Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $500 2021

Circumaural (over-ear) headphones, often referred to amicably as “cans”, are generally seen as the best form factor for headphones. Of course, this design is simply a form factor. There is plenty of variety within circumaural headphones, particularly between transducer/driver types but also in the noise-cancelling; open/closed-back; wired/wireless design features.

With such a great selection of circumaural headphones under $500, it can be difficult to produce a top 5 list. That being said, this article does exactly that.

The top 5 best circumaural headphones under $500 are:

At this price, you’ll be getting yourself a superb pair of headphones. $500 USD is quite a bit of money but all the headphones mentioned above are well worth the investment.

Since we’re having a discussion within the context of a price cap, I figure I should leave a link to a related My New Microphone article: Are Expensive Headphones (Or Cheap Headphones) Worth It?

What Makes A Great Circumaural Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great pair of circumaural headphones.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any headphone. Though highly subjective, specifications such as weight; contact pressure; earpad shape/material; stiffness, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort. We should also consider the amount of heat that could get trapped around the ears if we were to be using closed-back circumaural headphones.
  • Impedance/device compatibility: compatibility with different audio devices is important. Choose a pair of high-end circumaural headphones that will be easily incorporated into your set up whether that’s a mobile device or a professional studio. Impedance and sensitivity ratings come into play when determining compatibility.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of headphones should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity.

Wireless (especially Bluetooth) capabilities are also seen as a benefit since they further improve the functionality and general comfort of the headphones.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 best circumaural (over-ear) headphones under $500!

Related articles:

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Sony WH-1000XM4

To start things up, we’ll be discussing the popular Sony WH-1000XM4 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Sony WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is one of the best headphones on the market for under $500, let alone in the circumaural category. This over-ear closed-back wireless headphone makes its spot on this list and others on this website.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Wireless Headphones Under $500
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $500
Top Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $500

The WH-1000XM4 reproduces audio with superb bass, clear mids and non-fatiguing highs that extend well beyond the range of human hearing. The published frequency response is an impressive 4 Hz – 40,000 Hz.

Each of the closed-back earcups features a 40mm dynamic driver designed with liquid crystal polymer (LCP) diaphragms, neodymium magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils.

To learn more about dynamic drivers and driver size, check out my articles The Complete Illustrated Guide To Moving-Coil Dynamic Headphones and What Is A Good Driver Size For Headphones? respectively.

To take full advantage of the outstanding headphone design, Sony includes DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology. DSEE Extreme utilizes artificial intelligence to upscale compressed digital audio files in real-time. These headphones effectively restore lost audio quality for beautifully accurate sound reproduction.

The integrated QN1 processor has a built-in DAC that offers incredibly low-distortion and a great signal-to-noise ratio for both wired and wireless connections.

If you’d like to go with a wired connection, the WH-1000XM4 comes with a detachable 4-foot headphone cable with OFC strands and gold-plated stereo mini (3.5mm) plugs. A 3.5mm to 6.35 (1/4″) adapter is included.

To learn more about 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone plugs/jacks, check out my article The Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks.

The 47 Ω nominal impedance means this headphone can be easily driven with mobile and consumer devices as well as professional audio equipment.

Bluetooth 5.0 with high-quality codecs offers solid wireless connectivity.

Sony’s LDAC technology allows for improved wireless audio transfer via Bluetooth. It transmits 3 times the data, providing an enhanced wireless listening experience with superior audio quality.

It can even be paired to two devices simultaneously and switch between these devices at a touch of a button. The operational range of the WH-1000XM4’s wireless connection is 10 m (33 feet).

To learn more about wireless headphones, please consider reading the following My New Microphone articles:
• How Bluetooth Headphones Work & How To Pair Them To Devices
• How Do Wireless Headphones Work? + Bluetooth & True Wireless

In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, this Sony headphone has excellent hybrid active noise-cancelling technology, utilizing both feedforward and feedback circuits.

Most ANC headphones can remove low-end rumble but have difficulty attenuating higher, more transient sounds. The WH-1000XM4 is remarkable in how well it handles these more difficult noises.

The industry-leading noise cancellation technology features additional microphones that assist in isolating high and mid-frequency sounds. This is made possible via the aforementioned proprietary HD Noise-Canceling Processor QN1 and advanced algorithms that sense and adjust the cancellation signal over 700 times per second.

The ANC has more advanced features as well.

The Personal Noise-Canceling Optimizer (available via the Sony | Headphones Connect app) tests the listener’s unique hearing profile and helps cancel out individual problem frequencies.

Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing is designed specifically for air travel and the typical soundstage of such environments.

With the Sony | Headphones Connect app, we can program the amount of ambient sound that is passed through the headphones. There are also several smart technology options to choose from to help improve the listener experience.

The Adaptive Sound Control is a smart function that senses where you are and what you’re doing and adjusts ambient sound settings for the ideal listening experience. It can even learn your regularly-visited spots and automatically adjust the ANC/Ambient settings to the location.

