For a lot of people, music is essential to life. The thought of having to do chores or sit and work without music is simply unthinkable. However, simply listening to music isn’t enough for some of us. We need the best listening experiencepossible. For these people, we tried to find the best audiophile headphones out there.
Below you’ll find our reviews of what we think are the four best ones available for discerning listeners. We also included a special note at the end regarding the optimal way to use such headphones.
Best Audiophile Headphones
|Model||Frequency Response||Cable Length||Impedance||Price|
|Sennheiser HD 600||12-40500Hz||9 feet||300 ohms||Check Price|
|Audio-Technica MSR7||5-40000Hz||4 foot and 10 foot cable included||35 ohms||Check Price|
|Hifi Man HE-400I||20-35000Hz||5 feet||35 ohm||Check Price|
|Audio-Technica M30X||15-20000Hz||10 feet||47 ohms||Check Price|
Table of Contents:
Sennheiser HD 600 – Unmatched Performance
Sennheiser has a long history making high-end audio equipment. They are one of the most respected brands in audio, and the HD 600s might be a large part of their continued notoriety.
These produce incredibly clear audio thanks to their open back design and are designed at every level to produce very high fidelity sound. Starting with the cable, which uses an oxygen-free copper for optimal performance, and is kevlar reinforced. This kevlar reinforced design not only offers incredible durability but also reduces handling noise so that brushing or adjusting the cable won’t affect your listening experience. The cable is also detachable if you need a longer cable or simply have another one you prefer.
Inside it, Sennheiser has used a lightweight aluminum voice coil to offer a more responsive and excellent transient response. The neodymium magnets that are used to drive them are powerful and were mainly selected for their ability to offer consistent performance over a long period of time.
These themselves are incredibly comfortable with soft valor covered pads on the ears and headband. They are also incredibly elegant looking with an almost marble pattern finish to them that truly makes them look and feel premium.
While these are a little on the pricey side, their ability to produce incredibly crisp and lifelike audio cannot be overlooked. They are much cheaper than many other ones on the market, but many audiophiles confess to thinking the HD600s produce better sound than any of them.
Our Rating: 10/10
- Incredibly clear and powerful sound
- Kevlar reinforced high-quality cable
- Comfortable and elegantly styled
- A little expensive
- Looks too gaudy for some
- Open back design leaks noise to the surrounding area
- Absolute top of the line in terms of audio quality and overall design
- Very comfortable to wear even for long periods of time thanks to incredibly soft fabric and padding
- Somewhat expensive for some, but produce incredible sound even for the price
Audio-Technica MSR7 – Closed-Back for Listening Anywhere
While open-back design are known for being more responsive and offering incredible sound, they do have one major drawback. The open-back design allows the audio that you’re hearing to leak into the surrounding area. This means if you’re not at home, everyone will be forced to listen to what you’re listening to.
Luckily, it is possible to find audiophile headsets that do not use this design. One such is the Audio-Technica MSR7. These uses a rather large 45mm driver to offer their impressive sound. They boast Audio-Technica’s True Motion technology that gives them a sharper response than traditional headsets as well.
The MSR7s offer rich bass and very crisp highs with slightly recessed mids, which is a common tuning to see on these kinds of headphones. The reason behind this is that the mid-frequency range is already what we are naturally most sensitive to. Slightly drawing back on the power in the mid-range allows more detail to be felt in your music.
The headphone housing is made from an innovative aluminum and magnesium alloy to offer not only a lightweight construction but also reduce resonance. This prevents parts from vibrating while the music is produced creating less undesirable noise.
These also fold flat making them easy to take on the go. The padding is covered with a faux leather finish that is comfortable and durable. These are probably the best option out there for audiophiles on the go.
Our Rating: 10/10
- Low sound leakage
- Pivot to fold flat
- Comes with 3 cables
- Not the most punchy bass
- Tight fit for some people
- A little heavy
- The MSR7s are great for taking on the go thanks to their low sound leakage and ability to fold flat
- Produce very good sound with a standard audio tuning that is slightly recessed in the midrange
- Many people find these to not be super comfortable and they are a little tight for some
Hifi Man HE-400I – Planar Magnetic Design
Planar magnetic drivers are the latest improvement in speaker design. For many years, all headphones and speakers used the same dynamic driver technology. Dynamic drivers have a simple diaphragm that is driven by magnets for audio production.
In planar magnetic drivers, there is an incredibly thin substrate that has wires within it, and magnets surround this substrate. This design allows engineers to use a lighter, larger, and more precise surface to produce sound.
This planar magnetic driver design enables practically zero transient response. Any transition in sound can be heard immediately. This design also allows for very precise audio production offering a very realistic sound.
These sets produce a very bright and robust high-end with a midrange that is just ever so barely recessed. The separation between the different instruments in these is incredible, and the detail that the planar magnet drivers offer is downright impressive.
