With a myriad of options to choose from, purchasing the right pair of headphones can be a daunting task. This guide aims to help narrow down the wide array of choices. The most common factors which buyers often look for are the following: form and style, sound quality, ergonomic design, and durability. In addition to our best audiophile headphones guide, this article will discuss in detail these factors which are highly critical to consider when making a decision.
You will thank us later.
Best Audiophile Headphones Complete Guide
Beyerdynamic DT-770-PRO-32 Closed Dynamic Headphone for Mobile Control and Monitoring Applications, 32 Ohms
Sennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional Headphone
Grado Prestige Series SR80e Headphones
Beyerdynamic DT-990-Pro-250 Professional Acoustically Open Headphones for Monitoring and Studio Applications
Sennheiser HD 558 Headphones
Forms and Styles
To start, it is important to know the different forms and styles of headphones. These forms are: earbuds or in-ear headphones, supra-aural or on-ear headphones, circumaural or full-size headphones, and wireless or Bluetooth headphones. Each form of headphones have their own upsides and downsides. Their distinct characteristics will help in narrowing out the choices when purchasing.
Earbuds, or in-ear headphones, are inserted into the ear canal. Some models have clips to provide a secure and snug fit. These headphones are lightweight and portable. Using in-ear headphones may cause discomfort when used for a long time if there is constant snagging of the cable. Additionally, they do not produce the best sound quality for the price, compared to their larger counterparts.
Supra-aural, or on-ear, headphones are placed on the outer part of the ears. Unlike in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones are comfortable when worn. Some models are foldable which makes them easy to transport. The problem with on-ear headphones is that they do not provide effective noise isolation features – This type is prone to sound leakage.
The full-size, or circumaural, headphones are the large sized headphones known for the high quality sound they give. These headphones include earcups that fully enclose and seal the ears. They usually include a noise cancelling or isolation feature. They are usually bulky, thus, not portable and not recommended for traveling. The tight earcups tend to be uncomfortable when worn for a long time.
The last type of headphones is the wireless, or Bluetooth, headphone. This type is the most convenient to use. It connects through other media devices using Bluetooth. However, using wireless headphones may compromise the sound quality. Obviously, wireless headphones do not have wires and cables – thus, eliminating the problem of tangled and messy cables.
When looking for the best pair of headphones, the sound quality is one of the most important concern. If you can, try the headphones by playing different songs from different genre to know the pair’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to quality and sound frequencies. If you can’t, take a look at the specs sheet and make sure that the frequency range is large e.g. 10 to 25000 Hz, and that the total harmonic distortion is below 1%. Also, check for the Hi-fi (high fidelity) stereo feature.
Note that sound preference and quality is highly objective. What sounds great to some people may not sound good to others. Some people might prefer booming bass on their headphones. Others prefer slightly tamed sounding headphones. Either way, testing the headphones will give you an idea on how they sound.
Classical music, is one of the best genres to test the headphones strengths and weaknesses. The various instruments used in these sophisticated pieces of music will bring out the headphone’s range of sound. Modern music will not be able to help in testing the frequency response of the headphones to the same extent.
Comfort comes in different ways. When the pair of headphones is first worn, you will already notice if it will be comfortable to use. However, the real test of comfort surfaces when the headphones are worn for a long period of time. If after 10 minutes of playing music through the headphones does not hurt in any way, then they are comfortable.
Consider whether the earpads of the headphones exert too much pressure on the ears. Are the earpads sealed well enough without hurting the ears? When worn for a long time, do the ears get uncomfortably hot? These problems are common to most models of headphones.
To prevent these ergonomic problems, choose the headphones with properly padded and cushioned earpads. Make sure that the headband is also cushioned and soft enough to not poke at the head.
The controls and cables on the headphones also constitute in the ergonomic design. Opt for the pair of headphones that have controls that are easily accessed through buttons. Choose a cable that has the right length – not too long nor too short. Flat cord cables prevent the possibility of tangled cords.
