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The 7 Best Audiophile Headphones - Winter 2024 Reviews

Best Audiophile Headphones

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 for on-the-go use 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, open soundstage that mimics listening to music on actual tower speakers. They also generally 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 765 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.

  1. Best Audiophile Headphones

    The best audiophile headphones we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These top-of-the-line headphones aren't for everyone; their high price point puts them out of reach for most users, and you'll need a powerful amplifier to drive them, which can be an additional expense. However, if you're looking for an immersive experience regardless of cost, these open-back over-ears have an outstanding soundstage that's large, natural, and spacious. As a result, audio feels like it's coming from out in front of you rather than inside your head.

    Their dynamic transducers aren't as prone to stereo imaging issues as planar magnetic headphones. The trade-off is that they lack more low-bass. Although they lack a bit of punch and rumble to their sound, these comfortable over-ears have a touch of extra high-bass to add warmth to mixes. Vocals and lead instruments are reproduced accurately thanks to their flat and balanced mids. If you're looking for high-end audiophile headphones with more bass, check out the HiFiMan Arya. They're planar magnetic headphones that deliver more thump and punch to mixes but are brighter than the Sennheiser. Sibilants sound a bit piercing, though, which isn't ideal for everyone.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Audiophile Headphones

    The HiFiMan Edition XS are the best mid-range audiophile headphones we've tested. These over-ears are easier on the wallet than the Sennheiser HD 800 S and still have planar magnetic transducers to help boost their bass and create an immersive sound. While they aren't as comfortable or well-built, they have a neutral sound profile with a flat mid-range, so vocals and lead instruments sound present and clear. They also lack a bit of low-bass but have a bump of high-bass that adds warmth to mixes to balance their sound. Their passive soundstage is outstanding; it feels wide, spacious, and as if your audio is coming from outside your head.

    These over-ears have a comfortable fit and, unlike other HiFiMan headphones, have a more conventional headband design. However, they still have a large fit. As a result, they aren't as comfortable as our top pick, especially if you have a small head. They're also well-built, but their plasticky hinges make them feel cheap.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Audiophile Headphones

    If you're looking for something under the $500 range, consider the HiFiMan Sundara 2020. Like the HiFiMan Edition XS, they're planar magnetic headphones but have a different overall design, which some users may prefer. Their ski-band headband helps distribute the headphones' weight across your head, and they have a circular ear cup design. They have a higher clamping force, so they fit more snugly. Their passive soundstage doesn't feel as out of head either, though it's still very open and spacious.

    These over-ears have balanced and neutral mids, ensuring natural, present, and clear vocals and instruments. Sibilants like cymbals are present without becoming overly bright or piercing. While they don't reproduce as much thump and punch as the Edition XS, their touch of extra high-bass helps add warmth to your mix.

    See our review

  4. Best Lower Mid-Range Audiophile Headphones

    The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are the best lower mid-range headphones for audiophiles we've tested. Like many audiophile headphones on the lower end of the price range, they have a closed-back design. Even though they're comparable to similarly-priced open-backs like the Philips Fidelio X2HR for neutral sound, they don't create a soundstage as wide or spacious as open-backs. However, there are a few upsides to the closed-back design: it allows them to block out some ambient sound, like background chatter, and leak less audio, which is helpful for studio work. Closed-back headphones also do a better job reproducing bass, so your audio has adequate rumble and boom compared to open-backs like the HiFiMan Sundara 2020.

    Voices and lead instruments are present and accurate, too. The bright treble response can be fatiguing over time, but you may still like this sound, as it can help you hear imperfections while mixing audio. They also have a comfortable, well-built design, but the audio cable isn't detachable, meaning you must replace the headphones if it breaks. If you'd like a replaceable cable, you might prefer the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, which come with three interchangeable audio cables. They can't block out as much ambient sound, though.

    See our review

  5. Best Budget Audiophile Headphones

    If you're looking for even more affordable headphones, the Superlux HD 681 are the best budget audiophile headphones we've tested. Unlike previous picks on this list, these over-ears have a semi-open-back enclosure. This design ensures a wide and natural soundstage similar to open-backs. At the same time, they leak less audio, like closed-backs. They have a neutral sound and can reproduce satisfying low-bass thump and rumble. Vocals and instruments sound clear and natural, but sibilants like cymbals are a bit piercing.