That being said, these do leave some wanting in regards to the bass. The bass is ample, but not as punchy or powerful as is demanded by certain genres of music.
These are great for those who listen to classical, rock, or other genres that excel when paired with a headphone like this with a higher tuning. However, if you listen to mostly genres like rap or EDM, you might want to look elsewhere. The lacking bass can make these genres feel flat.
Our Rating: 9/10
- Planar magnetic drivers
- Very true to life sound
- Relatively easy to drive (may not require an amp)
- Lacking bass
- No headband padding
- Minimal sub-bass response
- Very clear mids and highs thanks to high tech planar magnetic drivers that offer amazing instrument separation
- Reasonably comfortable with thick padding over the ear cups but no padding on the headband
- Bass is a little lacking for certain genres such as rap and EDM
Audio-Technica M30X – Most Affordable
If you’re looking for a super nice pair of headset that won’t break the bank, then the Audio-Technica M30X are ideal for you. These are not only affordable, but offer a listening experience that is well ahead of anything else in their price range.
They come equipped with 40mm drivers that use similar voice coils to the much more expensive Sennheisers we looked at to provide a more responsive listening experience. They boast a very neutral tuning that will let you hear every detail of your music exactly how it was meant to be heard.
The bass is strong, the mids are very present, and the highs are sharp and clear. There is very little recessing on the mids which gives the sound a very warm feel and allows you to often hear subtle nuanced things in your music that you probably never noticed before.
In addition to producing amazing sound for their price, these are also pretty comfortable. Unfortunately, they have a pretty high impedance, which we’ll talk about in a bit. This means that despite having a very low price tag, you may have to invest in an amp to actually drive them.
Our Rating: 8/10
- Very affordable
- Excellent sound quality
- Neutral tuning
- 47-ohm impedance
- Plastic housing
- Fits tight for some people
- Most affordable one on our list with very good sound for the price
- Will most likely need an amp in order to work due to high impedance
- Impressively comfortable and surprisingly sturdy for the price
An Important Note About Higher End Headphones
This require a lot of complicated engineering and can be incredibly nuanced. The technology of reproducing sound accurately has been the topic of a lot of R&D by major companies and continues to evolve. However, some things never change when it comes to headphones.
All of these on this list offer incredible sound, but there are some things to consider. Most audiophiles might want to invest in two additional pieces of equipment for their listening setup, a DAC and an amp.
DAC stands for digital to audio converter. If you get high-end audiophile headphones, you will probably want to invest in one of these as well at some point.
This usually small device sits on a desk or shelf and is connected to your computer, record player, or other device on one end, and your amplifier on the other. The DAC’s job is to take the digital signal that almost all devices output these days and turn it into a low voltage analog signal.
This process not only allows the amplifier to then do its job, but it can also offer a clearer sound. This is because digital signals use what is called a sampling rate. This means that it is not sending a continuous stream of information to your headphones, but is sending a bunch of data points. These points are then averaged out to produce sound, which is not as genuine or clear as an analog signal.
Analog signals are continuous and don’t have discrete points. This continuous stream of information can make music sound more smooth and offers a more precise listening experience.
An amplifier is the other piece of the true audiophile listening experience. While amplifiers might seem like an outdated piece of equipment, they still play a very important role even in the modern setup of any audiophile.
Amplifiers convert the low voltage analog signal from the DAC into a more powerful signal. The strength of this amplified signal is determined by the volume you have the amp set to and is used to not only tell the headset what sounds to make but also determines how loud they are.
Many amps also come with equalizers built in that allow you to tune the sound to improve your listening experience. If you find that the bass on a certain song or set of headsets isn’t ample, then simply turn it up using the equalizer on the amp.
Most importantly, some headphones cannot even work without an amp. Impedance is the best way to tell if your headphones will work without an amplifier. Generally, anything higher than 30 ohms (which is all of the headphones on this list) will benefit from an amp, and anything about around 40 ohms will not be able to work on a normal device. Things like phones and computers simply do not offer enough power for these high impedance headphones to work properly.
What is frequency response?
Frequency response describes the range of sounds that a given pair of headphones can produce. Human hearing traditionally ranges from 20Hz to 20 thousand Hz, but most headphones can go well outside that range.
This is because while we may not be able to literally hear it, it is able to produce a certain “sensation” or feeling none the less. Also, a headphone with a wider frequency response will be able to produce sounds within human hearing range with greater clarity.
Best Audiophile Headphones for Mind-Blowing Sound Quality
If you need the best headphones possible to enrich your enjoyment of music, then we’re right there with you. As music lovers ourselves we have searched far and wide for the best listening experience out there. After tons of research and listening, these are the headphones we narrowed it down to. We guarantee there is a pair of headphones on here that is right for you.