Lastly, durability is also important factor to consider. Most headphones cost a great deal of money. In that case, be sure that you are buying headphones that will last. Great headphones are quite an investment in most cases – you’re better off buying yourself some durable headphones to make this monetary investment last as long as possible.
Assess the quality of the headphones. Know if they have a sturdy built and made from high grade materials. Follow your gut. If the model feels cheap and low quality, you are probably right. Do not forget to inspect the earpads and the headband for these are the elements which usually gets torn apart when used for too long.
Best Audiophile Headphones Reviews
1. Beyerdynamic DT-770-PRO-32 Review
The Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 32 Ohm headphones promise to give its users a balanced and discrete sound quality. This pair of headphones does not disappoint. These headphones support a range of sound frequencies. The lows and bass are punchy and clean, but not too tight. The mids heard through them are crisp and detailed. Finally, the highs are extraordinary – they extend well without going overboard. The vocals are pleasing to the ears especially when plugging into an amplifier. Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 32 Ohm is not susceptible to sound leaks. It features great sound isolation.
They are in the form of closed back, over the ear headphones. The earpads are made from pleather material, which is helpful in noise isolation. When worn for a long time, the earpads become hot to wear on the ears. For this, each pair of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 32 Ohm come with velour pads to add comfort. These velour pads help in covering the pleather material of the earpads. The earpads do not exert too much pressure on the ears and head. You will be assured of comfort even after hours of using them. The headband is highly comfortable. The quick access buttons found on the top give a nice touch to the overall look of the headphones.
Its sturdy built and design guarantees high quality and durability. In addition, some may find the cord a bit shorter than necessary. The short length of the cable is perfect for connecting the headphones with a mobile device – making it the ideal pair for portable use. Other than these concerns, the headphones have a solid construction. Some people may feel like this pair of headphones seem a bit pricey. However, owning these headphones will assure you that you get value for what you pay for when it comes to quality. Sometimes, quality costs. When we make these guides, price is a factor in determining rank – the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro’s still come out on top.
2. Sennheiser HD 650 Review
For Sennheiser HD 650, they really seem to make an impression. At a first look, the headphones showcase a luxurious and high end feel. The titanium silver finish to this pair of headphones show how top-of-the-line headphones should look like. Caution for potential buyers: these are not ordinary headphones. This pair is best used at home – using together with a home theater system or an equivalent. Using a portable headphone amp is also ideal.
Bass has a fuller sound than other headphones. After various testing, the Sennheiser HD 650 seem to flatter all genre of music. The higher frequencies seem to be more laid back. Acoustic and mellow music sound great using these headphones. Upbeat and rock music, on the other hand, sounded a little tame than they should be. The Sennheiser HD 650 are a bit bulky, but still lightweight. In spite of its bulky construction, this pair of headphones is extremely comfortable to wear. The headband and ear cushions are thickly padded. Even after hours of listening to music through them, their ergonomic design will provide unparalleled comfort.
It includes a 9-foot Y cable, which the user can easily replace. The cable also comes with a one-fourth inch plug and miniplug adapter. The Sennheiser HD 650 headphones are one of the most expensive pair of headphones available on this list. Because of its impressive price tag, most people have second thoughts when buying these headphones. They surely give your money’s worth. However, the bulkiness of the frame may steer some people away. In totality, the Sennheiser HD 650 is worth its price tag. Audiophiles all over love these headphones.
3. Grado Prestige Series SR80s Review
Great quality for an affordable price. Seems impossible? Grado Prestige Series SR80s headphones nails this description. For its retail price of roughly $100, you will surely get, even more, of your money’s worth. These headphones provide an impressive sound quality. It gives decent sound and vocals. A detailed and fuller bass can be expected. The treble is a bit on the crisp side. However, the only problem about the sound quality is the lack of sound isolation. As an on-ear headphones, the Grado SR80s lets the exterior noise from coming in. Additionally, sound leaks are possible to occur. Listening music through these earphones on a high volume is not advisable.
