There is a wide variety of high-end headphones on the market, many of which include a slew of high-tech bells and whistles. Audiophile headphones, with a focus on sound quality rather than sensors or streaming technology, are an ode to exceptional sonics. Below is a list of our favourite audiophile headphones. And they don’t have to be prohibitively expensive; great value sound quality can exist, so don’t dismiss less expensive headphones. So, what else should you think about when shopping for audiophile headphones? Some models will benefit from a high-quality source or a headphone amplifier to achieve the best performance. Also, keep in mind that audiophile over-ears are typically designed for home listening; neither a 3m cable nor an open-back design are suitable for use on the train or in the office.All products are tested against competitors in the same price range, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, ensuring consistency and avoiding any personal preference.
Simply put, these Grado over-ear headphones are a work of art. Even if their retro exterior doesn’t appeal to you, their gloriously musical output will almost certainly. The open-backed design produces a clear, light sound with well-organized layers, resulting in an energetic, rhythmical performance. And, while the 360-degree rotating ear-cups may appear dated, they are a joy to wear. These exceptional cans are not cheap, but they are well worth the price. There is only one drawback: the open back cups leak sound, making them unsuitable for use in the office. But that would be overkill, like driving a Bentley to the grocery store.
Sennheiser IE 900
The IE 900 in-ear headphones from Sennheiser will appeal to audiophiles who want to get the most out of a high-quality source. They are packaged like premium in-ear headphones, with six ear tip options and three cables with standard 3.5mm, balanced 2.5mm, and 4.4mm connectors. The only thing missing is an in-line remote.
Sennheiser’s engineers opted for a single driver rather than the more popular multiple units approaches used by many competitors, and it was designed with rigidity and low resonance in mind. The result is fantastic. They have an impressively clear and open sound that allows them to delve deep into the production of a recording. They also sound confident and insightful, revealing layers of low-level information and organizing every track in front of them into a structured and cohesive whole.
Sennheiser HD 820
Closed-back headphones can be prone to distortion, but the Sennheiser HD 820 is not one of them. Sennheiser has cleverly solved this problem by combining Gorilla Glass with sound-absorbing chambers to prevent sound waves from bouncing back into the drivers. What was the result? Astonishing agility and precision, commanding authority in the low frequencies, and expertly controlled bass. These over-ears are, of course, a significant investment. They will, however, transform your home listening experience if you are serious about music.
LEAF BASS Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
The LEAF BASS wireless Bluetooth Headphones are ideal for binge-watching TV shows and movies. While most tech companies focus on improving their music experience with uncomfortable ear coils and short battery life, the LEAF BASS wireless Bluetooth Headphones are designed for people who enjoy binge-watching TV shows and movies. With 10-hour battery life, a low price, and extremely comfortable ear coils that can be worn for 4-5 hours without causing pain, virtually every issue that a binge-watcher face has been addressed. It has powerful 40mm HD Sound speakers as well as Deep Bass technology, which allows you to understand your favourite songs better. The resistance is 32 Ohms, and the sensitivity range is 109(). It can be paired using Bluetooth or an AUX cable. In addition, it has the most recent Bluetooth tethered device.
Beyerdynamic’s Amiron isn’t the type of headphones that immediately capture your attention, but give them some time and their impressive transparency and resolution will not disappoint.
They’re also comfortable, with well-placed earpads and lightweight. To hear them at their best, you’ll need a high-quality source and recordings, so don’t be tempted to skimp.
With everything in place, Beyerdynamic’s Amiron headphones deliver an impressive sound that covers the entire frequency range. We appreciate their clear midrange vocals, tight timing, and ability to handle challengingly messy songs. They’re hard to beat at this price.
Focal Clear Mg
Focal is best known for its speakers, and it only launched its own line of headphones in 2012, making it a relative newcomer to the market. But it’s quickly made a name for itself by taking on some of the best models on the market. The Clear Mg is a high-end, open-backed pair that looks and feels as opulent as the price tag suggests.
