Directly referring to a group of people who are passionate about the quality of audio products, audiophile (a hi-fi enthusiast) headphones are a very popular choice among the music producers. One of the main reasons is that these headphones are known for being manufactured with high-quality components which makes them high-end stereo equipment. That being said, we are not downgrading less expensive headphones. Nonetheless, this best audiophile headphones review will give you an insight on why audiophile headphones matter.
Guide: 5 audiophile headphoneS criteria
1. Sound Quality
The best audiophile headphones offer an unequaled performance. Most of the time, their frequency response is very wide and detailed. This is a characteristic which is necessary for the most accurate sound representation. Nonetheless, sometimes these extensive frequency ranges are not really useful considering that the human hearing range doesn’t go under 20Hz or higher than 20 kHz.
Another point of interest should be the impedance range. Especially important, this consideration always comes with the dilemma of knowing that a higher impedance will provide a better audio quality, with the downfall of requiring more power. When a lot of power is required, it will necessitate a dedicated amplifier.
The last feature to look out for is total harmonic distortion. Basically, it corresponds to the amount of distortion that can appear when raising the volume. Ideally, you would like this value to be the closest to zero.
Since you will probably use these headphones every day during your music production sessions, they should be made out of components which will not make you feel uneasy. In general, for all listeners, it is important that listening is as much a pleasurable experience in terms of sound and comfort.
Velour pads definitely make a difference by their soft and light texture. Open-back headphones provide for a sense of comfort which is comparable to listening to your studio monitors. A comfort which is not possible with a classical closed-back design.
Along with this, the weight of your headphones should also matter. The lighter, the better. Comfort should never be underestimated, especially when you are considering the purchase of a more expensive product like audiophile headphones.
In line with the previous criteria, the best audiophile headphones should also be durable and resistant. By that we mean, their capacity to endure shock and to be specifically engineered for traveling purposes. We are aware that some of the products we feature on our list have been manufactured for exclusive studio use.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be sturdy and ready to be taken anywhere. In that respect, some brands, like Sennheiser are well known for delivering enduring headphone models. That is not to say that there are not other very durable and resistant headphones available on the market. Some brands just have a reputation.
4. Aesthetics & Design
Comfort, paired with durability should not be made available at the expense of aesthetics and design. Who would want to use an unappealing pair even if they are some of the best audiophile headphones in terms of sound?
Some users don’t really care about the exterior of their headphones. For us, it matters. If you go for a high-end model, it is very logical to consider the design of the product. However, as you probably know, there is no accounting for taste.
5. Trusting your ears
In the end, everything depends on your personal aspirations, taste, preferences. What do you intend to use your headphones for? Is it for tracking, mixing, mastering? Some people also have a marked preference for more bass oriented sounds. Others prefer more punch in the mids or a more “airy sound”.
The best way to find out what type of sound representation suits you best is to go to a local store and try out the most headphones you possibly can. Some stores feature the best audiophile headphones or higher end type of headphones which you can try out.
In this article, our purpose has been to find and compile the best high-quality headphones on today’s market. It is also worth mentioning that we haven’t focused on differentiating open-back headphones with closed back ones (see: “best studio headphones”).
The 5 Best Audiophile Headphones
- overall rating 90%
Pros & Cons
Probably one of the best sound stages
Quality manufacturing and appealing design.
Bass might be lacking for some users.
Complicated to carry around and open-back headphones
These over-ear, open back headphones have a soundstage that is well detailed and “three dimensional”. Musical instruments and sound elements are spread out coherently. As a result, these sound bright and clean, without being strident. With this in mind, the sound quality assimilates defined lows and densely balanced mids.
However, the emphasis of the sound is put on the high-mids as the lows are playing more of a supporting role. Therefore, for some listeners who have a preference for a more “mellow” and bass-emphasized type of sound, these will probably sound too bright for you. That being said, these headphones have clarity which makes them some of the best audiophile headphones.
Furthermore, the sound is subtle. Evidence of this can be perceived across the entire sonic spectrum. There are no cumbersome peaks. But, after the 100~120 hours of “burning in” process, the sound will be even more detailed and satisfactory according to users.
Especially satisfying is the elegant black color and the sleek design. Along with this, these are comfortable (especially the padding material). Ultimately, it’s sound that matters to choose a pair from the best audiophile headphones and quite often quality matches the price. This is certainly the case here.
- overall rating 80%
Pros & Cons
Perfectly well balanced sound
Open-back headphones (most accurate sound representation)
Not very portable
Require an amplifier for optimal use
Without a doubt, these are underrated headphones. We should start by talking about the incredible soundstage these headphones offer. Especially satisfying, their soundstage is very full and detailed. Similarly to the HD 800 S, these have a very realistic three-dimensional soundstage (probably less precise but less expensive).
