The 10 Best Audiophile Headphones

Updated May 19, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Audiophile Headphones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If regular earbuds just aren't giving you the dynamic sound profile you want from your music, then maybe you need to step up to a pair of these audiophile headphones. We've included models suitable for DJs, studio musicians, and dedicated music lovers who want to hear every note articulated through spacious, natural soundscapes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best audiophile headphone on Amazon.

10. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

While the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x were intended for use as individual studio monitors, their high fidelity and dynamic range cross them over into the category of these more finely tuned options. Their rare earth magnets are wrapped in copper-clad aluminum voice coils.
  • earcups swivel 90 degrees
  • 45 mm large aperture drivers
  • mediocre sound isolation
Brand Audio-Technica
Model ATH-M50x
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

9. Beyerdynamic DT-990 Premium

Featuring bass reflex technology and cutting edge drivers, the Beyerdynamic DT-990 Premium are an excellent choice for listeners who prefer a deep, booming experience, even if it comes at the slight qualitative expense of other frequency ranges.
  • soft cups fully engulf the ears
  • 250 ohm impedance
  • sliding fit bars seem fragile
Brand beyerdynamic
Model 481807
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

8. Sennheiser HD 600s

The marbled finish on the Sennheiser HD 600s gives them an elegant appearance that complements a good-quality sound. Their transient response comes from lightweight aluminum voice coils, paired with neodymium ferrous drivers for a clear sense of dynamism.
  • metal-mesh earpiece coverings
  • kevlar-reinforced cable
  • can feel tight on some heads
Brand Sennheiser
Model 4465
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Oppo PM-3

The Oppo PM-3 are designed with a tight, closed-back ear covering intended to give you listening privacy when you take these cans out into the world. Their planar magnetic drivers produce a high-quality sound that should please the majority of listeners.
  • weigh barely more than 10 ounces
  • 3-foot cable included
  • earcups aren't the most comfortable
Brand OPPO Digital
Model PM-3B
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. V-Moda Crossfade 2

With an eye and an ear toward the future, the V-Moda Crossfade 2 provide you with a Bluetooth option, allowing you to enjoy your music with or without a wired connection. Extra-large 50mm drivers with CCAW Japanese coils produce deep bass tones.
  • storage case included
  • 30-minute quick charge
  • exclusive steelflex headband
Brand V-MODA
Model XFBT2-MWHITE
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

5. Shure SRH1540 Premium

The Shure SRH1540 Premium feature the 40mm neodymium magnetic drivers that have become the standard among connoisseurs of quality sound. Their aircraft-grade aluminum body is lightweight enough for you to enjoy music comfortably for extended periods.
  • padded headband
  • closed-back design
  • occasionally dull in the highs
Brand Shure
Model SRH1540
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation

The Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation utilize Tesla Technology drivers that operate with tremendous efficiency, creating a soundscape that has a great deal of space and transparency. Their detachable braided cable is a generous three meters long.
  • 600 ohm impedance
  • 5-year warranty
  • copper conductors
Brand beyerdynamic
Model 718998
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Focal Elear Open Backs

The M-shaped domes in the French-manufactured Focal Elear Open Backs are made from an aluminum-magnesium composite that offers a wide range of tonal response. They are exceptionally comfortable thanks to a set of memory foam ear cushions.
  • very good with quieter pieces
  • balanced bi-channel cable
  • mids break in nicely
Brand Focal
Model 3544055725015
Weight 6.5 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Sennheiser HD 800 S

The 56mm ring radiator transducers in the Sennheiser HD 800 S are the largest drivers available in any dynamic headphones. They also feature an innovative absorption technology that reduces the presence of most unwanted frequencies.
  • balanced 4-pin xlr plug
  • flat circum-aural design
  • produce a natural sound
Brand Sennheiser
Model HD 800 S
Weight 5.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Focal Utopia Reference High-Fidelity

The Focal Utopia Reference High-Fidelity contain full-range loudspeakers with unusual M-shaped domes made from pure beryllium. They're designed in such a way that they can adjust to the size and contours of almost any head, offering supreme comfort.
  • channel-separated balanced cable
  • carbon fiber yoke
  • lambskin leather ear cushions
Brand Focal
Model Utopia
Weight 7.3 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

Inside Audiophile Headphones

When you begin to look closely at the components that come together to form most audiophile headphones, you see that there aren't a whole lot of variables to adjust from brand to brand.