The materials are of high quality, from the leather on the thick, cushioned headband to the microfibre cloth on the cosseting earpads. Not only does this imply a high-quality product, but it also means they’re comfortable – the headphones are nicely shaped, and the inward pressure is firm but well-judged. The 450g weight is evenly distributed thanks to the wide, cushioned headband and well-designed earpads.
Beyerdynamic T1 (3rd Generation)
It’s been a decade since we first listened to the original T1 model, and they’ve become something of a benchmark for us in terms of premium headphones. The main difference between this third-generation model and its predecessor is that the new pair is easier to use with laptops and mobile devices. But make no mistake: the high-quality source material is still essential.
Because they’re open-backed, the usual rules about sound leakage apply. They’re designed for home listening, which is made easier by the 3m cable. This is easily detachable, so swapping to a replacement will only take a few seconds if it ever breaks or becomes damaged. It also makes little mechanical noise as you move around, which is always a plus.
8. Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony knows when it’s on to something good. Look no further than the WH-1000XM4, the four-star successor to the five-star rated WH-1000XM3. If you’re looking for the best-sounding wireless headphones, these What Hi-Fi Award winners for 2020 should be at the top of your list.
The XM4 improves on the XM3 with plusher ear cups, improved noise-cancelling technology, and a slew of new features, including Speak to Chat, which allows you to talk to someone without removing the headphones from your head.
More importantly, the XM4 provides a significant improvement in sound quality.
The presence of Sony’s new DSEE Extreme sound processor, combined with Sony’s inspired DAC and analogue amplifier combo, creates an addictive sense of musicality and enthusiasm.
Shure Aonic 3
Despite the popularity of wireless earbuds, many discerning listeners prefer the convenience and simplicity of wired in-ears. After all, there’s no need to be concerned about the battery dying or the Bluetooth pairing failing.
If that’s the case, and sound quality is important to you, the Aonic 3 in-ears will not disappoint. They are among Shure’s smallest earbuds and have a comfortable fit. They’re portable, and the fact that the headphone cable can be secured over the top of your ears so it doesn’t hang down is convenient when you’re on the go.
Shure has an 80-year history of producing pro audio, so it’s no surprise that the Aonic 3 are a joy to listen to.
Their sense of rhythm and timing has to be heard to be believed, and their dynamic ability has us completely captivated.
The WF-1000XM4 delivers one of the most dynamic, detailed, and balanced performances from a pair of wireless in-ear headphones we’ve heard. The bass notes are sharply defined and ooze texture, while the vocals are refined and extremely natural. They deliver tunes with such musicality that it’s contagious and keeps you coming back for more. And, with a class-leading eight-hour battery life, you’ll have plenty of time to be entertained.
The Sonys are also very comfortable to wear, with excellent noise isolation from the ear tips and excellent noise cancellation from Sony’s Integrated Processor V1.
11. Austrian Audio Hi-X50
While Austrian Audio is a new company, its founders are ex-AKG employees and some of the industry’s most experienced professionals.. That maturity is evident in the Hi-X50 on-ears.
They’re sturdy, well-made headphones, and parts like the headband cushioning and memory foam earpads are easily replaceable. As a result, you won’t have to worry about wear and tear.
They’re light and unobtrusive to wear, and they come with a 3m cable, though a 1.2m optional extra is also available – something to think about if you’re going to be using these cans on the go.
12. Focal Stellia
In essence, these are a closed-back version of the Focal Utopia. That means you get Focal’s trademark amazing sound quality in a more practical design – because they’re closed-back, no one around you will hear what you’re listening to, and – most importantly – the headphones don’t let in sounds from your surroundings.
In other words, if you’re feeling daring, you could wear them around without jeopardising the listening experience.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. The internal components have been optimised to work with portable music players and DACs, and the earpieces have built-in diffusers and EVA foam absorption to absorb sound waves bouncing off the back of the dome.