Headphones are the life of music. There is a sea of choices when it comes to this sea of musical devices. In the market presently, headphones are over a hundred thousand different kinds.
Looking for the best of the best experience with sound? Well, here are the things to look out for when it comes to headphones.
- Perfect sonics
- Sound quality
- Balance and precision
- Noise cancellation
- Headphone Amplifiers
Now, let’s dive right in to our top choice for the best audiophile headphones.
1. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Professional headphones that can bend the rules to be fun.
The Beyerdynamic isn’t as famous as its German counterpart, Sennheiser. But in terms of features and qualities, the former is number one.
The company’s DT770, DT880 and DT990 over-ear headphones were renowned for their excellent build and sound quality.
What to expect from Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
- Great value for your money.
- Exciting imaging and design.
- Tight analytic listening,
- Good sense of space
- Wide soundstage.
The DT 1990 Pro is the best over-ear headphone, in our opinion, but be sure to check out our review of the others below. Enjoy!
2. Sony WH-1000XM4
The best all-rounders
Not only do they sound great and pack excellent noise cancellation, but they manage to do this all wirelessly.
What to expect from Sony WH-1000XM4
- Best balance of features and performance.
- Multipoint pairing
- DSEE Extreme upscaling
- Auto play/pause by a built-in sensor
- Conversational awareness.
Offering all of this without a high price-premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM4 are a great all-around choice for on-the-go music lovers.
3. Sennheiser HD 800
The Sennheiser HD800 are beautifully balanced headphones
The third entry on our list of the best over-ear headphones could have easily been the first. But they cost well over $1,000 / £1,000. The Sennheiser HD 800 are, hands down, some of the best-sounding pairs of over-ear headphones on the planet. Affectionately praised by inner circles of audiophiles the world over. When paired with the proper hardware, they sound absolutely excellent. Balanced in every way.
4. Grado SR325e
Retro looks, magnificent sound.
Simply put, these Grado over-ear headphones are a masterpiece. Even if their retro shell doesn’t attract, their gloriously-musical output almost certainly will. The open-backed design creates a clear, light sound with well-organised layers that deliver an energetic, rhythmical performance. And while those 360-degree rotating ear-cups might look a little old fashioned, they’re a delight to wear.
They don’t come cheap but these outstanding cans are worth every dime. There’s really only one downside. That is the open back cups do leak sound, so they’re not ideal for use in the office. But then that would be excessive anyway, like using a Porsche to do the weekly shop.
5. Focal Clear Mg
Open-back headphones that live up to their name.
Focal is best known for its speakers, and seeing as it only launched its own range of headphones in 2012, it’s a relative newcomer to the space. But it’s quickly made a name for itself by challenging some of the best models around. The Clear Mg is a high-end, open-backed pair that looks and feels as luxurious as that price tag would suggest.
What to look out for in Focal Clear Mg
- Excellent material quality.
- Really comfy.
- Impressive sonic.
They’re open-backed, so the usual conditions about leaking sound apply. They’re proposed for home listening, which is aided by the 3m-long cable. This is easily detachable, so if it ever does break or get damaged, swapping to a replacement will be quick. And it doesn’t make much mechanical noise as you move around – always a plus.
Sound-wise, they’re a little cleaner and clearer than their predecessors. Sounding a little less bright and more rounded in the treble. It makes them a bit more forgiving of aggressive electronics and recordings, but they’re still admirably even-handed and balanced. We’re pleased to report that Beyerdynamic hasn’t over-egged the bass frequencies either, with the T1 (3rd Gen) sounding as tonally convincing as ever.
6. Austrian Audio Hi-X50
Talented on-ear headphones that set high standards at this level.
The Austrian Audio is a new company. The people behind it are ex-AKG employees and some of the most experienced in the industry. That superiority shines through in its Hi-X50 on-ears.
What to look out for in the Austrian Hi-X50
- Light and easy
- They’re solid.
- Quality-built headphones
- Components like the headband cushioning and memory foam earpads can be easily swapped. So, you don’t need to worry about wear and tear.
- They come with a 3m cable, though a 1.2m optional extra is also available. Pretty mobile.
Every scratch and dent is evident on the Subpar source material.
7. Shure Aonic 3
Breathtakingly musical and comfy to wear.
Despite the popularity of wireless earbuds, there are discerning listeners who prefer the comfort and simplicity of wired in-ears. After all, there’s no need to worry about the battery knocking out or the Bluetooth pairing playing up.
