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Best Audiophile Headphones

Last updated: 1 week ago, Nov. 19. 2020
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    These are the best audiophile headphones you should consider in 2019.

      RatingPrice
    (currently)
    Sound SignatureBack DesignConnection

    Sennheiser HD 800 S
    Best Audiophile Headphones4.4
    Review
    $1.700BalancedOpen-back
    Over-ear
    6.3mm
    4.4mm balanced
    Sony WH-1000XM4Best Audiophile Headphones4.5
    Review
    $300BalancedClosed-back
    Over-ear
    Bluetooth 5.0
    Shure SE535Best Audiophile Headphones4.3
    Review
    $450BalancedClosed-back
    In-ear monitor
    3.5mm
    Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2Best Audiophile Headphones4.3
    Review
    $270U-shapedClosed-back
    True wireless
    Bluetooth 5.1
    Bowers & Wilkins PX7Best Audiophile Headphones4.3
    Review
    $350BalancedClosed-back
    Over-ear
    Bluetooth 5.0
    Sennheiser HD 600Best Audiophile Headphones4.7
    Review
    $380NeutralOpen-back
    Over-ear
    6.3mm
    Philips Fidelio X2HRBest Audiophile Headphones4.6
    Review
    $145BalancedOpen-back
    Over-ear
    3.5mm
    Beyerdynamic DT 770 PROBest Audiophile Headphones4.7
    Review
    $160V-shapedClosed-back
    Over-ear
    3.5mm
    Grado SR325eBest Audiophile Headphones4.5
    Review
    $295BalancedOpen-back
    On-ear
    3.5mm
    HIFIMAN HE400i (2020 Version)Best Audiophile Headphones4.7
    Review
    $170BalancedOpen-back
    Over-ear
    3.5mm
    Etymotic Research ER4XRBest Audiophile Headphones4.4
    Review
    $300BalancedClosed-back
    In-ear monitor
    3.5mm
    Philips SHP9600Best Audiophile Headphones4.7
    Review
    $130NeutralOpen-back
    Over-ear
    3.5mm

    Sure there are plenty of choices in the super high-quality headphones but if you want to maximize your enjoyment of music, consider these first.

    Many would consider these a luxury. But for an audiophile, these are a necessity.

    The highest quality materials and drivers with often fancy design can end up costing quite a lot.

    But don’t despair, we found value for money options too.

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      Related:

      Best studio headphones

      Best headphones for mixing

       Best Audiophile Headphones

      1. Sennheiser HD 800 S – best overall

      Sennheiser HD 800 S

      Best audiophile headphones that you can get right now

      Comfort, durability, and extremely precise audio performance are qualities that make Sennheiser HD 800 S on the top of our list.

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Open-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Wired 6.3mm

      Why Buy These?

      The go-to headphones for any serious audiophile. They have a status of headphones all need to compare to.

      The cans are super comfortable with their large spacious ear cups. Long listening sessions won’t hurt your ears.

      Sennheiser made sure to use the best, premium materials and sturdy design that will last for years, possibly forever (with good care).

      The Bad

      Some people might be bothered by their bulky design. Also, don’t expect to enjoy your music in noisy places fully. But that is reasonable since they are open-back headphones.

      The Sound

      These Sennheiser headphones are well balanced. Bass response is well defined with amazing clarity. The mid-range is fantastic. Slightly artificial highs with some pronounced sibilance mix all together in an overall extraordinary sound.

      These sound exceptional with every music genre.

      Sennheiser HD 800 S and their truly sensational sound are a must-have pair of headphones for all serious audiophiles.


      2. Sony WH-1000XM4

      Sony WH-1000XM4 on a desk

      The best noise-cancelling headphones in business

      Feature-rich wireless headphones with an energetic sound.

      Check our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Closed-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Bluetooth 5.0

      Why Buy These?

      WH-1000 lineup is notorious for packing everything that an average headphone user wants. First of all, they’re very lightweight, but their build still feels premium. Earpads are big enough to cover your ears fully and provide long-lasting comfort.

      Secondly, they also have active noise cancellation, which helps you listen to your music in a noisy environment. Because Sony’s can eliminate the majority of the outside hum, you can keep the volume slightly lower, preventing hearing damage.

      Wireless means batteries, and the one on the Sony WH-1000XM4 is pretty great. With noise cancellation, you can expect around 30 hours of battery life. Disabling that feature extends the playtime for extra 8 hours.