A signal is converted from its digital state by a dense magnetized coil of copper wire that vibrates a membrane, usually made of plastics, or fabrics, or a combination of the two, and that sound hits you in the ear along with the resonance of the ear cup itself. Pretty simple stuff.

What is it, then, that can make one pair of cans so much more expensive, or sound so much better, than another? At times, it can feel like distinguishing between two other cans: Pepsi and Coke. Sure they're different, but they're both just carbonated, flavored sugar water. Is either really better than the other (yes, one is better, and it's called Royal Crown)?

Well, since the primary point of signal conversion is that magnetized coil of wire, the quality of that magnetic field is about as vital as that of any other component.

Many nicer headphones will use neodymium magnets, which are touted as the strongest permanent magnet available on the market, though it's important to note that even these have their own grades to them.

Once it's all put together, things like the diameter of the main speaker, and the size and shape of the ear cup will all play a role in tonal quality and bass response. Generally speaking, the smaller these two things, the less likely you're going to get a deep bass.

To Tweak Or Not To Tweak

I hope your taste in music is eclectic. I really do. What we listen to says a lot about who we are, and the more musical styles we expose ourselves to with an open mind, the more we'll find to like. This will do nothing but make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. I believe it's inevitable.

Eclectic musical tastes will also likely make you better versed in the equalizer settings in your car, on your phone and your computer. That Carter Family track is going to sound pretty strange if your EQ is set up to maximize your dubstep experience.

Each style of music thrives at its own equalization, and knowing what your new set of headphones is designed to play will tell you how you ought to tweak your EQ, for the best sound on your favorite tracks. You might find that a set with deeper bass is stifling the vital mid tones in your favorite classical pieces, so you can lower some of the bottom frequencies or boost the mids and highs as you see fit.

This is the case with a tremendous amount of headphones produced for audiophiles in the past decade. The advent of Beats by Dr. Dre has a lot to do with this trend, as those headphones came along and told the marketplace that it needed as much bass as humanly possible, whether it knew it or not.

It's taken a while for manufacturers to fight back against the empire of the lower case 'b', but companies like AKG and V-Moda are daring to reduce their bass output in favor of a clearer, more balanced sound.

If you only really listen to modern pop music, hip hop, and R&B, you might want to start out by sacrificing those mids for a booming bass and clear vocals. Most all other styles though will work best with something a little less artificially bass driven.

Communing In Private: On Headphones and Isolation

I was on a road trip once with my childhood best friend and his family, some time around the fifth grade. We each had the same CD in our respective Discman players. We got the discs spinning on track one at the 0:00 mark, and simultaneously pressed play so that we could listen together without bothering with the music on the car radio. It was a great bonding experience to be a separated individual in sync with your friend right next to you.

That's because music is a communal art. We come together to make it and appreciate it. Of course, our tastes vary so wildly in today's endless musical expanse that it's increasingly difficult to share music without the fear of offending another, or embarrassing ourselves by openly displaying anything we like.

Now, headphones are neither the cause of our increasing social anxiety and alienation, nor are they necessarily an antidote for it.

When they first came around, headphones were a military device. Later, they entered the private sector through telephone and radio operations, but they didn't truly become a staple in our way of life until the advent of the Walkman in the late 1970s.

Now they're as ubiquitous as denim jeans, and the right pair can set you apart from the crowd in wondrous ways while you peacefully appreciate the finest nuances of your favorite music. Just don't forget to let someone else in the bubble every once in a while.



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Last updated on May 19, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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