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Best audiophile headphones

Updated: Jul 29, 2022 3:57 pm

Audiophile headphones are custom-tailored for maximum fidelity and uncompromising performance. They are the créme de la crème of portable audio gear.

As expected, such high quality has to come with an equally premium price tag. Indeed, if you are intending on purchasing a pair of audiophile-grade headphones, be prepared to spend a lot of money.

1. Beyerdynamic Amiron

You will like the Beyerdynamic Amiron design quite a bit. It’s not that comprehensive or complex. Instead, it looks really nice despite being pretty simplistic.

The thing you will like the most when it comes to this is the earcups. They are very comfortable, and they are created from quality materials. However, you will never have to worry about any discomfort or anything similar to that.

The 250-ohm tesla technology audiophile drivers are among some of the best that you can find on the market. These units are handmade in Germany, hence the great value and quality.

The fact that these are wired units is very handy, as you really get among some of the best results and…

2. Audeze SINE

Planar magnetic headphones are all the rage right now among audio enthusiasts. This state-of-the-art headphone technology consist of two main components: a magnet array and a diaphragm with an electronic circuit.

Because of the incredibly low weight of these components, planar magnetic diaphragms deliver fantastic responsiveness, wide frequency response, excellent durability, and flat impedance over the entire dynamic range. Their downside? Price.

But as technology progresses, even audiophile-grade planar magnetic headphones are becoming relatively affordable. Currently, the Audeze SINE on-ear planar magnetic headphones deliver the best back for the back, as we’ve found out during our testing. By the end of this…

3. Fostex TH900

Are you a bass fiend? If so, you don’t want to miss this review because the Fostex TH900 may have the best sub-bass of all headphones in the $1,000 price range.

But even though bass is definitely one of their defining characteristics, it’s not the only one, and we describe all other positive qualities of these premium headphones in our review.

Probably the most eye-catching design element of the Fostex TH900 are the deep red housings, which are made from Japanese Cherry Birch and finished with Urushi lacquer to provide them with a long-lasting protection.

Both the earpads and the wide headband have memory foam cushioning for excellent long-term listening comfort.

Because these headphones are meant for home listening, the very long cable ends with a 6.3 mm plug, but the packaging also includes an adapter to 3.5 mm.

The cable is non-detachable, so you should be extra careful not to…

4. Audeze iSINE 20

The Audeze iSINE 20 semi-open in-ear headphones are definitely among the weirdest in-ear headphones we’ve ever seen. If you think they look like they were designed for Spiderman, you’re not the only one.

But the strange design has its purpose: to deliver the best sound quality and the most natural reproduction possible at this size.

The Audeze iSINE 20 are strange headphones—no doubt about that. They don’t just look weird, they also fit weird. The housing is very large, and its weight can make you feel like the headphones are going to fall off with the next step you take.

According to online customer reviews, some people never get the fit right, while others don’t have any problem at all. Fortunately, the headphones come with a…

5. Beyerdynamic T90 Tesla

Handcrafted in Germany, the T90 headphones are a very compelling product from a company with a history dating back to 1924, when it was founded by Eugen Beyer, who believed that the cinema presented a new opportunity in communication media.

As the company evolved, they were quick to adapt to the ever-changing audio market, ultimately becoming one of the most recognized manufacturers of microphones, headphones, wireless audio systems in the world.

According to the company, “The T90 is the first high-end headphones with a completely open design utilizing our revolutionary Tesla technology.”

This technology promises to bring together the feeling of closeness, transparency, and spontaneous listening enjoyment with the relatively affordable price of under…

Closed-Back Vs Open-Back Audiophile Headphones

Audiophile headphones show a strong preference for open earcup construction. With open earcups, air can pass freely in and out, which results in a better sound quality, greater level of details, and noticeably wider soundstage. There is basically no pair of audiophile headphones that is fully closed, expect for the very rare exceptions such as the Sony MDR-Z7.

Design

The new Orpheus sound system from Sennheiser perfectly demonstrated that design matters. The system features a housing crafted from a real glass, a single solid block of Carrara marble and a stunning use of brass.

All these elements are designed with a single purpose – to prepare the listener for a unique experience. This is not something exclusive to audiophile headphones.

The same principle applies even when you take out your gym headphones and instantly feel how your blood starts rushing through your vein in an anticipation of another intensive workout.