      The Bad

      A bit too bass-heavy for purists.

      The Sound

      They are nicely balanced to play your playlist in the most energetic way possible. Extremely fun listening experience, with plenty of detail, natural-sounding midrange, and good treble sparkle. While they pack a lot of energy in the bass, you can tame it down inside the app’s EQ.

      These are far from neutral, but they still offer an amazing listening experience. The value gets even better when you add the extra features.


      3. Shure SE535

      Shure SE535 wired IEMs

      Best earbuds for audio fidelity

      Shure SE535 are arguably the best audiophile in-ear monitors on the market.

      Type: In-ear
      Design: Closed-back
      Drivers: Balanced armature
      Connection: Wired 3.5mm

      Why Buy These?

      Well, because these are fantastic monitoring in-ear headphones used by many professional musicians across the globe. Shure is known worldwide for creating high-fidelity musical equipment, including in-ear monitors.

      The SE535 aren’t their highest tier (or most expensive) model, but they’re probably most popular among audiophiles. Their advantage is that with the right ear tips, you get amazing comfort and good isolation.

      Although they are made out of plastic, they are extremely durable. Due to low weight, you can wear them for hours and never complain about discomfort. Add detachable audio cables and the option to turn them wireless with Bluetooth wires, and you’ll understand why these are so versatile.

      The Bad

      Their high price for in-ear monitors is actually the only really bad thing. For the same money, you can get proper circumaural headphones.

      The Sound

      Overall, the quality is extraordinary. You get well-extended bass, although it lacks deep punches. Mids are lush and full forward. That comes in handy, especially while listening to vocal-centric songs. Highs are clear and detailed, but not the best in the world. Especially if you’re listening to classical music.

      Superb sound quality, good passive isolation, and high comfort are what makes Shure SE535 stand out among other in-ear headphones.


      4. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

      Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 true wireless earbuds

      The best high-fidelity true wireless earbuds

      One of the best true wireless earbuds are coming from Sennheiser themselves.

      Read our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review

      Type: True wireless
      Design: Closed-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Bluetooth 5.1

      Why Buy These?

      While other popular brands focus on quality features, Sennheiser also makes its products sound great too. That’s not to say that they skimmed on extras since Momentum True Wireless 2 have many of them.

      As with many modern headphones, these wireless earbuds also come with active noise cancellation, which effectively eliminates low-end hum. There is also a Transparent Hearing feature, which amplifies background noise and it’s extremely natural in its performance.

      The battery life is nothing to rave about but still respectable for a lengthy listening session. Seven hours of playback (around 4 hours if you enable active noise cancelation) with an additional 28 hours inside the premium-looking charging case is quite generous.

      The Bad

      Average microphone quality.

      The bass response could be tighter.

      The Sound

      Excellent for true wireless earbuds. There is a noticeable refinement in the sound, with plenty of details and exceptional vocal clarity. The treble is lovely and shimmery and far from being artificial. The soundstage is also enjoyably big, with similarly excellent imaging.

      There is room for improvement, but so far, they’re still the best wireless earbuds for audiophiles.


      5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

      Bowers & Wilkins PX7 wireless headphones

      Best sounding premium Bluetooth headphones

      Who else can make great sounding (and looking) headphones, other than Bowers & Wilkins? PX7 are their most outstanding achievement yet.

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Closed-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Bluetooth 5.0

      Why Buy These?

      PX7 sports an eye-catching frame that is made of sturdy from carbon fiber composite. Earcups and the headband are covered in premium-feeling fabric, with earpads being extremely cozy and comfortable.

      Headphones come with some handy features such as support for aptx HD, adaptive noise-cancelling, and automatic play/pause function.

      Battery life is also excellent, giving you around 30 hours of non-stop playtime. They also support super-fast charging, adding 6 extra hours in just 15 minutes.

      The Bad

      These audiophile headphones are quite expensive.

      Their clamping force is a bit tight.

      The Sound

      The performance out of these headphones is simply impressive. That is not surprising since they were tuned by the same engineers that made 800 Series Diamond speakers found in Abbey Road Studios. 43.6mm drivers output a well-balanced sound with an emphasis on low-end. The latter ensures a more pleasing experience for the general public.

      While the price is a bit steep, you get what you pay for. Extremely well-built headphones with great battery, noise-cancelling feature, and exceptional audio performance, which can make every song sound excellent.


