Updated

Best Headphones under $400 - Winter 2017
Reviews

This price range is for listeners who want a premium set of headphones that deliver a good and balanced listening experience. This means the headphones in this list are either very versatile or highly specialized for critical listening. They're well-built, well designed, comfortable and deliver a rich and even audio reproduction. They also provide additional features like wireless Bluetooth, active noise canceling, unique control schemes and much more. Below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $400 we have tested so far.

Best Open Over-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
5.0Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
7.9Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
3.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
4.5Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
4.1Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
4.9Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The AKG K702 are very comfortable headphones with an excellent and even audio reproduction. Their open design gives them a spacious and immersive soundstage and the Bass, instruments, and vocals are well-balanced on any track they reproduced. However, their design is not as durable as some of the other headphones on this list, and they're also a bit bulky and unstable, even for casual listening sessions. 

See our review

Alternative

The HiFiMan HE-400i deliver a great audio reproduction and a comfortable listening experience. Like the Edition X, these planar magnetic headphones have a low impedance which means they can be powered by your mobile devices. They feel a bit sturdier than the more pricey Edition X. However, the premium you pay for planar magnetic drivers does not enhance the bass response as much as expected.

See our review

Best Closed Over-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
7.2Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
6.6Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.1Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
7.5Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
7.1Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The MDR-1000x are one of the best active headphones we've reviewed so far. They may struggle a little with their audio reproduction at higher frequencies, but they deliver a great overall experience that's versatile enough for most use cases. They're comfortable, sturdy and will easily isolate in loud environments thanks to their excellent noise cancellation. However, they're a little pricey and leak a bit at higher volumes.

See our review

Alternative

The Oppo PM-3 are good closed-back headphones for critical listening. They're sturdy, comfortable and have planar magnetic drivers that can be powered by your mobile device. They deliver a balanced and clear audio reproduction. However, they sound a bit bass-lacking considering PM drivers typically have more bass than regular, dynamic ones. The closed back design also limits a bit the soundstage they can produce.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
6.9Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
7.5Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.5Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.0Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
6.9Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
6.8Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless have a good audio reproduction, a sleek and sturdy build quality and a lightweight, wireless design. They deliver a decent performance in most of our tested categories and use cases. However, they're a bit pricey for what they have to offer, especially, for passively isolating on-ear headphones.

See our review

Alternative

The Beats Solo2 Wireless are great-looking headphones with an above-average sound. They're comfortable and stable enough to jog with. They have a good build quality, an efficient control scheme, and an above average battery life. However, they're a bit tight on the head and do not isolate well enough for particularly loud environments. 

See our review

Best In-Ear/Earbuds Headphones under $400

Usage Ratings
7.0Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
5.8Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.5Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.3Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
7.1Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
7.3Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Bose Quiet Comfort 20 are one the best isolating earbuds we tested so far. They have a comfortable and stable fit and an efficient control scheme. Their sound quality is a bit bass-heavy but reproduces tracks with enough fidelity to please most listeners. However, they're less compact than some of the in-ear headphones on this list and the control module, though flat and relatively small, can get a bit bothersome.

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $400 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

A few examples of headphones under $400 that didn't make the cut:

  • Sennheiser HD 650. Great sound and they're a bit cheaper than the HD 650.  Slightly weaker headband and the tighter fit is less comfortable.  See our review
  • Sennheiser PXC 550. The wired version of the P5. Great build and sound quality but not the most comfortable fit for everyone.  See our review
  • Bose QuietComfort 35.Simple and comfortable wireless design. Great isolation but slightly leaky at high volumes. See our review
  • V-MODA Crossfade M-100. Great build and audio quality. Stable and comfortable design but a bit leaky and weak isolation. See our review
  • Bowers & Wilkins P7. Great, sturdy build and well-balanced sound. But poor isolation and relatively high leakage.  See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones under $400. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no ideal headphones under $400. Personal tastes, preferences, and listening habits will matter more in your selection. 

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