If you like how your headphones look, you will look forward to each listening session even more than you would otherwise.

Sound Quality

No other aspect of audiophile headphones is more important than sound quality. You can expect all high-end headphones to provide you with an impressive performance and clarity.

The main difference between individual models tends to boil down to their own individual sound signature. Simply put, each pair of headphones has its own sound “fingerprint” regardless of how much detail it can reproduce or how neutral its frequency response is.

Some headphones produce a distinctly warmer sound, while others sound very analytical, if not almost surgical. Considering how much audiophile-grade headphones cost, it really pays off to take your time and carefully consider which model is the best one for you.

Durability

Audiophile headphones are not usually known for their durability. When you spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of audio equipment, you are expected to take a good care of it.

It’s best to dedicate a special place just for the storage of your headphones. A high-quality headphone stand helps to protect earpads and the headband from damage and excessive wear.

If you own a pair of audiophile in-ear headphones for travel or stage performance, it’s a good idea to invest into a quality hard-shell pouch. Always avoid carelessly tossing them in your pocket.

If that sounds like a too much hassle, it might be best to own multiple pairs of headphones, each for a different purpose.

What is Impedance and Frequency Response?

70% of people purchase headphones without giving specifications a second thought. The main reason for that lays in not understanding the technical specifications and the difference between the headphones.

Purchasing a new pair of headphones by its looks isn’t that smart because there is way more behind the design which depends on whether the headphones will be suitable for your needs or not.

Characteristics are very important when it comes to finding the perfect fit headphones. Would you purchase a pair of reading glasses based on the looks? You definitely wouldn’t, and that’s something you shouldn’t do with the headphones either.

Impedance and frequency response are two main factors of every headphone’s characteristics, and yet they’re not very well known by most of the headphone users. Just these two characteristics can define the effects and listening experience of the headphones.

Therefore, here’s a simple explanation and a guide on how to understand impedance and frequency response.

Impedance

Impedance might be hard to understand, but here’s the simplest explanation on what impedance is and what it does.

It is an indicator of power demand for headphones and it’s measured in Ohms. Users can consider impedance to be useful in determining the suitable headphone’s application. Usually, the impedance of the headphones is separated into two categories.

The first category is low impedance which goes from approximately 25 Ohms to 100 Ohms, and the second category is high impedance which is everything over 100 Ohms.

For instance, low impedance headphones require less voltage to be powered, which makes them suitable for producing a high volume with only a battery powered devices such as an MP3 player.

However, high impedance headphones require a higher voltage to be powered, and they are made for high-powered applications. Therefore, high impedance headphones require way more voltage from the source than low impedance headphones to reach the same volume.

On the other hand, high impedance headphones can also be used with portable devices such as MP3 or iPod but they require a proper headphone amplifier to reach the necessary voltage to convert the digital sound into music you can hear.

Frequency Response

Frequency response can be easily described as a measure of the waves per second. They’re measured in Hz, and you can even sometimes see them measured in kHz where 1 kHz is 1000 Hz.

Whenever you see a frequency response on the packaging information of the headphones, you instantly get to know the number of frequencies that pair of headphones can produce.

Manufacturers usually write the frequency response by indicating the lowest frequency and the highest frequency that can be produced by the headphone’s speaker.

On average, human hearing can hear sounds between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz and that’s the frequency response you will most likely always find with the headphones.

Anything below 20 Hz is considered to be a bass, however, anything lower than 16 Hz is considered to be a pressure to human hearing. The same goes for the high limit of frequency that human hearing can translate and hear.

Human hearing can’t hear the sounds that are over 20,000 Hz, and sounds over 22 kHz are not audible at all.

Therefore, whenever you’re checking out the specifications of the new headphones, make sure that the frequency response is within the limits of human hearing response.

Anything over the limit can actually do more damage than good to your hearing, but still, don’t make a purchase based only on the frequency response.

What Is The Difference Between Studio And Audiophile Headphones?

Some people don’t even know what exactly are studio and audiophile headphones, and what’s the difference between these two. 

You might not necessarily need to know the way they are made and how they work, but their function and the difference might be useful when you’re looking to purchase new headphones that will meet your needs.

You’ll know when you see studio headphones because of their coiled cables, 1/4″ plugs which are a standard, they’re mostly locking and they offer a tight fit for better sound isolation.

Studio headphones are made to provide a flat audio to allow users to hear the sounds exactly the way they are without any equalizing.