      6. Sennheiser HD 600

      Sennheiser HD 600

      Classic over-ear headphones from Sennheiser with high-fidelity frequency response

      Sennheiser HD 600 are the more affordable audiophile option (compared to HD 800 S)

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Open-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Wired 3.5mm/6.3 mm

      Why Buy These?

      If you’re looking for high-quality audio without a premium price, these are for you. The HD 800 S are priced at an unattractive high price for many audiophiles. So, if you want something similar but less “fancy” then the HD 600s are a fantastic option.

      Over-ear velour-padded ear cups fit nicely and make them comfortable for hours.

      Though lightweight, these audiophile headphones are made to last. With quality materials and a removable cord, you can be confident in your purchase.

      The Bad

      There’s nothing specific to complain about. Except that open-back design makes for poor noise isolation.

      But you probably won’t be listening to these in a loud place.

      The Sound

      The sound is balanced like audiophiles prefer it. The bass is consistent and punchy. Mids and highs are well balanced. There’s minimal distortion at low or high volumes. A great soundstage creates a surreal feeling of spatial sound. You have to hear to know how these are better than your average headphones.

      Overall, they are is suitable for all music genres, from jazz to rock. If you want something warmer, go with HD 650.

      Sennheiser HD 600 are worth getting, because of their well-balanced and open sound that can compare to the best, while costing less money.


      7. Philips Fidelio X2HR

      Philips Fidelio X2HR wired headphones

      Best budget audiophile headphones

      Philips Fidelio X2HR are one of the best open headphones under $200.

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Open-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Wired

      Why Buy These?

      If you’re looking for balanced open-back headphones that don’t compromise bass, then check these.

      Lovely design and strong build quality will make you forget you’re dealing with sub-$200 headphones.

      Plus, well-padded ear cups and comfy headband provide a fantastic level of comfort, which can be compared to 300$+ headphones.

      The Bad

      Due to their open-back design, they tend to leak sound and provide poor isolation.

      The Sound

      The sound they give is spacious and smooth. It is also detailed and clear. You’ll hear a lot more details than with your average headphones. At the same time, the bass is still strong and present without bleeding into mids or highs. Their sound signature is balanced. That is suitable for all music genres and even for “bassier” types.

      Although Philips Fidelio X2HR aren’t one of the leading high-end models, they still produce amazing sound and comfort worthy of even a seasoned audiophile.


      8. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

      Beyerdynamic DT770 Studio headphones

      Best audiophile headphone for mixing in studio

      Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are closed-back headphones with V-shaped signature and great build quality.

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Closed-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Wired 3.5mm

      Why Buy These?

      If you’re looking for a V-shaped sound combined with amazing durability, then read on. The solid metal frame makes these audiophile headphones sturdy and durable.

      Their velour ear pads give good comfort for hours, plus they’re replaceable. Moreover, the noise around you won’t bother you, because their tight fit provides amazing passive isolation.

      Their price is also a good thing at under $200, you get a lot for a relatively “low” price.

      The Bad

      Although their design is nice, they are bulky to carry around with you. Their fit can get too tight and uncomfortable after long listening sessions.

      The Sound

      The v-shaped signature will make you dance to your favorite pop songs. The bass and treble are extended and overall excellent. V-shape is great for popular music and monitoring. That’s why they’re heavily used with DJs and radio hosts. But if you want cans for mixing, these aren’t the best due to closed design.

      Overall, the DT 770 PRO are popular among bass-loving audiophiles who aren’t persuaded by flat frequency response.

      The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO might not be typical audiophile headphones at first sight, but their extraordinary built quality and fun audio performance will prove you wrong.


      9. Grado SR325e

      Grado SR325 headphones

      Best sounding on-ear audiophile headphones from Grado

      A perfect companion for listening to your old records.

      Type: On-ear
      Design: Open-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Wired 3.5mm

      Why Buy These?

      You really can’t mistake these headphones for anything else but Grado’s. If you see plastic in cheaper models, the SR325e ear cups are made of powder-coated aluminum.

      The headband is rather stiff and covered in leather that feels premium. As always, earpads are shaped in a circle and have an on-ear fit. As with most Grado headphones, these are also handmade.

      While you can’t fold them so save space in your bag, earcups do rotate 360°, if you find this feature useful.

      The Bad

      At this price, cables should be detachable.

      The Sound

      As soon as you start playing them, these open-back headphones blow you away with a truckload of details. Dynamics and imaging are top-notch, with an incredible lifelike midrange. If you enjoy vocal-oriented music, these are simply stunning.

