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The 7 Best Headphones For Music - Spring 2024 Reviews

Updated May 30, 2024 at 09:27 am
Best Headphones For Music

The choices can be overwhelming if you're looking for headphones that are great for music. Depending on what kind of music you like, some headphones are better suited than others. Those listening to more instrumental or vocal-centric content like jazz or folk may prefer a more neutral or balanced sound with a wide, immersive soundstage. On the other hand, fans of EDM, hip-hop, and R&B may like their bass to give their favorite tracks extra thump and kick.

We've tested over 790 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best music headphones based on sound profile, features, and price range. For more picks, check out our articles on the best audiophile headphones, the best studio headphones, and the best sounding wireless earbuds.

  1. Best Headphones For Music

    The Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best headphones for music we've tested. They create an incredibly natural, spacious, and wholly immersive listening experience, making your music sound like it's coming from all around you. If you're looking for the best and intend to spare no expense, these premium headphones are among the best open-back headphones you can buy. Their well-balanced sound profile will also please audiophiles. Their very neutral mid and treble response makes vocals and lead instruments sound clear, present, detailed, and airy, though some may find them a little too bright.

    However, their high price point and added costs (since you'll need an amplifier to get the most out of them) can put them well out of reach for most people. They're very well-built, with a sturdy-feeling design made of high-grade plastic reinforced by a metal frame and a braided detachable audio cable. Their spacious, breathable, and well-padded ear cups will also ensure you don't experience any discomfort, even during long listening sessions.

    Since they have a dynamic transducer design, they're less prone to imaging issues than planar magnetic headphones. If you want an alternative to these high-end over-ears, check out the cheaper HiFiMan Arya. They utilize planar magnetic drivers instead of more common dynamic drivers and deliver more low bass and a more neutral sound across the range. They can be difficult to find, but the HiFiMan Arya Stealth Magnet Version are an updated version that performs very similarly. However, both sets of HiFiMan headphones are bulkier and have less warmth in their bass range than the HD 800 S.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Headphones For Music

    The best upper mid-range headphones for music we've tested are the HiFiMan Edition XS. Unlike the Sennheiser HD 800 S, they use planar magnetic drivers instead of dynamic drivers, which are more common. Thanks to this design, they can reproduce bass more accurately than competitors at this price point, and they create a better representation of their soundstage. On the other hand, their transducer is more complex, resulting in more minor deviations in sound reproduction between units. They have a bulkier and heavier design than the Sennheiser and feel less premium. However, their ski-band headband distributes the headphones' weight evenly, meaning you won't feel fatigued during long listening sessions.

    They offer a neutral default sound profile that brings extra warmth and boom to your music. Lead vocals and instruments are clearly and accurately reproduced, although a dip in the high-mid range weakens these elements. Although they feel more plasticky than the HiFiMan Arya and many other high-end options, they feel sturdy and comfortable enough for extended listening sessions. However, if your head is on the small side, their large ear cups and frame might result in a less comfortable fit. On the plus side, their sound delivery is consistent from use to use.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Headphones For Music

    Looking for great sound at a mid-range price point? Check out the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 as a solid mid-range pick for the best music headphones. They're the next generation of the HiFiMan Sundara 2018 and have redesigned ear cups that are more comfortable. Otherwise, the two models are nearly identical. Both feature the same neutral sound profile that's versatile for different kinds of content. While they lack the low bass needed to get into EDM and hip-hop due to their open-back design, their mid-range is extremely well-balanced, meaning that vocals and instruments sound present, clear, and detailed.

    These headphones feel comfortable and well-built. They're more comfortable than the pricier HiFiMan Edition XS, but their passive soundstage isn't quite as immersive. However, they're still spacious and immersive, relative to any closed-back headphones, because of their open-back design. Their fit feels unstable and can slip around if you move your head when listening to music, and they heat up more than other HiFiMan headphones. Fortunately, their low impedance means you won't need a powerful amp to connect them, and you can get the same sound quality from your phone or laptop.

    See our review

  4. Best Lower Mid-Range Headphones For Music

    For a great listening experience without breaking the bank, try the Philips Fidelio X2HR. These open-back headphones are bulkier than the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 and have a less immersive passive soundstage. However, they offer a much lower bass extension, making genres like hip-hop and EDM sound more thumpy and powerful than on some pricier open-back headphones. The rest of the frequency range is very neutral, with great fidelity in the mid and treble ranges, making vocals and instruments sound crisp, clear, detailed, and present.

    These headphones are mostly made of plastic but still feel well-built and durable. They clamp tighter on the head than most Philips headphones but won't cause discomfort during long listening sessions. Their low impedance also means you can get great-sounding audio without an amp. You can use them with your laptop and phone without changes in audio quality.

    See our review

  5. Best Budget Headphones For Music

    Looking for audiophile sound on a budget? Look no further than the Superlux HD 681. These entry-level audiophile headphones have a semi-open back design that creates a very good passive soundstage while retaining some of the noise-blocking properties of closed-back headphones. As expected at this price point, they have a plasticky build quality that doesn't feel as premium or durable as the Philips Fidelio X2HR. They also lack a detachable cable, so you'll have to purchase a new pair if you damage it.

