If you care about audio quality above all else, you'll want a good pair of audiophile-level headphones. While these headphones generally aren't the best option to use on a day-to-day basis due to their lack of active features, they're great for fully immersing yourself in your music while at home. They reproduce sound accurately, and most can create a spacious and open soundstage that mimics listening to music on actual tower speakers. They also generally look and feel well-built and comfortable enough to fully enjoy the music without being reminded that you're wearing headphones at all. Due to limitations with the Bluetooth connection, this article primarily focuses on wired audiophile headphones.
We've tested over 670 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones for audiophiles you can buy. See our recommendations for the best headphones for music, the best bass headphones, the best wired headphones, and the best studio headphones.
The best audiophile headphones with a dynamic transducer that we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. Thanks to their dynamic transducer design, they leak a bit less sound than planar magnetic headphones and aren't as prone to stereo imaging issues between units. These open-back over-ears are made from metal and high-grade plastic, making them feel very well-built and durable.
They have an outstanding passive soundstage that's large and spacious, which can help immerse you in your audio. Although they lack a bit of low bass, they have an accurate and neutral sound profile that's suitable for a variety of audio content. They also have a comfortable fit and come with a carrying pouch to help keep them clear of dust when you're not using them. They come with an extra detachable audio cable too, which is handy if your first cable gets damaged.
Unfortunately, they need a powerful amplifier to run, and if you don't already have one, this additional expense can add to their already high price point. Just like the HiFiMan Edition XS, they also leak a lot of audio and won't isolate you from much ambient noise, either. However, if you prefer a dynamic transducer design, they offer an impressive neutral sound experience that's sure to please most users.
The HiFiMan Edition XS are the best planar magnetic audiophile headphones that we've tested. Planar magnetic headphones differ from dynamic headphones such as the Sennheiser HD 800 S as they tend to have a better bass response with less roll-off. Since they also have larger drivers, they're also able to create a passive soundstage that can better represent the stereo image.
These well-built over-ears have a fairly neutral sound profile with a flat mid-range, so vocals and lead instruments sound present and clear. Although they lack a bit of low-bass due to their open-back enclosure, they have a touch of extra high-bass to help add warmth to mixes and balance out their bass. Their passive soundstage is outstanding too as it feels wide, spacious, and as if sound is coming from outside of your head.
On the downside, the headphones and elongated ear cups are quite large. As a result, they may be uncomfortable if you have a small head. However, if you're looking for more comfortable planar magnetic headphones, the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 offer a somewhat comparable performance but have a ski-band headband design that helps to distribute their weight on your head.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are the best closed-back headphones for audiophiles that we've tested. You may want to check out closed-back headphones if you work in a shared space and want to block out sound as well as leak less audio. While they don't cut down the low rumbles of bus and plane engines, they can reduce ambient chatter well, and they reproduce bass more accurately than many open-back models, ensuring that mixes have adequate thump, rumble, and boom.
These over-ears have a very neutral sound profile that ensures that vocals and lead instruments sound clear, present, and detailed in your mixes. Although their passive soundstage doesn't seem very open or spacious, it feels wide and as if sound is coming from speakers placed around you, which helps create a more immersive experience. They have a great build quality and are comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.
Unfortunately, they're prone to inconsistencies in audio delivery, and you may notice a drop in bass if you have thick hair or glasses as this breaks the ear cups' seal on your head. Their audio cable isn't detachable either, so if you damage it, you'll need to replace the entire unit. Still, if you prefer closed-back audiophile headphones, they're a solid choice.
If you're looking for closed-back headphones that come with a few more accessories, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. While their sound profile is a bit more bass-heavy than that of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, the Audio-Technica come with three different detachable audio cables, which is great if you happen to break one. They have a similarly comfortable fit and are well-built. Their treble response is also more accurate, resulting in a less bright and analytical sound. Although they don't block out as much background noise as the Beyerdynamic, they leak less audio at high volumes, which is handy if you're using your headphones in a shared space.
Take a look at the Beyerdynamic if you're looking for closed-back headphones with a more neutral sound profile. However, if you like to swap out your audio cables depending on your needs, try the Audio-Technica instead.
The Philips Fidelio X2HR are the best headphones under $200 for audiophiles that we've tested. These open-back headphones offer a great audio experience at a more accessible price point. They're able to create a very good passive soundstage that feels spacious, open, and natural.
Thanks to their well-balanced sound profile, they're suitable for most kinds of audio genres. Their mid-range is exceptionally flat, so vocals and lead instruments are natural and accurate. Although they're a bit bulky-looking, they're well-padded and their ski-band headband design automatically adjusts to fit your head, which ensures a very comfortable fit.
On the downside, they lack a thumpy low-bass due to their open-back design. They're also somewhat prone to inconsistencies in treble delivery, so you may need to adjust their fit and positioning in order to ensure the same treble response each time you use them. However, these headphones are definitely worth checking out and are even among the best open-back headphones we've tested.
If you're looking for even more affordable audiophile headphones, the Philips SHP9500 are the best headphones under $100 that we've tested. Thanks to their open-back design, their passive soundstage seems large, open, and spacious, which can make your audio feel more immersive. Their very comfortable fit is well-padded and doesn't clamp very tightly on your head.
These headphones have a very neutral sound profile with a flat mid-range, ensuring that vocals and lead instruments are clear, accurate, and detailed. Like most open-back headphones, they lack thump and rumble, but a bump in their high-bass adds a touch of extra boom and warmth to your audio. They also have consistent audio delivery, and their build quality feels decently durable.
Unfortunately, overemphasis in the mid-treble can make sibilants like cymbals sound a bit piercing. Due to their open-back design, they don't block out almost any background noise and leak a lot of audio at high volumes. That said, these audiophile headphones offer a spacious soundstage, neutral sound, and comfortable fit at a more affordable price point.
The Superlux HD 681 are the best budget audiophile headphones that we've tested. What makes these headphones stand out from others on this list are their semi-open-back enclosure. This design combines the benefits of closed and open-back headphones as they're able to reproduce a more extended low-bass while also reducing leakage at high volumes.
These headphones have a somewhat analytical sound profile. Although their overemphasized treble can be a bit piercing, you may prefer this sound if you want help spotting imperfections in your audio. That said, their bass and mids are quite flat, so mixes have some warmth while vocals, as well as lead instruments, sound clear and accurate. They have a very good passive soundstage performance too, and it feels wide, natural, and open.
That said, their low price point is reflected in their build quality. Unfortunately, they feel quite cheap, plasticky, and not very durable. Their ear cup padding also feels a little stiff and it can become noticeable if you're wearing them for long listening sessions. That said, if you're on a tight budget, their hybrid enclosure design can offer the best of both worlds at a lower price tag.
Apr 20, 2022: We've replaced the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 with the HiFiMan Edition XS as the Edition XS have a better passive soundstage performance as well as a more neutral sound. We've moved the Sundara 2020 to Notable Mentions.
Feb 23, 2022: Replaced the HiFiMan Arya with the HiFiMan Ananda as the Arya aren't available. Also replaced the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x with the Beyerdynamics DT 770 PRO. The Audio-Technica are now the 'Alternative With More Accessories'.
Dec 22, 2021: Moved the Philips Fidelio X2HR to 'Best Audiophile Headphones Under $200'.
Nov 02, 2021: Moved the Philips SHP9500 to a new category: 'Best Audiophile Headphones Under $100'. Made the Superlux HD 681 the 'Best Budget Audiophile Headphones'.
Sep 03, 2021: Checked our picks for consistency and product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best sounding headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones, sorted by their neutral sound performance. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and where you use the headphones will matter more in your selection.