Premium headphones are custom-tailored for optimum constancy and uncompromising efficiency. They are the créme de la crème of convenient sound equipment. As predicted, such top high quality or premium headphones have to come with a similar top high-quality price tag. Indeed, if you are organizing on buying a couple of audiophile-grade headphones, be ready to spend a lot of cash. The cost begins with the premium headphones themselves and expands to other parts of the sound sequence. Even the best premium headphones on the globe can easily perform at a portion of their highest possible ability unless everything is of similar top high quality.
Best Premium Headphones of 2020
Best Premium Headphones Buying Guide: Here’s round-up of the best premium headphones you can buy in 2020.
If you want to really feel part of the music when listening on headsets, then there’s no substitute for over-ear headphones, which will truly envelop you in your favourite tracks and offer instant noise-isolation from the outside world.
In-ear earphones have a time and a place but if you really want to lose yourself in your tunes, a pair of over-ear headphones are the ultimate choice.
With options to suit all music types, budgets and styles, there’s bound to be something that fits the bill. We’ve picked wired and wireless headsets, plus noise-cancelling designs for extra noise isolation. Some of our recommendations even have a smart assistant built-in for hands-free voice operation and a mic for calls. You can even use some of the more comfortable models for running and exercise. But enough with the release, let’s start our venture to best premium headphones into the globe of beautiful sound quality and amazing details.
1. Sennheiser HD 800 S
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are excellent sounding headphones for critical listening. They’re comfortable and have a sturdy, durable build quality but like most open back critical listening models, they’re not very versatile. They’re not designed for outdoors or to use casually, but plugged into an amp, they deliver an exceptional listening experience. The Sennheiser HD 800S are critical-listening-focused headphones, and it shows in their design. The massive open-back ear cups and headband are usually reinforced with metal and high-grade plastic. They’re also both padded with a suede-like material which makes these headphones look and feel premium. They’re bulkier than most of the other critical hearing headphones we’ve tested like the Hifiman Sundara or the HD 700, which may work for some but maybe a bit too cumbersome for others. The Sennheiser HD800S deliver a comfortable listening encounter. They have large, spacious ear cups, they’re not really too tight on the head and they’re well cushioned with a suede-like materials that feels good on the skin. Unfortunately, they are a little on the heavy side and hearing cups are so big that they may not be comfy for all listeners, especially on smaller heads.
The Sennheiser HD 800s are critical listening headphones, not meant for other use cases except maybe home theatre. They deliver excellent sound quality with a wide and spacious soundstage and a comfy style that you can wear for hours. This makes them the ideal crucial listening headphone.
2. HIFIMAN Susvara
The Susvara is surprisingly well built. It’s surprising because there’s a common perception that HiFiMAN headphones don’t have the best build quality – and I’ve had my gripes with this in the past, specifically with the lower-end HE-400i. I suspect that this perception has to do with the sub-par track record of those earphones, which were very popular, and this has led to the assumption that the rest of their products wouldn’t fare all that well either. But so far, I actually haven’t experienced any issues with HiFiMAN headsets that I’ve owned, or anything that I’ve reviewed. It’s unclear to me what the failure rates would be on the Susvara, but from a look and feel perspective, it’s excellent – far better than what’s found on the lower end models.
The Susvara of course uses a planar magnetic design, and if I’m not mistaken this was the first use of their ‘stealth magnet’ system. Normally for planar magnetic headphones, there are magnets on one or both sides of the diaphragm, and the magnetic array can potentially impede sound waves. But with the Susvara (and now the HE1000se), those magnets have been shaped in such a way (with rounded edges) to minimize their impact on sound waves being produced by the diaphragm.
Thankfully, HiFiMAN has managed to keep the weight down (450g), and while it’s still not the lightest headphone out there, the Susvara is remarkably comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. It’s also considerably lighter than its competition, with the LCD-4 reaching over 700g and the Abyss AB-1266TC achieving 630g.