The bass is deep. On the other hand, the mids are strong and forward sounding. With this model, highs may reflect some sibilance but overall there is no real coloration of the sound. You should keep in mind that these headphones are “amp-particular” (necessitate more power for optimal performance). They also need a lot of hours to perform optimally (100~150 hours).
While the overall build quality isn’t as great as the Sennheisers, the self-adjusting headband and large, deep and soft ear pads make these headphones comfortable. The arches are made of metal and the used plastic is of high quality. However, users have complained about the band and the bumps as being too flimsy. In the end, the “Q 701” is close to headphones of a higher price range with similar specifications.
* The pair comes in black and green colors.
- overall rating 80%
Pros & Cons
Fantastic build quality
Superior imaging and soundstage
Very comfortable headphones
Vocals may sound a bit “distant”
These headphones sound amazing at low volumes. Exceptionally well isolated, it makes them appropriate to use in any environment. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these headphones deserve a decent amplifier to be driven properly.
In terms of sound properties, the pair covers the entire spectrum in an even way. Coupled with that is an excellent sound separation. These headphones have the rare particularity to be suited for all music genres (electronic, hip-hop, jazz, rock).
The bass is booming, present and solid. Some users have complained about the fact that the mids were slightly recessed and this statement is justifiable. Other than that, the treble is appropriately airy. Generously, the sound encompasses a lot of detail in the highs. Moreover, the 40 mm neodymium drivers contribute to a superior acoustic performance.
Furthermore, the original design of the SRH1540 gives them a somewhat futuristic appearance. Meanwhile, a circumaural design will make them comfortably sit over your ears (excellent padding). Easily comparable to the HD 650, the SRH1540 will give you this neutral sound representation which is required during the mixing process.
- overall rating 80%
Pros & Cons
Appealing design and construction
Furnished headphone stand
Very neutral sound (Basses,mids and highs are all equally present)
Offering a great fit and finish, the build quality of the TH 900 makes them some of the best audiophile headphones out there. The headphones are comfortable too. Soft ear cups and an easily adjustable headband will make your listening experiences more than enjoyable. Nonetheless, the lacquered and red finish and synthetic leather earpads on these won’t be unanimously approved.
Moreover, a very unfortunate characteristic of these headphones is their apparent closed back construction. That being said, these headphones sound more like open back headphones than closed ones. Essentially, what that means is that sound will leak in and out.
One point of satisfaction is that the soundstage is excellent. The treble is extended and well detailed. Bass is extremely pleasing to the ear. In fact, the Fostex have no issue playing very low (30 Hz) frequencies flawlessly. Furthermore, midrange frequencies are not recessed and mostly well defined.
As a result, these are very smooth and well balanced. Evidence of this is the equilibrium between upper bass frequencies and lower midrange. Disappointingly, the cable which the headphones come with is not detachable. You should also consider buying an additional amplifier to drive these headphones properly.
- overall rating 90%
Pros & Cons
Great balance of sound
Vivid sound and very accurate sound representation
Bass might be too powerful for some
Ear cups are shallow and your ears might touch the drivers
An additional amplifier is required for optimal performance
In our opinion, the HD 650 is the best “all-around” pair. Comfortable, the earpads of these headphones are made out of soft cloth-like material which not only feels great but also prevents your ears from overheating. Moreover, the headband on these headphones is adjustable. The HD 650 is very lightweight. Even though these audiophile headphones have a mostly plastic construction, they offer a seemingly resistant design.
Along with this, they sound much better (and less harsh) than the 600s. Indeed, the soundstage, which is wide and expansive and every instrument can be heard clearly. Notwithstanding, this design will cause some sound leakage. On the positive side, this factor will also add more airiness to the sound. Thus, giving you the impression of a better separation between instruments.
In particular, their solid midrange will make any genre of music sound great. Notably, the high range is very accurate without showing signs of sibilance. Along with this, a rich bass creates a warm but also detailed and full-bodied sound. Yet, these headphones need some time to “break in”. However, the “HD 650” largely stands out from the crowd as some of the best audiophile headphones for music.
All of these headphones have the particularity to be high-end stereo equipment. The Sennheiser models (800 S & 650) offer a sturdy and resistant design while providing a very balanced sound. The AKG Q 701 (Quincy Jones signature) offers comfort and openly balanced sound representation -which is the standard for open-back headphones- while offering a fantastic value. Likewise, the Fostex TH900 delivers one of the most balanced and accurate sounds. The Shure SRH1540 are very all round providing quality manufacturing, soundstage, and comfort.
However, our personal opinion is that the Sennheiser HD 650 has that little edge over the other models. When it comes to the best audiophile headphones, one extremely important factor to consider is the price and the value you get for that price.
Less expensive headphones can still offer very satisfactory results even though they are not as pricey. The bottom line, and especially for headphones is that you should consider the criteria we have listed above, but nothing is more important than trusting your ears.