      However, their design makes them lacking in oomph from the bass, making them less than ideal for bass-heavy genres. These are more suitable for old rock or classical music, giving you a perfect excuse to blow off the dust from your old records.

      Grado headphones require a specific taste, both from looks and audio performance. But if you enjoy pristine clarity more than anything, you should grab one of these.


      10. HiFiMAN HE-400i (2020 Version)

      HIFIMAN HE400i (2020 Version) wired headphones

      The best budget planar magnetic headphone with detailed sound

      HiFiMAN HE-400I (2020 Version) are massive planar magnetic headphones under $200.

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Open-back
      Drivers: Planar magnetic
      Connection: Wired

      Why Buy These?

      If you’re looking for planar magnetic headphones that don’t break the bank, then you should get yourself these.

      These full-size headphones are massive, and no self-respecting audiophile would be ashamed to own them. The sleek design comes with decent built quality, as long as you treat them right. With the new model, they made all-around more comfortable.

      Despite a slightly bulky-looking headband, they’re very lightweight, with soft padded earpads that make them enjoyable to wear, even for hours.

      The Bad

      A bit heavy with poor isolation (sound leakage).

      The Sound

      The sound is balanced with consistent punchy bass, lovely mids, and great treble. Imaging is exceptional. Also, their soundstage can outperform a lot of other headphones. You’ll get a great sense of spatial sound. They are is suitable for more vocal-centric music and producing, but not for bass lovers.

      HiFiMAN HE-400I are great open over-ear headphones for daily indoor use, provide extraordinary comfort, and offer amazing soundstage that will satisfy an audiophile.


      11. Etymotic Research ER4XR

      Etymotic Research ER4XR wired IEMs

      Best earbuds with high-fidelity audio

      Tiny balanced-armature earbuds with great isolation and even better audio performance.

      Type: In-ear
      Design: Closed-back
      Drivers: Balanced armature
      Connection: Wired 3.5mm

      Why Buy These?

      Their housing is smallish, but there is a reason for that. They’re meant to go deeper into your ears, giving you excellent passive noise isolation. That is great since reducing ambient noises means you don’t have to crank up the volume.

      Inside the box, you get 3 pairs of triple-flanged ear tips and 2 pairs of memory foam ones. The cable is removable if you happen to damage it.

      Apart from the cable, you can also replace filters inside an earbud when they get dirty. That is great since earwax build-up can change the overall sound quality.

      The Bad

      Deep insertion isn’t for everyone.

      The Sound

      “XR” at the end stands for “extended range.” In practice, these have a slightly more pronounced bass compared to the SR model, with a more enjoyable overall sound. They’re incredibly detailed, especially in the midrange. One thing to keep in mind is that BA drivers have a more precise bass, but they lack the rumble of a dynamic driver.

      If you need a stellar performer with fun sound, these are a worthy pick. Insertion requires some practice, but as with most things, it soon becomes natural.


      12. Philips SHP9600

      Philips SHP9600 wired headphones

      One of the best sounding headphones at an affordable price

      A small upgrade over the extremely popular audiophile headphones Philips SHP9500, which is highly praised for its neutrality and good sound stage.

      Type: Over-ear
      Design: Open-back
      Drivers: Dynamic
      Connection: Wired 3.5mm

      Why Buy These?

      While their design is nothing to rave about, it’s still very functional and relatively sturdy. There is plenty of extension in the headband to fit all head sizes. Earpads are again covered in a unique fabric, with sufficient padding for excellent comfort.

      Clamping force is a bit studier than SHP9500, but because of slightly thicker padding, you don’t feel much pressure. That firm fit does provide excellent grip if you shake your head a lot, either when listening to music or playing intensive videogames.

      Thankfully, the cable is detachable and quite thick, which extends its longevity. It ends with a gold-plated 3.5mm jack, with an additional 6.3 adapter inside the box.

      The Bad

      Earpad’s fabric can be uncomfortable if you have a longer beard.

      The Sound

      These headphones are relatively neutral, with a slight boost in the lower bass, making them nicely warm. There is also a small dip in the treble, which prevents them from becoming too sibilant.

      If you already have a previous model, the improvements are marginal. But if you want a detailed yet neutral headphone for an affordable price, these are highly recommended.


      Honorable mentions

      Fostex TH900 – A good option for bassheads who want deep, powerful bass, but not for purists.

      Oppo PM-3 – Closed-back planar magnetic headphones you can listen to for hours and never get tired of their performance.

      Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – Famous closed-back headphones popular among studio workers and audiophiles.

      The Definition of an Audiophile

      An audiophile is a person who loves experiencing high-quality audio and is willing to pay more for (usually expensive) equipment and tools. Their hobby usually involves a lot of equipment testing (headphones and speakers), visiting audio tech shows, and spending a lot of time finding the next best audio high.

      There’s no fixed amount of money you’re supposed to spend to qualify for the name.

      You can buy a quality pair of headphones and an amplifier for around $200-$400 and enjoy the high-end sound. That’s entry-level audiophile headphones.

      Sure, some audiophiles spend 5-figure amounts (some even 6) for all their gear, but that’s over long years and due to emotionally attaching to old purchases.

      On the other hand, spending 300 bucks on Bose headphones doesn’t exactly make you an audiophile.

      There’s no definitive sound signature that’s considered audiophile-like, but generally balanced, accurate audio reproduction is preferred.

      Nonetheless, those who like attenuated audio like V-shaped and bass-emphasized sound can also be audiophiles (though some may disagree).

      In the end, the love for the sound and emotions we experience makes us equal.

      What are the Best Audiophile Headphones under $200?

      It’s hard to come up with a specific winner because you have many options at this relatively low price (for audiophiles). In our opinion, you should consider:

      Philips Fidelio X2HR – open-back headphones with strong bass and lots of details

      Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO – closed-back headphones with V-shaped sound signature and tank-like structure

      HIFIMAN HE-400I – fantastic planar magnetic over-ears with a warmer sound

      Audio Technica ATH M50x – affordable closed-backs with balanced sound, perfect entry-level audiophile headphones

      What audiophile model you choose should be based on your preferences, regardless of the price range.

      Do you want open-back or closed-back headphones?

      • Open headphones have better soundstage and thus audio quality, but they leak a lot of sound, so they’re only suitable for listening at home.
      • Closed headphones have better passive isolation and keep the music inside but come with smaller spatial sound (soundstage), which negatively impact the musical experience.

      What’s the main purpose of buying them?

      Will you listen to music and movies exclusively at home? Then get open-back headphones that can be big and bulky.

      But if you want to take them with you on your commute, or office or elsewhere, then get closed-back cans that block ambient noise and have minimal sound leakage.

      Is it Really Worth Paying More Money for Headphones?

      If you’re a vetted audiophile, you probably know the answer. But if you’re just thinking about buying yourself a truly high-end pair of headphones, then you should consider a few things.

      How much do you value better sound quality?

      Is it worth spending $300 more for a 10% improvement in audio for you?

      We all have different budgets and desires to work with. There’s nothing wrong if you’re unwilling to pay over $500 for headphones.

      Choose from what’s available in your price range. But do expect to pay at least around $200.

      $100 headphones are usually pretty good, but when you reach the prices over 200 dollars, diminishing returns become apparent.

      You can spend $500 for a pair, but it won’t double in quality because of it. It’s usually a small improvement.

      The same is true for $1000-headphones. Test them in real life before making a decision like that.

      But they have a better frequency range…

      Sure many high-quality headphones produce more frequencies than the average cans, but humans can actually hear only 20-20,000 Hz.

      And, that’s exactly the frequency range most common in headphones. You can’t hear the difference (unless you’re a freak of nature).

      Plus, the older you get, the worse your hearing gets. It’s not a technical limitation, but a biological one.

      Make sure that you combine your cans with a quality headphone amplifier as most of these require more power (they have higher impedance).

      What are the Best Headphones That an Audiophile Must Have?

      Instead of a specific model, choose them based on use.

      You need headphones for:

      • Home listening, where you can relax and focus on sonic fidelity without distractions
      • Work listening (if possible), it’s a different environment that needs to consider the presence of other people
      • Portable, on-the-go use where you value convenience together with high-end audio

      Over the years, you’ll probably end up with many more headphones.

      Can Wireless Headphones Be Considered Audiophile?

      While purists will disagree, some Bluetooth headphones are considered worthy of an audiophile. Their sound quality might not compare to wired headphones technically, but most people can’t hear the difference anyway.

      Check here if you can hear the difference in different sound quality.

      Many entry-level audiophiles don’t want to go too extreme with spending money on all parts of a perfect high-end setup.

      Some just want to enjoy high-res audio quality in comfort. Using uncompressed or lossless song file types with efficient Bluetooth codecs can go a long way.

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