. HiFiMAN Susvara is indeed that elusive planar flagship that doesn’t have any of the trade-offs that I’ve been confronted with up to now, and I can confidently say that it is. Granted, it costs a fortune, but if I got that fortune, this is the headphone that I would buy. It’s comfortable with a modest excess weight, extremely detailed and technically proficient, and has an agreeable frequency response and tonal balance it doesn’t throw anything off.
3. Sony MDR-Z1R: Best Premium Sony Headphone
The Sony MDR-1A are comfortable, critical listening over-ears that deliver a satisfying and well-balanced sound quality. They have a sleek-looking design, and they’re surprisingly lightweight for their sturdy and durable build quality. Unfortunately, they do not block ambient noise very well, so they won’t be ideal to use in loud environments or for commuting. The Sony MDR-1A has a sturdy yet lightweight construction. The headband is reinforced with a thin metal and plastic frame that’s sufficiently flexible to handle a decent amount of physical strain. The ear cups although fairly lightweight are also a mix of metal and plastic material that will withstand a couple of accidental drops without getting damaged. The hinges are a bit loose but there aren’t a lot of them, reducing the potential weak points of the design. The Sony MDR-1A are great headphones for neutral hearing. They will have a well-well balanced frequency response that packs enough bass without drowning the instruments and vocals on any track. The MDR-1A are a lot lighter than you would expect when looking at their build quality. That and the excellent padding on the earcups and headband means they deliver a comfortable listening experience that’s not fatiguing even if you have them on for a while. However, the padding of the earcups creates a relatively small opening for your ears so they may not fit as comfortably for all listeners. They’re also lightweight and super comfortable so you can keep these things on for hours and not feel the fatigue that some other headphones induce after a long listening session. Nevertheless, they have a closed-back design, so that they won’t possess the same ambience as open earphones, which some neutral listeners are looking for.
4. Audeze LCD-3 Over-Ear Open Back Headphone
As of this writing, the Audeze LCD-3 is the world’s best dynamic (moving conductor) headphones. What really sets these earphones apart is a complete lack of resonance or response peaks in the critical upper midrange (3 kc ~ 10 kc) that plague just about every other dynamic headphone. With the LCD-3, music sounds uncannily like the original performance, minus the glare and artefacts added by just about every other powerful headphone or loudspeaker that clue our brains into knowing it’s just a recording. Specifically, the LCD-3 is unusual in being able to reproduce the smoothly detailed sound we usually only hear in the concert hall, without the usual artificial resonances that our brains use to identify a recording instead of the real thing.
The LCD-3 are a very inexpensive way to get fantastic sound for a very long time to come. You’d have to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on loudspeakers and acoustic room treatments and refitments to get sound as smooth, clean, natural and revealing as these headsets give you for a tiny fraction of the price. You could easily spend far more on a pair of small B&W or KEF speakers and get inferior sound, much less bass and they’d be made in China. These headphones are the real Made-in-USA thing. The LCD-3s make use of an open-backed design. This means they leak audio into the room. A lot.
So they’re not really ideal when you’re sitting in the same space as someone else, unless you don’t mind annoying them.
These things apart, there’s little to complain about here. While the price may understandably be a big stumbling block for many, it’s worth considering that it would take tens of thousands of pounds to buy a set of speakers that can even approach the LCD-3s’ level of sound quality.
Even then, the chances are that you’ll need to spend more to optimise your room to obtain this degree of performance. Audeze LCD-3 has a gorgeous, warm sound which also has spaciousness and detail. The deepness of its lows, an extension of its highs, and warm, thick, harmonically complex mids are quick and emotionally impactful. Lastly, its soundstage is remarkably expansive and brings life to mixes as a whole.
5. Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C Headphones Review
The Audeze LCD 2 Classic are well-built and great-sounding planar magnetic critical listening headphones. They have a high-end and sturdy open-back design, they’re comfortable despite being one of the heaviest headphones we’ve tested and they deliver a well-balanced sound that’s a bit forward with instruments and vocals but should please most listeners. However, their bulky and heavy build quality won’t be for everyone and like most open-back headphones they are not designed to isolate or to be used outdoors. The Audeze LCD 2 Vintage are decently comfy thanks to their exceedingly well-padded earcups. They are among the heaviest earphones that we’ve tested so far. They’re also quite tight on the head. However, since they have massive ear cups pads that are soft and coated in a nice pleather fabric that feels good on your skin, you do not notice as much the weight of the clamping pressure. They won’t become ideal open-back headsets for all listeners since the large ear cups, and the dense, heavy construction, get a bit tiresome over long listening sessions. They’re also a pain to adjust especially once already on your own head, but overall they provide enough comfort for most critical listeners.
The Audeze LCD 2 Basic are critical hearing headphones, not intended for other use cases except maybe home theatre. They’re comfortable, they have a great build quality and deliver a decent sound but their poor isolation and a bulky, cumbersome design won’t be versatile enough for other make use of cases. They’re best used at home and in isolation where you can appreciate their audio quality without distracting those around you or being bothered by ambient noise.
6. Sennheiser Momentum 3
The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless are decent noise-cancelling headphones that have a good audio quality and a sleek retro look. They’re a nice improvement over the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless thanks to a better sound quality, a more comfortable design, and an improved microphone. They have a good noise isolation performance and block a good amount of ambient noise. However, they’re quite a bit leakier than their predecessors, which won’t be ideal in quiet environments. Nevertheless, the Momentum 3 are very versatile headphones that have a decent overall performance. The Sennheiser Momentum 3 are quite comfortable, and their design is an improvement over the last model. The cups are bigger and the padding is softer and cushier. The headband is also more comfortable and distributes the weight of the headphones well. Wearing these headphones for a while won’t be an issue for most people. The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless has a great mid-range performance. The response is very well-balanced and follows our target curve well, which results in accurate reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. The response is slightly under our target, which means vocals might sound a bit veiled and nudged to the back of the mix, but this is barely noticeable. These headphones have a good audio reproduction and also a decent ANC feature. They’re quite versatile for travelling or to use at the office and enjoy your favourite music with good fidelity. They aren’t designed for sports or gaming, but can be used for watching TV if you have a low-latency dongle.
7- Sony WH-1000XM3
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are versatile wireless over-ears. While some may find them slightly too bulky for sports, they’re comfortable and have one of the best ANC that we’ve measured so far. They also sound decently well-balanced; if you want to customize your audio profile, they come with a great EQ. Unfortunately, they have a bit too much latency for watching videos and gaming. The Sony WH-1000XM3 have the same touch-sensitive control scheme as the Sony WH-1000XM2 but are more responsive to swipe gestures. The controls are fairly easy to use: swipes up and down control the volume level; left and right swipes rewind and skip tracks, respectively; and double-tapping is the multi-function button to pause or resume audio, as well as to manage calls. If you cover the touch-sensitive pad, you can also temporarily mute your music if you need to pay attention to your surroundings. Finally, the ambient switch on the left cup can activate aware mode – if you prefer, you can reconfigure this to trigger Google Assistant via the app instead. While feedback is less intrusive compared to previous models, the auditory beeps/cues aren’t as loud, especially at high volumes. he Sony WH-1000XM3’s sound profile is overall bass-heavy, while the treble lacks detail. With this default state, these headphones will be good for listening to genres like dubstep and electronica. However, if this audio profile isn’t correct for you, the Sony | Headphones Connect app offers several preset EQs that can better suit your listening preferences.
8. HiFiMan Sundara
If you consider yourself an audiophile but aren’t quite ready to invest in the Sennheiser HD 800 S, then get the HiFiMan Sundara. They’re a much-improved redesign of the HiFiMan HE-400i with an upgrade in both build and sound quality.
They have a sleek design built mostly out of metal and are very comfortable. They use planar magnetic drivers to deliver a well-balanced audio with a lot more bass than typical open-back critical listening headphones. They also have a spacious soundstage that stands out among other audiophile headphones that we’ve tested in this price range.