As most on-ear styles of headphones, the Grado SR80s are lightweight and extremely comfortable to wear. The earpieces do not exert pressure on the outer edges of the ears. The black foam pads on each earbuds provide comfort to the ears even after a long time of usage. The packaging, like most Grado headphone models, is quite simple and “cheap” looking. It is quite refreshing to see such packaging which does not seem pretentious and trying hard. In addition, each of Grado’s models are made by hand – assuring each potential buyer that they will receive high quality headphones.
The Grado SR80s headphones come with a 6.33mm jack converter, used for plugging it into other players, and a sturdy and bulky plug, to connect it to a smartphone or other mobile devices. The design of the plug raises some concern amongst users. Clearly, the Grado Prestige Series SR80s is one of the best sounding pair of headphones for its modest price, a pretty good deal for the audiophiles on a budget.
4. Beyerdynamic DT-990-Pro-250 Review
Beyerdynamic is known as one of the most trusted brands of headphones. Its line of headphones are known to be well-constructed and built to last. Additionally, Beyerdynamic headphones are known for giving high quality features that would satisfy its users. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 does not disappoint. With its excellent built, owning this pair of headphones is a sure steal.
The earcups are made from high impact plastic. The headband and the bales are made of spring steel. As such, users will not need to worry about their headphones to easily break. The DT990 are known for their stylish and sensible design. Durability is one of the top priorities for the design and construction. Its dynamic build and construction shows that these are no nonsense headphones. Although its retail price is somewhat modest, it looks elegant and luxurious – moreso than its price tag suggests. The headphones fit snugly into the ears without creating too much pressure. As such, they can be worn on the head for a long period of time without worrying about discomfort. Each pair of headphones comes with a replaceable velour ear pads and vinyl headband pad to further enforce comfort. User comfort will never be an issue with the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250.
These headphones are best used with a desktop or tube amplifier to bring out the richness of the music heard through them. The excellent bass extension is authoritative, without going overboard. The DT990 is great for listening to all genres – drum, bass, electronic , rock music, classical, and even hiphop. The midrange is heard in a smoother and warmer sound. Mids, as well as vocals, are not harsh on the ears. They sound as natural as possible. The treble in the DT990 is strong and sometimes overwhelming, although not harsh to hear. Additionally, grainy and overly metallic treble is not an issue with the DT990 – an excellent choice for audiophiles.
5. Sennheiser HD 558 Review
Straight to the point, no frills, just great and smooth sound quality. This is how the Sennheiser HD 558 is aptly described. With its excellent finish and superb audio performance, users have reached eargasm using these headphones. The design of the Sennheiser HD 558 is geared towards putting the user’s comfort first. The earcups and the underside of the headband both have velour padding to make them comfortable when worn. As compared to other models of headphones, the Sennheiser HD 558 are not as visually appealing as expected. These headphones do not aim to impress through good looks and design – but they do impress in terms of sound quality.
Because of the extra padding provided for comfort, the Sennheiser HD 558 are bulky in appearance. Its design is fairly simple – black matte design with a Sennheiser logo in metallic material. Sennheiser must have focused more on its sound quality rather than visual appeal. Although the Sennheiser HD 558 are circumaural in form, they give sound leakage. The small gaps at the earcups provide this minimal discrepancy in sound isolation. They are not ideal to be used at work or at recording studios. Aside from this concern, the Sennheiser HD 558 has superb sound quality.
Users of the Sennheiser HD 558 have noticed that the sounds playing through them seem to play from elsewhere in the room rather than right at the ears. It is because of its unique feature, the “Internal Sound Reflector”. Sound is not only pushed towards the ears, but also away from them. This stunning effect makes it easier for the ears to listen to music even in longer periods of time. Bass can be listened to at high volumes, without fear of sound distortion. The lows are not overwhelming. The bass does not overpower the other elements of the music. The vocals shine through because of the tamed highs and mids. Expect crystal clear and crisp vocals when using these headphones. The Sennheiser HD 558 are well-balanced headphones perfect for listening to music.