Apple AirPods Max are pricey but extremely comfortable.

Apple AirPods Max are pricey but extremely comfortable. Credit: CBS Interactive

Life is full of tough choices. But choosing the right over-the-ear headphones shouldn't be one of them. Some people may prefer earbuds, but for those who want a good pair of over-the-ear headphones, there are a lot of great options.

Whether you're looking for a wireless or wired model, over-the-ear models offer the trifecta of sound quality, comfort and style. And most wireless headphones also come with an attachable cable, giving you more flexibility if you need to connect them up occasionally. Many also have noise-canceling features too, which can be great for people with sound and sensory sensitivities. Here are three of CNET's top picks.

WHAT Apple AirPods Max

THE COST $549

AVAILABLE FROM apple.com

Yes, they're expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony. They also feature arguably the best noise cancellation on the market, along with premium build quality and Apple's virtual surround-sound spatial audio feature for video watching.

While they're heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though you may have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on your head to get a comfortable secure fit while walking with them.

WHAT Sony WH-1000XM5

THE COST $399

AVAILABLE FROM electronics.sony.com

When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony's WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they've improved with each generation.

Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it's done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher list price ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of those changes are good, and Sony's made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.

WHAT Bose QuietComfort 45

THE COST $279

AVAILABLE FROM bose.com

The Bose QuietComfort 45 essentially looks the same as its popular predecessor, the QuietComfort 35 II, with the biggest design difference being a USB-C port in place of the older Micro-USB. At 238 grams, the QC45 weighs just 3 grams more than the QC35, which should be imperceptible.

And while the Bose 700 have plenty of fans, this QuietComfort design is slightly more snug and the headphones fold up and fold flat. It's arguably the most comfortable pair of headphones out there.

The following CNET staff contributed to this story: executive editor David Carnoy and copy editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.

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