Unfortunately, HiFiMan don’t have the best quality control. This means that, despite the great build quality of the Sundara unit we received, some are more prone to manufacturing defects. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 come with more accessories and so are more consistent in construction, but they don’t sound quite as good as the Sundara overall. If you’re looking for the best in sound quality at a reasonable price, the Sundara are worth looking into.
9. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
If you’re just getting started on your critical listening journey, then get the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. They’re easily the best-entry level audiophile headphones we’ve tested so far. They have a more high-end look than their price might suggest and a sturdy, durable build that makes them feel like they’d outlast more expensive audiophile headphones.
They sound great and reproduce instruments and vocals accurately. They audio a little sharp on brighter tracks, but they actually pack a lot of bass for an open back model. They may not be as immersive as some of the pricier recommendations, however, they have a bit more ambience than most closed-back headphones.
Their sturdy metal frame does make them feel a bit tight on the head at first, but they’re well-padded and loosen up a bit over time, making them comfortable enough for most listening sessions. They don’t come with extra pads and a replaceable cable like the more premium DT 1990 PRO, but they sound almost as good for a fraction of the price.
10. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Headphones Review
The DT 770 are very good, closed-back, neutral listening headphones. They deliver a well balanced audio reproduction with a near-perfect mid-range and a great bass that doesn’t drown instruments and vocals. They don’t have the spacious Soundstage of the DT 990 PRO or the DT 880, but they have a better bass thanks to the closed design. However, the bass range was a little inconsistent in our measurements and depended somewhat on the shape of the listener’s head. They also tend to sound just a little sharp with some tracks due to the emphasized Treble range. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro basically looks like a closed version of the DT 990 Pro. They have the same circular ear cups and a thick metal frame with a removable cushion strap. They will have a utilitarian appeal that may not stand out in a crowd but still looks good enough to comfortably wear outside, despite being slightly bulky. The Beyerdynamic 770 Pro are sufficiently tight on the head that they won’t fall during casual listening sessions, unless the non-detachable cable gets hooked on something. Nevertheless, they’re too heavy to run with easily. The large hearing cups will slide off your ears under high physical activity, so like most critical listening headphones, they won’t be ideal to take to the gym.
11. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are sturdy critical listening headphones. They deliver an excellent audio reproduction but their open-back design is not ideal for everyday casual use. They will leak a lot, even at low volumes and don’t block any ambient noise. They’re also a bit tight on the head. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro are excellent neutral listing headphones. They reproduce a lot of detail in high-resolution tracks and have a clear and crisp sound quality with a spacious soundstage. They may sound a bit sharp at times, as the treble range is slightly too emphasized, but bass, instruments, and vocals are well-balanced and reproduced with high-fidelity. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 are usually decent-looking reference earphones. They have a relatively compact and utilitarian design. However, the materials used in their build gives them a little more flair and high-end appeal. The ear cups are covered in a suede-like fabric. The headband is completely made out of metal and has a stylish and detachable padding cover.
12. Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO Headphones Review
Great neutral listening headphones. They have a good sound reproduction that is detailed and powerful. Their soundstage is a bit more closed than the open-back models like the DT 1990 PRO or DT 990 PRO. They tend to deliver a bit more bass and sound less sibilant. However, their bass is prone to inconsistencies and the shape and size of your head, or if you wear glasses, might change your listening experience. The 1770 PRO is no exception to the well-built lineup of Beyerdynamic. They will have a very premium build and feel high-end. These earphones also have detachable and replaceable cable and ear pads, unlike the DT 770 PRO. The cups are usually dense, and the headband frame is metal, which gives the headsets a solid build quality that shouldn’t be too damaged if dropped accidentally. These headphones are tighter on the head than average, which makes them stable, but they might be too bulky to exercise with. They won’t fall off your head during listening sessions, but like most critical listening headphones, they aren’t a great pick for sports and to wear at the gym.