They might sound unbiased and worse than audiophile headphones, but they are made to give a pure sound without any bass, treble, less mids, or any other equalizing, and also, they don’t change the level of frequencies either.

On the other hand, audiophile headphones are also known as consumer headphones. You’ll know when you see audiophile grade headphones because of their great look, good comfortability, feel and durability.

Audiophile headphones mix the frequency, add bass and treble, use less mids, and they make any necessary adjustments to the sound in order to give consumers the perfect listening experience with a little bit of a touch to it.

Basically, the main difference between studio and audiophile headphones is the feel and functionality. They’re both created precisely, yet for a different purpose.

Are Audiophile Headphones Only for Home Listening or They Can Be Used for Monitoring, Recording, Music Production?

If you’ve decided to take the quality of your next headphones to the next level, audiophile headphones are a great choice.

When you enjoy the music quality, and you’re looking for the next best thing, audiophile cans might be a great choice. If you have the money to spend on it, I’d definitely recommend it.

However, if you’re worried about the use of your new high-quality headphones, there’s nothing to worry about. Audiophile headphones aren’t only made for home listening.

They’re widely used for a mix of variations related to the music. They can even be used for monitoring, recording, and music production. However, they might not be the best fit for such tasks every time, especially when there are studio headphones.

Studio monitoring would require you to have the headphones which offer a flat audio with the same frequency rate at all times. Such headphones are known as the most neutral headphones and therefore, audiophile headphones might not be the best choice.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for audiophile-grade headphones. They still offer a great quality and can be used for a number of other things.

Audiophile headphones are made for musical enjoyment and any type of music listening, and that’s what they’re the best at. In case you’re very serious about studio monitoring, recording music, and music production,

I’d recommend you to rather look for the studio headphones which will be more suitable for the tasks you’ll do.

However, if your main goal is the musical enjoyment, yet a light use of studio producing and monitoring, audiophile headphones still might be a good choice. 

All you have to do is determine how much are you involved in the studio music producing to be able to determine the type of headphones which will suit your needs the most.

Should I go for Used or New Audiophile Headphones?

Let’s be honest. High-quality audio headphones can cost a fortune, yet the lust for that sound improvement is always there.

Audiophile headphones are almost always holding their value, and even when they’re being re-sold as used headphones. But there’s still a lot of room to find high-quality audiophile headphones for a price that won’t break your bank.

While some users might be put off by the hygiene since headphones are worn over the ears, there are people who don’t mind. Good thing is that most high-quality audiophile headphone models come with replaceable ear cushion pads, but you just got to check it with the manufacturer. Some manufacturers even offer replaceable headband padding too.

There is nothing wrong going for the used audiophile headphones, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s lusting for the audio upgrade yet can’t afford the brand new headphones.

It has always been a good way to get great deals for a fraction of the original price. However, if you have enough saved money to purchase a brand new audiophile headphones model that you’ve always been wanting, your choice is up to you.

You can buy brand new headphones hassle-free, or you can still look out for a great deal which will save you some money and still get you good valuable headphones.

It’s all matter of preference but know one thing. High-quality audiophile headphones are made to last and the last thing you should be worried about is the lifespan. They are built well and are made to last.

Can I use Audiophile Grade Headphones With My Smartphone?

Audiophile headphones have different outputs and they vary in impedance level which means that not every headphone model will be able to be connected with your smartphone.

First, you will have to pay attention to the output cable. Some audiophile headphones are even made to be used only with devices that support USB connection.

On the other hand, there are audiophile cans that come with 3.5mm jack, however, they might have high impedance level which means they will need their own amplifier. 

Therefore, you need to look for both output type and impedance level to be sure that the headphones can be powered by a smartphone device and that they can be connected to the smartphone at all.

In case your new headphones don’t come with the output type suitable for your smartphone, there still might be a way. There are extensions that are able to convert one output type to another without any quality loss.

But it doesn’t need to be very complicated. Most manufacturers nowadays let users know right away whether their headphones are compatible or not with smartphones. You’ll almost always find it on the headphones packaging.

If you can’t find such information on the packaging, you don’t know the output type, and you are unsure of its impedance level, I’d recommend you to talk to someone or do a research on the exact  headphone model yourself.

After all, audiophile headphones are made for musical enjoyment, and what kind of enjoyment would it be if you couldn’t use them with your portable smartphone, right?

