4 times the wireless range with these headphones. Ideal if you’re working out in the gym and can stow your bag or phone within 50 feet - saves you having to run with an awkward armband for one. The reason that M&D MW60 is so powerful is thanks to its external antenna - most antennas are internal and thereby prone to interference.
The earcups are held in by magnets and can be replaced if they get broken
The padding is memory foam. The headband and surround are cow-hide and lamb-skin.
Touch controls on the earcups allow you to go handsfree during your workout.
The stainless steel hinges fold making them easy to transport to and from the gym.
Master and Dynamic has included the aptX codec which delivers CD-quality sound wirelessly.
There’s no active-noise-cancelling technology in these but the seal between the cushions and the ear should mean that a good portion of noise is isolated anyway.
Whether you're hitting the gym with over-ear on on-ear headphones, it's important to protect them from moisture damage. Pair your headphones with EarHugz to protect your killer sound and power your workout.