13. HiFiMan Ananda
The best planar magnetic headphones that we’ve tested to date are the HiFiMan Ananda. These open-back over-ears look and feel quite premium and deliver a consistent listening experience regardless of head shape, thanks to their generously sized ear cups. That said, if you have a smaller head, those large hearing cups can extend past the jaw, much might be a bit irritating during longer listening sessions. In addition, while the unit we tested felt very well-built, HiFiMan’s overall quality control doesn’t isn’t always as consistent as other brands.
Their sound delivery is decently well-balanced with clear and bright vocals and lead instruments, making them well-suited to a wide range of genres. Despite their open-back design, their bass performance is great, though they lack a bit of low-bass, which may be disappointing if you listen to a lot of EDM or hip hop and demand lots of thump and kick. This is expected from open-back headphones, however, and their open design provides an excellent and open up the soundstage.
On the downside, these headphones are basically designed as bi-directional speakers, which means that they leak almost all of their audio. This, combined with their bulky style and inability to block outside noise, make them a very poor choice for travel. However, in the event that you intend to use them for critical listening at home or in the studio, they’re a great pair of open-back headphones with a unique selling point because of their magnetic drivers.
14. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is the best closed-back audiophile headphones that we’ve tested so far. These over-ear headphones are much more versatile than the other options on this list, as they have a very attractive price point and block out background noise much better than options with an open-back design. These comfortable earphones are very popular for studio use and are known for providing excellent value. They look and feel very premium and durable and come with three different detachable audio cables, though unfortunately, none of them include an in-line mic for phone calls while on-the-go.
Their sound profile is very well-balanced, though they aren’t entirely as accurate as the other options mentioned. Their bass range is slightly elevated to add a bit of extra warmth and body to your music, though it’s by no means overpowering or boomy sounding. In comparison to most popular Bluetooth over-ears, they still sound very flat and accurate. As is to be expected from closed-back headphones, their soundstage isn’t nearly as open and spacious because the open-back earphones that have been mentioned so far.
While these headsets have a well-built design, they don’t feel as durable as the similarly-performing Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, which has a solid and sturdy metal frame. However, the Beyerdynamic don’t have a detachable cable and are typically quite a bit more expensive. Overall, the Audio-Technica is a great choice if you want a high-end audio experience but want headphones that can be used in your daily life as well.
15. Philips SHP9500
The best audiophile headphones in the budget category that we’ve tested are the Philips SHP9500. The over-ear open-backs feature a relatively upmarket, very comfortable design, with well-padded, spacious ear cups and relatively lightweight construction that shouldn’t place too much of a strain on your head. Considering their price, their build quality is good, with a sturdy-feeling metal headband as well as a detachable audio cable.
Their sound profile is decently well-balanced with remarkably accurate mids and treble, ensuring clear, present vocals and lead instruments. However, fans of EDM and hip-hop might prefer a little more thump and kick, as these headphones lack quite a bit of low-end bass, which is normal for open-back earphones. Nevertheless, their passive soundstage is quite good, capable of delivering a natural, very spacious listening experience.
While these headsets feel decently well-built overall, some may find their building to have an excessive amount of a plastic sense. Their swivelling ear cups are a weak point due to their somewhat fragile attachment point. If that isn’t a problem, then the Philips are worth considering, as their impressive price-to-performance ratio means that they rank among the best open-back headphones we’ve tested so far.
16. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i Wireless
These headphones have an exciting sound profile that will be better suited for bass-heavy genres. They’re also ANC, but they don’t block that much noise. They’ll still be a decent option for commuting and to use at the office, but aren’t the best performing ANC earphones. Their high-end over-ear design isn’t designed for sports. They also aren’t very stable, so running or doing any physical activity with these headphones is not recommended. Also, due to their Bluetooth latency, they’ll be sub-par for gaming and watching TV content. These headsets have a V-shaped frequency response that is exciting to listen to. Their bass is good, but will be overly thumpy, which bass fans may appreciate. The mid-range is also good, but their treble is overemphasized and fairly uneven. Overall, vocals and lead instruments sound thin and a bit pushed back in the mix. Due to their exciting sound profile, these won’t become ideal for vocal-centric music and should be better fitted to bass-weighty genres. The B&O PLAY H9i are comfortable headphones. They feel lightweight and aren’t too tight on the head. However, while the cups are usually well-padded, their small circular style won’t be perfect for everyone. People with larger-sized ears may feel a slight pinch on the top of the ears. On the upside, if you can find a good fit with them, they’ll end up being comfortable to wear for a long time without feeling any fatigue.