The Quick Attention function allows listeners to instantly turn down the audio and allow ambient sound in by simply placing their hand over the headphone housing.

Another cool smart function is Speak-to-Chat, in which the WH-1000XM4 automatically recognizes your voice and stops playing audio as you begin speaking.

Yes, the WH-1000XM4 has microphones for ANC and for telephony. Precise Voice Pickup Technology combines five built-in microphones with advanced audio signal processing for crystal clear communication on calls and with voice assistants.

The rechargeable battery, when fully charged, has a 30-hour lifespan with Bluetooth and ANC engaged. Quick-charging with the optional AC adapter nets an additional 5 hours after only 10 minutes of charging. Alternatively, the USB-C charger cable (included) will charge the battery from 0% to 100% in 3 hours.

The super-soft, pressure-relieving earpads are designed with foamed urethane for an evenly distributed pressure and stable fit. The lightweight design is barely noticeable and with such great sound, the listener’s focus will be on the audio and not the headphone itself. These super-comfortable headphones are great for short and long listening sessions alike.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 1.57″ Dynamic with Neodymium magnets & CCAW Voice coil
  • Impedance: 47 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 4 Hz – 40,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB / mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 254g
  • Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 5.0

To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.

Sony is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World and Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.

I’d also recommend checking out the Sony WH-1000XM3 (link to check the price on Amazon), which is less pricey than the XM4 but still a great circumaural headphone.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Next up is the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is another excellent circumaural headphone with both Bluetooth and ANC technology.

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Wireless Headphones Under $500
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $500
Top Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $500

The PX7’s 43.6mm dynamic drivers are expertly tuned to reproduce audio with stunning clarity and presence. These high-performance headphones deliver high-end audio across a 10 Hz to 30 kHz frequency response with extended bass, transparent mids and clear highs.

Though the headphones do have a closed-back earcup design, the PX7 sound relatively open, offering a great stereo field along with its wide frequency response and dynamic range.

For more info on frequency response, check out my article What Is Headphone Frequency Response & What Is A Good Range?

The included 3.5mm audio cable can be used to connect these headphones directly to audio devices. A 20-ohm nominal impedance allows the PX7 to be driven by mobile devices, professional headphone amplifiers can everything in between. Digital wired connectivity is made possible with the USB cable, which also acts as the charging cable.

For wireless connectivity, the PX7 features a Bluetooth 5.0 chip for a strong wireless connection within a range of 33 metres (10 feet). Pair to two compatible devices at once and enjoy automatic pairing (to the last paired device) as the headphones are turned on. The high-end codecs and internal DAC keep audio sounding clean and as intended over the entire frequency range.

Adaptive hybrid active noise-cancellation offers an uncompromising listening experience by sensing the noise of the environment and automatically applying an appropriate type and amount of ANC.

The Ambient Pass-Through option, when engaged, passes external sounds from the environment with the same mics in the feedforward ANC circuit. Hear the environment and conversations without having to remove the headphones.

Wear sensing technology can be set up to pause and play audio as the headphone is taken off and put back on the listener’s head, respectively.

Enable these features and customize the sound with EQ within the downloadable Bowers & Wilkins Headphone App.

The rechargeable battery of the PX7 offers 30 hours of total playtime on a full charge (with Bluetooth and ANC engaged). Charge the headphones with the included USB-C charging cable. A 15-minute quick charge can add this time by 5 hours.

Bowers & Wilkins includes two mics in their PX7 for telephony (CVC2 – Clear Voice Communication v2). This mic system offers a clear voice pickup for crystal clear calls and voice assistant utilization.

The controls on the right earcup are typical: Power, Volume +, Multi-function and Volume –. Use different actions with these controls to play/pause/skip music or make/take calls.

The woven carbon fiber composite arms of the PX7 are modelled after the strength of the fastest race cars, making the headphone remarkably durable. Even the padding of the headphone is durable, offering a comfortable and adjustable fit for anyone.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 1.72″ / 43.6 mm Dynamic
  • Impedance: 20 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 30 kHz (Wireless)
  • Sensitivity: 111 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 10.7 oz / 302 g
  • Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth

Bowers & Wilkins is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World and Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World.

Audeze LCD-1

Let’s continue on with the Audeze LCD-1 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Audeze LCD-1

The Audeze LCD-1 is an expertly-designed planar magnetic headphone from the well-respected American manufacturer Audeze.

The Audeze LCD-1 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Open Back Headphones Under $500.

This Audeze headphone offers premium sound quality. It features powerful 90mm planar magnetic drivers with single-sided Fluxor magnet arrays and Neodymium N50 magnets. The ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragms are incredibly responsive to transients and help tremendously in getting the LCD-1 its large dynamic range and low-distortion specs.