    They're comfortable enough for long listening sessions, although the ear cup padding puts uneven pressure on your head. Unfortunately, you'll have to start making sacrifices in build quality at this price point. These over-ears are no exception as they have a very plasticky design that doesn't feel very durable, especially when compared to slightly more expensive options like our low mid-range pick. If you prefer headphones with a better build quality, you'll want to consider the Philips SHP9600. They're the next generation of the popular yet discontinued Philips SHP9500 and feel more sturdy and solid. However, their sound isn't quite as well-balanced.

    See our review

  6. Best Audiophile In-Ear Monitors

    If you prefer an in-ear fit instead of over-ears, the best in-ear monitors (IEMs) we've tested are the MOONDROP Blessing 3. These headphones offer a comfortable and stable fit, so they won't slip out of your ears if you move your head around. Plus, their audio cables loop around your ear for added stability, which is a nice touch. Made of a combination of stainless steel and plastic, these in-ears feel well-built overall. Their cables are detachable, so you can always swap them out if they become damaged.

    These headphones have a well-balanced sound suitable for lots of different audio content, with a clear and detailed representation of voices and lead instruments in the mix. That said, in-ears create a smaller and less immersive passive soundstage compared to the over-ears on our list. As a result, sound seems to come more from inside your head rather than from all around you. It may be a fair trade-off if you prefer in-ear monitors, especially as their design allows them to block out more ambient sound than closed-back over-ear alternatives like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO.

    See our review

  7. Best Casual Audiophile Headphones

    The best casual-use audiophile headphones we've tested are the Focal Bathys Wireless. These Bluetooth headphones have a closed-back design. Unlike the much cheaper Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, they have a very good ANC feature, so you can use them on the bus or when you're out for a walk; noise like background chit-chat or rumbling engines won't drown out your music. They're also wireless, so you don't need to worry about managing a long cable when you're out and about. They support the aptX Adaptive codec for high-res audio, which helps improve audio quality via Bluetooth, and have a built-in DAC via wired USB for converting digital signals to analog in high resolution.

    These headphones have a well-balanced sound, with an EQ and presets in the companion software to help you get the sound you want. Unlike most audiophile headphones, they have a microphone, even if its performance isn't the best. If gaming or mic performance is important, you might prefer the RØDE NTH-100M. While wired headphones can receive audio from most consoles, these have a detachable boom mic with excellent recording quality and a well-balanced sound profile. However, both the RØDE and the Focal have a closed-back design, and their passive soundstage performances aren't very good. The soundstage seems small, and audio seems to come from inside your head.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee: The Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee have a well-balanced sound profile and deliver great performance for their price, but they aren't as comfortable or as well-built as the Sennheiser HD 800 S. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 650: The Sennheiser HD 650 are mid-range open-back headphones. They have a very neutral and flat mid-range. However, their passive soundstage isn't as immersive-feeling as that of the HiFiMan Edition XS, and they're also prone to more inconsistencies in audio delivery. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 560S: The Sennheiser HD 560S are comfortable open-back headphones with a well-balanced sound profile, resulting in clear, detailed vocals and lead instruments. They're more comfortable than the HiFiMan Edition XS, but their passive soundstage isn't as immersive or natural-seeming. See our review
  • Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO: The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO are higher-end headphones than the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO that feel better built and have a detachable audio cable design. However, the DT 770 PRO will still offer a better value to most users as they have a more neutral sound profile and a more immersive passive soundstage. See our review
  • Philips Fidelio X2HR: The Philips Fidelio X2HR are lower mid-range open-backs with a comfortable fit and a neutral sound. They can't reproduce as much low-bass as the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, though, and they're bulkier. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jan 09, 2024: We've replaced the Philips SHP9500 with the Superlux HD 681 as the Philips have been discontinued.

  2. Nov 10, 2023: Since they're no longer available, we removed the HiFiMan Ananda-BT Wireless from the Notable Mentions and verified our text to ensure it's up-to-date and accurate.

  3. Sep 15, 2023: No changes in product picks after confirming their accuracy and availability. Some minor text updates for clarity.

  4. Jul 20, 2023: Replaced the MOONDROP Aria with the MOONDROP Blessing 3 as 'Best IEMs'.

  5. May 23, 2023: Replaced the HiFiMan ANANDA-BT Wireless with the Focal Bathys Wireless because the Focal's closed-back design makes them better for casual use. Moved the HiFiMan to Notable Mentions.

All Reviews

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.