17. Beyerdynamic Amiron
The Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are closed-back Bluetooth over-ear headphones with a very premium design. Their understated style might not necessarily turn heads, but makes them look and feel like very high-end headphones. While they’re quite comfortable, their fit is a bit awkward – they tend to leave gaps around the ears which not only affects how they feel on your head but also how they sound. They have a fairly balanced sound profile overall, but their frequency response can change a lot depending on who’s wearing them, so they have a tendency to sound differently to different people. Their companion app has a sound personalization feature that could potentially help with this for some people, but we didn’t test it and there are no other EQ options available. That said, their 30-hour battery life is excellent, and they’re compatible with lots of different Bluetooth codecs, like aptX HD and aptX-LL, which can help enhance your listening experience if you have the right source device. The Beyerdynamic Amiron are stylish wireless over-ear earphones. They have a simple yet elegant design that makes them look really high-end. The top of the headband, as well as the ear cups, are usually covered with an extremely soft synthetic suede, while the bottom of the headband uses a fine mesh material. The standard (Black) model has an understated black and grey style with silver hinges and circular accents on the ear cups. There’s also a Copper model, which is almost entirely dark save for a line of copper stitching on the headband and solid copper rings on the cups. he Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are alright for mixed usage. They don’t have active noise cancelling or any features for gamers, but they’re decent for casual listening. The way they fit tends to leave significant gaps around your ears, which impacts how well they isolate sound. Two people might also find they have different audio profiles. Having said that, they’re well-built, have a great battery life, and are still okay for most uses.
18. Bowers & Wilkins PX7
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are headphones that have a dark sound profile but are very well-designed. They have a sleek style and are quite comfortable to wear for a while. These headphones have become well-built and feel robust. They’re also noise-cancelling and block out a good amount of ambient sound. However, their microphone is bad and shouldn’t be used for calls, and they lack audio customization options inside their app. On the upside, their battery life is amazing and they’re compatible with aptX(HD) and aptX Adaptive, although we can’t currently test for those. As much as the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is comfy to wear, critical listeners might be disappointed by their bass-heavy and warm sound profile. They lack quite a bit of detail and brightness in the treble range, which is unfortunate. The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is very well-built headphones, but don’t sense as high-end as the Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless. The cups are swappable and replaceable, which makes them more durable, but they aren’t as easy to remove because the magnetic ones on the PX Cellular. On the upside, the arm hinges are made from woven carbon fibre composite according to the manufacturer. Although it’s solid, it doesn’t experience as durable as the previous model’s metal arms. On the PX7, the hinges completely hide the cable going through the headband, that is good. Although we aren’t sure if the PX7 is less durable than the Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless, it feels a bit lighter and more cheaply made compared to the PX Cellular, especially because of the plastic backplates, which explains the difference in scoring.