What is DAC and Do I Need One?

DAC stands for Digital to Analog Converter which has one simple role. To convert digital signal to analog signal so that your headphones can create a sound.

It’s very simple to understand what DAC does, but understanding whether you need one might be a little bit harder.

Nobody likes to hear that their audio equipment is not as good, or that it could be improved, but do you actually need to listen to every advice out there? Before you spend any money on DAC, here are a few things you should know.

DAC can be found in any smartphone nowadays, and it’s a standard and basic component. They’re very similar to headphone amplifiers. Therefore, we now have standalone DAC’s that are made to improve the poor audio quality at the consumer level.

There is only one reason why you would need DAC. DAC is only necessary when your source, let it be computer or smartphone is introducing noise to your audio, or can’t output sound at the bitrate of your audio files.

It’s that simple. There’s only one other exception that I can think of where you could add DAC is when you’re recording audio for professional purpose. However, even then the equipment you’ll be using will most likely be able to process the wanted bitrate and handle the audio setup without noise.

Even if you decide to purchase a DAC, I wouldn’t recommend spending a fortune on it. The choice is wide and you can find the one you need by simply looking at the packaging.

Do I Need An Amplifier For My Audiophile Grade Headphones?

You won’t need an amplifier for your headphones in two situations. If you’re using in-ear headphones that are made to be used with smartphones or any other gadget, and when you are using noise canceling headphones.

In-ear headphones are already super efficient since they’re made to work with smartphones and other portable devices, while noise-canceling headphones already have an amplifier built in to make sure other external amplifiers don’t add any significant audio benefit.

However, you will need an amplifier when you’re using headphones that have a high level of impedance. They will need an amplifier to get the extra voltage boost to be able to produce the sound for you to hear.

Even low-impedance headphones might benefit from amplifier because the sound quality can improve significantly.

Basically, I like to stick to the rule. If you’ve spent more than $500 on the headphones, you’d probably want to add the amplifier. Amplifiers are an affordable way to get the greater sound from your headphones and move your audio performance up a level.

It’s better to have an amplifier, than not to have it. Relying on the built-in amplifiers in your portable devices might not let you enjoy your new high-quality audiophile headphones at its fullest potential.

Therefore, your audio setup will be as good as the weakest link, which would be the integrated amplifier which won’t let your headphones surprise you with their sound quality.

Pros and Cons Of Audiophile Headphones

Seeking the ultimate audio experience can take you through a whole new journey, however, every journey has its ups and downs, so does the audiophile headphones.

While your main goal is to get the high-quality headphones that will offer you the best listening experience, there are some disadvantages related to it that you will have to face.

The end result is getting the ultimate listening experience, but you’ll need to know exactly how to determine the premium quality audiophile headphones, and how to get a good deal without breaking your bank or emptying your pocket completely.

Since every audiophile headphone is different and there are many brands in the world, it’s really hard to tell each pro and cons of every model, but we will keep it general and pay close attention to the most known pros and cons that are directly related to any audiophile headphones.

Pros

  • High-end premium audiophile headphones provide a lot of quality, hence the price. But keep in mind that price doesn’t always equal quality.
  • The main pros of audiophile headphones are that they produce clearer and better audio than other types of headphones on the market.
  • Everyone can notice the difference between the audiophile headphones and lower-quality headphones. Audiophile headphones might a bit pricey, but they come with a better sound quality.
  • Once you step up your audio game with audiophile headphones, you will be able to experience the quality audio level you haven’t experienced so far.

Cons

  • The main con of audiophile headphones for most people is the price. Some people just don’t think that it’s a valuable audio investment.
  • Therefore, you need to determine which type of music and audio will you be listening, and determine for yourself if audiophile headphones will be a great investment for yourself.
  • Also, they might not be the best choice for studio work, but could still probably do some light studio work.

Price

If you are considering buying a pair of audiophile headphones, you should be prepared to spend some serious money. Most high-end models start at around $500 and prices can go up to thousands.

Keep in mind that improvements in sound quality become progressively harder to notice the more you pay.

It’s very easy to spot the difference between a pair of $50 headphones and $500 ones. The same may not be true about $500 and $5000 headphones. Try to avoid putting too much focus on the price tag.

Always trust your ears and stay true to what they tell you. The money you save could be better invested in other parts of your particular audio chain.

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