The open-back earcups allow for a wonderfully wide yet natural stereo image and the planar magnetic drivers reproduce audio with remarkable accuracy and clarity across the headphone’s extended frequency response (10 Hz – 50,000 Hz).

Produced for audiophile listening and professional applications, the LCD-1 will deliver accurate and transparent sound for enjoyment and critical listening alike.

To learn more about planar magnetic headphones, check out my article The Complete Guide To Planar Magnetic Headphones (With Examples).

With a rated impedance of 16 Ω, these wired headphones can be driven by mobile devices though they will certainly benefit from a dedicated headphone amplifier.

The premium tangle-free cable is detachable and has 3.5mm plugs. A 1/4″ adapter is included to make connecting these headphones a breeze. This cable has reversible connectors, so the LCD-1 will always deliver the correct left and right channel information.

To learn more about headphone cables, check out my article An In-Depth Look Into How Headphone Cables Carry Audio.

The lightweight construction is produced with patented engineering techniques and state of the art laser-etching technology. The earpads and headband are made from robust memory foam for extended comfort during long listening sessions.

The foldable design makes these headphones perfect for high-quality studio and on-the-go listening.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 90mm Planar Drivers (Single-sided Fluxor magnet array) Neodymium N50
  • Impedance: 16 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB/1mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 250g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Audeze is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.

Monoprice Monolith M1060

The Monoprice Monolith M1060 (link to check the price on Amazon) has made a name for itself as a great headphone and gets a well-earned spot in this list.

Monoprice Monolith M1060

The Monolith M1060 from Monoprice is another superb over-ear open-back planar magnetic headphone for under $500.

The Monoprice Monolith M1060 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Open-Back Headphones Under $500.

The open-back design of the M1060 allows for spectacular imaging across the stereo panorama.

Each open earcup features 106mm planar magnetic drivers that reproduce a perfectly balanced sound with low distortion, making these headphones an affordably choice for audiophiles. Linear symmetry Neodymium magnets are carefully designed in order to achieve the awesome sound of the Monolith 1060.

Although these planar magnetic headphones would benefit from a dedicated headphone amplifier, with a nominal impedance of 50 ohms, they can also be driven successfully by mobile and consumer-grade devices.

To learn more about headphones and headphone amps, check out my article What Is A Headphone Amplifier & Are Headphone Amps Worth It?

The headphones comes with a detachable cable with 2.5mm TR (phono plug) connections at each earcup and a typical 3.5mm TRS plug at the device end.

Monoprice designed the Monolith M1060 to be ultra-comfortable for extended listening sessions. The large, comfortable earpads are made of faux leather for an ergonomic and secure fit around the ears. The padded headband keeps the entire unit secure without drawing attention to itself.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 106mm Planar Magnetic with Neodymium magnets
  • Impedance: 50 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 96dB / 1mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumarual/Open-back
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs (500g)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Shure SRH1540

At the fifth and final spot, we have the American-made Shure SRH1540 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Shure SRH1540

The Shure SRH1540 is a premium over-ear closed-back headphone.

Its 40 mm neodymium dynamic drivers deliver an expansive soundstage with clear, extended highs and warm bass. The APTIV film diaphragms are super-linear, keeping harmonic distortion to an absolute minimum.

Combined with the over-ear closed-back design, the headphones reproduce audio with a superior acoustic performance. The closed system offers impressive passive noise cancellation without ever sounding boxed in.

To learn more about closed-back (and open-back) headphones, check out my article The Complete Guide To Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones.

With a 46 ohm nominal impedance, the SRH1540 can be driven by the vast majority of audio devices. The headphone comes with two 2.1-metre detachable dual-exit cables with gold-plated MMCX connectors. These cables end with a gold-plated 3.5 mm (1/8”) stereo mini-jack plug and the headphone comes with a 6.35 mm(1/4”) threaded adapter.

To learn more about headphone impedance, check out my article The Complete Guide To Understanding Headphone Impedance.

The aluminum alloy and carbon fiber construction makes these headphones strong and durable but also lightweight. A steel driver frame with a vented center pole piece improves linearity and eliminates internal resonance for consistent performance at all listening levels.

The headphone rests comfortably over the ears with Alcantara ear pads for maximum sound isolation and comfort. A replacement pair of earpads is included if and when the pads begin wearing down.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 40 mm Dynamic with Neodymium magnets
  • Impedance: 46 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 25,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 286g (10.1 oz) without cable
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Shure is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World and Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.

Honourable Mentions

The number of superb circumaural headphones below $500 is great. Here are an additional 5 headphones worth checking out that fit the same criteria but didn’t quite make the cut:

  1. Sennheiser Momentum 3 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  2. Bose 700 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  3. Shure AONIC 50 (link to check the prices on Amazon)
  4. Master & Dynamic MW65 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  5. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i (link to check the price on Amazon)

And here are 5 options that are above the $500 limit of this article:


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement ( or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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