19. Master & Dynamic MH40
The MH40 are premium over-ear, closed-back headphones with a striking retro design and sumptuous build quality. If the overly hipster-ish looks of these brown leather ones aren’t to your taste, there are six other colour combos, including a stealth option with black leather and blackened metal. These truly are beautifully crafted earphones. The combination of matte and polished metallic, the neat stitching on the natural leather, the photo-etched logos – it’s all impeccable. Even the detachable cables – there’s a choice of with or without a three-button inline remote and mic – are silver-coloured braid with gorgeous etched and knurled plugs. Master and Dynamic harken back to the classic Grado style aesthetic with a twist of contemporary opulence; the MH40 is an absolutely beautiful set of headsets with a timeless design realised through meticulous manufacturing. This starts with the forged aluminium earcups coated in a resilient cowhide buckskin and extends to the super supple lambskin earpads and stainless steel slider mechanisms. The MH40 implements a complex yet thoughtful mix of complementary materials to promote both hard-wearing and ergonomic properties. The headphones are semi-open with rear-facing mesh obscured by dampening fabric. This does affect isolation to a degree, but in my uses, their strong seal offsets their semi-open nature, producing similar isolation to certain closed sets like the P7 if not quite as much as the class-leading Oppo PM3 and B&O H6. None of the headphones attenuate nearly just as much as a good set of noise cancellers like those from Bose and Sony but they do provide a considerably more engaging sound in low to moderately loud conditions and the MH40’s were sufficient for public transport. Grasp & Dynamic’s prime selling point is undoubtedly style. The MH40 is a stunning headphone regardless of gender or age, with an industrial feel and intricate look offered in copious colour schemes all with their own unique charm. The headphones have also worn incredibly well during my months of testing which reflects nicely upon their ultimate longevity, a grossly understated factor integral to an expensive luxury product. They are also an ergonomically pleasing or even flawless headphone, with a thin headband suiting portable over lengthier stationary use. That said, during such usage, their breathable however well-sealing pads create a far more agreeable experience than the majority of competitors.
20. Master & Dynamic MW65 review
The Master & Dynamic MW65 feel great and have unrivalled build quality but using them is frustrating. The ANC is weak compared to the much cheaper competition and while we appreciate the luxurious build, we can’t recommend them for those who rely on noise cancellation on flights. Grasp & Dynamic has always done luxury headphones right with immaculate construction and high-quality materials. However, as the headphone market started adopting more technology like active sound cancellation (ANC), voice assistants, and customizable sound, Expert & Dynamic stuck with wired and wireless headphones.
That changes with the Master & Dynamic MW65, the company’s first headphone to feature ANC and Google Assistant.
We were excited to try out the MW65 as we loved Get better at & Dynamic’s other headphones but, after spending several weeks with the MW65, we came away disappointed. While the inclusion of ANC and Google Assistant are welcomed features, the company has compromised the core experience. If you have the money to spare and want sophisticated headphones with great noise cancelling, the Master & Dynamic MW65 is a strong contender. The materials are lightweight yet retain a premium appearance. You don’t just get excellent looks when you shell out for these, though; you also get excellent audio quality thanks to the aptX support.
21. GRADO SR325E
Though these are more expensive than a lot of people would consider spending on headphones, their price is a drop in ocean when it comes to real audiophile quality. And when you factor just how good they sound, suddenly they become a major bargain.
They’re open-backed headphones, and they’re among the leakiest we’ve tried, so they’re very much no good with other people around, or for travelling. But in a quiet room, they sound as good as earphones that cost five times more. Their sound is natural but not flat, expansive but still focused, powerful but never overwhelming… the amount of detail they enable tracks to deliver is eye-opening.
The design is almost hilariously simple – the basic leather headband and milled aluminium earcups actually look pretty nice (and feel high quality) in their sparseness, and the basic-seeming foam earpads are apparently chosen for their low impact on the sound quality.
It doesn’t matter that the design is Spartan when you’re wearing them, though – you’ll be totally engrossed in tracks from the first notes. These can be driven by phone or hi-fi (and the thick, high-quality cable comes with 3.5mm and 6.35mm connectors), so it’s also easy to fire something up whether you’re lying in bed or sitting by your amp. Due to the basic comforts and open-back design, these may not be for everyone, but we’ve never heard this level of audio opulence at this kind of brilliant price.
22. AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-A1000Z
The ATH-A1000Z nonetheless does a great impression of a demanding pair of high-end cans. So much so, that if you’re thinking about playing MP3 tracks through your iPhone you might as well forget it. These guys need a good running in, a decent amplifier or DAC, and something more like CD quality before they reveal their true colours.
