Five of The Best Audiophile Headphones Money Can Buy

/ 08:04 AM January 08, 2019

Our staff took quality time to compare each pair of headphones side-by-side to recommend the best audiophile headphones money can buy to our readers.

Hearing new details in one of your favorite tracks is the best experience you can have while listening to music; the ambience and balance that your previous headphones or speakers could not produce accurately. This feeling can come with great excitement that will make you want to replay your entire music library to have a complete sense of what you were missing. Very few headphones can strike a balance between price and what the sound mixer/engineer intended. After test running more than 200 headphones, we have recommended the five best that produce a pure and balanced sound for audiophile listeners.  

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Sennheiser HD 800 S

Sennheiser HD 800 S: This best we have ever tested

  • Enclosure: open-back
  • Type: over-ear
  • Noise cancelling: no
  • Wireless: no

Sennheiser HD 800 S, one of the best sounding critical headphones that we have tested so far.

These headphones are well known in the audiophile community. All thanks to their build quality and comfortable design with excellent audio reproduction and soundstage.

The sounds they produce are expertly balanced and are not forward with vocals and instruments. Their sounds are not as piercing and sharp as some other critical listening headphones.

They make up for soundstage and imaging by what they trade in the bass. This creates immersive audio that instigate a great feeling of listening directly to a speaker instead of headphones. They are also accompanied with few accessories: an XLR cable and a USB stick to hold those lossless audio files. Sadly, they are not the best entry for beginners because they are quite expensive.

HiFiMan Sundara

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HiFiMan Sundara: A great mid-range critical listening option

  • Type: over-ear
  • Enclosure: open-back
  • Noise cancelling: no
  • Wireless: no

If you are an audiophile who is not ready to get a headphone for over $1,000, then, we recommend HiFiMan Sundara. They offer a supreme build with a high-quality sound and many improved redesigns. They also have a mid-range option: HiFiMan HE-400i.

Their sleek are mostly metal design with planar magnetic drivers, which also gives a great- balanced audio reproduction with more bass than the typical open-back audiophile headphones. The spacious soundstage that is created by their planar magnetic drivers is unmatched when compared to other audiophile headphones within their price range.

Unluckily, in spite of their excellent build quality, they still they lack quality control. Some Sundara units are not as durable as the more consistent Beyerdynamic DT 1990, which is an alternative to the Sundara. Many accessories do not accompany them compared to  Beyerdynamic, but they slightly sound better and are a little cheaper.

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Audio-Technica ATH M50X

Audio-Technica ATH M50X: this is a more versatile critical closed-back listening headphone

  • Type: over-ear
  • Enclosure: closed-back
  • Noise cancelling: no
  • Wireless:  no

If you desire an excellent sounding analytical headphone but see an open back design as been too limiting because you can’t use them outdoors, then, it time to get the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X. They are a fan favorite in the audiophile community. All thanks to their durable build, affordable price point, and excellent sound reproduction.

These headphones produce a broad and extended bass range, a stable reproduction of vocals and instruments with an excellent range of treble that is not too recessed or to sharp. They are comfortable and sufficiently durable to last for some years after been drop accidentally.

These headphones are not able to create a spacious and immersive soundstage as the open back models which is due to the presence of a closed- back ear-cups. These headphones are a little more suitable for commuting use. They sound better but lack most features and options when compared with other closed backed headphones within their price range. A slightly more expensive, but worth the extra scratch, alternative to these would be the newly released Sennheiser HD 300 Pro headphones.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO: The best entry-level audiophile headphones

  • Type: over-ear
  • Enclosure: open-back
  • Noise cancelling: no
  • Wireless: no

If you are new to the critical listening journey, then we suggest Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO as the best entry level audiophile headphones. They are among the best sounding option within the price range of $200. They also have a sturdy, durable build quality that will last longer than most expensive audio headphones.

These headphones have an excellent quality sound that packs a lot of bass for an open-back model. They reproduce vocals and instruments accurately. They can be a little high-pitched on already bright tracks. They don’t sound as immersive as some of the pricier recommendations, but this is because of the lack of spacious soundstage, irrespective of that, they still have more mood than most closed back headphones.

The presence of a sturdy metal frame makes them a little tight on the head at first use, with time they loosen a bit and comfortably suit your head size and for most listening sessions. Unfortunately, their cable is not replaceable, and they are not accompanied with extra pads. The good news is they sound almost good for half the price. An even cheaper option with just as much clarity but slightly lacking in the bass department are the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. They can be had for less than $100, a steal if we have ever seen one.

Philips SHP9500S

Philips SHP9500S: A budget audiophile headphone with a comfortable design

  • Type: over-ear
  • Enclosure: open-back
  • Noise cancelling: no
  • Wireless: no

Finally, if you desire a budget critical listening headphone that is good enough and considered as audiophile level, then get the Philips SHP9500S. We recommend this as the best sounding headphone under $100. The Philips SHP9500S has better sound production than most Beyerdynamic, and many other of the headphones we compared. Acquiring these headphones can be difficult since they are often out of stock or sold out.

They are well built considering the price range and also have large open back ear cups that are very breathable and comfortable; which allows the user to have them on for hours of continuous listening. They produce a sound quality that is balanced with the vocals and instruments, and won’t sound too recessed or too sharp. Our main gripe with these cans, they are a bit bass light and won’t wow you with it’s bass reproduction.

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