These are the best audiophile headphones you should consider in 2021.
|Rating||Price||Sound signature||Back design||Connection||More info|
Sennheiser HD 800 S Best overall
Wired – 6.3mm, 4.4mm balanced
Closed-back, in-ear monitor
Wired – 3.5
Closed-back, true wireless
Wired – 3.5mm, 6.3mm
Wired – 3.5mm
Wired – 3.5mm, 6.3mm
Wired – 3.5mm, 6.3mm
Wired – 3.5mm, 6.3mm
Closed-back, in-ear monitors
Wired – 3.5mm, 6.3mm
Wired – 3.5mm, 6.3mm
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.
Best Audiophile Headphones
1. 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.
PROS & CONS
- Outstanding audio quality
- Big soundstage with good imaging
- Robust construction
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.
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).
Sennheiser HD 800 S and their truly sensational sound are a must-have pair of headphones for all serious audiophiles.
2. Sony WH-1000XM4
The best noise-cancelling headphones in business
Feature-rich wireless headphones with an energetic sound.
- Outstanding noise-canceling performance
- Audiophile-grade sound quality
- Premium-feeling build
- Useful Headphones Connect app
- Great battery life
- Support for LDAC
- Amazing comfort and fit
- The speak-to-chat feature is a gimmick
- Voice Priority mode doesn’t work correctly
- No IPX rating
They are nicely balanced to play your playlist in the most energetic way possible. Extremely fun listening experience, with plenty of detail, a 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.
WH-1000XM4 are 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.
38 hours of battery life is excellent, too, and you can also fast-charge them.
3. Shure SE535
Best earbuds for audio fidelity
Shure SE535 are arguably the best in-ear monitors on the market.
- Superb sound quality – audiophile grade
- Perfect choice for real audiophiles
- Durable, comfortable and made to last
- Detachable cables offer multiple options
- Pricey, but if you care about sound quality, you don’t really care about that
Overall, the audio 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.
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.
4. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The best high-fidelity true wireless earbuds
One of the best true wireless earbuds are coming from Sennheiser themselves.
- Refined, audiophile-grade sound with natural midrange
- Above-average soundstage
- Great comfort and secure fit
- Good noise-canceling performance for truly wireless earbuds
- Premium-feeling charging case
- Good build quality with IPX4 water protection
- Good overall battery life
- Futureproof with Bluetooth 5.1
- Useful mobile app
- Responsive and intuitive touch controls
- Bass could be tighter
- No foam tips included in the box
- Call quality could be better
- Some audio lag when watching videos
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.
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 very natural in its performance.
5. Apple AirPods Max
Best sounding premium Bluetooth headphones
Who else can make great sounding (and looking) headphones, other than Apple? AirPods Max are their most outstanding achievement yet.
- Exceptional sound quality for wireless headphones
- Premium build quality
- Quickly removable earpads
- Superb noise cancelling performance
- Useless carrying case
- No option for wired listening
Apple’s best offer delivers a U-shaped sound signature with boosted sub-bass and extended highs. AirPods Max perform remarkably well for wireless headphones, ranking high among audiophiles.
Headphones pose a unique design that you either love or hate. However, you can’t deny their premium craftsmanship.
Both earcups are made from a single piece of aluminum. The physical button and a rotating crown are very tactile and feel excellent to use.
Earpads are dressed in fabric and quickly replaceable due to magnets. You can pick different color options.
AirPods Max support both noise cancellation and transparency mode, both doing an excellent job. They’re also great for call quality, regardless of the ambient noise.
6. Sennheiser HD 660 S
Classic over-ear headphones from Sennheiser with high-fidelity frequency response
Sennheiser HD 660 S are the more affordable audiophile option (compared to HD 800 S).
- Audiophile sound quality
- Comfortable velour earpads for long listening sessions
- Fully replaceable parts
- Amp might be necessary for optimal performance
The next step in terms of sound quality over the legendary HD 600/650. No wonder they’re among the best headphones under $500.
While the difference isn’t dramatic, you can still hear a slightly more refined and controlled presentation from HD 660 S.
The design is the same as the other HD 6xx headphones. You can even use their spare parts like decorative pieces and velour earpads.
The latter are huge and can easily fit even the bigger ears. Comfort is excellent, and you can wear them for hours on end.
While you can drive them with your phone (150 ohms), the sound will get tighter and more detailed if you use a headphone amp.
7. Philips Fidelio X2HR
Best budget audiophile headphones
Philips Fidelio X2HR are one of the best open headphones under $200.
- Great sound quality
- Comfortable for long listening sessions
- Sturdy construction
- Velour pads get dirty quickly
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.
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.
8. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
Best audiophile headphone for mixing in studio
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are closed-back headphones with V-shaped signature and great build quality.
- Great, V-shaped sound
- Good breathability due to velour earpads
- Sturdy build quality
- Tight fit
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 the closed design.
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.
For bassier options see the best bass headphones.
9. Grado SR325e
Best sounding on-ear audiophile headphones from Grado
A perfect companion for listening to your old records.
- Excellent, airy sound
- Big soundstage
- Robust build with aluminum earcups
- Non-detachable cables
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.
You can see plastic in cheaper Grado models, but the SR325e ear cups are made of powder-coated aluminum.
As with most Grado headphones, these are also handmade.
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.
10. HiFiMAN HE-400i (2020 Version)
The best budget planar magnetic headphones with detailed sound
HiFiMAN HE-400I (2020 Version) are massive planar magnetic headphones under $200.
- Warm, spacious sound
- Great imaging
- Comfortable earpads
- Only for home/indoor use
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.
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 them 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.
Check out similar options among the best cheap headphones.
11. Etymotic Research ER4XR
Best earbuds with high-fidelity audio
Tiny balanced-armature earbuds with great isolation and even better audio performance.
- Exceptional, balanced sound
- Great passive isolation
- Replacable filters
- Deep insertion can cause discomfort
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.
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.
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 sound quality.
12. Philips SHP9600
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.
- Affordable price
- Neutral-to-warm sound
- Comfortable fit
- Fabric earpads might pull your beard
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.
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.
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.
Check out more of the best headphones under $100.
Fostex TH900 – A good option for bassheads who want deep, powerful bass, but not for purists. (Check TH900 price)
Oppo PM-3 – Closed-back planar magnetic headphones you can listen to for hours and never get tired of their performance. (Check PM-3 price)
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x– Famous closed-back headphones popular among studio workers and audiophiles. (Check ATH-M50x price)
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 best 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.
Best headphones under $100 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).
Do you want the latest tech for less? Check the best Bluetooth headphones under $100.
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.
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.