What to look out for in the Shure Aonic 3
- Small and comfy earbuds
- Lightweight and mobile.
- Headphone supports so it doesn’t hang loosely from your ears.
Shure is a brand with an 80-year history of making pro audio. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Aonic 3 are a delight to listen to. Their sense of rhythm and timing needs to be heard to be believed and their dynamic ability left us spellbound.
8. Urbanista Miami
Budget noise-cancelling headphones with a bassy sound
Urbanista’s first over-ear noise-cancelling headphones are an easy recommend for those on a budget. It also works if you don’t want to sacrifice style or sound performance. Noise cancellation itself isn’t the best on the market. The audio could be more detailed though, an extended bass response makes the Urbanista Miami ideal for pop and RnB.
Battery life and connectivity are also decent for the price, making these a great alternative to pricier models like the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Apple AirPods Max.
9. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX
Both performance and style combined
In some ways, the Beoplay HX are a typical Bang & Olufsen product: premium materials, premium construction, premium price. In others, though, they’re a lot less willful than we’ve become used to from the company.
The HX headphones’ priority is performance. They’re quite expensive. What you get for the price, then, is vivid, lively sound and the feel and look of a premium product.
This means that for a fair bit more, you can buy a pair of Bang & Olufsen active noise-cancelling wireless over-ear headphones. The ones that are specified to compete and built to make you feel good about life. The specification is properly up to standard, performance is almost entirely impressive, and less tangible stuff such as ‘pride of ownership’ is sky-high, too.
10. Focal Stellia
Extravagant headphones, extravagant price
What to look out for in the Focal Stellia
- Wide-open soundstage with attention to detail
- Absolutely fantastic sound
- Accurate sound treatment
- Precise separation of the frequencies.
They cost $3,000! And as good as they are, therein lies the problem. The Focal Stellias are exorbitantly expensive for most people. This is 10 times the price of our current favorite headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3s.
11. V-Moda M-200 Studio Headphones
Great sound, built like a tank and very customizable
The V-Moda M-200 is the climax of what wired headphones can be.
What to look out for in the V-Moda M-200 Studio Headphones
- Classic design
- Excellent build quality
- Sweat-resistant PU leather.
Yes, the M-200 are expensive but they’re worth it for its sound quality, resolution, build quality, and unique customizable plates.
12. JBL Tune 750BTNC
Quality noise-cancelling headphones for a great price
JBL is a popular name in the world of headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, users know what to expect from the brand. Decent sound quality for a decent price.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.
13. Klipsch T5M Wired
The best budget in-ear headphones for audiophiles.
Klipsch knows how to make a decent pair of affordable in-ear headphones. In 2018 it was the R6i II that stole all the headlines, but for 2020 it’s the T5M Wired causing a ruckus. Not only are they extremely comfortable, they’re also some of the most musical buds we’ve heard at the money.
They sound detailed and dynamic with an even tonal balance and excellent sense of timing. The only slight downsides are they can generate cable noise if you don’t use the supplied clothing clip. Plus, you can’t change volume via the one-button control/mic. Still, that’s small fry in the grand scheme of things.
14. AKG K72
Great-sounding headphones for audiophiles on a tight budget.
The word ‘audiophile’ might sound a little grand to some. But the AKG K72 are evidence that anyone can get their hands on a pair of awesome, audiophile-quality headphones. All for less than the price of a decent restaurant meal. These bargain closed-back headphones are almost unbeatable given the price, offering solid build quality, comfortable padding and a 3m-long cable.
From the neutral presentation to the well-controlled bass, they sound far more expensive than they are. If you’re looking to upgrade the pair of earbuds that came bundled with your phone these are just the ticket.
15. Grado GS3000e
Class-leading sound, but these headphones need some care.
In our experience, Grado rarely fails, and it’s for true audiophile headphones like the GS3000e that the company is really popular. Grado claims these are the finest wooden-cased headphones it has ever made. And it’s difficult to contend against that.
We’re talking no compromise on audio quality. There’s distinctive, unique styling, and Grado’s traditional open-back design. They do leak sound, though, so we’d recommend using these headphones in the privacy of a listening room.
Sonically, they’re agile, involving and just great fun to listen to. Use them with a suitably capable source and headphone amplifier, and they deliver a controlled sound, which is organised but far from routine – far-reaching dynamics and a fine sense of rhythm ensure that. They’re more forgiving of bright highs than some Grado designs, yet still deliver fine levels of detail. If you can deal with the style and open-back design, then these audiophile headphones will reward you every time you put them on.