Behind the large matte red aluminium cups are two 53mm dynamic drivers, hand-assembled in Japan, held admirably in place with a simple but effective magnesium alloy frame and padded wings that keep everything in place. It’s not the most flawless system, but unless you’re a true Conehead you shouldn’t have a problem.
Being a closed-back design it doesn’t offer quite the same expansive soundstage as some, but on the plus side, it generally does not leak as much sound either, making them a better choice if you don’t live alone, or wish to leave the house on occasion.
Sonically the ATH-A1000Z is extremely detailed, and despite the marginally smaller stage, instruments clearly have their place and it’s a joy to pick out unheard detail, and bum notes in tracks. Acoustic guitars, string sections and vocals all soar, and while the bass is deep and precise, it doesn’t thump. That may disappoint EDM fans, but it should delight classical music lovers.
23. AKG K44 Headphones Review
The AKG K44 are lightweight, moderately comfortable over-ear headphones that don’t leak too much. Unfortunately, they’re not versatile enough to use in loud environments or while doing physical activity. They’re a bit cumbersome, and their sound quality is mediocre-at-best. The AKG K44 are decently comfortable headphones. They’re lightweight, and not too tight. However, the padding feels a little cheap and the ear cups are not wide enough for larger ears. This makes them slightly uncomfortable during long listening sessions. The old school headband, on the other hand, adjusts well to most heads and does not cause any discomfort.
The AKG K44 are decently comfortable headphones. They’re lightweight, and not too tight. However, the padding feels a little cheap and the ear cups are not wide enough for larger ears. This makes them slightly uncomfortable during long listening sessions. The old school headband, on the other hand, adjusts well to most heads and does not cause any discomfort. The AKG 44 are a little cheaply built. They should be able to withstand a couple of drops. Nevertheless, the frame and hearing cups are entirely made of a relatively thin and lightweight plastic that doesn’t seem very durable. The retro headband is also a bit inexpensive and has a few moving parts that could get damaged through regular wear and tear.
24. FOCAL STELLIA Review
Good for neutral listening. The Focal Stellia have a fairly balanced sound with overall good audio reproduction. They have deep, punchy bass, and even and flat mid-range, and good treble. However, their bass response is sensitive to fit and whether you wear glasses, their mid-range is a bit overemphasized which can make vocals and leads sound slightly forward, and their treble is somewhat veiled, which can negatively affect brightness and detail. Overall, they sound versatile enough to accommodate most genres of music and are comfortable enough to put on for long periods of time. The Focal Stellia possess good treble performance. The reaction is relatively well-balanced, which is important for producing accurate vocals and lead instruments. Nevertheless, it is slightly veiled. The dip from 4kHz to 8kHz will have a small negative effect on the lighting and detail of the vocals and instruments. That said, not everyone experiences treble frequencies the same way so your listening experience may differ. The Focal Stellia are remarkably well-crafted critical listening headphones that stand out thanks to the premium materials used in their build. They have a straightforward wired design and well-balanced sound but aren’t very versatile since they don’t block much noise and so are a little bit bulky. They look great, but may not provide as much value as other models in the Focal lineup.
25. Focal Elear Headphones
The Focal Elear are good open-back critical listening headphones. They are very well-built and very comfortable for long listening sessions thanks to well-padded ear cups and headband. Their open design makes them a poor choice for any other use cases as they don’t block any ambient noise and don’t have a microphone or wireless technology. These are premium headphones made to enjoy in quiet environments to benefit from their open sound quality. Good for neutral hearing. The Focal Elear have a great audio reproduction with good bass performance, an even and flat mid-range and decent but slightly veiled treble. Their open design helps to create a more open up sound, and they are versatile for a variety of music genres. They’re very well-padded and comfortable headphones for lengthy listening sessions, and their excellent build quality will last you for years. However, they lack sub-bass for bass fans. The Focal Elear are great critical listening earphones that have good audio reproduction and are one of the better-built headsets we’ve tested so far. Their audio signature is well-balanced and will be flexible for a number of songs genres, especially classical and vocal-centric music. They are very comfortable headphones for long listening classes but may absence sub-bass for followers of bass.