    They have a bright and analytical sound, so sibilants like cymbals can be overly piercing. That said, they have excellent bass and mid-accuracy. The bass is more prominent than on most open-back headphones, so mixes will have plenty of thump and boom. The detailed mids provide plenty of clarity and accuracy in vocals and lead instruments. Their soundstage performance is also on par with fully open-back designs like the Philips and adds an immersive quality to audio.

    If you're willing to spend a little more, the Philips SHP9600 offer an improved build quality, a detachable cable design, and a more comfortable fit. Their balanced mid-range makes them well-suited for genres like classical and folk that rely on accurately reproducing vocals and lead instruments. They can't reproduce as much low bass as the Superlux, but their passive soundstage still feels similarly wide, open, and spacious.

    See our review

  6. Best Casual-Use Headphones For Music

    If you care about your music but don't want to sacrifice features like noise cancelling and portability, consider the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. They're Bluetooth headphones, which makes them easier to use when you're out and about, and they have an active noise cancelling (ANC) feature that can block out noise like ambient chit-chat or rumbling engines. Their closed-back design doesn't leak your music, but they can't create a passive soundstage that feels as wide or open as similarly priced open-back headphones, like the HiFiMan Sundara 2020. Fortunately, they have a virtual surround sound feature to create a more immersive experience, though you need to use it with a compatible streaming service, like TIDAL.

    They deliver much more low bass than the open-back HiFiMan, which makes them well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop. However, it makes vocals and instruments sound muddy and less clear. You can use their companion app with a graphic EQ and presets, which can help you find a more neutral mix. They're also very comfortable and can last 37 hours on a single charge, so they'll last through several full workdays without needing additional power. They also have an integrated microphone, which performs passably well, so you can take calls between tracks while on the go. Sadly, the manufacturer has discontinued them, and they can be hard to find, so grab a pair while stocks last.

    See our review

  7. Best In-Ear Headphones For Music

    If you prefer an in-ear fit, consider the MOONDROP Blessing 3. These wired in-ear monitors (IEMs) are a lightweight and portable alternative to bulkier over-ear audiophile headphones like the HiFiMan Sundara 2020. You won't get a passive soundstage that feels as immersive or open, but in exchange, you get a subtler look and better breathability. Each bud features a hybrid driver design with dual 10mm dynamic drivers to improve sound quality, especially in the bass range. The result is an extremely well-balanced sound profile, ensuring that audio reproduces with astounding fidelity. They're lighter than other MOONDROP models, like the MOONDROP Aria, and sit comfortably in your ear without causing fatigue.

    They also have good stability due to an over-ear cable design and multiple sizes of included ear tips to help you get the best in-ear fit. If you're on a tighter budget and are looking for wired IEMs that are similarly comfortable, stable, and feature a balanced sound profile, check out the TRUTHEAR x Crinacle ZERO: RED. Like the MOONDROP, they feature a detachable cable design and rely on their in-ear fit to provide some passive noise isolation in the absence of an ANC system. The TRUTHEAR come with a set of foam ear tips, which helps achieve more attenuation across the frequency range. That said, they're not as well-built as the MOONDROP, and their treble response isn't as detailed.

    If you're still looking for more in-ear headphones, check out our best sounding wireless earbuds article!

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Audeze MM-100: The Audeze MM-100 are wired, planar magnetic open-back headphones designed for professional audio mixing applications. They have a better build quality than the HiFiMan Sundara 2020, using more premium materials. However, they have a more recessed treble range and are heavier. They're currently on backorder via the Audeze website. See our review
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO: The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are wired audiophile headphones. They're better built than the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 and have a more stable fit, but they don't have as immersive of a soundstage. They're also not as comfortable as the HiFiMan, which are better suited for long listening sessions. See our review
  • HiFiMan Ananda: The HiFiMan Ananda are planar magnetic headphones with a very immersive passive soundstage and a fairly neutral sound profile. Their treble range is a little darker than the HiFiMan Edition XS, though, which can hurt the detail of vocals and lead instruments. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 490 PRO: The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are a lighter-weight alternative to the HiFiMan Edition XS with comparable tuning using dynamic drivers rather than planar magnetic drivers. However, their build quality isn't quite as refined as the HiFiMan cans. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 30, 2024: Due to their great price-to-performance ratio, we've added the TRUTHEAR x Crinacle ZERO: RED as an alternative to the MOONDROP Blessing 3. Otherwise, we've made only minor changes to the rest of the text.

  2. May 01, 2024: We've checked this article to ensure our picks remain in stock and relevant but have made no changes to the article.

  3. Mar 29, 2024: The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO were added as a Notable Mention, and the article has been checked for accuracy with minor text edits.

  4. Mar 01, 2024: Despite testing the Sennheiser HD 25 recently, our picks remain the same. We've checked to ensure they all remain in stock and up-to-date.

  5. Feb 08, 2024: We've added the Audeze MM-100 and Beyerdynamic DT-990 PRO as Notable Mentions and checked to ensure all our picks remain in stock.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best wired and best wireless headphones for music to buy for most people. 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, ranked by their suitability for neutral sound. 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.